A wildly ambitious attempt by the author of The Reenchantment of the World (1981) to reinterpret the entire history of the West through an analysis of the split between mind and body, and the consequent attempts to heal or hide from it. While characterizing consciousness as "fully embodied," Berman blames an early shift from kinesthetic to visual awareness for "the basic fault" in our natures and as the source of untold torment and turmoil. Pointing to heresy as the pivotal countercultural current, a "skeleton key to the whole Western reality system," he launches into a rereading of Christianity, the Cathars, science, and Fascism—illustrating, he says, four categories of "gnostic response" present in all heretical movements. As he careens through the tangled undergrowth of our individual psychologies and the collective psyche, Berman raises more questions than he clears. He names one fault, but describes many—between mind and body, human and animal, Self and Other, male and female—and compounds the difficulties by adopting psychologist Robert Masters' concept that we have not one body but five (finding it more accessible than the seven often described in traditional religious thought). He enthusiastically cites dozens of other thinkers—psychologists, novelists, historians, mystics, sociologists: everyone from Descartes to Rajneesh. Along the way he mixes scholarship with slang, analysis with zeal. There's more good intent than execution here, but Berman's to be applauded for gathering much provocative material and raising important questions about it.
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