Rhijn, Van

W.V. Caldwell, writing about the way Van Rhijn has defined the levels of consciousness says there are four stages:

  • The deeply unconscious physiological process, such as cell generation and digestion. Problems existing at that level are often not available to awareness and cannot move more fully into consciousness and so are held at that level, and become psychosomatic pains or illness. This becomes clearer if we consider human life in relationship with other life forms. A plant for instance might have some sort of bacterial illness, but would not be able to bring that to awareness. In a sense many things that occur to us, although they are very real and definite, never become a part of our conscious life, but always remain in the ‘plant’ level. If they are to move from ‘deeply unconscious physiological process’ to becoming known consciously, there are stages such events go through.
  •  As the physiological or psychobiological process moves nearer consciousness, its next level of expression is postural or gestural. Thus we may express our deepest hidden feelings in an unconscious body posture or movement. Not only our feelings express in this way, but also our physical tone or health shows in our postures gestures and movements. Even the plant droops if it needs water.
  •  Next, when something moves from the gestural to the next stage of expression it becomes a dream or a symbol, which although it may not be understood, is now entering the arena of awareness. This is a very important stage, and is perhaps the earliest level of ‘thinking’ known to animals and humans. This is a half way stage that depicts the deeply unconscious event as images or feeling tone’s.

Example: In my dream I was watching a fern grow. It was small but opened very rapidly. As I watched I became aware that the fern was an image representing a process occurring within myself, one I grew increasingly aware of as I watched. Then I was fully lucid in my dream and realised that my dream, perhaps any dream, was an expression in images of actual events occurring unconsciously in myself. I felt enormous excitement, as if I were witnessing something of great importance.

  •  At this stage, what had been deeply unconscious, then symbolised, now becomes known enough to be verbalised or thought about and analysed. If one had attempted to verbalise something in level two it would have been so far outside of consciousness as to defy description. Also, when looking at these levels or stages, they suggest that the dream process is a means by which deeper stages can be portrayed to awareness in order to make them known. Therefore, by working with the dream process, we can tap deeper levels of awareness and make them known.

An interesting example of these four stages and how someone can work through them is given by Wilhelm Reich in his book Function of the Orgasm. When the abdominal tensions of a patient were released the man found his body making spontaneous movements. These were allowed and the movements gradually led the man to take on the posture of an animal – he and Reich both felt it to be a fish. This puzzled both of them as to it meaning, but as the movements continued the man first realised he felt like a fish caught on a hook and line, then suddenly, that was how he felt in regard to his mother. See The 2 wills

As can be plainly seen, the first level is seen in the example as the man’s unconscious abdominal tensions, built into his physical structure. When these are loosened and considered by the man’s conscious attention, and the spontaneous homeostatic process is allowed to function, level two manifests as movement and gesture. This moves to level three where the movements are recognised as a symbol – the fish. Then the fourth level, insight and understanding are achieved when the man realises the fish represents previously unconscious feelings he has about his mother. At this point he can verbalise and analyse. I believe that being aware of such facts enables us more easily to open ourselves to the process of self-regulation and trust what it produces. It is not by thinking about a dream that makes it known but by working with the process that has taken it from the symbolic, upwards to the ability to clearly understand the dream.

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