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Everything You “Know” About Life You Learned as a Fetus: Foundations of Myth and Mind and my Personal Involvement with This Research into Our Actual “Human Nature”

Your Map of Reality Was Written in the Womb: Falls from Grace, Chapter One — Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

Prenatal and perinatal psychology is the field that deals with the effects of events occurring prior to (prenatal) and surrounding (perinatal) the time of birth upon later life and personality. An ever increasing amount though certainly not all of the information we have about these periods of our lives and their effects is derived through the later and vivid remembering of these events in a phenomenon known as re-experience. Correspondingly, the two most frequently asked questions about this relatively new field, put by those initially encountering it, are those concerning the specific meanings of the terms perinatal and re-experience.

At the outset, I wish to present an explanation of these two terms and of my unique personal relation to this topic as well as some of my background in exploring it. I will follow this with an historical overview of the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology, which will reveal the key concepts and understandings employed throughout this book.

Re-Experience and Reliving

For over forty years, beginning in 1972 when I was a senior undergraduate in college, I have been involved both personally and professionally in a comprehensive investigation into the phenomenon of re-experience. Also called reliving, this phenomenon is reported to consist of a full somato-cognitive remembering of previous events in a person’s life. Reliving involves experiential but also observable and measurable components, such as brain wave changes, characteristic physiological and neurological changes, and typical observable body movements.

This phenomenon can occur, to varying degrees, in many consciousness-altering modalities—including hypnosis, LSD psychotherapy, primal therapy, rebirthing, and holotropic breathwork; to a considerable degree in re-evaluation co-counseling and treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder; and, occasionally and spontaneously, even in mainstream forms of psychotherapy, counseling, and “growth seminars.”

Re-experience is a more vivid and more completely somatic catharsis than what has been described in psychotherapy in terms of abreaction. It is in such contrast to normal abreaction that when these seemingly bizarre yet healing events have spontaneously erupted in traditional or mainstream Western contexts they have usually been mistakenly labeled psychotic, been intervened upon, and then aborted—via drugs and other highly coercive measures—by the attending therapeutic authorities.


However, with an increasing appreciation for their therapeutic value, these events are gradually becoming understood and accepted in therapeutic contexts and thus allowed to complete themselves and to instruct the participants and observers in their meanings. Therefore, they appear to represent something new in our culture in terms of both a way of approaching knowledge and in terms of the kinds of information that are discovered (Grof 1976, 1985; Hannig 1982; Janov 1971; Lake 1966/1986; Noble, 1993; Stettbacher, 1992).

My Relationship to the Phenomenon of Re-Experience

My interest in the phenomenon of reliving began forty-four years ago at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate there I was most inspired by a course in religious studies titled “Religious and Psychological Approaches To Self-Understanding.” I was so inspired by the course that I constructed my major around its topic and initially even used the same title for my program’s name. This major in “self-understanding” would lead me, in a few years, to a profound interest in and exploration of primal therapy, as presented by Arthur Janov (1970) in his much-publicized book, The Primal Scream: Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis.

By 1972, I had completed all but the one final semester for a B.A. That semester was to include the cumulative project—required of such a Special Studies (individually structured) major. However, since my project would focus on primal therapy and one of primal therapy’s basic premises is that knowledge cannot really be known except through experience, I could not in good conscience turn in a project describing primal therapy without first experiencing it. Consequently I withdrew from college, for what was supposed to be only a semester, with the intention of “going through” primal therapy and then returning to school to write my cumulative project on it. In those days, the entire process of primal therapy was reputed to take only three to six months.

But a lot was unknown about that modality in those early days. As it turned out, I would not return to school to complete that final project until 1978—at which point I had five years’ experience of primal therapy behind me and was living in Denver, Colorado.

In addition to these experiences, I have amassed a broad array of other experience and training over the years that have contributed to my understanding of re-experience and of this field in general. Besides my two decades and more of primal therapy … both formally and in “the buddy system” … I have received training as a primal therapist. I am also a trained rebirther, having explored that modality since 1986. I have been experientially exploring the modality of holotropic breathwork since 1987 and did training with Stanislav and Christina Grof in that technique.

Finally, I have been facilitating people in their journeys into deep inner primal and holotropic states since 1975. I’ve given individual sessions in all three modalities of primal therapy, rebirthing, and holotropic breathwork. And with my wife, Mary Lynn Adzema, I conducted three day workshops in something we called primal breathwork. I’ve conducted two-day group workshops in this modality at conferences, which were attended by as many as sixty experiencers at a time.

Thus, I have experience in my own process in these modalities; but in addition I have facilitated for others on many occasions, and at times, it was my main profession—though most of my life I have spent in writing, teaching, and research.

Pre- and Perinatal Re-Experience

Re-experience of birth and of the events immediately prior to and after birth are termed perinatal—from the Greek, literally “surrounding birth.” It has been widely described at this point by a number of authors but is most closely associated with the work of Stanislav Grof, Arthur Janov, and Frank Lake.

However, one significant and as yet little explored or understood phenomenon, arising also from the modalities mentioned, is that of prenatal re-experience. In this case, the experiencer reports … and observationally appears to be … experiencing events that happened en utero, sometimes going back as far as sperm, egg, and zygote states (Buchheimer 1987; Farrant 1987; Grof 1976, 1985; Hannig 1982; Janov 1983; Lake 1981, 1982; Larimore 1990a, 1990b; Larimore & Farrant, 1995).

These reports of remembering experiences that occurred before birth are at such variance with Western professional and popular paradigms that they are met with near-universal incredulity and, too often, premature dismissal. Yet the evidence from the mounting numbers of experiential reports and empirical studies attests that something which is at least unique and interesting is going on here.


Nevertheless, much of this prenatal information is thus far unformulated, untheorized, and unintegrated into a coherent structure for making sense of these experiences. This book will go a long way toward doing just that—making sense of prenatal experiences and exploring the implications and prospects of the knowledge gleaned from this fascinating new area of research and which arises from the vision that an exposure to this material induces.

The present work represents an attempt to bring this new information concerning our origins and our earliest experiences into such a coherent structure. After the initial overview of the field to be presented in this chapter, I deepen that review of the current understanding and findings in this area in making a case, in Chapter Two, for the legitimacy of prenatal spirituality.

First, let us take a closer look at what we know about the time before and around birth and what it means for us throughout our lives.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field—Early Theorists: Psychoanalysis and Birth

Sigmund Freud — Birth as Prototype for All Anxiety

While Freud (1927) disregarded major effects of birth on personality, he still saw the birth experience as the prototype of all later anxiety. His overall disregard of birth, however, was largely influenced by the belief—although discredited (see Chamberlain, 1988), still common in mainstream psychology and medicine today—that a newborn does not possess the neurological capacity for consciousness at birth.

Otto Rank — Psychoanalysis, Birth Trauma, Foundations of Personality and Some Myth, Separation Anxiety

Other early psychoanalysts disagreed with Freud on this. Otto Rank is the most notable of these. Following Freud’s basic psychoanalytic reasoning for personality patterns in early infancy, he asserted basic patterns of experience and ideas that are rooted in even earlier experience. Rank (1929) claimed the deepest, most fundamental patterns of these personality constructs originated at the time of birth, which Freud thought was not possible. Based upon the dream, fantasy, and other patterns of associations arising in his patients in psychoanalysis, Rank postulated a birth trauma, which he saw as a critical event in laying down in each of us particular patterns of thinking, motivation, and emotion for the rest of our lives. Notable among these prototypes was a feeling of a paradise once known but somehow lost, a separation anxiety caused by the separation at birth, and a resulting futile and lifelong struggle to re-unite with that golden age and that early beloved because of a desire to return to the womb.

Nandor Fodor — Dreamwork, Birth and Prenatal Processing and Relivings, Prenatal Origins of Consciousness and Trauma

Also a psychoanalyst, Nandor Fodor (1949) focused on the reflections of birth and prenatal material in dreams. He also designed interventions in therapy to release the negative effects of birth and to process prenatal memories. He was the first to mention actual relivings of birth, in which veridical memories were recovered. He agreed with Rank on many points, but he stressed the origins of consciousness and of trauma being in the prenatal period.

Donald W. Winnicott — First Primal Therapist? Birth Relivings, Importance of Birth—Negative Imprints but Positive Effects, Too

Another psychoanalyst, and pediatrician as well, Winnicott (1958) also held that birth is remembered and is important. He insisted that the birth trauma is real, but he disagreed with Rank and Fodor that it is always traumatic. He suggested that a normal, nontraumatic, birth has many positive benefits, particularly for ego development. Still, he contended that traumatic birth is permanently etched in memory and leaves a lifetime psychological scar. Winnicott (1958) also suggested the possibility of prenatal trauma.

He has been called the first primal therapist in that he described the first birth primals—actual observable relivings of birth—spontaneously occurring by some of his patients during their sessions with him. Thus he was beginning the trend beyond mere talking association or dream analysis as ways of accessing and integrating this material.

Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Research and Theorists: Hypnosis, Primal Therapy, and Birth

David Cheek and Leslie LeCron — Hypnosis, Birth Memories and Imprints on Personality and Relation to Psychiatric Disorders

Cheek and LeCron (1968) used hypnosis to retrieve early memories in their patients. They discovered that memories earlier than what they expected, going back to birth, were possible. Importantly, a relief of symptoms seemed to follow from the re-experience of these birth memories. They came to the conclusion that a birth imprint occurs, which is induced by the extreme stress of that time and is resistant to fading from later experience. Further they asserted that this imprint could be the cause of a wide spectrum of psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders.


Leslie Feher — Psychoanalysis, Birth, Cutting of Umbilical Cord, Separation Trauma

Leslie Feher (1980) sought to extend the Freudian tradition farther back into areas that, she asserts, were until only recently unknowable. Thus, she describes a natal theory and therapy that includes experiences of cutting the umbilical cord, birth, and even prebirth. In fact, she considers the cutting of the umbilical cord to be central in her theory of trauma, calling it the “crisis umbilicus,” and echoes Fodor in claiming that it is the true origin of the castration fears made so much of in psychoanalysis. This is so because, according to Feher, the cord and placenta is an object of security and is considered by the fetus to be part of him- or herself. Thus, this cutting represents a supreme threat in being a separation from a total life support system, a major organ, a part of oneself. In these ways, she also brings forward for renewed appreciation Rank’s speculations on the element of separation trauma as a crucial element of the birth trauma.

Arthur Janov — Primal Therapy, Traumas of Birth and Early Life and Healing Them, Empirical Foundations and Neurophysiology of Early Events and Healing

Perhaps the major theorist and popularizer of the phenomenon of re-experience (which he termed primaling), Janov was reluctant to acknowledge the pervasiveness of pre- and perinatal re-experience and trauma. Yet when he did, it was in a major work on birth trauma, which remains as a touchstone in the field in its depth and detail. Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience, published in 1983, among other things places birth as the determining factor in creating basic personality constructs, called sympathetic and parasympathetic, which roughly coincide with the more common terms introversion and extroversion.

This work is more empirical and neurophysiologically rooted than most in the field. While the book is recognized in the field, Janov and his work have not gotten anywhere near the respect and attention that they deserve. He remains the unfortunate kicking-boy of a movement that is itself scapegoated by the academy and the larger scientific community.

Thomas Verny — Primal Therapy, Birth, Especially Womb Life and Relation to Personality … Prenatal Mother-Infant Bonding

The actual stimulus for a new field of pre- and perinatal psychology and the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health—APPPAH was Thomas Verny’s (1981) The Secret Life of the Unborn Child. His work brought together a good deal of the new empirical research that had opened the doors to us on the events in the womb. While himself a practitioner of “holistic primal therapy,” he integrated the accumulating data from the phenomenon of re-experience with the new information from the more traditional, “objective,” scientific research into the prenatal—made possible by the latest advances in technology.

One of his conclusions from this combination of lines of inquiry was that “birth and prenatal experiences form the foundations of human personality” (1981, p. 118). His other conclusions center around the importance of intrauterine bonding in that his research strongly suggests that the prenate, via pathways hormonal and unknown, picks up on the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of the mother. More importantly, he asserted, the imprint of these factors on the fetus predetermines the later mother-child relationship. He emphasized that positive thoughts and feelings toward the fetus—”maternal love”—acts to cushion the new individual against the normal stresses and unavoidable harshness inherent in birth and early infancy. Yet all of this cannot be completely avoided. “Birth is like death to the newborn,” writes Verny (1984, p. 48).

David Chamberlain — Hypnosis, Confirmed Validity of Birth Memories

David Chamberlain (1988), for many years the president of APPPAH (the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health), has further substantiated the claim of consciousness at birth and the accuracy of pre- and perinatal memory in the phenomenon of re-experience. He reported one study he did in which he compared hypnotically retrieved memories of birth from mother and child and found an astonishing degree of conformity in their responses. Of note was the degree of inner consistency and originality in these memories as reported by the former neonate. They often contained technical details of the delivery and labor unlike what would be expected of the medically unsophisticated, a perceptive critique of the way the birth was handled, and other details of the event that could not have been known through normal conscious channels.


Overview of the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Field — Later Theorists: Societal Implications, Psychohistory, Birth and Prenatal

Lloyd deMause Psychohistory, Prenatal and Poisonous Placenta, Sociohistorical Implications of Gestational and Birth Events

Lloyd deMause (1982, 1987) was instrumental in establishing the new interdisciplinary field of psychohistory. In his study of historical happenings he discovered that stages in the progression of events related to stages in the progression of gestation and birth … which stages happened to correspond, by the way, remarkably well with Stanislav Grof‘s four stages of birth, his Basic Perinatal Matrices.

He found that natal imagery especially predominates in societies during times of crisis and war, when national purpose and state of affairs are construed as a need to escape or break free from an enclosing and constricting force. He also noted the suffering fetus and the poisonous placenta as sources of these later metaphors and imagery. In fact, in studying the imagery in the national media of various countries he has been able to predict political, social, and economic events such as wars and invasions, recessions, and political downfalls.

His work begins to look at the prenatal influences and imprints and how they related to macrocosmic issues of politics, history, social movements, and issues of war and peace.

Later Theorists — Dream Analysis

Francis Mott — Conception and Gestational Basis of Myth, Archetype, all Patterns of Macrocosmic and Microcosmic Realities and the Nature of Reality, Devolutional Model of Development

Francis Mott’s work is less well known even by this field’s standards, yet it is undeniably impressive. Mott’s (1960, 1964) major contribution lies in his focusing on basic patterns of mind and cosmos that correlate with prenatal feelings and states. He traced consciousness back to events around conception and saw these events as instituting patterns affecting all later experience and conceptual constructions. Through dream analysis he elicited these “configurations,” and he demonstrated their manifestation as seemingly universal archetypes in myths and universal human assumptions about the nature of reality.


In fact, through his study of womb and conception patterns he claimed to have discovered patterns that underlie and unite all of reality at all levels of manifestation—astronomical, social, personal, cellular, and even nuclear. While this may seem rather grandiose, his work was highly regarded and admired by Carl Jung.

Mott also carried forward the intimations of earlier prenatal theoreticians, notably Rank and Fodor, on the gestational basis of archetypes. While he does not address or seek to discredit the range of, supposedly genetic, archetypes postulated by Jung, his work is highly suggestive of an experiential, specifically, pre- and perinatal, as opposed to genetic basis for many of these.

Denial and Incest Taboo

Mott (1960) also helped us to understand why if these prenatal memories are possible they are not more prevalent by suggesting denial is necessary in order to protect against incestuous feelings that might arise around feelings remembered from being inside one’s mother.


Devolutional Model of Consciousness Development

Finally, he made the postulation—hugely relevant to the theme of this work—that our original expanded capacity to feel is diminished, as he says, “divided,” by experience not increased by it. The idea is that there is a reduction in awareness as a result of early traumatic events, beginning around conception and then on, and not the buildup of consciousness and feeling that we assume from the mechanistic paradigm that sees consciousness as a byproduct of increasing physical, specifically brain, activity during our early years. (See, for example, The Doors of Perception: Each of Us Is Potentially Mind At Large… When Perception Is Cleansed, All Kinds of Nonordinary Things Happen and Occupy Science … A Call for a Scientific Awakening: In Tossing Away Our Species Blinders, We Approach a Truth Far Beyond Science.)

Later Theorists — Breathwork

Stanislav GrofBreathwork, LSD, Birth and Prenatal, Myth and Archetype, Spiritual and Consciousness

A pioneer in this prenatal area is Stanislav Grof (1976, 1980, 1985, 1990, to name a few). His many works, providing a framework for conceptualizing perinatal and transpersonal experiences, are a profound and useful starting point for an investigation into this area.

In his use of LSD beginning in 1956 for psychotherapy, called psycholytic therapy, he discovered four levels of experience of the unconscious: the sensory, the biographical, the perinatal, and the transpersonal. He noted a tendency for growth and healing to occur in a progressive way through these levels. The sensory band is the level of expanded sensory awareness and is usually initially encountered by participants. The biographical band is the realm of the personal unconscious wherein unintegrated and traumatic memories and material from childhood and one’s personal history are retrieved, often relived, and integrated. The perinatal level of experience usually follows after dealing with the biographical material and involves the remembering, re-experiencing, and integrating of material that is related to the time prior to and surrounding birth. The transpersonal band, the level of spiritual experience, is usually reached after dealing with the other three levels.

Four Modes of Experiencing—the Basic Perinatal Matrices

Grof has also delineated four matrices of experience, four general experiential constructs, which he called basic perinatal matrices (BPMs). He discovered that experiences at all levels of the unconscious often group themselves in four general ways that are roughly related to the four stages of birth. Thus, Basic Perinatal Matrix I (BPM I) is related to the generally blissful or “oceanic” feelings that often characterize the fetus’s state in the womb in early and middle pregnancy. BPM II is characterized by “no exit,” hellish feelings that are related to the situation of the fetus in late pregnancy when the confines of the womb become ever more apparent but there is as yet no indication of any possibility of relief. BPM III relates to the birth process itself, the birth struggle, which is still characterized by feelings of compression and suffering but in which there is movement and change and thus hope of relief through struggle. If BPM II can be compared to hell, where there is no hope, BPM III is more like purgatory. Finally, BPM IV relates to the actual entry into the world, the termination of the birthing process, and is characterized by feelings of triumph, relief, and high, even manic, elation.

In his descriptions of the levels of experience and the matrices of perinatal experience, Grof has provided useful maps of the unconscious and experience in nonordinary states, which have incredible heuristic value in our understanding of cross-cultural religious and spiritual experience, psychopathology, personal growth, and consciousness and personality in general. And they have been utilized successfully in providing a context and guide for many tens of thousands of participants in his psycholytic and holotropic therapies.

However, while Grof is exhaustive in his descriptions of fetal and perinatal experience, he says less about the earlier experiences in the womb—the first trimester—and even less about conception and the experiences of sperm and egg—what is known as cellular consciousness. Still, this area is beginning to be discussed among his followers. And through his current nondrug modality, called holotropic breathwork, people are accessing these areas and beginning to give word to them (e.g., Carter, 1993).

Frank Lake—Breathwork, First Trimester, Early Experience as Foundation for Myths

Frank Lake, though less well-known again, has probably been the premier theoretician on the topic of prenatal events during the first three months of gestation. Just prior to his death in the early eighties, he wrote a culmination of his thirty-year investigation into pre- and perinatal influence in two works titled Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling and The First Trimester. In these works he goes beyond his other works (for example, 1966) in placing the roots of all later experience, and in particular, distress, at the first three months of physical existence.

Lake began his investigation of re-experience in 1954. Like Stanislav Grof, he did this using LSD, initially, in the psycholytic therapy that was being developed at that time to facilitate therapeutic abreaction. Later he, again like Grof, developed a nondrug modality to accomplish the same thing. His method of “primal therapy” employed a type of fast breathing—again, like Grof’s later technique—to access theta-wave brain levels, which are levels of consciousness that he saw as crucial to accessing and integrating these memories.

His thirty-year research led him to the realization of the importance of ever earlier experience. Thus his earlier stress on the importance of birth gave way to his later emphasis on the first trimester in 1981 (Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling) and in 1982 (The First Trimester).

He stressed the maternal-fetal distress syndrome, beginning at around implantation, as a major time of trauma. He also described a blastocystic stage of relative bliss just prior to that.

His one other major disagreement with Grof was his belief that the mythological and symbolical elements described by Grof were a product of LSD and that the first trimester events were the actual roots of much of such symbolism and supposed transpersonal/mythological scenarios (1981, p. 35).


Later Theorists — Myth and Sacred Text/Mysticism

S. Giora Shoham — Devolutional Model of Development, Falls from Grace

While not strictly a pre- and perinatal psychologist, I include this too little-known theoretician and criminologist because of the close relationship and influence his work has had upon my own work regarding these Falls from Grace. Falls from Grace and other devolutional models of consciousness postulate that during life and over time, beginning at conception, we actually are reduced in consciousness and awareness, not increased in it, and it corresponds to a “brain as reducing valve” theory of consciousness. (Again, See The Doors of Perception and Occupy Science.)

While I initially constructed and wrote down my devolutional theory of consciousness—Falls from Grace—without the benefit of Shoham’s work, upon discovering it I could not help but be both confirmed and reinspired by the astounding resonance his understanding has with my own.

Shoham (1979, 1990) starts his devolutional model in the womb and carries it through birth, weaning, and the oedipal periods of development. Though, as I delineate in Part Two, I disagree with his model by beginning mine at the creation of sperm and egg—as does other devolutional theorists like Francis Mott and David Wasdell—in virtually all other major instances his model corresponds to my own if one simply … in keeping with a normal trend in child development in general as it begins to integrate the new pre- and perinatal evidence … places everything back a little farther in time—in this case, specifically, one stage back.


Later Prenatal Psychology Theorists — Cellular Memory and Conception, Foundations of Myth and Personality, Spirituality and Soul

Lietaert Peerbolte — Conception and Cellular Memory, Soul, Spirituality

Peerbolte (1954) was one of the earliest theorists to relate spirituality to conception and sperm/egg dynamics. In addition to claiming that a regression to conception is the inevitable result of all prenatal states, he traced the sense of “I” — the “I-function” — back to the egg, existing even in the mother’s ovaries. He further postulated that the spiritual self was invisibly present within the field of attraction between the egg and the sperm. Correspondingly, he was the first to point out that the existence of conception, preconception, and even ovulation symbolism in dreams indicates the existence of a soul. For, he asked, what mind records these events otherwise?


I wrote the article, “A Primal Perspective on Spirituality,” which later became the next chapter in this book before I knew about Peerbolte’s work. Yet, once again the conclusions I came to, especially about the existence of soul being established by the fact of these memories and especially those at the cellular levels of sperm and egg existence, are very much in line with his.

Michael C. Irving — Primal Therapy, Birth, Sperm, Egg, Myth, Dragon Symbolism, Prehistoric Cult and Ritual

Michael C. Irving is a primal therapist whose contributions include his relation of these earliest events from sperm and egg through the birth experience to fundamental mythological motifs and images across cultures. The originator of a way of interpretation that he calls natalism, he has brought together a host of artistic and artifactual images from a wide range of time periods and cultures which relate, with an astonishing degree of accuracy, to actual pre- and perinatal events.

In particular, he has traced the universal serpent/dragon motifs and mythology to birth and sperm experience, noting, among other things, that the serpent/dragon shape represents the birth canal or tunnel, that the fire-spewing characteristics of dragons relate to consuming pain, and that the constricting characteristics of snakes correspond to the constriction of the birth canal. Of great interest is his deduction that the widely prevalent snake and dragon cults, which were especially popular in prehistory, indicate an attempt to deal with such unfinished birth trauma material as we are only now, in modern times, rediscovering the importance of doing.


Graham Farrant — Primal Therapy; Sperm, Egg, Cellular Consciousness; Soul and Spirituality

Graham Farrant (1987; Buchheimer 1987), a psychiatrist and primal therapist from Australia, is probably the most influential and well-known of those discussing the phenomena that occur at the earliest times of our lives. In addition to echoing Frank Lake in describing fetal, implantation, and blastocyst feelings, he has been able to elicit and describe sperm and egg imprints. He has found trauma from these earliest events to influence lifelong patterns of personality and behavior. He produced a notable video in which segments from the widely acclaimed movie “The Miracle of Life,” which shows actual footage of gamete and zygote events, are juxtaposed via a split-screen with actual footage of a person reliving the exact same events in primal therapy, which occurred before such cellular events were ever able to be seen and recorded. The effect is astounding in the detail in which the relivings replicate the actual cellular happenings.

In addition to his emphasis on cellular consciousness, Farrant has stressed the spiritual aspects of these earliest events. He relates incidents of spiritual trauma at the cellular level in which the individual splits off from Divinity—thus setting up a lifelong feeling of loss and yearning and a desire to return to Unity and the Divine.


Paul Brenner — Sperm, Egg, Cellular Consciousness and Biological Foundations of Myths

Paul Brenner (1991), a biologist and obstetrician, has been presenting at conferences and in workshops on the idea of the biological foundations of myth. For example, he relates basic biological, cellular events to biblical events described in Genesis.

He also relates male and female adult behavior to basic patterns of sperm and egg behavior and to events prior to and surrounding conception. He has said that male and female behavior are just sperm and egg activity grown up!

Elizabeth Noble — Cellular Consciousness and Spirituality, Empirical Underpinnings

Elizabeth Noble (1993) is an educator in the field of pregnancy and childbirth and is a student of Farrant’s. She published a comprehensive overview of this new field, titled Primal Connections, in which she doesn’t hesitate to stress the issues of cellular consciousness and the spirituality that appears to coincide with the re-experience of these earliest events. She provides empirical and theoretical avenues for understanding how memory can occur at such early times. Some of these are consistent with mainstream physicalist science while others coincide with the cutting-edge, new-paradigm discoveries in fields such as biology, physics, and neuroscience.

David Wasdell — Sperm/Egg and First Trimester Imprints, Devolutional Model of Development, Social and Historical Implications

One of the more recent theoreticians in this area is David Wasdell. Wasdell’s (1979, 1985a, 1985b, 1990) major contribution lies in his relating these earliest events to social and cultural patterns. He describes a process of devolution of consciousness beginning at around conception and proceeding through other reductions caused by traumas at implantation, in the womb, and at birth.


Most importantly, he delineates how the result of this diminution of potentiality is projected outwards into the problems and crises of violence, wars, and the mediocrity of modern personality on the scale of the masses and the macrocosms of the group, society, and global events.

In describing the problems of “normality” as rooted in a deprivational and deformational series of traumas from our earliest biological history, Wasdell emphasizes that this gives us the possibility to change that tragic social and personality outcome by focusing on the prevention and healing of such traumas. Thus, he holds out the vision of a new person and new society as an outcome of the efforts directed at the earliest laying down of human experience.


The Importance of the Intrauterine for Understanding Our Times and the Goal of This Book

Despite this long legacy of work and thought in this pre- and perinatal area, much of it, especially the prenatal, remains ignored by mainstream psychology and is largely unavailable to the public. Within the field itself, in addition, the prenatal information, in relation to the more widely accepted and circulated perinatal evidence, seems to be analogous to Otto Rank’s (1929) ideas of birth trauma were to Sigmund Freud’s concerning early infancy in that they are cast under an extra cloud of suspicion and disbelief and disregarded accordingly. Yet, like Rank’s findings also, their main problem may lie with unfamiliarity and prejudice rather than validity or scientific viability; and these findings, like his were, may end up harkening the outlines of future endeavors and being confirmed by subsequent research.

Thus, I believe that this prenatal area in particular is ripe for reaping what it can teach us about what is human, about “human nature.”

Therefore, this book will put forth the possible relationship between our earliest ontogenetic experiences as humans and the structure of human consciousness and stages of human “development.”


I build a model that seeks an initial formulation of this information, teasing out its implications, and integrating it with relevant thinking and theoretical perspectives in anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and others.

However, before proceeding, it seems important to establish this pursuit within the logical-empirical framework that validates it. To do this, let us now turn to the re-experience movement I am most familiar with and feel to be the most important, primal therapy, and discuss its relation to the phenomenon of prenatal re-experience and spirituality.

Continue with How Valid Are Spiritual Experiences? Psychedelic Research and Deep Experiential Psychotherapy Have Intensified the Exploration of Spiritual Aspects of the Unconscious

Return to Falls from Grace, Introduction — The Radical Rational View of Us and It: “Normal” Truth Is Convenient Truth … and Is Anything But True

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Consciousness Evolution from the WWII to the Millennial Generations:  A Hierarchy of Healing, a Global Healing Crisis, and the Unseen Revolution 2815392174_178ecaa9bf_o


Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Fourteen:  Psychological History of Today’s Generations and Changing of the Guard ss-110128-egypt-protest-05-eg.ss_full

Healing Crisis Means Needing to Get “Sicker” Before We Can Be “Weller” and Making It When You DON’T Fake It: Centaurs, Wounded Deer, and the Consciousness Revolution, Untold

What’s in Your Head, Zombie? Being Really Sick, But Denying It — WWII Generation, Nazis, KKK, Right Wing, Tea Party


Birth Woes ~ World Wars and Can’t Know What You Don’t Know … What’s in Your Head, Zombie? 1350003L

Getting Sick In Order to Get Well

What does this all mean? What does this portend? What might be the outcome of this emerging perinatal unconscious? In other words, consciousness evolution or apocalypse? And what is the meaning of this change in consciousness and of these wounded deer and centaurs? Is there hope in this development?

To answer what is the portent of these wounded deer and centaurs and what the emerging perinatal unconscious might mean on a macrocosmic or societal-global scale, it is helpful to look at what an emerging perinatal unconscious portends on the individual or microcosmic level.


What we have learned from the experiential modalities—holotropic breathwork™, primal therapy, rebirthing, vivation, and others like them—is that unerringly people need to get “sicker” before they can get well. This should not be news to psychoanalysts or any of the other mainstream psychotherapists or counselors either.


Healing Crisis

adkfjafkdj;clip_image004_thumbBasically, the underlying repressed material must come to the “surface,” must become more conscious…and obviously when it becomes more conscious its accompanying symptoms are exacerbated. This can be called a healing crisis in that the symptoms get worse, more obvious, more blatant; and there is a period of acting them out before integration and resolution happens.

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One Must “Die” to One’s Sickness Before One Can Be “Born” Well

enchufesImages-of-Scotland---The-Innocent-Railway-Tunnel-EdinburghWhen Grof talks about birth/death scenarios in the perinatal unconscious, he is including these sorts of healings, where one must “die” to one’s sickness before one can be “reborn” into another way of being, without those sick patterns or symptoms.


Degrees of Disease

Dissociation – Completely Split Off


It’s YOU! YOU’re the f&^$#r!

350x259px-LL-3357ab07_Poster-12AngryMen_06We see a progression over the last century in which there was complete dissociation from the perinatal unconscious by those of the Fifties, the World-War-Two, and previous generations—hence complete projection of it on The Other—to lesser dissociations from it by the generations since, baby-boomer and afterward, which involve more awareness of it as being a part of oneself and less projection of it on The Other.


Wounded Deer

natalie-portman-black-swan-2woundeddeerIn this latter instance, there is more suffering from it and more individual acting out of it, so that in a sense one appears “sicker”—the perinatal is more obvious in one’s behavior, taking more individual forms, and it is more easily recognized and seen to be a personal problem…a “sickness.” Earlier I described this consciousness as being the way of the centaur, for it reflects Chiron, in ancient myths, having an ongoing wound but eventually becoming a teacher and healer.


To understand the ways the perinatal manifests depending upon one’s “closeness” to it, let us contrast the two extremes of being split off from it and being close to it.

Being Really Sick, But Denying It: WWII Generation, Nazis, KKK, Right Wing, Tea Party

Can’t Know That You Don’t Know

clip_image010[3]tea party teaFirst let us take a look at what the perinatal appears like when it is completely split off from one’s conscious personality. This complete splitting off from the perinatal entails teacherteethM220px-Mitt_Romney_by_Gage_Skidmore_3a complete repression and denial of it. Consequently, one has absolutely no access to it, and thus one is in total ignorance of the underlying motivations of one’s actions. One unconsciously acts out perinatal elements and traumas and manifests them in one’s behavior, rationalizing all the while that one has really good—non-perinatal, “real world”—reasons for why one is doing the things one is doing.









Thousands turn out at the State Capitol to rally against Obama policies, huge deficits, bigger government and higher taxes.  Corneliu Constantinescu (CQ) wears tea bags on his hat at the rally on the steps of the Capitol.  Photo by Doug Beghtel/ The Oregonian

What”s in Your Head, Zombie?

enrapturedreaction.crpdcrpdPsychohistorians deem this state to be such an oblivious one that they use the term trance-state for it, fully intending all the implications and connotations that term engenders. That is, they are saying that people who are this repressed and split off do their acting zombie-like and out of motivations completely hidden from themselves. [Footnote 1]

Birth Woes ~ World Wars

Cheney-LookinForwardtoMadMaxinagentsmithsplitoffIn such total ignorance, and of course being totally ignorant that one is in ignorance, people in the past century have been able to act out their perinatal underbellies in ways to make such hideous and all-encompassing wars as World War I and World War II possible.

clip_image013[3]Leaving aside for a moment the myriad ways the perinatal has unconsciously been acted out in this century in creating the current situation in which we are on the brink of extinction—which can be considered the most serious consequences of this splitting off imaginable—simply focusing on this century’s major wars as evidence of perinatal acting-out alone is instructive.

clip_image014[3]The Nazis, in particular, were extreme in their dissociation from their perinatal, in their projection of it onto the Jews, and their consequent ability to act it out in horrific ways on them and others. Alice Miller and Lloyd deMause have each detailed the psychodynamics of this projection of primal pain—both perinatal and childhood—in the creation of the people that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis became in their adulthood. [Footnote 2]

clip_image016[3]The Nazis present us with the patterns of these processes of dissociation and projection in blatant and obvious relief. The way Nazis, especially in concentration camps, acted out perinatal trauma on their prisoners has been described in great detail by Grof as well. [Footnote 3]


Wounded Deer and Centaurs – Being “Weller,” But Appearing Sicker – Perinatal Awareness of Boomers and Beyond


Perinatal Boomers and Beyond—We Know THAT We Don’t Know…We Could Be Wrong.… But You Certainly Are


Being “Weller,” But Appearing Sicker—Generations Since

As I said, contrasted with being completely split off — dissociated — from one’s perinatal unconscious, as the Fifties and WWII Generation are predominantly, is being less cut off from it and having artistcliffjoseph.lrgrcrppdsome access to its energies. This means that rather than being totally and blindly driven by these forces, which are acting on one indirectly,iLM6lBbT4w5BPeusSTPeb4xhkJXcrppd one actually feels them somewhat: One has a sense of their being a part of one’s experience as opposed to living within them so thoroughly that one has not a clue of their existence.


This means that one has more options than to act them out, but it also means they make one aware of one’s perinatal sickness. One feels them, suffers from them, struggles with them.

On the other hand, one does not suffer or struggle from unconscious energies that one is compliant with and that are completely manifest and supported in one’s social and cultural environments (for example, the worlds of the WWII and previous generations), however destructive that makes one’s actions.

Trancing Vs. Suffering

This difference may be likened to the difference between being a fish in water and totally oblivious to that fact versus living out of water and experiencing a downpour. When one is in less of a trance state, one is aware of alternative ways of being; in the example, that would be being dry. Consequently, one suffers and struggles amidst these forces and options…and one has at least some ability to choose one’s actions.

I do not believe it is simply coincidence that we are currently going from the Piscean Age — symbolized by fish in water — to the Aquarian Age — symbolized by a water bearer. This change was a big part of the consciousness during the Sixties, and I think we are beginning to see why: Going from a state where one is oblivious to the forces around one to a state where one can see the things one is dealing with (carrying the water) is no small thing.

It seems everything about evolution in humans has something to do with being between two mediums and the advance/the added perspective that comes with that, going all the way back to being the only ape to take to the water so much as to become partly aquatic—placing our species between water and land, halfway between a dolphin and a chimpanzee. I think we are heading toward being like the fairies and angels we imagine—halfway between land and air—but that is a whole other post.

Another analogy I’ve heard of this difference between the two modes of being completely oblivious and somewhat aware of one’s unconscious is that between living full-time in an arctic environment where one has to wear a heavy coat versus living in a milder climate. In the warmer climes, one is both aware of what it is like to not have a coat—one has capacity to feel better ways of being—as well as how bulky, obstructing, and uncomfortable it is to have the coat on—suffering more from it, suffering from one’s perinatal memories. Finally one is better able to decide when to have it on and not—one has more options. At some point I will discuss what this has to do with the increase of bipolar disorders, but not now.

One analogy I find especially provocative is the difference between watching a movie and being fully engrossed in it so that one does not know it is a movie, which is equivalent to acting out unconsciously from one’s early imprints. Compare this to watching the same movie with equal interest, but being aware that one is in a theater. You can see where in the second instance one would feel there are more options; and one would feel that one could step back before finding oneself caught up in horrific actions.

Wounded Deer and Centaurs

However, being aware of one’s discomfort (having “more access” to the perinatal), one suffers like the wounded deer—the innocent who feels things and so struggles with society’s sickness that many others are unconsciously perpetrating. But, with time and success in handling this pain, one can become the wounded healer—the Centaur.

Now, why and how would this occur? As I’ve said, some access to the perinatal and more blatant and direct acting it out is exhibited by many of the baby-boomer generation. This is in large part due to their having been raised in a way that required less in the way of ego defenses to keep their primal pain suppressed. Psychohistorians like Glen Davis and Lloyd deMause have detailed a slow advance of child-caring techniques, with generations since the WWII Generation being raised with more attention to their needs and less harshness and cruelty…increasingly more love.

“What the World Needs Now, Is…”

Before anyone begins thinking “permissive” or “spare the rod, spoil the child,” let me point out that I will be continually stressing how this development is not only a good thing (why wouldn’t love be good?) but is one of the few sources of hope for our future we really do have.

For less childhood pain and trauma means one is stronger and more able to face the even deeper perinatal pain.

Choosing Lesser Evils

At any rate, the extreme acting-out and total dissociation from the perinatal exhibited by the World-War-Two Generation was followed, in the generations coming after, by less relative dissociation and less horrific forms of acting it out. Quite simply, generations as a whole had better ability to refrain from the more blatantly evil act outs—wholesale murders and world wars, pogroms and genocide, inquisitions and witch-burning, racism and slavery. They were more able to choose seemingly milder forms of suffering and self-destruction — polluting the atmosphere, water, and food; population explosions and crowding of cities; and traffic jams.

The common everyday traffic jam is especially instructive of perinatal dynamics as traffic congestions replicate asphalt birth tunnels where one not only breathes exhaust fumes from trucks and other autos—fetal malnutrition—but also can become gridlock at any moment, thus re-creating the intense frustration and no-exit hopelessness, and rage, of BPM II.

Baby-Boomer Perinatal Awareness

Other examples of the scenery of modern times where the perinatal is manifesting but is less projected onto another:

We Know THAT We Don’t Know…We Could Be Wrong.

clip_image002Many baby-boomers had enough access to their perinatal underbellies to question the absolute rightness of the Vietnam War and so they campaigned against it. This is indicative of closeness to the perinatal because it shows an ability to doubt one’s egocentric defenses—as given by society and family of origin—and to look at situations from the eyes of the Other.

clip_image004So much was this evident in boomers that some were even able to see the Vietnam War through the eyes of the enemy—exemplified by Jane Fonda’s trip to Hanoi, the waving of North Vietnamese flags at demonstrations, and the carrying of little red books of the sayings of Chairman Mao tse Tung.

But It’s Clear You’re Wrong.

clip_image006The baby-boomer—or Sixties—generation also indicate their closeness to their perinatal in their campaigns against some of the act-outs of the perinatal mentioned above: These include actions against pollution; a rejection of city life, with its gridlocks, pollution, and crowding , and a return to the country, in communes or otherwise; an awareness and rejection of polluted foods and creation of a natural and organic foods movement; and actions against global overpopulation including support for birth control, a pro-choice stance on abortion, and delaying of baby-making on their own parts along with a reduction in the size of their families.

The sexual excess that is characteristic of the perinatal, specifically BPM III, was evident in boomers’ free love and promiscuous sexual behavior.

clip_image007Many more examples could be given. But the proof of their closeness to their unconscious dynamics lies not only in their actions—as mentioned above, in their more blatant acting them out or in their actual actions against the blatant acting out, both of which indicate closer access—but also in the study of their unconscious dynamics. As mentioned in Chapter Twelve, Kenneth Keniston found in his study of the psychodynamics of the Sixties generation when they were in their youth an unusual amount of perinatal symbolism and self-analysis. (See “Raging to Reenter, Digging Under Ground.”)

Boomer Rage, Perinatally So

We Shall Overcome.

We also see perinatal feelings in the focus of the baby-boomers on empowerment. This word appears to come up in every area of their lives. It can be seen as the natural focus of a generation that feels itself inside to be a helpless fetus facing an overpowering obstruction of a womb.

Hence baby-boomers are of course also closer to the frustration, rebellion, and yes, rage, that is part of the perinatal complex. We saw it exhibited by them in their anger at authority in the Sixties, their rebellion against the Vietnam War.

“Get the &%$ OFF Me!”

clip_image009Keep in mind that a huge aspect of the perinatal is feelings of restriction, thus frustration, and, consequently rage against large entities of obstruction—like the womb was in relation to the small and helpless fetus. In doing so, we see that the reason for their rage is simple and understandable.

Baby-boomers, characterized as being closer to their unconscious, especially the perinatal, have more access to their anger: This means they feel their anger and are less likely to act it out in more hidden, disguised, and dire ways such as war-making, racism, and anti-Semitism.

This does not mean their rage would not be troublesome. The perinatal lets no one get off scot free. We see lots of pre- and perinatal anger coming out in the last few decades in the phenomenon of the “angry electorate.” Let’s look at that next.

You Didn’t Really Believe Elections Had Anything to Do With Issues, Did You? Biting the Feeding Hand … Perinatal Rage and Panicky Electorate

Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You

Seriously? You Actually Think Elections Have Something to Do With Issues? Biting the Feeding Hand … Perinatal Rage and Panicky Electorate


More recently these baby-boomers have been coming into the triumphant phase of their lives. They make up the largest sector of the electorate, and their influence is reflected more as they come into positions of power in the media and elsewhere.


The Angry Electorate and Boomers

tumblr_m1o7axBksC1r51xsro1_400AngryElectorateBut their influence has been diffused and confused because of the anger of some of them. Their irrational rage—combined with the reactionary consciousness of the Fifties Generation, many of the Fifties Gen children of Yuppies-Gen Xers, and the remaining WWII folks—has most often skewed election results against the Boomers interests and their true desires. Though not the majority of boomers, enough of them expressed their rage to swing election results in favor of the other side.


1992 – “Mad as Hell”

Beginning in the 1992 and 1994 national elections, these baby-boomers exhibited their perinatal influences in contributing to the totally unexpected phenomenon of the “angry electorate.”

clip_image003clip_image002At the time, pundits and media analysts were at a total loss to explain the rage of the electorate that was affecting these elections. In 1992, they were totally surprised by the showing of three men in particular—Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, and Ross Perot—who seemed to have one thing in common: the angry tones and rebelliousness that characterized their speeches, as compared to others. [Footnote 4]

clip_image004The demeanor of these candidates was at such odds with the other candidates that when Bill Clinton one night responded angrily to a comment by Jerry Brown about Hillary, Clinton’s wife, it was that part of the debate—of Clinton being angry, all issues aside—that made the news that night!

Though the rage of the electorate in 1992 caused the Brown, Perot, and Buchanan phenomena, it was split among them, so Clinton ended up winning. clip_image007This of course was also OK with the baby-boomers in that (1) Clinton and Gore were baby-boomers like themselves and (2) in the race against Bush, Clinton was the challenger, and thus the rebel; and Bush was the “bum to be thrown out.”

However, this rage did not go away after the election, which highlights its having perinatal origins. In fact, after the shortest “honeymoon period” in history, by some accounts, it became directed at the most likely target/center—the President, Bill Clinton, himself.

We all know how despite the successes and progress of Clinton’s first year, he was especially singled out for ridicule and denigration by the media. He could not seem to do anything right, and the most incredibly outrageous behaviors were attributed to him.

1994 – “Throw the Bums Out … Again.”

clip_image009This rage spilled over into the next year and, sure enough, during the midterm election—the issues be damned—the angry electorate was in a mood to “throw the bums out” again. It did not matter the party….I do not claim that all those of my generation are always as politically astute as they are angry.

The Republicans called it a “revolution.” It was simply the acting out of an electorate in the throes of perinatal feelings—that is, feelings of frustration, clip_image011being “tied up” by red tape, an inability to go forward…that is, up the economic ladder—wages had been stagnating since the early 80s…being overcontrolled and pushed around by regulations…big government being the big mother womb keeping the fetus locked in and unable to move…and out of all this, the consequent anger and rage.