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EMBRYO IN MOTION – Understanding Ourselves as Embryo With Jaap (J.C.) van der Wal, MD

EMBRYO IN MOTION – Understanding Ourselves as Embryo With Jaap (J.C.) van der Wal, MD PhD, Maastricht, Holland

Portland OR, June 3 – 6, 2010

Orientation and introduction

This seminar will explore human prenatal development and show how biology is expressing the essence of human spiritual enfoldment. Understanding the stages of development is a foundation for therapeutic recognition of embryological forces in all later stages of life. Craniosacral Therapists have been urged to comprehend embryological forces at work in sessions because the forces that formed the body are continuously at work throughout life, carrying the blueprint of Health into manifestation at every moment. This seminar is a rare opportunity to hear a world authority on modern scientific understanding of embryology who has developed a unique synthesis of this science with spiritual principles.

In the human embryonic development we are dealing with what could be mentioned as 'still functioning in forms'. By this is meant that the gestures of growth and development that the human embryo is performing could be interpreted and understood as human behavior. As a kind a pre-exercising of what later on will appear and be 'freed' as physiological and psychological functions. The embryo exhibits human behavior.

The human body gets its shape and form during the embryonic development in a continuous process of change and metamorphosis. Using the phenomenological method of observation it is possible to understand those gestures as human behavior. During the early phases of human existence the processes that accompany the act of incarnation may be “read” from the biological facts. Those gestures also are a kind of echo or recapitulation of the gestures of development of man as a species. In this way of becoming a human and becoming human, biography and biology meet. The embryo may help us to learn the real and essential patterns of human development.

The human embryo seems to be a kind of continuous empathetic equilibrium between 'introvert antipathy' and extravert sympathy' in relation to its context and environment. This polarity seems to be active in various dimensions and directions a.o. between head and extremities and between cranial (head) versus caudal (pelvis), while in the vertebral column the typically human quality of going upright seems to be preserved. During its total development the embryo is the expression of the presence of a being, which is able to mediate between ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’.

The aim of the seminar is to let attendees share in the mighty processes that form the basis of every human individual, participating not only with the intellect but also with the heart. This innovative way of considering embryonic development will open completely new perspectives as to polarities and threefoldness, microcosm and macrocosm, heredity and incarnation, evolution and the development of mankind.

Content in highlights

Content in highlights The Speech of the embryo – Where biology meets biography Mind and body

The Speech of the embryo – Where biology meets biography Mind and body in the womb? What are we actually doing as an embryo? The embryo as an 'introvert' existence. A phenomenological approach (dynamic morphology) reveals the embryo as a human being, performing human behavior in the gestures of shaping and growing its body. The ‘body formative’ soul, creating and shaping the body as performance of the soul.

The gesture of Birth – Being born as Coming from ‘Heaven’ to ‘Earth’ The prenatal gesture of individuation, with emphasis on the processes in the first embryonic week and on those of birth. The prenatal 'two bodies': the meaning of the fetal membranes as 'original body of cosmic origin'. Being born as a process of 'dying emancipation'. At the background some methodological contemplation: Participator or onlooker? Two realities in one. Two bodies? Understanding or explaining? Goethean phenomenological and holistic science: how to overcome (not to deny) Cartesianism? What are we actually doing as embryo?

Heaven and Earth? – Conception as primordial Polarity Where do we come from? Getting more familiar with the method and approach of the 'dynamic morphology' by means of meeting the awesome processes of fertilization and conception. How the Goethean phenomenological view might open the eyes and mind for more 'spiritual' and 'supersensible' (transcendental) qualities in this process of 'coming to earth'. Polarization and contrasting as instruments. Conception as image of a so-called Steigerung between two polarities with 'turning inside out' as signature. The biology of incarnation? - Getting children or making them? Reproduction or 'passing on life'?

From Heaven to Earth – Incarnation and individuation The processes of the first embryonic week, when only the dimension of space is present. The zygote (‘fertilized egg cell’) as the undivided human body. From the 'physical way of being alive’ to the 'plant man' (germinating and growing out) in the second week. The first orientation in space: the polarity of ventral and dorsal as incoming unconsciousness versus outgoing consciousness. In the second week the time dimension appears. Man still is not 'there' yet, the embryo as non-individualized being. The incarnation process of the heart: man is 'coming to here'. Head and tailbone. In the third, fourth week from a being with only 'outside' to a being with 'inner content’ (body cavity).

Heaven and earth - The human body as equilibrium of polarities The phase of 'animal man'. The dynamics of incarnation with the processes of de-lamination and individualization of the fourth week as climax. Man and his fetal membranes, mirroring the macrocosm of environment in the microcosm of the bodily organization. The development of the extremities. The polarity between arms and legs, head and extremities with the vertebral column as image of freedom in between.

Between Heaven and Earth – The embryology of freedom To the fourth phase with unfolding and raising up and the development of the human erect posture. With the polarity of cranial and caudal, head and periphery now threefoldness appears in all directions and dimensions. Man as mediator. Retardation and conservation of the upright body axis as characteristic for the human quality of maintaining freedom and equilibrium: "An animal gives in where a man holds back". Man as the ‘adult embryo’ and as the ‘first-born’ creature. Man and animal – difference or polarity? Retardation and non-specialization as clue oft the human body and organization. Man as mediator. The embryology of freedom.

Portland OR, 3 rd -6 th June 2010

as mediator. The embryology of freedom. Portland OR, 3 r d -6 t h June 2010


Understanding Ourselves as Embryo

Content in highlights (continued)

Content in highlights (continued) Dynamic Embryology and Morphology – Contours of ‘psychosomatic body organization’

Dynamic Embryology and Morphology – Contours of ‘psychosomatic body organization’ Based upon the methodology of the Goethean phenomenology as he applies it in his course about human embryology, Jaap van der Wal offers throughout the course an introduction to polarity thinking as to the form and function of the human body. The aim of this introductory course is to help the participants to develop a more dynamic perception of the human body as a living organism. The body shapes and functions are gestures of soul and body and therefore understandable by means of a phenomenological approach, from the so-called participatory stance. Out of a polarity anatomy and physiology, a threefoldness of the human body can be developed that might reveal the body as a manifestation of the interaction of spirit and body. It is an effort to overcome Cartesian anatomy and physiology terrorized by the notions of locality, causality and determination. To fund therapeutic principles like Craniosacral therapy, Polarity Medicine or Osteopathy a process morphology is needed that enables to see the whole body as an instrument of the soul (not exclusively the brain). The phenomenological approach offers this.

Texts and manuals

There are no special readers or texts of the course. Next to a set of Figures and Diagrams that will be used during the course, next articles will be handed to the participants, written by Jaap and also available on his website:

The Speech of the embryo, A phenomenology of the embryonic existence, 2003 (15 pages), ISBN 9080603732 The phenomenology of human conception – How to overcome reproduction? In: Energy & Character, Vol. 33, Sept 2004 (facultative) Chapter 4 Dynamic Morphology and Embryology. In: Guus van der Bie and Machteld Huber (eds), Foundations of Anthroposophical Medicine, Floris Books, 2003, ISBN 0-


All slides presented are available on the website including most if the shown animations.

About the teacher - Also look at his website: Jaap van der Wal PhD is medical doctor and works nowadays at the department of Anatomy and Embryology at the University of Maastricht, Holland. Since his medical education in 1973 he worked as teacher and researcher at various universities and schools in Holland. He became specialized in the functional morphology of locomotion in particular regarding. Gradually he became more and more interested in the philosophical backgrounds of medicine. He developed himself as teacher in Philosophy of Science and in Medical Anthropology. “My passion however was and still is human embryology. The two domains of human locomotion and human development (embryology) in a way are linked to each other by the concepts and principles of form (shape) and motion (movement). The human body is a process, developing and functioning in time. The embryo moves, behaves in forms. It is in this area that I encountered anthroposophy. The Goethean phenomenological approach, which I met there, appeared to be the key for bridging between the domain of 'natural science' and 'spiritual science' (or even:

religion). The method of dynamic morphology to understand the human embryo gave me the tool to understand what we actually are doing as human beings when we still are embryo. With respect I can find in the embryo cautious answers to questions as to the meaning of human existence". He now teaches his ‘Embryosophy’ in Europe and USA in institutes for Anthroposophy, Craniosacral-therapy, Osteopathy, Polarity-Therapy and so on.

Literature on Embryology Bie, G. van der, Embryology – Early development from a phenomenological point

Literature on Embryology

Bie, G. van der, Embryology – Early development from a phenomenological point of view, Louis Bolk Instituut, Driebergen, Holland, Publ. Number GVO 01, Blechschmidt, E., The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy – A Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Birth. Ed. Brian Freeman, N. Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2004. Drews, U., Color Atlas of Embryology, Thieme Verlag, 1995. Hartmann, O.J., Dynamische Morphologie, Verlag Vittorio Klostermann, Frankfurt/M, 1959. König, K., Embryology and World Evolution,TWT Publications Ltd., UK, 2 nd Edition, 2000 Langman, J., Medical Embryology, Lippincot Williams & Wilkins, 1995. Schad, W., Die Vorgeburtlichkeit des Menschen, Urachhaus, Stuttgart, 1982. Verhulst, J., Developmental Dynamics in Humans and Other Primates: Discovering Evolutionary Principles through Comparative Morphology, Adonis Press, Ghent NY, U.S.A, 2003 Vögler, H., Human Blastogenesis, Bibliotheca Anatomica 30, Karger, 1987. Weihs, Th. J., Embryogenesis in Myth and Science, Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1986. Wilmar, F., Vorgeburtliche Menschwerdung, Melllinger Verlag, Stuttgart, 1979. Wolpert, L., The Triumph of the Embryo, Oxford University Press, 1991. Steiner, R.: Vortrag 18. Sept.1920, in GA199, Vortrag 22. Aug.1922, in GA124, Vortrag 9. Dec.1922, in GA218, Vortrag 17. May1923, in GA226, Vortrag 2. February 1924, in GA161.

Literature on Morphology

Foundations of Anthroposophical Medicine – A training manual, Guus van der Bie & Machteld Huber (eds), Floris Books, 2003, ISBN 0-86315-417-4. Companions for the study of medicine, Anatomy and Physiology and more! Produced by Louis Bolk Instituut, Holland. Look, choose Companions. Free download Functional Morphology – The dynamic wholeness of the human organism, Johannes W. Rohen, Adonis Press, 2008 (available March 2008), ISBN-10 0932776361. [In this, his last major work, Rohen

presents the fruits of a lifelong study of the human organism. Viewing the various organs and organ systems as part of a dynamic whole, Rohen arrives at new and profound insights. This book significantly expands the concepts of general anatomy and offers a new basis for approaching the interaction of body and soul]

Publications by the author

Chapter 4 Dynamic Morphology and Embryology. In: Guus van der Bie and Machteld Huber (eds), Foundations of Anthroposophical Medicine, Floris Books, 2003, ISBN 0-86315-417-4. In English (75 pages).

Jaap van der Wal, Michaela Glöckler u.a., Bausteine einer anthroposophischen Physiotherapie - Dynamische Morphologie und Entwicklung der menschlichen Gestalt, Persephone, 2 e edition 2002, Medizinischen Sektion der freien Hochschule für Geisteswissenschaft am Goetheanum, CH-4143 Dornach, ISBN 3-7235-1183-X. In German with extensive English abstracts.

Embryology and Human Conception, In: Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Volume 1, Michael J. Shea, North Atlantic Books, 2007, Chapter 7 and 9, ISBN-10: 1-55643-591-6.