Writing in the Woods review

This life-changing journey begins with a single realization:

What it means to be alive in relationship to Self and World is a question that is answered by each culture with a different story. And our culture’s story of what it means to be human is like the air we breathe, ubiquitous yet largely taken for granted, shaping our entire civilization and the way we think, feel, and act.

And so it follows that if we want to illuminate the root to all of our problems, we must investigate the fundamental story that governs our lives, how it came to be, and how it may evolve into something that will bring us into greater harmony with ourselves and the universe.

This daring quest is the one that Philip Shepherd embarked on over a decade ago and this masterpiece work of consciousness, art, and literature is his offering to the world.

It begins by pin-pointing the fundamental flaw to our story of existence: in short, it is the Story of Separation.

By seeing ourselves as separate from the natural world, we act accordingly. By seeing the universe as consisting of separate, unintelligent, dead matter controlled by deterministic forces, we act accordingly.

But these are more than perspectives; they shape our entire experience of existence so that we mistake our story for reality itself. And therefore, it is not enough to simply ‘enlighten’ our minds. Because our minds too have become separated. Instead of changing our thoughts, we must change the very way in which we think, and the forms of intelligence that we draw upon. Before we can experience and treat the World as whole rather than separate, we must first experience and treat the Self in this way.

With this, Philip Shepherd has gone to the source of all our outward actions–the inward experience. And he does this by brilliantly illuminating something so pivotal to our existence and yet entirely taken for granted:

We have separated head from body. We have become trapped in our skulls, where we have sided with only one type of intelligence–the brain’s intelligence, which excels at focusing in, breaking things down into pieces, and gaining perspectives to leverage control. Before reading this, you may have thought this wasn’t even a question. Where else would we experience the center of self? How else would we make the right decisions if not through logical deduction? Of course the brain is the control room where all intelligence resides (and what is the body but a machine?). By delving into vast tracts of historical information, powerful truths hidden within etymology, and modern science, Philip Shepherd shows that this is not the case and has not been the experience in countless other cultures throughout history. The body has a powerful and necessary form of intelligence, one that we have been severely suppressing.

The body’s intelligence is about opening up to the big picture, feeling the whole, and integrating mass amounts of information and influences to arrive at an intelligent intuition that cannot be broken into logical pieces. Is this type of intelligence lost?–rendered invalid by the brain that defines intelligence as step-by-step logic? We make decisions based on feeling all the time, but we often do so mindlessly while pretending that the brain’s logic is in control of everything. By seeking only to do and control, we isolate ourselves from the sheer genius of the world around us–the world that is beckoning for us to join it.

By illuminating the nature of the heroic journey to wholeness and true human potential, Philip Shepherd not only presents soul-stirring ideas about reawakening the intelligence of the body, but every idea is offered as a doorway to an experiential awakening through the powerful process of integration, which he describes in visceral detail.

Through the insightful metaphors of myth, we are able to experience the different elements of self, and to identify the mechanisms of our inner tyrant, fueled toward self-achieved independence. We then realize that the world is offering us countless opportunities every day to make small ordinary acts of heroism toward self-achieved submission. By reuniting our brain’s intelligence with that of our body, we can clear the baffles that partition our beings and allow our energy to flow into wholeness, leading us then down the ‘corrational corridor’ to unite Self and World where our actions will be guided and informed by a source unknowably greater than the isolated brain.

It is the journey to wholeness that beckons to us all. All we must do is listen. Listen with our entire being.

Thank you Philip Shepherd for calling out attention to it.


Leave a Comment