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Cheering for “Pelvic Intelligence”

July 22, 2013

New Self, New WorldNew Self, New World: Recovering Our Senses in the Twenty-First Century: I’ve been reading Philip Shepherd’s book for weeks. Completing the first of what’s likely to be several times through, I feel baptized into a deeper understanding of human being. (I’d say “initiated,” but the image is so sensory I can feel it on my skin: Immersion in the ocean; surfacing; stepping toward the beach.)

What’s this book about? The nature of human consciousness, embodied as it is. How you live in your body creates the world in which you live.

As author of The Woman’s Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure, I’m delighted with the way Philip Shepherd champions our “pelvic intelligence.” In Part IV: The Body as History, he traces how, through the millennia, our bodily sense of self has migrated from belly to diaphragm to skull. In this and other ways, Shepherd’s book complements and expands on Morris Berman’s classic, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West.

Elaborating its central premise, the book presents Shepherd’s take on, literally, everything. I’d say that he offers a remarkably clear lens through which to view the world — except that his purpose is to remove everything that partitions us from reality itself. With passion and compassion, he invites us to engage with the world directly, immediately. The invitation, the way he phrases it, is just about irresistible.

The book illuminates a process of reconciliation between self and world, thinking and being. That reconciliation generates the evolution of consciousness that we, as individuals and as a species, need for our well-being in every dimension. Rich with insight and revelation, the text provides ample opportunity for experiential learning and practical application.

Warning: Reading this book is potentially revolutionary. I’ve come away with the impulse to allow everything — from artwork to housework to academic scholarship — to be ever more soulful and satisfying.

If you’re interested in women’s spirituality as I am (Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood and Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine), then you might appreciate the ways in which Shepherd elevates what he calls the “female element” of consciousness. Consider this passage:

The whole journey of the soul is an evolution into cosmic motherhood — a state of grounded sensitivity that looks to the world with love, listens to its need and its calling with compassion, and acts, often heroically, always selflessly, on its behalf. (p. 405)

The Sacred Feminine is never very far from the pages of this book.

Hara: The Vital Centre of ManIf you practice Asian healing arts such as qigong, tai chi, and acupuncture, then you’re already familiar with “pelvic intelligence” in relation to the lower tan tien (Chinese) or hara (Japanese). You may appreciate, as I have, how this book brings the knowledge of body-mind-spirit wholeness — elegantly explicit in Asian traditions — into the Western concept of human being as, at the same time, it explodes that paradigm. In this respect, the book draws on Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim’s Hara: The Vital Center of Man and complements Peter Wilberg’s Head, Heart & Hara: The Soul Centers Of West And East.

Did I mention “revolutionary”? Here’s one provocative passage:

Of course, there is no true authority in the world; there is only companionship. Authority is an abstraction we create in order to govern what has lost touch with the guidance of Being. That is as true of our social patriarchies as it is of the unipolar patriarch within. (p. 252)

New Self, New World provides excellent companionship on the journey of a lifetime.

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