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Title: A phenomenological investigation into the psychological transformation interpreted as 'Spiritual Awakening' : possible causes, characteristics, and after-effects
Author: Taylor, Steve
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis studied transfonnational experiences of 'spiritual awakening' from a psychological perspective, using a phenomenological qualitative approach (specifically, Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis). The aim was to study the phenomenology of individuals who claim to have had this experience. Purposive sampling was used to find a group of individuals who felt that they had undergone the experience of 'spiritual awakening.' Twenty-five participants made contact, primarily through the author's website, which focuses on issues relating to psychology and spirituality. Given this approach, the sample represented a subset of those who may have experienced spiritual awakening in broader contexts. The participants were interviewed using a semi-structured format. The transcripts were coded, then the main themes of the twenty-five interviews were elicited. Twenty-five major codes were identified. These were ranked in tenns of the number of participants who shared them. All twenty-five participants reported a shift into a new psychological state, with a new sense of identity, new modes of cognition and perception, a new relationship to their surroundings and to other human beings (including increased authenticity and compassion) and new values (including a less materialistic attitude and increased altruism, in some cases leading to a change in career). In this respect, the study found that much of the phenomenology of their experiences was similar to the characteristics of 'spiritual awakening' as expressed by spiritual traditions and also by transpersonal psychologists. However, a significant number of participants also reported initial and ongoing difficulties and fluctuations in their state, including psychological disturbances, cognitive problems, difficulty dealing with practical and organisational tasks, confusion, and physical problems such as sleeplessness and ongoing pain. In this sense, the study confirmed the close relationship between spiritual experience and psychopathology, as noted by Grof (2000), Clark (2010), Lucas (2011) and others. The study discussed possible causes of the different aspects of the participants' experiences, and also the possibility that the phenomenology of their experiences may have been at least in part the result of narrative construction (especially in the aftermath of intensely traumatic experiences), in relation to the need to reconstruct their identity and establish a conceptual framework to make sense of their experiences. Although it was beyond the scope of this thesis to offer firm conclusions on this matter, further research which may be productive in this area was suggested. This study found that it may be misleading to conceive of the psychological shift interpreted by the participants as 'spiritual awakening' as a purely positive state, without attendant difficulties. It is perhaps more accurate to think in terms of a 'spiritual opening' - a psychological shift which can bring a more intense and expanded awareness, but which can create instability and disturbance.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: BF Psychology ; BL Religion