Fear and Primordial Trust
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Fear and Primordial Trust

From Becoming an Ego to Becoming Whole

Monika Renz, Mark Kyburz (translator)

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eBook - ePub

Fear and Primordial Trust

From Becoming an Ego to Becoming Whole

Monika Renz, Mark Kyburz (translator)

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Über dieses Buch

Fear and Primordial Trust explores fear as an existential phenomenon and how it can be overcome. Illustrated by clinical examples from the author's practice as a psychotherapist and spiritual caregiver working with the severely ill and dying, the book outline theoretical insights into how primordial trust and archaic fear unconsciously shape our personality and behaviour.

This book discusses in detail how in our everyday world, we lack primordial trust. Nevertheless, all of us have internalized it: as experiences of another non-dual world, of being unconditionally accepted, then sheltered and nurtured. The book outlines how from a spiritual viewpoint, we come from the non-dual world and experience a transition by becoming an ego, thereby experiencing archaic fear. This book explains fear in terms of two challenges encountered in this transition: firstly, leaving the non-world world when everything changes and we feel forlorn. Secondly, on awakening in the ego when we feel dependent and overwhelmed by otherness. The book also helps readers to understand trust as the emotional and spiritual foundation of the human soul, as well as how fear shapes us and how it can be outgrown.

The book makes the case that understanding fear and primordial trust improves care and helps us to better understand dying. It will be of interest to academics, scholars and students in the fields of psychiatry, counselling, psychotherapy and palliative care and to all those interested in understanding fear, trust and the healing potential of spiritual experiences.

Chapters 1 and 3 of this book are freely available as a downloadable Open Access PDF under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license available at https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9781003176572

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Chapter 1

The human being: a citizen of two worlds (claim)

DOI: 10.4324/9781003176572-1


Before and behind our normal, ego-bound mode of being lies a non-dual, timeless world. This lies beyond sensory perception and consciousness and is the spiritual origin of humankind. This chapter discusses the two modes of being (non-dual and ego-bound) and the transition between them. We internalize these modes, which thus become part of our soul. I conceptualize these two modes in terms of psychic layers: the non-dual is our basis, while the ego-bound mode of being corresponds to our everyday consciousness. In between lie various stages of changed perception, such as dream consciousness and musical sensitivity. Near-death experience (NDE) illustrates the non-dual modes of being and our longing for this other world. Especially music touches us deeply: we are capable of hearing even in the non-dual mode of being. Our sensitivity for sound and music increases in the liminal sphere. These two facts provide music therapy with a special opportunity to reach deeper levels of the psyche. Chapter 1 concludes with an overview of the developmental perspective, and of different experiences of being and their respective psychic layers, language, and symbols.

1.1 Humankind, an explosive concept

What or where were we before we became human? Does human existence begin with procreation and end with death? Or does something inside us transcend our existence and its duration? Our concept of humankind determines whether we assume that nothingness begins and ends life, or whether something final and whole epitomizes substance and energy. Although experiences shape us and our view of the world, the opposite also applies: our concept of humankind determines how we interpret our experiences and whether these perhaps represent quite another reality, that of a sacred and spiritual realm. In this book, I speak of a non-dual, timeless mode of existence. This lies beyond sensory perception and is the spiritual origin of humankind (section 1.2). Although this mode lies beyond consciousness, non-dual “reality” is ubiquitous—and might be understood as a “completely different way of existence.” Within us, something knows (about) this utterly different state, from which we emerge—and to which we return.
The child emerges from this Wholly Other and gradually enters our world and mode of perception. The beginnings of human development are determined by our closeness to this entirely different realm. Human development (individuation, socialization) means that we must first enter the human mode of existence—with our body, our senses, and our feelings. Our organism develops, and our self-awareness must first awaken. Only this enables us to perceive, to feel, to react, and to convey messages of our own.1
What follows explores our ego-bound existence. Being a person represents the ego-bound mode of being. Basically, our sensory and even our bodily sensations and reactions are ego-bound (section 1.3). Ego-bound means subjective. In general, perception thus refers to an ego, to rudiments of an ego, and to our own body. Consciously or unconsciously, we perceive from our own perspective, on our own terms—rather than, for instance, as a medium. We see, hear, smell, and feel with our body—and as such experience ourselves more or less consciously as an ego. We also communicate and act as who we are. We protect ourselves and eat to satisfy ourselves. We act on our own accord and fulfill our instincts. Our body embodies us. We have our own voice, odor, and brain. Our life is guided, consciously or unconsciously, by the fact we are ourselves, that is, individuals.
Thus, our ego-boundness or self-centeredness, which seems self-evident to us in the Western world, is neither the solely valid nor the purely original mode of being. It is instead already an important outcome of early human development. The child gradually grows into this state, the dying person leaves it again.
When emerging from the Wholly Other into this world and into itself, the child undergoes a transition (section 1.4). This begins in the womb, where it experiences the first kinds of differentiation. Ego-boundness and the various preliminary stages leading to this state develop long before we can speak of an ego. This transition takes a long time. It is not completed until ego-bound perception has asserted itself in the waking state—and until the child has adopted that relationship with reality that our everyday consciousness and perception consider valid. In our culture, this transitional process as a rule ends at school. The child, now living entirely in the ego, knows that night equals darkness, and that ghosts are fairy-tale figures.
By transition, I mean an inner process, one that occurs as our body forms. The main feature of this process is that the mode of perception changes completely. I call this a transformation of perception. My approach divides transition into different stages of becoming conscious, which in turn constantly transform the child’s (infant’s, toddler’s) experience (chapters 3–6).
The transition takes place in the liminal sphere between non-duality and ego-boundness. Even after the transition has been completed, the liminal sphere still belongs to the world of human experience (section 1.5). Far removed from consciousness, it is ever present within us. We fall into this liminal sphere whenever we enter deep sleep or a coma (section 1.6), and above all in the process of dying. I speak of liminal experiences (Renz, 2016). However different, the experiences of the newborn and of the dying are similar in that they are shaped by their closeness to the Wholly Other.2
The preliminary stages of ego-boundness are also experienced by animals, and even by plants. They, too, react in their own interests, as is evident in the animal’s self-preservation instinct or in plant growth. It is thus perhaps more appropriate to speak of “self-centeredness.” Adult humans speak about themselves and know themselves. The animal acts in its own interest. The flourishing or withering plant indicates that it, too, has a sense of well-being and discomfort. Ego-boundness, a significant achievement of evolution, is inconceivable without its preliminary stages. A transition also occurred in collective development: namely, during those evolutionary eras in which a consciousness of self and its threatened existence, of material things and individual objects, of the ego and its realities, and of the patterns of nature gradually developed. This phylogenetic process of gaining consciousness may be assumed to have extended across millions of years.

1.2 Non-dual existence: participating in the Whole

“Holistic” has become a catchword in our culture. Many of us long for more holistic forms of life and for holistic healing. It is a sign of our times that we feel that our worldview and way of life lack something fundamental. The word “holistic” is associated with our physical-psychic-mental unity (head-heart-hand). But its meaning is much more far-reaching. The word “whole” is therefore more productive, as it means “all-embracing” and “encompassing polarities.” The Whole encompasses more than our earthly reality and temporality. Nothing is missing nor split-off from the Whole. Here, no duality exists (i.e., black versus white, top versus bottom). I therefore also refer to this mode of being as non-duality. This is bound neither to the ego nor to the body. Eluding neurophysiological grasp, it describes an ultimately unfathomable state in which everything is one and whole.3 Consequently, it means participating in God as the Whole. In the pure non-dual mode of being, the human being as such does not yet exist or no longer exists. Part of what enters nascent human life, and which belongs (or belonged) to it, is still or has always been present. It belongs to the Whole, although differently.
As human beings, we are always unconsciously related to this non-dual mode of being. We are citizens of an ego-bound world and at the same time forever part of the Whole. In non-duality, however, we do not feel as an ego. Our body has no boundaries. We are neither fully aware of “ourselves” nor able to pursue our own intentions. Inasmuch as we are guided or governed by our own consciousness, the Whole (God) remains inaccessible to us. Even if we somehow “re-experience,” “sense,” or “integrate into” non-dual states, these only ever affect us fragmentarily, from our momentary perspective. In absolute wholeness, there is only that which is, the all-encompassing, all-pervasive One. Thus, while we can never consciously feel the Whole, we can delve into another world to a limited extent and experience the mode of experience valid there. Sometimes, this happens during meditative immersion, in hallucinogen-induced experiences, in sexual union, in trance-like states, or in extreme shock or ecstasy. Dreams and imaginations may also sometimes lead us into the liminal sphere of the Whole and into non-duality. Here are two examples:
During therapy, Christoph, aged 45, had the following vision:
The scene is a large round square surrounded by a city wall. A female and a male path lead around the square at whose center lies a black sphere, embedded in a triangular cubic-like igloo tent. Despite its blackness, light emanates from the central sphere. The light now approaches me. Touched by this, I can no longer tell whether this Something is sound or light. I am no longer able to distinguish opposites like motion and rest, above and below, left and right, individual colors, or different sensations.
Here is how one woman described what she felt while listening to continuous, pulsating drumming during two hours of music-assisted relaxation:
I am physically so full that I feel empty at the same time. Everything flows. I feel so full of life that I almost lie there as if I were dead. I could barely lift my arms or legs. I no longer know whether I am lying on my stomach or back, whether the drum is outside me or identical to my heart. It is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It simply is and yet still fine. As if my body had fallen asleep, and as if I was still completely conscious.
In non-duality, and already in its liminal sphere, the limits of feasibility, of gravity, and of our body are eliminated. Individual aspects have blurred, oppositions are no longer perceptible, and the laws of cause and effect are invalid. Our own shape, if it exists at all, seems altered. Here, in non-duality, the atmosphere is important: a solemn event, a blue light, a clear vision. Atmospheric tensions also become apparent, and therefore are omnipresent (muggy air, a brewing storm). Unlike atmospheres, forms and shapes have contours and boundaries,...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Series Page
  4. Title Page
  5. Copyright Page
  6. Contents
  7. List of Figures
  8. List of Tables
  9. Acknowledgments
  10. Introduction
  11. 1 The human being: a citizen of two worlds (claim)
  12. 2 Our beginning: non-dual, unitary reality (a completely different way of being)
  13. 3 On the threshold (Stage A of conscious development during transition)
  14. 4 Wholesome containment (Stage B of conscious development in transition)
  15. 5 Ambivalent containment (Stage C of conscious development during transition)
  16. 6 Entering the ego: primordial trust and primordial fear move into the background (Level D of conscious development during transition)
  17. 7 Post-transition: the ego and the unconscious in the dual world
  18. 8 From becoming an ego to becoming Whole (selectively integrating the Wholly Other into this world)
  19. 9 The question about the goal
  20. Index