Posts Tagged psychotherapy
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 Grof — Breathwork, 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).
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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We Are the Centaurs, My Friends: We Are the Necessary Heroes for Deluded Promethean “Fathers,” Open the Jar, Pandora, and Why the Gods Are LOL
We’ve Fallen and We Can’t Get Up: Like Chiron, We Need to Take Inside Us the “Sins” of Promethean Fathers to Stop Millennial Cycles of Suffering
Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Seven: Return of the Centaur and How We Look to the Gods
Enter the Centaur: Wherein Lies Real Hope – Sixties and Millennial Generations Are Shamans for Deluded Promethean “Fathers”
Blind Hope vs. Real Hope … Chiron Is Martyr for The Sins of the Fathers
Prometheus Brought Us Blind Hopes
Another aspect of this is that Prometheus is said to have “caused blind hopes to live in the hearts of men.” Indeed, we are also now seeing how blind was our reliance on technology and the vaunted but vain “rational mind”—which has now been seen to be a rationalizing mind.
For we realize this self-congratulatory thinking has been keeping out uncomfortable truths and building illusory, manic Atman projects of escape from the consequences of our actions. None of which, we are now finding out, are capable of working.
Enter the Centaur: Real Hopes – Chiron
But to jump ahead. There is hope in the Prometheus myth as well. There is shown a way forward for humanity, which at this particular time in history appears to have been prophetic. For Prometheus is saved from his sufferings by the Centaur, Chiron. Chiron sacrifices himself—Christ-like—taking on Prometheus’s suffering and dying in his stead.
Return to The Centaur
Earthy, Sensual, Noble
The Centaur — half human, half animal — does not, like Icarus, paste on wings and try to separate from groundedness in the Earth. No. Centaur qualities are earthy, sensual, sexual. They embrace the noble qualities of the horse … reminding us that as primal beings, early humans, we were noble humans … as they say, a bit ethnocentrically, “noble savages.” We once stood, sure-footed and tall, and we walked confidently upon the Earth, knowing we belonged here.
Wounded Healers, Shamans, Gardeners of Consciousness, Poets … Brave and Foolhardy Journeyers Into the Unapproved and Hidden
Traditionally associated with intoxicants and with the bacchanalian, centaurs can see into other realities, nonordinary ones. They are open to altered states of consciousness. They are not averse to looking into their deeper natures, their “undersides,” their unconscious; that is how they came to be one with Nature in the first place.
Indeed, Chiron is also known as the wounded healer and is associated with the shamanic. Being, like Chiron, healers, centaurs are skilled in both physical and mental health. Thus they are wholistic and psychotherapeutical. They are philosophical. Plato was one. Walt Whitman was one. They are poetic.
Mystics, Scapegoats, Natural … A-mused and A-musing Not Deluded and A-mazed
They are scapegoated, like Chiron was, for the sins of society, and in modern times they have scornfully been referred to as “hippies” and “beatniks” — but they include the bohemian types of all times. Being rooted in a more fundamental nature or reality they are mystic. Jesus was one. Following a “different drummer,” as it were, they are the Wayseers.
Connected to the real source of truth in Nature and the Divine, they are in touch with their muse … and are both a-mused and a-musing…but they are not into the maze of culture, the matrix, they are not fooled or a-mazed.
The Centaur is completely in tune with her and his planetmate-nature, the Divine and Natural order—as in the Jungian and mystic understandings of individuation as being a re-uniting with a fundamental and earlier reality — returning home, humble and prodigal-son like.
The Opposite of Ordinary Folks…Who Build Stairways to Heaven and Towers to Their Vanity
This is the opposite of most folks who spend their lives seeking to vainly build stairways to heaven, Towers of Babel to the divine, to be muscular Nietzchian supermen, or to struggle up Wilberian ladder-style paths for imaginary achievements and to an understandably elusive “enlightenment.”
We Are the Centaurs, My Friends
This self-sacrificing tendency in humans I will be talking about at length at the end of this book where I point out how we need to stop acting out and begin taking back the projections we make onto the Unknown and thereby stop the Promethean cycles of suffering going on for millennia. We need to, like Chiron, take upon ourselves the “sins of the fathers.” As Tom Waits sang it, “I’m gonna take the sins of my father (mother, brother, sister), down to the pond…I’m gonna wash them.”
Exactly that. We must make the heroic sacrifice of taking inside ourselves those perennial urges to act out on others what was done to us. In environmental terms we must make the sacrifices of lowering our standard of living and cutting back on the lavish appetites and lazy indulgences fed by excessive technology, cultural trinkets, and superfluous commercialism, which other generations were allowed to take to the limits of their times. For if we do not, then there will be very little left for future generations—assuming there’ll be any.
These cultural “achievements” — wrought of burning of fossil fuels, release of fiery energy from the atom, and despoiling of natural resources — all of them in some way rooted in the theft of fire long ago, which started it all, must be let go of. We must refrain from being driven by these addictions and substitutes for actual felt experience, take the “fire” within instead of burning it up without. So in physical terms we must bring those excessive urges home within ourselves and ground them in Nature, bring them back into our physical bodies, we must be Centaurs. And within our bodies experience the discomfort of such a monumental millennial turnabout.
So, no. This is not easy or comfortable.
No. Not easy or comfortable.
Real Hope Lies in Pandora’s Jar and Return of the Centaur … Since the Last Time Was 1961, It’s None Too Soon
Open the Jar, Pandora, and Return of The Centaur … Wherein Lies Real Hope
Open the Jar, Pandora
In psychological terms, real change lies in peering deep into the Pandora’s jar of the unconscious to recover the real hope that is there. Remember, Zeus punished humanity for Prometheus’s theft by sending Pandora. Pandora opened the jar she was told never to look into—another broken law of the Divine, like that of Eve and Prometheus—and out came all the ailments that now plague humankind. It is said Pandora tried to close it but “it was too late.” Still, the legend tells us what was left inside was hope.
I don’t think you have a better description of the way most folks, including most psychologists, handle the discomfort of early pain: They can’t help but be affected by it…some of it does “leak out.” But they expend all kinds of efforts toward bottling it up as much as possible, suppressing, repressing, using all kinds of defenses—including what mainstream psychotherapists call “healthy” ones.
Well, There’s No Sense Going Half Way!
Yet I can tell you as a primal therapist, breathworker, and primal person that is the exact wrong thing to do. From the perspective of deep experiential psychotherapy and Holotropic Breathwork one must open the “jar” all the way up. One must surrender to the discomfort within—not acting it out but acting it in…or rather, surrendering to the feelings that come up and expressing them (opening the jar wide).
The jar is the personal unconscious, and what we find is that the only answer to all these troubles is to look deeply into them; for when we do we find the real hope that lies beneath the pain. Or as I have phrased it, there comes a time when one feels through the “negative grids” (the “pain grids”) to the “positive grids” (the “joy grids”). Therein is the hope.
What we find is that when one has faced and integrated perinatal pain, then the blissful experiences from earlier in womb time opens up. In Grof’s terms referred to earlier in this book, when one allows oneself to experience the depression of BPM II (constricted womb) and the tribulations of BPM III (birth itself), then one is open to the euphoria of BPM I (early womb experience). Rather than seeing through a veil of perinatal negativity and illusion and acting out from the unreal self or ego, one is getting closer to one’s real self as a positive, truly creative being, .
This is not a fleeting experience, for it allows a completely new perception on one’s life, vastly different from what one normally thinks. One has access to positive patterns laid down at earlier and more fundamental times in one’s life. One can build a life that works, for once. One can make choices that trigger one into happiness, not ones that are self-destructive and conducive to unhappiness.
This is true in therapy and on the spiritual path but also in ordinary life. For any time one confronts or looks deeply into one’s discomforts there is a time when there is release from it, there is a time when one is in a better place for having faced it. As the Tao symbol indicates, there is a seed of light in the depths of darkness.
Additionally I can tell you that opening up even more to the reality of consciousness, as opposed to constructing egoic “castles in the sky,” leads to uncovering the “spiritual grids” beyond even the “positive grids.” That is when we go beyond even hope to actual redemption, re-union with estranged divinity, faith, empathy, love, and finally compassion. And that is when we as Centaurs go from being just wounded and suffering to being, like Chiron, healers…and caring teachers.
So, for centaurs, for those who take this path, it is more depressive than aggressive. And up to the euphoric culmination I described above, it is painful and ongoing as well, just as Chiron’s wound was incurable and tormenting. These become the shamans and wounded healers, like Chiron, throwing themselves into the fire, rather than shooting fire all about themselves at others. Centauric folks take on the suffering lest they end up being like all those before them who sheepishly and selfishly passed the burden down.
Return of the Centaur
In another part of this book I point out how there are, beginning with the Sixties, now generations who are doing just that—working out these pains, not acting them out.
I just recently delineated the way these primal pains are emerging and how they are being worked through, not acted out, in younger generations and in alternative, rock music, and therapeutic cultures for a number of decades now.
Finally, in a related work of mine, Culture War, Class War, I have written how the Sixties Generation is a centaur generation and how the millennial generation is continuing that tradition. I’ve pointed out Sixties folk are centauric in standing upon (sitting upon) the achievements of previous generations but also reversing the perverse Promethean human direction by reuniting with our rootedness in Nature.
Chiron Return…Every Fifty-One Years
This humble and correct primal returning has been done, is continuing to be done, and will keep on being done as the Sixties generation continues working out its power struggle at the top, but now aided by a Millennial generation—comprised mainly of their daughters and sons — who are rather centaur-like themselves … as this book and the related works continue to show.
And who, because of this, following different stars grounded in realities both deeper and higher, they boldly confront their societies, bringing about change, creating rapid evolution, revolution; and in doing this they have already created an Arab Spring and an Occupy Wall Street movement. They will bring about profound change in that they are opposed to the powers that be, just as their parents were opposed to the “establishment” of their day and created a “counter” culture.
The Chiron cycle is fifty-one years, meaning the last time we had energies like we do now in 2013 was in 1962. If you lived through or know about that decade, you know that 1962 through 1972 were among the most transformative, progressive, and revolutionary years in the history of the world…and it indeed was a worldwide phenomenon. Considering the dire developments and challenges being laid at our feet, as this book has been laying them out…and requiring as much social but personal change as well…the centaurs couldn’t have returned any too soon.
How We Look to the Gods and Prometheus Redux … Building More Nukes and Drilling More Holes – Icarus Keeps Flapping and the Gods Can’t Stop Laughing
View From the Heavens and Prometheus Redux … Icarus Is Flapping and the Gods Are Laughing as We Build Nukes and Drill Holes
Before leaving Prometheus for good, let us consider some other interesting aspects of its rendering that provide insight into this book’s exploration of the deepest psychological—perinatal—roots of our apocalypse now:
- According to the first, he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his liver, which was perpetually renewed.
“Betraying the secrets of gods to men” includes the biggest divine prerogative—dominion over death. Also, this implies that humans were given the forbidden knowledge which humans are incapable of controlling, which I dealt with at length in a previous section, using as modern examples our stirring up the forces of the atom and the secrets of the DNA.
- According to the second, Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with it.
One of the results of Promethean hubris was control of Nature but therein also detachment from Nature. As I have been showing, our birth pain led us to the Promethean mistake of fire and meat. Both of these contribute to what I have called the thingification of humans, especially in modern/postmodern times. By that I mean our extraordinary pain coming into the world and then in general in life causes us to split off from the feelings in our bodies. We objectify all of Nature: We remove all its feeling and spiritual components and leave Things as the only reality, including ourselves and other humans. We “thingify” our babies; and as adults we embrace thingification (repression, detachment, estrangement, suppression, alienation) as a way of defending against this pain.
- According to the third, his treachery was forgotten in the course of thousands of years, forgotten by the gods, the eagles, forgotten by himself.
This separation from the pain creates the personal unconscious. But as a species, we have created a collective unconscious—what I have called the Unapproved and Hidden of all cultures. And as I have said, the truth became increasingly invisible over time…our real nature, what we did, and the true cost of our estrangement became ever more buried, obscure…eventually unknowable.
- According to the fourth, everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.
This refers to what happens when we face these uncomfortable truths and resolve them. Ultimately we leave behind these dramas when we have dealt with them so much they no longer have any charge for us… in other words, they become boring… we “weary.” The patterns are still there, but they contain no charge for us.
So the first legend asserts that we are damaged and pained as karmic retribution for our defiance of Nature. And in these last three legends we have the ways we have reacted to the Promethean wound within us: ”We become unfeeling, detached, rock-like. We become one with our defenses, thingified.
The second says that we repress this information and it becomes increasingly hidden (“forgotten”) as our species has “evolved,” but also individually, as we get older in life. This is generally what is done with the Promethean wound of birth pain. The third says that some of us face and deal with the wounds. Eventually they are gone beyond, truly gone beyond, as eventually all the charge on them disappears, they have no more control over us or pull on us, as we just naturally weary of them…they dissipate.
- There remains the inexplicable mass of rock. The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.
Finally, inexplicable substratum of truth is a pretty damn good description of the Unapproved and Hidden … also known as the Collective Unconscious… But in my rendering of it—dealing with our species unconscious, not just personal, “racial,” societal, or cultural—it contains much more than Jung imagined and because of that reverses many of the interpretations and meanings arising from it from what the Jungians, Joseph Campbell, or Freud understood.
Finally – Futility… The Gods Are Laughing at Us
One final message can be taken from these ancient minings of unconscious Truth which is also a commentary on our current mainstream reactions to the dire developments which are now reaching an apocalyptic peak:
Icarus Flapping – LOL
In the Icarus myth, “Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms.” I don’t think there is a better image for the way we look in our actions in the face of apocalypse. The gods, aliens, Titans, angels, and the planetmates must be laughing their asses off at the sight of humans continued “flapping” about with ever more technology, pushing ever forward into the face of doom and apocalypse—the sun, the fire for Icarus—even as the Earth below us continues to fail, disintegrate, get polluted and poisoned, and no longer support our continued hubris.
We’re Falling and We Can’t Get Up
Oh, yes, we’ve started the Icarus fall…our wings of technology are “melting”—literally in the case of Fukushima—but ever faster we “flap”—seeking to build more nuclear plants, hiding from the populace the extinction level events that are happening RIGHT NOW at Fukushima, seeking to drill ever more even with the BP spill clear as can be in the rear view mirror, lining the Koch Brothers pockets in touting the benefits of coal as an energy source, melting the rocks around natural gas so that our tap water catches fire and poisons folks who drink it, and so much more. So, yes, even more furiously we flap, the harder for every increase in our fall.
We furiously pick up litter as our organs rot from radiation poisoning. Oh, yes, we’ll die. But where we fall it will be tidy. We register voters and sign petitions as our organs rot from radiation poisoning. Oh, yes, we’ll die. But we’ll all be able to vote. [Footnote 1]
View From the Edge
We’ve had a long journey through the world of ancient myths and prehistory in delving into the way our prenatal state of oxygen insufficiency has pushed us to make fire and polluted environments attractive to us. We’ve seen how these early pushes have set us apart from all other species and placed us on an inexorable slide—which we in good time embraced and claimed as a goal and achievement even—to the edge of an apocalyptic abyss.