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Baby's Experience

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Baby's Experience

As the Baby Grows, Different Aspects of Essence Dominate in Different Periods of His Development

We see that a baby's essence has many qualities or aspects of essence, which we discussed in Chapter Two. A certain aspect dominates when the baby is resting, another when he is active, another when he is playful, and so on. There is an interplay, a dance, between the various aspects, depending on the situation, the activity, the time, and so on. Not only does the baby experience a dance of many qualities and aspects, we observe that as the baby grows, different aspects of essence dominate in different periods of his development. The aspects of essence mostly manifested depend on the age of the baby or the particular developmental phase he is going through. The particular aspects of each phase or stage of development are organically interconnected with the processes of development specific to such stages. For instance, from two months to about a year the aspect of essence dominant has to do with a kind of melting sweet love and merging with the environment, especially with the mother. This coincides with the developmental phase that is termed the symbiotic stage by the ego psychologists, a stage when the baby is still unaware of differentiation between himself and his mother. Around seven months old, another more active, more outwardly expansive aspect, which has to do with essential strength, starts to dominate. After a while, the qualities of joy and will become dominant, as the toddler becomes more aware of his environment and starts exploring it with joy and a sense of power. Then the aspect of essential value assumes dominance for some time. In fact, we can see the stages of essential development in relation to the stages of the development of the ego. 

Babies and Very Young Children are Identified with their Essence; they are the Essence

What we find when we observe in this way is that babies and very young children not only have essence, they are in touch with their essence; they are identified with their essence; they are the essence. The inner experience of a baby is mostly of the essence in its various qualities. This does not mean that the baby is conceptually aware of the existence of essence. The baby knows essence very well, and very intimately, but without mental involvement and without cognition. We know this from the experience of adults who discover their essence and remember knowing it, in some fashion, from their childhood. In other words, the baby knows essence but does not know that he knows. He is not awake to its presence and its nature. The fact that human beings are born with essence has been known from ancient times. The baby is not only born with essence, but essence is the baby that is born. In describing essence, Gurdjieff says: “It must be understood that man consists of two parts: essence and personality. Essence in man is what is his own. Personality in man is what is ‘not his own.’ A small child has no personality as yet. He is what he really is. He is essence. His desires, tastes, likes, dislikes, express his being such as it is

If the Mother is Suffering the Baby Suffers Too

However, for many reasons, things don’t generally go that well. Sometimes the child has gas or pain and the mother doesn’t come in time, so the pain or tension is not released. The baby is still dependent on the mother and the environment to help release these charges or tensions. Sometimes it is not that the mother isn’t there, but that the baby gets sick or constipated or can’t keep food down. Then there is pain that is not discharged when it needs to be. Things are in fact much worse than that; if this were the whole story, it would be wonderful. However, the truth is that the baby usually lives in an environment in which the parents are not the most wonderful beings on earth. The child is very open, and can feel the pain and suffering going on in its immediate environment. The child is aware of its own body and can also feel the tension, rigidity, and pain in the mother’s body or anyone else it is with. If the parents are suffering, the child feels it. If the mother is suffering, the baby suffers too. The pain never gets discharged. We are not even considering the acts of cruelty that so many babies endure. Some parents take their own conflicts out on the child in physical abuse, neglect, or emotional rejection. All these things affect the child in the same negative way—there remains pain that is not discharged. So the natural movement is impeded, and the child doesn’t return to its natural harmony. There might be difficulty in the body of the child. Sometimes even when the mother acts in a loving way toward the baby she is feeling anguish, or self-rejection, or other negative feelings inside herself. The baby always feels this pain, and the mother isn’t discharging it for herself or the baby.

Mother Giving Birth

The presence one experiences does not have to be one's own, and does not have to be individual. One can experience the presence of another. A whole group can be aware of a presence. Even one who is not particularly attuned to the quality of presence cannot but contact presence is some unusual and unique circumstances. One such situation is that of a mother giving birth to a baby. At times, when the mother is not under medication, when she is fully participating in the birth, her presence may be elicited. The mother may feel a fullness, a strength, a solid determination, an unmistakable sense that she is present in the experience, fully involved in it. The situation of giving birth is real; it is not social, and it cannot be faked. For a woman to do it in full consciousness, without the aid of mind-dulling medications, she might have to pull out all of her resources, pool all of her strength and determination, and be genuinely present. This full presence of the woman also may be sensed by others. One may see it as the presence of intensity, of intense feeling and sensation, or of intense energy and attention. One also may be aware that the woman is present in a way unusual for her. She seems to have a fullness. She seems to have a glow, a radiance. The presence is unmistakable, beautiful and powerful.

Presence Experienced at the Birth of a Baby

The experience of presence in this situation may be seen, if one is sensitive and aware, not to reside only in the mother. If all present are fully participating—and this often happens in such situations because of their dramatic intensity—then the presence is seen to pervade the room, to fill it and impregnate it. There is an intensity in the room, a palpable aliveness, the sense of a living presence. The experience of presence is most clearly felt when the baby is born, when it is out into the world. One may then experience a shift, an expansion in the energy of the room. One feels that the room definitely has a new presence, a fresh presence. The baby is experienced not only as a body but something much more, something much more alive and much more profound. One may, if sensitively attentive, behold the newcomer as a clear and definite presence. The baby is a being. A being is present, with no name, no history, no extras. And there is blessing. One may in fact observe that different babies have different qualities of presence. The quality of presence is not just a matter of their size, how they look, or what sex they are. Each seems to have its own unique quality of presence, which is quite obvious at birth and which continues to be the mode of being for the particular baby. One may behold the emerging presence of the baby as a sweetness, a fluffiness, a tenderness. Or the presence is felt as a peacefulness, a quietness, a stillness. Yet another baby confronts us with a presence of clarity, lightness, and joy. Another might fill the room with strength, solidity, and immovability. 

The Baby Experiences Simultaneously the Loss of the Essential Aspect of Merging Love and the Loss of the Gratifying Symbiotic Relationship with Mother

Whenever this proximity, this symbiotic unity, is not there, the merging love of essence disappears. This satisfying symbiotic unity can be lost for many reasons: rejection by the mother, distance from her, frustration by her, too much clinging from her side, physical or emotional abandonment, actual loss, to mention a few. This always happens because there is no perfect symbiotic relationship between mother and infant because of many factors, mostly unavoidable. However, the loss can occur in many different ways, some more painful than others, some sooner than others, some more abruptly than others, and so on. It would take us far away from our objective to go into the details here. We only need to know here that merging essence is at some point lost. The baby experiences simultaneously the loss of the essential aspect of merging love and loss of the positive gratifying symbiotic relationship with the mother. He feels he lost the merging love, but he believes he lost the dual unity. He starts feeling incomplete because he lost an essential part of him, his merging love. He knows this only dimly, only subconsciously, so to speak. But what he observes is the loss of the gratifying symbiotic relationship with the mother, so naturally he assumes that his feeling of incompleteness is the result of the loss of this relationship. He in fact believes subconsciously, and in time unconsciously, that the part of him that is lost is the mother. This can happen easily because in the symbiotic phase there is no differentiation yet between self and mother. As he starts to differentiate, and the mother becomes more of a separate person, he can only think that what he lost is his mother. 

The Baby Loses Her Primary Self-Realization as She begins to Experience Herself as an Object

Narcissism develops when the soul loses touch with its wholeness, especially as it loses touch with its true nature. The soul loses awareness of its wholeness through the loss of the immediacy of experience, which results from experiencing itself through past impressions. The loss of immediacy is identical with the loss of awareness of presence, and since presence is the “glue” that unifies all aspects of experience, wholeness is gone. The baby loses her primary self-realization (and her primary narcissism) as she begins to experience herself as an object. An increasing veil composed of memories (and reaction-induced results or consequences) intervenes between the subject—the self—and the object. This duality gradually transforms the infant’s experience in such a way that she ultimately loses her identification with the sense of presence. As the infant develops an identity situated in dimensions of experience superficial to her essential presence, she loses her capacity to simply be herself. In a sense, rather than actually losing this capacity, the infant simply forgets it as she gradually finds herself reacting to and manipulating her experience, and becoming increasingly alienated from her true nature. Thus, the loss of contact with her true identity involves the loss of the sense of the perfection and wholeness of the self. 

The Baby Needs the Environment to Mirror Him So that He Can Come to Know Himself

Therefore, the baby needs to be seen in order to grow because he is incapable of seeing himself. The only possibility, then, is to be seen from the outside. This expresses itself as the need for mirroring. The baby needs the environment to mirror him so that he can come to know himself, and for his soul to grow and develop. For this unfolding to occur completely and harmoniously, the baby needs reflection from the pure awareness which is the mirror-like awareness. He needs to be seen with the clear, objective light characterized by the pure spiritual qualities: love, value, openness, compassion, strength, intelligence, joy, satisfaction, peacefulness, and so on. So optimal mirroring is celebrative, appreciative, admiring, empathic, attuned, understanding, and relational, expressing the essential qualities of the mirrorlike awareness. It is this awareness that is needed for the mirroring. If it is available then the self has the opportunity to mature naturally, spontaneously, fully, and perfectly. For most of us, this quality of mirroring is rarely available. Even more rarely is it consistently available. In normal circumstances, our early mirroring inadequately reflects our true being. This inadequacy is the main environmental factor causing narcissism. Mirroring can be inadequate in two ways: It is either not available (or not available consistently), or when it is available, it is reflecting not the true nature of the infant but some more superficial aspect. 

The View that the Baby Initially Lives Without the Duality of Self and Spirit, Soul, and Essence

In her primal condition, the soul is a wholesome harmonious unity, where there is no separation between soul and body and no dissociation of soul and essence. Our view is not that the baby initially lives in heaven, but that it lives without the duality of self and spirit, soul, and essence. Most importantly, the primal condition is characterized by the nonduality of essence and soul. Individual babies are born with different dominant characteristics, but common to all is that there is no distinction between the soul and the essence at the beginning. This primal condition might, and possibly does, exist more purely and completely in prenatal life. It is most likely not completely harmonious in prenatal life, owing to disruptions that happen in the womb, but as we will see our exploration includes prenatal structuring of the soul. It is also more complete in infancy than later and becomes gradually limited and disrupted in early childhood. When the infant is in homeostasis, when it is not frustrated, mistreated, or sick, but is lovingly and appropriately taken care of, it seems to live not only in absence of duality of soul and essence, but with a great deal of obvious pleasure. This homeostatic baseline can get disrupted, but the soul’s initial harmony is resilient and it reasserts itself spontaneously. However, the fact that disruption is a possibility, combined with the factors we discussed above, leads to a permanent state of disruption. The soul at some point loses her resiliency and the duality becomes impressed on her substance as a permanent structure. In other words, as a result of the soul’s normal development her homeostatic baseline moves from wholesome harmonious unity to a largely conflictual and permanently dissatisfied state of duality. Stated alternately, when the adult soul relaxes and settles down at times of no instinctual or environmental pressures she does not go back to her original harmony, but can only settle into the dualistic ego state that has now become the bedrock of her identity and reality. 

When a Baby is Born It is Pretty Much All Essence or Pure Being

When a baby is born, it is pretty much all Essence or pure Being. Its essence is not, of course, the same as the essence of a developed or realized adult. It is a baby’s essence—nondifferentiated, all in a big bundle. As the infant grows, the personality starts developing through interactions with the environment, especially the parents. Since most parents are identified with their personalities and not with their essence, they do not recognize or encourage the essence of the child. After a few years, Essence is forgotten, and instead of Essence, there is now personality. Essence is replaced with various identifications. The child identifies with one or the other parent, with this or that experience, and with all kinds of notions about itself. These identifications, experiences, and notions become consolidated and structured as the personality. The child and, later, the adult believes this structure is its true self. Essence was there in the beginning, and it is still there. Although it was not seen, not recognized, and was even rejected and hurt in many ways, it is still there. In order to protect itself, it has gone underground, undercover. The cover is the personality.

When a Baby Starts Feeling Incomplete

Whenever this proximity, this symbiotic unity, is not there, the merging love of essence disappears. This satisfying symbiotic unity can be lost for many reasons: rejection by the mother, distance from her, frustration by her, too much clinging from her side, physical or emotional abandonment, actual loss, to mention a few. This always happens because there is no perfect symbiotic relationship between mother and infant because of many factors, mostly unavoidable. However, the loss can occur in many different ways, some more painful than others, some sooner than others, some more abruptly than others, and so on. It would take us far away from our objective to go into the details here. We only need to know here that merging essence is at some point lost.

The baby experiences simultaneously the loss of the essential aspect of merging love and loss of the positive gratifying symbiotic relationship with the mother. He feels he lost the merging love, but he believes he lost the dual unity. He starts feeling incomplete because he lost an essential part of him, his merging love. He knows this only dimly, only subconsciously, so to speak. But what he observes is the loss of the gratifying symbiotic relationship with the mother, so naturally he assumes that his feeling of incompleteness is the result of the loss of this relationship. He in fact believes subconsciously, and in time unconsciously, that the part of him that is lost is the mother. This can happen easily because in the symbiotic phase there is no differentiation yet between self and mother. As he starts to differentiate, and the mother becomes more of a separate person, he can only think that what he lost is his mother. 

You Have Your Mother Inside You and So, in a Sense, You are Still a Baby

In a sense, what is generally called “the life of an adult” is really just a second babyhood. When we are children, the functions of nourishment, care, protection, release of tension, and comfort are provided by the parents—particularly by the mother when the child is an infant. As the personality of the child develops, the child becomes more independent of the mother, but this is accomplished by introjecting the mother, recreating her inside. You have your mother inside you and so, in a sense, you are still a baby. You still have your mother around, and you believe you need her. That is why, when you go deep inside yourself in the Work, you start realizing how much you want your mother, how much you don’t want to lose her, how much you fear separation, all of that. Deep inside, you still believe that you need Mother around. The mother inside you is not a physical thing; you have her emotionally in your unconscious. You behave like her, and you seek out people like her. You feel the way she felt, or you find people who treat you the way she treated you. In these ways, you always have Mother around. The ego or the personality of an adult is really a baby, except that now the mother is in a different form. Even those who deny they want mother, who had a negative experience of mother, continue to unconsciously seek the negative mother while consciously feeling the opposite. The mother is still pretty much the same mother you had before. You project that image outside and want other people to be like her, or you look for other people to perform those mothering functions for you, or you look to society for security, or comfort, or sustenance. 

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