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Publication Date: 
December, 1989
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This paper explores the theory of Natalism which proposes that the symbolic expression of birth and prenatal consciousness can be found in art, mythology, and creative expression. Through clinical and empirical evidence our knowledge of the origins of awareness and memory is being pushed ever earlier. If pre- and perinatal experience affects personality, then we should see its tentacles in creative expression. Art flows from the deepest realms of the unconscious where the early roots of the human psyche are most active. As well, the creative act is often non-verbal which may be closely allied with the pre-verbal consciousness. Birth and prenatal experience which may not be readily accessed or discussed with the later developed language mind may be more aptly expressed with the non-verbal articulation of art. Throughout history natalistic images have often vividly depicted pre- and perinatal experience with no conscious recognition on the part of the creator of the early origin of the work. The similarity and commonality of these images is due to the universality of the environment of the womb and process of birth. Looking at meanings behind natalistic symbols found in art we can add a valuable resource for developing our understanding of pre- and perinatal issues in history, culture and personality.


1. Alice Miller, Pictures of a Childhood: Sixty-Six Watercolors And An Essay (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986), p. 3.

2. Ibid., p. 15.

3. DeMause in Frank Lake. Tight Corners in Pastoral Counselling (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1987), p. 43.

4. Jose Lopez Portillo, Quetzalcoatl: In Myth, Archeology and Art (New York: Continuum, 1982, pp. 71-2.

5. Frederick Leboyer, Birth Without Violence (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), p. 18.

6. R.D. Laing, The Facts of Life: An Essay in Feelings, Fact and Fantasy (New York: Pantheon Books, 1976), p. 66.

7. Helen Diner in David Meltzer, ed., Birth: An Anthology of Ancient Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 91-2.

8. Chamberlain, Consciousness at Birth: A Review of the Empirical Evidence (San Diego: Chamberlain Communications, 1983).

9. Lloyd deMause, Foundations of Psychohistory, (New York: Creative Roots, 1982), p. 258.

10. Thomas Verny, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (New York: Summit Books, 1981), p. 45.

11. Jude Roedding, Unpublished Manuscript (Waterloo: Independent Studies Journal Document, 1987).

12. Lake, p. 18.

13. Verny, p. 118.

14. Author's Personal Files.

15. Roedding.

16. Verny, p. 122.

17. Leslie Feher, The Psychology of Birth: The Foundation of Human Personality (London: Souvenir Press, 1980), p. 15.

18. Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1985), p. 29.

19. Miller, p. 4.

20. Ibid., p. 17.

21. Ibid., p. 16.

22. Ibid., p. 15.

23. Otto Rank, The Trauma of Birth (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), pp. 148-49.

24. Ibid., p. 156.

25. Miller, p. 16.

26. Mair in Lake, p. 1.

27. Feher, p. 68.

28. Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear: The Original Approach To Natural Childbirth (New York: Harper and Row, 1972), p. 12.

29. Mair in Lake, p. 1.

30. Portillo, p. 175.

31. Miller, p. 3.

32. Portillo, p. 174.

33. Ibid., pp. 174-5.

34. Jacqueline Simpson, European Mythology (Middlesex, England: Hamlyn, 1987), p. 92.

35. Mircea Eliade, Birth and Rebirth: The Religious Meanings of Initiation in Human Culture (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 52.

36. Ibid., p. xiv.

37. Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), p. 81.

38. Phyllis Greenacre, Trauma, Growth, and Personality (New York: International Universities Press, 1980), pp. 14-15.

39. Arthur Janov, Imprints: The Lifelong Effects of the Birth Experience (New York: Coward-McCann, 1983), p. 176.

40. Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987), p. 106.

41. deMause, p. 243.

42. Sjoo and Mor, p. 47.

43. Ibid., p. 73.

44. Ibid., p. 73.

45. Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin (New York: Harper & Row, 1980), p. 92.

46. Sjoo and Mor, p. 73.

47. Nandor Fodor, The Search for the Beloved: A Clinical Investigation of the Trauma of Birth and Pre-Natal Conditioning (New Hyde Park, New York: University Books, 1949), p. 219.

48. Ibid., p. 5.

49. Feher, p. 18.

50. Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (New York: Ballantine Books, 1980), p. 363.

51. Feher, p. 15.

52. Eliade, Myth and Reality, p. 89.

53. Rank, p. 17.

54. Hall, pp. 90-1.

55. Karl W. Luckert, Olmec Religion (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976), p. 65.

56. Roedding.

57. Fodor, p. 126.

Michael C. Irving, M.A. is a sculptor and psychotherapist. Correspondence should be addressed to him at 274 Rhodes Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4L 3A3. This paper is excerpted, from a Masters Degree thesis combining art and pre- and perinatal psychology, which was done at Vermont College of Norwich University, under the mentorship of Thomas Verny, M.D.