CONSCIOUSNESS: Ideas and Research for the Twenty-First Century


Persistent forms of nondual awareness, enlightenment, mystical experience, and so forth (Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience) have been reported since antiquity. Though sporadic research has been performed on these experiences, the scientific literature has yet to report a large-scale cognitive psychology study of this population. Method: Assessment of the subjective experience of 319 adult participants reporting persistent non-symbolic experience was undertaken using 6-12 hour semi-structured interviews and evaluated using grounded theory and thematic analysis. Results: Five core, consistent categories of change were uncovered: sense-of-self, cognition, affect, perception, and memory. Participants’ reports formed phenomenological groups in which the types of change in each of these categories were consistent. Multiple groupings were uncovered that formed a range of composite experiences. The variety of these experiences and their underlying categories may inform the debate between constructivist, common core, and participatory theorists.