‘The Horizon’, Part 2, Chapter 12: about the dramatic development of embryonic Consciousness in the womb and why infantile trauma contains the gift of paradise
“We feel our way towards the beginnings, the roots of the existence of our soul.”Bettina Alberti
Human Consciousness begins life, as far as we know, in a woman’s womb. This early period is generally associated with innocence — or ignorance — and bliss. There is nothing we have to do apart from being there. Our mere existence makes other people happy.
We have no responsibilities, and everything we need in life is taken care of. This sounds almost too good to be true. It sounds as if we are literally ‘human Consciousness in paradise’. Let’s find out what’s behind this creation myth.
Sebastian was 14 months old when his parents brought him to a therapist’s office in Basel, Switzerland. When they arrived for the appointment the child had just fallen asleep in the pram. Should they wake him up?
The therapist assured them it wasn’t necessary.
The ‘problem with Sebastian’ was that he was waking up several times each night. The mother was completely exhausted. The father couldn’t help because the baby was totally fixated on the mother and appeared to reject him.
And there was another worrying symptom: The little boy had frequent uncontrollable fits of anger and banged his head against the floor.
The therapist listened to the description of the problem from the perspective of both parents. He worked with the mother first because she seemed in desperate need of support.
Then the father shared that the head banging was something he had done as a child too. The symptom continued until well into his adolescence. How had he eventually lost this self-destructive behaviour?
In puberty Sebastian’s father had learned that the man he thought of as his father wasn’t his biological father. When his mother became pregnant, the man ‘who did it’ realised he wasn’t ready to become a father and left. The mother had started a new relationship with a man who was willing to fulfil the role and became a good father to the child.
While Sebastian’s father was telling his story, the therapist noticed how he was clenching his hand into a fist, and he wanted to know more about that.
The ‘story of the clenched fist’ dislodged a flood of anger, resentment, sadness and despair, which had been stored in the memory of this man’s Consciousness.
Meanwhile Sebastian had woken up. He came into the consultation room, went straight to his father and climbed onto his lap.
A phone call a few months later confirmed that ‘Sebastian’s problems’ had been resolved. He was sleeping much better. When he woke up at night he also accepted his father. And the anger tantrums with the head banging had stopped.
As surprising as this story may seem, it is not an isolated case. A new generation of prenatal psychologists has begun to look at the effects of trauma across generations.
In her book Die Seele fühlt von Anfang an (The Soul Feels from the Beginning) the German psychotherapist Bettina Alberti writes: “While we acknowledge today that experiences from childhood can be of great significance for a person, we now go back even further. We feel our way towards the beginnings, the roots of the existence of our soul.”
“It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”Mary Oliver
Who was Sebastian therapist? What had he done? Did he have magic powers?
How was he able to break the spell over a whole family in one single session?
Franz Renggli is a prenatal therapist in Basel. He works with small children and their parents. Sebastian’s story is of course unique, but it is not unusual in his practice.
He also works with people of any age who want to resolve a trauma they experienced during pregnancy or birth. And he works with couples who have difficulties in their relationship, which are often based on an early traumatic experience.
Originally Franz Renggli studied zoology and had plans to become a film maker. He got married and had two children to whom he had a close relationship. Then the marriage broke apart.
This experience triggered an old trauma, and it took him back into his own time in the womb.
A long journey under the guidance of several pioneering prenatal therapists brought back the memory that Franz’s mother had tried to commit suicide while she was pregnant with him.
His father had started an affair with another woman during that time, which caused the mother’s despair. As a baby Franz nearly died twice — first during the suicide attempt, and then again at birth.
His own healing process awakened a deep interest in the prenatal development of human Consciousness.
Franz Renggli made the painful discovery that prenatal trauma has a destructive influence on adult life, particularly on intimate relationships. He wanted to get to the bottom of his own pain, and in the process he became a gifted pioneer in the field of prenatal therapy.
The life story of Franz Renggli reminds me of a poem by the American poet Mary Oliver. It came to her in a dream:
The Uses of Sorrow
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this too, was a gift.
“The time in the womb was once considered unimportant.”Benig Mauger
Psychologists used to believe that babies and small children are ‘unconscious’. They thought, Consciousness somehow ‘awakens’ at a later stage in life.
Doctors even performed operations, such as circumcisions, on babies without anaesthetics in the belief they didn’t feel any pain!
The Irish prenatal therapist Benig Mauger says, “it is only relatively recently that the time in the womb is counted at all. This time was once considered unimportant.”
Now we know that human Consciousness is fully present from the moment of conception. Some believe that our individual Consciousness exists even before we enter our mother’s womb.
Erich Neumann, a student of Carl Gustav Jung, suggested that, “the whole first year of infancy must be assimilated to the embryonic phase.”
In other words, the period of embryonic Consciousness in humans lasts from conception (or pre-conception) until about a year after birth. This is because human babies are born immature. When we leave the womb at our physical birth we are not ready to survive like other mammals.
In his book The Child Erich Neumann explains: “In addition to the embryonic phase in which the child is psychically and physically integrated with the mother’s body, there is a second, post-uterine, post-natal embryonic phase… In the latter part of its embryonic life the human child is withdrawn from the maternal hands of nature and entrusted to the human mother.”
Now we would rephrase this and say that in the second part of its embryonic period the child is entrusted to the mother and father.
Prenatal therapists like Franz Renggli include the father in the prenatal embryonic phase too. They know that the father plays an essential role in the life of the developing infant, because they know that the baby knows that.
Before the days of prenatal psychology we had an idyllic view of the first 9 months of human life. We imagined the unborn baby in the womb developing in a perfect, protected environment. During this phase human Consciousness would be in its own little paradise.
We believed the major trauma happens at birth, and interpreted it as a re-enactment of ‘the Fall’.
The work of Franz Renggli and his colleagues is exposing the paradisiacal womb as a myth. On the other hand, we can learn from them that the paradise we are all yearning for lives within our own Consciousness.
In other words, paradise exists inside us, in the form of dormant potential. Our work of creation involves discovering this potential paradise and transforming it into a viable home. Let’s find out what this work might look like.
“We all carry a ‘crying or furious baby’ within us.”Franz Renggli
The baby we are in the beginning of life continues to live within us throughout all phases of our development. Franz Renggli is convinced that “we all carry such a ‘crying or furious baby’ within us.” This is why “the crying of a child immediately wakes up the ‘inner child’ — in all humans.”
Prenatal therapists further believe that babies come into the world to help the parents heal traumatic experiences stored in their own embryonic Consciousness. “The baby thus becomes an opportunity for the parents,” says Franz Renggli. “It can help them resolve and release their own hidden emotions. A baby thereby becomes the ‘teacher’ of the parents.”
In its ‘archaic phase’ our embryonic Consciousness is extremely sensitive and deeply connected with our immediate environment. We know everything that’s going on — in the womb and in the family.
As a developing baby you are part of your mother and your father. You feel their emotions, not just because you are a ‘bundle of emotions’ yourself. You experience their experience in the cells of your body, because your body has literally grown out of the cells of their bodies.
The experiences of both parents can even be more present in the baby’s experience than they are in the awareness of the parents, as we have seen in Sebastian’s story.
During the embryonic period we form a unit with our parents, even though we already are individual human Consciousness. This unit becomes the basis for all intimate relationship later in life.
When the baby has a traumatic experience it is unable to integrate the information. It feels threatened and goes into shock. The information becomes frozen and is stored as a memory in individual Consciousness. This is what Franz Renggli and Sebastian’s father experienced, and it also happened in my personal story.
“The beginning of our earthly life is enmeshed in an intimate relationship between a sperm and an egg.”Veronika Bond
During my embryonic period my mother developed a condition called eclampsia. This can be life threatening for both mother and child. My mother was given morphine to relieve the symptoms, which was the standard treatment at the time.
As a result I was born a couple of weeks early. My mother always said that giving birth to me was quick and painless. I was a quiet and easy baby — perhaps sedated by the morphine.
Now we know that life threatening conditions in the womb trigger a survival response in the baby. The embryonic Consciousness then decides whether it wants to die and return to the spirit world, or to ‘get out of this hell’ and live in the human world.
In conversations with my mother I later learned that she didn’t really want to have daughters. She assumed ‘girls are difficult’, and she had always struggled to accept her own femininity.
She gave birth to 5 children, 4 of them were boys. She also had a stillbirth and several miscarriages. The stillborn baby had been a girl.
This information was imprinted in my embryonic Consciousness. In my early experience the protective womb turned against me and threatened to kill me. This made me both highly sensitive and self-reliant. Fighting for my survival was one of my earliest life lessons.
Of course I was completely unaware of this experience at a mental level. I grew up in a ‘perfect family’ and had a very sheltered childhood. The archaic struggle for survival didn’t crop up until later during my relationships.
Every intimate relationship developed into some kind of struggle for survival. It felt as if the relationship was taking my life away. Sooner or later it became so threatening that I ‘had to get out of that hell’.
Prenatal therapists believe that all relationship issues are connected with traumatic experiences in the womb. This makes a lot of sense to me. After all, the beginning of our earthly life is enmeshed in an intimate relationship between a sperm and an egg.
“Hidden in every trauma lies a wonderful power. To release and transform it, that’s our life’s task.”Franz Rengli
We begin life in this intimate relationship with mother and father — for better or for worse. From this experience we absorb a certain pattern of ‘how intimate relationships work’.
Moreover, a certain social attitude is instilled in us, an attitude towards us, our sex and our role in society.This attitude can have severe consequences.
Erich Neumann writes, “The attitude of the collective toward the child, its sex, individuality and development, can be a matter of life and death. The fact of being a girl, a boy, or a twin, the child’s appearance, or the circumstances of its birth can, if negatively evaluated by the collective, prove just as disastrous to its future as an organic or psychic malformation.”
This information also stays with us throughout our life. It determines our self-image, self-confidence, expectations of ourselves and the world, our choices and behaviour, and the way we interact with others.
However, the pattern doesn’t have to remain dysfunctional and destructive. It doesn’t have to become a private prison condemning us to a selfmade solitary confinement.
Traumatic experiences are a fact of life, but — as Peter Levine says — they don’t have to be a life sentence.
Your trauma follows you like a shadow. It can have power over you like a curse. It can force you to return to the ‘scene of the crime’, and make you feel guilty like a criminal. It can even meet you in your children, as it did for Sebastian’s father.
The true reason for this tenacity is that your traumatic experiences are your opportunity to discover a unique and precious personal gift. This is why it’s so hard get rid of old trauma.
In his book Das Goldene Tor zum Leben (The Golden Portal to Life) Franz Renggli writes: “Hidden in every trauma lies a wonderful power or energy. To release and transform it, that’s our life’s task — even the meaning of our life.”
When we succeed in transforming our experience of trauma into something fulfilling and meaningful — such as a happy relationship, or a professional career in response to a true calling — then we are not only healing our trauma, but we are also creating our personal paradise.
This means, human paradise comes encapsulated as it were in a hard shell of trauma. During the embryonic period our Consciousness creates a unique protective capsule around our personal paradise, which is also in its embryonic state at the time.
Metaphorically speaking, this capsule contains a seed of the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
“The Now. That is precious indeed.”Eckhart Tolle
The trauma of embryonic Consciousness remains alive within us, as mentioned earlier. The pain and suffering stay within us — in the cells of our Body and in all tissues of our Consciousness — until we are able to resolve and integrate it.
If it doesn’t get resolved and integrated, then the trauma of embryonic Consciousness is passed on to the next generation, indeed through many generations. We can’t shake it off or eradicate it. And there is a good reason for this:
Our trauma keeps us connected with the primordial source of life.
All living organisms remain connected to the original structure of infinite Consciousness, which exists in a state of eternal presence. We experience this state of eternal presence during the embryonic period, or as Jean Gebser says:
“The archaic structure is ineradicable and remains ever-present even today as a consequence of its originary presence.”
Traumatic experiences live in the dark and cause suffering — like nightmares during sleep — until human Consciousness awakens to the present moment.
A striking example of this Awakening is the story of Eckhart Tolle. He was in his late twenties and suffering from depression when he was overcome by the following thought: “I can’t live myself any longer!!”
This statement shook him up. ‘Wait a minute,’ Eckhart thought to himself, ‘who is this Self I can’t live with???’
The answer came to him in a flash. It was his ‘pain body’.
This single realisation snapped Eckhart Tolle out of his inner darkness. After this event he spent a couple of years sitting on park benches meditating to integrate his ‘Awakening’.
He realised that the pain body was an identity attached to the past. If he remained in the present moment there was no pain. All of a sudden he felt happy, fulfilled and at one with the universe.
That’s how Eckhart Tolle discovered The Power of Now.
With the meditation practice he anchored this Awakening experience in his Body, and writing his book The Power of Now helped integrate it into his present Consciousness.
Eckhart Tolle’s gift is the realisation that the present moment is really all we have. We live in a mental structure that is time bound. We even say and believe that time is money.
However, Eckhart Tolle reminds the world of the indisputable fact that, “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
For each of the 5 periods of Consciousness we have a remarkable tool to help us integrate painful experiences. For the embryonic period — the phase when human Consciousness appears to be fast asleep — our tool is called Awakening.
Traumatic experiences remain in the Dark Side of our Consciousness until we are ready to awaken. When we meet the pain again in adulthood, it is always an opportunity to transform the trauma into a personal treasure.
Awakening to the traumatic memory of the embryonic period is one of our major life tasks. The English author Neil Gaiman captured this theme in a lullaby in his Graveyard Book:
Sleep my little babby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you’re grown
You’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…
Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…
Face your life
Leave no path untaken
When you face your life — when you find your path to awakening and meet the trauma of your embryonic Consciousness — then you discover that, during this lifetime, your Consciousness has never been in paradise; but paradise has always been in your Consciousness.
© Veronika Bond, 2016
This article is a draft of chapter 12 of The Horizon, volume 2 of The Solo System.
It is complemented by an e-letter, containing additional background information about the progress of the book and the creative process.
If you want to receive updates in the future, subscribe now.