Acts of the Soul: Embryology and Birth Psychology

With Jaap van der Wal, Md, PhD

3-part Live Virtual Lecture Series

Learn from this legendary embryology teacher live and online!

In the modern view of neuropsychology the embryo does not have much chance to be accepted as a being with a mind or soul.  Like the human body in the modern somatic philosophy — ‘you are not present there in that body’, ‘there is no self or soul living in this body,’ — the body of the embryo has been ghosted.

 Jaap ponders leading questions concerning the embryo: such as, Who or what is realizing itself? What are we actually doing when we are an embryo? How do we exist there and then?

  An embryo behaves. It is still shaping its body, it moves, it performs. The first manifestation of behavior we exhibit as the psychosomatic body-mind being that we are is our morphological behavior. The gestures we make on the physiological level— going upright, finding the balance, centering: these are acts of the soul. 

Excerpt from The Embryo in Us: a Phenomenological Search for the Soul and Consciousness in the Prenatal Body by Jaap van der Wal

Jaap van der Wal, MD, PhD.

After medical school Dr. van der Wal specialized in anatomy and embryology and lectured in these disciplines at the medical schools of the universities of Utrecht and Maastricht (The Netherlands) and at various paramedical training colleges (such as for physiotherapy, nursing and midwifery.)  Jaap received a PhD for a dissertation on human proprioception (sense of posture and locomotion) and this prompted his main interest in the development of the human embryo along with evolution and genetics, and all that in context with the image of man and philosophy of science. He is an ‘embryologist on the search for spirit.’   Dr. van der Wal has  published many articles on these subjects and was co-editor of the report ’Is there future in our DNA?’ (1993) and  ’And then there was DNA’ (1999).

Important sources of inspiration for Jaap are the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner and the work of the Dutch professor in phenomenological history, Jan Hendrik van den Berg and other phenomenological philosophers, along with applying the phenomenological approach of Goethe — bridging the chasm between spirituality and the humanities on the one hand and positivistic natural science on the other hand. He employs this method on the domain of the prenatal development of the human being and offers seminars all over the world for medical professionals, various therapists as well as laypersons interested in learning what we actually are doing when we are embryo. On the search for spirit in our (embryonic) existence.


Session 1: Conception: The Act of Incarnation

The impregnation delusion

In this session you will explore:

  • How conception does not involve an “active” fertilizing principle fertilizing another “passive” one. Even purely biologically, this picture is not correct.
  • About the dialogue between egg and sperm, hours of mutual interaction, rather a mating dance.
  • How cconception is not the “making of”, it is the “enabling of”.
  • That conception is not about penetration but a coming together, which is called coitus. Conception is about incarnation, it is not only about Two, but about Three or The Third.


birth psychology practitioners
birth psychology practitioners

Session 2: Where Do We Come From?

Birth: our children come through us but not from us.

In this session you will explore:

  • The delusion that profoundly prevents us from thinking about ourselves as beings of mind and body: the idea that we begin as a fertilized egg. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  • How our body is not a product of a millionfold multiplication of cells, our body is the wholeness of the organism that we are from the beginning on. We do not “begin” as a cell, therefore, but as a single-celled organism, the zygote.
  • How the placenta, which we need in some form for nine months to exist in a womb, is not an added dimension but is an inseparable part of our pre-born physicality.
  • How the interaction, the relationship between our so-called peripheral body and our so-called central “actual” body determines how we can exist in the pre-birth life.
  • That birth, therefore, is not a child emerging from the mother’s womb but a child dying to de-velop (‘unwind’) and release itself from its own existence. There is at birth a corps, our placenta, our shroud. We are born of ourselves and that is different from being born of one’s mother. Our children come through us, not from us (Kahlil Gibran).

Session 3: Mind and Body in the Womb


The embryo is not a past, it still exists in us.

In this session you will explore:

  • Early thinking of the French philosopher Descartes, the first modern Western philosopher to postulate the duality of mind and body, of soul and body. Not because it was a thought or a theory, but because this duality in our consciousness (“I have and I am my body”) is an experience that each of us can know and recognize.
  • How the embryo in its existence protests loudly and clearly against this meaningless duality. From day one we are a unity of mind and body and everything we do in our existence is psychosomatic, i.e. mind and body.
  • How shaping your body, growing your body, bringing body into being is an act, an act of the mind, of the soul. It is behavior.
  • How the body later also becomes an instrument of that soul and offers the possibility of consciousness and self-awareness. This does not alter the fact that “the embryo in us” still exists as being that spiritual aspect in ourselves that brings the body into being.
  • How the embryo, the fetus, behave and the nature and manner and gestures by which they bring about and shape their bodies. Our physical and biological body is behavior.
  • How the “embryo within us” is not a past that is past, but the actuality of mind and body within us that brings about and sustains our body for a lifetime.
birth psychology practitioners
Current Status
Not Enrolled


How can I access this class?

This is an online workshop which requires access to Zoom in order to participate. Once you are registered, an email will be sent prior to each session with a Zoom link for access.

Will recordings be available after the live sessions?
Yes, recordings will be available to session registrants only within the course, for a limited time.
What time zone will the course be using?
All live session times are for United States Eastern time zone.
Are refunds available?
Live Virtual Workshop Refund Policy: Refunds are available 30 days prior to the start of the live virtual workshop, minus a $25 administrative fee.  There will be no refunds available after the start date of the workshop. Recordings will be available for viewing after each session.