More Thoughts on Embodiment and Feeling


I've decided I have at least two books left in me, and one is on embodied feminism. What my co-authors and I mean by that term is that true feminism must arise from being embodied as a female. We will argue that only taking female embodiment as the foundation of feminist thought can clear away the cobwebs and mists that have overcome modern-day feminism and set feminism's course aright.

Starting from embodiment has led me on a personal journey to consider the body anew, and what embodiment offers to the soul. It's impossible to share all these thoughts in one blogpost, but I wanted to share a few tonight.

One thing I've pondered is the connection between the body and feeling, and the connection between feeling and reality. The most obvious level on which this is true is that it is our body that gives us our senses of sight and hearing and touch and so forth--and that while it is possible to trick our senses, yes, our senses are in the first instance our apprehension of reality. There is no other way, at least in this material world.

But beyond that, even when the Spirit touches us, it is touching us in a bodily way. A burning of the bosom, a shiver through our body, a warmth in our heart, even peace itself--all these things are bodily manifestations of the Spirit that testifies of truth. We often say that the Spirit does not have a body, else the Spirit could not dwell within us. But do we stop to consider that the Spirit can only dwell within us because we have a body? Thus the reality offered by the Spirit is also only approachable through our bodies.

It is also the case that our emotions are flesh-based. Here's a great quote by Rod Dreher to that effect: "To know ó and not just to know, but to feel ó that the connection between spirit and matter is intrinsic and irreducible, and that what I do in the world of spirit and in the world of the flesh matters at the deepest level of reality. Itís not a relationship of analogy, of abstraction; itís the realest thing there is." If Light, Love, and Truth are in the end all circumscribed into one great whole, the Truth of Love is expressed in and by the body.

And thus the body has a wisdom of its own that is not entirely encompassed by what the brain is thinking. We find ourselves often surprised by this wisdom. Sometimes we even try to suppress the wisdom of the body by force of mind. This never ends well. Someone found this for me on the internet the other day:



It's hard not to want to weep for this woman. Her body is telling her in no uncertain terms that how she is thinking about sex is wrong. Her body is telling her the truth about sex. Instead of listening, she thinks of her body's wisdom as unwelcome. She wants to find better, more effective ways of ignoring her body, instead of better, more effective ways of being in her body.

The idea of the dualism of body and soul reified in conventional Christianity and also in the Cartesian mindset is altogether wrong, erroneous, and mischievous. We are not "locked in a meat jacket"--we are our body. The great reward for having kept our first estate in heaven was to have our spirit body (notice even our spirit had a body) welded and instantiated in our mortal, fleshly body. That was not a Fall, it was a Rise. Our body was awarded a great materiality, and thus a greater agency, than it had ever experienced before.

And oh, what joy was ours! To be able to hold our loved one in our arms, to give birth, to kiss our lover . . . To feel the wind on our face, the swirl of the tide on our feet . . . no wonder we shouted with joy at the Plan! We must have felt like James Joyce's character Molly Bloom stepping off the page and into the real world, so ably captured by Kate Bush in her amazing and true song, "The Sensual World."

I'd argue that one of the most important things women have lost through their unrighteous subordination in the fallen world is the unfettered right to live their bodily truth. We do things to our body that men want, we allow things to be done to our body that men want, even when our body is screaming "no!" One survivor of prostitution, pseudonym Alice, expresses what has been done:

"I remember one day, when I was charged with having the penis in my mouth of a man I found neither attractive nor affable, and having a sudden meditative like realisation of what was going on. A sharpening into focus. Why was I doing this? How could he enjoy this? The questions, like bile, I swallowed down, until they could no longer simmer underneath. Eventually, every time I had to engage with a punter I became physically sick. I didnít choose to leave prostitution, my body chose for me. In the end, it knew better. Sometimes, our bodies do not suffer the indoctrination of patriarchal conveniences so easily, as do our fronter-most consciousnesses."

When finally we women stop using our bodies as if they were tools, and instead live by way of our body, cherishing it, listening to its wisdom, then our eyes will be clear-sighted once more. Then we will know what has to be done, for we will perceive truth. Then and only then will we make the right demands of our legal system, our society, and our men. I hope this book we are writing will help in that journey.