What Enlightenment Means: A Qualitative Study of Nondual Consciousness as Experienced by Teachers of Nondual Mysticism

by Michael Costeines

The intention of this dissertation was to qualitatively study nondual consciousness, known in nondual mystical traditions as enlightenment, by examining the lived experiences of purportedly enlightened spiritual teachers. Nondual consciousness was theorized as the culminating stage of psychospiritual development. The literature review surveyed transpersonal theory, research, and mystical literature related to nondual consciousness, which was contrasted with egoic consciousness. Sixteen participants were interviewed in depth, using a semistructured format. Participants were spiritual teachers of nondual mysticism. Attention was focused on gathering a rich thematic description of the essential qualities of nondual consciousness. Thematic analysis identified key themes. Themes among participants described gradual transition from egoic consciousness to nondual consciousness through the process of nondual realization. Stable traits associated with mature nondual consciousness included nondual ontology, disidentification from mental constructs, timeless awareness, mental lucidity, nondual action, beatific peace, spontaneous joy, absence of neurotic suffering, unitive relationships, unitive love, awareness of spiritual immortality, and awareness of positive cosmology. Results help define the most advanced stage of transpersonal development discussed in the noetic literature and carry implications for the study of consciousness and human potential.

Michael Costeines Dissertation


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