Reviewer June Maffin:Living on an island in British Columbia, Canada, Dr. Maffin is a neophyte organic gardener, eclectic reader, ordained minister (Anglican/Episcopal priest) and creative spirituality writer/photographer with a deep zest for life. Previously, she has been grief counselor, broadcaster, teacher, journalist, television host, chaplain and spiritual director with an earned doctorate in Pastoral Care (medical ethics i.e. euthanasia focus). Presently an educator, freelance editor, blogger, and published author of three books, her most recent (Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality) has been published in e-book as well as paperback format and a preview can be viewed on YouTube videos. Founder of Soulistry™ she continues to lead a variety of workshops and retreats connecting spirituality with creativity and delights in a spirituality of play. You can find out more about June by clicking on her Web Site.
Author: Philip Shepherd
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
French novelist and essayist Marcel Proust wrote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.” And it is with “new eyes” that Philip Shepherd looks at the idea of being human.
The book is neither a quick nor is it an easy read. The author’s cultural discourse examines the various paths (historical, philosophical, scientific, mythological, spiritual, social) that have inculcated a “head” understanding of human consciousness over the centuries. Shepherd’s body-disconnection / head-living understanding is not new, but it is different. In his examination of mythology, spirituality, science, philosophy and history, he presents a premise that our culture must look at the world not only from the dimensions of time and space, but also do a paradigm shift and include the dimension of consciousness in the pursuit of wholeness.
And, it is this pursuit of wholeness that undergirds his book. While art (which Shepherd says offers an ‘experience’ of wholeness), religion and science (which he notes offer ‘explanations’ of wholeness) all grapple with the issue of the world’s wholeness, the author pursues three issues (freedom, creativity, presence) in support of his new model of human consciousness, specifically exploring physics, spirituality, history, neuroscience, anthropology and psychology in defense of his position which can further be investigated through a very detailed index and excellent set of footnotes.
Contrary to the premise of the book that head-centered consciousness (which Shepherd names as North America’s “Achilles’ heel”) must step aside so that the experience of the body can deepen our experience of the world, the book is surprisingly heavy on a ‘head’ (logical) presentation with considerable verbiage. However, his incorporation of a series of exercises (with black and white illustrations intended to counter longstanding patterns and help begin the process of moving from ‘head’ to ‘body’ experience which he maintains leads to new ways of thinking, acting and being in the world) offer balance and encourage a practical shift from “do-ing” to “be-ing.”
Shepherd’s intent is to inspire humanity to work towards a more harmonious world of wholeness for, in the author’s own words, “Your wholeness is something you offer to the world, as a gift.”
Clearly this subject is something about which Shepherd feels great passion. It took him ten years to research and write. Drawing from his life-changing experiences cycling around the world where he was exposed to a variety of cultures and understandings of what it means to be human, the author’s book can be seen to be a philosophical primer, a roaming inquiry into human history and in the widest understanding of the term ‘spiritual’, a spiritual handbook.