John C. Pierrakos MD -February 8, 1921 – February 1, 2001
John Pierrakos, M.D. developed the Core Energetics Evolutionary Process and was the founder of the Institute of Core Energetics. Core Energetics theory comes from the premise that emotional, mental and physical disturbances are symptoms of blocked energy, due to an individual’s adaptive responses to environmental deficits or injuries in childhood.
Pierrakos saw Core Energetics rooted in the rich legacies transmitted through the ages by philosophers, scientists, and physicians who taught about the existence of a creative essence within us. His mission was to promote a model of living as something much larger than an individual quest to differentiate and express oneself. He, like Teilhard de Chardin, believed in the sacredness of life and that there was an evolutionary plan in every living organism. He believed that the ego and body are one and that the act of surrendering to all of our feelings will ultimately lead us home, allowing the embodiment of spirit. He saw love as the most powerful force in the universe and that the human essence is love. He saw that our purpose is to love and our character defenses are essentially blocks to loving.
Pierrakos was greatly inspired by Wilhelm Reich. Reich’s theories were based on energetic processes such as armoring, orgasm reflex, and charge & discharge, which he came to observe in his research. Reich contradicted Freud, by saying that all impulses are inherently good. He thought that instead of curbing their expression, they should be encouraged, in order to free a person from neurosis. Reich developed a therapy called Vegetotherapy and treated his patients based on these principles. Pierrakos resonated with Reich’s theory of character analysis, positing that blocked energy shapes the body, creating life–denying patterns.
Pierrakos, along with Alexander Lowen were students of Wilhelm Reich. They collaborated to build on Reich’s work, co-founding The Bioenergetics Institute in 1955. They introduced the concept of “grounding” whereby a person is energetically connected to the earth, lending a sense of inner security. As a result, the ego now more rooted in the body, becomes more resilient, flexible, and able to surrender. While Reich worked with his patients’ breathing, while lying down, Pierrakos and Lowen saw the importance of a person’s upright position, enabling a whole range of movements. The exercises they developed were designed to open energy flow in the body, to free blocked impulses, as well as to bring about consciousness of repressed memories and feelings.
Pierrakos’ marriage to Eva Broch, the founder of The Pathwork, significantly influenced the way he saw the human being. His exposure to the philosophy of The Pathwork led him to recognize that ultimately there is no separation between medicine, psychology, and religion. He parted from Lowen to collaborate with his wife. They opened “The Center for the New Man” in 1969, later renamed as “The Pathwork Center” in Phoenicia, New York.
Pierrakos founded the Institute of Core Energetics in 1973, in New York City. He integrated The Pathwork concepts of the mask, lower self, higher self, idealized self-image, and life task with Bioenergetic physical interventions, which addressed the armoring in the body. He did not see Core Energetics as therapy but as an evolutionary process, where the progress of the individual moves through stages, leading to the unification of body, emotion, mind, will, and spirit, and a deepening awareness of one’s unity with all of life.
Pierrakos outlined four evolutionary stages of the work. The first stage, “penetration of the mask” involves letting go of false ideals and adaptations the individual believed were needed to survive when they were young. This is followed by the “confrontation and transformation of the lower self” allowing for its purification and “integration into the higher self”, the third stage. Inevitably this process leads us to the fourth stage, which is to “embody our core essence and fulfill our life task”. Pierrakos believed that this was the work we came here to do.
John Pierrakos completed his life’s journey on February 1, 2001, a few days before his eightieth birthday. Throughout his life he taught Core Energetics in the US, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Holland, Germany, Italy, and France. He was a brilliant man with the courage to be transparent as a human being and a leader. For many, he was their most beloved teacher. His presence is often felt in the work today.
Want to know more about John? Read his brief autobiography here.