What The Unborn Perceive

Wolfgang H. Hollweg

Part I

The Discovery Of 'Endogenous Perception' In Regression

. . . we basically start out with spontaneous memories
and lead these with the help of different therapeutic techniques
to a full dawning of consciousness of traumatic damage
endured before birth, during birth, and after birth . . . .

-- Wolfgang H. Hollweg

In this essay, experiences with regression play a crucial role. Therefore we must first make it clear exactly what we understand by regression. Many readers of this essay have certainly heard of 'tracing back,' perhaps have been involved with it and may feel that 'regression' and 'tracing back' are the same. But that is definitely not the case. Regression, is in the province of scientific verification, and 'tracing back' is in the province of the esoteric. By their very nature, both stand in glaring opposition to each other. We can understand the differences between these two concepts in the meaning of their definitions: Regression comes from the Latin word meaning to step back, to go back. But that is an activity of the patient himself, even when the therapist helps him with a particular technique. Tracing back, however, means from the view of the patient, he is led back by his therapist so that both the degree and the purpose of the tracing back lie in the hands of the therapist. While the patient is himself active in regression, that is, on the road to his own unconscious, in tracing back he remains continually passive, in the hands of the wisdom and the insight of his therapist, indeed at his mercy in an extreme case.

In regression therapy, which is a real whole therapy in itself, we basically start out with spontaneous memories and lead these with the help of different therapeutic techniques to a full dawning of consciousness of traumatic damage endured before birth, during birth, and after birth, which include all three levels of being: body, soul and spirit.

Spontaneous memories of prenatal (before birth), perinatal (around the period of birth) and early postnatal (following shortly after birth) experiences, that have threatened life appear relatively seldom outside of therapy. When, however, clear pictures from this earlier time rise up before the spiritual eyes of one or several persons, this brought up material is considered by some as unartificial. In general, in order to arrive at clear memories, certain regression techniques are required, and with these we must now concern ourselves briefly.

First, we must make a short detour to the field of Geology. If we examine a large stone quarry or high cliff wall such as in the Alps where I live, we often find a number of fossils from times that go back millions of years. Geologists, who know about such things, can see the differences between the fossils quite exactly and know from which geological epoch the individual layers originate. They call these fossils 'index fossils', because the type of fossil traces back to different epochs of geological time.

Whoever, before or shortly after his birth, has suffered severe damage that has affected the his whole person in body, soul and spirit, that person has developed symptoms that are often characteristic of the time and the manner of their coming into being. Because these recall prenatal, perinatal or postnatal events, we call these kinds of symptoms 'remembrance symptoms.'

Remembrance symptoms are recognizable only by consequent considerations of the whole and by the application of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that work with regression. Practically, any kind of symptom can turn out to be a remembrance symptom. To be capable of deciding what kind of symptom one is dealing with, there must first be a diagnostic procedure to uncover with security, the deepest origins of the illness process.

Such remembrance symptoms are therefore 'index fossils' that lead us back to repressed catastrophes of our past, if we are successful with the help of diagnosis and therapy to get them to 'speak' to us. So we come to the question about regression therapy, as to the uncovering and development of remembrance symptoms and to their possibilities. To this end, I would like to cite an excerpt from Chapter 21 of my book About the Truth That Makes Us Free." -- Experiences With Deep Psychological Basis Therapy.

Early Personal Experiences and My Expectations of Psychotherapy

"Psychotherapy began for me in 1945 shortly after the end of the war as a friend, three years older than I was, returned from a prisoner of war camp in England. While in the prisoner of war camp, he had busied himself with the history, theory, and practice of psychoanalysis. The camp doctor, a psychiatrist and Freudian psychoanalyst had taken a special interest in him and guided him. For an eighteen year old son of a doctor, this was very exciting and for me as a fifteen year old, as he told me about it, no less exciting. So we experimented with psychoanalysis with each other.

This, my first analysis, which I always call my 'wild' analysis, had a very surprising success.

In my first session, or more exactly, what my friend and I took for analysis, I experienced the following:

'I hear music. It is the sound of a harmonium. I know that the player is my uncle, the brother of my mother. Then I hear that a whole congregation is singing in four parts. I realize that I am in the church service of my parents, but I do not see myself seated on a bench. (The family of my parents belonged to a Baptist congregation leaning towards the Evangelical Church. They had a prayer room in the home of my maternal grandfather.) I look over the whole hall, I see my uncle, I see my father, but not myself nor my mother. Suddenly I feel very tiny. . . and discover myself in the womb of my pregnant mother. She is crying, but not sadly, rather full of hopeful love. I see her from the outside; her face, her strong glasses that she always has to clean, her maternity clothing, and I feel how she was absorbed and carried away by the hymn. And suddenly I feel what, at that moment and in every church service, that she never missed, it was all about: it was about her and me. She will bring her child into the world, because it is an essential feature of her faith that children are a gift of God. But she has fear, very great fear, that she will pay for this birth with her life. In the church services in which she brought her fear in prayer before God, she tried to prepare herself for her destiny, to accept it. I go out of this session with deep trembling that lasted a long time."

Not until much later, when I was at the university, did I question my mother about the truth content of this experience. I learned that the family doctor had strictly advised my mother not to have another child. My oldest sister, eight years older then me, was a breech delivery, which is a difficult birth for mother and child. My second sister was born two years later at the beginning of the eighth month of pregnancy. She was weak and sensitive and was for a long time the problem child of my parents. Later I would always jokingly say that my mother, to avoid complications, had pushed her out early. Yes, and I showed up six years later, totally unwanted and unexpected.

When I look back at these early therapeutic experiences and at this part of my earliest life history, they have the same thing in common: both were very early, both were of deep, but of positive emotions; both have irrevocably marked my life up to the present time.

Both, for me the most important therapeutic experiences at age 15 have so deeply influenced my introduction to effective psychotherapy and my expectations for my own later therapeutic work, that I have measured both my didactic analyses and my work in them, and indeed expecially every psychotherapysession, even to this day."

What I experienced in my portrayed sessions of my 'wild' analysis and in many similar occurring experiences, was a 'spontaneous regression', -- an exact reliving of a very early experience from my life history, in this case from my before birth time. Later regressive memories, also of my birth and of the time after, followed. but I will skip these for now. For the further development of regression therapy my training in psychoanalysis played an especially important role.

About this I must point out that my 'wild 'analysis at 15 years of age and its outcome are ultimately based upon a misunderstanding, that is, on the one hand on the lack of knowledge of my 18 year old friend and 'psychoanalyst' and on the other hand on my experience and idea that spontaneous regression would belong to the nature of psychoanalysis.

I was all the more disappointed, when, after the conclusion of my studies, in which I had heard of regressive conditions only in connection with hypnosis, I began my training in psychoanalysis (childhood analysis with Eva-Brigitte Aschenheim and adult analysis with Fritz Riemann). In both analyses, when I lay on the couch, a blinding effect took place each time, which neither of my analysts could explain. Since I was very sensitive to light, I had to wear sunglasses in sunlight, so both analysts darkened the therapy room. Nevertheless, the blinding effect took place during every therapy hour. A solution to this puzzle did not take place, and indeed tied in with a healing effect, until I myself undertook a self experiment with Janovian primal therapy.

In the night before this session I had an intensive dream, in which I, with skis on my feet, came out of a dark and narrow cave on a hillside. Outside it is blindingly bright, since the sun shined glisteningly on the snowy landscape. Reflexively, I close my eyes. I know that I must go down a steep slope, but because of the glare I cannot see the precipice before me. I have great fear and awaken.

In the following primal therapy session I handle this dream in the same way that I did many years before in my ‘wild' analysis. I collected and reported no ideas but what the dream pictures made me imagine and I let myself go with the experienced feelings of unbearable dazzling light and fear in the face of the precipice. And suddenly there appeared something exactly like the fore-described pre-birth regression:

"I experience the last part of my birth, my powerful straining in the much too narrow birth canal, which branched off through the false, flat storage area of my mother. In the moment that the midwife held me high after emerging from the life door, with my head down under, I look at the white bedsheet brightly lit up from light through the blinds, I reflexively close my eyes due to the painful brilliance, and plunge into the unknown, into the precipice under me, in panic. So my first cry is a scream of panic and not one of release, as it should have been.

Although I had firmly closed my eyes, I was accurately aware of the midwife and saw, as she did, as she held me up, my feet squeezed together by the ankles. That was painful . I felt blood on my head and in my ears. The presence of the blood made an unbearable impression on me.

After this perinatal regressive feeling, still yet a postnatal, (early after birth) regressive experience from the time of my self experiment with primal therapy, that was frightening, I had rather positive experiences:

'It is a few days after my birth. I lie in the baby carriage and sleep. Suddenly I am aware that a wet tongue licks me. A warm breath is around me. I awake frightened and see the big, dark head of a dog. At first I am afraid, but soon I am aware that the dog of our neighbor is just curious about the newcomer and means well.'

My self experiment in primal therapy confirmed and strengthened the experiences of my 'wild' analysis. To widening knowledge and development, however, it brought little. Primal therapy is too one-sided and fixed on experiencing feelings.

Decisive progress came with my examination of the role of pain, bodily, mental and spiritual feelings, as 'index fossils' of experiences before birth, induced by birth and early after birth traumas. I recognized that concentrating on the different pains not only uncovered their deepest causes (their respective etiologies), but also activated the self-healing power of the affected patient.

And then the unbelievable happened which became of prime importance for the further development of regression therapy. My patients, and in many cases, their families confirmed that the perceptions of all unborn children, as I had experienced it myself, acoustically and pictorially are very exact, and reach back to conception, and include the pictorial and acoustic perceptions of the mother and her close surroundings and that all experiences of importance are stored. We describe this kind of perception as 'endogenous perception.'

We distinguish the 'endogenous' from the 'exogenous' perception. The 'exogenous' perception corresponds to that which we generally describe as 'sensory' perception. Pictures, sounds, smells, etc. are picked up by the senses and are forwarded to the brain for processing. The movement of perception goes from the outside to the inside, therefore we described it as 'exogenous' (coming from without). In opposition to this is the 'endogenous' (coming from within) perception, the workings of our brain -- an inner, previous to sensory perception, which only in retrospect communicates with the senses and only thereby is felt as a sensory operation.

The endogenous perception has many sides, that are not to be separated from each other. Its peculiarity is not to be seen in the fact that the unborn, infants, and small children perceive events and their environment exactly, especially injuries and hurts and their relationship. These are stored up on a lifelong basis, and as affected adults they are in a position to relive these perceptions in therapy, to feel them as fresh sensory functions. One can thus hear, see, smell, taste and feel and in this way to discover (Medical doctor Reinhold Hildman, Physician, Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist in Freiburg). Over and above that, the affected persons can see with endogenous perception each organ, each cell of the body, even in its finest structure and check out its functioning.

Over and above that, it will soon be shown that the endogenous perception holds further surprises, that are of great therapeutic importance. Patients, in the course of regression therapy having won back more and more access to endogenous perception that they as unborn once had, can see their own self healing strength and even direct it.


From my fifth book About the Truth That Makes Us Free: Experiences With Deep Psychological Basis Therapy. I have chosen a short excerpt that describes the phenomenona of regression and endogenous perception and their relationship and sheds further light on this subject.

"From the readers of my books and from the auditors of my lectures, the question sometimes arises whether these phenomena, that I describe as endogenous perception, could simply be the imagination and fantasy of my patients. It is hard for many people to accept that unborn children perceive and store up so much recallable material about their parents and siblings, especially about their mother. It makes people nervous. I will share an example from my practice, that according to my memory, I experienced with one of my patients in the year of the opening of my practice, and which impressed me deeply. At that time I worked predominantly according to the method of classical psychoanalysis, which included, among other techniques, with the analysis of dreams.

The patient Harald, just under 20 years old, recounted to me an unusually long and very concretely pictorial and, in its scenic sequence of events, a very detailed dream, which took place in a medieval city. As I asked him to share his ideas about the dream pictures, at first he could not do it. He could really not detach himself from the dream, but continued to spin the thread further. He recounted to me, over the course of several sessions, a complete novel. As much as I tried, at first I could not make sense of the long story or understand its meaning.

At that time the thought of reincarnation played no role. But one of my going back to the past colleagues of today would have had pure pleasure in the story and perhaps would have sought out the described city. At that time I chose another way and asked Harald to think about what present day person in his environment might have to do with the story. The answer came surprisingly quick: his mother and himself.

With this utterance the patient broke through his defensive wall. He had suddenly a clear picture before his eyes. He saw his pregnant mother lying in bed with a book and reading. He felt her interest, her excitement and also her considerable anxiety. Now it was clear to him: he had the text of the novel, together with the fantasy pictures that his mother had made, taken up and stored. And he felt also, why he had to do it. The anxious excitement of his mother brought him out of tranquility, had brought him under her spell, had put him under considerable pressure, and had made him fearful. The dream and its working out in therapy was a chance to resolve his prenatal trauma.

I must add that the patient questioned his mother soon thereafter and received the answer from her that she in fact had read such a novel during her pregnancy, which she had found tedious. She even told him the title of the book. She showed herself deeply affected over the effect of her reading (during her pregnancy) upon her unborn child and over the later neurotic consequences.

In my practice I have often had to deal with prenatal damage. The experience with regression therapy has taught me that many presently operating sickening processes, unbelievably, go back to traumata that arose in very early life periods and through repression and splitting off survived and reported back in the course of later life through the development of very differing illnesses. Prenatal memories are very often found during regressions. That way it is possible to uncover the origin of such illnesses and to manage them with a purposeful treatment. I have often reported on this in publications. At this time I will only name two, of which few people, even doctors and therapists, suspect that these illnesses have prenatal causes. It concerns 1. the Bechterew illness, known under the name of Morbus Bechterew and 2. multiple sclerosis, the famous MS.

In June 1996 I was invited to a Talkshow with Walter Schiejok in Station ORF-2, in which the perceptive ability of the unborn (title: The Baby Is Listening - What the Unborn Feel). The program was live. It was well received over Austria. A mother of three children, expecting a fourth, impressed me. She reported that her children often stroked her belly to follow the movements of the unborn child and to speak to him, as though he were a full fledged member of the family. And she as mother-to-be could follow exactly the living reactions of the unborn child. Not the least did this experience and those that I had with my own eight children, especially with my youngest daughter, Anna-Katharina, led me to write a sixth book that has to do with birth preparation and birth accompaniment. From it, here follows a passage:

Excerpt From My Book: The Unborn Have No Lobby (in preparation)

The meaning of regression therapy and of its basis for endogenous perception in reference to parenthood and birthing services, can be defined jokingly in one sentence: Our children keep a close eye on us from conception on, during the whole time of pregnancy and during and after birth. And what they always see and hear remains in their unconscious stored away, ready to be recalled.

If we now look at early psychological knowledge about prenatal periods and birth events, we see that people are interested in what is really going on before birth and what is mysterious about birth. This was especially so in the past. However, the interest is maintained much stronger in the Eastern-Asiatic world than in our strongly rational Western culture. For example, in China the age of a man is calculated from the year of his conception, that the unborn child is not an anonymous something, such as a foetus or embryo, but is regarded as a full fledged human being. Mothers-to-be in our culture show something similar in this original feeling. Doctors and midwives may perhaps use technical terms, but the pregnant women speak spontaneously about their child or baby and this is independent of their level of education.

In earlier times it was considered the unborn child had sympathy with the surroundings of the mother. In the New Testament there is an example:

The doctor Luke in his Gospel written 80 or 90 years after the birth of Christ, or some 1,900 years ago, portrays in the first chapter of his report the visit of Mary pregnant with Jesus and her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, the expectant mother of John the Baptist: She, Mary, went into the house of Zachary and greeted Elizabeth. As Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child in her womb leaped. As Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, she cried in a loud voice: Blessed are you more than all other women and blessed is the fruit of your body. Who am I that the mother of my Lord comes to me? In the instant that I heard your greeting, the child jumped for joy in my body.

Some 1,900 years later my wife Elizabeth is in the 6th month of her pregnancy with our daughter Anna-Katharina. She stands at the edge of a street and waits to cross. Suddenly she notices that another pregnant woman, who is unknown to her, stands near her. She looks interestingly at the belly of this woman. In that instant she feels a distinct movement of her child, of an intensity that is felt only at night when we go to bed and we are aware of the unborn child and express concern. That the child jumped for joy in Luke and in our own observation indicates a clear signal of feeling by the foetus of the surroundings of the parents.

Our Anna-Katharina, who was never placed in a baby carriage, but carried around in a cloth sling, kept this aware communicative function after her birth and in her own way greeted every little child she came near to. When she was able to speak, she asked her mother and siblings: "Why does the baby lie in a carriage? She can see nothing!" She noticed that the possibility of such infants and toddlers taking part in their surroundings was considerably inhibited.

To conclude this first part, yet two short remarks on storing of experiences:

1. Nothing, absolutely nothing is forgotten! Everything is recallable, from conception on! This cannot be contradicted. There are several hundred video recordings from my practice to prove this.

2. But where and how in the brain of a child-to-be is data stored? There are different theories and I will speak of two briefly, since in this summary I cannot go into details. Human biology concerns itself with this question. One theory comes from the English biologist Rupert Sheldrake. It is derived from the field theory, and supposes a kind of electromagnetic field. The second theory comes from Marco Bishof, who brings into this relationship the storing of biophotons in our cells. In both cases one presumes that early storage occurs in cells that develop into brain cells that can recall.

Wolfgang H. Hollweg


Psychoanalyst, Well-being Practitioner, ZILGREI-therapist Therapy Center
Eichenweg 1 - Tel. : 08052-90470 - fax 08052-1522
83226 ASCHAU/Chiemgau (PF)

Return to the Primal Psychotherapy Page Inside Links