Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 32(2): 172-187,
Winter 2017 Preprint
EARLY EMBRYONIC MORPHOLOGY AND ITS CHANGING FORMS
TINA LINDHARD (PhD)1
International University of Professional Studies (IUPS), Hawaii, USA
P.O. Box 236 Makawao, Maui, USA
1 Correspondence e-mail: email@example.com
Address: 6 Pico de la Pala, 28792 Miraflores de la Sierra, Madrid. SPAIN
Telephone: 34 91 8444695, Mobile: 34 659067797
The view upheld in this article, is that the embryo is a unique living being that
starts life in this dimension as a zygote and goes through a process of
morphological differentiation that involves various forms. This process of
somatogenesis (formation of a body) appears to follow the principle kingdoms
of nature showing reminiscence of the mineral, plant, animal and human
phases, a process it shares with all human embryos. The characteristic "way of
being" of the organism during each phase is also presented. An historical
background to other early theories involving somatogenesis and evolution is
Key Words: embryo, living being, morphological differentiation,
somatogenesis, kingdoms of nature
The process of somatogenesis (formation of a body) is not without its
conflicting opinions, particularly because it involves theories related to
embryogenesis and evolution. However, as it appears that early theorists were
only talking about a certain phase of somatogenesis and not the entire early
process, I suggest that these theories need to be reconsidered. This becomes
more obvious when we realize that Oscar Hertwig only proved that
fertilization was due to fusion of an egg and sperm cell in 1876 (Clift &
Schuh, 2013). This was after Darwin's book On the Origin of Species by
Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the
Struggle for Life was first published in 1859. This makes it more
understandable why early theorists like Darwin (1859), Haeckel (1866) and
Lamarck (1809) did not include in their theories the earliest forms that we now
know can be observed during the process of somatogenesis, namely the zygote
and the phase involving implantation.
As these early theories still influence our thinking today, I briefly
outline the historical background of the role embryogenesis has played in
theories involving evolution. Based on these considerations I propose that we
revise our understanding of the nature of evolution and somatogenesis to
include the considerations presented in this article. I justify this on the
grounds of the new understanding it brings regarding the nature of the embryo,
which is also our nature. "Facts are not impartial, but a perceptual content is
always intertwined with interpretation" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 9) and the
approach adopted here is no exception.
The view presented is inspired by the dynamic morphological approach
applied by the embryologist Jaap van der Wal (2003/2014) as well as the
novel way the cardiologist Torrent-Guasp unraveled the human heart 2. The
insights arising from the work of these two scientists help us to understand the
morphological development of the embryo as a unique entity: a living "being"
2!To watch the Spanish Cardiologist Torrent-Guasp dissect a cow heart revealing its helical nature, go to
whose ontogenesis "mirrors the four main phases of the development of
humanity as a whole - phylogenesis" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 30).
Interestingly, the four main phases the organism undergoes, is reminiscent of
the main kingdoms of Nature: the mineral, plant and animal, to which van der
Wal adds a forth, human phase.
Torrent-Guasp´s (1973) method of dissecting the heart reveals that the
ventricular myocardial band of the heart has a helical configuration and the
unique folding of the myocardial band during embryogenesis follows the
evolution of the cardiac morphology from worms to mammals. This process is
mirrored by the development of the notochord and central nervous system
The basis of many of the insights discussed in this article, arise out of
observable data, not experimental data. Modern technology plus the collection
of embryos such as those of the Carnegie Stages3, have made a previously
invisible process accessible to scientific scrutiny
1.1. Historical Background
Embryogenesis has historically played an important role in theories
involving evolution. Some of the early scientists interested in embryology
were Lamarck (1809), Darwin (1859) and Haeckel (1866), although their
conclusions concerning the evolutionary process are not the same.
Haeckel's theory supported Lamarck´s theory of acquired
characteristics. However Haeckel was also progressive in that he felt evolution
followed a specified path from lower to higher animals. In this respect,
Étienne Serres (1824-1827), the French physician and embryologist, and
Johann Friedrich Meckel (1811), the German anatomist, also influenced him.
Although these two scientists worked separately, others joined their ideas in
what is known as the "Meckel-Serres Law" (O'Connell, 2013). This law is
based on a belief that within the entire animal kingdom there was a single
unified body-type, and that during development, the organs of higher animals
matched the forms of comparable organs in lower animals. "The concept that
the embryos of higher order organisms progress through successive stages in
which they resemble lower level forms is called recapitulation" (O'Connell,
2013, para.1). This theory was later criticized by van Baer (1828) on the
grounds that there was not only one single chain of life, but that the animal
kingdom could be divided into four distinct archetypes, or fundamental body
plans: the radiate, like the starfish; the mollusca, like clams and octopus; the
articulate, like insects and lobsters; and the vertebrata, like fish and
humans. After this criticism, the Meckel-Serres Law lost popularity. However
when Darwin (1958) argued for a common descent among species in his
3!"Human prenatal development is divided into an embryonic period and a fetal period. The embryonic period begins
with fertilization and ends eight weeks later. The staging of human embryos was introduced in 1914 by Franklin P.
Mall at the Department of Embryology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Mall's successor, George L.
Streeter, later refined the classification of human embryos into 23 stages, or 'developmental horizons'.
It is important to note that each of the 23 Carnegie stages represents an arbitrary point along the time-line of
development, akin to a "freeze-frame" in a movie. The stages are based on a variety of morphological features and are
independent of chronological age or size" (The Virtual Human Embryo, 2011a)!
book, On the Origin of Species, Haeckel was prompted to resurrect the main
points of Serres and Meckel's theory (O'Connell, 2013). Haeckel incorporated
a modification of their ideas and that of Lamarchism and Darwin into his
biogenetic law (Barnes, 2014), as on this basis Haeckel felt evolutionary trees
could recapitulate phylogeny. This law claims that the development of
advanced species pass through stages represented by adult organisms of more
primitive species, which Haeckel also expressed as "ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny" (1866). However Darwin disagreed with Haeckel's idea of a
progressive evolutionary theory as he considered that species sharing a
common ancestor would look alike even though they might belong to different
taxonomic groups. Haeckel's law was also discredited by later scientist´s on
several grounds: it was suggested that he had exaggerated some of his
drawings indicting similarities between species (Wellner, 2014); ontogenic
stages only represent more general characteristics of a taxonomic group and
not the specialized forms of the adult animals (van Baer in Barnes, 2014) and
experimental evidence from early twentieth embryologists. However, these
criticisms do not do full justice to the impact of Haeckel´s influence on human
thinking. He coined and introduced many new concepts, the most notorious
being the already mentioned concise phrase "ontogeny recapitulates
None of these theorists mention other observable earlier features of
human embryological morphological development such as the zygote and the
phase involving implantation and only contemplate the features that appear
when the endocyst (inner egg), comprising of the germinal disc, starts to
develop. This tendency continues today with the germ disc being considered
as the "actual embryo" and the ectocyst as being "extra-embryonic" (van der
Wal, 2003/2014, p. 43).
Later embryologists took a different approach. Darwin´s half cousin
Francis Galton connected genetic influences to Darwin's theory in his famous
book English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture (1875). This
connection changed the focus of interest from observable forms to factors
responsible for the forms. It also gave rise to the nature nurture controversy,
where nature is represented by genetic factors and instincts and nurture by a
wide variety of environmental influences including experience. Together, they
are said to have an influence on anatomy and on behavior, also referred to as
structural and functional aspects.
These theories have given rise to tremendous bursts in science and
helped explain many factors including genes and how they work. More
recently the role of epigenetic factors in gene expression is becoming
increasingly relevant (Torday & Miller, 2016; Skinner, 2014; Nilsson &
Skinner, 2014; Riggs, Russo, & Martienssen, 1996). This does not mean,
however, that these theories are the only theories that can throw light on
embryogenesis. Changing the perceptual context, as stated earlier, changes
what is seen.
In this article, I will return to look at the morphological forms observed
during somatogenesis including the earlier forms not mentioned by Lamarck,
Darwin and Haeckel because they were not known to science at the time these
scientists were putting forward their theories. Here the "actual embryo" is seen
as comprising of the zygote and both the ectocyst and endocyst, an approach
adopted by the embryologist Jaap van der Wal (2003/2014).
2. The Process of Somatogenesis
Van der Wal sees the embryo as going through four distinct phases
during its ontological development, a process shared by all human embryos.
During these phases the morphology of the human embryo becomes
increasingly more complex. This increase in complexity, however, does not
imply an increase in what the embryo is: a living being. This is in keeping
with Blechschmidt who stresses the preservation of individuality of the
embryo. During the progression of each phase, slight changes in expression in
the form can also be observed which suggests that the whole process is
essentially dynamic. What "changes during development, is only the
phenotype but not the essence". "In short, a fertilized human egg (conceptus)
is already a human being" (Blechschmidt, 2004, p.8). Although the human egg
contains species-specific chromosomes and the genetic material remains the
same during the entire life of the individual, Blechschmidt questions the
theory that the structure of the human body is based on information contained
in the genes. "As each cell is equipped with identical genes, the genes
themselves would have to know by themselves on the basis of information
how, where and what differentiation should occur, in each slit second, in every
part of the organism, during the whole of organism's life" (p. 16). For this
reason he suggests the "form of the organism differentiates under biodynamic
forces, not chemical-genetic information" (p. 18).
Although Blechschmidt has an influence on van der Wal's approach,
the insights of O.J. Hartmann regarding the four natural kingdoms and the
changes in the relationship of the center (point) to the periphery, seem to play
an even greater role. For Hartmann (1945) each phase is seen as being in the
opposite direction to the dynamics of the previous phase. "So the dynamics of
the plant are not brought about the mineral, they are not a continuation or
'more of the same'. A new principle manifests in the plant which stands in
direct opposition to the mineral" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, 34). Hartmann's
insights are built on and extended by van der Wal in his theory, which is
summarized below. Here we do not go into van der Wal's account of the
different etheric bodies.
2.1. The Different Phases:
a) The Mineral Phase: After conception, the fertilized ovum is no longer a
cell, but a zygote, a living organism. Van der Wal likens the spherical form
and behavior of the zygote to a "mineral" for it too has a protective outer shell
and splits into ever-smaller segments on the inside. This phase lasts one week
and if no new principle is introduced, the organism will die off. In humans,
many miscarriages occur at this point, often without the mother even knowing
that she is pregnant.
b) The Plant Phase: This new phase involves implantation, also known as
nidation. During this new phase the ectocyst (outer egg) reaches out and
extends its boundaries deep into the maternal womb. It can be considered to be
plant like for, like a seed, it first takes root and has a center, the bilaminar
germinal disk, which is not initially involved in growth. However if this
tendency continues, it will not aid growth, but produce a "wind egg," an
embryo without a center. This can be very difficult for the mother as she has a
full experience of pregnancy. At the end of the plant phase, the chronic cavity
comes into being as well as mesoderm, a tissue that connects and mediates
between the two dimensions by means of the body stalk. Blood islands and
blood vessels (capillaries) arise in this extra-embryonic mesoderm allowing
blood to flow from the metabolic periphery of the trophoblast, or extra-
embryonic mesoderm, to the body stalk, which is at the caudal end of the
germinal disc. It then proceeds toward the cranial end of the embryo, running
alongside the “flanks” of the germinal disk, then dorsally along the amniotic
cavity (only very little) and ventrally along the yolk sac (some more). At the
central point, which van der Wal calls the "centripetal junction of blood
vessels," it comes to a halt and then flows back to the periphery through other
capillaries. "This point of reversal, where the flow comes to a standstill, turns
about, and takes on a rhythmical character, is the first indication of the origin
of the heart" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 44).
c) The Animal Phase: On approximately Day 17 the point of reversal of the
blood vessels at the cranial end of the germinal disc "takes on a rhythmical
character, (and) is the first indication of the origin of the heart" (van der Wal,
2003/2014, p. 44). The heart primordium now doubles and begins its descent
towards the thoracic region at the base of the yolk sac where it later tucks the
endocardinal tubes ventrally (Richtsmeier, 1999). Here pulsation can be
considered as heralding a new phase. The same day the heart primordium
starts pulsating the notochord starts to form (Moscoso, 2009). With the
introduction of mesoderm via the body stalk, the flat germinal disk first
transforms into a trilaminar disk from which the impulse for forming organs
later arises (van der Wal, 2003/2014). During the 3rd, but primarily the 4th
week, a process known as folding or delamination starts to occur. The sides of
the embryo, which up to now has been essentially a flat trilaminar disc, now
fold toward each other. At the same time there is a longitudinal folding, which
together transforms the now three-dimensional embryo into the form of a
cylinder. The longitudinal folding takes place toward the body stalk, which
enables the developing embryo to still be connected to the placenta. The
process whereby the heart descends form the top cranial end of the germinal
disc allows the brain primordium to later take its place. During this process,
the caudal end also raises ventrally, which now truly gives rise to the
umbilical cord. This curving process of the embryo creates an inner world,
which is essentially cut off from the outside world. It is in this inner world that
the organs develop.
d) The Human Phase: Van der Wal also distinguishes humans from animals
in that although both have "innerness", in animals "the center of gravity is on
the outside and pulls the animal away from itself towards the earth" whereas
in humans their center of gravity is on inside. The human is the only animal
capable of coming upright. Whereas the animals "inner life is undirected, the
human has a center towards which inner life orientates itself" (van der Wal,
2.2. "Ways of Being" of the Organism during the Different Phases
During the process of somatogenesis the organism not only takes on
different forms but van der Wal associates each form with certain
characteristics. During the mineral phase the organism is a closed system that
follows the laws of matter, of physics and mechanics and can be seen as
existing in space but outside of time for although it lasts a week in mammals,
it is not counted in the number of days or months regardless of the duration of
the pregnancy. Growth is initiated from the invisible spherical center from
which cleavage arises, first into 2, then 4 then 8 and so on in a geometrical
way. As this phase progresses, it splits into increasingly smaller parts.
Eventually the particles in the center start to die off and a cavity forming
liquid forms in their place. It seems here we can talk about implosion where
denser and more condensed particles collect around the periphery
(trophoblast) meanwhile others reach towards the center (embryoblast).
The "way of being" of the organism during the mineral phase may be
seen as one that is guided by forces of "matter, physics and mechanics"
(van der Wal 2003/2014, 31).
In contrast to this, the plant phase can be seen as having different
characteristics or giving rise to a different "way of being" which involves
implantation and if we are reading "this gesture correctly… [this] represents
an interruption, a revolution" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, p.36). It is
characterized by expansion from a point where some of the peripheral cells of
the free-floating mineral become connected to the mother´s womb. At the
same time, the embryo extends its "roots" deep into the maternal blood
system, although the blood systems of the two organisms do not actually join.
This phase is characterized by openness, reaching out to the environment, the
multiplication of cells and connection and expansion of its boundaries. It
seems here as though we may talk about explosion. Furthermore, by producing
the hormone of pregnancy, it reaches into the pituitary gland of the mother,
which facilitates her acceptance of the new organism. From being a cut off
"space ship"(van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 36), the periphery of the organism
now expands tremendously and reaches far beyond its physical borders.
The way of being of the organism during the plant phase may be seen
as one of expansion of its boundaries in a physical and metaphysical sense. It
exists in time and is subject to the laws of gravity and strives and against them
(van der Wal, 2003/2014, 31).
When we then compare the way of being between the plant and the
animal phase we find another change in form and way of being where growth
starts from a center at the cranial end of the germinal disc (endocyst). This
center takes on a rhythmical pulsation, which is tangible, the importance of
which we will discover later. One of the chief characteristics of this stage is
inner growth for instead of growing upward and outwards like a plant
(Lindhard, 2016) growth is now internal and downward. During this animal
phase the organism has an inside but is also affected by the exterior or outside,
with which it has a relationship and is closely connected.
The way of being of the organism during the animal phase may be seen
as one of innerness, which permits the establishment of a relationship
with the outside environment. It is mobile and exhibits a range of
complex behaviors. It is also sentient and possessing perception (van
der Wal 2003/2014)
Van der Wal (2003/2014) finds a new turn about during the next
growth phase that distinguishes humans from animals. The upright anatomical
structure of the humans permits a change in the center of gravity from outside
to inside the organism. In the beginning in the fourth and extending into the
5th week, an impulse that starts with the elongation of the brain and not only
"brings about the characteristic flexures of the different parts of the brain," but
also "the head grows cranially away from the trunk, whereby the neck appears
(van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 50). At the same time, "the pelvis 'turns' caudally
'away' from the trunk coming under it, resulting in the waist being formed"
(van der Wal, 2003/2014, p. 50). This permits an awareness of not only the
outside, but also the self; the organism can become aware of its awareness, it
can become aware of its self (van der Wal, 2003/2014).
The way of being of the organism during the human phase may be seen
as one where human beings can become aware of their inner world
and experience "a center in ourselves" (van der Wal, 2003/2014, 49).
It is this that enables the human being to later undertake an inner
journey to discover their true nature or Self (Arka, 2009; Lindhard, 2016;
2.3. The Relationship Between Phases
To go beyond the reductionist Newtonian method, van der Wal
(2003/2014) uses a way of seeing which is known as "dynamic perception" (p.
3). This is inspired by the phenomenological method of Goethe and it involves
the juxtaposition and observation of two isolated but polar objects. Through
this, one can begin to see "more of the essence of the separate parts." At the
same time, one starts discovering the "phenomena, which remain hidden
whilst focusing on isolated parts...In other words one develops an eye for the
total picture" (p. 2).
Using this method, van der Wal suggests that each phase is the polar
opposite to the one before. It is turned “inside out”. He stresses that these
qualities are not opposites in the conventional sense, for it seems they have a
“shared essence, being present beyond the polarities under consideration” (van
der Wal, 2014, p.4). When one looks at what unites the two parts, van der Wal
proposes that it is rhythm and that "polarity exist ... within a unity"
2.4. Morphological Development of the Heart
In order to understand the heart´s morphological development we first
have to consider the unique way it is folded. Through blunt dissection,
Torrent-Guasp discovered it was one continuous strip, known as the helical
ventricular myocardial band (HVMB): the heart is folded into a structure
resembling a double helix (Torrent-Guasp, Buckberg, Clemente et al. 2001).
As pointed out earlier the morphological development of the heart follows
"the evolution of the cardiac morphology, which occurred in millions of years
from worms to mammals" (Corno, Kocica, & Torrent-Guasp, 2006, p. 562). In
20-day-old embryos, the heart is first a single vascular tubular structure like a
worm. The next stage, which occurs at 28 days, is fish-like, developing into a
sequential pulsatile pump including the atrium, ventricle, bulbos cordis
(conus), and truncus arteriosus. At 30 days there is a further change with the
heart resembling that of reptiles and amphibians in that it has two-chambers
with atrial and ventricular septal defects. And finally, between 35–50 days, a
four-chambered structure appears which is what is found in birds and
mammals (Corno, Kocica, & Torrent-Guasp, 2006)
Further work on the heart by Torrent-Guasp and others (Kocica,
Corno, Carreras-Costa, et al, 2006) led them to regard the three-dimensional
ventricular architecture as a geometrically non-orientable surface similar to a
triple-twisted Möbius strip, indicating it might have a relationship to the three
phases already mentioned.
2.4. Development of the Notochord and CNS
If one concentrates purely on the development and descent of the heart,
one misses the other activities that are happening at the same time in the
embryo´s body, which indicate we are talking about an undivided whole. On
day 17 of post-fertilization the primordium heart begins to pulsate and the
notochord, a cartilaginous skeletal rod supporting the emerging body, can first
be observed. The notochord is fully formed by the 25th day (Moscoso, 2009)
and arises out of mesoderm tissue, which although it was already present in
the ectocyst or peripheral body (van der Wal, 2014) now comes into being in
The first task of this primitive mesoderm is:
To come together to form a long cylindrical structure. In
doing this, (it is) recapitulating the earliest event in the
transition from invertebrates to vertebrate forms, a transition
which occurred at least six hundred million years ago. This
rod-like structure is the notochord, the progenitor of the
backbone or vertebral column (Scheibel, 1997, Appearance of
the Notochord section, para. 1).
The notochord extends throughout the entire length of the vertebral
column and forms the longitudinal axis. During a process known at
neurulation, the notochord influences the ectoderm to first form the neural
plate, which then folds in on itself to form the neural tube (Ladher &
Schoenwolf, 2005). This process takes place over several days starting day
18/19 The embryo at this stage is not straight but "tubular"(Moscoso, 2009. p.
During this development, the embryo first resembles that of a worm
with its flexible notochord; then it grows pharyngeal arches, which later
disappear. This is followed by a tail (The Virtual Human Embryo, 2011b),
which later begins to atrophy round about day 41 to 44. When the four-
chambered structure found in birds and mammals slowly starts appearing, one
can observe interdigital zones that form into hand plates with visible finger
radiations and footplates where the toe primordium becomes visible (The
Virtual Human Embryo, 2011c) Then at Carnegie stage 20, when the embryo
has a length of between 18 to 22 mm and an estimated post-fertilization age of
approximately 49 days, one can observe that the upper limb has become
longer and slightly bent at the elbow. "The hands are still far apart and the
fingers are short, stubby and slightly curved over the cardiac prominence. The
interorbital groove is conspicuous" (The Virtual Human Embryo, 2011d). The
embryo now has a more human like appearance. The anatomical-
morphological development of the human embryo permits the embryo to
unfold. Coming upright, as we have already seen, permits the center of gravity
in man to be inside the body, which allows humans to experience a center
inside of them selves (van der Wal, 2014).
The neural plate, neural tube, nervous system and the brain are formed
from ectoderm cells (Scheibel, 1997). “At organ level, brain development
starts with the formation of the neural tube or neurulation, followed by
formation of the neuronal migration and neuritic differentiation, with synapse
formation and controlled neural ‘pruning’” (Bourgeois as cited in Moscoso,
2009, p. 13).
2.5. The Heart and Pulsation
The development of the heart and the development of the notochord
including the CNS and the brain are parts of an entangled whole. Dividing the
body into different systems is quite artificial. "Body systems do not exist in
reality–it is always impossible to define where one system ends and the next
starts" (Blechshmidt, 2004, p. 2). However, like van der Wal, we can ask what
is the underlying principle or principles that unite this development (Lindhard,
Looking at the multifunctional role of the adult heart, Burleson and
Swartz (2005) hypothesize that the heart functions as a generator of bio-
information that is central to normative functioning of body. The source of this
bio information is based on: (1) vortex blood flow in the left ventricle; (2) a
cardiac electromagnetic field and both; (3) heart sounds; and (4) pulse
pressure which produce frequency and amplitude information. Thus, there is a
multidimensional role for the heart in physiology and bio-psychosocial
Their hypothesis, which is based on the four criteria mentioned above,
looks at the role of the heart in maintaining normal body function. They
mention heart sound as being one of the factors. Rubik supports this by
suggesting that body functioning might include “acoustic and possibly other
subtler energy fields not yet known to science" (Rubik, 2009, p. 555].
Although these researchers are talking of body functioning, some of these
criteria such as heart sounds, which are related to pulsations, could also
possibly play a role during somatogenesis. This is obviously not a complete
answer, but it is possible that the development of form takes place in phases or
waves, which are guided by rhythmical pulsation (Lindhard, 2016, 2017b).
Each embryo is a living being and is unique. However during its
ontological development it goes through various phases, which are common to
all human embryos. The descriptive approach adopted towards somatogenesis
in this article forms a basis from which further investigation may proceed and
we now need to establish the dynamics and forces behind the formation of the
different phases. Here we have followed van der Wal who suggests that
somatogenesis is a process that is dynamic and that each different phase is a
polar opposite to the one before. Whereas he suggests that it is rhythm that
unites the phases, we have clarified this further by suggesting that it is
possible that the development of form takes place in waves, which are guided
by rhythmical pulsation.
It is possible that the forces involved may come from Higher Nature -
considered sometimes as an over riding intelligence behind all matter, the
environment and/or the developing organism itself. It seems possible that
these forces will also involve electric and electromagnetic forces (Lindhard,
2016). This is consistent with the work of Burr who was one of the first
scientists who were interested in the relationship between electric fields and
life. Using microsurgical instruments, Burr established that in unfertilized
eggs of various species, the place of maximum voltage would, after
fertilization, correspond with the head of the organism and the place of
minimum voltage would correspond with its tail (Burr & Hovland, 1937;
Matthews, 2007). Although we know genes are also involved, we still need to
know at what stage they kick in and what role, if any, they play with regards
to the phases outlined here. They also probably interact with these other forces
and we need to find out how this is done. It is recognized that "what mothers
eat, drink, and feel—the environments which they themselves experience—
affect daily the neural development of their unborn child" (Scheibel, 1997,
para. 1). So how these environmental factors interact with these other
mentioned forces is important, not only to increase our understanding, but to
ensure healthy babies and healthy individuals.
The perspective adopted in this article, also opens us to the main
metaphysical question behind most spiritual traditions: "who am I?" Far from
trying to answer this question, I limit myself to say that our embryonic past
seems to point to the fundamental mystery behind our existence. There is
much still for scientists to discover which will not only help us understand the
development of the embryo but possibly the nature of Nature itself for the
embryo can be seen as a miniature of the Universe (Lindhard, 2016).
As we have shown here, we have been through various phases during
the first approximately 49 days of our embryonic existence. This process also
indicates that during our embryonic history, we have already taken different
forms and to evolve and grow, we had to "die" to the each of the previous
phases with their corresponding "way of being". This also implies that to
evolve and grow we will also need to die to the form we are taking now.
In conclusion I quote from Rumi, the Persian poet and Sufi mystic
I died from minerality and became vegetable;
And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.
I died from animality and became man.
Then why fear disappearance through death?
Next time I shall die
Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;
After that, soaring higher than angels -
What you cannot imagine,
I shall be that. (Rumi, n.d.)
Arka, S. (2006). Adventures of Self discovery: The journey from mind to heart
to consciousness. Surrey, UK: Antony Rowe.
Barnes, E. (2014). Ernest von Baer´s Laws of Embryology. The Embryo
Project Encyclopedia. Online, https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/karl-ernst-
Blechschmidt, E. (2004). The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: A
biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Birth. Trans.
B. Freeman. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Burleson, K. O., & Swartz, G. E. (2005). Cardiac torsion and electromagnetic
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