New Self, New World:
Recovering Our Senses in the Twenty-first Century
Author: Philip Shepherd
North Atlantic Books
“New Self, New World” is a very literal statement – Shepherd’s book is all about creating a new self, a more authentic self, a self that is more in touch with its deeper purpose. We create a new world around us by shifting our consciousness from our head to our core body. “New Self, New World” then becomes a spiritual handbook, a philosophical primer and an inquiry into human history.
In his foreword, Andrew Harvey speaks of the all-embracing world crisis or our time not only as something that threatens the future of the human race and of much of nature, but also as an evolutionary crisis. He sees it as a death of our agendas, illusions, and fantasies of uniqueness, of domination over nature. This is, in essence, the dark night of our species that will lead to the birth of “an embodied divine humanity capable of and inspired to work directly with the Divine to transform all existing ways of being and doin everything”. Harvey goes on to say that Shepherd’s work provides us all with an indispensable guide to why a radically embodied divine humanity needs to be birthed now, and birthed fast. Harvey sees “New Self, New World” as a manifesto for “a new kind of divine human life, a life lived in conscious dynamic harmony of illumined mind, impassioned and tender heart and increasingly, consciously divinized body.
In his introduction Shepherd references the “Ipcress File”, an espionage movie that I love from the sixties. He talks about the mark that a prisoner makes on his hand to help him remember the reality of his circumstances, and equates that with the marks that he has made over the years as various forms of notes to himself, to remain connected with his reality.
Shepherd notes that our culture is one in which we live in our heads – everything is intellectualized, moving us away from the living world. Because of this, we live in a world filled with fear and anxiety. There is an interesting side to this book – it is about “the body”, rather than ideas about the body. Is it about listening to our bodies, and connecting with them. At the end of each chapter is a exercise for the reader – complete with photos of how the movements should be performed. The book unfolds in an organic logic manner, as opposed to a linear fashion. Freedom, creativity, and presence are the intended hallmarks.
At the beginning of each chapter are quotes appropriate to that chapter’s theme. The text itself is unique, in that words or phrases that Shepherd considers significant are either placed in bold print or in italics. It was a bit annoying for the first few pages, but one gets used to it. (My feeling here is that what is important will vary from reader to reader, but it doesn’t hurt to show where the author’s emphasis was meant to be.
In Part I, first topic addressed is the elements of myth, and the Sacred Marriage. This is very important at this time, as the feminine is coming into stronger emphasis to actualize healing. From there, we move on to the Universal Law, the tyrant part of our persona, and its quest for “self-achieved independence”. From t here we move into our axial consciousness, recognizing the tyrant’s urges within us, and moving beyond them. Shepherd moves into the arena of divided self, divided world, and the dynamic unity of the present.
Part II talks about perspective, male and female strengths, the self-consciousness of tyranny, and rules versus principles. Also covered is the Hero’s Journey, the journey that each individual takes to manifest wholeness.
Part III moves into the exchanges of being, and answering the call that life sends out to us. Shepherd states that to refuse this call is to refuse the mutually animating, corational change between self and world. There is a need for us to answer the calling of the world around us. Included in this section is material on wounding, truth and gratitude. It is all about what Shepherd terms “becoming conscious of consciousness”.
Part IV covers the body as history, specifically the cultural journey from embodied consciousness to unipolar consciousness, and what forces separated our thinking from our being.
Part V, recovering our senses, our elemental sensitivity. With Air, we unleash our Dragon. With Water, we experience the emptiness of fluidity. With Earth, we are rooted in the present. With Fire, we see the Phoenix of the world. Our work is to remain in harmony.
The wisdom in this book comes from Shepherds own life-changing experience as he cycled around the world, as well as from the findings of neuroscience, physics, psychology, myth, history, spirituality and anthropology. It all comes together in layers upon layers of wisdom, wisdom that through the exercises in this book we can embrace in our own lives, activating our own change.
I highly recommend this book for anyone on a journey of personal or spiritual growth.
© December 2010 Bonnie Cehovet