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Consciousness in Oscillation

Worldviews and their Transcendence as Spiritual Practice


Sonja Lenk

The thesis addresses the question of human consciousness in its oscillation between conditioning and transcendence: the impact of cultural worldviews on the individual’s lifeworld and their gradual transcendence as a form of spiritual practice. At the centre of attention is a group of individuals and their unfolding life-stories as they move through a journey of transformation, seeking to explore and understand the complexity of their own consciousness. The emphasis is on the embodiment of belief systems and the individuals’ inherent existential power to transcend cultural precepts. Methodologically, the study is based in phenomenological anthropology. It thus employs the first-person perspective and includes subjective personal experience as primary data.


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I would like to thank Prof. Nigel Rapport for an exceptional quality of supervi- sion: his insightful, meticulous comments and revisions; the rare combination of clear structural and academic guidance with genuine openness to the messy, un- settling and chaotic realm of human existence as it was the subject matter of this research; and his steady, reliable presence throughout all stages of the thesis. Further I would like to express my gratitude to Barbara Ann Brennan for al- lowing me so generously, and without restrictions, to carry out fieldwork at her School; to Laurie Keene for her authentic, sincere presence and her ability to listen without judgement; to all my fellow students at the Brennan School of Healing for their comradeship and open hearts, their courage to be truthful, and open-minded support of this research. In particular I would like to thank my main informants for sharing their life-stories with me in such depth, detail and honesty. Their trust and openness was a precious gift, for which I am deeply grateful. In Heidelberg I would like to thank my friends Marcus Franke and Ralf Re- hberger for stimulating anthropological discussions and their delightful sense of humour, helping me through the more tedious stages of this thesis. Finally I want to thank my mother for her unconditional love and support, her dedication to my daughter Olive, and for believing in me when there really was no good reason for doing so. Without her, this work would have been im- possible.

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