Even if nowadays humanity is mostly centered on analysis and society has developed into an army of specialists, we must acknowledge the need of a synthesis able to reveal human beings’ three basic needs:
- To understand, to know. Which in the long run gave birth to philosophy and science.
- To feel, to love and to commune. From which different forms of spirituality and religions were born.
- To act, to create. Which gave birth to art and culture at large.
The question is how to combine these different needs into a global, holistic and universal viewpoint, in order to guide society towards a meaningful evolution.
A few years ago, people would smile at the word ecology. Today, the dangers associated to pollution are so obvious that all are concerned. It is necessary to broaden the concept of pollution in order to realize what causes it: our own way of thinking. Nowadays materialistic reality is a consequence of the psychological reality composed by all our thoughts and feelings combined.
Thus, besides striving to satisfy our vital physical needs, we must check what goes on in our mind. It’s a new kind of ecology, a human ecology, to be integrated into the education at the source of life, through prenatal education.
Here are two reflections: one based on scientific experiments, and the other on a spiritual vision. Both arrive at the same conclusions.
How the first nine months shape the rest of your life
Excerpt of an article by science journalist Annie Murphy Paul, TIME, October 4, 2010.
[…] What makes us the way we are? Why are some people predisposed to be anxious, overweight or asthmatic? How is it that some of us are prone to heart attacks, diabetes or high blood pressure?
There’s a list of conventional answers to these questions. We are the way we are because it’s in our genes: the DNA we inherited at conception. We turn out the way we do because of our childhood experiences: how we were treated and what we took in, especially during those crucial first three years. Or our health and well-being stem from the lifestyle choices we make as adults: what kind of diet we consume, how much exercise we get.
But there’s another powerful source of influence you may not have considered: your life as a fetus. The kind and quantity of nutrition you received in the womb; the pollutants, drugs and infections you were exposed to during gestation; your mother’s health, stress level and state of mind while she was pregnant with you — all these factors shaped you as a baby and a child and continue to affect you to this day.
This is the provocative contention of a field known as fetal origins, whose pioneers assert that the nine months of gestation constitute the most consequential period of our lives, permanently influencing the wiring of the brain and the functioning of organs such as the heart, liver and pancreas. The conditions we encounter in utero, they claim, shape our susceptibility to disease, our appetite and metabolism, our intelligence and temperament. In the literature on the subject, which has exploded over the past 10 years, you can find references to the fetal origins of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, mental illness — even of conditions associated with old age like arthritis, osteoporosis and cognitive decline.
The notion of prenatal influence may conjure up frivolous attempts to enrich the fetus: playing Mozart to a pregnant belly and the like. In reality, the shaping and molding that goes on in utero is far more visceral and consequential than that. Much of what a pregnant woman encounters in her daily life — the air she breathes, the food and drink she consumes, the chemicals she’s exposed to, even the emotions she feels — is shared in some fashion with her fetus. The fetus incorporates these offerings into its own body, makes them part of its flesh and blood.
Often it does something more: it treats these maternal contributions as information, biological postcards from the world outside. What a fetus is absorbing in utero is not Mozart’s Magic Flute but the answers to questions much more critical to its survival: Will it be born into a world of abundance or scarcity? Will it be safe and protected, or will it face constant dangers and threats? Will it live a long, fruitful life or a short, harried one?
Research on fetal origins — also called the developmental origins of health and disease — is prompting a revolutionary shift in thinking about where human qualities come from and when they begin to develop. It’s turning pregnancy into a scientific frontier: the National Institutes of Health embarked last year on a multi decade study that will examine its subjects before they’re born. It’s also altering the perspective of thinkers outside of biology. The Nobel Prize — winning economist Amartya Sen, for example, co-authored a paper about the importance of fetal origins to a population’s health and productivity: poor prenatal experience, he writes, “sows the seeds of ailments that afflict adults.” And it makes the womb a promising target for prevention, raising hopes of conquering public-health scourges like obesity and heart disease through interventions before birth […]
Excerpt of a message of Pope John Paul II
To the participants of the “Conference on Prenatal Education,” Rome, March 20, 1988.
[…] It is reassuring to meet a group of researchers in today’s scientific arena, who fully acknowledge the dignity of the prenate, and explore the pathways of a new discipline: prenatal education. This is a wonderful and commendable field of research: to bow to the child still in the womb, not only to check on and observe his growth and heartbeat, but also to study his emotions and register signs of his psychological development.
It is fair to place the prenate at the center of attention of human sciences, and not only of biological sciences, since the start of his journey in the womb. Therefore, your commitment, dear conference members is certainly valuable in the field of experimental sciences, but is also charged with moral and anthropological significance. Indeed, as your interest goes beyond sheer organicism and the study of physiological aspects, albeit relevant, it explores the intimacy of a new being who is the host of his mother’s bosom.
Your viewpoint is somewhat prospective: you are mindful of the prenate’s future development (his childhood, adolescence, adulthood) and you uncover the psychological links between life out here and life in the womb, and suggest to his parents the most appropriate behaviors in order to foster a harmonious beginning.
The story of a person after birth certainly depends on the physical and medical care she or he receives. Nevertheless, serenity, intensity and the wealth of emotions felt during prenatal life have a non-negligible influence on his or her story. This is why this research on prenatal life must be considered of utmost importance.
Under this perspective, it is also essential to emphasize the existing link between the psychological development of the prenate and his family environment. The harmony between his parents, as well as daily life’s warmth and serenity, impact his psychological makeup and allows for its harmonious blossoming: parental genes are not the only ones who transmit hereditary traits, the parents’ spiritual and emotional life are also passed onto their children.
It is beautiful to see how medicine and psychology, each with their respective resources, can be of service to the prenate’s life and his future development. You are undertaking your studies based on this precept right at the time when some research and experimental interventions might dismiss the mystery of the being present in the womb. You know, humanity’s greatest misfortune would be to loose the meaning of human worth from its very start.