How should we describe a human embryo in order to understand it in its essential being?
Or: An article about the phenomenology of our embryonic existence
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What I see is just the covering.
The most important is invisible….
From: The Little Prince by
A. de Saint-Exupéry
After my study in medicine I was trained as an anatomist and embryologist. In the beginning I was intrigued by the forms and metamorphoses of the embryonic body. Gradually I became involved in discussions about the moral status of the embryo regarding new techniques designed to manipulate conception and the embryo itself. I began to reflect on questions regarding soul and body, mind and matter in respect to the facts and features of the developing embryo. Whát are we actually doing as a human being when we are an embryo? In 1985 I met people like Professor Steven de Batselier, a psychotherapist lecturing in the department of criminology at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He acquainted me with the ideas and concepts of several prenatal psychologists like Maarten Lietaert Peerbolte, Robert Laing and Nandor Fodor. These psychotherapists mention in their work terms such as prenatal experience, fetal psyche, shock of conception and prenatal psychology. They extend the reach of human experience and consciousness beyond the boundaries usually set by contemporary medical biology. For not only the medical biologist but nearly every good-natured person nowadays is convinced that the nervous system in general and the human brain in particular has been proven to be the core of the human mind and human conscience, as well as the human psyche or soul. Many people consider it as a fact that the human mind and human consciousness are produced by of the brain. Some simply state: Like glands secrete hormones, the human brains secrete behavior and personality. In a typically Cartesian way of thinking the brain and the function of the central nervous system are considered to be the origin, the cause of human behavior and the psyche. This philosophy has reduced psyche, soul, mind and spirit to pure physiological processes. The prevailing view is that soul or psyche (belonging to the Cartesian realm of res cogitans) in the paradigm of natural science now could be considered as nothing but a matter of brain action and therefore belongs to the realm of res extensa. On the other hand one could also state, paraphrasing the philosopher DelaMettrie, that man does not have a spirit, but is a spiritual being and that all the medical research on the function of the brain does not prove that mind, spirit or soul are localized within the brain or cortex. Thus, I myself began to consider the philosophical possibility that a functioning brain is a necessary condition but an incomplete condition for the source of the psyche and mind.
I wish to give us a child.
Not just nothing but a sum
of two kinds of genes,
or just an accident
in a sea of time.
suspended in the safe blue
ocean of your lap.
in that very one moment,
that I was you
and you were me
and we found and met
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