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Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West Paperback – May 1, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0966416831 ISBN-10: 096641683X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 425 pages
  • Publisher: Seattle Writers' Guild (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 096641683X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966416831
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #945,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author's call for a life of the body--as opposed to an emphasis on success, material possessions and divisive "isms"--rigorously extends the arguments advanced in his popular The Reenchantment of the World . Stressing that the human infant's emerging self-awareness is bodily as well as conceptual, Berman views conventional birthing methods as traumatic; he faults modern infant care for a dearth of physical contact with the young. His analysis of repressed "somatic awareness" takes unusual turns: a history of mirrors, decoding of upper-class vs. lower-class body language, a review of our changing relations with animals--from reverential cave art to the treatment of other species as mere objects. Next, he identifies a countercultural tradition supposedly rooted in bodily experience and rejecting the cerebral, mechanical way of life of the dominant culture. Examples include Gnostic seers' fusion with godhead, Jewish mysticism, 11th century French Cathar heretics with their trance and ecstasy techniques, the soul travel of Renaissance occultists. This maverick synthesis challenges commonly held assumptions. Photos. First serial to Reality Club magazine; paperback rights to Bantam.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"This is one of the most important books that will be written before the third millennium begins." -- Larry Dossey, M.D., dust jacket blurb, "Coming to Our Senses"

"[Berman has] stepped beyond intellectual history to become our foremost historian of experience" -- Guy Burneko, World Futures, vol. 30, 1990

"a thought-provoking, boldly original book" --Alex Raksin, Los Angeles Times, 14 May 1989

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By "nigell" on March 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Mr. Berman, is, I believe, a truly masterful writer and historian. His writing is not only accessible to a middling intelligence such as myself, but brings one's knowledge and understanding of the history of the West to a more sophisticated, subtle level. His examination of human beings' current dread of what he terms the Void, and how this relates to the root cause of human suffering, addictions and even mass genocide is wide in scope and amazingly detailed and precise. What many scholars will find most unique about this book is the way Berman inserts his own persona into the telling, (as he must to avoid hypocrisy to his theme!) and his proposal that history is, finally, not ever truly objective, nor should it be. His book provides a prototype and exploration of the possibilities of a type of history which is essential, that of somatic, or bodily experience. The depth to which Berman pursues the root cause of human tribulation is exceeded only in Eastern philosophy: thus my only criticism is that his command of this area of knowledge were more complete. If only Berman and Ken Wilbur could collaborate on a book!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
About once or, (if you are very fortunate), twice in a lifetime you discover true love. The same rare infrequency applies to great books that have the implicate energy to invade our paradigms.
Morris Berman's "Coming to Our Senses" hits you in the gut, pure and simple. Like the path of love, it takes you on a journey filled with joy, familiar whisperings, strange and beguiling propositions, self-revelation and hidden oubliettes.
What is this book about? Well, it's about your body, and how your "you" is a temporal repository of all that can be known. It is about how our "body-selves" contain the organic architecture of virtually everything we see and sense each day, including "history", political structures, philosophic insights, ego-identification, family relations, human interaction, and more.
And it deserves to be read by anyone inhabiting this mortal coil.
Unlike many "New Age" and "Self-Help" books, CTOS will not take you on a blissful sojourn through meadows filled with the trill of Larks. Instead, it will probably challenge every safe and comforting assumption you have about yourself, your identity, and the nature of the human world.
For that reason alone, this work will either be remembered as a brilliant marker, or relegated to the ash-bin of history. You will agree with the former or the latter depending on how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go to chase Berman.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mierek on June 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Morris Berman begins his exploration of the "hidden history" of the West with a discussion of the nemo, a word he borrows from John Fowles' The Aristos which connotes the sense of non-existence at the core of the existential condition. The experience of this nemo, according to Berman, results from a developmental split between the felt sense of embodiment (somatic awareness) and the mental self image that comes from how others see us (specular awareness). Berman uses the history of mirrors and the human relationship to animals to demonstrate how this split has led historically to a de-valuation of somatic, embodied experience, a consequent preference for "cognitively top-heavy" abstraction, and various attempts to heal the breach between the two.

The core of the book is an exploration of four different periods in Western history---the origins of Christianity and Gnosticism, the Cathar/Albigensian heresy in Southern France, the rise of modern science from the practice of alchemy, and the modern phenomenon of Nazism. Berman investigates how these periods relate to the suppression of the body in favor of the abstracted intellect and to the return of that suppressed somatic experience in different forms (e.g,. Gnostic mysticism, romantic love, scientific abstraction, and Nazi mass murder).

Finally, Berman looks at our prospects for the future. Since the abstraction/experience split and our attempts to smooth it over are still going strong in modern Western societies, Berman fears the potential for a resurgence of fascism. (Given the tenor of the 21st century so far, it would seem that his fears are well founded.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By spencient@aol.com on October 7, 1998
Format: Paperback
In this densely-researched work, Berman explores the world's major paradigm shifts from the criterion of heresey. Beginning with the heresey of Jesus Christ and culminating with that of the Third Reich of Nazi, Germany, Berman questions the underpinnings of the status quo civilization.
"Coming to Our Senses," like Berman's first work, "The Reenchantment of the World", reconciles the somatic relationships fundamental to the human condition with those that define the accepted realities of modern science.
"Coming to Our Senses" should be required reading for those interested in the histories of science and morality in the western world, how they could change, and why.
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