Differing Holy Moments: An Inquiry of the Archetypal Numinous in Prenatal Attachment©
(Copyright©, 2019, All Rights Reserved)
by Danielle Nicole Burns
An Extended Review of the Conscious and Unconscious States of the Archetypal Numinous
Danielle Burns, Pacifica Graduate Institute, April, 2020
This discussion of findings explores core themes and statements presented in my dissertation research entitled, “Differing Holy Moments: An Inquiry of the Archetypal Numinous in Prenatal Attachment” involving perceiver expression of the numinous phenomena under study. A list of term definitions and their corresponding states of maternal consciousness are outlined in Table 1 entitled, “Conscious and Unconscious States of the Archetypal Numinous.” The table organizes the themes derived from the dissertation research study into five stages of numinous prenatal attachment experience known as: ego consciousness, ego unconsciousness, the collective unconscious, developing maternal consciousness, and maternal attachment experience. Three creative syntheses are presented based upon this iterative and inclusive presentation of data. The table provides an explanation of terms from a stimulus pattern perspective that is Jung’s dynamical archetypal process. As mentioned in the dissertation manuscript, archetypes are recurring patterns of behavior in the psyche inherited from the brain structure. Jung described archetypal patterns as “typical modes of action, and wherever we meet with uniform and regularly recurring modes of action we are dealing with instinct” (Jung, 1931/1969, para. 273). I further explain these recurring patterns and modes of maternal behavior in the discussion of findings entitled, “Archetypal Experiences of Numinosity.”
Participant experiences of archetypal numinosity are revealed in the story of a composite woman whom I will call “X” in the creative synthesis labeled “Archetypal Experiences of Numinosity.” The creative synthesis labeled, “Archetypal Experiences and the Development of Consciousness” shows how numinous experiences render a meaningful connection with a perceiver’s developing consciousness.
The implications of this research are explored in the section labeled “Clinical and Theoretical Implications” in Differing Holy Moments: An Inquiry of the Archetypal Numinous in Prenatal Attachment.” Other researcher findings presented in the literature review are addressed in that section. The creative synthesis labeled, “Archetypal Experiences and the Maternal Role” explores how these experiences render changes surrounding the maternal attachment experience. This research opens future areas of inquiry into the nature of numinous experience and offers added information not presented in prior research outcomes.
Archetypal Experiences of Numinosity
In this section, I describe the function of archetypal experiences of numinosity in motherhood. I focus on maternal behaviors and how these objective descriptions support the research aim to explore the fundamental essence of the numinous in the maternal attachment experience. They are written in a stimulus response language to demonstrate how an arousing numinous stimulus sensitizes an individual to the presence of an archetypal dynamic situated in the prenatal attachment relationship, and how that leads to changes in individual behavior.
A “numinous encounter” is an involuntary or instinctual stimulus defined as an archetype that appears spontaneously in the peripheral or physical awareness of woman “X” from the collective unconscious, is associated with a pre-conception, conception, pregnancy, or motherhood event, and produces acute sensations, feelings, or behaviors that are experienced as negative or positive. This experience of archetypal numinosity in motherhood for the woman involves fear about entering the unknown. While this emergent process is a natural one and can be beneficial, it can also be destructive. The woman’s uncertainty about how her life will unfold leads to discomfort, fear, or trauma. This active, physiological state of ego-consciousness is a negative sensation or feeling response evoked by a negative numinous stimulus when associated with an unpleasant or aversive event defined as a “diagnosis or struggle with an illness.” The woman finds herself caught within an unanticipated maternal event which triggers a cascade of negative feelings and sensations observed both in reaction to conditioned and unconditioned stimuli.
The numinous encounter evokes a negative sensation or feeling response experienced as a loss or ending event in the life of woman “X” in which she fears surrendering a familiar identity, state, or pattern in her life. Realizing that there is a gap between what she wants to have happen and what has actually occurred, the woman enters a period of prolonged grief and vaguely questions her judgement. This questioning may be situated in feelings of inadequacy or inability leading the woman to experience insecurity, turmoil, or denial resulting from the negative perception of “not feeling maternal.” The woman is unable to conceive a child or something else of value given her physical health condition. Her perception of familiarity is a fundamental component of memory, and her life direction is no longer accounted for. The negative numinous stimulus siphons energy away from the woman’s primary life goals and habitual ways of functioning while plunging her into a territory that is unfamiliar. The similarity that occurs when a life event is expected does not generate a sense of sameness in the woman’s life. Realizing that her expectations and outer reality are functioning in opposing directions is disorienting, confusing, and captures the woman’s attention.
With the gradual suppression of fear, woman “X” begins to “let go or surrender control” over her health-related circumstances. The disappearance of a familiar identity, state, or pattern that accompanies a diagnosis or struggle with an illness in this manner produces a feeling of “longing” defined as a desire for someone or something that is evoked by a state of uncertainty or entering the unknown. “Uncertainty or entering the unknown” is defined as an ego-unconscious state of physiological and psychological feeling and sensation suspended between ego-conscious and collective unconscious stimuli where the involuntary or instinctual presence of a numinous archetype is made accessible in the peripheral and physical awareness of woman “X” by means of a lucid memory trace also known as an engram. The actual storage of memory retrieval whether by biophysical or biochemical means is not clearly understood. Yet, I have theorized that the woman’s memories are not accessed by distinct regions of the brain as they appear to be generalized throughout the brain structure. This state of attentive immobility serves to enhance the woman’s capability of perception observed in reaction to a repertoire of defensive responses.
Two factors influencing the woman’s ability to retrieve an archetype suspended between the two stimuli mentioned above have to do with a selection of cues that guide memory retrieval. From this perspective, a numinous archetype is made accessible through a “body experience” or “synchronistic encounter.” Body experiences are defined as sensations or behavioral responses and synchronicity is a time-oriented concept. Both are evoked by an immobilized state of uncertainty or entering the unknown where the numinous archetype is made accessible in the woman’s peripheral and physical awareness by means of a lucid memory trace between ego-conscious and collective unconscious stimuli. Both stimuli are presented separately with an interval of time between them. The brain appears to form a mental representation of the ego conscious state after it has ended in order to retain the stimulus trace. Given the emergence of these two factors and the feeling of longing the woman experiences, she finds herself observing a memory trace between the two stimuli, marking the possibility of traveling between two imaginary shores. It plunges the woman into a whirlpool of ego-unconsciousness; a portal to another reality existing beneath the surface of her awareness to greet the divine Other within known as the archetypal stimulus. This fall into ego-unconsciousness invites the woman to pause, reflect, and explore the archetypal stimulus operating within the depths of her psyche while in a state of altered perceptual sensitivity. This sensitivity correlates with an improvement in the woman’s detection of perceptual cues that guide memory retrieval. The mere exposure to cues makes it easier for the woman to distinguish the archetypal stimulus. Repeated engagement in reflective activities attunes the woman’s senses to the archetype’s specific features.
This pool of ego-unconsciousness between the two imaginary shores can be seen as a vessel of birth through which the woman is touched inwardly by a source of life that replenishes her physically and psychologically. Some of the archetypes made accessible by this ego-unconscious state include guidance from or connection with a “father” or a “mother figure.” Alternatively, the encounter may reveal guidance from or connection with “Spirit,” “other women,” “ancestral wisdom,” or another “human spirit.” This experience provides “numinous meaning” that is a quality of worthwhile significance where the involuntary or instinctual pattern or presence of the numinous archetype can be brought into consciousness and assimilated into the whole peripheral and physical personality of the woman. When that happens, the separate parts or qualities of numinous experience in the woman’s psyche cohere together to facilitate contiguity, similarity, frequency, and association of unfamiliar material so that all memories align with the emergence of the archetypal stimulus rather than the plans the woman previously designed.
State as well as environmental factors play a role in shaping the behaviors of woman “X.” Becoming immersed within the mystery of the ego unconscious vortex, the woman reflects on past experiences in meaningful and insightful ways, on the historical, geographical, familial, or archetypal factors surrounding her cultural influences, and on moments of inward listening or dreaming situated in lucid states of consciousness. These conditioned stimuli facilitate unlimited versions of subjective understanding that push the woman beyond the recognition of her beliefs and values. Woman “X” often fears disclosing her observations to others. She may attempt to deny or disown them privately. Later, she reflects on the numinous encounter as a profound moment of creation, liberation, and unification within the human experience.
This turmoil becomes the catalyst for commencing the process of freedom out of the constraints of one life and the creation of another life. The woman’s defensive responses are dampened by this new psychological environment known as “developing maternal consciousness” where “numinous meaning” is created by a positive numinous stimulus. The maternal subjective understanding that accompanies an archetype brought into conscious awareness is assimilated into the whole peripheral and physical personality of the woman. This source of understanding in the life of woman “X” may evolve over a period of years. Her reflections may lead to instances of “faith or knowing” as she develops the capacity to perceive an archetypal principle situated at the core of the mysterious encounter. For example, “events happening for a reason” is one positive meaning response defined as a time-oriented experience of psychological acceptance having purpose in the future resulting from this conscious assimilation of numinous material. “Love” is another positive meaning response defined as a sensation or feeling of safety or security that accompanies a numinous encounter as fear becomes more inhibited in the woman. To review, the archetypal stimulus initially caused physiological arousal in the woman and a focus on the ego conscious state as she engaged in defensive responses to protect herself from a threatening stimulus. Anytime a threatening archetypal stimulus evokes a similar defensive response in the future, there is always the antidote that is the feeling of love in the woman’s repertoire of experiences that has become the conditioned response.
Reflecting on her observations, woman “X” surrenders to these quintessential moments of human experience signifying sensations of love and transcendence. She often realizes that the pregnancy or birth of a child appeared for the purpose of transforming her consciousness leading to the development of empathetic responses. “Bonding and attachment pre-birth” is a positive meaning response defined as an image or idea, representing an affiliative relationship between a parent or significant other and fetus, which is potentially present before pregnancy, is related to a diagnosis or struggle with an illness, and subjective understanding that accompanies a numinous archetype. The connection that woman “X” has with a fetus may or may not be the child she carries in her womb. The woman experiences an energetic connection with the fetus beyond the limitations of space-time reality that strengthens as the pregnancy approaches a phase of labor and delivery. “Bonding and attachment post-birth” is a positive meaning response defined as an affiliative relationship between a parent or significant other and newborn, potentially present before birth, and is associated with caregiver adequacy and ability which continues throughout the course of child-rearing. The pre-birth connection to the fetus facilitates a strong attachment response in the post-birth relationship between woman “X” and the newborn child.
However, the woman does not avoid or escape experiencing another uncomfortable event following the child’s birth. “Something missing after giving birth” is a neutral meaning response defined as a pre-birth attachment loss or ending where the woman longs for the energetic connection she once had with the fetus. Alternatively, “not ready or spiritual connection not suitable” is a neutral meaning response defined as waiting for the appearance of someone or something that is associated with a diagnosis or struggle with an illness and results in the disappearance of a familiar state, identity, or pattern that accompanies a numinous archetype. In these instances, the woman may reenter the grieving process after experiencing the loss of another fetus. However, she does not engage in former defensive reactions or behaviors given the repeated event. Together, these findings suggest that the woman’s defensive reactions may be inhibited to previously aversive maternal stimuli. At this point, the woman’s defensive responses have habituated to the negative numinous stimulus.
The above meaning responses are evoked by a positive numinous stimulus situated within a state of uncertainty or entering the unknown where negative numinous stimuli also linger. Therefore, it is suggested that the conscious assimilation of such numinous material in the life of woman “X” appears to be contingent on an adaptation process where freshly understood archetypal principles and meaning responses exist alongside familiar ideas, patterns, identities, or already held knowledge remaining of worth to the woman. Although, when faced with additional life stressors or losses, the accommodation of numinous material might serve to prevent the reappearance of negative ego conscious feelings and sensations in the woman so that new mental representations can be formed.
Changes in thinking or consciousness are conditioned stimuli defined as new attitudes or perspectives of divine grace that accompany a numinous archetype brought into conscious awareness, accommodated within the whole peripheral and physical personality of woman “X,” and resulting in positive meaning responses that are associated with changes in maternal roles. A change in career or vocation is a positive meaning response defined as a role driven by a new sense of purpose that is associated with this change in maternal consciousness. For instance, woman “X” may decide to end her former life and create a new one grounded in the understanding of a new identity. This new understanding leads the woman to relinquish her former ego and replace it with one of greater value as the new identity makes its presence known in her life. Trying something new or carefree thinking is another positive meaning response defined as self-guidance aligned with a pursuit of worthwhile significance also associated with changes in maternal consciousness. In other words, the woman may believe that this new identity reflects her individual circumstances collectively. Her newly formed beliefs and values fructify her imagination. Innovative ideas replace previously held knowledge as familiar patterns become outdated and are no longer necessary for survival; in other words, a whole new image or idea about the emergent archetype replaces the existence of old memories. Woman “X” sets out to modify maternal roles and behaviors based on the conscious assimilation and accommodation of numinous material and becomes this new image.
The vessel of birth creates a structure of awakening encoded within the gestational process; it is the tree of embodied life in which new values and attitudes are gestated in the essential character of the woman.
Archetypal Experiences and the Development of Consciousness
Archetypal processes are universal patterns that operate within the psyche of every individual. They also operate within groups of research participants. Thus, when participants share stories through the narrative inquiry process, they can become unwittingly involved in a broader archetypal drama. When written in the shadow of numinous encounters that are endured and outlived psychologically, the narrative inquiry process is a vessel of birth that unites thematic elements into a single image, facilitating contact with numinous material where shared defenses influence the character of the broader narrative structure.
To say that woman “X” did not experience any discomfort, fear, or trauma through her contact with numinous material would be a misleading assumption. These defensive reactions were the excruciatingly painful experiences in her life. Yet, she did not give up the possibility of experiencing a transformation of consciousness—a sacred identity revealed in the development of a new myth. Within the fertile body of this sacred myth, the narrow and limiting beliefs, stories, expectations of self, and feelings of loss that perpetuated the woman’s life were overcome as the highest ideal. She appeared to reflect on the puzzling question, “Do I know who I am?” Another important question arose, one that was addressed as: “Who am I really?” This truth took possession of her ego-consciousness and was restored in the birth of a child who became the gift, the vehicle of atonement. Whereas the idea of “we-ness” in prenatal attachment relationships is a symbol of unity and wholeness between the mother and fetus, this new covenant was akin to a manifestation of the Self, something now represented as the spiritual figure Sophia, the highest wisdom.
During this research, I observed an archetypal drama akin to the mythos of Sophia enacted in the narratives of the participants. Therefore, in the paragraphs that follow, I will say something about the historical and mythological background of Sophia to further reflect on the spontaneous emergence of this archetype in the broader narrative structure. These paragraphs are far from a complete description of archetypal dramas existing in narrative inquiry processes that examine prenatal attachment relationships, but they do outline a basic understanding. Every archetypal drama has an associated character. Thus, the approach to discerning the character situated in the broader narrative structure involves a full translation of events in archetypal terms. In this research, it is important to understand how an archetypal drama coheres around a character or unifying symbol to explain the development of maternal consciousness in each participant individually. In this section, I will explain how this character emerges through its relation to maternal and archetypal phenomena in the life of woman “X.”
In 17th-century Gnostic Christian religion, Sophia was the syzygy of Jesus, or Bride of Christ, and Holy Spirit of the Trinity (Quesnell, 1993). Expressed in the language of this myth, she is a highly charged consciousness carrying the power of a numen, feminine figure, or deity (Hoeller, 1989). The mythological Sophia is also artistically represented as the Earth, burned and calcined, altogether dead and lifeless (Matthews, 2001). From this standpoint, calcination involves a drying-out process that is psychological in form. Thus, this Sophia was an empty, lifeless form and possibly a representation, which is given a priori, for burning generates not only light but also matter as the living process generates substance. Transformations of ego-consciousness sometimes occur during archetypal experiences of death to indicate the presence of loss or ending life circumstances.
The mythos of Sophia shows that she fell from her original condition as an ascended spiritual figure. The major stages of that descent returned Sophia immediately to the Earth. Sophia entered into relation with the outer darkness and formlessness, driven by an act of reflection out of necessity, as shown in the following Hebrew equivalence to the Achamoth:
"The ref0lection of the Sophia who dwells above, compelled by necessity, departed with suffering…into the darkness and empty spaces of the void. Separated from the light…she was without form or figure, like an untimely birth, because she comprehended nothing [i.e., became unconscious]." (Jung, 1954/1967, p. 334)
Alchemical interpretations of the myth show that Sophia’s struggle became like the wind as she returned to her original state (Matthews, 2001). She was purified by her own heat and essential nature. Through this purification process, Sophia became subject to material existence. Her body made a voluntary descent into the lower waters. The emotional Sophia sank into ego-unconsciousness, leading to the possibility of her getting lost in the darkness. Her tears made the Earth fertile. “The sufferings that befell her took the form of various emotions – sadness, fear, bewilderment, confusion, longing…From these effects arose the entire created world” (Jung, 1954/1967, p. 335).
In one psychological interpretation of the myth, there is the correspondence between “heaven and earth, as between the despised and the transcendent Sophia.” (Mathews, 2001, p. 261). Another artistic work suggests that when a woman views herself as the despised, “[she] turns away from everything that bears the name of gods or demons, and, by uniting [herself] with the Holy Spirit, becomes a perfect [woman]. [She] sees God within [herself].” (Matthews, p. 261). This transcendent function is discovered wherever there is spirit, soul, and body, thus having psychological relevance in this research. The function reveals the separation of the feminine from a masculine and spiritually oriented ego-consciousness, concealed by darkness as the ego resonates with a deep fear of the Feminine. In the paragraphs that follow, I refer to the Feminine that is presented in this dissertation’s literary review of Neumann’s work (Neumann, 1994) as a feminine ego situated the body of woman “X” as an archetypal perspective.
In the life of woman X, the feminine ego served a redemptive function for a lost sacred value still apparent within the mythos of Sophia. It seems the delivery of a child, however unusual, ultimately allowed woman “X” to experience a transformation of consciousness. She encountered elements of safety and security within archetypal experiences of death, even though they were psychologically painful. She accepted death gifts as tolerance gifts—not as extraordinary facets of experience but enlivening resources to endure the voyage between shores, for I would like to speak of all voyages as involving metaphorical death. This transformation of consciousness was necessary so the woman would no longer feel the impact of discomfort, fear, or trauma in the unseen totality of the broader motherhood identity. From this adaptive configuration grew a tree with roots extending into the all-dissolving source of life.
Having given some examples of Sophia mythology, I will discuss the psychoid nature underlying the archetypal tree which has undergone a development of meaning through the centuries. The general association of the archetypal tree is that of “growth, life, unfolding of form in a physical and spiritual sense, development, growth from below upwards and from above downwards, the maternal aspect, …and finally death and rebirth” (Jung, 1954/1967, p. 272). Given the varied meaning of the archetypal tree, I have situated the nature of this image within the life of a single individual. For this purpose, I will suggest that our psychological roots descend to the deepest psychosomatic level. Akin to the mythos of Sophia, the archetypal tree positioned woman “X” in a dream to be resurrected from an excruciatingly painful death—a woman on the numinous side of religion with virtues of the spiritual figure Jesus.
The experience of resurrection was precisely relevant to the instinctual and psychological development of woman “X.” Her needs and areas of woundedness facilitated her ability to remember and bear a creative force that presupposed a totality or wholeness pattern of primordial foundation. This numinous vessel appeared purposive in that it provided vital information for saving her life. It is the numinous light of nature and self-knowledge that teaches one the quintessence of learning from life experiences, fantasies, and dreams. In my opinion, this primordial wounding grounded within the unconsciousness of the woman’s pregnant psyche is associated with two archetypal phenomena: a feminine image of the psyche within the ego-conscious sphere and a construct of knowledge reflecting an unknowable essence that is the collective unconscious. Jung (1954/1968), said it best: “The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from the personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition” (quoted in Smith, 1996, p. 127).
The archetypal Self in this region of the woman’s pregnant psyche may not have been fully realized in the realm of the knowable and simultaneously may have been apprehended in full clarity in the life of woman “X” by means of perceptual stimuli. It has been argued that the particularity of a child’s life portrait is central to his or her ego-consciousness development (Neumann, 1973). In my opinion, the child’s portrait within the woman’s pregnant psyche becomes visible in a synchronistic encounter or body experience situated between ego-conscious and collective unconscious stimuli. By this synchronistic encounter or body experience, I am referring to the evolving fetus, in whom the ego is not yet constellated, as participating in a meaningful coincidence between two forms of human expression – one metaphorical ego death and another uncanny existence suspended in a physiological and psychological state of ego-unconsciousness. A new feminine ego emerges among active and inhibited modes of maternal psycho-spiritual expression in and through their relation to archetypal phenomena.
After experiencing a loss or ending event, woman “X” feared surrendering a familiar identity, state, or pattern in her life. She entered a period of prolonged grief and questioning situated in feelings of inadequacy or inability leading to insecurity and turmoil. Had the questioning of woman “X” not resulted in feelings of insecurity and turmoil, her vessel of rebirth, she might not have reflected on the events in her life as profound moments of creation, liberation, and unification. In this drama, woman “X” experienced an unusually intense state of human consciousness akin to a cosmic spiritual quest. In matters touching upon the issue of ultimacy, one hears such a confession elsewhere in a similar story, the Epic of Creation, a tragicomic triangle of the nursery concerning the Babylonian God, An; his consort, Ki; and the Mesopotamian deities thought to be their offspring. This story references a period from the third millennium B.C. when only the Earth (Sumerian: Ki) and Heavens (Sumerian: An) existed and when the gods were associated with natural forces. As shown within the following parallel, it could be, then, that:
"Our quest within to explore the human psyche, and our quest without, to explore the universe, are but different expressions of the ubiquitous spiritual quest…to come into conscious relationship with the source and ground of all being" (Le Grice, 2011, p. 21).
Woman “X” experienced a rebirth while connecting with this broader cosmic ground that is the archetypal Self. This Self appeared to determine her conscious ego’s capacity to deal with defensive reactions as heavenly enactments of the soul. The Mother, the Father, and the Me are all essential elements in this archetypal phenomenon where images and energy cluster as we grow like stars in a celestial galaxy of undifferentiated quality, freshness, and vitality. Reflected in the unconscious ground of the prenatal attachment relationship, this archetypal manifestation illuminated the way for the woman to heal her relationship with herself, her parents, and other relationships in the public arena.
Jung (1977) conceptualized archetypes as the primary or innate patterns that begin at one point and unfold over a period of time through a future pattern or trajectory. These inherited psychological structures located within the collective unconscious carry a flow of psychic energy that animates the pregnant psyche. The archetypal energy in the pregnant psyche is autonomous, primordial, and undifferentiated, having the potential to connect body and image through a series of stimulus patterns. The concept of an archetypal stimulus pattern is difficult to grasp without the use of metaphors that explain how stimulus processes fit together.
To demonstrate this process, I suggest below how an archetypal stimulus pattern constellates itself is akin to a phenomenon observed in ancient history. For example, the I Ching, or Book of Changes, which dates back to indefinite times, explores the theory of numerical plans thought to be cosmic patterns. Moreover, within the I Ching, patterns coincide in a remarkable way with the Chinese chen-yen, the true and complete self, and constitute the ultimate meaning of unity. The means employed to understand the configurations of an archetypal stimulus pattern in the prenatal attachment relationship mimic the self-inquiry tools of this Eastern tradition. It has been said that a concept of unity “is in fact neither more nor less than a named recept – the name, that is, the sign (as in algebra) standing henceforth, for the thing itself” (Bucke, 1901/1967, p. 10). In this research, I describe the prenatal attachment relationship as a concept of unity that is a manifestation of the Self. Citing further evidence of this Self configuration of unity, Bucke describes several stages whereby the development of cosmic consciousness correlates with a center of meaning inclusive of the following stimuli: 1) blinding light, 2) a sense of awe, 3) a sense of being at the center of things with God, spirit, or life force, and 4) a sense of well-being following the experience of the center. He distinguishes simple, non-declarative forms of consciousness whereby the center of meaning one experiences is conditioned by a stimulus-response orientation in accordance with one’s physiological experience of the world. This naïve form of consciousness is different from the more complex, declarative, self-reflective consciousness that encompasses a perpetual state of evolution. Here, the center of meaning one experiences is triggered by a rapid development of consciousness, accompanied by a series of mental breakdowns given the intense nature of stressful life events.
We have seen that at the infrared pole of this archetypal stimulus pattern, woman “X” experienced a timely death of identity. When discussing archetypes, the infrared pole represents the instinctive or biological. Within realms of the instinctual, the archetype appears as a “pattern of behavior” (Jung, 1977, p. 411) manifested as a pre-existent, self-organizing principle whose origin is unknown in the woman’s life. Archetypal stimulus patterns explain the unique manifestation of ego content produced through this physiological filter. The presence of this archetypal pattern signaled to woman “X” that her expectations were misaligned with reality leading her to experience moments of turmoil or mental breakdown. The woman’s experience of turmoil was a moment of rapid maternal development where she learned to treat her own mental state as an objective center of consciousness or object of reality (Bucke, 1901/1967). Her insights enabled her to decide how to consciously participate in the development of new roles and behaviors. Through maternal life difficulties, the woman learned to mend hearts—her own and those of others—stemming from the activation of unconscious content. More often than is generally thought, we can perceive this content only through the filter of an archetypal stimulus pattern. When an archetypal stimulus pattern is at the root of behavior, one has the potential to see an unfortunate circumstance as an invaluable event. These intense moments of insight consciously enable one to break free from the old world of unconscious parental influence and to enter the new world of transformative co-creation.
Experiences of insecurity and turmoil set off deep psychological currents following a loss or ending event in the life of woman “X.” Many moments throughout life, losses or endings are the immediate consequences of an archetype pushing one in the direction of owning one’s space and liberating one’s soul. The woman’s confrontation with limiting beliefs was therapeutic since she had conquered this negative numinous stimulus and had been released from its hold on her life. Amid maternal consciousness development, the numinous, that is, “a dynamic agency of effect not caused by an arbitrary act of will…seizes and controls the human subject which is always rather its victim than its creator,” (Jung, 1958/1969, para. 6) even during half-awake, half-asleep vision, which may well be compared to a breakdown of Earth beginning anew in the rise of Sophia.
It is evident in the life of woman “X” that there is something implicit and autonomous in the process of consciously struggling to assimilate unconscious ego content. Discomfort, fear, or trauma encountered during maternal life experiences had the purpose of transforming the directedness of the woman’s life portrait and pointing to the discovery of precious jewels hidden beneath the surface of her awareness. It took the emergence of a negative numinous stimulus to force the woman to face her own terrors. So intense was the woman’s experience that she was afraid of what awareness might reveal. However, the woman learned to habituate to a negative numinous stimulus and to no longer focus on unnecessary responses to an uncomfortable or traumatizing maternal event. She learned to assimilate her discomfort, fear, or trauma by becoming aware of the meaning of her experiences while held in the darkness of uncertainty or the unknown. According to Rossi (2000), “[psychological] growth and spiritual awakening emerge, at least in part, out of our unconscious processes of inner emergencies on deep psychobiological levels” (p. 101). But habituation carries risks if one does not orient to another stimulus of equal or greater value. In other words, habituation to one numinous stimulus does not cause habituation to every other stimulus within the same sensory modality.
This result, as viewed through the lens of archetypal stimulus patterns, are representative of cues pointing to a memory trace between ego-conscious and collective unconscious stimuli where psyche and matter are indistinguishable, so long as they have meaning within the lived ego structure. Jung (1934/1954/1968) used several images to describe the archetype and its transformative role within the psyche. The crystal is chosen and described as an invisible archetypal structure which is given shape and becomes visible through chemical forming properties. The chaotic solution that crystalizes the structure is a reminder that the image making process relies on unseen properties that are retained despite our not perceiving them right away. This exemplifies how instincts form the image of an archetype (Jung, 1934/1954/1968) and how the brain develops through experiences of numinosity.
In Memory: from Mind to Molecules, researchers Larry Squire and Eric Kandel (1999) support this viewpoint of brain development from the perspective of numinosity and neurobiology involving both declarative and non-declarative memory. While declarative memory involves conscious, voluntary recollection of dreams, relationships, and events, non-declarative memory involves unconscious, involuntary performance of perceptual, cognitive, and motor behaviors. In other words, non-declarative memory functions within an unconditioned, automatic stimulus-response paradigm. This paradigm is not to be confused with Freud’s traumatic memory repression conceptualized as a specific form of cognitive-behavioral inhibition (Boag, 2012), but is specifically related to Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning (1927). The brain’s readiness potential evokes a state of psychophysiological arousal situated within an archetypal stimulus pattern which signals the development of consciousness. Jungian psychoanalyst, Ernest Rossi (2000) suggested the involvement of the hippocampus in mediating the archetypal stimulus pattern for purposes of reflection, awareness, and integration of the unconscious content:
"Conscious declarative memory, however, requires an additional brain loop to the hippocampus. It is this extra loop in the creation of declarative memory that may account for many of the special qualities of human experience that give us clues about why consciousness evolved." (p. 96).
Why consciousness evolves may have as much to do with a brain loop to the hippocampus as the perception of new stimuli. With the enhancement of perception, positive numinous meaning is perceived by the woman’s pregnant psyche and is consciously assimilated into her whole peripheral and physical personality structure. An experience of novelty attracts and holds the woman’s attention in much the same way that an infant orients to a new environmental stimulus. Known as the novelty reflex, exploratory reflex, or orienting reflex, this orienting response facilitates perceptual enhancement and identification of an unexpected cue (Pavlov, 1927).
One example in biblical history of enhanced perception is when Moses saw God manifest as a bright burning bush on Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments. These numinous experiences are representative of heightened states of consciousness where spiritual figures such as Moses, Christ, and Buddha alike received valuable information during moments of enlightenment and became historical figures of divinity (Rossi, 2000). These conscious “what is it?” responses of bewilderment facilitate psychophysiological states of arousal appearing to elicit pronounced orienting characteristics of spiritual experiences. Orienting is prompted by a novel numinous stimulus and the reactivity of the orienting response is heightened if the stimulus is significant emotionally (Bradley, 2009). Emotional cues instinctively activate motivational circuits in the brain, prompting natural selective attention and responses characteristic of both defensiveness and affectivity toward emotional and neutral stimuli. In this research, emotional perception of numinous stimuli enhanced brain circuit activity. Sokolov (1963) suggested that orienting is a neurophysiological reaction to changes in the perceptual array of autonomic, somatic, and central nervous systems that evolve to help individuals survive. Later neuroscience research confirmed that novel experiences certainly lead to the development of new brain cells in the adult hippocampus (Kempermann & Gage, 1999). This fact now evident in the research, I am led to propose that this type of neurobiological growth in brain circuit activity is characteristic of responses of bewilderment situated in Jung’s view of human motivation and archetypal stimulus patterns.
The memory trace evident in this domain of archetypal numinosity where synchronistic events and body experiences occur may well assist those who are familiar with spiritual texts and ancient myths. As it appears, once the turmoil clears from the maternal life portrait, the woman observing the positive numinous archetype becomes a source of divinity in her own heavenly enactments, creating her own dubious configurations and becoming Goddess-like in the creation of self-made myths. Through synchronicity and body experiences, woman “X” bonded with an image of the evolving fetus situated within the meaning of a positive numinous stimulus. This image touches upon the great secret, the remarkable thing of God and is a symbol representative of the historical and mythological presence of the divine Other within. After a confrontation with the symbol of the divine Other within, woman “X” realized she had identified with “something more” than the story she witnessed in her personal experience. The vessel of birth created an awakening encoded within memory processes; it is the tree of embodied life in which new values and attitudes “bind together the fragments of…scattered life experiences into a single fabric of long-term conscious (declarative) memory that becomes the thread of… personal [identity]” (Rossi, 2000, p. 96).
In this section, symbols are those things closely identified with Sophia as living mythologies. In life, some humans gather to reflect on their relationship with religious symbols of the divine, including God, Allah, Brahma, or the Great Spirit. In the history of biblical interpretation, the predominant argument is that the spiritual figure Sophia is personified as a beloved deity in ancient Mesopotamian culture known as the Goddess Ishtar (Bostrom,1935). Originally worshiped in Sumer as Inanna around the period of 4000 BC to 3100 BC, she later became known as Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, after worshipping rituals spread to the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians in nearby regions (Bostrom, 1935). Eventually, the Goddess Ishtar became known as the most widely venerated deity in the Sumerian pantheon, with temples across Mesopotamia (Wolkstein & Kramer, 1983). Following this era, the ancient religious empire was broken apart, not by subjecting humans to brainwashing or treating them in any significant manner, but by repressing figures associated with Sophia to the realm of the unconscious (Solovyov, 2009). No such person retains an old, worn-out pattern or ego that results in this repression of the “not-I.” For the ultimate is witnessed in those who become the originators of creative stories and possibilities of expression that would have brought them perilously close to death.
Nowadays, parents demand that their children learn at a spiritually deeper level. The widely held view that Sophia mythologies relate to a child’s life portrait proves that they are archetypal in nature, since they may reappear anywhere, at any time, and in any individual regardless of faith. I use the word faith here to refer to a spiritual understanding aside from all meaning associated with religious figures. This research on archetypal experiences and their influence on maternal consciousness development is an outcome of the mother-fetus relationship and highlights a transformation from ordinary consciousness to a new kind of heavenly wisdom.
This facet of wisdom enables woman “X” and her children to transcend, to see and feel the world in a way congruent with a new myth. This new myth associated with modified maternal behavior stems from a development of maternal consciousness and explores the exceptional mystery of discomfort, fear, or trauma seen everywhere today during moments of creation and liberation. As it appears, losses or endings lead to perceptions of the Gods or Goddesses seen from within. These other woman “X” encounters with the pregnant psyche result in states of disorientation and confusion that not only force out foundational sources of ego-consciousness acquired from parental figures and personal genealogy, but also thereby reveal feminine figures in ancient dress that are the archetypal figures of the Sophia. Borrowing from psychological and mythological points of view grounded in the essence of God the historical father, a myth grounded in the physiological and psychological essence of Sophia, the mother and her children, helps us sort out this issue.
Archetypal behavior is a stimulus pattern arising in woman “X” when she confronts a numinous stimulus and is incapable of redirecting primitive instincts that arouse both senses and emotions. Physiological and emotional responses that move the body into realms actualized by a corresponding autonomous archetype is the mystery of human existence. However, within the scope of archetypal symbolism and the prenatal attachment relationship, senses and emotions appear to function as the actualized complexes of the archetypes. A confrontation with a numinous archetype serves to modify habitual patterns of behavior in woman “X” which cannot be altered without causing primordial fear. Essential to the understanding of the feminine ego as either molded or affected by a tension of opposing archetypal forces is an understanding of the physiological and mythological nature of numinosity. Baumann (1955) suggested that nature itself creates a mechanism for a type of physiological development encoded within the gestational process. Contributing to that description, Jungian analysts have also referred to a pregnant woman as an archetypal image (Hall, 1980; Harding, 1970; Neumann, 1994; von Franz, 1999). When a numinous situation of inner subjective experience and outer biological behavior occurs, one may never find peace or rest from a primordial source of fear until one finally comes to a pool of water that restores, the uterine environment, where development takes place.
This psychophysiological perspective on numinous stimulus patterns and the evolution of brain circuitry in humans has significant implications for understanding the experience of creativity across time and cultures (Rossi, 2000). For this reason, it is said:
"The ancient Greeks described creative consciousness as having [an] activating force, driving human experience whether we liked it or not. In Buddhism the Zen koan was developed as a way to activate and intensely focus meditative consciousness to facilitate heightened states of arousal called “satori” or a more mini “kensho.” Ritual, music, dance, drama, and storytelling in all cultures are means of focusing attention and arousal to evoke the numinous sense of wonder that nurtures imagination and psychological transformation." (Ross, 2000, p. 97)
Therefore, it may be that the stimulus pattern thought to exist in the prenatal attachment relationship amid numinous emotions of awe or terror is an archetype revealed through symbolic expression that is the spiritual figure Sophia. This stimulus pattern provides information about the outside world. The process begins when a repressed sensory event from the collective unconscious enters the peripheral and physical awareness of woman “X” and triggers a psychological response that is a behavioral consequence of perception of the stimulus. Processes of receptive attunement to perceptual stimuli and behavioral responses to symbolic phenomena, aimed at finding and valuing the underlying meanings of a person’s own experience, provide a mechanism for exploring broader narrative archetypes of interest to this research. This archetypal phenomenon vividly appears in the narrative structure where felt presences have intentionality and directedness. Used as an effective means, felt presences can be traced back through time and historical relevance while generating new theoretical ideas about the experiences under study. Narratives speak to us individually, mirroring commonplace circumstances in our lives and providing fuller meaning in ways that are transformative.
In this depth psychological analysis of numinous prenatal attachment experiences and their influence on maternal consciousness development, I translated the broader archetypal meaning generated by the research participants using a narrative inquiry approach and described how the numinous was derived in this context. This provides further indication of what I describe as same image in the broader narrative structure, so long as the primordial images are the psychobiological nature of the Self, arousing both senses and emotions. An archetypal image projects itself into the narrative inquiry process, thus giving rise to something strangely numinous. While held within the vortex of psychological turmoil, this prompts an immersion into a mysterious reality existing beneath the surface of awareness, a behavioral response resulting from the perception of an emotional cue.
Prenatal attachment is an abstract concept expressed through a variety of behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings relating to the broader world of unconscious phenomena. Asserting another premise, this study aimed to explore the extent to which prenatal attachment represents archetypal patterns of both inner subjective experience and outer biological behavior. According to Bowlby (1969), “instinctive behavior is not inherited, what is inherited is the potential to develop . . . both the nature and form of which differ in some measure according to the particular environment in which development takes place” (quoted in Stevens, 1983, p. 50). This, I believe, reflects Neumann’s position (1973) that the mother’s role within the attachment process is not individual in nature but rather a “stimulus pattern” (Bowlby’s inherited potential) characterized by instinctive reactions and emanating from the collective unconscious (p. 24). In this account, we are also told that the mother’s instinctive reactions are archetypally inherited and are essential for “guaranteeing the stability and self-evident character” of the prenatal attachment relationship (p. 24).
For this reason, I believe that a woman does not inherit attachment behavior. Rather, she inherits a stimulus pattern of instinctive reactions emanating from the collective unconscious. The woman’s instinctive reactions are archetypal in nature and recognized as manifestations of the Self within a psycho-spiritual framework. Moreover, this study elucidated that psychological and biological processes evident in the prenatal attachment relationship are not two distinct entities but instead two interconnected halves of the same archetypal constellation.
Griffith (2000) assumed that what emerges within a woman’s consciousness “in the form of image, idea or felt experience has its roots in the biological other of nature itself” (p. 227). This research showed that the stimulus pattern thought to exist between a woman and her unborn child sets in motion a complex interplay of functions within her pregnant psyche. The images that surface from the pregnant psyche have the potential to manifest as idiosyncratic ideas, determined by a psycho-spiritual framework or cultural collective. The clinical implication that prenatal attachment is both subjective feeling and objective biological behavior, and that it represents two distinct aspects of the same archetypal constellation, is that a woman begins to see herself as connected with living things growing both inside and outside of her body.
Archetypally numinous experiences of attachment have ontological and epistemological effects on women’s senses and their perceptions of reality—a shift in state commensurate with being connected with living things and sacred Others. Creations springing from this area of the pregnant psyche accentuate the human potential and provide liminal experiences that give rise to the participation mystique between nature and human beings. As seen in the composite description of archetypal experiences of numinosity in motherhood, the mythological Sophia was an empty, lifeless form and representation that is given an identity in the biological other of nature itself. The overall essence of meaning within this study is to view the Self as “an inclusive term that embraces our whole living organism, not only [containing] the deposit and totality of all past life, but also . . . the fertile soul from which all future life will spring.” (Jung, 1966, para. 303).
Having considered the nature and uniqueness of archetypally numinous experiences in women, Jung’s (1966) research aimed to illuminate what surfaced as a fundamental expression of the Self between liminal experiences of attachment and their transformative properties. The Self is an inclusive term that brings together strands of tragedy, rebirth, voyage, and return for the co-creation of life meaning. A manifestation of the Self was akin to a fertile body within a sacred identity revealed in the development of a new myth, represented as the spiritual figure Sophia. Within the body of this myth, the narrow and limiting beliefs, stories, expectations of self, and feelings of loss that perpetuated the woman’s life would be overcome as the highest ideal. Revealed in the development of this myth was the self-evident character of a woman’s connected identity.
As I have explicated such knowledge with reference to the research questions in this dissertation and illuminated the connections existing between prenatal attachment experiences and their influence on a woman’s developing consciousness, I wish to draw attention to women’s perceptions regarding changes in thinking. Themes surrounding the maternal role were expressed by participants as the following meaning categories: (a) maternal life difficulty, (b) maternal life meaning, (c) maternal subjective understanding, (d) maternal attachment experiences, (e) maternal connection with others, and (f) maternal life changes. While these experiences were disturbing and difficult for the participants to integrate, this research described how the participants assimilated their perceptions of integration as new knowledge enhanced their self-awareness and understanding, leading to the archetypal phenomena mentioned in the presentation.
Archetypally numinous experiences of attachment infuse women’s lives with meaning and purpose that are readily aligned with their chosen life paths. As understood by the research findings and interpretations of the narratives, the participants were not separate from but connected to the world. This research concluded that a woman’s chosen life path was important to the process of accommodating the outward expressions of rationalized maternal difficulty for the purpose of co-creation. In such a way, a woman’s purpose facilitates the essential integration of iconic symbols that dramatize her inner world so that self-meaning and knowledge can be clarified.
This research both signified and supported Hinton’s (2012) findings that assimilation involves an accommodation of numinous phenomena in a manner that is physically, emotionally, and cognitively newer and more expansive. Shared experiences transfer symbols of the divine, situating individuals contextually within the guiding intelligence of “something more” than the life portraits they observe based on personal experience. Richardson (2001) suggested that among the narratives we read, we can react to others’ life stories and experiences as if we were encountering them personally. The quintessence of the life portrait draws attention to a woman’s perception of meaningful dialogue with her embodied self. The very identity of a woman’s embodied self can be understood as an archetype that is the spiritual figure Sophia.
This research examines women’s experiences of archetypal numinosity during pregnancy. Further, it explores how these experiences render meaningful connections with the developing maternal consciousness and changes for women surrounding the maternal role. To date, there has been little in-depth research conducted on experiences of the numinous in pregnant women and none on its relevance to prenatal attachment and its role in enhancing maternal awareness. Important to this exploration was the finding that the pregnant psyche is underneath consciousness, or “subconscious,” in the dream existing in the darkness of the night. Therefore, this study endeavored to explore the deep and vast territory of self-meanings in the prenatal attachment relationship through a depth psychological lens.
It is worth noting that emotional experiences take on new meaning in the transition from a woman’s telling of her story to a character’s plot operating within a broader narrative structure. The intra-psychic mode of meaning woven into this broader narrative structure is instrumental for outside readers. On the personal level, the feminine ego is interpreted as Neumann’s (1973) version of integrating inner opposing feminine and masculine principles, granted that a person has developed the consciousness to manage other instinctive tendencies orienting their capacities for relatedness. However, this research elucidated an archetypal sensibility situated among a broader narrative inquiry as a configuration akin to the spiritual figure Sophia where a woman navigates the murky voyage of the womb in observance of a feminine ego that is the quality of familiarity or sameness. Here, I refer to the term same image is an irreducible manifestation that cannot be expressed by anything other than itself and as an indistinguishable likeness favored by a woman although associated with any gender overall. The essential mystery of this image is the timely death of a person’s former ego-consciousness that is activated by archetypal patterns. Through the appearance of same image, one can navigate the individuation process through the mythological life journey, being re-born and developing one’s own significant image or identity. This identity is the archetype of Sophia existing outside the scope of the pregnant psyche resulting in a self-object need and embodied experience of numinosity.
The process begins when a repressed sensory event from the collective unconscious enters the peripheral and physical awareness and triggers a psychophysiological response that is a behavioral consequence of the perception of the stimulus. This research concluded that stimulus patterns thought to exist in the prenatal attachment relationship amid numinous emotions reveal symbolic expressions in women's relationships and their lives. This provides further indication of same image in the broader narrative structure described above as an archetypal phenomenon that is the psychobiological nature of sensory perception. Sensory perceptions give rise to stimulus patterns and behavioral responses that result from the perception of an emotional cue. Where same images stand out in the narrative structure, sensory perceptions also have intentionality, directedness, and can be traced throughout history while generating new theoretical ideas about the experiences under study.
As such, this research elucidates the following conclusions:
- Archetypal experiences signify the psychological effort rendered in women to redeem numinous qualities that are self-evident where a meaningful space has opened.
- Archetypal experiences occur during phases of consciousness development that fill the mind with bewildering astonishment.
- A definition of the archetypal experience of prenatal attachment underscores an affiliative relationship that is potentially present before pregnancy and associated with a psycho-spiritual framework or cultural identity.
- Archetypally numinous experiences of attachment have ontological and epistemological effects on women’s senses and their perceptions of reality – a shift in state commensurate with being connected with all living things.
- Archetypally numinous experiences of attachment infuse women’s lives with meaning and purpose readily aligned with their chosen life paths.
- Narrative inquiries situated within prenatal attachment experiences impart changes in thinking or consciousness grounded within personal, cultural, and psycho-spiritual understanding.
- Narrative inquiries situated within prenatal attachment experiences support the capacity to perceive archetypal qualities situated within the wholeness of experience.