Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The near -death experience: A mythic model for conscious living and dying
by Hemingway, Annamaria, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2009, 324; 3417876
Abstract (Summary)

The primordial motif of death and rebirth has remained a constant in myths of otherworldly journeys. Ancient spiritual texts portray the posthumous journey of the deceased following death. Arrays of resurrection myths describe mythological figures and descents to the underworld, ascents to celestial realms and encounters with heavenly or dark deities. Resurrection is the central archetypal motif in the myths of dying and resurrected gods, which symbolizes the germ of life existing in a possible afterlife state, often reflected in analogies reflecting cycles of the natural world.

Although human consciousness has evolved over time, the mystery of death remains beyond rational perception. Inquiring whether death may be a transition to rebirth requires looking back into the universal language of myth that contains recurrent archetypal patterns. This dissertation will be conducted from a hermeneutical-phenomenological exploration of the archetypal and mythological essence of the near-death experience (NDE). Seen from an archetypal perspective, the belief that the motif of death and renewal from ancient world mythologies appears to manifest in the altered states of consciousness of contemporary NDEs suggests the same primordial patterns remain in the collective unconscious of humanity. The core components of the near-death experience suggest a numinous psychic content that encompasses a timeless, eternal quality. Encountering the archetype of the "self," often projected through a sense of merging and unity with "God" in many different guises, which purportedly takes place during such an experience, may also validate Jung's theory of archetypes.

The hermeneutics of myth involves collecting universal myths and giving the symbolism a voice. In this way, it is possible to immediately understand and interpret the parallels that reinforce primordial motifs. This dissertation concludes by asking: does the NDE, currently manifesting in many different cultures, present an example of a modern-day myth for conscious living and dying? The ever present anxiety surrounding death may be alleviated by the symbolic content of the mythological near-death journey, which changes perception of reality and provides an illumined wisdom to enrich our myths about death.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Paris, Ginette
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 71/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Psychology, Experimental psychology
Keywords: Altered states of consciousness, Archetypes, Conscious living, Dying, Hermeneutics of myth, Near-death experience, Primordial motifs, Resurrection myths
Publication Number: 3417876
ISBN: 978-1-124-14671-3
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