Letter to the Editor 8,3
Deep gratitude for a wonderful 6th International Congress. I am honored to be one voice amongst a choir of people who care about the soul around birth. I write with my concerns over the keynote talk Thursday evening. With all due respect to the presenter, Marilyn Cleeves Diamond, I will now say that what she is doing is vastly different from my purposes for this association of pre- and perinatal psychologists.
First let me refresh your memory about the opening speech-the presentation included reports of research on rats to breed for larger brains by depriving or enhancing the environments of the parent and grandparent rats. We also heard about dendrites and saw a slide show, and a lot more. It was an excellent talk. What concerned me then, and does to this day, is the use of rats in a psychology of human beings.
So many asked me what I was trying to say the opening night that I am prompted to write this open letter to clarify. (Indeed, I made myself upset at the content of Dr. Diamond's presentation. Forgive my lack of dispassion). This is what I was meaning to say- What good is a larger brain if we have less compassion? What good is an "enhanced maternal environment" if we lose our feeling connection with life, in all its forms?
I had lunch the following day of the Congress with another animal researcher. I am vegetarian. Over the collective karma on our plates, we enacted what I call the classic Artemisian and Apollonic polemic in psychology. The myth of Wild Woman/Mother-Midwife vs the myth of Dominant Culture Scientist.
What dangerous ground pre- and perinatal psychology treads when we align with the animal researcher as bearer of truth. The risk is that we lose not only our humility, therefore capacity to learn, but also we deepen the heroic ego's tendency toward force, violence, and being the dominator of "lower life forms". This line of logic easily translates into abuse of babies, children, and women (especially mothers), the very thing we are hoping to change. Babies have feelings and so do other animals.
I'm responding to Dr. Diamond's speech as a vegetarian as well as a scientist myself; a scientist in the sense that I am a sacred technician, share the same passion for truth, and life-long dedication toward evolution.
Because humans can entrap other animals and use them for "scientific" purposes, should we? Then apply that information to optimal preand perinatal psychology? The opening presentation at our Congress showed me that we do not have consensus on this issue. Yet we have consensus in our organization that the more "natural" a birth is, the better the psychology of all involved? Where is nature in the laboratory, where is the "natural"? How do we logically extrapolate from the laboratory into the realm of nature?
That's why my office is the wilderness. There we are reminded that humans are not on the top of the food chain. We are not here to dominate, exploit, study in laboratories other animals, nor eat them, I might add. (Which reminds me, thanks for the great vegetarian banquets at our Congress!) Rather we are here to be full human beings in partnership with all our relations on this shared planet.
I have already published in this PPPANA Journal about my suspicion over "data" derived from the mutilation or killing of animals, as well as in EMBRYOGENESIS (by Richard Grossinger, North Atlantic Press-most highly recommended for association members or anyone who studies conception/gestation). In my study of Dr. Diamond I was not surprised to hear that she was indeed a mother who herself was an enhanced maternal environment, and all her children have doctorate degrees. Proof? Her "subjects" and "controls" ran a better rat maze. Her children ran a better academic maze. But once again, what good is a bigger brain without a bigger heart?
My preference would be to have the Apollonic archetype present at our congresses at another time than the opening session. I was not the only one disappointed with a rat researcher being keynote for our association. Her voice is important to include as it is of the God-Us too. However, just not the first voice. It's like the conception of the congress being conducted in a hospital. I'll take erotic over clinical any day.
To the point-psychology in general and pre- and perinatal psychology in particular have struggled from the beginning to become a legitimate "science" and be accepted by the prevailing medico-political power grid. This is nothing new and the opening presentation was an interesting museum tour. However I expect more from an association on the frontiers of psychology. Shall the leading edge be a cutting one, or a healing one we represent?
Whenever psychology uses "objective" scientism as a foundation it has become part of the problem rather than the solution. That is not the essential way of soul, to acquire knowledge through violence. If knowledge does not fall to the heart and become wisdom, how can it serve? Here I am reminded of Albert Einstein's remark-"Imagination is more important than knowledge." I would hope that our association could see through animal research studies to the damage it does to all life.
We do not need to prove that a mother who eats well, is peaceful and cultivates the upward mobility of her mind will have better babies. We know this already. What we need is a true psychology, a way of soulmaking so that this information can transform families. Sacrificing rats is not the best way to empower parents to overcome millenial conditioning toward violence when they bring forth their young. If our goal is a peaceful perinatal period so that psychological needs are met optimally, I ask how laboratories which disrupt other animals in their perinatal periods contribute toward that noble result?
I know the Apollonic argument and I refute it-the standard justification is that "a lesser pain now to prevent a bigger pain in the future." "Hurt lower animals for humanity." This is an erroneous justification for psychology. In soul-making, the means is the end, not the means for an end. Our healing of pre- and perinatal psychology comes from integrity, a consistent harmlessness and respect for life, not the control of life, not the interference with natural processes, and blasphemies of all blasphemies, not the torture/killing of life for socalled "truth".
For many years I would not identify my work with "scientism". This disidentification with science was like disclaiming feminism for its priority of abortion rights-until feminists' organizations (like N.O.W.) make conscious conception/fertility awareness the priority, I wouldn't use the associative term feminist. Lately I have decided to reclaim the term feminist, with the original meaning. I am a feminist-for-life. Naturally it follows that I also reclaim the term scientist-for-life.
As a scientist, I have found that what heals birth, and heals our Earth, is reclaiming my own soul and authentically doing what is best for life. This is, of course, up to each of us to determine-just what is best for life. I do not doubt that Dr. Diamond is doing what she understands to be best for life. The animal researcher I ate lunch with likewise believes that by practicing painful procedures on animals first, he causes less pain to humans. (He is also an obstetrician). However, psychologists have another focus than objective, physiologic proof-and that is to be the guardians, the allies, of soul in the perinatal period. This entrustment includes the unseen realms, beyond even quantification-let us not lose this central focus in any quest for acceptance from the larger scientific community. We each hold the sacred trust to authentically do what is best-for-life, especially mindful of the psychological life of ourselves first.
Again, this is only one voice in the rich diversity of voices which inform pre- and perinatal psychology. I confess that as much as Fd like to prescribe, I know my version of the truth of our association is severely limited, especially if unchallenged. As with the issue of abortion, the association does not take a position nor would I expect us to on animal rights. I only expect a hearing, and kind consideration of the issues I raise in response to Dr. Diamond, our keynote speaker.
I welcome a public conversation on this topic. As PPPANA matures, we are revisioning who we are. In closing, I am glad for Dr. Diamond and appreciate her radiant beauty and powerful presentation. The very last presentation however, by Dr. Elisabet Sahtouris, is tremendously more aligned with my most cherished values. I will always remember her word medicine as a healing balm upon my soul and applaud the courage of the Program Chair for inviting Dr. Sahtouris to be the perfect end note to an already amazing and transforming 6th Congress.
Jeannine Parvati Baker
P.S. I am receiving letters requesting the artist's name who sang "Remember Me" in my D.C. Congress Workshop of the same name. (Subtitled "Sacred Ground"). The composer/singer is Joanne Rand and the selection, used with permission, is from her CHOOSING SIDES album (available from Hygieia College, P.O. Box 398, Monroe, UT 84754 Â° $12 ppd). Please forgive the omission on the "Remember Me: Sacred Ground" audio tape of Joanne Rand's name, available from Sounds True.