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
Posted by sillymickel
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
Falls from Grace: The Devolution and Revolution of Consciousness — Michael’s latest book — is now available in print and e-book formats.
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The World Is Rife with Messages — Personal and Universal — Regarding the Meaning of Existence, Our Place in the Universe, and Guidance for Getting Us hOMe
Posted by sillymickel
Matter As Metaphor, Part One: Physical Realities as Metaphors for Inner Realities … The Physical World Is Our Indirect Perception of Psychic and Spiritual Realities
If one is open to this possibility, the messages/truths are everywhere to be found. And the Universe and one’s experience of Reality becomes the grandest, wisest, truest, and most beneficent of teachers.
Physical Realities As Metaphors for Inner Realities
There is every reason to believe that he meant this literally. And, considering that in this context “guru” had the meaning of God and the cosmic divinity, the statement bespeaks much more than that as well.
Lawlor (1989b) tells us how the Australian Aborigines’ idea that the world is a metaphor or imprint for a truer inner reality is the essential element in their world view. As he put it:
All of existence is the projection outward of internal, subjective states into objective ideas, forms, and substances; the Sky is the “dreaming” of the Earth. All life and all energies emerge from the Earth, even those we consider subtle and celestial. There is a constant exchange between the Earth and its dreaming. The stars in the sky are the spirit energy of beings who were born from, and who have lived on, Earth, just as all men emerge into the world from the female womb. These ancestral beings return from the dreaming (the starry firmament) as radiated light and heat, which generate new life on Earth. The male sperm is analogous to this radiation as it fertilizes the female but, itself, was born from the female. Our minds and imaginations are always attempting to listen to the voice returning from the starry ancestors and we then reimage them. (p. 43, emphases mine)
In another place Lawlor (1992) phrases it: “The dreamtime creation myths of the Aborigines guided them to see the physical world as a language, as a metamorphosis of invisible spirit’s psychological and ethical realms” (p. 22).
Similarly, Laing (1988) tells us, “The whole world was once part of man’s psyche, but no longer” (p. 62).
This idea of the physical universe as reflecting and expressing our basic spiritual and psychological realities is a common perception and viewpoint of mystics of all traditions. In the West, the twelfth century mystic, Hildegard, wrote about this vision of reality. Of her, it’s been said, “Hildegard plainly uses physical laws as illustrations of spiritual truths” (Uhlein, 1991, p. 54). And further on: “Physical images are most useful to Hildegard in comprehending the things of the soul” (p. 54). This relates to the idea of physical reality as metaphor.
Like the Platonists, she understands the world to consist of four elements: fire and water, earth and wind. She employs these pairs archetypically, to describe psychological traits and to create complex analogies for spiritual development. (p. 54)
The point is that this is the same way in which we are talking about physical reality as metaphor: that in fact the world as we perceive it gives us lessons in underlying realities which are, in the absolute sense, more true; that, in actual fact, the psychological traits of which she speaks are simply reflected in nature in the form of earth, wind, fire, and water, and so on.
This perspective is expressed poetically this way:
How in autumn, even before the leaves fall,
When they’re all at their height of color,
Next year’s leaves are already there, tiny,
on either side of the stem of each leaf
where it meets the branch,
Already there, waiting,
Before the leaf that is still there
is dead and falls,
Tiny folded leafbudsheath
Resembling two hands in prayer
Palm to palm with fingers extended.
Life after death exists
even before you’re dead.
Or how when a redwood tree is cut down or blown over
It doesn’t die because the roots
Curl up out of the earth and become
Each of which can grow to be
Just as tall just as old
as the tree which was there before.
It’d be as if you were cut off at the ankles
And your top taken away to make The Milwaukee Journal
And your toes curled into the ground and came up
as ten new “you’s — looking exactly like you
and being exactly like you.
And so a redwood you see now that’s 2000 years old
may’ve come from the root of a redwood that was
2000 years old
that may’ve come from the root of a redwood that was
2000 years old
so far back that it’s literally one million years old!
And that’s why they’re called Sequoia sempervirens,
Proving . . . what?
Even before you’re dead
life after death exists. (Antler, 1991, p. 61)
At this point, I feel it is important to stress that I am proposing much more than that the physical world is a source of metaphors or analogies for expressing psychic and spiritual truths. If this were all there were to it, I would be saying nothing more than that our perceptions of reality are a good poetic source, which is rather close to asserting nothing at all.
One’s Experience of Reality Is the Wisest and Most Beneficent of Teachers.
From the preceding chapters, it should be clear that what I am saying is that the physical world is our indirect perception (for direct perception, look within) of spiritual and psychic realities. Hence, the physical world can not help but express the spiritual and psychic. What I am saying is: Look around yourself; the world is rife with messages, both personal and universal, relating to your place in the Universe, the meaning of our existence, the meaning of existence itself, and, most importantly, of guidance for getting us back hOMe. If one is open to this possibility, the messages/truths are everywhere to be found. And the Universe and one’s experience of Reality becomes the grandest, wisest, truest, and most beneficent of teachers.
Continue with Looking Deeply Into the Message of the World … and Siddhartha: Have You Also Learned the Secret of the River That There is No Time? Everything Has Reality and Presence.
Return to Humans Have Developed Language Because of Their Inability to Truly Communicate … We Substitute Pseudo for Real Activity: Ritual as Shadow, Part Eleven
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Tags: Birth, Consciousness, CULTURE, death, die, earth, Environment, God, human, humans, inner realities, life, Nature, philosophy, planet, psychology, religion, sathya sai baba, science, species, spirituality, truth, unconscious