Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Two Voices from the Womb: Evidence for Physically Transcendent and a Cellular Source of Fetal Consciousness

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Two Voices from the Womb: Evidence for Physically Transcendent and a Cellular Source of Fetal Consciousness

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: In recent years, prenatal research has demonstrated that fetuses are far more sophisticated than previously thought, findings generally ignored by the medical and psychological establishment in part because the neurological structures traditionally associated with mentation were not believed to be functional. Recent research on memory suggests that consciousness may not be dependent on the central nervous system, or even on the body. Using each major theory of memory and neurological research to examine the prenatal data, this paper concludes that two sources of consciousness are present before and during birth constructing a single subjective experience of self.

Historically fetal research has treated only physical evolution because the mechanics for prenatal consciousness-and ways to measure it-were not thought to exist (Schindler, 1988). This attitude has been slow to change in psychological circles. Even recent developmentalists, such as Kegan (1982), Wilber (1977,1995) and Washburn (1988), seem to have adopted the convention that neonatal consciousness resembles the undifferentiated embeddedness associated with life in the womb, despite comprehensive theories of prenatal psychological development by Stanislav Grof (1975, 1985); Grof & Bennett (1990) and Thomas Verny (1987); Verny & Kelly (1982).

Both Grof's and Verny's theories focus on the fetal body as the source of conscious experience, even when that focus consistently yields anomalous results. For Grof, images and psychological patterns from intrauterine experience form emotionally-charged systems that color an individual's life (1975, 1985). Although Grof s theory is transpersonal (that is, it acknowledges supraphenomenal elements), he emphasizes the fetus's experience of the womb environment and the birth process. Verny, who charts the evolution of fetal ego, attributes that psychological ego development largely to intrauterine phenomena which the fetus responds to at a cellular level (such as physiochemical alterations in the amniotic fluids and bloodstream caused by changes in the mothers hormonal tone) (Verny & Kelly, 1982). Yet both these writers are aware that all of the evidence-especially the capacity for conceptual thought and extrasensory impressions-cannot be explained by fetal neurological functioning. Although Grof is not clear about how supraphenomenal memories might be transmitted to the fetal body, Verny suggests that some of the anomalous memories must, of necessity, have their origin outside the limits of fetal neurophysiology, as it is currently understood. He postulates two separate but complementary systems for preserving early memories. One system is reliant on relatively mature central and autonomic nervous system functioning, operative six months after conception; and the other is an extra- or para-neurological system, which does not seem to obey known laws of chemistry and Newtonian physics (Verny & Kelly, 1982, pp. 191-92). I will argue that Verny's supposition is correct, and, in fact, that a substantial body of evidence supports the idea of two distinct sources of consciousness in prenatal life. Even though new techniques for direct assessment of fetal and neonatal interactions indicate that the unborn and newly born have more complex mentation than previously thought, other methodologies, primarily regression modalities, reveal degrees of psychological complexity and extrasensory impressions impossible to explain by any fetal cellular structures, no matter how well developed. To date, no single theory has combined these two branches of prenatal research.

If we are to sort out what can and what cannot legitimately be ascribed to the smart fetus (that is, the cellular body of the unborn infant depicted in the newer research), some knowledge of current memory theory is necessary because memory is the very fabric of consciousness and learning (Restak, 1984; Eccles, 1989) and because the extent to which the location of memory can be identified determines the ability to locate the source of consciousness. …

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