By being human : an anthropological inquiry into the dimension and potential of consciousness in the context of spiritual practice
The research explores the concept of human consciousness and its being experienced in a particular social context, focusing on consciousness’s ‘highest potential’ as described in both ancient Buddhist Philosophy and more recent spiritual teachings. The main attention is on the individual’s emotional and mental experience of ‘conventional’ and ‘ultimate’ reality as taught by these traditions and the possible transformation of consciousness they might initiate. Two years of fieldwork was carried out at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, which is a spiritual educational institution, offering a four-year training to become a healer. The School emphasis is on the human individual and his or her inherent existential power to transform and transcend limitations or delusions, focusing on the process of self- transformation. Being human in the eyes of the School is seen as an endless potential for growth, creativity, the capacity to love, and about learning to become fully responsible for one’s own life and happiness. The thesis explores the effect that this particular understanding of human potential has in the quotidian existence of the trainee and her or his social relations. Methodologically the study is based in phenomenological anthropology. This approach here implies that life cannot be understood through the conceptual or systematic study of its outward forms. Therefore it places conscious experience at the centre of its investigation, rather than disengaged objectivity. By employing the first-person perspective and undertaking part of the training myself, I hope to do justice to the inherently subjective dimension of consciousness and to gain as deep an understanding as possible of the processes of its transformation. The thesis thus includes subjective personal experience as primary data, and understands being objective in the sense of being open and without bias to both internal and external experience, giving the ‘perennial wisdom’ of spiritual traditions the same status as approved scientific laws.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted permanently
Items in the St Andrews Research Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.