Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ego Development Stage Does Not Predict Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience
by Martin, Jeffery A., Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2010, 190; 3447085
Abstract (Summary)

Non-symbolic experiences have been reported for millennia and generally attributed to spiritual and religious contexts, although atheists and agnostics also report them. Popular terms for them include: nondual awareness, enlightenment, mystical experiences , peak experiences, transcendental experience , the peace that passeth understanding, unity consciousness, union with God, and so forth. Most are temporary, but some individuals report a persistent form of them. Some scholars have argued that these experiences represent advanced stages of human development and placed them atop existing levels in various domains of developmental psychology such as cognitive or ego development. There is little evidence for this view. Moreover, several problems with it are pointed out in the present work.

The primary goal of this study is to test the above taxonomy by comparing ego development and Mysticism Scale measurements from a diverse population of individuals who report persistent non-symbolic experience. This investigation first hypothesized that individuals who report persistent non-symbolic experience would exhibit a range of psychological developmental levels, specifically tested here as a composite, ego development, using the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (WUSCT). Second, it hypothesized that individuals who report persistent non-symbolic experience would score higher on Hood's Mysticism Scale than those who do not report such experiences. Third, it hypothesized the absence of a simple or linear relationship between scores on the WUSCT and Mysticism Scale for those who report non-symbolic experience.

These hypotheses were examined in 36 adults (F=9, M=27) reporting persistent non-symbolic experience. The first hypothesis was supported: ego development stages ranged from 5 (Loevinger and Cook-Greuter's "Self Aware" stage) to 10 (Cook-Greuter's "Unitive" stage). The second hypothesis was also supported: average and median Mysticism Scale scores notably exceeded those reported in studies of other populations. The third hypothesis could not be adequately tested because the Mysticism Scale score distribution was strongly skewed upwards, making most statistical comparisons unworkable. Overall, this study provides the first strong evidence that persistent non-symbolic experience does not represent higher levels of ego development.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Combs, Allan L.
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 72/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Cognitive psychology
Keywords: Ego development, Enlightenment, Mystical experience, Mysticism Scale, Nondual, Nonsymbolic experience, WUSCT
Publication Number: 3447085
ISBN: 9781124510279
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