New Self, New World looks anew at human consciousness and its relationship to the body. It shows how the energy of consciousness lives differently in the body in different cultures, and how that creates different orientations in the experience of self and world.
In our culture, we experience consciousness in our heads. We imagine that state to be a physiological inevitability, when in fact it is the product of cultural conditioning. Other cultures – Japanese, Chinese, Incan and Mayan to name a few – experience the center of their consciousness in the belly. In fact, Europeans in the early Neolithic experienced it there as well – and the migration of that center up through the body into the head took millennia to complete.
Living in the head as we do today creates a state of dissociation: it dissociates us from the body’s energy, so that we commonly experience it as ‘the noise of the machinery’; it dissociates us from the living harmony of the world around us; and it dissociates our thinking from our being. That is, we don’t tend to think with our entire being; we tend to think divorced from it – in purified, disembodied realm of abstract ideas. The effects of this dissociation shape our experiences of the self and of the world, inciting us to look upon each of them with an eye to control, systemization, judgment and acquisition. When this dissociation becomes normalized, we lose the ability to sense our own wholeness, and eventually even forget what wholeness is – mistaking it for sitting up in the head and ‘listening to the body’ across the divide that separates us from it.
The true center of the self is in the body. When we feel completely centered, we recognize that state somatically; by contrast, we cannot experience that state if we are trapped in our heads by anxiety or self-consciousness. Philip’s book and his practices as a workshop leader focus specifically on the first chakra – the perineum. His work helps people experience it as the root of their being, and the place at which their consciousness experiences its deepest integration. This is not an integration driven by idea or will, but an integration of surrender and awakening; it is the integration of being itself. If the head is where we can consciously think, the pelvic floor is where we can consciously ‘be’. It is, in fact, the ground of our being.
Learning how to liberate ourselves from the habits of living in the head is far from easy – it requires a skill set that is not readily available, and goes against the grain of our culture’s messaging and conditioning. We cannot align with the body’s subtle genius by adopting new ideas about ‘how to be’. In fact, to be directed by ideas – however progressive – is to be ruled by the head. What is needed is a new experience that will put us in touch with our being. We need a practice that will help us beyond ‘listening to the body’ and enable us instead to listen to the world through the body. That is the essence of Philip’s work, which has been used by psychotherapists both for their own development, and to more effectively assist their clients.
For more information, visit philipshepherd.com
“One of the most important books of the last fifty years.”
— Andrew Harvey, scholar, mystic, author of Son of Man, The Return of the Mother, and The Way of Passion
“New Self, New World is an extraordinary work – an awesome display of wisdom distilled from the world’s great wisdom traditions and the majestic individuals who have experienced them. This book is about achieving the highest dimensions of which humans are capable. Highly recommended.”
Larry Dossey, MD, author of Healing Beyond the Body, Reinventing Medicine, and Healing Words