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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 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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“Bad Blood” — Acting Out Prenatal Feelings of Sickening … Earliest Roots of War, Psychosis, Racism, Xenophobia, Elitism, Homophobia … and Medicine
War, Evil Queens, Mind Control, and the “Unwashed: The Psychotic Acting Out of Feelings—Rooted in Unconscious Uncomfortable Memories—in Insane Societies.
Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Nine: “Bad Blood” – Poisoned, Infected
“Bad Blood” – Poisoned, Infected … Prenatal Roots of Paranoia, Sado-Masochism, Alien Mind Control, and the Evil Queen
Imprints for Paranoia, Sado-Masochism, and the Wicked Witch in Poisoned, Infected, “Bad Blood” Aspects of Fetal Oxygen Hunger
There are three parts to this pain around fetal malnutrition, which defines us as humans and creates what we think of as “human nature” and most often as being genetic, but it is not. We’ve been dealing with the first part — deprivation … we fear there is not enough oxygen/resources coming to us to keep us alive. Another part has to do with the toxic quality of the environment we experience, which we’ll get to soon.
But the one I want to deal with next is the second aspect aspect of oxygen starvation in the late stages of gestation. It has to do with our assessment of the “air”—the oxygen and nutrients—we do get.
We’re Getting Some Blood
As just discussed, we carry an underlying panic that our supply will end at any moment, but we are getting some oxygen from the blood that comes to us, however reduced its flow. It is the contrast from what we knew that is alarming. Imagine blood that is free- and easy-flowing, rich and bright red with oxygen.
But Is It Bad Blood?
Now, imagine blood that is more trickling than gushing, more depleted of resources—oxygen and nutrients—tainted, darker, barely able to sustain one’s life…. The first was our experience of earlier womb life; the second the way it gradually began being perceived.
To be clear, we can’t actually see our blood flow as a fetus, of course. This is meant to be an analogy giving you an idea of the difference in the feeling experience of the fetus in this changing situation. It must be close enough to what it actually was like, since out of it we form images and symbols in later life with these differing characteristics, as I will continue to show.
“Iron Poor Blood”
So we began feeling poisoned, polluted, decrepit, diseased. Our situation in the womb had portents of death and seemed a dire threat if it were to continue. We received blood sufficient to keep us alive, obviously, but it was felt to be degraded, to be “bad blood.” We began feeling that what we were getting was insufficient, even poisoned. The blood that comes is not only barely sufficient to keep oneself as a fetus alive…or certainly it feels that way…but it is tainted, impure…or certainly it feels that way. And one feels not just deprived but attacked.
“Don’t Feed Me That Bullcrap!”
So, the second aspect of fetal malnutrition and the third of prenatal discomfort is the feeling of being forcefed something noxious and deadly. We feel we are being poisoned or infected by what we take in through our breathing or eating. What is coming into us is sour and unhealthy. This is of course related to the previous feeling constellation discussed wherein we fear we are not going to get enough oxygen and so want “pure” blood. But this has to do with our feelings about the blood we do get—it is tainted, not pure. In the one you can’t get something you need, you are deprived (panic). In this aspect of it, you get something but it seems intentionally polluted to harm you (paranoia). Earlier I compared this to the difference between being starved for affection as a child versus receiving unwanted attention as in being sexually or physically abused.
Fractals, Abuse, Sadism/Masochism
The reason this can be seen so clearly at a later time of life is because these feeling constellations are fractals of each other: They occur in the same pattern again and again at different times of our lives exactly because of our tendency to re-create unerringly the discomfort we could not face originally (primally). The original formulation of this pattern in the womb sets up that we will act out on both sides of tendencies to deprive others of affection, as well as to subtly and unconsciously push others away. And because of the other aspect of it, we will also force unwanted attention on others and will assault them, as well as being unable to avoid such attacks. Traditionally, this last has been discussed under the headings of sadism and masochism.
Having dealt with the deprivation/greed aspect of this in previous sections, in this section and the next we will look at the poisoned and infected feelings and their sadistic/masochistic outgrowths. Unraveling this complex at its primal roots in the womb, we expose some fascinating revelations.
How “Bad Blood” Manifests in Our Thinking
In Psychosis—Food, Aliens, and Tin Foil
Though not the most common, I must start with the most obvious adult manifestation of this—the curious notion among paranoid psychotics and some obsessive-compulsives that they are being or are in danger of being poisoned. Certainly through the food they eat, but this also manifests as the idea that “alien” thoughts are being inserted into their minds/brains. I’ve seen walking neurotics (borderline psychotics) strolling around with wire pyramid or tinfoil hats to prevent this infection from above.
We have to wonder how much of conspiracy theory is itself skewed by this constellation in concocting the existence of forces that spy on us and influence our actions from behind the moon (behind the placenta) or some other unseen place. This is what happens when big thoughts are channeled through sorry states of mind.
In Collective Dreams—Myth, Fairy Tale, and the Evil Queen
We express this idea in our myths and fairy tales, of course—for they are the collective “dreams” we share that are given rise to by our unconscious dynamics. A salient example is Snow White. Consider her name, and remember the part about the purity of blood and children, which was felt to be the earlier situation in the womb. In the same consideration of blissful BPM I experiences occurring prior to late stage, BPM II, discomforts, notice that Snow White enjoys an earlier, idyllic time living in communion with planetmates in the forest. She was supposed to be killed (aborted) by the huntsman (god figure), but he falls in love with her and lets her go, telling her to hide. She finds a tiny cottage (blissful womb), where she is aided by and lives in harmony with seven dwarves. The dwarves, as well as the planetmates, represent the forces of Nature aiding exquisitely perfect growth in the early stages of gestation in the womb.
But then, BPM II style, her wicked stepmother wants to poison her, but even notice how.
First the “evil queen” (mother symbol) wants to kill her by crushing her. She ties her tight with stay-laces. Remember that being compressed and crowded was the very first and most obvious aspect of late stage gestation discomfort.
And then begins the poisoning attempts: The evil queen tries to kill Snow White by brushing her hair with a poisoned comb. So, what does this mean? Well, our hair is thousands of tiny filaments that emanate out from our bodies, just as in the womb we have tiny filaments extending from our bodies—arteries and veins—which connect us to our mothers (evil queen). The wicked stepmother poisoning her by combing her hair is saying she is being poisoned through these filaments of arteries extending from her.
Next, the evil queen wishes to get the girl to eat a poisoned apple. Apple, as the ultimate symbol of food, nutrition in Western culture…it was an apple that was eaten in Eden, for example.
Notice that here as in many fairy tales it is a stepmother…in others it might be a wicked aunt or witch…that does the bad stuff. It has to be a stepmother or aunt, for we wish to preserve the idea that a “good mother” still exists. So we separate out an idea of a bad part of her, just as we come up with the idea of a bad god…a Satan…who is responsible for all the bad things that a good God would not be…thus preserving the idea of a good God/ good daddy here.
But there’s more. She fainted when she was tightly laced, and collapsed again after being brushed with the poisoned comb. But when finally poisoned she falls into a stupor and appears dead. Obviously she represents a prenate struggling with the “groggy” and lethargic feelings associated with being trapped, stifled, and poisoned/ drugged … in modern times, sometimes having ingested actual drugs or toxins from smoking or alcohol through the placenta (poisoned through those tiny “hairs” of arteries).
And appearing dead, she is placed in a coffin. Womb symbol, anyone?
How “Bad Blood” Manifests In Our Doing
Having looked at how this early experience of blood degradation is manifest in our thoughts, madness, and creative product, let’s look into some really important, major act outs of this prenatal mental framework for construing things. This brings us to the ways we act out these crazy ideas, emanating from early experiences, in major ways as cultures, as societies, and even as nations.
“We Don’t Want Your Kind Around Here!” … Acting Out Prenatal Feelings of Sickening – “Bad Blood” – in Racism, Xenophobia, Elitism, Homophobia … and Medicine
“Don’t Want Your Kind Around Here!” Prenatal Imprints for Xenophobia, Racism, Medicine, and More
How “Bad Blood” Manifests in Our Actions
This brings us to the psychotic acting out of these thoughts and feelings—rooted in unconscious discomforts and repressed memory patterns—by insane societies.
In this aspect of fetal discomfort, a reduced blood flow to the placenta is experienced as a build up of carbon dioxide and toxins, since they are not removed as efficiently as they were before. Lloyd deMause explains how this womb situation is universally expressed among humans as a fear of being “poisoned” by “bad blood.” He has found that feelings of being trapped and at the same time “infused” with bad blood or toxic energies of some sort precede the outbreak of all wars.
For these wars are the unconscious way humans try to “break free” from these uncomfortable feelings, which are for the most part just early unresolved memories from our beginnings in life. We see “bad blood” as coming from the enemy; We see the enemy as an attacking many-headed monster “encroaching” on the “home”land … a threatening multi-veined placenta, aging and filled with toxins, “filth.” So we wish to attack and destroy the enemy—this placental “monster”—so we can “breathe free” again and escape their “poisonous filth.” (See BPM IV)
How We Act Out “Bad Blood” – Xenophobia, Blood Letting, Smoking
The perfect example, however, is the xenophobia that resulted in the Nazis treatment of the Jews around the time of World War II. I have already pointed out how these walking psychotics injected poisonous gas into Jews in gas chambers out of these prenatal feelings, which they framed in adult thoughts of being themselves infected with tainted money from these Jews. Let us now look at other act outs of this.
Racism, Xenophobia, Classism, Elitism, Homophobia, Intolerance—We Don’t Want “Your Kind” Around Here! Keeping Racial “Lines” “Pure,” Keeping Out “the Unwashed,” Affecting the Gene “Pool”
This is the basis of racism … blacks are pollutants, as are Jews. They want to take away our purity—our pure children…blood libel; our women’s pure virtue. And so we need to dress in white, indicating “pure” blood, to defend against these incursions (the Ku Klux Klan) of “bad blood.”
These feelings of being “sickened” at the end of our womb existence are the root of all xenophobia with its creation always of a toxic Other which cannot be allowed to infect the virtue and purity of people of “our blood.”
We see it in intolerance of others of all kinds. A few days ago, on May 21st, 2012, a Baptist preacher from the South made headlines everywhere by announcing from the pulpit that all gays and lesbians should be “rounded up,” placed in an “enclosure,” surrounded by an “electrified fence.” He imagined they could have food air dropped to them until they died (obviously an insufficient…oxygen starvation…or poisoned…bad blood…amount.) At this point, I don’t believe I need to unravel the prenatal qualities of the morass his mind was thinking in.
And why all this? His exact words are, because “It makes me pukin’ sick!” what homosexuals do. Need I say more? [Footnote 1]
But this thinking is found in classism as well, where royalty calls itself “blue bloods” and only allows marriage between others of its class—from one’s own nation or another, interestingly—and will not allow its “blood” to be mixed with the polluted blood of the masses and “riff raff.”
University intellectuals have a more “refined” take on this primal disgust: They set up barriers to academic entrance in order to “keep out the unwashed,” without a clue they are coming across like scared fetuses inside a virtual womb (academia) trying to protect their continuing flow of blood (money).
This fetal malnutrition gives rise to bigoted ideas of keeping racial lines “pure.” It insists upon no mixing of the races … or ethnicities…for fear of affecting the gene “pool” (pool of blood), but it is always described in terms of “blood” that will be mixed, tainted, polluted, made impure, or degraded. Can you see how these are all instances of fear of encroachment by another from which one senses a threat of pollution and in conjunction which one feels suffocated, made helpless, unable to move freely?
For a long time in Western culture, it was thought that when one got sick that one had “bad blood” coursing through one’s system. The idea was that by bleeding a person one would rid the body of some of this impure blood and the person would get better. This bloodletting was employed for hundreds of years in the face of the evidence to the contrary wherein folks got paler and sicker from this “treatment.” But such is the power of these sorry thoughts rooted in unconscious dynamics.
I’ve already mentioned how we re-create the atmospheric imbalance of oxygen—carbon dioxide in the womb through burning stuff. The smoking of tobacco and other vegetation I likened to our pushes and pulls to re-create the bad air. But in ingesting this air into one’s lungs, we have a most perfect example of the drive to re-create the uncomfortable feeling of ingestion of “bad blood,” in this case, inhaling, bad air. With all rationality set aside, we are compelled to poison, infect ourselves again and again with bad air (bad blood). Again, of such depth is the grooves of the imprint created in our prenatal times and along whose lines we make our self-destructive decisions.
How We Make It Worse
(“Give Us, Oh Lord”) Our Daily Toxins—Drugs, Food Additives, Polluted Air
How we add to this today…how we make it worse: smoking and drinking, taking drugs. We create and imbibe toxins in our food, our air…through the medications we use… The whole idea behind “medicine” is that a toxin (all drugs are) administered in a tiny amount will alter our blood flow in just the exact way to affect some currently felt experience of our blood being bad (sickness).
And in doing these things we reinforce the bad blood experience of fetal malnutrition the fetus will experience out of its being human. We insure we will pass along our bad blood experience to the next generation…we will multiply it even. For the mother’s ingestion of these compounds into her system—smoke, drugs, food additives, air toxins, water pollutants—are felt as receiving bad blood by the fetus, even worse than it would be otherwise just from pressure on the arteries restricting blood flow. Again we create that which we need to resolve, only this time it is the unborn child who will be “infected” with the bad blood and need to face these feelings later in life, again and again.
How We Make it True, Create It
Food Pollution/Genetic Engineering and Propaganda
I can’t leave this without pointing out that, as in environmental pollution and in political oppression, it is all not just a figment of a past memory, as there are those of us acting out this feeling complex by coming up with such odd creations that end up polluting the food of others (as in the tainted food coming out of corporations like Monsanto, with its Frankensteinian concoctions) and that seek to inject alien ideas in others to make us do things we would ordinarily not do—whether that is to buy some unnecessary thing to fatten the wallets of these others (advertising) or to surrender one’s self interest or hand over one’s power and rationality of thought to these others for their political ends (propaganda…in America, Fox News).
Continue with Prenatal Revulsion and Loss of the “Golden Age”: Creeped Out in the Womb, The Itches We Cannot Scratch, and the Deepest Roots of OCD, Bigotry, and Holocaust
Return to Prenatal Hunger Games and “Blood Wars”: The Fetal Fight About “Pure Blood” We Act Out in Politics, War, and Oppression … Class War, Culture War, Revolution….
1. Pastor Worley’s actual words were
Of our president getting up and saying it was all right for two women to marry, for two men to marry, I tell you right now, I was disappointed bad. But I’ll tell you right there, it’s as sorry as you can get. The Bible’s agin’ it, God’s agin’ it, I’m agin’ it, and if you’ve got any sense, you’re agin’ it.
I had way, I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn’t get it passed through Congress. Build a great big large fence, 100..50 or 100 miles long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals. And have that fence electrified ’til they can’t get out. And feed ‘em. And you know what? In a few years they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can`t reproduce.
If a man ever has a young ‘un, praise god it’ll be the first one. All of these… It’s just as well…I’m gonna preach the hell out of all of them. Hey I’ll tell you right now. I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!
You said, ‘Did you mean to say that?’ You’d better believe I did!
God have mercy it makes me puking sick to think about…I don’t even know whether you ought to say this in the pulpit or not. Could you imagine kissing some man? My god I love you fellas, but not that much.
Continue with Prenatal Revulsion and Loss of the “Golden Age”: Creeped Out in the Womb, The Itches We Cannot Scratch, and the Deepest Roots of OCD, Bigotry, and Holocaust
Return to Prenatal Hunger Games and “Blood Wars”: The Fetal Fight About “Pure Blood” We Act Out in Politics, War, and Oppression … Class War, Culture War, Revolution….
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The Primal Screen: The Doors of Perception Stormed and The Perinatal Rising — A Kaleidoscope of Postmodern Life
The Perinatal Veil: Dangling Above an Abyss and Everyday Rebirthing — The Perinatal Predilections of Everyperson
Wounded Deer and Centaurs, Chapter Three: Twenty-First Century and Its Discontents—The Primal Screen
Dangling Above an Abyss
Beyond the entertainment media, it seems perinatal themes and elements are showing up everywhere else in our surrounding environment and culture. The scenery of our everyday reality consists of pollution of our air, water, and food; threat of death “at any moment,” caused by the knowledge of the power of nuclear weapons; fantasies of apocalypse of all kinds, magnified, perhaps, by the ending of one millennium and the approach of the end of the Mayan calende—including fundamentalist Christian imaginings of an end to human civilization in an apocalyptic “rapture”; New Age fantasies of ecological, spiritual, and social utopias; and so on.
First, let us consider a few of the most blatantly birth-related of the events around us.
The Primal Screen: Aliens … Ooooooooooo … Sca-ry….
Alien abduction stories, while a relatively recent addition to our cultural landscape, are unusual in the rapidity with which they have gained cultural currency and are telling in the extreme fascination the public has with them. They have catapulted more than one show—The X Files being the prime example, of course—to cult-like status. The photo here is a scene after the abduction of Fox Mulder, one of The X-Files main characters.
Yet Alvin Lawson has pointed out how alien abduction stories are replete with perinatal elements: passing through walls, umbilical beams of connection to the “mother ship”—the placenta—either fetal-looking aliens or aliens whose eyes are most prominent and the lower parts of their faces undistinguished—similar to the way a newborn might see an obstetrician wearing a medical mask.
Then of course there are the elements of being medically probed, measured, samples taken from one, and being swooshed from one place to another with no say on one’s part—all remarkably like the experience of a newborn, right out of the womb. [Footnote 1]
While I do not think that the “alien abduction” phenomenon is just derivative of birth, as Lawson does, I do believe that we perceive these events through a veil of birth trauma, the likes of which the world has never known. My position is explained in the article, “Alien Abductors: Angelic Midwives or Hounds From Hell?“
Mouth Suctioning…”Oh, What Pretty Teeth You Have, My Alien”
An interesting development in the alien face is the “shoved down the throat” thing going on. Similar to the “Jacob’s Ladder” kind of vegetable thrusting out, which was described in the last chapter, it was popularized greatly in the movie, “Alien.”
As a neonate we cannot see the mouths of the masked attendants at our birth. In a traumatic situation, whatever is hidden is more feared than what can be seen. As in anything else, onto the unknown we can project the most magnified versions of our fears. When these images arise in us, then, it makes sense that if the mouth is shown it might be even more frightening than that above the mouth.
So in modern times, for the first time in history, we see something going on where these feelings are symbolized as a ferocious mouth coming out of the mouth. The fact that it appears like something that would gag reveals that this image contains elements of the trauma around ungentle mouth suctioning or clearing as well as the reveal of what might be under the mask of the seeming attacker, the obstetrician. Add lots of teeth and you have the perinatal vagina dentata as well, symbolizing the trauma occurring at birth, when actually emerging from the mother.
The Perinatal Veil: Rock Concerts (For some, ditto)
Lawson has also described perinatal elements in rock concerts. [Footnote 2]
Keep in mind that rock music popularity and concert rituals are world-wide phenomena. Youth from nearly all countries are involved in rock culture. Among other things, Lawson, in his article, refers to placental guitars, umbilical mikes, and youths jumping into mosh pits. Mosh pits suggest birth feelings in that they simulate the crushing in the womb.
At birth our consciousness is filled with the feeling of flesh all around. The world is crushing, heaving, rollicking, bouncing flesh everywhere. During a non-cesarean birth one struggles and moves through this flesh to reach space, air, light…freedom. We re-create this pattern of struggle in order to reach the light, or freedom and space, throughout life. It is obvious that mosh pits are attractive, appealing places to re-create the danger of birth alongside the hope of being “held up,” uplifted, and reborn.
The Doors of Perception…Stormed
We could also mention the loud music, fireworks, and flashing and bright explosions of light at these concerts as perinatal in that they re-create the assault of sensation that occurs to the newly emerged fetus—an assault which in one’s mind is like unto a bomb exploding.