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Consciousness in Oscillation

Worldviews and their Transcendence as Spiritual Practice

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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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Introduction .............................................................................................................................. 11 Background ...................................................................................................................... 11 The study of consciousness .............................................................................................. 16 The chapters ..................................................................................................................... 17 1 Fieldwork setting: the school, teachers, and students ...................................................... 21 1.1 The school .................................................................................................................. 21 1.2 Barbara Brennan: her life and her work .................................................................... 31 1.3 The teachers ............................................................................................................... 35 1.4 The students ............................................................................................................... 39 1.5 Mondsee ..................................................................................................................... 50 2 Methodology .................................................................................................................... 53 2.1 Research on consciousness: challenges and accomplishments ................................. 53 2.2 Methods and perspectives .......................................................................................... 57 2.3 Phenomenology: the study of subjective experience ................................................. 59 2.4 What it is like to be: the practice of ‘becoming aware’ during fieldwork ................. 63 2.5 Ethics ......................................................................................................................... 70 2.6 Informants .................................................................................................................. 71 3 Existence, cosmology and understanding: on the complexity of a relationship with life 73 3.1 Cosmological systems and individual consciousness ................................................ 77 3.2 Interdependency, reincarnation, core essence ........................................................... 79 3.3 The human energy field (HEF) .................................................................................. 84 4 Transformation and the process of embodied learning .................................................... 91 4.1 Formal relationships .................................................................................................. 93 4.1.1 Teaching in practice ......................................................................................... 102 4.2 Informal relationships .............................................................................................. 106 4.2.1 Informal relationships back home .................................................................... 110 5 Belief system territories or the wiping of horizons ........................................................ 115 5.1 Fabrizio: constitutive questions and our orientation in moral space ....................... 116 5.2 Theresa: searching beneath the mask of perfection ................................................. 124 6 Turning givenness into choice, while encountering our own hearts .............................. 131 6.1 Turning ‘givenness into choice’: the birth and death of a baby .............................. 133 6.2 Analysis ................................................................................................................... 138 6.3 Hannah ..................................................................................................................... 149 7 A Critique ....................................................................................................................... 151 10 8 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 155 8.1 Essence, oneness and the question of ontology ....................................................... 155 8.2 Consciousness and the body .................................................................................... 160 8.3 Consciousness beyond the body .............................................................................. 161 Epilogue ................................................................................................................................. 163 Appendix ................................................................................................................................ 167 Bibliography ........................................................................................................................... 173

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