An Animistic Approach to Dealing with Neurotic Disorders

by Vivienne Manouge

We fear perdition at every death, and death at every birth. - Máire, a spirit guide.

Neurosis exists before birth. That which incarnates through birth as a human being or animal is complex and extensive, and its consciousness of itself as an evolving being is more or less well articulated, or more or less fragmented and confused. Entering its new body from the past, present or future, whether on Earth as a material being or as one of the many kinds of non-material or extra-dimensional beings associated with Earth, or gathering and integrating fragments of the self from more than one prior incarnation, the incarnate self is conditioned by fear, despair and pain as much as by joy, knowledge and hope. Added to this, most of us are usually incarnating in more than one body at any given time: for example, as plants, animals, or stones, or even landscapes [1] on the material, earthly plane, and/or on, or occasionally as, other planets or stars. The material universe is infinite: indeed, it is made of atoms whose inner dimensions alone are infinite; and similarly our individual psyches [2] , of time as well as of space, of which the fabric of the psychical dimension of the non-material universe is woven, are infinite. Furthermore, each of us, though fragmented and perhaps fraught with conflict and trauma, is nevertheless whole and complete, and all of our pasts, all of our presents, and all of our futures are accessible to us, for good or ill, wherever we transcends time and space ' or would be were it our neuroses permitted. It is primarily for neurotic reasons that incarnation usually involves a loss of the transcendent position from which our infinitude of wisdom and power and love, that is, our divinity, or personal devas, are accessible.

A psyche leaving an incarnation through death has been conditioned by the pain and pleasure of the life it is relinquishing and most critically, by its death pangs. It may connect with other of its incarnations before being drawn to its new body to be reborn on Earth, and these too will have been conditioned by their experiences. It may also seek access to another or others of its continuing incarnations, large or small, within the earth or beyond it; on the material plane or as an astral, aethereal or other extra-dimensional being or beings. This conditioning gives each psyche its unique character, which in turn determines where and when it will be born and to whom and in what circumstances, and how much choice it will have concerning its new birth situation. It may be drawn simply to the egg whose genetic configuration matches its spiritual disposition, in much the same way as any particular web address (genetic configuration) will download the only one web page it can conjure of the millions that exist; or it may need help from other beings to modify itself in order to obtain a more favourable birth situation. In some cases, it may encounter unfavourable modifying conditions, which may predispose it to be born in unfavourable circumstances.

Whatever our prior conditioning may be, when we reincarnate, our foetal experience and our birth are primal. That relatively brief experience in the birth canal is a kind of journey, fraught with danger, normally painful and frightening for both mother and baby, and being archetypal, fundamental, and full of import, it patterns our personalities in many ways. The event sequence of the birth itself is patterned according to the condition of the psyche prior to birth in negotiation with the baby's genetics, and arrayed to negotiate in favour of the meeting of its own needs against the needs of the mother, and ultimately those of the community into which the child is being born. The patterning is designed to keep the child attuned to its deva with its pre-birth conditioning, to obtain from his/her mother information about the circumstances under which it is entering the world, and to commit the incarnating psyche to the work the child, whose personality it is contributing to, must do while on Earth [3] .

'Neuro-' means 'pertaining to the nerves', and '-osis' refers to the sum of all activities and meanings associated with the stem it attaches to, in this case, 'nerves'. In short, it means 'nerve-business', but significantly, it is used in popular psychology to mean 'neurological disorder', often without any reference to real neurology at all. In fact, one result of being born in a human body is that our neurology decisively determines which of our genetic inheritance's resources and qualities and which of our psyche's can be mediated into your conscious earth-bound awareness as the qualities and attributes of our mundane selves. The main karmic workload of any human being is that which must be done to coax our neurology to grow to accommodate more and more of our psychical and genetically inherited resources, and whatever other resources become available to us as these qualities become harmonised and integrated into our earthly personalities.

Our neurology at birth, which has developed in the body of the mother under her (usually 'sub'conscious supervision), mediates our experience almost exclusively according to our genetics, including the unique, idiosyncratic way in which a newborn handshakes with the appropriate psyche, and this done, negotiations begin between the material body and the psyche for possession, control and use of the baby's neurology, while at the same time, the newborn baby's bond with the mother undergoes a radical change. No longer part of her body, the baby must usually 'meet' with her and bond with her as a separate being, capable of downloading from its own psyche.

Neurological dysfunction may reflect serious, crippling discordance's between the body and its inheritance, if these have been recently thrown into conflict, or kept in unresolved conflict for a long time. For example, where psychic awareness has been violently oppressed and punished over several generations, both overtly on the material plane as under the regime of the church, and covertly on the so-called subconscious levels (which may be quite conscious within their own contexts), there will exist neurological conflict, reflecting that which occurs in the whole body-personality, over whether or not to express the effects of the genes responsible for it, and this may result in a whole complex of physiological activities which may even attempt to effect a mutation, if the stress is severe. The neurology that develops in this conflict state may be more or less debilitatedly burdened and beset with strictures imposed by the culture and even shocked, wounded and cursed, although we may assume that its specific nature of the wounding would be as intelligently designed as the organism in which it occurs. [4]

The psyche too may be fragmented and fraught with conflicts, burdened with karma and/or even aflame with some missionary zeal, in a way that may bring it into conflict with the receiving body. Whether violent or peaceable, there is always a power struggle. Sometimes the outcome is swift. A predatory psyche may subdue a weakened or defeated body and ride it through its lifetime like a horse, a slave at the mercy of its master. A predatory body may capture a soul and carry it like a prisoner, extracting what it needs and repressing or even destroying the rest of its resources. From this may emerge enabled, viable personalities, able to engage effectively in their negotiations with other people at least in the material world. But often supremacy is maintained at huge energetic cost which places a great strain on the whole system, which may furthermore be forced to manifest the pain and despair of the defeated system in various ways, ranging from physiological sickness to depression, anger and the states of being associated with what most people mean by the term 'neurosis'. Normally this power struggle persists, providing the agon for a constant war within, for a lifetime of inner turmoil, anxiety and emotional chaos.

A conflict-ridden psyche consciousness bonded to an equally fraught body consciousness, each with its own interests, some of them urgent, makes for an intense interface characterised by power struggles, agonistics and tensions which have their physiological counterparts in the biochemistry within every cell of the body, and patterned into the neurology as it forms. In the case of, say, a genetically coded shamanism inherited from a parent in a culture which has for generations tormented all shamanisms, there is likely to be anxiety in response to any biochemical events which might tend to express the forbidden traits even at the cellular level from the earliest embryonic stages, and dysfunctions may arise because of it. The same principle may operate as regards skin colour or other racial traits in people traumatised by racism. Most people these days inherit fragments of several shamanisms, as many despised or persecuted class or ethnic traits, and a few 'criminal' tendencies, which they themselves might despise, along with them. The neurology formed to accommodate all this not only reflects these agonistics, but also strives to manage them.

A resourceful or healthy system may be able to do this effectively, or even use its dynamics to drive a productive, satisfying life. Neurosis becomes unmanageable whenever effectiveness as a person within a culture is radically compromised.

Now it becomes evident that it isn't possible in this chaotic universe for anyone to incarnate in human form on this< travailing planet except through a neurology designed to encode their major psychological systems and hint at their minor ones, and bring them into confrontation with one another, and manage their conflicts; and hence neurosis is a condition of earthly existence, its salient features being established at birth, when the psyche first engages with the body without the intimate intervention of the mother.

At this point, to explore further the nature of neurosis in individuals, we must consider the nature of both the psyche and the body. About the psyche we have some certain knowledge, a lot more uncertain belief, plenty of guesses, and a good admixture of fantasy, and we should undoubtedly explore them all in forming our vision of it for the purposes of healing. Out of the body experiences attest to its autonomy at least in the short term. Near Death Experiences (NDE) investigations point to its survival of death. Shamanisms of all cultures offer further vistas of the realms of the psyche, and a 'real' psychology would certainly be considering all models. Western academic psychology is certainly the product of a valid academic shamanism, and should be honoured with the rest. We see its flaws, and should be forearmed then in considering the psyche-science of other shamanisms, both within our culture, such as that of the spiritualists, as well as those of other cultures and of other times, against forsaking high standards of criticism in examining them. On our planet, concepts of the psyche are vague.

People have always attributed beauty, love, spiritual wealth, wisdom and transcendence to the psyche, seeing the body as only a dumb, stupid beast-like creature of gross materiality that is animated and incidentally briefly elevated by the immortal psyche on its way to its glorious destiny. Yet the body is composed of atoms, each of which was forged in the most ancient times in the hearts of stars or sooner, before stars even existed. Each of these consists of subatomic particles, each one a tightly structured and immensely intricate universe in its own right. Each quark is saturated with impressions of everything it has ever encountered, and conditioned in myriad very specific ways by all the dramatic events it has ever been through. We each inherit one cell from our fathers, a few billion billions or so of atoms, each with billions of years of its own unique history coiled within its atoms. We get billions of times more from our mothers, and once born and weaned we grow by eating a wide variety of other beings, whose bodies have been built of atoms, each of which has reached our plate via a route as long and circuitous as those we're made of ourselves. Within our cells, these are structured according to molecular patterns of galactic complexity, themselves ages old, which then further structure themselves with passion and awesome wit and imagination into bodies that walk and talk.

Like dream-catchers these very large organic molecules and complexes of molecules represent the cosmos's way of organising interfaces between the multifarious cosmic energies and ideas [5] that matter mediates. They capture and manipulate ideas. The more complex their organisation, the more complex the ideation. They are driven by the very lusts, passions and needs that in the higher animals are orchestrated by their collective will into the grand passions, driving lusts and ambitions, wild yearnings and 'divine discontent' that has driven human evolution from the Big Bang and all its undoubtedly myriad brother and sister cosmoses and before. The material body is concept rich, and its brain is well able to make superb sense of its conceptual resources, to think profoundly, to reason beautifully, and to enjoy doing so with humour and grace.

Our sensoria vastly enrich our ideativity. The ordering of all this experience into structures of negotiable logic is not normally beyond the body's cranial capacity. The body it is who weeps our hormones into the blood serum in an access of love, or in fear or in surrender, whether we are beetles or flowers or human beings, and sighs pheromones of joy and sorrow and shame and pride with exquisite sensitivity. It is a vast organisation of living beings evolving dynamically, working hard at integrating the lot. Even without the psyche, we're looking at a wise, passionate and moral being, a perfectly convincing god of the universe.

And it aspires to this union with the psyche. We've always been willing to believe in the 'higher' wisdom of the psyche, but we should recognise the 'dumb stupidity' of it too.
The body is made of vast numbers of tight, persistent modules of structured energy, and so not less is the psyche. Indeed, the whole universe is. In the body as anywhere else in the universe they are 'dream-catchers' and so they are too in the psyche. In both body and psyche we have myriad modules of structured energy (atoms) multifariously interrelated via interfaces more or less active, forming systems, called cells, also multifariously interrelated, which form themselves into organisms, including humans, according to any one or more of an infinite number of infinitesimally minute, infinitely elaborate, systems of logic, themselves interrelated via active interfaces. These systems structure energy to make bodies, whether material or psychic, which have souls because their atoms have memory, and which have spirituality because the minutest particles of their atoms have (consider the zestiness of sulphur, the stinging spite of sodium, the maudlin dote of magnesium in children's medicine). Their vectors are their wills; our wills are the resolution of the intricately interrelative myriad.

These systems of logic come into conflict at every interface. This is as true of the interfaces between atoms, as it observably is of those between people, cultures, species etc. No one system is right while others are wrong. It is a chaotic situation, and chaos theory applies. They negotiate at their interfaces and when negotiation breaks down we have disorder, conflict, and pain.

So to draw the focus back to the primal, imprinting, conditioned and conditioning birth journey, we can now recognise it as an interplay among several distinct, vital systems seeking to coalesce, supervised by the mother, herself presenting a number of interfaces to the baby, as well as being more or less manageably divided within herself. Now we can map our journey through the birth canal into the world, being careful to denote the interface that exists between us now and the events of the birth as we observe it, in order to engage advantageously with one's personal birth as if it were a kind of tjurunga [6] , mediating the primal agons, (i.e. Alcheringa or Dreaming), of one's own divinity in a very specific way. We have some idea of the physiology of 'normal' birth, its sequences of events, their timing, and tolerable variations, and these are representable as landscape features, as events in a journey, or as the elaborations of a sculpture, symphony, or system of mathematical formulae, each interpretative system offering its own therapeutic potential. You could viably represent the various critical features of birth as cards in a pack. They can be used in this way to access the reality of one's birth because they use structures of idea and energy (symbols) as dream-catchers whose salient features resonate sufficiently with the features of the birth to permit the passage of energy, both free and organised as information, emotion, and ideation, from the primal scene through its symbolism to one's adult self, because they 'catch' the same 'dreams'.

Arthur Janov's Primal Therapy, developed in California in the 1960s and 70s, encountered erupting birth trauma and immersed the neurotic in them by annihilating intervening symbolism. The result was powerful, astoundingly effective, but too painful. Janov's pioneers were susceptible to periods of near- or actual madness. Despite much better management now, it's still a rugged journey.[7]

Birth is a dreaming landscape and its djang is sometimes dangerous. That's why we hedge it about with neurotic fortifications that ask to be approached through symbolism.

Janov's approach was that the birth needed to be found, it's primal energy released through feeling and responding in the present, and the consequent access of insight would then end the pain of the repressed memory. However, through symbolism we can dialogue with the features of our birth, its djang filtered through sensitively and intelligently selected symbols, and this has the advantage of recognising that the pain has meaning, that its generative elements can be discerned, questioned, and seen to be the processes of an intelligence. Instead of 'laying the ghosts' of past traumas, we should be respectful of their dynamic, eager for their meaning, and wary of 'ideals' of mental health formulated from profiles of norms, averages and types.

Bibiliography

Elkin, A. P., 1977, Aboriginal Men of High Degree: Initiation and Sorcery in the World's Oldest Tradition. University of Queensland Press, Australia.
Gleick, James, 1988, Chaos, Heinemann, London.
Janov, Arthur, 1991, The New Primal Scream, Enterprise Publishing, Washington.
Talbot, Michael, 1991, The Holographic Universe, Grafton Books, London.

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[1] Australian Aborigines dreaming places are examples of places whose devas are simultaneously incarnate as human beings, animals, stars in the Milky Way, and more.

[2] I'm using the word 'psyche' and not 'soul', because I'm not able to separate the body and soul in that way. All material objects have souls, saturated with traces and impressions that comprise their memories. That includes the very atoms they are made of. When a person dies, what I'm proposing should be called the 'psyche' leaves the body, but the soul of the body is returned with the scattered atoms to the earth, each atom having absorbed the soul impressions of the person they were once part of. Furthermore, the ancient Greek 'yuch' (psyche0 is nearer to my meaning. Our word 'soul' is cognate with the Irish 'saol', pronounced 'seal', which means 'life'. My sense of the psyche is like the Hindu idea of the 'atman'.

[3] This work is called 'karma' in Hinduism. Karma refers to work to be done. Punishment and reward are only one aspect of karma. Perhaps more prominent among its many aspects is the work we share in harmonising the material, astral, and other planes with the soul, mind, spirit and other dimensions of being.

[4] Curses will be discussed in a later article.

[5] Ideas will be discussed in a later article I use the word loosely here, to mean something like 'modules of meaning'.

[6] A tjurunga is a natural object or crafted design which mediates significant features of the Alcheringa relevant to an individual, clan, spirituality, or whatever. Dot paintings are sometimes used. They are sacred power objects.

[7] Janov acknowledges on p.27 of 'The New Primal Scream' that as it threatens to emerge into consciousness, repressed pain can cause madness and/or provoke suicide.