The Twenty-First Century and Its DisContents
View From Everyday
Dangling Above an Abyss
Beyond the entertainment media, it seems perinatal themes and elements are showing up everywhere else in our surrounding environment and culture. The scenery of our everyday reality consists of pollution of our air, water, and food; threat of death “at any moment,” caused by the knowledge of the power of nuclear weapons; fantasies of apocalypse of all kinds, magnified, perhaps, by the ending of a millennium and the approach of 2012—including fundamentalist Christian imaginings of an end to human civilization in an apocalyptic “rapture”; New Age fantasies of ecological, spiritual, and social utopias; and so on.
First, let us consider a few of the most blatantly birth-related of the events around us.
The Perinatal Screen
Alien abduction stories, while a relatively recent addition to our cultural landscape, are unusual in the rapidity with which they have gained cultural currency and are telling in the extreme fascination the public has with them.They have catapulted more than one show—The X Files being the prime example, of course—to cult-like status. The photo below is a scene after the abduction of Fox Mulder, one of The X-Files main characters.
Yet Alvin Lawson has pointed out how alien abduction stories are replete with perinatal elements: passing through walls, umbilical beams of connection to the “mother ship” (i.e., the placenta), either fetal-looking aliens or aliens whose eyes are most prominent and the lower parts of their faces undistinguished—similar to the way a newborn might see an obstetrician wearing a medical mask.
Then of course there are the elements of being medically probed, measured, samples taken from one, and being swooshed from one place to another with no say on one’s part—all remarkably like the experience of a newborn, right out of the womb. [Footnote 1]
While I do not think that the “alien abduction” phenomenon is just derivative of birth, as Lawson does, I do believe that we perceive these events through a veil of birth trauma, the likes of which the world has never known. My position is explained in the article, “Alien Abductors: Angelic Midwives or Hounds From Hell?“
An interesting development in the alien face is the “shoved down the throat” thing going on. Similar to the “Jacob’s Ladder” kind of vegetable thrusting out, it was popularized greatly in the movie, “Alien.”
As a neonate we cannot see the mouths of the masked attendants at our birth. In a traumatic situation, whatever is hidden is more feared than what can be seen. As in anything else, onto the unknown we can project the most magnified versions of our fears. When these images arise in us, then, it makes sense that if the mouth is shown it might be even more frightening than that above the mouth.
So in modern times, for the first time in history, we see something going on where these feelings are symbolized as a ferocious mouth coming out of the mouth. The fact that it appears like something that would gag reveals that this image contains elements of the trauma around ungentle mouth suctioning or clearing as well as the reveal of what might be under the mask of the seeming attacker, the obstetrician. Add lots of teeth and you have the perinatal vagina dentate as well, symbolizing the trauma occurring at birth, when actually emerging from the mother.
Rock Concerts (For some, ditto)
Keep in mind that rock music popularity and concert rituals are world-wide phenomena. Youth from nearly all countries are involved in rock culture. Among other things, Lawson, in his article, refers to placental guitars, umbilical mikes, and youths jumping into mosh pits. Mosh pits suggest the birth feelings in that they simulate the crushing in the womb.
At birth our consciousness is filled with the feeling of flesh all around. The world is crushing, heaving, rollicking, bouncing flesh everywhere. During a non-cesarean birth one struggles and moves through this flesh to reach space, air, light…freedom. We re-create this pattern of struggle in order to reach the light, or freedom and space, throughout life. It is obvious that mosh pits are attractive, appealing places to re-create the danger of birth alongside the hope of being “held up,” uplifted, and reborn.
The doors of perception…stormed
We could also mention the loud music, fireworks, and flashing and bright explosions of light at these concerts as perinatal in that they re-create the assault of sensation that occurs to the newly emerged fetus—an assault which in one’s mind is like unto a bomb exploding.
The rock groups and their lyrics themselves are often blatantly perinatal. The most obvious example of this was the group, Nirvana, who came out with a CD titled “In Utero.” The fact that the leader of the group, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide is a strong indication of his closeness and access to his perinatal trauma…as I will soon explain.
Pacifiers, Trolls, Crushing Populations, and Global Suffocation
Turning from rock, we see perinatal BPM III elements in the scenery of our everyday lives evident in the rising incidence of violence by children at ever younger ages.
The forms this “regression” has taken include the surprising popularity of a pop song, sung by a very young child, expressing the difficulties of being a baby; the wearing of baby pacifiers as ornaments as a powerful fashion fad; and being enamored of troll-like dolls, which, according to the authors indicate a “regression to the womb.”
Additionally, we see the crushing, no-exit, claustrophobic BPM II elements manifesting in the crushing population densities in major human cities throughout the world.
Gag me with a crowd
One overlooked, but hugely pervasive perinatal element is the increasing carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere called “the greenhouse effect,” which, combined with decreased oxygen levels, is analogous to the situation of “fetal malnutrition,” described by Briend and deMause, that occurs prior to birth, and which is the basis for deMause’s explanation of poisonous placenta symbolism. [Footnote 4]
At any rate, by this atmospheric rearrangement I mean that, while we reputedly have, and need, an oxygen concentration of twenty percent in our atmosphere, concentrations of oxygen these days, especially in heavily industrial areas, have been measured at much lower levels. For example, an industrial section of Gary, Indiana, was recorded at five percent oxygen concentration. [Footnote 5]
Raging to Reenter, Digging Under Ground
Other evidence for closeness to the perinatal unconscious comes from Kenneth Keniston, who studied the youth of the sixties. In Keniston’s widely read book of the time titled The Uncommitted: Alienated Youth in American Society, he described an increasingly prevalent, unusually influential, and relatively newly emerging personality type, which he discovered in his sociopsychological study of youthful college students.
Among other traits, he found these youth to be characterized by fantasies of a “rage to reenter” the womb; and a “fantasy of fusion” with the mother, which took perinatal forms of all kinds including stories of wishing to dig one’s way back into the earth; a fascination with and wish to return to the past, the long forgotten, and the under ground;and a desire to find oblivion in some enveloping medium…even at the price of self-destruction!
Some of the other elements of Sixties youth were existential angst, being enamored of death and dying, and a refusal of “normal” adulthood. Think about it. Are these descriptions not a lot like we have heard of the generation that followed sixties youth…the so-called Generation X?
For Generation X, black clothes, white painted faces, and black lipstick are the fashion statement.
And what is this statement of this sector of youth–a statement that began in the Seventies among what was then called the “punk” movement–which includes now the fad of vampirism, except the same fascination with death as sixties “alienated” youth…again.This fascination is an obvious reflection of the death/rebirth aspects of the perinatal.
Being gratefully dead
Need we remember this same kind of fascination with being dead and then reborn theme from the sixties as in being “gratefully dead”? It seems that this trend toward easier access to and higher awareness of perinatal influences has been going on for a while now.
Drugs…. Oooooooooo…. Sca-ry….
There are other similarities between the youth of the Sixties and today’s youth: Drug use among youth, as reported in the last few years, has been going up again.This also is an indication of an emerging perinatal unconscious because drugs are intimately woven with perinatal influences in a number of ways. Not only can some drugs bring up birth feelings, as Grof’s work has shown, but the mother being drugged while giving birth to her child can result in drug abuse by that child later in life. [Footnote 6]
Lucy in the sewer with depression
Other connections between drug use and perinatal influence: Perinatal feelings are very often of the depressive, no-exit type, and some drugs are temporarily effective antidotes for that. Depression itself is epidemic, indicating the rise of BPM II feelings. There is widespread use of antidepressants in America currently.
Grof has claimed, based upon the tens of thousands of sessions of exploration into the perinatal unconscious that he has personally facilitated and thus observed, that the roots of endogenous–that is to say, deep rooted and engrained, not just situational–depression lie in the no-exit BPM II experience in the womb prior to birth. Furthermore, my personal experience with my own depression and my primal re-experiencing of prenatal, womb feelings, as well as birth, confirms his statement.
Tune inward, turn back, drop down
Finally, psychedelic drugs..LSD… “they’re ba-a-a-ack.” Though they are more discreetly used these days and so are less obviously evident. Various psychedelics and hallucinogens are used at postmodern raves, among many other places.
Their increased use also points to perinatal influences in that it is known that psychedelics—LSD in particular—can help people to access and to some extent resolve perinatal trauma, when taken for purposes of personal growth. [Footnote 7]
“Most Peculiar, Mama!”
We have considered the uniqueness of our times and the elements of the perinatal unconscious. We have followed that with a look at the predominant underlying fantasies and myths of our times–our contemporary collective dreams as projected onto the silver screen, boob tube, and printed page, with a perinatal rock heartbeat of a soundtrack.
Our Nightly News and Neighborhoods
Finally we have taken a look at the anomalous elements of our everyday reality–those confusing and bizarre, newly emerging images that permeate our nightly news and neighborhoods, along with those totally unprecedented cultural, environmental, and social factors that weave the backdrops of our lives.
Going Forward, Explore Our Hells and Heavens
Let us now go deeper. Let us make the connections. Let us explore the way we have reflected our innermost intimate hells and heavens into the fabric of our times; and back again, the way the warp and woof of these strangest of days has affected each of us, in our most superficial of behaviors to the most intimate and deepest of our minds. The way forward is down.
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Apocalypse – No! Chapter Ten:
The Scenery of Postmodern Life
1. Alvin H. Lawson, “UFO abductions or birth memories?” Fate, 38(3) March 1985, pp. 68-80; and Alvin H. Lawson, “Perinatal imagery in UFO abduction reports.” In T. Verny (ed.): Pre- and Perinatal Psychology: An Introduction. Human Sciences Press, New York, 1987. [return to text]
2. Alvin H. Lawson, “Placental Guitars, Umbilical Mikes, and the Maternal Rock-Beat: Birth Fantasies and Rock Music Videos.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1994): 335-353. [return to text]
3. Daniela F. Mayr & Artur R. Boelderl, “The Pacifier Craze: Collective Regression in Europe.” The Journal of Psychohistory 21 (1993): 143-156. [return to text]
4. A. Briend, “Fetal Malnutrition: The Price of Upright Posture?” British Medical Journal 2 (1979): 317-319. [return to text]
5. As reported in the book, O2xygen Therapies by Ed McCabe. 99-RD1 Morrisville, NY 13408: Energy Publications, 1988. Other examples of lowered oxygen levels in various arenas of our lives are given in the book as well, and the book is thoroughly documented. It makes a convincing case for the lowered oxygen levels as they relate to the rise of a number of diseases. The connection of these lowered levels to mental states is my own addition. I also owe a lot of understanding of toxins as they relate to mental states to George Watson’s rare 1976 work, Nutrition and Your Mind. [return to text]
6. There is another overlooked factor or aspect of this rise in drug use: These youngsters are the sons and daughters of the sixties generation who, in their own youth, as we all know too well, engaged in drug experimentation. This new generation of drug users has been called the baby-boomer “echo” generation. Unlike the preceding “echo” generation of the eighties—whose parents’ young adulthood occurred during the Great Depression and World War Two, and whose own young adult formative years occurred during the Eisenhower–Joe McCarthy–Presley fifties and who were thus influenced by their parents to conservatism, career-mindedness, and, for drug-of-choice, alcohol—this “echo” generation has parents whose young adulthood was forged in the rebellion, drug and sex experimentation, activism, liberal-radicalism, and idealism of the sixties. See my website/book Culture War, especially Part Two: Matrix Beginnings, the Sixties and Part Three: The King Won’t Die, Abortion of Cultural Rebirth. A good deal of King Won’t Die is published separately as “Drugs, Consciousnesses, and Generational Cultures.”
Generationally speaking, we know that children do not predominantly rebel to the opposite of their parents’ values. Keniston, for one, has made it clear — referring to studies done as evidence—that children are paramountly influenced by the values and attitudes…conscious and unconscious…of their parents. So this new youth is going to be more liberal in their attitude to drug use, even if their parents, in their coming into adulthood, overtly decry or are against the use of drugs. Keep in mind also that many of the baby-boomers have retained, not reversed, their acceptance of drug experimentation, and many still believe in and use drugs; many still considering the occasional use of certain types—especially the psychedelics, and to some extent, pot—to be an aid to self-development and/or spiritual awareness.
The myth that youth rebel against their parents’ values was expressed and propagandized by the TV show “Family Ties.” This was an oh so convenient portrayal, as it contributed to the pervasive scapegoating of the sixties generation by the Eisenhower–Joe McCarthy–Presley generation who came into their Triumphant Phase, i.e., took over the reins of society as mature adults in the eighties. This “Family Ties” kind of rebellion, however inaccurate, seems to be credible largely as a result of the observation that youth do rebel against their parents. But it ignores the fact that when they do, and they don’t always, they revolt or rebel, as in the sixties youth, most often in the direction of being more so in terms of the values of their parents. As Keniston found out, e.g., as he described in his follow-up to The Uncommitted, in the book, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth, radical youth had liberal (hardly conservative!) parents. If they were angry at their parents it was out of their perception of their parents as compromising and not living out their own expressed ideals, as laid out to their children in raising them…therefore, out of their disgust at their parents as “not walking their talk.” Hence, as we may recollect, there was the oft-repeated charge of “hypocrite” directed by some of these youth toward their parental generation.
In this regard it might also be noted that this new crop of youngsters, the sons and daughters of the Sixties Generation, has also seen increases in voting for liberal or Democratic candidates. Their turnout for Clinton in 1992 was the first time since the seventies that the youth vote went Democratic; their support of Obama was widely given as the reason for his success. This new cohort of youth also has seen increases in idealism, activism, and volunteerism, and–despite the AIDS scare–in early and/or increased sexual experimentation (the fledgling “youth celibacy movement” is long gone, folks). These aspects and generational phenomena are spelled out in more detail in my work-in-progress, The Once and Future Generation: Regression, Mysticism, and “My Generation.” Right at hand, however, you can read an elaboration of some of these ideas in my musepapers on “Drugs, Consciousnesses, and Generational Cultures” and “Move Over, World War Two Generation, the Sixties Generation Has Arrived! An Essay Review of the Movie, ‘Pleasantville,'” on the Primal Spiritwebsite, as well as the previously mentioned Culture War, in particular Part Two and Part Three. [return to text]
7. And for those who have cynically adopted the line that either psychedelics are another drug that blots out one’s Pain, or that they are only used for recreational or sensual/hedonistic purposes, or that the kinds of birth experiences that Grof describes as occurring on LSD only occur in supervised and guided sessions, like the ones he offered…for those who have dismissed psychedelics and LSD in any of these ways, let me say,
First, psychedelics, especially LSD and to some extent, even marijuana, are known to act in the brain in a way almost exactly the opposite of the drugs used to escape from reality—such as, e.g., alcohol; speed, crack, or cocaine; nicotine; or heroin—though this news flies in the face of the myth put out by the all-encompassing anti-drug propaganda machine, which puts all drugs in the same category. This is common knowledge among researchers and scientists who study these things. For elaboration, see “Drugs, Consciousnesses, and Generational Cultures,” especially “Part Two: Drugs and Consciousnesses“
Second, that drugs are only used for recreational purposes is patently false.Though the vast majority of drug use is recreational, there are in print many examples, and the admissions of many authors, of the use of LSD by individuals and groups for purposes of personal growth. And, in my own limited exploration, personal growth was my motivation; in fact, many people are afraid to take the drug LSD, knowing full well that its effects are not always pleasurable or recreational, so why would they accept that risk if they did not have some other intent, like personal growth, for experimenting on themselves with it.
Finally, before I had ever heard of such a possibility of reliving one’s birth, let alone heard of Grof, or Janov for that matter, I learned that at least one person at my university on LSD found himself feeling like a fetus and then going through a process of struggling through a birth canal, and so on. [return to text]
Copyright © 1999, 2011 by Michael Derzak Adzema
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