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Differing Holy Moments: An Inquiry of the Archetypal Numinous in Prenatal Attachment©

(Copyright©, 2019, All Rights Reserved)

 by Danielle Nicole Burns

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 the experience of numinous meaning when a woman decides to end her former life and creates a new one grounded in the understanding of a new identity. This study paves the way for further investigation into the essence of numinous experience and contributes new insights not previously detailed in past research findings.

Archetypal Experiences of Numinosity

This section explores the role of archetypal experiences of numinosity in motherhood, concentrating on maternal behaviors. These objective descriptions bolster the research goal of investigating the core nature of the numinous within the maternal attachment experience. The language used is stimulus-response oriented, illustrating how a numinous stimulus that evokes arousal can sensitize a person to an archetypal dynamic present in the prenatal attachment relationship, ultimately influencing changes in individual behavior.

A "numinous encounter" refers to an involuntary or instinctive stimulus, seen as an archetype that emerges spontaneously in the peripheral or physical awareness of a woman, identified as "X," from the collective unconscious. It is linked with events such as pre-conception, conception, pregnancy, or motherhood and elicits acute sensations, feelings, or behaviors perceived as either negative or positive. For a woman, the experience of archetypal numinosity during motherhood is associated with the fear of venturing into the unknown. Although this emergent process is natural and can be advantageous, it also has the potential to be harmful. The uncertainty a woman feels about the future course of her life can lead to discomfort, fear, or trauma. This active physiological state of ego-consciousness is a negative sensation or emotional response triggered by a negative numinous stimulus, particularly when it is related to an unpleasant or adverse event, such as a diagnosis or battle with illness. The woman is thrust into an unexpected maternal event, sparking a series of negative emotions and sensations, which are noted in response to both conditioned and unconditioned stimuli.

The numinous encounter triggers a negative emotional response in woman "X," perceived as a loss or conclusion of an aspect of her life, leading to a fear of relinquishing a known identity or pattern. Upon recognizing the disparity between her desires and reality, she enters a state of extended mourning and begins to doubt her decisions. This doubt may stem from feelings of inadequacy, causing insecurity, chaos, or denial due to the negative perception of "not feeling maternal." Her physical health condition bars her from conceiving a child or creating anything she deems valuable. Her once familiar sense of self, integral to her memory, now diverges from her life's trajectory. A negative numinous influence saps her energy, diverting her from her primary goals and accustomed activities, and propelling her into uncharted territories. The expected familiarity of a life event does not bring the anticipated continuity to her life. The clash between her expectations and actuality is disorienting and all-consuming. The expected congruence of a life event does not bring about the anticipated uniformity in her life. The realization that her expectations and reality are at odds is disorienting, perplexing, and dominates her focus.

As woman "X" gradually overcomes her fear, she begins to "let go or surrender control" over her health situation. The loss of a familiar identity or pattern that comes with a diagnosis or battle with illness leads to a sense of "longing," which is the desire for someone or something triggered by uncertainty or venturing into the unknown. This "uncertainty or entering the unknown" is described as a state where physiological and psychological sensations are in limbo between conscious awareness and the collective unconscious, allowing the involuntary presence of a powerful archetype to enter woman "X"'s peripheral and physical consciousness through a vivid memory trace, also known as an engram. The exact mechanism of memory storage and retrieval, whether biophysical or biochemical, remains elusive. However, I propose that the woman's memories are not localized to specific brain regions but are rather distributed throughout the brain's structure. This focused stillness enhances the woman's perceptual abilities, as seen in her range of defensive reactions.

The woman's capacity to access an archetype, poised between two stimuli, hinges on certain cues that facilitate memory retrieval. In this context, a numinous archetype becomes reachable through a "body experience" or a "synchronistic encounter." Defined as physical sensations or reactions, body experiences, and synchronicity, a concept tied to time, are both triggered by a state of immobilizing uncertainty or a venture into the unknown. Here, the numinous archetype becomes perceptible in the woman's peripheral and corporeal awareness through a vivid memory link bridging ego-conscious and collective unconscious stimuli, presented sequentially with a time gap. The brain seems to construct a mental image of the ego-conscious state post its cessation to preserve the stimulus imprint. 

With these two elements surfacing, alongside a sense of yearning, the woman perceives a memory linkage between the stimuli, hinting at the potential to navigate between two conceptual realms. She is drawn into a maelstrom of ego-unconsciousness, an entryway to an alternate existence beneath her conscious recognition, welcoming the divine 'Other' identified as the archetypal stimulus. This descent into ego-unconsciousness beckons the woman to halt, contemplate, and delve into the archetypal stimulus active in her psyche's depths amid heightened perceptual awareness. This heightened awareness is linked to better detection of memory-guiding cues. Simply being exposed to these cues aids the woman in recognizing the archetypal stimulus, and continual reflective practices fine-tune her senses to the archetype's distinct attributes.

With the rise of these two factors and her deep sense of longing, the woman observes a connection between the stimuli, suggesting a journey between two imagined realms. She is drawn into a vortex of ego-unconsciousness, a gateway to an alternate reality that lies beneath her conscious awareness, where she encounters the divine 'Other' known as the archetypal stimulus. This descent into ego-unconsciousness beckons the woman to halt, contemplate, and delve into the archetypal stimulus that resides in her psyche's depths, amidst a heightened state of perceptual awareness. This heightened awareness enhances her ability to perceive cues that aid in memory recall. Simply being exposed to these cues enables the woman to more easily recognize the archetypal stimulus. Continual participation in introspective practices sharpens her senses to the unique characteristics of the archetype.

The woman 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.

The pool of ego-unconsciousness, situated between two metaphorical shores, can be likened to a birthing vessel. Through this, a woman is inwardly touched by a life-giving source that rejuvenates her both physically and psychologically. Accessible archetypes in this state of ego-unconsciousness may offer guidance or a connection to a 'father' or 'mother figure.' Alternatively, it may manifest as guidance from or a connection with 'Spirit,' 'other women,' 'ancestral wisdom,' or another 'human spirit.' Such encounters provide 'numinous meaning,' a significant quality where the involuntary or instinctual presence of the numinous archetype is brought to awareness and integrated into the woman's entire peripheral and physical persona. When this integration occurs, the disparate elements of the numinous experience within the woman's psyche come together, facilitating the alignment of memories with the emergence of the archetypal stimulus, rather than with the woman's preconceived plans. 

This experience of “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. Whenever a threatening archetypal stimulus triggers a similar defensive reaction in the future, the woman's repertoire of experiences always includes the antidote of love, which 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.

Despite the birth of her child, the woman does not evade another distressing event. The term "something missing after giving birth" refers to a neutral response characterized by a sense of loss or longing for the pre-birth connection with the fetus. On the other hand, "not ready or spiritual connection not suitable" describes a neutral response of anticipation for a presence associated with a diagnosis or an illness, leading to the loss of a familiar state, identity, or pattern linked to a numinous archetype. In such cases, the woman might grieve again after losing another fetus, yet she does not revert to previous defensive reactions or behaviors. These observations indicate that the woman's defensive reactions to adverse maternal stimuli may be suppressed. Her defensive responses have become accustomed to the negative numinous stimulus. 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 responses mentioned above are triggered by a positive numinous stimulus present in a state of uncertainty or when venturing into the unknown, where negative numinous stimuli may also be present. It is proposed that for woman "X," the conscious integration of such numinous content into her life seems to depend on an adaptation process. In this process, newly comprehended archetypal principles and meaningful responses coexist with familiar concepts, patterns, identities, or pre-existing knowledge that still holds value for her. However, when additional life stressors or losses occur, incorporating numinous content could help prevent the resurgence of negative ego-conscious feelings and sensations in the woman, allowing for the creation of new mental representations.

Alterations in thought or consciousness are considered conditioned stimuli, characterized as fresh attitudes or viewpoints on divine grace that align with a numinous archetype made consciously aware. These are integrated into the entire peripheral and physical persona of woman "X," leading to positive meaning responses linked with shifts in maternal roles. Similarly, a transition in career or vocation is identified as a positive meaning response, signifying a role fueled by a newfound sense of purpose related to this shift in maternal awareness.

For example, a woman "X" might choose to leave her past behind and forge a new existence based on a newfound identity. This revelation compels her to abandon her old self and adopt a more valuable persona as this identity emerges in her life. Embracing novelty or uninhibited thought is another constructive response, seen as self-direction in line with seeking meaningful significance, which is also linked to shifts in maternal awareness. Put simply, the woman might perceive this new identity as a collective reflection of her personal situation. Her fresh convictions and principles invigorate her creativity. Novel concepts take the place of old knowledge as established routines become obsolete and unnecessary for survival; that is, a completely new concept or vision of the emerging archetype supplants old recollections. Woman "X" embarks on transforming maternal roles and actions through the deliberate integration and adaptation of profound content, embodying this new persona.

The act of giving birth forges a framework for enlightenment inherent in the gestation process; it represents the tree of living embodiment, where new beliefs and mindsets are nurtured within the woman's core nature.

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Archetypal Experiences and the Development of Consciousness

Archetypal processes are fundamental patterns that permeate the human psyche. These universal templates operate within each individual and extend to groups of people engaged in research or storytelling. When participants share their narratives, they unwittingly participate in a larger archetypal drama—a collective unfolding of themes and symbols. Imagine these narratives as vessels of birth, weaving together thematic elements into a singular image. Within this process lies the shadow of numinous encounters—profound, transformative moments that shape our psychological landscape. Through narrative inquiry, we touch the ineffable, where shared defenses influence the very fabric of our stories.

In the context of numinous encounters, assuming that a person did not experience discomfort, fear, or trauma would be misleading. These defensive reactions often stem from excruciatingly painful life experiences. However, even amidst suffering, there remains the possibility of a transformation of consciousness—a sacred identity emerging through the development of a new myth. Within this fertile narrative, narrow beliefs, self-imposed limitations, and feelings of guilt can be transcended. The central question arises: “Do I truly know who I am?” And beyond that, an even more profound inquiry emerges: “Who am I, at the core?” This truth takes hold of ego-consciousness and finds restoration in the birth of a child—a gift, a vehicle for atonement. While the concept of “we-ness” in prenatal attachment symbolizes unity between mother and fetus, this new covenant represents a manifestation of the Self. In her life, it takes the form of Sophia—the embodiment of highest wisdom.

In this study, I witnessed an archetypal drama reminiscent of Sophia's mythos unfold in the participants' stories. In the following paragraphs, I will discuss this historical and mythological archetype to further examine its natural occurrence within the larger narrative framework. While these paragraphs do not provide an exhaustive description of the archetypal dramas found in prenatal attachment narratives, they offer a foundational understanding. Each archetypal drama is linked to a specific character. Therefore, identifying the character within the wider narrative context of the drama requires translating events into archetypal language. This research emphasizes the significance of recognizing how an archetypal drama forms around a character or central symbol, shedding light on the evolution of maternal awareness in the lives of the participants. I will describe how the Sophia archetype manifests in the life of woman "X" through transcendent events and maternal experiences.

In 17th-century Gnostic Christian religion, Sophia was the syzygy of Jesus, or Bride of Christ, and Holy Spirit of the Trinity (Quesnell, 1993). In the language of this myth, Sophia is a highly charged particle carrying the power of a numen, feminine figure, or deity (Hoeller, 1989). The mythos of Sophia shows that she fell from her original condition as an ascended spiritual figure. 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 reflection of Sophia, dwelling above, embarked on a journey compelled by necessity. With suffering as her companion, she ventured into the darkness and the vast void. Stripped of form and figure, she resembled an untimely birth, her consciousness veiled. The light eluded her, leaving her in obscurity. Yet within this enigmatic descent, Sophia’s comprehension transcended mere knowing—it touched the realm of the unconscious. Sophia’s descent into darkness mirrors the mysteries of consciousness and the unconscious—an exploration of wisdom beyond form.

The alchemical reading of the myth suggests that Sophia transformed into the wind and reverted to her primal state (Matthews, 2001). In this view, she is depicted as the Earth, scorched and calcined, utterly devoid of life. Calcination is a process of drying out or purifying. Thus, Sophia is portrayed as a barren, desolate form, a preconceived symbol, since combustion produces not only light but also substance. Sophia's intrinsic nature bound her to a material existence on Earth. The principal phases of this process led Sophia back to the nether waters. Overwhelmed by emotion, Sophia descended into a state of unconscious ego, risking being lost in the abyss. Her tears rendered the Earth fruitful. "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).

One psychological interpretation of myth identifies a parallel between "heaven and earth" and the contrast of the despised with the transcendent Sophia (Mathews, 2001, p. 261). Another artistic piece posits that when a woman perceives herself as despised and unites with the Holy Spirit, she becomes perfected, recognizing the divine within herself (Matthews, p. 261). The transcendent function, found wherever spirit, soul, and body coexist, holds psychological significance in this study. It unveils the disconnection of the feminine from a masculine, spiritually driven ego-consciousness, shrouded in darkness and the ego's profound dread of the Feminine. Subsequent paragraphs will discuss the Feminine as depicted in the literature review of Neumann's work (Neumann, 1994), portraying a feminine ego within the body of woman "X" from an archetypal standpoint.

Transformative processes of this nature sometimes occur during archetypal experiences of death to indicate the presence of losses or endings in a person's life. In the life of woman X, the feminine ego served a redemptive function for a lost sacred value still apparent in the woman's narrative. 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 narrative structure or 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 life of a single individual in the meaning of this image. 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 dreamlike tomb 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 is grounded within the unconsciousness of every individual as the pregnant psyche and 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 pregnant psyche as an image 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 in the 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 death or 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 (i.e. red cosmic mandala nebula). Reflected in the unconscious ground of the pregnant psyche, this archetypal manifestation illuminated the way for woman X to heal relationships with herself, family members, 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 to 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 pregnant psyche 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 the manifestation of the Self. Citing further evidence of this Self-concept or idea, 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 a life force, and 4) a sense of well-being following the experience of contact with 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 maturity, accompanied by a series of mental breakdowns given the intense nature of stressful life events in a person's life.

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 this 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 enable one to break free from the precursive world of child development and to enter a world of transformative co-creation and unity.

In woman "X"'s life, feelings of insecurity and upheaval provoke deep psychological responses after experiencing losses or conclusions. These events often arise from an archetype's drive to assert one's presence and liberate the spirit. Her struggle against limiting beliefs became therapeutic, allowing her to conquer the detrimental numinous power and break free from its control. As she developed maternal awareness, the numinous—a potent force not derived from conscious intent—subjugates and overwhelms the individual, who typically falls victim to it rather than being its originator, as Jung (1958/1969, para. 6) noted. This can happen in a semi-aware state, similar to the Earth's cyclical destruction and renewal, paralleling Sophia's emergence.

In woman "X"'s journey, there's a natural, self-governing element in the effort to consciously assimilate parts of the unconscious ego. Discomfort, fear, or trauma experiences had the purpose of transforming the directedness of her 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 fears. So intense was the woman’s experience that she was afraid of what awareness might reveal to her. However, when 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 while held in the darkness of uncertainty or the unknown. According to Rossi (2000), “[neurological] growth and spiritual awakening emerge, at least in part, out of our unconscious processes of inner emergencies on deep psychobiological levels” (p. 101). But archetypal 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 confer 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 in the brain 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 initiates a state of psychophysiological arousal within a fundamental stimulus pattern, heralding the onset of consciousness. Jungian psychoanalyst Ernest Rossi (2000) suggested that the hippocampus is instrumental in moderating this pattern, promoting reflection, awareness, and the assimilation of unconscious content. However, conscious declarative memory requires an additional neural circuit involving the hippocampus. This extra circuit in the formation of declarative memory may shed light on the distinct elements of human experience and provide insights into the evolution of consciousness.

The evolution of consciousness may be as intricately connected to neural pathways leading to the hippocampus as it is to the perception of new stimuli. Enhanced perception enables the discernment of positive, numinous meaning by an expectant woman's psyche, which is then consciously assimilated into her comprehensive peripheral and physical personality structure. In a similar vein, the encounter with novelty engages and holds a woman's attention, comparable to an infant's reaction to a novel environmental stimulus. This reaction, referred to as the novelty reflex, exploratory reflex, or orienting reflex, facilitates the perceptual acknowledgment and recognition of an unexpected signal (Pavlov, 1927).

A historical instance of enhanced perception in biblical accounts is Moses witnessing the divine presence as a luminous burning bush on Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments. Such numinous experiences symbolize elevated states of consciousness wherein spiritual figures like Moses, Christ, and Buddha received crucial insights during moments of enlightenment, establishing them as divine icons in history (Rossi, 2000). These conscious "what is it?" reactions of astonishment promote psychophysiological states of arousal that seem to induce marked orienting features in spiritual encounters.

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 closely identified with Sophia represent living mythologies. Throughout life, humans often gather to contemplate their connection with divine symbols, including those of God, Allah, Brahma, or the Great Spirit. Historically, biblical scholars predominantly argue that Sophia, a spiritual figure, was revered as a beloved deity in ancient Mesopotamian culture, known as the Goddess Ishtar (Bostrom, 1935). Initially worshiped in Sumer as Inanna from around 4000 BC to 3100 BC, her worship extended to the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, where she was celebrated as Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven (Bostrom, 1935). Over time, Ishtar rose to become the most honored deity within the Sumerian pantheon, with temples throughout Mesopotamia (Wolkstein & Kramer, 1983). After this period, the ancient religious empire fragmented, not through brainwashing or significant mistreatment of humans, but by relegating figures linked with Sophia to the unconscious realm (Solovyov, 2009). No individual continues to hold onto an outdated pattern or ego that leads to this repression of the "not-I." The ultimate is observed in those who originate creative narratives and avenues of expression that could have brought them dangerously close to death.

In contemporary times, parents insist on their children's spiritual depth in learning. The prevalent belief that Sophia's mythologies are connected to a child's life portrait suggests their archetypal nature, as they can emerge in any place, at any moment, and within any person, irrespective of religious belief.  Here, I use 'faith' to denote a spiritual insight distinct from any connotations tied to religious icons. The study of archetypal experiences and their impact on the evolution of maternal consciousness is derived from the mother-fetus bond, underscoring a shift from normal awareness to a celestial form of wisdom.

This aspect of wisdom allows woman "X" and her offspring to transcend, to perceive and experience the world aligned with a novel myth. This emerging myth, linked to altered maternal conduct, originates from the maturation of maternal consciousness and delves into the profound enigma of discomfort, fear, or trauma prevalent in today's times of creation and emancipation. It seems that losses or conclusions pave the way to inner visions of Deities. These encounters of woman "X" with the gestating psyche induce states of bewilderment and perplexity, which not only displace the primary layers of ego-consciousness inherited from forebears and one's lineage but also unveil ancestral feminine entities, the archetypal figures of the Sophia. Drawing from psychological and mythological perspectives rooted in the divine nature of God the historical patriarch, a narrative based on the physiological and psychological reality of Sophia, the mother, and her progeny, aids in navigating this matter.

Clinical and Theoretical Implications

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.

The psychophysiological perspective on numinous stimuli and the evolution of the human brain provides deep insights into the creative experience across various eras and cultures (Rossi, 2000). Consequently, the ancient Greeks acknowledged creative consciousness as a powerful influence on human experiences, regardless of our acceptance. In Buddhism, the Zen koan was developed as a technique to foster and refine meditative awareness, leading to elevated states of arousal known as "satori" or the lesser "kensho." Rituals, music, dance, drama, and storytelling are utilized in all cultures to focus attention and excitement, eliciting the numinous awe that inspires imagination and psychological transformation. (Ross, 2000, p. 97)

The stimulus pattern, thought to exist in prenatal attachment relationships and linked with intense emotions of awe or fear, may represent an archetype symbolically manifested as the spiritual figure Sophia. This pattern imparts information about the external world. The process initiates when a suppressed sensory event from the collective unconscious surfaces into the conscious awareness of a woman, referred to as "X," prompting a psychological reaction that results in a behavioral response to the perceived stimulus. The practices of receptive attunement to sensory stimuli and the behavioral reactions to symbolic events, which seek to uncover and appreciate the deeper meanings of an individual's experiences, offer a method for investigating broader narrative archetypes relevant to this study. Such archetypal phenomena are distinctly present in narrative structures where felt presences possess purpose and direction. As a useful tool, these felt presences can be traced through historical contexts, fostering the development of new theoretical perspectives on the experiences being examined. Narratives resonate with us on a personal level, reflecting everyday situations and imparting a more profound significance that can be transformative.

In this in-depth psychological analysis, I explored numinous prenatal attachment experiences and their impact on the development of maternal consciousness. Utilizing a narrative inquiry approach, I interpreted the broader archetypal meanings conveyed by the research participants and elucidated the emergence of the numinous within this framework. This sheds light on what I term the 'same image' within the wider narrative structure, provided the primordial images embody the psychobiological essence of the Self, stimulating both senses and emotions. An archetypal image infuses itself into the narrative inquiry process, engendering a peculiarly numinous quality. Amidst a whirlwind of psychological upheaval, this engenders a plunge into a mysterious reality that lies just beyond the threshold of consciousness, a behavioral reaction to the perception of an emotional stimulus.

Prenatal attachment is an abstract concept manifested through behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, and emotions connected to the realm of unconscious phenomena. This study posits that prenatal attachment may reflect archetypal patterns encompassing both the inner subjective experience and external biological behavior. Bowlby (1969) suggested that "instinctive behavior is not inherited, but rather the potential to develop it is, and both its nature and form vary somewhat based on the specific environment in which development occurs" (as cited in Stevens, 1983, p. 50). This view aligns with Neumann's (1973) belief that the mother's role in the attachment process is not merely individual but a "stimulus pattern" (akin to Bowlby's inherited potential), marked by instinctive responses originating from the collective unconscious (p. 24). Furthermore, it is asserted that these maternal instinctive responses, which are archetypally inherited, are crucial for ensuring the stability and inherent nature of the prenatal attachment bond (p. 24).

I contend that a woman does not inherit attachment behaviors; instead, she inherits a pattern of instinctive responses stemming from the collective unconscious. These instinctive responses are archetypal and are acknowledged as expressions of the Self within a psycho-spiritual context. Furthermore, this research has revealed that the psychological and biological processes present in prenatal attachment are not separate entities but rather two interlinked aspects of the same archetypal structure.

Griffith (2000) posited that the phenomena arising in a woman's consciousness, whether as images, ideas, or sensations, are deeply rooted in the biological 'other' of nature itself (p. 227). The study indicated that the supposed stimulus pattern between a woman and her unborn child initiates a complex interaction of functions within her pregnant psyche. The emergent images from this psyche may evolve into unique ideas, shaped by a psycho-spiritual framework or the cultural collective. The clinical significance is that prenatal attachment encompasses both subjective emotion and objective biological activity, representing two facets of the same archetypal pattern, leading a woman to perceive herself as interconnected with life growing within and around her.

Archetypal numinous experiences of attachment profoundly impact women’s senses and their perception of reality. These encounters evoke a shift in state—a connection with living beings and sacred Others. From this fertile ground within the pregnant psyche, creations emerge, accentuating human potential and offering liminal experiences. These liminal spaces give rise to the participation mystique—a profound interplay between nature and human consciousness.

Consider the composite description of archetypal numinosity in motherhood. Mythological Sophia, once an empty, lifeless form, finds identity within the biological other—the very essence of nature itself. In this exploration, we view the Self as an inclusive term—a vessel embracing our entire living organism. It holds not only the deposit of all past life but also the fertile soul from which all future life springs. Within the archetypal, the numinous dances with life, bridging past, present, and future—a tapestry woven by Sophia’s wisdom.

Considering the unique and archetypal numinous experiences of women, Jung's (1966) research sought to shed light on what emerged as a core expression of the Self amid liminal attachment experiences and their transformative effects. The Self encompasses elements of tragedy, rebirth, journey, and homecoming, contributing to the co-creation of life's meaning. A manifestation of the Self resembled a fertile entity within a sacred identity, unveiled through the creation of a new myth embodied by the spiritual figure Sophia. This myth aimed to transcend the restrictive beliefs, narratives, self-expectations, and sense of loss that dominated a woman's life, elevating them to the highest ideal. The development of this myth highlighted the inherent nature of a woman's interconnected 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 highlights the significance of assimilation—the accommodation of numinous phenomena in ways that are physically, emotionally, and cognitively newer and more expansive. Shared experiences become vessels for transferring symbols of the divine, situating individuals within the guiding intelligence of “something more” than their personal life portraits. As we read narratives, we can react to others’ life stories as if encountering them personally—a profound connection. At the heart of it all lies the quintessence of the life portrait—a woman’s perception of meaningful dialogue with her embodied self. This very identity, akin to an archetype, embodies the spiritual figure of Sophia. Through shared experiences and numinous encounters, the essence of self unfolds—a dance between the personal and the transcendent.

Archetypal Experiences and the Maternal Role

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 profound enigma of this image lies in the timely dissolution of a person's previous ego-consciousness, which is triggered 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. 

Archetypal experiences hold profound significance, signifying the psychological effort women invest in redeeming numinous qualities. These qualities emerge in meaningful spaces, evoking bewilderment and astonishment during phases of consciousness development. Specifically, the archetypal experience of prenatal attachment underscores an affiliative relationship—a connection potentially present even before pregnancy. Rooted in a psycho-spiritual framework or cultural identity, these experiences have both ontological (being) and epistemological (knowing) effects on women’s senses and perceptions of reality.

Imagine a shift in state—a deep connection with all living things. These numinous encounters infuse women’s lives with purpose, aligning with their chosen paths. Through narrative inquiries within prenatal attachment experiences, thinking and consciousness undergo transformation. Grounded in personal, cultural, and psycho-spiritual understanding, these inquiries reveal archetypal qualities—the very essence of wholeness. Archetypal experiences weave meaning into the fabric of existence, bridging the seen and the unseen.


Thus, the research leads to the following premises:

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.

Archetypal 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.

Archetypal 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.

Differing Holy Moments: An Inquiry of the Archetypal Numinous in Prenatal Attachment©

(Copyright©, 2019, All Rights Reserved)

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