Your Body Is Your Soul with Jaap van der Wal (LBP 057)


Jaap van der Wal is a phenomenological embryologist who is searching for the soul via the embryo. He teaches about this all over the world through his Embryo in Motion project.

In our conversation today we talked about the dualistic time we are living in and how we make the brain and/or the genes the most important “parts” of the body, how we conceptually consider the body a machine that comes in parts, and the way we separate the soul from the body. Jaap discusses how the embryo challenges the notion that we are our brains, says that genes do not cause what happens in a body, that motion is primary and form is secondary- or that we are always a present-tense alive process that is performing, and hence creating, the body, what fascia has to do with all of this, and that the body does not have a soul, it is a soul.




Conversation highlights

  • Jaap van der Wal introduces himself as an embryologist and anatomist who is searching for spirit in the human being. He wants to help people to see and become aware that there is something more at stake than just body dimension. 
  • The embryo is the perfect domain to ask questions like what are we doing? What is a body? Is a body something producing us or that we are producing? Is my consciousness coming from my body? Am I shaped by myself?
  • He is not trying to get people to believe in spirit, but to approach it scientifically
  • Early in his career he started having questions like, w"What is anatomy actually telling me about MY body?"
  • The body that I am, that I experience, is quite different than the body I have learned, studied, and dissected.
  • This led him to phenomenology- where you don’t become an onlooker, you primarily start to experience the reality. The body you live, the body you are is different than what he had to teach the students.
  • From the beginning your body is a performance, a life-long process.
  • The embryo challenges the idea that we are our brain. For more than 8 weeks in the embryonic stage you do not have a brain in the way we do now. How do you exist when you are an embryo?
  • There is so much presence or awareness in your body that is not your brain's behavior.
  • He learned from the embryo that your body is not producing a brain which is producing you. You are producing from day one til your last day- it is the primary thing you do. Every morning you wake up new. You are not a machine
  • Your brain is not moving your arms, you are moving your arms. I need a brain, I need muscles, I need a lot of things to produce that movement.
  • Every day or every moment you have a new body. This is your body being a performance. We are a time body. Every living organism is a process, not a machine built up from particles. The anatomist is wrong. All phases of your life are a part of the whole performance in time which your body is.
  • Genes do not cause anything. The most lifeless molecule is the DNA. It is a molecule of heredity. It is produced by living organisms, and not the reverse.
  • Genes and brains are necessary but not sufficient conditions to give a body its shape.
  • When you change the genes or brain the organism behaves differently, but that does not prove that they cause behavior. His wife’s brain tumor and her personality changed. If you damage a brain you get a damaged personality. Yes, but that does not prove that the brain is primary.
  • Modern science thinks the experiment proves that they are right. Science is not what they want us to believe. They want us to believe that it is a new way to know everything, yet every scientist has in his or her mind the frame of thoughts that is looking for the facts in harmony with the idea.
  • What is making the embryo? The only answer is that apparently in me and all of us there is something else realizing itself in us.
  • Spirit and matter if they exist must be one.
  • Modern materialism has no future. He is worried about the future that will be realized by a society that only believes in brains, genes, and bodies.
  • If you’re alive then you’re alive but we don’t understand what aliveness is or that it’s happening all the time.
  • Learned from the embryo motion is primary, forms come out of motion- the embryo is not past.
  • Motion is the primary dimension and related to time. Bodies appear in time. Time and motion are related.
  • We are motions and processes producing forms.  That’s what we can learn from the embryo
  • Erich Blechschmidt- the German embryologist, "Don’t consider soul or psyche as something added to the body later." The soul is pre-exercised in the body. Your body is behavior. If you want to understand human behavior psychologically you also have to look physiologically. The way we shape our body is what we are capable of psychologically and physiologically.
  • Fascia is about this "producing" our body. It is faithful to actions and emotions
  • Stop talking about “germ layers” ecto, endo, meso. It’s too anatomical. We don’t have 3 layers. We have ecto and endo and then we have an in-between, an innerness.
  • We are addicted to causality. Why? Finding a cause means you can manipulate it. It’s our only motive. Finding the cause of disease means we can manipulate it. It is very helpful, it saved the life of his wife, but it is not the only reality.
  • The body does not have a soul it is a soul. It is one.


Jaap van der Wal's website, and the Embryo in Motion project

Article: The Embryo in Us: A Phenomenological Search for the Soul and Consciousness in the Prenatal Body (English version)

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