by Me all is pervaded: A cosmic context for transpersonal research, lived experience, and Oneness

Nami, A. (2022). Forlorn, The Guardian

In September, the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) are holding their annual conference.  I’m one of the presenters and I’m talking about the intersection of my own lived experience of ‘oneness’ which occurred when I was completing my research study for my PhD, which was a transpersonal study exploring adult bereavement and after-death contact experiences.  There were two reasons why I decided to present on this topic.

The first was to highlight the important role that transpersonal research can play in exploring human experiences which are deemed spiritual or ineffable, or which are concerned with what Rosmarie Anderson (who is a transpersonal psychologist and researcher) defines as being, “of ultimate value”.  The second was to highlight that what I deem to be spiritual experiences, in this case experiences of ‘oneness’, can occur randomly and without provocation, in everyday situations and often when you least expect, which is exactly what happened to me.

The etymology of the word transpersonal has its roots in two separate words of Latin origin; trans, meaning beyond, across or over, and personare, meaning a mask or façade which obscures or veils something behind it.  So when we’re talking about something which is transpersonal, we’re talking about an experience/event which takes us beyond appearances.  It does this because it acts as a portal which moves us beyond the physicality of ourselves and of the known and familiar material world in which we live.

When these events occur we experience a duality; we’re anchored to the material universe yet we experience something beyond it, something totally different because though non-material it is no less real to us at the time.  And when we experience ‘oneness’ this is what happens, we experience the reality of what has always been known to us while simultaneously experiencing another reality which like the material universe, is constantly present though largely unknown and not experienced by most people.  These events challenge the notion of reductionist and strictly empirical views of the universe and of the individual, and they do so because they reveal a spiritual dimension of existence as they do the spiritual foundation of reality.

One of the effects of using transpersonal research methodologies, is the potential transformation of the researcher.  This occurs because while the researcher learns about the topic of enquiry they also learn about themselves using such techniques as intuition, direct knowing, dreamwork, meditation, inner-reflection, self-examination and perhaps solitude, which are all themselves components of the transpersonal research process.  I used Heuristic inquiry which consists of 6 phases or stages each with their characteristics and approaches.  The process commences with what is termed Initial engagement before moving on to Immersion, then to Incubation, Illumination, Explication to the final stage, the Creative Synthesis, and it was at this final stage that I had my experience of oneness.

When we experience such an event, what is happening?  Are we suddenly roused from sleep such that  we feel a sense of profound connection with something beyond ourselves, with something which feels vaster than the material universe?  Do we feel and know with utter conviction that we are connected to everything in a way we’ve never known or experienced before, and that there is a divine and universal love binding everything together?

I believe that experiences of oneness are powerful spiritual events which can transform our understanding of reality, and which can reveal a powerful truth which nothing can distort.   And it seems to me also, that it  doesn’t matter in what circumstances we experience ‘oneness’, what matters is that we do and there’s the miracle, and there’s the gift of grace that comes with it.


Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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