Birth: March 26, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri
Death: November 14, 2021 in Victoria, B.C.
Ben was well educated. He graduated with a Liberal Arts degree from Amherst College in 1949 with a Liberal Arts degree, and from the School of Architecture at Washington University in 1956.
He became a visiting professor of Architecture at Rice University, U of Kansas, California. Polytechnic School of Architecture. His strong interest in humanistic psychology led him to Esalan for Fellowship and training in psycho-therapy in 1966.
In 1973 he married Millicent MacKorkindale in Berkeley, CA. At the time of their marriage, Millicent’s daughter, Komisar, was 7 years old. Ben became her step-father. The family immigrated to Victoria in 1975.
Between 1967-2019 Ben practised psycho-therapy in US and Canada. In 1979, while living in Victoria, Ben obtained a Ph.D in Bioenergetics, and became a Bioenergetic therapist and trainer for the NY Institute of Bioenergetics. He continued to work as a private practitioner in Bioenergetics until 2019.
Beginning in 1986 Ben created an innovative psycho-therapeutic model which combined Bioenergetics and conventional psycho-therapy practices. He wrote training manuals which were used internationally. From 1986-2016 Ben established training groups throughout Europe.
In 2018 Ben struggled with chronic kidney failure. He was on a life support system of daily home-based dialysis until his death.
He was an a member of Kolot Mayim Reform Temple
Rabbi Lynn Greenhough officiated at Ben’s funeral and gave the following eulogy:
What does it mean to live with generational angst, a torment of darkness in the soul – where and how to find the light? I think these questions and this quest dominated the life of, Ben Shapiro.
In our morning blessings we read:
.בָּרוךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵנוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חשֶׁךְ
עֹשֶֹה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא אֶת הַכֹּל… בָּרוךְ אַתָּה, יְיָ, יוֹצֵר הַמְּאוֹרוֹת
Blessed are you, God our God, Ruler of the universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates all things… Blessed are you, God, who forms light.
God created light and fashioned darkness, and in doing so created Seder, order in Creation. For, as God filled Creation, with all of its variations of lights and darknesses, so too are we each our own manifestations of creation, of light and darkness. Shadow, darkness, forms us, and allows us to envision pathways of light and love, or union.
Ben was born in St. Louis, and his childhood/adolescence was turbulent. His mother, from the Loeb family, wrestled with her sons very being, a wrestling for identity and control, both caught in that tangle of self and other similar to that of Jacob’s wrestling with his angel/demons. That wrestling would never abate; it would act to inform Ben’s work for his lifetime. Darkness reveals light, and released from those inner devils – as Ben termed them, came Life Force.
Ben married Millie, and adopted her daughter Lucinda, when Lucinda was 8. In many ways Ben didn’t know how to father, he had to learn – as do we all – how to become a parent. But in his final hours he could speak his truth of his love for her, his daughter.
Ben was internationally renowned for his work; he published papers by the hundreds. Bioenergetics, a field that provides for releasing emotions from physical bodily restraints, was his training ground, with his mentor and teacher Alexander Lowen, which then allowed him to develop his ideas about Life Force, his true métier. How can we become who we are meant to be – how can we resolve that question of purpose?
Ben was in Esalen in its early years, in 1966-67. The hot tub of Esalen was a meeting place for many souls disaffected with traditional therapeutic methods – one can only imagine those conversations in the steamy waters, overlooking Big Sur.
Those formative waters of Esalen coalesced within Ben and he continued his journey of honing his own methodologies. His practice would unite physical and emotional selves, and release the internal demons of both himself as therapist and mentor and those of his clients, releasing darkness into joy, peace, union.
Ben was a mentor and a teacher to many; his students spanned the globe. ‘All the world’s a stage…’ Ben loved that world stage. Increasingly, he became focused on transmitting his ideas, spending long stretches of time away from home. Home, for Ben, was both internal, as he formulated his ideas, and external, his work, necessitating travel far beyond Victoria; he spent many years in Europe attending workshops and conferences where he tutored and trained his devotees. From the mid ‘80’s through 2016, Ben created innovative psycho-therapeutic programs, wrote training manuals and worked in private practice. The family home was full of people, of life energy, with both Millie and Ben sharing their creativity and talents.
Sadly these last years have been difficult for Ben as kidney disease kept him close to home, closer than his spirit wanted many days. Lucinda was his advocate, his window, his confidante, and she tirelessly worked to keep him comfortable.
People knew Ben variously as demanding, and gentle, brilliant and wise, self-absorbed and loving. He loved to laugh, he was honest, Ben lived for his work. And many lived and will continue to grow into themselves through his life’s work.
May all who knew Benyamin ben Benyamin v’Yohanna hold their facets of memory into light, into blessing, into life.
- Millie Shapiro
- Lucinda Komisa