CONTACT US
          LINK TO US



The Soul Centres
of West and East
Peter Wilberg

1. Head, Heart & Hara
2. Soul Science
3. Soul-Space and the Soul-Body
4. Spirit, Soul and Soma
5. Exercises in Hara Awareness
Peter Wilberg not only contrasts the head- and heart-centred cultures of the West with the hara culture of Japan. He introduces an original and revolutionary understanding of the inner body of the human being and its centres - the 'soul centres of West and East'.

      See more at


SYNOPSIS    | review | contents | preface |

Where do we feel our awareness centred in our bodies - in our heads, and hearts or lower down - or in the sensed inner space of our abdomen or hara? The hara is the womb space of our inner body and the seat of our innermost being - the body and being which Daoist alchemy called 'the golden embryo'. Its centre - the tan tien (Chinese) or tanden (Japanese) - is a centre of awareness that can link us 'umbilically' to the golden embryo of others - to their inner being and inner body. Head, Heart and Hara teaches us how to centre both our breathing and awareness in hara, and in this way renew a sense of inner connectedness with our own being and other beings.

An ancient Daoist saying tells us "When you are sick, do not seek a cure. Find your centre and you will be healed." The centre it refers to is the hara. Not being in touch with our hara centre is a sickness - the generalised sickness of our globalised Western culture. Individuals feel this social sickness as a lack of deep inner contact with them-selves and others - a contact that can only be made from the physical and spiritual centre of gravity in our hara. Dislocated from this centre, we can experience it only as a black hole that pulls us down into states of depression.

'Depression' (a word with no equivalent in Japanese) is, in essence, a lack of hara awareness - the capacity to actively press down or 'de-press' our awareness into the inner soul depths of the abdomen or hara. With hara awareness we not only recontact our own innermost soul depths and soul centre. We learn to make inner contact with others from those depths and from that centre - to experience true intimacy of soul.

Paradoxically, what passes today as scientific 'psychology' has no place for the soul or psyche - nor any understanding of its relation to our own inwardly sensed body. Hara awareness is both an alternative to medical and psychiatric 'cures' and the basis for a genuinely psychological medicine - an anatomy of the soul-body and its centres.

Head, Heart and Hara not only contrasts the head- and heart- centred culture of the West with the hara culture of Japan. It also shows how hara awareness can unite the primordial wisdom of both East and West. Peter Wilberg brings together the nameless dao of Lao Tse and the wordless logos of Heraclitus in a spiritual science and cosmology of the soul - with all its multiple aspects, centres and spheres of awareness.


REVIEW   | synopsis | contents | preface |

When I pick up a book to read, there is always the hope that somehow it will make this human predicament of existence that little bit clearer - that somehow it will deepen, expand, elucidate or colour my experience of myself, and the world I live in: both its suffering and its joy. In this regard I can only write of Peter Wilberg's book Head, Heart and Hara in the superlative. As I picked up his book I felt as though this was writing and thought for which I had been looking my entire life.

It is not only an utterly profound and ingenious exposition of the very inwardness that I feel and sense as a human being (particularly as a musician and artist), it also addresses and clarifies in a completely cogent and highly insightful way, the many doubts and dilemmas that New Age spirituality, conventional medicine and psychiatry, and the

materialistic standard have left me with. Although on initial reading I found some of  the prose  to be quite  densely  written, I came to  value Wilberg's style as the very expression of that soul world of which he so obviously partakes. In some books I underline a word here or there. Others I mark out an odd paragraph or two. In Head, Heart and Hara I had to resist the temptation to underline every joyous word Wilberg has written. It is brilliant writing and brilliant thought.

Marianne Broug


FULL CONTENTS   | synopsis | review | preface |


Head, Heart and Hara
The Soul Centres of West and East

Soul Science
The Listening Science of the Psyche

Soul-Space and the Soul-Body
Coordinate Points of the Inner Cosmos

Spirit, Soul and Soma
The Unifying Wisdom of East and West

Hara Awareness
Elementary Exercises

The Language of Hara
Traditional Japanese Terms and Idioms



PREFACE   | synopsis | review | contents |

As the Japanese philosopher Sato Tsuji pointed out:

"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."

A preface should tell us something about the matters with which a book deals. So let us begin, quite literally with the matter of this or any book -its materiality. Regarded "from the outside, intellectually" a book is a material body in space. It can also be understood as a vibrating energetic structure. The book's three-dimensional form, however, conceals a multi-dimensional inner world of meaning. We cannot  enter  this world by  researching the fabric of space and time,

matter and energy. We can only enter it by reading the book - letting our awareness flow into its inner soul-space - a space that derives from the unique soul qualities that constitute  the spirit of another  being - its author. The world of soul is a world of meaning. The world of spirit is a world of beings.

To convince a modern scientist of the existence of an invisible world of soul and spirit, however, is like trying to convince someone who doesn't know what it means to read, that the visible ink marks on the pages of a book conceal an invisible world of meaning and are the work of an invisible being - one nowhere to be found in the matter or energy of the book. When early Greek and Chinese physicians sought to diagnose their patients' dis-ease, they did so through different forms of 'body-reading'. This included 'reading' their pulse or pulses. This did not mean simply sensing the quantitative regularity and strength of blood flows impelled by the heart, but sensing different subtle qualities of flow. For the traditional Oriental physician, these qualitative flows are flows, not of blood but of qi. Today, however, the terms qi, ki or chi are still thoughtlessly defined in the West as referring to a form of subtle 'energy'. The thoughtlessness lies firstly in ignoring the fact that the word energy itself is quintessentially Greek, and therefore has a sense and resonance that cannot be lightly equated with the meaning of a Chinese or Japanese character. That meaning is far closer to the Greek words psyche and horme, since qi refers both to a life-giving breath and to something which, like blood, hormones and emotions, also flows. The Greek word horme, like the words 'humours' and 'hormones', derives from the Sanskrit sarmas - a flowing. The physician's awareness of different qualities of flow was an attunement to the soul qualities and soul-body of the patient - to subtle qualities and flows of awareness.

Just as there are flows of air between and around bodies in space, so are there flows of awareness. There is a good reason therefore, why the word 'spirit' has its root in the Latin spirare - to breathe, and why the Greek word for spirit - pneuma - also meant air or wind. Just as we breathe air into the physical spaces of our bodies, so do we also breathe in our awareness of the world around us. So too, in breathing out, do we give expression to that awareness as speech. The Greek word psyche means the vitalising breath of awareness we take into and release from our souls as speech (logos).

The modern term 'psychology' derives from the Greek words psyche (soul or life-breath) and logos (word or speech). Its most literal meaning is 'the speech of the soul'. It was Heraclitus (circa 500 BC) who first conjoined the words psyche and logos in a single saying, one that itself speaks from the depths of the soul, which still stands today as the founding and grounding principle of any true 'psychology': "You will not find any bounds to the psyche by going about its surface, even if you explore every single direction, so deep is its logos."

Here the message of the Greek sage is identical to that of the Chinese sage Lao Tse. Heraclitus tells us that the speech of the psyche is eternal and unfathomable, something that "men fail to comprehend both before hearing it and after they have heard." Lao Tse tells us that "The way (Dao) that can be spoken is not the eternal way." But the Chinese character for Dao also means 'to say'. Lao Tse's famous opening saying can therefore be read in the following way, "The saying that is spoken is not the true saying." Why? Because meaning or sense is never something that can be represented in words but is what communicates silently through the word (dia-logos). The inner sense of a word is not simply its reference to some 'thing' we are aware of but its inner resonance - the way it gives expression to subtle tones and shades of awareness as such.

The material outwardness of the human body, like that of a book, is also a language. Its true inwardness does not consist of flows of 'subtle energy' - the axiom of New Age 'energy medicine'. Instead, the subtle 'energy' known as chi, qi or ki is, in essence, a flow of subtle meanings or senses shaped by a subtle language of the soul - its logos or dao . This language gives expression to subtle qualities of awareness in our inner soul-space of awareness. It also gives shape to an inner body of awareness - our soul-body. The inner soul-space of this body includes more than the inner mind space of our head and the inner emotional spaces of our chest and heart. Its true centre is not an 'energy centre' but a centre of awareness in our belly and lower abdomen - that abode of the soul known in Japanese as hara.

Western culture is a culture of head and heart. Eastern culture acknowledges that deeper centre of awareness in the belly known as hara. Head, heart and hara however, are not 'energy centres' but soul centres - centres of awareness within a singular soul-spiritual body of awareness. For as the masters of Daoist 'internal alchemy' recognised, awareness is not a vacuum or void waiting to be filled with sensations stemming from the material world. That is because, like meaning or sense, awareness possesses its own immaterial reality, it has its own immanent sensual qualities that are intrinsically meaningful - these being elemental soul qualities of warmth and coolness, light and darkness, fluidity and solidity, each with their own spiritual substantiality.

When we truly experience the human body from the inside, instead of regarding it "intellectually, from the outside", what we experience is the fleshly shape and substantiality of our inner body of awareness - our body of soul and spirit. The recognition, rediscovery and 'resurrection' of this body - the soma-psychikos or soma-pneumatikos of the New Testament, the Dharma body of Buddhism and the golden embryo of Daoist tradition - constitutes the unifying wisdom of West and East. This is the wisdom I call soma-psychology and soma-spirituality, the key to which is hara awareness.

It is not the wisdom traditions of the East alone that have guarded the flame of spiritual truth. It was kept alive and glowing in the sayings of Heraclitus. It was rekindled in the thinking of the twentieth-century German philosopher Martin Heidegger when he wrote of man's dis-location from the true centre and deep inner ground of his being. 'Dis-location' is the literal meaning of the German word for madness (Ver-rücktheit). But to see madness as 'mental' illness is itself testament to the madness of modern psychology and psychiatry. For a truly scientific psychology would recognise that so-called 'mental' illness is, in essence, a disturbance in the individual's relation to their own inwardly sensed body and inner bodily sense of self. The generalised pathology of individuals in Western culture is an exclusive identification with their own head and upper body awareness - resulting in an incapacity to ground their self-awareness in their lower body, and centre it in the hara.

The paradigm of our globalised Western culture understands life as an outward movement of awareness from self to world. An earlier Indian paradigm understood life as an inward movement of awareness from world to self. A third, Oriental paradigm understood life as a balance or rhythm of outward and inward movements. This book introduces a fourth paradigm - not an outward but an inward movement of awareness from self to world . For the inward movement of awareness from self to world is a way that can lead us, through hara awareness, to a deeper sense of inner connectedness to the world - connecting our own innermost being with that of others.

Karlfried Graf von Dürckheim, author of the classic work 'Hara, the Vital Centre of Man', was the first European thinker to acknowledge the soma-spiritual profundity of hara awareness, and to propound and promote it in the West. His words also convey the way of the fourth paradigm.

"Man's way inward is the way of uniting himself with his Being, wherein he partakes of life beyond space and time…To realise Being in all and everything then becomes the sole function of his life."


back to the top |