Date of Conferral
Harris L. Friedman
Even though there are many views on consciousness theory in the pertinent literature, there remains a need for a unifying framework for specifying the features of specific states of consciousness. In order to know what kinds of experiences conscious states have in common, researchers need to elicit testimony that is more direct and finer-grained than has been previously available. This dissertation endeavors to fill a gap in current research by addressing concepts and methods for making requisite distinctions. This research illuminates the question of whether specific states of consciousness can be reliably and validly distinguished from each other. In order to do this, 41 individuals, who had experienced significant peak or ecstatic states from a variety of induction methods (most prominently by ingestion of psychedelic substances), were invited to be interviewed. The interview was designed as a conversational-type synthesis of 5 well-known questionnaires pertinent to states of consciousness, but without their explicit and implicit assumptions; that is, the volunteers' responses would not conform to predetermined questions. Encoding their responses allowed me to develop a model that helped to answer the research question ("Are there identifiable features that can reliably and validly distinguish among states of consciousness thought to be distinct from each other?") by formulating a model in which any given conscious state can be catalogued in terms of its component factors (background, resistances, setting, induction, tradition, energies, and breakthrough events). The results of this study provide much-needed insights into people's internal experiences of their various states, thus forming a basis for improved treatments and analyses. Better understanding of these states can be an impetus for social change by allowing for more incisive analyses and treatments, and also enabling more understanding of other people's inner perspectives.