Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contemplative practices and orders of consciousness: A constructive-developmental approach
by Silverstein, Charles H., Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2012, 191; 3545623
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study explores the correspondence between contemplative practices and orders of consciousness from a constructive-developmental perspective, using Robert Kegan's approach. Adult developmental growth is becoming an increasingly important influence on humanity's ability to deal effectively with the growing complexity of modern life. This study investigates the relationship between contemplative practices and adult development in a sample of highly educated adult students.

Kegan posits that a central principle of mental organization is the subject-object relationship, wherein "object" refers to thoughts, beliefs, and relationships that consciousness can hold and observe, while "subject" refers to the meaning-making structure of the mind that holds the mental objects. Developmental growth is a process of increasing one's mental complexity through successive differentiations from that with which one identifies, gradually recognizing them as mental objects separate from oneself, and finally reintegrating these mental objects into a new and larger meaning-making structure.

Kegan identifies six meaning-making structures he calls orders of consciousness. Most adults are in one of the three top orders of consciousness, or are in transitions between them. These three are termed Socialized mind, Self-Authoring mind, and Self-Transforming mind, with each successive order representing a more complex meaning-making mental structure.

Adult development researchers have proposed theories linking contemplative practice to developmental growth, yet few studies have empirically investigated the relationship. This study of 19 participants, Ph.D. students from the California Institute of Integral Studies, used two primary instruments: (a) Kegan's Subject-Object Interview to measure order of consciousness and (b) a contemplative practices interview designed by this researcher to explore the meaning participants make of their contemplative practices.

Notably, this study found that the participants at the Self-Authoring order of consciousness, with a few exceptions, tend to engage in contemplative practices that quiet the mind, are self-directed and eclectic in their type of practice, and have consistent and longer sessions of contemplative practice than participants at the Socialized mind order of consciousness. The results of this study are not generalizable due to its exploratory nature and small sample size; however, these findings are significant for the direction of future research.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Combs, Allan L.
Commitee: McGuigan, Richard, Zajonc, Arthur
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Transformative Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Adult education, Educational psychology, Developmental psychology
Keywords: Adult development, Consciousness, Constructive developmental theory, Contemplative practices, Meditation, Transformative studies
Publication Number: 3545623
ISBN: 9781267782700
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