Healing stories of the unconscious: pastlife imagery in transpersonal psychotherapy

by Knight, Zelda G.

Abstract (Summary)
Theoretically this thesis was grounded in the discourse of transpersonal psychology and the related discourse of transpersonal feminism. The focus was on a particular category of transpersonal phenomena - past-life experiences. These experiences were viewed from a poetic and therapeutic perspective as being healing stories of the unconscious that served to articulate psychological and spiritual realities of the human psyche within both the personal and the collective unconscious. They were thus not questioned in regard to their literal occurrence. The central aims of this thesis were to (a) document and faithfully describe a participant's past-life experiences that occurred during selected psychotherapy sessions, (b) engage in a hermeneutic dialogue between the participant's past-life experiences and contemporary transpersonal literature, and, in so doing, to evaluate and extend existing theory, (c) uncover the archetypal significance of past-life experience and its relationship to the re-emerging Feminine within patriarchal culture and, finally, (d) show how the past-life stories and images contribute to the process of inner healing and transformation, a process termed 'spiritual emergence'. The research was a phenomenological-hermeneutic case study, comprising the selection of eight consecutive psychotherapy sessions in which nine past-life experiences were identified. These sessions were reduced to narrative synopses, and a hermeneutically grounded thematic analysis of a total of six past-life themes were explicated. Principle conclusions reached were that past-life stories and images contribute to the process of spiritual emergence and empowerment as well as to the re-emergence of the Feminine consciousness. Moreover, as healing stories of the unconscious, these past-life experiences can be understood as expressions of the collective struggle with unresolved archetypal forces within the collective psyche, as well as echoes of personal conflicts and dilemmas from the individual unconscious.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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