Plato: The Philosopher as Prenate
Two formerly unrelated academic fields, prenatal science and mythological studies, are quietly merging under the heading of a new theory: mythobiogenesis. One need not be a philologist to tease out the meaning of the word: Myth has a biological genesis. According to this conceptual model, much of what we call mythology, fairy tales, and sacred scripture derives from a fundamental impulse to retell in culturally specific ways the universal intrauterine experience of life before birth.
Plato himself has provided an example of such a narrative. His written record of his intrauterine experience is contained in one of his later dialogues, the Critias (1), a text which includes the famous story of Atlantis. The Atlantis myth, I shall argue, is pure embryology, recounting in symbolic language Plato’s development from ovulation through fertilization, implantation, differentiation, organogenesis, and gestation.
The idea that consciousness could be present at the level of a single cell is a stumbling block to the western science tradition which typically describes consciousness as no more than an emergent property of matter.
And yet, many eastern spiritual traditions take non-local consciousness (a state of awareness independent of the body) for granted. The Yoga-Sūtra of Patañjali (2), a fourth century Sanskrit text, describes pure awareness as independent from the fundamental qualities of nature. Similarly, the Bardo Thodol (or Tibetan Book of the Dead) (3) follows the path of human psyche as it survives physical death reemerging with a new social identity attached to a reincarnated human being.
East and West are not easily reconciled but there is movement in this direction. Some one hundred years ago, Otto Rank (4) faced outright hostility (particularly from his mentor, Freud) for suggesting that consciousness is very much present at birth with lifelong consequences arising from that primal trauma. Psychiatrists and psychologists who regress patients to birth and pre-birth times often report experiences that appear to go back even as far as conception lending credibility to S. Cosier’s theoretical model in which consciousness resides in the cell nucleus (5). And researchers such as Jon RG and Troya GN Turner-Groot (6) direct us to look for prebirth memories arising before conception when an individual’s consciousness is energetically attracted to that of the Mother-to-be.
With this in mind, consider: Atlantis may not be a place at all, so best to stop looking for it. Instead, look to Plato who, though unaware of the theory of mythobiogenesis, is profoundly under its influence.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.