“It is the great error of Western philosophers that they always regard the human body intellectually, from the outside, as though it were not indissolubly a part of the active self.”
Which body is it with which we feel ourselves – our self?
Which body is it through which we feel ourselves inwardly ‘closer’ or more ‘distant’ to others, however near or far they are in physical space and time?
Which body is it with which we can feel ourselves to be inwardly ‘warmer’ or ‘cooler’ towards other people, irrespective of our physical temperature?
Which body is it with which we can feel ourselves inwardly as ‘heavier’ or ‘lighter’, ‘fatter’ or ‘thinner’, yet without any change to our physical weight or size?
Which body is it whose ‘heart’ can be inwardly felt as ‘big’ or ‘small’, ‘warm’ or ‘cold’, with which we or others can feel ‘heartened’ or ‘disheartened’, ‘lose heart’ or suffer ‘heartache’, seem ‘heartless’ or ‘big hearted’ – independently of the size or functioning of ‘the heart’ as a physical organ?
Which body is it with which we can feel ourselves ‘expanding’ or ‘shrinking’, ‘uplifted’ or ‘carried away’, ‘sucked in’ or ‘trapped’, ‘open’ or ‘closed off’, ‘full’ or ‘empty’, ‘shapeless’ or ‘spineless’, ‘exploding’ or ‘imploding’ – yet without our physical body moving or changing shape in any way?
Which body is it with which we can feel inwardly ‘drawn into’, ‘drawn out of’ – or ‘withdrawn into’ ourselves – as if into some warm and nurturing womb or else some cold and solitary prison or tomb?
Which body is it with which we feel ‘high’ or ‘low’, ‘up’ or ‘down’, ‘uplifted’ or ‘let down’, ‘beside ourselves’, ‘spaced out’ or confined in our skins?
Which body is it whose ‘skin’ we feel more or less inwardly ‘at home’ in, which can make someone seem ‘thick- or thin-skinned’, that without any physical skin irritations can make us feel ‘prickly’, ‘edgy’ or ‘irritable’, ‘stretched’ or ‘frayed’, that can feel tight and constricting like a diving suit or straightjacket – or like a porous, comfortable and loose-fitting garment?
Which body is it that can be felt as more or less inwardly ‘solid’ or ‘firm’, ‘fluid’ or ‘airy’, ‘hard’ or ‘soft’, ‘smooth’ and ‘rounded’ or ‘jagged’ and ‘sharp edged’ – all independently of its physical shape and features?
Which body is it with which we feel the inner ‘brightness’ or ‘darkness’, ‘levity’ or ‘gravity’, ‘lightness’ or ‘heaviness’ of our own and other peoples’ moods?
Which body is it whose overall mood or ‘feeling tone’ – like its voice tone – can be felt as ‘bright or dark’, ‘light or heavy’, ‘sharp’ or ‘dull’ and ‘flat’, ‘resonant’ and ‘full’ or ‘hollow’ and ‘empty’?
Which body is it that we actually sense and feel from within, that is the source of all bodily self-perception or ‘proprioception’ – rather than a mere external object of perception?
The answer to all these questions is not our fleshly ‘physical’ body and its organs. It is not any body we can measure, weigh or apply any form of medical tests to.
Nor, however, is it some form of pseudo-physical ‘energy body’ of the sort that New Agers and practitioners of alternative medicine speak of (see ‘Life Medicine and ‘Energy Medicine’).
Instead it is our ‘felt body’ or ‘lived body’. To be more exact, it is not just a body we feel or are aware of. Instead it is a body of awareness – of feeling awareness or ‘soul’.
What I call feeling awareness is what used to be called ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ – yet in a way that traditionally has failed to recognise the ‘soul’ or ‘psyche’ as a body in its own right – the ‘lived body’ that can also be called our ‘soul body’ or ‘psychic body’.
This body is not composed of tissue, bone and blood, cells and organs. Nor is it made up of some form of ‘etheric’ or ‘subtle’ matter. The ‘stuff’ of which it is made is the ‘stuff’ that Shakespeare spoke of – that “stuff on which dreams are made” – awareness.
The lived body is therefore also the body as we experience it in our dreams – what Arnold Mindell calls the ‘dreambody’ or ‘dreaming body’.
It is also the very ‘life and soul’ of our so-called physical body – being also its soul or consciousness.
A portion of our ‘lived body’ or ‘psychic body’ makes up what can be called the ‘physical soul’ or ‘body consciousness’, i.e. those patterns and qualities of molecular and cellular awareness that constitute the essence of the human organism. As for the so-called ‘physical body’ this is just the lived body and its physical soul as perceived “from the outside”.
It is the lived body or psychic body that quite literally ‘in-forms’ the physical soul. And yet the lived body as a whole is not in any way bounded by it, but is a much larger body of feeling awareness, one whose field of awareness that embraces our entire life world – including not just our own body but every other body within it – whether than of a person, animal, tree or any seemingly insentient object.
Our body consciousness or physical soul too, is in no way unaware of our external environment. Instead it is highly conscious of and sensitive to it – indeed more conscious of it than most people’s ‘conscious minds’ are.
The ‘lived body’ or ‘felt body’ should not be thought of simply as referring to the ‘physical body’ as we feel or experience it from within. For again, what we call the ‘physical body’ is nothing but one dimension and one portion of the lived body as it appears to us and others “from the outside” – in the external form of the human body and its organs.
No amount of precise chemical or electromagnetic analysis of the ink marks on the pages of a book or the text on a computer screen will ever reveal the totally invisible, immeasurable and multi-dimensional world of meaning they express.
Similarly, no form of ‘objective’ external or even ‘internal’ examination or scanning of the physical body and its organs – which means viewing the inside of the physical body “from the outside” – will ever reveal the lived body – which is a distinct subjective body in its own right.
To persuade a ‘scientific’ biologist that behind what appears “from the outside” as a mere 3-dimensional physical body lies an invisible body of living and feeling awareness would be like trying to persuade someone who has not learned to read that behind the 3-dimensional ‘body’ of a book or a 2-dimensional screen of text lies an invisible, unbounded and multidimensional world of living and felt meaning.
Just as the physical body can be compared to a book or text, so is it also a speech organ of the soul and of its body – the lived body or ‘soul body’ and that portion of it that makes up our ‘physical soul’.
Body language or ‘body speech’, bodily metaphors and physical symptoms are all ways in which the human ‘physical’ body or organism reveals itself as a living bio-logical expression of the lived body and of that portion of it which constitutes our ‘physical soul’ or ‘body consciousness’ – being quite literally its ‘life speech’ or bios logos – what Freud called ‘organ speech’ (Organsprache).
This truth finds expression in language itself – for example in bodily metaphors such as ‘losing heart’ or finding something ‘hard to ‘stomach’. These verbal metaphors which are actually not ‘metaphors’ at all but express directly experienced states of the lived body. These states are what also find symbolic expression in the illness – as for example ‘loss of heart’ can find expression in heart disease or finding something ‘difficult to stomach’ in digestive problems. Recognising this is the basis of Life Medicine and Life Doctoring.