Unbornness and the Human Encounter
When meeting a person what/who is it that you encounter? You may notice the age, appearance, cultural background, the work the person does, the relationship status, the feeling emanating from the person, how that person feels about him/her self or something else?
The African saying of Ubuntu says, ‘I am I because of you, and you are you because of me”, suggests that we are intimately connected in some way that is more than the appearance, cultural background and roles the person fills.
Recently I met a 4-month-old baby securely held in his father’s arms. He was awake and alert. His thick dark hair stuck up at the back of his head. As he looked at me our eyes met. I looked into two pools of presence, of contained interest and a deep knowing of something hard to grasp and impossible not to notice. It was as though he had knowledge of something that he carried within him. His gaze penetrated me. It was as though he saw me deeply. I wondered what he was really seeing. Does he see an aura with colours and shapes or is it something else? It felt like he was seeing my essence from a place I had forgotten. I felt touched by the world within those eyes and can easily remember that feeling as I think back to our brief encounter. It was as though I was reminded of a depth, a connection with a world I know but had turned away from. Where has he come from?
As I pondered this question I was struck anew by the incredible vulnerability of a human baby the most helpless of all newborn creatures. Scientists have pondered this phenomenon too. Initially postulating that this was due to the comparatively underdeveloped brain at birth, a situation determined by the size of a woman’s pelvis. As research continued scientists realized that the size of the human brain and the timing of birth actually optimize the cognitive and motor neuron development of the infant and growing brain, and not determined by the size of a woman’s pelvis. (The Advantages of Being Helpless. Scientific American (Feb 10th 2010)
It takes courage to be born into the arms of parents upon whom we are completely dependent for our every need. As I observed the cute baby I had met in the park I could see some likeness to his father and thought about his particular characteristics, ancestry, culture and timing of his birth. It seems we come with potential and a wisdom in the eyes that gradually gives way to something else. We come into a certain circumstance at a certain time. Again observing another child, this time a two year old at my granddaughters birthday party I saw a unique individual with personality traits, an obvious sense of humour and play, and ways of engaging the adults around her without much language at all. We all seem to come with quite a lot already in place. We meet our people, our culture and learn and grow at a rapid rate.
Is there a purpose to this process? Or is it as science might suggest an act of random chance.
There seems to be “an eternal longing that lives in the heart of time ‘ ( J O’Donahue) that draws us forward , that gets us up in the morning and calls us to overcome all manner of obstacles and difficulties. Perhaps it is this longing that calls us to be born.
Is there a process other than the one studied in embryology and fetal development in the womb? Is there such a thing as ‘Unbornness?”
Rudolf Steiner, a researcher of the wisdom of the human condition referred to as Spiritual Science also known as Anthroposophy (the study of the human condition), gave considerable focus to the period before birth and referred to this time as “unbornness".
He says the ‘I’ the eternal foundation of the human being is not on earth only once, but often, suffering and shaping its further development during each lifetime, compensating for what was not achieved in the past, and for the deeds, joys and suffering in the space between I and You. This space shapes who we become. “I am I because of you and you are you because of me.”
“The course of a human life within the framework of life and death is determined in three different ways and we are also dependent on factors that go beyond birth and death. The body is subject to the laws of hereditary; the soul is subject to self-created destiny, .. and spirit is subject to the laws of reincarnation or repeated earthly lives.” R Steiner.
He painted the picture of how the ‘I’ comes to earth to actively gain experiences and undergo transformations that can be achieved only on earth. After death, in a review of the life just lived, witnessing what was left undone and yet to be achieved, and pain we inflicted on others while living, creates a ‘powerful desire’ to return, rectify and develop further. Over time, this creates a decision to return to earth again into a suitable situation, conditions and experiences that can fulfill the ‘powerful desire.’
After death the ‘powerful desire’ generates a decision to return. Then a journey is taken out into the cosmos over a long period of time when eventually the decision to return initiates the journey back. This return journey also occurs over a long period of time and is an intention, a careful construction of a body that is suitable and a situation that is orchestrated to best suit the needs of the new being coming to birth.
Our “I” is actively involved in this formation.
“ We see our future ..in images that are not coercive, and leave us free . At the same time a willingness is born- and develops in us- to accept this destiny as our own.” The body and its life constellations, capacities and talents are woven together with the willingness to realize this destiny…. a new longing for the earth arises- a ‘hunger for heaviness’ – and feeling to become human again. (P Selg p32-3)
“ We begin to develop an interest in particular human beings ….. and certain sequences of generations and find the parents who will give birth to us. (It is) the whole collaboration of many human beings that will eventually bring about the relationship of a particular couple….thirty generations …that will ultimately manifest in a particular human being…It is not the physical stream that is responsible for the inheritance but the traits that are required”
It is these traits that shape this particular pathway and are orchestrated by the incarnating being.
“The individual on the way to incarnation brings the lovers together….. The future child loves the parents long before conception.”
This is a complex process and is lined with difficulties and obstacles. Before birth countless and even harsh biographies are arranged, including illness, which must occur later, so that something essential may be endured and overcome. Selg p36.
R. Steiner "The willingness of souls to incarnate into difficult situations was achieved before birth only with great difficulty… They are faced with horrendous inner struggles.”
However they come deliberately, out of their own free will. (Selg p38)
Is it the recent experience of ‘unbornness’ that I see in the eyes of the 4 month old baby whom I met in the park? . It seemed to me there was knowingness of something. When my newborn granddaughter saw her mother and father for the first time and for months afterwards she seemed to be scrutinizing them , and indeed me, her grandmother, there seemed to be a recognition and a taking in of our being with interest and love.
If we hold the thought that we have all deliberately chosen our family and situation to be born into and have helped to orchestrate the event, how might that change the way we meet our family and indeed all the people that come into our lives?
Amy and Arnold Mindell, the founders of Process Oriented Psychology have found that the feeling attitudes, beliefs and indeed our own deep nature (“I” as Steiner might say) are a fundamental part of therapy and indeed of any work with people and groups of people. Amy Mindell called this unique combination of “Iness”, attitudes and beliefs Metaskills.
I have found in my practice of Psychotherapy and Chinese Medicine when I gently hold awareness on ‘unbornness’ in my meeting with my client I notice awe and respect grows in me for the situation that presents itself in the persons life that has brought them to me. I think of one client, ‘Roger’
A 42-year-old single man identified himself in his first contact on the telephone, and in his first session, by his litany of diagnostic conditions. These ranged from physical symptoms such as Scheurmanns disease, and bowel pain to schizophrenia, bi-polar and depression. A psychiatrist first saw him at the age of 14 when he was sent to a psychiatric institution instead of a Correctional Centre after setting fire to a pine forest.
During his childhood he had born the brunt of much bullying at school, and much physical abuse from his family especially his father at home.
He is an intelligent man with a Horticultural degree and has successfully worked in his field for a number of years until he had a ‘break down’ at the age of 28. Since then he has seen one psychiatrist for 5 years and another one for the past 7 years. He has been on a disability pension during this time. Over the previous three months he has had bowel problems, had an operation for haemahroids and still suffers bowel pain. He also sees a Psychologist regularly and has a caseworker with Centre link.
I asked him why he came to see me. He wanted to try something different and was drawn to my holistic approach.
In our culture, the one Roger was born into, illness and symptoms whether they be physical or ‘mental” are seen as pathology that needs to be managed, minimized and got rid of if possible. He is an unwell person with life long problems that define who he is. He had come to see himself that way as well.
During our discussions he told me how he came to dislike his psychiatrist because ‘he hated my father’. Roger still loved his parents and was quite influenced by them, despite the fact that he had suffered much direct abuse from his father and indirect abuse from his mother and sister who stood by and watched while his father abused him.
Holding a Metaskill of unbornness I saw him as a man who had a lot of courage and longing that prompted him to search for something else. Through discussion of his experiences and holding a sense of rightness about his difficult encounters and experiences rather than seeing it as pathology I could see light come into his eyes and belief in himself begin to blossom. There were various interventions that occurred over the space of 7 sessions that I will not elaborate on here. I saw a change come over him from the very first session and a strong sense of empowerment and self-determination by the last session.
I attribute this change to the Metaskills as mentioned above that made the most difference in his situation. As he saw how I believed in him, he believed in himself. As he grew into his own uniqueness and sense of self he made the decision to move away from the area, as he no longer needed the contact with his parents and with the family he was currently living with. He also no longer needed me.
He taught me the profound importance of ‘unbornness’ and the Spiritual Art of Therapy i.e. Metaskills.
Ubuntu! In the large scheme of things it seems to me that clients and therapists, are drawn together, even ‘set up’ during the period of unbornness.
‘Civilized’ languages have no word for ‘unbornness’ (p62) Unbornness P Selg
Who is it we meet when we meet another?. It is as if whole worlds are meeting.
R. Steiner “ the human body is indeed the most complicated structure that exists in the cosmos. “
What is inside the human body is a condensation of the entire spiritual cosmos. In the human organization we have an image of the entire cosmos”. P68
Christina Nielsen - © 2015