These Novels and What They Reveal

 I’m editing the final book in my series of philosophical fiction, set in Egypt in 1934 and 1935. As I’ve said here many times, the stories simply came to me as a mental movie, playing in my mind’s eye and ear for five years, with all the dialogue and details already there. The story chose me to tell it. It was out of the blue. My job was just to write down what I was seeing and hearing.

And yet, somehow, mysteriously, the books are all about me. I hope they’re also all about you. But I just came to realize that they’re about my deepest hopes and dreams and values and aspirations. They’re about my fears and joys and uncertainties and suspicions. They’re about weakness and strength, wisdom and virtue, friendship and animosity, uncertainty and hope, life and death. 

The stories are all quite particular, but the lessons are universal.

And I’m bringing these tales into the world very differently from the vast majority of my books. Instead of contracting as I have for my nonfiction books with a Doubleday or Penguin to publish many tens of thousands of copies and place them into bookstores nationwide, announcing them in big circulation newspapers and magazines, as well as on radio and television, I created my own imprint, found the right people to help in this endeavor of love, and have published them in the new format of print on demand for paperback and hardcover, with the two basic ebook formats also available. That has allowed for something I’ve never been able to do before.

First, I have total control of what goes into print, including the great cover art done by my daughter. And there is something else. After the prologue to the series, The Oasis Within, was available for about the first six months, I realized I wanted to re-edit it. And I was able to, right then. I didn’t have to wait years, until 20,000 or 50,000 copies of the original edition had sold and that many people had bought less than the best I could do. I could make the improvements right away. And the same thing happened with The Golden Palace. Less than a year into its life, it got a new paragraph on the first page, and dozens of small changes throughout that enhanced it immensely. I had never been able to do that with a book before. And as readers have written me about their experience with these novels, their insights have helped me in editing subsequent books. There has been a feedback loop I’ve never had before. And it’s made the books better. This should be a universal experience for writers and readers.

The one problem is that I don’t have a national promotion and marketing machine behind these books. So they have to find their readers on their own. And they are, but very slowly. My workout partner told me today that he just finished The Mysterious Village and really loved it. I was so glad to hear and told him that he’s probably the fourth person to get that far in the series! I was exaggerating a little. But just a little. It will have been worth the seven years of work so far, and the rest of the eight years I anticipate, for them to have a few great readers whose lives are enhanced and maybe even transformed by the stories. And of course, it would be even more gratifying to see even more people enjoying and using the books for the renaissance of understanding about wisdom and virtue, life and death, that they can potentially provide. They’re about success and failure, struggle and victory, defeat and persistence, and the power of committed partnerships along the way. They’re about leadership and love, and staying on your path even when it’s hard, and giving others what they need as you also discover your own deepest needs and gifts. The stories are about so much. And they reveal so much.

In all my philosophy, business, and life nonfiction books, I tell stories from my own experience. You get to know my kids, my wife, as well as friends and neighbors and both the silly things and the deeper things that I’ve encountered along the way. And in the novels, there are no stories about my life. Yet, somehow, they’re the most autobiographical of anything I’ve ever done, the most deeply revealing, and if I had written nothing else ever, I would want to leave them for my kids, and grandkids, and anyone who might be interested in the experience of a philosopher meandering from the mid twentieth century into these first days of the twenty-first, and trying to get his bearings for making the world a slightly better place with the ancient wisdom that’s exactly what we need now.

The Wisdom River


From The Ancient Scroll, the last existent book in my epic series of philosophical fiction, Volume 7, due out Spring of 2019. Editing just now, I came across this short passage and thought it might be good to share today, since we're so clearly in a time in need of wisdom. The setting is a Methodist church in New York City in 1935. Reverend Bob Archdale, a native of North Carolina, has just entered the church kitchen at the end of the afternoon, and finds his new mysterious handyman at the table with a book.

“I see you’re doing some reading,” the minister observed.

“Yes, after completing my list of small jobs around the church for the afternoon, which went more quickly than I had thought, I decided to take a break and have a glass of water. And then I looked around at your books on the shelf here and picked one to peruse. I hope that was all right.”


“I actually found several of interest. This is your English translation of the ancient Chinese classic, The Tao Te Ching.”

“Oh, yes, I recognize the cover now. And my books are all yours while you’re here, so avail yourself of them at any time.”

“Thank you.”

“You read things from many cultures, it seems.”

“Yes. I find it fascinating that the wisdom about life to be discovered across cultures and throughout very different times is so similar, deep down.”

“My feeling exactly.”

“People’s lives seem so vastly different in various parts of the world, but human nature is always the same, beneath it all. And so the basic insights that help in one culture, will likely help just as well in another.”

“I agree completely.”

“I love the image of a wisdom river that runs for thousands of miles.”

“Oh, I don’t know that image,” Archdale said.

“This ancient, winding river, in all its twists and turns, passes and feeds a vast variety of different plants, trees, and vegetation along its way, winding through forests and grasslands, high country, and low, and for the entirety of its span, it brings the same cool waters to all.”

“Very nice.”

“Yes, it’s a wonderful image for the deepest insight, ever flowing, nourishing, and growing all those of us who would draw from its waters, whoever we are, wherever we live, and whatever our different circumstances might be.”

“I like this a lot,” Archdale commented.

“We too often focus on our differences, on what separates or divides us, while this single stream of truth and value could unite us all.”

“I think your stream, your river, goes quite deep, and far.”

“Yes. I agree. I gain the most from books like this that focus well on life and reflect on what can be learned from it and about it. Some of the most profound secrets available to us hide in plain sight.” He thought for a moment and said, “Many important insights remain hidden to most people because, in contrast with our often superficial perspectives and expectations and prejudices, they can seem outrageous and false at first glance. For example, there is the truth that selfishness is self-defeating, or the insight that, as an adult, you must first give in order to properly receive, or the surprising fact that humility can be a source of power and greatness. Such perspectives can seem false to the superficial glance. But it’s rather the surface illusions hiding these insights that are deceptively false.”

“That’s quite profound. You, my friend, are even more of a philosopher than I realized,” Archdale observed.

“Thank you,” Santiago replied. “I’m indeed a lover of wisdom. It’s the greatest source of power on earth. I seek to find it, embrace it, and live with it intimately, in everything I do.”

Disruption, Innovation, and Success from Egypt: A New Insight


This week at a talk, I came to understand for the first time that my novel The Oasis Within is about disruption, innovation, and success, both personal and organizational.

When it came to me in 2011 as a mental movie, suddenly appearing one morning from the first scene and proceeding throughout the entire story, I first thought of it as a coming of age story about a 13 year old boy who is crossing the desert in Egypt in 1934 with his wise old uncle. They talk about inner peace, the power that things have for good or ill, the immense power of the mind, the way to know our personal calling in life, the four elements that structure people’s personalities and how to identify which element leads in anyone’s life, the deepest secrets we have about success, the ways we can best prepare for any form of trouble, and what the boy’s uncle calls “The Gift of Uncertainty.”

Shortly after the book was published, I got a letter from across the world in which a businessman told me that it was his favorite leadership book ever. I had not thought of it as a leadership book at all, but after his note, I re-read it and came to see what he had seen. It is indeed a leadership book, but it’s a life book as well.

I was asked to speak at a conference on disruption and innovation, as one of the keynote speakers. And, as it turned out, the event was days after Hurricane Florence hit my home directly, taking out massive numbers of trees, blocking roads, and flooding highways. There was no power, or internet or cable, and only on and off cell service. I had to get to northern Minnesota by noon on Thursday, and in the aftermath of the massive storm on Sunday, it looked impossible. I had read during the storm, for about the fourth or fifth time, The Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus, the “storm tossed man.” Big O was praised for his adaptability and innovation, a resilient creativity that got him out of every tight spot. I used the wisdom of the ages with his example and got to my event. Five days of planning, six airplane reservations, a night in via, an unexpected rental car necessity to avoid T storms in the north, and I arrived at the destination, and at a new understanding of my own book.

And now, I can see years later that The Oasis Within is all about how to deal with disruption, create innovation, and attain success in any challenging circumstances.

I learn more about my own work from your emails, your notes, and talks I’m asked to give. If you haven’t see the book yet, I hope you will soon and that you will tell me what it is to you!

Where are Wisdom and Virtue?


We live in a surprisingly turbulent time. And because of that, I'm so very glad to be writing and publishing novels of positive philosophy that can help people across a broad sweep of ages navigate the roiling waters of the present day. We need wisdom and virtue now more than ever—two major components of the human adventure that far too often seem to have vanished in our culture. But the embers are alive and can be fanned back into flame. I hope these books can help.

I want to thank all the early readers who have written me about what they've called "a palpable sense of goodness" that comes through these stories. I had no idea that, after 19 nonfiction books, I'd be writing an epic tale set in Egypt in 1934 and 1935 that would be compared in various ways to such modern classics as The Little Prince, The Alchemist, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and in the words of one reviewer, "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Aristotle!" In these simple stories, a 13 year old boy finds himself steeped in the wisdom of the ages and fighting the biggest battles of his life, while experiencing true friendship and the real promises of love for the first time. As we watch his challenges, we learn about our own, whatever our stage in life might be. I also appreciate all the early readers who have written such amazing testimonials for these books that can be found at their website. I hope the books can continue to make a difference in our time, to enhance both the wisdom and the virtue we have. In case you haven't seen them yet, you can learn more at this site,

A Game of Thrones


I guess I'm one of the few Americans between the ages of 13 and 130 not to have watched Game of Thrones on HBO. But now I'm reading the books, and nearly 700 pages into the first one, I'm really enjoying the ride. And I'm eager, once I've absorbed the books, to see the series. But I've also noticed something.

I've read a lot of fictional series in my life, from Narnia and The Lord of the Rings to The Hunger Games and Divergent. And now Game of Thrones. They've all been fun and insightful in different ways. And here's where I confess that I like my Egyptian books the most.

Ok, you're not surprised. Everybody thinks THEIR dog is the cutest, smartest, most precious. But it's more than that. One of my favorite philosophers, Robin Collins, on reading the first two books in my series, wrote me an email saying that there's a "palpable sense of goodness" that comes through the stories, and a sense of the real magic in life that's reconnected him with a wonder that had waned in his experience.

That's the same effect these books have on me. I don't really think of myself as the author, but as the transcriber. As I've explained before, they all came to me as a waking dream, a film, a vivid movie in my head. I just wrote it all down. And I continue to re read them and rediscover the first joy I had in seeing the story play out.

There is in them a game of thrones as well. Good people take power for good purposes. Bad people want power without any good purposes. We see the light and the darkness contend. But goodness comes through and does evoke, for me as well, a sense of wonder.

I hope you can read these books soon and let me know how they affect you.


Fear. And Love.


What should we think about fear? Maybe Aristotle can guide us in the way he assessed the very different, but often related, emotion of anger. He believed the value of this powerful state of mind and heart could be revealed by such questions as: Toward what or whom? In what measure? For how long? And to what end? We should probably ask the same questions about any instance of fear. When there are real dangers, fear is rational. And it can be reasonable for us to allow it sometimes to call the shots, determining our thoughts and actions at a particular moment, or in a certain fraught situation, and thus guiding our behavior then and there. But this should not be a common occurrence. And there could be a better alternative.

A courageous person never lets fear unhinge him or her and always seeks to do the right thing, regardless of any dangers that might loom and threaten. Sometimes, that means listening to fear and accepting its guidance to pause, or stop, or retreat, or avoid. There are times when it's wise to be moved by fear. But in modern life, this emotion tends to intrude into our thoughts and feelings much more often than its help is needed. Practical wisdom, or prudence, demands that we respect a wide range of values in our actions, and those values encompass proper concerns for our own health and self preservation, as well as for those we love, and even to consider and protect a positive reputation among at least the wise in our communities. But fear is often a bully in its warnings that we may lose what we value, and is as subtle as any insidious force can be.

Fear has a thousand faces. It quite often presents itself as something other than what it is—as perhaps a common sense and reasonable desire for safety, or security, or comfort, or simply for what's known, as distinct from what might be clearly uncertain and unknown. It can make itself look like altruism, or moderation, or sheer rationality, and even when it's the polar opposite of these things.

I've let fear influence my choices far too often in life. But I never recognized it at the time. I was a master of self deception. And, whether I know you well or not, I can imagine that you are, too. We all have this unfortunate skill. We can rationalize almost anything. And the smarter we are, the more convincing we can be, not only to others, but to ourselves. We allow fear to mask itself as a proper concern for another person, or as the voice of reason, when it's not that at all. And we need to learn the form of discernment, a component of wisdom, that allows us to spot our emotions and motivations for what they are, rather than being moved around by what they appear to be. It's almost as if negative emotions can be illusionist shape-shifters and masters of disguise. Part of the Platonic program of stripping away illusions,and getting beyond appearances means unmasking them and refusing them illegitimate power.

Fear can present itself as any reasonable person's primary concern. After all, what's more important than survival, it asks us. Well, perhaps a lot. I've come to see fear as being, at best, a rare and secondary motivator along the course of an imperfect life. Yes, it can be helpful. And for that we should thank it. By I now refuse to allow it to call the shots as often as it would like. I'll feel its cousin anxiety arise within me, but nowadays I'll spot it, and question its validity in the moment or the situation, and dismiss it from my heart and mind when it's counterproductive, or in other ways uncalled for. I hope you will, too.

Salespeople are trained in some organizations to act on the fact that most people are much more motivated by a fear of loss than by a desire of gain. And I have a corresponding suggestion: We should not be among those fearful people, and thus, by our own independence, diminish their numbers. No one has ever attained excellence or greatness by following a path of fear. No one ever made his or her best contribution to the world from a place of fear.

It's often been said that we're motivated by two forces, love and fear. I recommend love. It's a vastly better guide, overall, than fear. It can give us most of the occasional, admittedly positive results of fear, when it's working properly, and yet without the negative constraints and deceptions. Love, understood properly and done right, should be our prime mover and most consulted guide.

It's a perspective worth pondering. And in the end, I think that love is a mark of true courage. That's why we hesitate ever to attribute this virtue to suicide bombers or any terrorist. Their fanaticism may mimic courage and produce a counterfeit that's convincing in the minds of their fellow fanatics, but that's because they fail to understand the nature of true courage, by their blindness to true love. And any of us, in lesser ways, can make the same mistake. Love puts fear in its proper place. And as the Gospel says, perfect love casts out fear. When love is perfected, this alternative motivator is not needed at all. It's a state of being for us all to hope for and to seek to attain.


The Depth of the Stories


I'm editing one last time the next book in my series of novels, The Viper and the Storm. And I just came to a new depth of realization as to how the books are about the big picture context for this strange, mysterious, scary and wonderful world we live in. Sometimes I think we're living on the green skin of a very large watermelon, and going through our days craving the bright sweetness that lies just beneath the surface of our daily routines.

As I've said here before, the novels came to me as a waking dream, and I keep peeling back levels of meaning in them. Initially, it's the Egyptian Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew meet Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, with lots of Plato and Aristotle sprinkled around. But on a deeper level, it's all about the ultimate spiritual conditions of our lives and what might be available to us all if we just learn how to access it. It's about meaning and love and positive power in the world. And in a time of dystopian confusion, I hope the stories will end up providing a huge antidote and a deep encouragement we all need.

Walt Whitman, Democracy, and my New Novels


There's a wonderful short essay today about Walt Whitman and his views on American democracy, at the always insightful website Brain Pickings.

Whitman believed that having an idealistic literature would be crucial to our survival and flourishing as a democracy. Reading him, I became aware anew of how the novels I'm now publishing exemplify eactly that in their tone. They even feature an enlightened Philosopher-King preparing his people for the demands and opportunities of democracy. There are criminals and power hungry men and revolutionaries, as well, but we see in the stories what it takes for the best people to stand up to the worst and prevail.

Whitman thought that a nation's literature ought to show the deepest resources of human nature by which we can deal with our toughest challenges. And that again brought me up short, with a realization that this is exactly what my new stories do. And so, as their readership grows, day to day, I hope they'll make a difference in our time that would make Walt proud. I didn't realize until this morning that they have been written over the past six years for exactly our time. We have plenty of dystopian tales in our bookstores and libraries. We need more inspiration and wisdom for the path we're on. For more on the new books, look around elsewhere on this site,

For more on Walt and his message:

The Oasis Within and Self Examination. A Peek Behind the Scenes.


I'm so grateful to everyone who's been writing me about my short novel, The Oasis Within and the series it begins. I'm getting two sorts of emails: (1) "I wish I had been able to read a book like this years or decades ago" and (2) "This book has come into my life at the perfect time." I'm sure there are also people with the response (3) "This is an extremely odd book for Tom Morris to write," but so far they're not emailing me or posting perplexed reviews on Amazon. Many readers are asking how I ever came to write such novels at all, set as they are in Egypt in 1934 and 1935. 

I've just come to understand the role that relentless, deep, and difficult self examination played in freeing me up for this great adventure. 

If you had asked me ten years ago about my childhood, I would have sincerely said, "It was great." But that was because I was blocking a lot of the real truth, which was that I had an attractive, young, emotionally damaged mother who had been raised in an orphanage and was determined to live out her frustrated ambitions through her only child, who therefore could not possibly please her. Such damage is never confined to one generation. So if, as a child, I brought home less than excellent grades, war ensued—a scorched earth spiritual Aleppo campaign against the loudly delineated deficiencies of a frightened bewildered little six or eight or ten-year-old. And so I lived for decades unaware of the engines of need buried deep in my psyche. Nothing was ever enough. I couldn't write one article, I had to write fifty. I couldn't have one fountain pen. I needed twenty. Imagine how expensive this could get with BMWs. Until I was one day able to face up to the fact that my constant need for achievement, my continual rushing about, my never being satisfied, might all be due to something that desperately needed attention, and perhaps healing. 

Socrates stressed the importance of self-examination, and when I decided to do it relentlessly, and even with a measure of courage and great pain and glimmers of hope, it cleansed me and freed me from so many inner obstacles that I had not been aware existed. 

And then my mental movie started to play. it was showing me in living color and surround sound Dolby X the great lessons of life wisdom that went beyond anything I had ever felt or thought. I met young people in Egypt in 1934 and the adults in their lives, and I fell in love with them to the extent that the criminals and revolutionaries who were their enemies caused me great concern for their safety as I wrote and wrote, typing as fast as I could, while the scenes and stories and insights poured over me—the inner visions that, so far, have resulted in eight novels of over a million words, with the first three now in print: The Oasis Within, The Golden Palace, and The Stone of Giza. And I'm already excited about the next installment just months from now, The Viper and The Storm. But I truly can't wait until the one after that, The King and Prince, that taught me some of the deepest lessons of my life. And still the very deepest is in the last that's now written, a book called The Ancient Scroll. There I learned the most powerful lessons about redemption and personal transformation.

I tell you this short and ultimately happy story in case you may have hidden, deeply buried obstacles in your own psyche that need your attention. A program of honest and relentless self examination may just be the thing to free you for your own next adventure, which as I've experience, can be a joy you could never otherwise have even imagined.



Happiness depends on a measure of inner contentment, and also fulfillment. And there are some distinctions here we all need to understand.

Contentment is simply accepting the present as beiing what it is—letting go of bitterness, resentment, anger, frustration, and the sting of all such negative emotions and attitudes. It doesn't require liking all that's present, or wanting it to continue, or even not planning to work hard to change things radically from being what they are to what they should be. It's merely a shedding of those negative emotions that get us all balled up and unable to move forward productively and well. 

The person with a measure of inner contentment finds things to focus on emotionally that are good, and that can be a basis for renewal and enjoyment and moving forward with whatever hard work needs to be done, A moment, or stretch, of intense discontent can motivate mightily, but extended, it begins to get in the way. You can set your heart with passion to work for a better future without requiring the ongoing fuel of anger or hatred. Those things are inwardly corrosive over time and tend to guide us to replace one unfortunate state of affairs with another, however well intentioned we might be. For more on this, see the history of revolutions.

Contentment says of the unpleasant, unfortunate, and unjust in the moment, "It is what it is." It takes a deep breath, gets back in touch with the best of inner motivations, like love and compassion, and goes to work with that oasis within needed for the longest stretches of travel through any arid desert.

Fulfillment is something different. It's experiencing an ongoing objective realization of your potential, and feeling that inside. It's objective before it's subjective. Whereas contentment is just an inner state, fulfillment is something in the outer world that reflects itself within. Put your talents to work for the good of others as well as yourse. Be a blessing to others. Work hard for justice and goodness and truth. And fulfillment will come, as long as that enemy of lingering discontent doesn't get and stay in the way.

Contentment and fultillment: Two foundations of that deep Aristotelian happiness that promotes excellence and full human flourishing in all things. May you experience both, in even the most trying of times.