Essential Works in Biodynamics

My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos. D.H. Lawrence
Pages: 32-34
Year: 2008
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – Vol. 36 – Nº 1

Volume: 36
My belief is in the blood and flesh as being wiser than the intellect. The body unconscious is where life bubbles up in us. It is how we know that we are alive, alive to the depths of our souls and in touch somewhere with the vivid reaches of the cosmos. D.H. Lawrence

This quote from D.H. Lawrence could have been written about the study of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BDCST). BDCST is as much a training in perception as it is a therapeutic process. BDCST has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in a field ripe for impassioned study. Recently, I was asked to review some of my personal and valued references for a study of craniosacral therapy from a biodynamic perspective. I asked myself the question, what books have not only informed this study but have also helped to inflame my desire to learn this approach? What books have fueled an embodied sense of the perceptual underpinnings of this work? Embodiment is a critical aspect of biodynamic craniosacral therapy; otherwise the practice can be driven by concepts rather than a visceral experience.


In writing this book review, I resorted to the age-old metaphor, if I were stranded on a desert isle what books, tapes or CDs would I want to have with me to continue nourishing this inquiry? With this as the context, I am citing my favorites.


It was a difficult choice. There are a growing number of resources available, and this field seems to be naturally expanding to fill the space. In addition, there are many aspects to this study, encompassing a full spectrum from biodynamic theory to embryology, cranial anatomy to cultivating perceptual acuity. Absorbing the nuances of this work is akin to traversing a spiral. Learning progresses, then circles back to a familiar beginning, which now includes greater depth and understanding. It has been an ongoing delight to be able to dive deeply into this subject as I embody this unique approach.


As I peruse my library, immediately I pull from my shelves William Sutherland’s Contributions of Thought, my iPod containing many of the CD lectures by Dr. James Jealous, and Michael Shea’s Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Volume One. In addition I would pack Erich Blechschmidt’s The Beginnings of Human Life, Tuchmann-Duplessis’s Illustrated Human Embryology, Johannes Rohen’s Functional Morphology: The Dynamic Wholeness of the Human Structure, Laurens Van Der Post’s The Lost World of the Kalahari, and David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous.


Now I’ll discuss some titles in more detail, looking first to osteopathy and BDCST.


Contributions of Thought: The Collected Writings of William Sutherland, D.O. This book contains lectures, correspondence, and personal inquiry covering the years 1914-1954. Like Dr. Rolf, William Sutherland was a pioneer. He actively explored the far reaches of osteopathic theory and practice well into his late seventies. Guided by both inspiration and instinct and grounded through physiology and anatomy, he developed the cranial concept. This book follows his exploration and details the steps leading to the insight that cerebrospinal fluid is one of the highest elements known to man, as well as the therapeutic emergence of a force he called the Breath of Life. Sutherland developed a gentle approach to cranial sacral therapy. At seventy-eight years of age he continued seeing patients, cultivating an instinctual reverence for the self-correcting system of his patients. He felt that one-thousandth of an inch was vital in treatment. This book also contains the “Tour of the Minnow,” the classic meditation that furthered Sutherland’s embodied understanding of cranial dynamics. The following is an example of a sensory metaphor, which Sutherland used to cultivate within himself and within his students the lived experience of cranial sacral function.


“…The neural tube as a whole is like a house in an ocean, and there are open doorways between the rooms of the house. This ocean is a constant body of fluid contained within the arachnoid membrane and within the neural tube. The movement of the fluid within its natural cavity is a tidal movement, a fluctuation.”1


The Biodynamics of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, CD lecture series. For me, Rolfing® is an oral tradition, one that is transmitted through an instructor’s voice and presence. Similarly, BDCST is an oral tradition. The CD lecture series by Dr. James Jealous is a way to broaden your understanding of this work. It is not just the timbre of Jealous’s voice, but the pauses and spacing between his words and phrases. It is the clarity and originality of thought that jolts my reality and slowly stretches my perceptual knowing. What I enjoy doing is taking long walks in the forest or by the ocean or just lying in bed in a semi-meditative stillness, listening to various lectures and allowing the material to wash through me.


Although I have listened to some of the CDs, three or four or more times over, there is something that I hear anew each time I listen, or another aspect of his lecture captures my attention and fascination.


A few of my favorites in the series are: “The Embryonic Mind”, “The Patient’s Neutral”, “Rebalancing and Side Effects”, “Lateral Fluctuations No. 1 and No. 2”, “Our Hands”, “Perceptual Studies No. 3”, and “Dural Sacs”.


The following is quote from “Perceptual Studies No. 3”, which speaks to an experiential shift that is essential for an embodied experience of BDCST:


“Let’s take a minute and look toward the horizon. Let your eyes relax, let your observer relax. Stop holding onto knowing. Let’s just drop our IQs down for a little bit here. Look towards the horizon. Cast your eyes upon the hills or the horizon. Even if you can’t see it, our organism senses it. It knows. It’s relating to it every time you move your head. We’re going to let our eyes just relax a little bit. We’re going to let our attention exhale from our eyes, just like you were breathing out air from your lungs. Take your possessiveness off your attention. Let it exhale, and let it go away from you like a cloud leaving your eyes. Let it drift by itself without your direction. Let it go, and notice where it goes…”2


Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Volume One: I appreciate the scope that Michael Shea, Ph.D. covers in this first volume. With attention to important detail and description, he includes: a historical overview, an in-depth understanding of biodynamic theory and principles, and the significance of embryological study, including a discourse on metabolic fields. His directed meditations facilitate a shift in the practitioner’s perceptual orientation. These shifts are essential for sensing the therapeutic forces that are ever-present and available to deepen an individual’s healing process. In addition, biodynamic theory is presented within the context of creation mythology.


“Healing is not about fixing, but about reconnecting an individual with their creation story and origins.3”


The thorough glossary in the appendix provides a background for the terms and language unique to this body of work. Dr. Shea’s second book is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy: Volume 2. This volume, currently in press (due in August 2008 from North Atlantic) contains significant contributions from Raymond Gasser, Ph.D., who was Erich Blechschmidt’s colleague and co-author.


Interface: Mechanisms of Spirit in Osteopathy. In this engaging book, Paul Lee, D.O. blends the philosophy of osteopathy, as envisioned by its founder Andrew Taylor Still, with current scientific understandings from quantum physics, research on biological fluid rhythms, and connective tissue dynamics. Through his integration of osteopathic philosophy and contemporary science, Lee supports his argument that the essence of spirit emerging into form can be touched. It is at this interface that healing can occur.


“We experience the whole as we touch the patient and engage the holographic connective tissue and movement that plies it. Underlying all we do is the emergence of Health…”4


For the study of embryology I recommend the following titles:


The Beginnings of Human Life. Erich Blechscmidt (1902-1992) emphasized that the embryo is not only alive, it is fully functional at every stage of its development. He identified metabolic motions that directed the development of the embryo. Osteopaths propose that these forces of embryological development are the same forces of healing in the adult. Jealous, who was deeply influenced by Blechschmidt’s work, honored him by coining the term “biodynamic osteopathy in the cranial field” (BOCF).5


A study of BDCST cultivates the perception of these metabolic motions that sustain, maintain and heal.


Illustrated Human Embryology. This three-volume series is clear and has colorful illustrations. The books provide a clearly illustrated timeline for understanding stages of embryological development: Volume 1: Embryogenisis; Volume 2: Organogenisis; and Volume 3: Nervous System and Endocrine Glands.


Functional Morphology: The Dynamic Wholeness of the Human Structure. This is the English translation of Johannes Rohen’s Morphologie des Menschlichen Organismus. For Rolfers and structural integrators, this book offers a goldmine of information relating to the origins of physical structure. It includes illustrations as well as a thorough inquiry into organ systems, which are “studied within the context of the dynamic whole.” Rohen’s book significantly supplements and expands the concepts of general anatomy, in addition to exploring significant embryological and evolutionary aspects of the human organism. It is worth its weight, and includes a thorough investigation of the major systems of the body.


There are a number of books that I value for the perceptual horizons they open. Native cultures have always captivated my curiosity through their unique relation to nature, space and time. It is very different frame of reference and relationship than the clockwork tempo most of us are run by – without even being aware that we are operating outside our natural rhythms. Through Laurens Van Der Post’s writing, I was introduced to the vast perceptual field of the heart. The African Bushmen of his stories sense their relations traveling the Kalahari, even at vast distances. These writings, as well as The Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram, cultivate a lived-experience of what it is like for an individual to be immersed in the environment in which they live, as well as being touched by their environment – seeing and being seen by the natural world that surrounds them.


“I felt that the encounter had for a moment made me immediate, and had, all too briefly, closed a dark time gap in myself. With our 20th century selves we have forgotten the importance of being truly and openly primitive. We have forgotten the art of our legitimate beginnings. We no longer know how to close the gap between the far past and the immediate present in ourselves. We need primitive nature, the first man in ourselves, it seems, as the lungs need air and the body food and water; yet we can only achieve it by a slinking, often shameful back door entrance. I thought finally, that of all the nostalgias that haunt the human heart the greatest of them all, for me, is an everlasting longing to bring what is youngest home to what is oldest, in us all.”6


The works which will alter your perceptual frame (cited above), the writings of Sutherland, Shea, and Lee, and the lecture series of Jealous, support an ongoing study and exploration of biodynamic practice and theory. The science underlying BDCST is supplemented by the dynamic embryology of Blechschmidt and Rohen. The practice of Rolfing / structural integration, as well as my inquiry into and practice of BDCST encourages a continual weaving of science and art, stretching the horizons of perception and thought. Allow these works to captivate and whisk you away on a novel and enriching exploration for your heart, mind and senses.


Carol Agneessens, MSc. is an active member of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration® faculty teaching both manipulation and movement. She is also a certified instructor of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, in association with the International Affiliation of Biodynamic Trainings, and the author of The Fabric of Wholeness (Quantum Institute Press, Santa Cruz, 2001).




  1. Sutherland, Adah S. and Anne Wales, D,O. (eds.), Contributions of Thought: The Collected Writings of William Garner Sutherland, D.O., 2nd edition. Fort Worth: The Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation, 1998, pp. 345-346.


  1. Jealous, Jim, D.O., “Perceptual Studies, No. 3”, The Biodynamics of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, CD lecture series.


  1. Shea, Michael, Ph.D., personal correspondence. 2008.


  1. Lee, Paul R., D.O., Interface: Mechanisms of Spirit in Osteopathy. Stillness Press. 2005, pg. 252.


  1. McPartland, John, D.O. and Evelyn Skinner, D.O., “The Meaning of the Midline in Osteopathy”, Morphodynamik in der Osteopathie. Hippokrates Verlag, p. 315.


  1. Vander Post, Laurens, The Lost World of the Kalahari. New York: Morrow, 1958.




Abram, David, The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World. New York: Vintage, 1997.


Blechschmidt, Erich, The Beginnings of Human Life. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1997.


Jealous, Jim, D.O., The Biodynamics of Osteopathy in the Cranial Field, CD lecture series. Available through


Lee, R. Paul, D.O., Interface: Mechanisms of Spirit in Osteopathy. Portland: Stillness Press, 2005.


Rohen, Johannes, Functional Morphology: The Dynamic Wholeness of the Human Structure. Hillsdale, NY: Adonis Press, 2007.


Shea, Michael, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, Volume One. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2007.


Sutherland, Adah S. and Anne Wales, D,O. (eds.), Contributions of Thought: The Collected Writings of William Garner Sutherland, D.O., 2nd edition. Fort Worth: The Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation, 1998.


Tuchmann-Duplessis,M.D., David, M.D., and Haegel,M.D., Illustrated Human Embryology, Vol. 1. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1972. (Translated by Lucille Surley, Ph.D.)


Van Der Post, Laurens, The Lost World of the Kalahari. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1958.

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