Birth — An Awakening or a Forgetting? Out of Eden, Part One — Is Birth the Beginning of Consciousness, as We Assume, or Is It the Forgetting of Innate Divine Awareness
We “Fall from Grace” at Birth: “The Child in the Womb Is in Soham (I am He); But, When It Is Born … It Starts the Question, Koham, Who Am I? For It Forgets Its Truth” — Sathya Sai Baba
Falls from Grace, Prodigal Human, Primal Return … Overview
The book that precedes this one, Falls from Grace, has not presented an optimistic portrait of the human condition. The question might arise, is this scenario true for all people? Has it always been true? Is it this way in all cultures? What are the roots of this dismal human predicament? Finally, and not the least of these, is there anything we can do about it … what is the alternative … what would something better look like in our current situation?
This book, Prodigal Human, and the one to follow, Primal Return, will address these questions and those like them.
We begin by looking more closely, in Prodigal Human: The Descent of Man, at the “evolutionary” and historical aspects of this situation. If the previous book could be said to describe the ontogenetic or “developmental” arc of the devolution of consciousness that has led to our estranged state, this upcoming part can be called the phylogenetic arc of that perspective—the falls from grace, not occurring in one’s individual history, but unfolding over the course of prehistory for our species, human.
Therefore, the next few chapters will address the questions of origins and cultural variations. I follow that with relating the historical and cultural variants to the contemporary situation in putting forth a cultural solution.
But the most thorough response and effort at solutions will be brought out in the next book. Primal Return: Return to Grace will carry the threads of solution forward and weave them into a tapestry of an understanding of what an alternative might look like.
In surveying the phylogenetic and historical terrain immediately before us, however, I will employ the myth of Abraham and Isaac as the primary viewing-rock from which to make out the relevant features. While Biblical renderings are not historically accurate, they provide poetic, allegorical reflections of our possible prehistory and evolution. I could have used mythical accounts from any number of other cultures to provide this heuristic, but it makes sense to use one that is most widely known and has a long tradition of scholarly use in Western culture.
Other aspects of the Genesis account of creation, from The Bible, will also serve as vantage points in our understanding of how we have come to be at this particular pass. That includes the Cain and Abel story and the myth of Eden and The Fall.
We begin at a familiar starting point: Let us recall these words from Genesis concerning our fall from grace and expulsion from Eden:
Unto the woman he said,
I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception;
in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;
and thy desire shall be to thy husband,
and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said,
Because thou has hearkened unto the voice of thy wife,
and hast eaten of the tree,
of which I commanded thee, saying,
Though shalt not eat of it:
cursed is the ground for thy sake;
in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life:
thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;
and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,
till thou return unto the ground;
for out of it wast thou taken:
for dust thou art,
and unto dust shalt thou return.
And Adam called his wife’s name; because she was the mother of all living.
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
So he drove out the man: and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis, 3: 16-24)
One common interpretation of the Garden of Eden myth in the Genesis book of The Bible concerns God’s direct communication with Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. It is said that Original Sin occurs out of the fact that Eve begins talking to the serpent and making decisions of her own without consulting God — keeping Him “in the dark,” so to speak.
Thus Original Sin occurs out of our separating ourselves from God, turning from Him, as it were, to the things of the world and leaving off direct communication with Him. The result is that we are banished from Eden — the place where we “walked with God” — and are thrust out on our own, “in the sweat of thy face,” to work it out by ourselves.
Birth — An Awakening or a Forgetting?
Birth Is a Forgetting of Innate Divinity: “Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosmic home and imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm” — Paramahamsa Yogananda
Now, the obvious psychological corollary to this pattern of falling from grace in Eden is that of one’s birth into this world. Prior to birth, many of us have a relatively direct relationship to the Divine.
The “first major shutdown” has not occurred — that is, the first major time that we have retreated from our roots in the infinite because of our entanglement in the pain of physical existence (Adzema, 1985).
We know this from our re-experience in the various forms of experiential psychotherapy, especially primal therapy, and from the various spiritual growth modalities going under the rubric of “breathwork,” especially holotropic breathwork (Farrant, 1987; Grof 1976, 1985, 1988; Hannig, 1982; Janov, 1983; Lake, 1981).
When you are immersed in your Self, you are happiest. The child in the womb is in Soham (I am He); but, when it is born in the world, it starts the question, Koham, who am I? For it forgets its truth; it identifies itself with the body and the senses. Until it becomes a Jnani, it will never regain the Soham knowledge. (p. 111)
By “I am He,” Sai Baba is indicating the identification of the self with the Divine essence of all. So he is saying we are identified with that essence, or God, in the womb but that when we are born we forget this identification — wondering afterwards, “who am I?”
Similarly, Swami Paramahansa Yogananda (1946) wrote about his experience of returning to a physical body in his reincarnation on earth. He described it: “Like a prodigal child, I had run away from my macrocosmic home and imprisoned myself in a narrow microcosm” (p. 46, emphases mine).
Birth trauma causes this first major shutdown, this first major forgetting of our divinity. After birth we no longer “walk with God” as easily, like most of us did in the womb. We are too caught up in the world, its play of pleasure and pain, our survival in it.
Birth Is the Beginning of Human Consciousness? Addressing the Old Paradigm Understanding of Birth
Mainstream psychology disputes this on two counts — in both cases keeping with Freud: It contends that such a change does not occur in the direction I am proposing, that is to say that consciousness is not reduced through such early experience but is increased (Sroufe, et al, 1992, chapter 8). And further it asserts that it doesn’t occur at the time I am suggesting, by which I mean such change of consciousness, in whichever direction, is not related in any way to the birth event but is stretched out over time in infancy and early childhood (Mahler, et al, 1975; Peoples & Parlee, 1991).
We (Adzema, 1985; Chamberlain, 1988; Janov, 1983; Grof 1976, 1985, 1988; Lake, 1981; Verny, 1981; to name just a few), however, disagree with mainstream psychology based upon our evidence, which they, as yet, continue to ignore. On both counts — the direction and the time — our evidence is overwhelming that it is as I’ve stated: We “fall from grace” at birth. The fact that mainstream psychology is reluctant and inefficient in its methods of admitting new data and better interpretations should not, I feel, be allowed to inhibit the progress of science: Specifically, in this case, paradigm entrenchment should not preclude our efforts to evaluate these findings in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology and to follow them to whatever other new truths they may lead.
I should point out that I do not object to mainstream psychology limiting the range of what it considers to be valid and credible evidence to a certain small spectrum of “hard” data. But what I do object to is that when they stray into areas … and they inevitably do … about which there is no hard evidence, perhaps because there can be no such evidence in such an area—for example, what might be the subjective experience of birth for the infant—they project into those areas their “scientistic” biases and prejudices. This they do, completely ignoring the vast amount of evidence of a less-than-hard variety that would completely dispute their biases. So doing, we end up with psychologists of the status quo putting out self-serving rationales and rationalizations for their beliefs and lifestyles, couched in scientific language. And that is anything but the empiricism they proclaim.
For how anyone could judge the (often voluminous, meticulously recorded, and researched) “softer” data that is available (we’re not talking about wrong data) at a lower value than no data is a mystery. This is understandable, I suppose, only by a reading of Thomas Kuhn on paradigm entrenchment and resistance to new data that implies paradigm shift (1970). Here we see a situation where the old adage that religion takes over where science leaves off remains true. Only it is “scientistic” religion that is taking over to color those areas where they cannot dare to tread on purely empirical grounds.
This would be bad enough, but for the fact that not all the evidence that is ignored in this manner is even of the “softer” variety. Much of it is hard evidence, scrupulously grounded in strict empirical methodology. But this “baby” is also thrown out with the supposed “bathwater” of the anecdotal “softer” data. In addition to that evidence erupting in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology, there is the evidence in related fields, the research on morphic resonance and morphogenetic fields is one such example, previously explored.
So apparently, in self-appointed “reputable” psychological science, there are sanctioned sources and unsanctioned sources for one’s information. Again we need Kuhn (1970) to help us understand this. But it has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics and psychology—that is, it has to do with human failings and arrogance.
At any rate, this book, Prodigal Human, and its accompanying volumes, may be considered part of the effort to evaluate the evidence ignored by the mainstream. Further, the attempt to reconcile these findings, to accommodate mainstream constructs to these discoveries, is an ongoing effort on our part.
Birth Is the Next Major Diminishing of Consciousness After the One at the Beginning — Around Conception: In the Womb, One Is Still Conscious of Divinity
At any rate, technically speaking, birth is the first major narrowing of consciousness after the one at conception. Of course, we are speaking generally here, for there is a great deal of individual variation in this depending upon the events in the womb. These are complicating issues that would not be profitably addressed here but are elsewhere (See, for example, Falls from Grace).
Therefore, to all intents and purposes conception is the first shutdown, technically the first fall from grace. But at this point, after that first fall, and while in the womb, many people are still relatively open to the Divine. There is the awareness of separation from Divinity, and the creation of form, at the creation of sperm and egg. But the second duality, the second split has usually not occurred — that of separation from the present, and the creation of time, which occurs at birth (Again, see Falls from Grace).
This is what happened to us in our individual lives. Now, let us look at how this same kind of fall from grace or “ejection from Eden” has played out over the eons in the creation of what we know today as the species, human.
Continue with We Once Had the Run of the Forest and the “Original Affluent Society”: Early Human Savagery Is a Patriarchal Myth Rationalizing Our Descent Into Civilization
Return to Book 9—Falls from Grace
For an Overview and Links to Other Parts of This Work-in-Progress, Go to Prodigal Human: The Descent of Man
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“There Is No Coming to Consciousness Without Pain.” – Carl Jung: The “Patriarchal Mistake” Involves Struggling to Keep Out “Negative” Thoughts and Their Discomfort
Grof Versus Wilber and the Frantic Thinking Between Paradigms: The Stormy Path to Self, Part Five: “Healthy-Mindedness” and the “Sick Soul”
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Jung
“Healthy-Mindedness” and the “Sick Soul”
These two spiritual paths—the controlling and the surrender—were rather distinctively delineated over a hundred years ago by William James (1899/1982) in terms of the spirituality of “healthy mindedness” and that of “the sick soul.” The point is that the one—the “healthy mindedness” or control spirituality—involves a kind of mental ego-actualization, ego-aggrandizement; and the other—the “sick soul” or surrender spirituality—involves an honest dealing with and processing of the unconscious and all that it is.
The Patriarchal Mistake in Spirituality … Keeping Out Negative Thoughts: Whereas True Spirituality Entails Experiencing “Hell” Before Getting to “Heaven”
This second path, this true spirituality involves a going through hell on the way to heaven—which is a matter of surrender and letting go, as opposed to control and healthy-mindedness. The one is a matter of surrendering to All That Is; whereas the delusional path is a matter of defending the ego, continuing ego defenses to keep out negative thoughts, and so on.
It is interesting that the one can always be distinguished from the other in the false one’s emphasis on discipline, indicating it’s militaristic attitude of defending against unwanted negative thoughts, and so on. Elsewhere I have called this the “patriarchal mistake” (Adzema, 1972b).
Stanislav Grof Versus Ken Wilber in Transpersonal Psychology
John White Genuflects at the Altar of Ken Wilber
It might be pointed out that these two radically different views of spirituality are exemplified in the transpersonal psychology movement in that surrounding the ideas of Stanislav Grof and that surrounding the ideas of Ken Wilber. It is clear that rarely does the one movement ever refer to or revere the insights of the other. For example, in his book, The Meeting of Science and Spirit, John White (1990) does not mention Stanislav Grof at all. Yet he genuflects at the altar of Ken Wilber frequently.
To Repent Versus to Transcend … Tob and Metanoia
In this respect, also, we have White’s inconsistency in his analysis of the terms tob and metanoia (and repent). In pointing out that the original Aramaic term for “repent” was tob he says that it means “to return” or “to flow back to God.” This is fine so far. But then he states that the Greek translation of tob is metanoia which then means “to transcend.” He then forgets the original meaning, disregards it, and builds a theory upon the latter term—meaning that we are to strive, struggle, and travel upward. The entire meaning and significance of returning or flowing back—which would serve to undermine both Wilber’s and his theories in its espousal of the significance of the “pre-” state—is completely ignored.
To this move I say, you simply can’t have it both ways: You cannot ascribe some type of greater validity to an earlier term as being closer to the original meaning (metanoia over repent), while at the same time ignore or dispute the relevance of the even earlier term, in fact the original one (tob), just because to do so would undermine the argument you wish to present!
Dualistic View of Reality … Ghost in the Machine Spiritual Thinking
Inconsistency—Dualism—Matter and Spirit
Nonetheless, perhaps John White’s biggest theoretical inconsistency is his assertions of a dual nature to the universe—Matter and Spirit—(with them “interacting”), laid alongside of his assertion that “God is all.” He presents therefore a dualistic view of reality much reminiscent of ghost-in-the-machine thinking, with his supposed big advance being that the ghost is just as important as the machine.
Not a New-Paradigm View
In this respect then, White fails to make the transition to a new-paradigm view. He seems hopelessly caught between the views of competing worlds, trying to assert competing claims, trying to keep his old world from falling apart while still wanting to follow the light he sees ahead. Although he claims to, he doesn’t present a new-paradigm vision.
Spirit and Matter as Indistinguishable as Ocean and Waves
The point is—as opposed to the old paradigm which says that the world is basically matter and that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter—that the new paradigm says the world is basically consciousness or a subjectivity that encompasses All and that the material universe is an epiphenomenon of consciousness. In this world view one does no more need to assert a difference between spirit and matter any more than one can assert a primary distinction between ocean and waves. In this respect we have Sathya Sai Baba’s statement that: All there is is the “I” or the Atma and that this is the foundation for everything else; everything else is illusion. All that really exists is the “I.”
This is the same as saying in Western philosophy that subjectivity is the only true reality. This is in line with the philosophical position that the objective reality is indirect perception and is dependent upon subjective reality, and so subjective reality is the only true reality that can be known.
Unfortunately, White’s view is directly contradictory of this—he says that there is danger in “seeing one or the other (matter or spirit) as illusion or delusion” (p. xv). This he does despite the fact that this position of the ultimate phenomenal nature of mundane “common sense” reality is the major conclusion of most of the world’s religions, of much of traditional and Platonic philosophy, and more recently, even of the new, quantum, physics.
The Frantic Theorizing That Goes on in the Time Between Paradigms
In essence then, White’s volume presents an example of the kind of frantic hyper-kinetic convoluted theorizing that is known to characterize the transition phase between paradigms. Like the convoluted theories of pre-Copernican astronomers, who struggled fervidly in re-arranging and making room in obsolete theories and concepts for the ever new astronomical data that was pouring in, who were doomed to failure and obsolescence by their inability to grasp the central organizing principle or concept of an Earth that is both round and not the center of the universe; so also White’s book, lacking any valid new-paradigm integrating vision, finds itself twisted about itself trying to keep one foot in old-paradigm concepts and theories while stepping with the other into new-paradigm facts and data.
When it comes to paradigm change, you just cannot take both pills.
To Be Continued with It’s Pure Egoism to Think We’re Evolving to a New Consciousness. If We’re Lucky We’ll Regain the One We’ve Lost
Return to A Mystical Machismo Has Invaded Spiritual Thinking: Whereas Surrender Spiritualities, Believing in Ultimate Goodness, See Controlling as the Problem
To Read the Entire Book … on-line, free at this time … of which this is an excerpt, Go to Falls from Grace
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Planetmates: The Great Reveal – Michael Adzema’s latest book – is being released in print and e-book format on April 25, 2014
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Return to Grace, Part Three — The Primal Scene and the Divine Child: Hierarchical Societies Demand Conformity All the Way Down the Line
Becoming “as a Child” and Building the Better Human — Childhood: The Ego Is Sycophantic to Someone and “The Word” — What Those Voices You Hear Really Are
Let us turn now to the third fall from grace, that time when the child’s potential is reduced to the acceptable spectrum, only, that reflects the socionormative constructs of the society. Can this be different?
Primal Scene — We Give Up
Remember that at the primal scene, occurring around the age of four or five, we become “them.” We give up. We see our attempts to interact as ourselves with our parents and the world extending out from them as being utterly futile. We feel it is better to get at least something by being someone they want rather to get nothing and to seethe in loneliness and inattention being the unique person we were meant to be.
The Unreal Self, the Ego, Is Sycophantic to Someone
So, we cater to others’ requirements and lose connection with our own wants and needs … their needs become our needs.
We develop an unreal self which is concocted to please others and comprised of bargaining chips to procure approval from others. Our self is sycophantic to someone. Even if that self contains elements of “toughness” or independence, those traits came into being to placate another, usually the same-sex parent.
I say it is comparable to “child sacrifice” and is exemplified in Western culture in the Biblical story of Abraham being told by “God” to sacrifice his son, Isaac. For “God,” you may read the insane workings of the mind in adult life once one has lost a real and felt connection to the transpersonal by means of these falls from grace. You see here, over and again, that we do to others what has been done to us. Having been forced to give up ourselves we are compelled … by “God,” but actually by the end products of emotional pain … to slay that same thing in our children when it presents itself.
I say it is the fall from grace that occurs as a result of relationship trauma. Indeed, it is that which develops at the time when the child is beginning to connect with the wider world beyond Mother. The earlier traumas and splittings from innate divinity come about in relation to the mother or other primary care-giver. They happen at and around birth and for a while afterward through the interaction of the infant with mother around gestation, actual birth, and then, bonding, nursing, feeding, toilet training, and so on.
While this pressure to split off from the body and its needs and the transpersonal and its directives and guidance continues into toddlerhood, more and more the child interacts with siblings, other children, the father, the other figures in the social unit.
So, as with the mother, the natural child will seek to have its needs satisfied. Earlier this was for biological needs. Now this is for relational needs … connection with others, interaction, mutual recognition. So over time the biological and affectional needs develop and become related to ways of behaving and interacting around needs of belongingness and connection with loved ones in the immediate family. Ideally these needs are met through mutual recognition and appreciation between distinct human personalities.
Hierarchical Societies Demand Conformity All the Way Down the Line
However, in complex, hierarchical societies and just like in the Abraham and Isaac myth, the parents will seek to have their children behave and appear to be like miniature versions of themselves … mini-me’s. Like Abraham, the adult is not really seeing the child and its needs as separate from his or her own. Rather the parent is caught up in the mental byproducts of unmet needs from his or her own childhood. Indeed, the child becomes a byproduct of the adult’s attempt to orchestrate the emotional pain within him or herself.
“The Word”: Those Voices You Hear … What They Really Are
How that manifests is that the adult—all the while proclaiming to be doing this “for the child’s own good”—will seek to carve a reflection of him or herself into the precious sensitivity of the toddler and preschooler.
Without a doubt, the adult thinks it is doing this in obedience to voices coming from outside. For they are the pushes and pulls of his or her own unmet needs in childhood, which—repressed because of the pain associated with them and existing in a portion of the consciousness … and brain … not accessible to consciousness—now have influence seemingly from the outside.
The fact that the adult will feel that these unconscious forces have the force of a higher power … a deity in Abraham’s case … is because they indeed are the remnants of instructions, nonverbal messages, and admonitions given to that adult as a child from his or her own parents. Coming from outside oneself they seem to come from a supernatural source. Coming from one’s parents they seem to come from a higher source … one requiring strict obedience … one’s parents.
The “Commandments” and the Culture’s Shared Neurosis
Beyond that, they appear to come from a higher authority since these “commandments” from the parents are reflective of the society as a whole. For the cookie cutter that is pressed upon the precocious personality of the young one and which is in the shape of the parent is somewhat like the cookie cutters of that culture in general. That is to say, the neurotic proclivities of an adult in any society are of course going to be similar to those of the others in that society, for indeed neurosis is all about conformity with others. Put bluntly, the way the parent’s soul has been disfigured is roughly in the manner of the way others in that society have been disfigured.
“Doctrine” of Infallibility
So, being reflective of the larger society, again the patterns of this unreal self have that sense of being from “above”—from outside oneself and from higher up. Thus, these distorted orchestrations on the self from the outside carry with them all the weight and validity as from an infallible source … though of course that is anything but true.
I should at least mention at this point that the reason this process of losing one’s self in conformity to supposedly higher others is more extreme in complex, “civilized,” societies is because the hierarchical nature of such societies imposes itself upon all elements of its corresponding culture. Specifically, in such societies virtually all adults are pressured into conformity with higher ups of some sort or other and are sycophantic in relation to them. Naturally this pattern of oppression in the greater society will be reflected in the patterns of relationship in the family as well.
Building the Better Human — Childhood
A Child Wants to Be of Service by Nature
Now, by contrast to Western attitudes to young children, Liedloff (1977) describes the kind of trust in the innate sociality of the child and the “respect” for the child and for his or her “inclinations” that characterized the Yequana:
Perhaps as essential as the assumption of innate sociality in children and adults is a respect for each individual as his own proprietor. The notion of ownership of other persons is absent among the Yequana. The idea that this is “my child” or “your child” does not exist. Deciding what another person should do, no matter what his age, is outside the Yequana vocabulary of behaviors. There is great interest in what everyone does, but no impulse to influence—let alone coerce—anyone. A child’s will is his motive force. There is no slavery—for how else can one describe imposing one’s will on another and coercion by threat and punishment? The Yequana do not feel that a child’s inferior physical strength and dependence upon them imply that they should treat him or her with less respect than an adult. No orders are given a child that run counter to his own inclinations as to how to play, how much to eat, when to sleep, and so on.
But where his help is required, he is expected to comply instantly. Commands like “Bring some water!” “Chop some wood!” “Hand me that!” or “Give the baby a banana!” are given with the same assumption of innate sociality, in the firm knowledge that a child wants to be of service and to join in the work of his people. No one watches to see whether the child obeys—there is no doubt of his will to cooperate. As the social animal he is, he does as he is expected without hesitation and to the very best of his ability. (pp. 90-91)
An Example of the Adult Role Containing Within It Also the Real Self, the Child
In a similar fashion, the Mbuti, as described by Turnbull (1961), hardly notice a difference from child roles and expectations and adult ones:
And one day they find that the games they have been playing are not games any longer, but the real thing, for they have become adults. Their hunting is now real hunting; their tree climbing is in earnest search of inaccessible honey; their acrobatics on the swings are repeated almost daily, in other forms, in the pursuit of elusive game, or in avoiding the malicious forest buffalo. It happens so gradually that they hardly notice the change at first, for even when they are proud and famous hunters their life is still full of fun and laughter. (p. 129)
The Divine Child
The holy man from India, Sathya Sai Baba, echoes these perspectives of the child as presented by Pearce (1980) and demonstrated in nonliterate cultures. He says, “The human child sees itself as the center of the universe and the world as an extension of its being. This divine child knows that it is so” (1991, p. 295).
Kasturi (1991), Baba’s editor and translator explains,
Children are most concerned with the Now; Baba reminds us the past is past; do not turn back and look wistfully or wailingly on the road you have traversed already. Children do not see the world as fragmented by walls: Chinese, Berlinese, or erected just to tease; they are involved in everything and with everyone; they represent true innocence, love, forgiveness and fraternity. The child has no conceit or contempt of gender; this divine child [referring to the avatar, Sai Baba] affirms: “Among men I am man; among women I am woman; among children I am a child.” (p. 295)
This child [meaning Sathya Sai Baba] inspires us to become children again so that we might be ever with Him, of Him, in Him. (p. 295)
Continue with By Adolescence “Civilized” Children Are Programmed … Whereas in Primal Societies Inner Experience is Cultivated: Return to Grace, Part Four — Puberty, Becoming Adult
Return to Changing the Human Condition Starts with Birth: The Most Precocious, Brilliant, and Advanced Children Were Treated Differently as Newborns
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The Cycle of All Events, the Evolution of Parenting, and Auspicious Collective Regressions: Being Crazy in an Insane World Might Mean You’re the Sane One
What’s Involved in Stopping War and Ecocide and the Necessary Mess of Transformation: Hard to Believe, But We’re Getting Saner
Chapter Nine: Regressions in the Service of Society — Messy Healing
There Is a Cycle to All Events … The Spiral Dance, Why We Can’t Get No Satisfaction, and Where There Is Real Hope
The Spiral Dance – The Cycle of All Events: Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals, the Inevitability of Disappointment, and Where There is Real Hope
Wedded to Rebirthing Rituals
In turning toward these feelings we embrace, feel, and if we go deeply enough into that, we relive the roots of them and resolve them finally.
If we face these inner forces—we call that feeling them…in this instance, feeling through or reliving one’s birth—we integrate them and heal the underlying trauma, the perinatal trauma.
Or the individual and society can avoid this going within—as depicted in the peace symbol—and can choose instead to act them out, which is the peace symbol upside down—the Satan symbol, the pentagram.
In acting them out, one distracts oneself from the uncomfortable feelings, which though not focused on, are still there. One tries to be “strong” in the face of feelings but one is actually driven and directed by them—they “take over one’s mind.” This is the source of the idea of spirit possession and in general of the idea that a devil or Satan can take over one’s soul.
So in running from our feelings we are captured and enslaved by them, we are forced to act them out in ways we would not otherwise choose which are negative to horrible but in all cases self-sabotaging. Of course war is the most horrible, most self-sabotaging, greatest, and most all-consuming form of such acting-out…the greatest struggle.
Humans are characterized by a particular kind of birth process. It is a coming into being that is traumatic and which is related to our distinction of standing upright and thereby decreasing the pelvic opening as well as suffocating the fetus prior to birth. The fact is that because of this “distinction” we are destined to go through periods of rebirthing purificatory rituals, whether for good or ill. [Footnote 1]
For we are psychologically wedded to reliving that which we could not fully experience at the time because of the overwhelming quality of pain associated with it.
A “Spiral Dance”
These rebirthing rituals we are doomed to repeat, one way or the other. We are going to act out this primal pain—this birth trauma—in an unending cycle of feelings having these components
- Periods of feelings of expansion
- Closedness or entrapment, guilt, and depression
In winning the “war” or having the success or achievement, there begins the same cycle of expansion followed by entrapment. Losing the war…the struggle, the battle…is akin to death, even if there is no death. There is numbness and repression…akin to a kind of “limbo”…before life can begin anew. A reconception is necessary.
The Pattern of Our First Nine Months Imprints Us For Our Entire Human Lives
The reemergence of hope in individuals and societies is biologically equivalent to conception. And following this reconceiving, there is a similar cycle of reemerging strength—akin to the expansion that follows winning. Then there is continuing depression or overarching gloom and helplessness feelings coupled with revenge feelings and blame as individuals and societies stew in the vessel of indecision, inaction, and doubt. This is quite like the closedness and guilt which follows achievement-success-victory. Note, however, that the revenge and blame feelings here are aspects of the BPM II matrix, just as is closedness and guilt.
Can’t Get No Satisfaction
And then the cycle is the same again. Specifically, there is aggression against the oppressor (War and revolution both see the foe as an oppressor, even if one is actually the one who is the aggressor.) What follows upon fighting is release or “death”; and so on around. The “happily ever after” that inspires such battle truly only exists in fantasies and fairy tales. Prosperity and feelings of success are unfortunately doomed, on this physical plane of existence, to be short-lived.
Where There Is Real Hope
It would seem we are fated to never be happy, for long. But progress is possible; herein lies our only real choice in the entire scenario. For we either work through these cycles in some deep psychologically transformative way that helps us deal with and pass beyond the difficult and painful parts of the cycle as well as helps to fade the imprints’ potency in determining our behavior or we are doomed to act them out in the external world in ways that we are blindly unaware are not congruent with the actual facts of our circumstances and are harmful to ourselves and others around us.
We are fated to experience these cycles of birth, and we will either act them out disastrously or we find ways of dealing with them inside of ourselves in some way—and some ways are better than others for doing this—so that we can have some inner distance from these patterns and therefore some conscious ability or choice around our actions when these pushes and pulls arise.
Railing Against the Darkness: The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, Progress Requires Regress, and Healing Is Nothing if Not Messy
Railing Against the Darkness, The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of Reason, and Social Progress Requires Regression
The Vanity of Will, The Impotence of “Reason”
What we absolutely don’t have, yet arrogantly think we do, is the ability—through will or reason alone—to choose light over darkness, to replace these inner veils of distortion with clarity of thought and perception and hence of positive behavior and actions while in the midst of them. Trying to reason with and to obtain truly desired outcomes is about as possible as trying to reason with a lizard and convince it to conform to one’s wishes for its behavior. For good reason: Indeed our rational mind is as split off from the “reptilian brain” inside us within which these imprints circulate and from which they arise as are we from the consciousness of a gila monster.
What We Call “Reason” Is Largely Just Rationalization
This impotence of intellectual understanding in the face of these patterns of self-destruction occurs because these schemas are rooted in memories existing in an emotional and entirely dissociated part of the brain, which is hardly touched by neocortical admonishing of any kind. As deMause correctly points out,
[The fetus’s] “early experiences have been found to be recorded in a separate early neural network—a dissociated emotional memory system centering in the amygdala, quite distinct from the declarative memory system centering in the hippocampus that is established in later childhood.” [Footnote 2]
Disclaiming these cycles, which inevitably pass through darkness, and reliance on “will-power” to change one’s patterns, which includes self-sabotage, has been exposed in its impotence in modern times. We see as evidence the growing acknowledgment of the ineffectiveness and, indeed, counter-effectiveness of psychoanalysis. [Footnote 3]
Railing Against the Darkness
So the question begging to be asked is “What do we do about it?” What do we do about these pernicious cycles?
And when these elements erupt in society in harmless, possibly healing ways, how do we view them? Do we, as Mayr and Boelderl do in their article, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe,” decry the regression…as if by disclaiming it we could somehow keep the cycle from happening? [Footnote 4]
Mayr and Boelderl write, for example, that the situation of collective regression in Europe “strikes us as being high-explosive [sic] and bitter enough.” [Footnote 5]
In another place they exclaim, “What is horrible about this insight [about the increasing collective regression in Europe] is the additional observation that regression is becoming still more radical.” [Footnote 6]
This response of railing against the “Darkness” is a Freudian response. Yet it is not even a neo-Freudian one, since regression in the service of the ego—which began to be seen as ever more important by neo-Freudians—is not acknowledged, let alone considered.
Social Progress Requires Regression
That regression in the service of the ego is not considered is confirmed by Mayr and Boelderl in their statement that “[R]egression by definition is a process of repression and a defense mechanism.” [Footnote 7]
These are surprising words, in light of the concept of regression in the service of the ego and awareness of the clinically based evolution of psychotherapeutic theory since Freud’s original postulations, over a half-century ago.
They are even more awry if one considers the universal, cross-cultural, implementation by societies of rebirthing rituals to handle the same kinds of forces we are confronted with. The anthropological literature is rife with these accounts.
Further, Grof has meticulously shown that regularly going into altered states of consciousness where one confronts this material is a prime function of cultures, and it occurs nearly universally although it is woefully lacking in Western culture for the most part.
Moreover, these words by Mayr and Boelderl indicate a conflict with or ignorance of the fact that deMause’s theory of evolution of historical change requires regression on the part of parents, while parenting their children, as the primary “engine” of sociopsychological progress.
For deMause writes,
“[T]he ultimate source of all historical change is psychogenesis, the lawful change in childrearing modes occurring through generational pressure…. Psychogenesis depends upon the ability of parents and surrogates to regress to the psychic age of their children and work through the anxieties of that age better the second time than in their own childhood.” (op. cit., 1982, p. 135, emphasis mine.)
But this mistake by these two social scientists would not be all that important if it was not the perfect example of the kind of uninformed attitude we have, generally speaking, in Western societies about these forces. This attitude is reinforced by a Judeo-Christian tradition of specialness and scapegoating in the West. It is a pervasive feeling about these things; specifically it, itself, is the actual defense. While this is a widespread reaction to our inner realities it is far from science, and even further from the truth or reality about these things.
“Stop It!” … Yeah, That’s Gonna Work
At any rate, if we adopt this Western, Judeo-Christian, Freudian tactic of decrying the darkness, we are as effective in derailing the cycle of violence and war as Freudians are in what amounts to admonishing their clients to “stop it!” when it comes to their neurotic self-sabotaging.
For people cannot will themselves to merely stop their cycles of neurotic self-sabotage and self-destruction, which are the individual manifestations/ acting out of their birth traumas. As mentioned these directors of action operate out of a different part of the psyche, and brain, than one’s conscious willing part. They are simply not accessible, so hardly amenable, to rational or willful input. And changing one’s thoughts to affect them is about as helpful as rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.
People Who Have It All Figured Out Are the Ones to Watch Out For … Emotional “Sickness” Might Indicate More “Wellness”
Regression in the Service of the Ego
With the exposure of the ineffectiveness of the Freudian tactic of intellectual understanding has come the Freudian movement’s disintegration into schools advocating various other strategies for change.
These schools/strategies include the psychiatric—the use of drugs; the neo-Freudians who acknowledge and use regression in the service of the ego and abreaction; the humanistic-existential approaches, stressing the “experiential”; and the Jungians and neo-Jungians, who would seek the resolution of these cycles in their inner archetypal acting out, resulting in an eventual rootedness of the ego in a higher Self (a spiritual center) beyond or transcending the cycles. [Footnote 8]
Other approaches include the bulk of the spiritual, new-age, or transpersonal means that are flourishing these days. These alternative paths basically differ from all others in their belief that one can simply bypass these perinatal pulls and pushes and go directly to the Light or the Self by dismissing the birth cycles, or the Darkness or Shadow, through affirming the Light, meditating the Darkness out or the Light in, changing one’s thoughts, creating one’s reality, and various combinations of these.
Finally, these newer schools and strategies for healing include those of what might be called experiential psychotherapy, which includes primal therapy, holotropic breathwork, some forms of (experiential) meditation (Vipassana meditation, for example), Reichian and