History: John Pierrakos from A to Z – part 1

This is an article written by Jac Conaway PhD, as  a keynote speech for  the International Core Energetics conference in Germany – Core World Wide 2014, and it is published here with permission from the author. All rights reserved.

Scream it!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!
Scream it!!! Owwwwwwwwww!!
Move your energy!! LIVE!!

Any of you who have not enjoyed having that magnificent face pushed into yours with these words pouring over you right down to your toenails and acting like electro-shock therapy to your very soul has not really lived yet. Whatever stories or anecdotes you have heard about John probably, however seemingly improbably at first, has a grain of truth at it’s core. This was one dynamic, crazy, and creative guy.

I met John Pierrakos in the fall of 1972, so many lifetimes ago and my life changed dramatically and I have never been the same again, though I sure tried not to change!!
I was embarking on a training in Bioenergetics that would last until today, and I hope will go on the rest of my life. I’m assuming that each of you are dedicated in your own way to this journey as well, so Pam and I will endeavor to give you a ‘flavor’ of those days leading up to the founding of the Institute of Core Energetics.

For the sake of completeness, I’ll say a few words about the ‘ancestors’ to John’s work, even though most of you know the outlines of the story. First, there was Daddy Freud and a few adventurous souls around him [Josef Breuer in Austria, Jean-Martin Charcot in Paris] around the beginning of the 20th century. We are indebted to him for such concepts as Resistance, Oedipal complex, transference, free association, ‘the talking cure’, repression and other somewhat useful terms. Additionally, we are indebted for his influence on Wilhelm Reich.

Reich was a physician, born in what is now Ukraine, but then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Graduated U. of Vienna specializing in neuropsychiatry. So you see the roots of Body psychology sprouted from the very beginnings of the study of psychology. Reich studied with Freud [or maybe didn’t, he apparently agreed with that at times and disputed it at others] but, as with so many other associations ‘moved on’ relatively soon. He lived a truly peripatetic life, changing locale, associates and professional interests numerous times. He fought the paradigms of the day where ever he found them when he saw that they contained profound distortions of human nature and common sense. And, he left a trail of creative, thoughtful and provocative writings behind him.

Eventually he found his way to NY City in 1939 teaching at the New School – from which he was eventually, as usual, expelled. But, it was during this time and for some years afterward that John met, studied and worked with Reich. I never met Reich, but heard many first hand stories from John. Reich gave us Characterology, Orgone, grounding, etc. and the Reich Institute in Maine. Reich was a true ‘mad man’ in the best sense of the phrase and in some of the less good senses as well. We, professionally at least, come from a kind of ‘crazy’ heritage.

John Pierrakos was born in Feb. 1921 in a small town in Greece and grew up there attending a university in Athens and then moving to the US just as the 2nd world war was breaking out in Europe, where he studied and practiced psychiatry in NYC. He married, had two daughters and eventually left his marriage. I asked about that break up several times but he would only say that they were on different paths in life. He was ‘estranged’ from both daughters for most of the time that I knew him, but went to great lengths to reconcile with the oldest one as she was dying of cancer. The other one still lives in NYC.

While associated with Reich, John became Alexander Lowen’s therapist for a time, working with him in ways that Reich suggested. This began a long and very fruitful professional relationship. When Reich was arrested in 1952 many of his students including John and Al broke off their association with Reich, but stayed connected with each other and eventually decided to develop Reich’s ideas into a full blown therapy and, to avoid associations with Reich’s negative legacy, called it Bioenergetics. Some of you were around in this world at that time and have developed a deep passion for this work as I have.
This was a very creative era with the creative use of bataca’s, stools, rollers, hitting, kicking, screaming, the bow, staccato breathing, and all of our personal favorites, sitting on the wall.

John was on a search. From a broken marriage, a tumultuous association with Reich and the authorities and an inner drive, he was searching for something but was unsure of what it was.

Eventually, John heard of Eva (Broch)’s channeling material and sought her out, at first just for spiritual guidance but, eventually for more human nurturance as well. They were married and began, very slowly to marry their work into what became Core Energetics in 1975-6. It was at that juncture that John decided to resign as co-director of the Bioenergetics Institute. This ‘split’ [of which the resignation was only the final act] left the two men John and Al at personal loggerheads for most of the rest of John’s life with little contact and some active animosity.

Core Energetics flourished almost from day one. A training class was assembled starting in February 1976 with about 25 people and has been turning out graduates continuously ever since, through Eva’s death, John’s tumultuous 3rd marriage and divorce with Dora Gomez Pierrakos, the dissolution of the Pathwork home in Phoenicia, that John loved so much, and John’s sudden death in February 2001. Through it all, including John’s somewhat ‘unique’ management style, Core NY has never skipped a year graduating students as far as I am aware.

The original idea was that Core would serve as the vehicle to take the Pathwork into the world of professional psychology and for the first 8 years of it’s life was an institute within the Pathwork and was originally called The Institute for the New Age of Man, quickly shortened a bit to the Institute for the New Age. It was not actually formally incorporated as the Institute for Core Energetics until 1983 during a reorganization of the original Pathwork.

In those first days it was envisioned that becoming a core helper [as it was called then] was an adjunct to being a Pathwork Helper. One was supposed to at least be studying toward Pathwork Helpership if not already a Helper to join the Core training. That tie up was abandoned when it occurred to John that many professionals would want to take the training, but would not be interested in the Helpership training.

Many of you have had a personal relationship with John of one kind or another and I urge those who have not, to take advantage of this gathering to get those ‘older’ types to give up a few stories. This may cost you some beer money, but it will be well spent. And, I urge you to do social research by getting several people loosened up at once so you can get a variety of versions of these stories.

When John died quite suddenly in Feb. 2001 he was in the process of trying to, in a sense, take the final organizational step to fulfill his dream of an International Institute of Core Energetics. Several meetings of the leaders of the various institutes from NY, Calif. Mexico, Italy, Germany and Switzerland had already occurred and another was to happen in NYC shortly after he died. These leaders continued to try to bring together such an institute, but were never able to do so and eventually give up trying. What we are about here this week is attempting to bring such an idea to fruition even if of a less formally organized nature.