The Embryonic Field

Flowing Wholeness1: The Vibratory Resonance Beneath Perceivable Form

Carol A. Agneessens, MS.
© 2013

Download this article in pdf format

Imagine for a moment having access to a Hubble-like telescope. Not only can it block distortions from earth’s atmosphere, it is able to record a deep view into space and time with laser precision. In addition, it captures the energetic blueprint of structure prior to the coalescing into form.

What might you see? Is there an iterative pattern shaping nature which can be identified throughout animal and plant kingdoms?
Perhaps, through the exquisite ‘eye’ of this lens, we are witnessing the fundamental ‘vibration’ underlying form. Perhaps beneath the perceived solidity of structure there is an active process, moving, shaping and vivifying all organic matter.

This article offers an inquiry into what is called the geometric taxonomy2 in Rolfing®, the blueprint spoken of in biodynamic cranial sacral circles and embryology, the underlying Shakti of kundalini yoga, and the central channel of osteopathy. Whatever the name, there appears to be a ‘vibratory resonance’ beneath perceivable and observable structures which arises prior to their formation.

The ‘Rolf Line’, the primitive streak and notochord of embryology, central channel, and the shakti of kundalini rising, are metaphors for this expression.

However, this resonance is more than a movement toward verticality. This organizing and orienting vibration is prior to the familiar ‘plumb’ line, or imagined ‘sky’ hook. The movement into ‘upright’ does begin and end at the vertex of the cranium and the feet. Integration and alignment of the human body in gravity invites an orientation and immersion within this resonance that we can call the field. If we look closely, this ‘energetic scaffolding’ reveals itself throughout the natural world; the swirling and spiraling patterns of leaves, shells, ferns and flowers, the slowly rising and phototropic reaching of trees and limbs, and geo-trophic descent of roots, the twisting turns of rivers and the currents of wind patterns. We can follow its imprint in the lines of flow forming bone, the looping fibers forming the heart, and the embryonic process of development. It is more than ‘a line’, of orientation and more dimensional than a spiral drawn in two dimensions. What is this ‘meta’ force that shapes and sustains?

Like the stars comprising a constellation, D’Arcy Thompson, Buckminster Fuller, Arthur M. Young, David Bohm, Jill Purce, Rupert Sheldrake and others have written about aspects of this resonance according to their particular and impassioned orientation.

D’Arcy Thompson was one of the first to integrate the mathematics of geometry with morphology. In his book, On Growth and Form, he writes of the use and beauty of mathematics in the study of material things. From D’Arcy’s perspective, number, order and position is the threefold clue to exact knowledge. And these three in a mathematician’s hand furnish the initial sketch of the Universe.3

Buckminster Fuller took inspiration from the dimensions of cellular shapes to create the design of his geodesic domes. He applied mathematics and an understanding of the fundamental architecture of life to inspire the functional design of his dwellings.

During my initial training in Rolfing® (1981), the instructor, Emmett Hutchins, introduced the class to the work of Arthur M. Young and his book, The Reflexive Universe. At the time, I did not appreciate the relevance of Young’s writing to the manual therapy of Rolfing. Yet as I’ve pondered and practiced in this field over these many years, I’ve come to appreciate the way in which Young saw the universe as an uninterrupted movement turning into itself and unfolding out again in seamless motion. Physicists call the shape of this movement a hypersphere and describe it with the mathematical formula for the volume of a torus. (Think of the torus as a bagel with an infinitely smaller hole in the middle.)

Young was a free-thinking genius who invented the first, commercially licensed helicopter (known as the Bell Helicopter) He later became a philosopher of cosmology and process theory. Young postulated the existence of an organizing field and felt that the organizing principle in human beings related to the awakened kundalini concept of the yogis.4

These visionary writers, inventors, cosmologists and philosophers have broadened my exploration and understanding of the geometric taxonomy as the template beneath the structures we perceive. Although the block model of Rolfing serves to educate the public (a picture is worth a thousand words) there are deeper implications held within this design. Locked within the linear midline of the ‘little boy logo’ is a cosmic order reaching beyond a cursory understanding of alignment. Could this ‘vibratory resonance’ prior to form be revealing an intelligence or consciousness ordering chaos? The word chaos means: the unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct form, the empty space prior to creation or a state in which chance reigns supreme.5 In my private practice, I discovered that when I immerse myself with the potential of this vibratory expression, the work within a session seems to enrich contact, deepen experience, and sustain itself over time.

Expanding from the idea that the organizing principle is solely a midline relationship, let’s take a hint from the embryologist and anatomist, Johannes Rohan. In Functional Morphology: The Dynamic Wholeness of the Human Organism, he writes of the lemniscate as the most rhythmical of all geometric forms. Think of the lemniscate as a ‘figure 8’ or the infinity sign. Perhaps lying on its side, sometimes with either portion being larger than its ‘mate’. By rhythmical Rohan refers to the rhythmically structured oscillations that occur through the functions of: sleeping and waking, catabolism and anabolism, inhalation and exhalation, systole and diastole.6 In the skeletal body, the lemniscate appears again and again. Take the formation of the hip joint. You can draw a lemniscate from the top of the iliac crest through the ischium going directly through the acetabulum. At the fulcrum of this articular cavity lies the center of the lemniscate where the three pelvic bones join. Further understanding of the lemniscate challenges our senses that often relegate it to a solid form. This is a moving form. The secret of the lemniscate is that it is a movement that combines and transcends the polarities of a sphere, the circle and its radius. When drawing a lemniscate there is the beginning of a circle with a central point yet as the circle begins to come to completion there is an ‘attractor which pulls ‘it’ away from completion – we could call this point B.

Yet now another center forms, and attracts the line moving through point B (the central point) to another center. We can call this attractor A’ and bends the direction into a circular movement. The movement between central points A, B and A’ continues, around and around and through the central fulcrum of B. Following this movement you might sense the lemniscate as a breathing figure.7

If you continue tracing this figure you might begin to ‘feel’ its inherent organic motion.

Donna Eden, energy medicine practitioner, speaks of the lemniscate as the energetic threads of the connective tissue system. The weaving pattern of this movement through the body manifests as continuity and connectivity. The movement of expansion and contraction, reaches directly into the cells and the spiraling form of DNA.

Back to Top

Somatic Inquiry: Exploring the Lemniscate

1. Take a moment to trace the lemniscate on a sheet of paper, over and over again until you feel the continuity and breath of this form moving through you.

2. Find a picture of one of the innominate bones of the pelvis with the view including the acetabulum. Draw a lemniscate through the rami and ilia with the central fulcrum being the acetabulum. (see drawing)

The red dots refer to 1: flexors.
2: adductors. 3: extensors.

Reprinted with permission from Adonis Press.
Fig. 56. Pg. 95.


Reprinted with permission from Adonis Press.
Fig. 57. Pg. 96.

3. Apply your understanding of the ‘informing’ lemniscate8 in your practice.

  • With a partner – cradle their calcaneus in one hand and wrap your other hand around the talar bone of their foot.
    • As you gently bring these two aspects of the foot into compression feel for the fulcrum at the center of the anterior or posterior articulation.
    • Sense the lemniscate pattern informing the relationship of thiese bones.
    • Sense the figure of the lemniscate as you gently feed the bones into the central fulcrum. Wait and feel for the expansion moving out into your hands.
  • Think beyond the pattern. The lemniscate is not confined to the bones you are manipulating. It can be sensed extending beyond the boundary of these bones.

The Torus: A Moving Constellation

Brian Freeman, Ph.D. embryologist, speaks of the torus as the shape organizing the formation of the fossa of the hip joint-leg relationship.

“Detailed anatomical investigations, based in part on total-reconstructions of a developmental series of human embryos (observe) the following positional changes in the embryo’s lower limb from the time it first appears as a torus in the inferior part of the ectodermal ring. Initially, as the limb anlage (primordial precursor) grows in volume, it growth-adducts toward the umbilical cord folding across the embryo’s genito-femoral fossa, then it growth-flexes, the bend being the anlage of the knee. Subsequent embryonic events in the development of the lower limb include growth-extension of the knee, growth-flexion in a region which then becomes the ankle, and growth-eversion of the foot.”9 Following this movement you can feel the circular trajectory of a torus as its path shapes the fossa.

You might imagine the torus as a three-dimensional weaving of gossamer threads traversing in multi-dimensional paths, yet sharing a common crossover space at the dynamic and still central core. It is rather like a donut with a hole in the middle. Each aspect of its 360° feeds into and out of a central fulcrum and then returns back again.

In early workshops with Tom Shaver, DO., a technique was introduced which followed a torus-like pathway releasing tensions at the hip joint as well a through the lower back. I call it “pretzel-ing the leg”.

Back to Top

Somatic Inquiry: Exploring the Moving Form of a Torus

  1. With client supine gently stretch their leg up and toward their head and then with a slight inclination to the opposite side. Sense its relationship to their lower back as well as the client’s flexibility at their hip joint.
  2. Bring their leg back to a neutral position bending it at the knee. Place one hand underneath the lower thigh (above the knee joint) and the other hand at the bottom of the foot. Become comfortable with this hold.
  3. Begin by medially rotating the femur at the hip joint as you turn the lower leg (via the foot) into a more externally rotated position.
  4. Explore the internal rotation of their femur. Following the inner edge of the torus shape. Imagine their knee circumscribing this shape in the air.
  5. As you move to femur into external rotation, (at midline) gently turn the lower leg/foot into an internal positioning as you explore external rotation.
  6. To complete the ‘pretzel’ bring the femur further into external rotation as you take the lower leg over the edge of the table. (continue cradling the foot)
  7. Complete the movement of external rotation without being restricted by the table and bring the leg back to a neutral rest position.
  8. Engage the other leg in similar exploration.
  9. Sense changes in relationship between the low back and hip joint as well as the motility/mobility and the continuity from leg through pelvis into the client’s back.
  10. Repeat this exploration as you sense and feel the shape of the torus guiding you.

Flowing Wholeness: The Vortex Ring

By integrating the motile resonances of the lemniscate and torus as they feed through the dynamic central channel, the form of a vortex ring can not only be imagined but also sensed through your body and your hands.

This ‘informing’ movement is the golden nugget beneath perceivable form and gives rise to the more superficial linearity of lines, planes, blocks and cylinders; the familiar models of a geometric taxonomy.

Quantum physicist, David Bohm, theorized that the universe must be fundamentally indivisible. He called it a “flowing wholeness” in which the observer cannot be essentially separated from what is being observed. He theorized that “parts” such as “particles” or “waves” are forms of abstraction from this flowing wholeness.10 In his treatise, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, he suggests that it is the enfolding and unfolding of the universe whose primal vibratory resonance appears both physical and perceivable.11 We are both particle and wave. At any moment we might sense ourselves as particle through focused attention on specific anatomy, muscular development, efforts or bracings and at another moment we may experience a flow through as our tissues generating a sense of continuity and connectivity as we move and breathe. Could the vortex ring be the first primordial touchstone, the space between unfolding and enfolding, ie. where enfolding differentiates into form and unfolding form dissolves back into the vast space of consciousness. Metaphorically, and to illustrate, if you watched your breath for a moment, there is a space before your inhale turns into an exhalation and a space before your exhalation becomes the next inhalation One of the oldest forms of meditation is to focus your attention on the space or pause between two breaths.

What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and the variations in the structure of space.12

According to Arthur M. Young, this movement is multi-dimensional and reflexive. In other words, it is both feeding into formation and dissolving that formation, simultaneously. In Sanskrit, this vibratory movement is called spanda and translates as ‘throb’ or ‘pulsation’.

In his most recent book, Science Set Free13, Rupert Sheldrake deconstructs long-standing beliefs that have become unquestioned scientific dogma. He stresses the importance of science needing to fully engage in an on-going method of inquiry. It is easy to break things into parts that can be dissected and analyzed. The challenge is to understand the whole, and the fundamental interactions of systems along with their parts. One of the major tenants Sheldrake brings forward is an understanding of an informing field resonating through time. Sheldrake investigates the phenomena of morphic resonance. A resonance is a quality of reverberation through space and time. A resonance has ‘no-matter’ yet transmits vibratory patterns informing all self-organizing systems. Morphic resonance underlies habits of protein folding, and crystallization as well as the inheritance of habits observed as instinctive behavior and the transfer of learning.14

Taking a leap in the iterative geometry of formation, perhaps the moving elements of the vortex ring function as the primal dynamic fueling transmission and organization of structures through its vibratory resonance.

Jill Purce writes of the appearance of evolutionary spiral flows, forms and symbols depicted throughout all cultures over the eons. From Egypt to Glastonbury to the tattoo markings on Polynesian shamans, a three-dimensional spiral imprints art, pottery, earth formations and temples.

This dynamic shape has imprinted the human psyche throughout centuries, across space and time.

Once flowing this energy may bring enlightenment and a state of wholeness: the balance is the still center of the spiral.
From the (universe) macrocosm to man as microcosm, in the center of any spiral
is the calm core through which man passes to eternity.

Back to Top

Somatic Inquiry: Flowing Wholeness

  • Find a comfortable yet upright position for sitting
  • Settle into the ease and support of your breath.
  • Sense the verticality through the central core of your body
    • You might begin with the feeling of the top of your head (vertex)
    • Sense your way through the midline structures of your cranium, the roof of your mouth, throat, heart, pancreas, and umbilicus descending through your uterus (or prostate) and perineum.
    • Experience the connecting relationship through these internal structures and extend your sense of this channel below your perineum through the ground and far above your head.
    • Breathe and soften into the relationships of your central channel.
    • You are this still center within.
  • Expand your perception to include your skin boundary (in 360°)
  • Explore the interface of skin surface and environment. Sense the porous quality of this boundary.
  • Move your attention from your skin boundary to the field immediately surrounding your body – perhaps 12-16 inches
  • Notice your breath.
  • Become aware of a subtle resonance, vibration or movement.
    • This may feel like a breeze or heightened awareness or you may feel nothing at all.

The Vortex Ring


The flow between one’s external and internal world is essentially seamless. It is the breath moving between our inhalation and exhalation. It is the movement between impression and expression, between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. It is an inquiry into the common-unity. It is a willingness to cultivate both an understanding and perception of the wholeness that lies beneath the surface of the illusion of separate individual parts. Whether we are speaking of a central core and midline, or spiraling flows of the torus resonating through the vastness, our moving, sensing, breathing bodies are in-formed and imprinted by the iterative patterns of vibratory intelligence which we call the geometric-energetic taxonomy.

1.Bohm, David. Quoted in Briggs, John. Peat, F. David. Turbulent Mirror. Harper and Row, New York. 29.
2. Taxonomy: a system of classification. 1828, from French taxonomie (1813), introduced by Linnæus and coined irregularly from Greek taxis "arrangement". A lens through which principles regarding a certain classification (of plants, animals etc.) are viewed.
3. Thompson, D’Arcy. On Growth and Form. Cambridge University Press. 1961. Pg. 326.
4. Young, Arthur M. comments on the Reflexive Universe.‎
5. Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary. G & C Merriam & Co. Chicago, ILL. 1969. Pg. 139.
6. Rohan, Johannes. Functional Morphology: The Dynamic Wholeness of the Human Organism. Adonis Press, NY. 2007. Pg. 17.
7. Foundations of Anthroposophical Medicine. Guus van der Bie/ Machteld Huber editors. Floris Books. Netherlands. 2003. Pg. 114-115.
8. Osteopaths and embryologists speak of the lemniscate. In workshops with Ron Murry, DO / Rolfer® a lemniscate pump is taught. In early Rolfing® trainings we were introduced to a function called the ‘two way operator’, which identified and engaged the lemniscate forms found through varying fascial relationships within the structure.
9. Freeman, Brian. Ph.D. “Newborn Stepping and Embryonic Growth-Stepping”. Pg. 1. Pdf. Download No date cited.
10. Briggs, John. Peat, F. David. Turbulent Mirror. Harper and Row,New York. 29.
11. Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. Routledge & Kegan. London. 1980
12. Schrodinger, Erwin. quoted in Quantum Shift in the Global Brain. Lazlo, Ervin. Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT. 2008. Pg. 93
13. Sheldrake, Rupert, Science Set Free. Deepak Chopra Books. NY. 2012
14. Ibid. pg. 199.
15. Purce, Jill. The Mystic Spiral, Thames and Hudson, NY. 1974. pg.127.

Back to Top