Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Natalism as Pre and Perinatal Metaphor

Academic journal article Pre- and Peri-natal Psychology Journal

Natalism as Pre and Perinatal Metaphor

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the theory of Natalism which proposes that the symbolic expression of birth and prenatal consciousness can be found in art, mythology, and creative expression. Through clinical and empirical evidence our knowledge of the origins of awareness and memory is being pushed ever earlier. If pre- and perinatal experience affects personality, then we should see its tentacles in creative expression. Art flows from the deepest realms of the unconscious where the early roots of the human psyche are most active. As well, the creative act is often non-verbal which may be closely allied with the pre-verbal consciousness. Birth and prenatal experience which may not be readily accessed or discussed with the later developed language mind may be more aptly expressed with the non-verbal articulation of art. Throughout history natalistic images have often vividly depicted pre- and perinatal experience with no conscious recognition on the part of the creator of the early origin of the work. The similarity and commonality of these images is due to the universality of the environment of the womb and process of birth. Looking at meanings behind natalistic symbols found in art we can add a valuable resource for developing our understanding of pre- and perinatal issues in history, culture and personality.

. . . creative activity . . . somehow permits us to come to grips with the demons of our past, to give form to the chaos within us and thereby master our anxiety.1

Alice Miller-Portraits of a Childhood


In this paper I am going to look at how birth and in utero consciousness have influenced creative expression in art and myth throughout the ages. I call this symbolic expression of pre and perinatal memory, Natalism. We find the creative expression of pre and perinatal life in painting, sculptures, dance, poetry, literature, music, religions, philosophies; even in social political movements and, unfortunately, wars and social unrest.

The theory of Natalism proposes that birth and prenatal experience are registered in the psyche and are later projected into art, ritual and myth-and have been throughout the ages. For the most part, the creation of Natalism seems to be a subconscious process by the artist. The individuals within a society seem to be attracted to Natalism from subconscious needs causing the reoccurrence and popularity of Natalistic themes.

Presenting birth and prebirth experiences as a vital part of some artists's work may be a new way to explore how the subconscious has influenced art. We accept that the adult subconscious or the childhood subconscious influences individual artists or even groups of artists. It is clear that many movements in art have, in part, occurred out of the subconscious drives of the artists involved. If, in fact, the pre- and perinatal experience can be stored in the psyche and exert later influences on the individual, then it is inevitable that the unconscious pre and perinatal experience is going to find expression in some works of art.

The creation of a work of art has often been compared to giving birth, the artist identifying with the mother by bringing a "child," the work of art, into the world. In Kafka's diaries there is a famous passage in this vein about writing his short story, "The Judgement." Yet, as I envision the creative process, I do not identify with the mother giving birth but with the child struggling to be born.2

Creative expression is another facet of personality and many of the dynamics involved in understanding the unconscious mind and dream world hold true for understanding art and the creative process. Symbols depict the essence of the artist; they depict the unconscious, the very deep levels of the psyche. I suggest many of the primary roots of the self originate with birth and the in utero experience. Since art is often an expression of the deepest self, we should expect to find metaphor and symbolism depicting the wonder and conflicts of birth and prenatal phenomena in the many forms of creative expression. …

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