Childhood Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration
I. Pure Consciousness/Mystical Experiences
There is a central psychospiritual state of consciousness for which there is now adequate scientific evidence that the experience of it is healthy, life enhancing, and promotes development. It is pure consciousness. Several other transpersonal experiences can be understood as clustering in some way around or leading to this central experience.
But what is pure consciousness (PC)? Alexander, Chandler and Boyer (1990) define PC as "a silent state of inner wakefulness with no object of thought or perception (p. 1)." They hold that it is conditioned not simply by cultural or intellectual elements, but by fundamental psychophysiological conditions which are universally available across cultures. Qualities of this state are implicated in their expanded definition:
If pure consciousness is without content, it would be, ..., nonchanging because there is no content in it that could change. It would be simple because without content, there are no parts. It would be completely one, having no diversity of content. It would be self-referring, because there is nothing other than itself to refer to or know. It would be unbounded because there is no bounded content of awareness to engage or limit awareness (p. 2-3).
A meditator describes this experience:
I was meditating one late afternoon when I began to settle down much more deeply than usual. As I became more and more still, all thoughts and feelings settled and I was left in a deep quietness. All familiar boundaries that defined where I was and what time it was, and even who I was, began to fade from awareness and dissolve altogether. I was still awake and yet all that remained was my own wakefulness. . . . There was nothing else. No trace of thought or memory entered into my awareness; even the sense of my body and its position in space had vanished. It's not that I missed these things. It simply did not enter my awareness to miss them or not to miss them.
For an indefinitely long time I remained in that state of perfectly simple wakefulness. How long I could not have guessed, for there was no measure in my awareness by which to judge the passage of time. Then, slowly, the world began to be reconstituted around me. At first some faint sensation of my body and surroundings returned; then some sense of where I was and what time it was; then some sense of my person, my projects, engagements, relations, and all those forms of awareness that make up the sense of our everyday world. The world returned to me and was organized and constructed into all the layers of awareness that make up our sense of reality. I was left with a sense of refreshment, of having drunk deeply the blissful nectar of a timeless far away realm of Being. At that moment, my whole body and mind experienced a rush of blissful joy and well being (p. 3-4).
But such a state is by no means limited to the practice of meditation. Consider this from Charles Lindbergh (1953) which he reported during his 3,600 mile solo flight across the Atlantic:
While I'm staring at the instruments, during an unearthly age of time, both conscious and asleep. ... There's no limit to my sight: my skull is one great eye, seeing everywhere at once . . . I'm not conscious of time's direction. All sense of substance leaves. There's no longer weight to my body, no longer hardness to the stick. The feeling of flesh is gone. I become independent of physical laws; of food, of shelter, of life. I'm almost . . . less tangible than air, universal as aether. . . . For twenty-five years, it's been surrounded by solid walls of bone, not perceiving the limitless expanse, the immortal existence that lies outside ... Death no longer seems the final end it used to be, but rather the entrance to a new and free existence which includes all space, all time. (pp. 389-90)
A particularly remarkable experience of PC is that of college student, Mark Block who had no previous experience of transpersonal psychology or mystical experiences. Block had a life threatening automobile accident near his home in Ft. Dodge, Iowa which left him in a coma and on a respirator. Initially the doctors were unsure if he'd live, be able to breath on his own, come out of the coma or ever walk. His neck was broken, he had a closed head injury and various lung and soft tissue damage. While in coma, the deepest state of "sleep" or unconsciousness, Block was conscious. He explains his first awareness while in coma:
Having no remembrance of that night and the events which were to follow I awoke within myself seemingly suspended in the midst of a dark void to encounter the most shocking combination of pain and confusion. I felt lost within a nightmare as I struggled to awaken and free myself from the grasp of this horrifying dream. It was as though my eyelids had been sewn shut as I struggled to open my eyes but could not. I was aware of the radiant glow of the lights external to my body as they passed through my eyelids far above me. (Block, 1989; p. 11).
Unable to awaken himself he felt pulled by a "current" and set about to deal with his situation:
As the pain continued to grow and overcome my confusion and I realized the futility of my struggle to awaken, I sought to escape the pain by seeking shelter deep within my body. (p.12)
He explains that it felt as though his "inner" self was being pushed to safety while his physical mind and body endured the pain for him. He then moved through a series of mental "shelters" or "cellars", as he called them, in a continual attempt to escape sensations of pain. Following his asking the ultimate question, "Am I dead?", he reached his "last and final shelter":
Somehow I "knew" that here I would remain and had reached the end of my journey. This last refuge became a fortress different than those before it. The pain which I desperately sought to elude was never able to penetrate the walls of this refuge as it had been able to before. . . . Here I left all physical needs and drives behind leaving only my inner "self", the core of my "being", now separated from the external world far above and outside the new world of my "self" (p. 13).
He goes on to describe this final shelter:
My previous feelings of fear, confusion and pain dissipated into feelings of peace, tranquillity and safety like I had never known before. Despite the absolute silence of this refuge I was able to "hear" the many feelings and sensations that encompassed me in their comfort. There were no sounds to be heard, yet I could "hear" the many feelings that emanated within my refuge. I became "aware" of the absolute darkness yet was never blinded by it nor did it hinder my vision. There was nothing to see, yet I could "see" like never before. Everything became so "real" as my senses heightened to an acuteness like never before. Here I remained "alone" but was never lonely as something, someone, somehow instilled me with safety and well-being. I grew content with the feelings of peace and tranquillity that surrounded me. "Warmth" radiated within my refuge and here I had no answers to my questions, but yet, I had no questions either. (p. 13)
This last description echoes that of others who have experienced pure consciousness.
As Alexander et al note:
this state represents a universally available experience that occurs spontaneously, if and only if the mind and body become completely settled, yet one remains inwardly fully awake. (p. 7)
In fact, based on the extensive research into pure consciousness they conclude:
This enables us to go beyond the prevailing understanding of pure consciousness as an inaccessible, ineffable or "mystical" experience. Rather, we come to realize that the experience of pure consciousness is a natural consequence of unfolding the latent potential of human consciousness to fully know itself, that has profound utility for improving the quality of human life. (p. 23)
The research on the benefits of experiencing pure consciousness as well as related "higher" states of consciousness is summarized in Alexander, Davies, Dixon, Dillbeck, Druker, Oetzel, Muehlman, and Orme-Johnson (1990). These and other pure consciousness researchers typically study meditators and their experience of pure consciousness but stress that the experience is not limited in any way to meditation. Some forms of meditation appear to enhance the frequency and reliability of pure conscious experiences. Scientists have found in hundreds of studies cognitive, personality and psychophysiological changes across the life span as a function of pure conscious experiences.
High frequency pure consciousness experiences in meditators and nonmeditators have also been associated with lower psychopathology as well as "psychological, biochemical, and health-related indicators of stress (p. 338)". Cognitively these experiences have been found to parallel high creative thinking, absorption, field independence and nonpropositional information processing. Finally, Alexander (1992) writes:
In several cross-sectional studies with both nonmeditating and meditating subjects, individuals who more frequently experienced pure consciousness during daily activity scored higher on self-actualization as measured by questionnaire or peer rating . . . In contrast, it was found that frequency of nonordinary, high-imagery experiences during relaxation was not significantly associated with self-actualization. (p. 337)
Repeated pure conscious experiences also result in enduring positive psychophysiological changes such as lower baseline levels of spontaneous skin resistance responses, respiration rate, heart rate, and plasma lactate and "enhanced autonomic stability during mental tasks, increased stability and efficiency of endocrine functions, maintenance of elevated arginine vasopressin, ..., and more efficient EEG hemispheric lateralization during mental tasks requiring such hemispheric specialization (p. 337)". For a complete review of the psychophysiological changes see Wallace (1987).
A. Mystical Experiences
The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent.
Scientific interest in the mystical experience was broadened with the research on psychoactive drugs. The popular belief was that such drugs mimicked either mystical states and/or schizophrenic ones (reviewed in Lukoff, Zanger & Lu, 1990). Although there is likely some physiological similarity as well as phenomenological recent work has shown clear differences. For instance, Oxman, Rosenberg, Schnurr, Tucker and Gala (1988) analyzed 66 autobiographical accounts of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug experiences, and mystical ecstasy as well as 28 control accounts of important personal experiences. They concluded that the:
subjective experiences of schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drug-induced states, and mystical ecstasy are more different from one another than alike (p. 401).
Although drug induced mystical experiences may be different than nondrug generated ones their effect none-the-less is close to the genuine and is long term. Doblin (1991) reported on a long term follow-up of the "Good Friday" experiment (Pahnke, 1963) where subjects were given a placebo or psilocybin. At the 6 month and the 30 year follow-ups the drug groups scored higher in terms of eight dimensions of their experiences which echo the mystical literature. These were unity, transcendence of time and space, deeply felt positive mood, sacredness, objectivity and reality, paradoxicality, alleged ineffability and transiency. Additionally the drug group members reported significantly more persistent changes in attitudes and behaviors over the interim period as a result of the experience.
In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC.
Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:
1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.
Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework.
A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).
Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973.
The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."
In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.
As noted Alexander et al. (1990) say of these states that to call them 'mystical' is a misnomer, for they 'transcend' ordinary thinking in no more mystical a way than abstract thinking transcends motor behavior in infancy. They make a point of explaining that this experience of "transcendental consciousness" is the same one that the worlds mystics have often spoken of with these common features, "universally available . . . discontinuous with ordinary modes of cognition . . . more developed . . . personally meaningful (p. 308)." The point of transcendental consciousness is the "direct experience of the ultimate ground state of mind, pure consciousness (p. 309)."
Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."
Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987; for theoretical review see Alexander et al., 1990; for educational and developmental reviews see Dillbeck & Dillbeck, 1987 and Nidich & Nidich, 1987; 1990). This large body of research surpasses any other in the area thus it is beyond the scope of this chapter to review it. Although there is a large meditation literature (recently reviewed in Murphy & Donovan, 1988), few other research groups go to such pains to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of transcendence. For instance, in Murphy and Donovan's summary of research on subjective reports associated with meditation there was little if any distinction between the practice of meditation and the state of consciousness. There is an awareness that experiences which are described as ineffable, blissful, exciting, etc. occur during these practices but tying these subjective experiences to a specific period or practice is rarely done. So that the research literature on these states excepting the group noted above is still at a shotgun stage. In fact, Murphy and Donovan's review lacked a theoretical integration. Because of the Vedic researchers insistence on the importance of transcending and the universality of the experience in or out of meditation their research is applicable to any inquiry into mystical states. Further their research is consistent with research on meditation in other traditions thus it cannot be argued that the effects are local to only one practice.
I will now briefly summarize the research into triggers, correlates and consequences of mystical experiences across traditions.
B. Triggers of Mystical Experience
The Vedic research basically holds that a powerful trigger for these experiences is the quieting of the mind through the mental following of a sound although they acknowledge other things can also work including the spontaneous and apparently untriggered experience (Alexander et al., 1990). The reason for this is that in their view the state of pure consciousness is at the ground of being thus it is always available for everyone. Travis (in press) has recently shown with a sophisticated EEG analysis that pure consciousness is accessible everytime we experience a change in consciousness. That is, when we go from waking to sleep or from sleep to dreaming.
Greeley (1974) identified five triggers in order of frequency, listening to music, prayer, observing nature; quiet reflection; and attending church. However, Finney and Maloney (1985) found no association between contemplative prayer and scores on the Hood Mystical Scale, but recall that Greeley's question did not really tap mystical experiences to the degree that Hood's scale appears to. Hood (1977) and Noyes and Slymen (1978-79) both found that severe threat to bodily health can also trigger such experiences. Hood studied two groups engaged in low (canoe trip) and high (solo night in the wilderness) stress conditions. He found that the latter group scored higher on the Hood Scale. Noyes and Slymen (1978-79) studied 189 victims of life-threatening accidents and found mystical consciousness to be one of three factors which described their experience. In a review of the literature Spilka, Hood and Gorsuch (1985) conclude that "the empirical research suggests that a wide variety of circumstances, situations, and substances apparently elicit mystical experiences. Specific triggering conditions, however, elicit mystical experiences differentially according to a wide variety of social, cultural, and personal variables (p. 197)."
C. Correlates of Mystical Experience
Two types of correlates have been investigated, physiological and psychological. Regarding the former the vast bulk of the work is by Wallace (1987) and associates from the Vedic tradition. They have identified over 20 correlates of pure conscious experiences which are briefly discussed in the sections on lucid dreaming and pure consciousness later in this chapter. The major two markers identified thus far are EEG Coherence surges and breath suspension. But such biological considerations have not been limited to this tradition. They are reviewed by Murphy and Donovan, (1988) and involve many of the variables studied by the Wallace group, in fact much of the Vedic work is included in the Murphy and Donovan review.
A topic of hot debate among those doing work in this area is the relationship of ecstasy experiences to experiences of the void both considered aspects of the mystical experience. The active (ecstasy, passive (void) distinction is explored by Fisher (1971) from a biological perspective. He conceptualized these as waking Ergotropic versus Trophotropic transpersonal states. Hyperaroused ergotropic states such as the peak ecstatic rapture experiences of the mystics falls at the top of a continuum of arousal states. The void of Yoga Samadhi is the peak hypoaroused (low arousal) type of trophotropic states. He points out that at these peaks, "the 'Self' of ecstasy and the 'Self' of samadhi, are one and the same 'Self.' Specifically:
In spite of the mutually exclusive relation between the ergotropic and trophotropic systems, however, there is a phenomenon called "rebound to superactivity," or trophotropic rebound, which occurs in response to intense sympathetic excitation, that is, at ecstasy, the peak of ergotropic arousal. A rebound into samadhi at this point can be conceived of as a physiological protective mechanism; Gellhorn was among the first to notice that the rebound of the trophotropic system is not confined to the autonomic branches, but also causes significant changes in behavior. Thus, repetitive stimulation of the reticular formation in the midbrain increases the arousal level in awake cats, but his phase is followed by one in which the animal yawns, lies down, and finally falls asleep. This rebound phase is associated with the appearance of theta potentials in the hippocampus, just as the corresponding human trophotropic rebound samadhi is characterized by theta potentials.
This "rebound" from ecstasy to void is illustrated in this sleep experience of Hewitt's (1988):
In 1985 I began experimenting with meditation in lucid dreams in an effort to discover this depth. These experiments brought profound results. On a half dozen occasions I succeeded in remembering my intention to sit down in the dynamic atmosphere of the lucid dream, and managed to be undistracted by dream imagery long enough to practice deep, rhythmic breathing. In each case awareness seemed to expand into an egg-shaped sphere which encompassed my dream body, with a corresponding dramatic intensification of consciousness. As this happened, colors flowed like pools of neon light in my inner vision, as they sometimes do in meditation and before falling asleep. The state intensified until the dream imagery, through half shut eyes, took on a diaphanous character and finally disappeared. I became a point of consciousness contentedly floating in an intense yellow-orange field of light.
In terms of psychological correlates, well-being and happiness has been associated with mystical experiences,(Mathes, Zevon, Roter, Joerger, 1982; Hay & Morisy, 1978; Greeley, 1975; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) as well as self-actualization (Hood, 1977; Alexander, 1992). Regarding the latter, the developer of self-actualization believed that even one spontaneous peak or transcendental experience could promote self-actualization. Correlational research has supported this relationship. In a recent statistical meta-analysis of causal designs with Transcendental Meditation (TM) controlling for length of treatment and strength of study design, it was found that:
TM enhances self-actualization on standard inventories significantly more than recent clinically devised relaxation/meditation procedures not explicitly directed toward transcendence [mystical experience] (p. 1; Alexander, 1992)
Relatedly, Caird (1987) found no relationship between reported mystical experience and neuroticism, psychoticism and lying while Spanos and Moretti (1988) found no relationship between a measure of mystical experience and psychopathology.
In terms of cognitive and perceptual variables, Spanos and Moretti (1988) found their measure of mystical experience correlated positively with absorption and hypnotizability. The former has been found by other researchers (Alexander, 1978; 1982) while the latter has shown mixed results with no relationship found by Alexander (1978). Likewise field independence has been associated with such experiences by some (Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987) but not by others (Cowling, 1985). Related to this is a measure of body rotation; those with higher scores on the Hood Scale had less disorientation after being spun (Swartz & Seginer, 1981). These mixed results for hypnotizability and field independence may be a result of differences in measures and/or conceptualizations of PC experience. Creativity has been associated with having these experiences (Cowling, 1985; Alexander et al., 1987).
These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."
D. Mystical Experiences in Children
Experiences in childhood are obtained from adult recollections and children's reports or studies on children doing a technique proposed to get near or attain PC. Both Millar (1990) and Hunt, Gervais, Shearing-Johns & Travis (1991) asked their adult subjects about mystical experience incidence in childhood (Hunt et al. defined it as, "During waking you may experience a sense of oneness and unity in all things, along with experiences of awe, bliss, and/or wonder. Sometimes this involves a sensation of melting or fusing with one's surroundings, feelings of being overwhelmed by a sense of love or compassion. Some of these experiences can be very hard to put into words." while Millar defined it as, "This is often a profound and deeply moving sense of communication, unity and oneness; a transcendental experience of higher consciousness or love, too beautiful to fully express in words. It can also be an experience of the void."). A large percent (45%) of Millar's sample of self identified psychics reported mystical experiences in childhood. In Hunt et al. meditators reported significantly more mystical experiences in childhood than the nonmeditators.
Finally, Robinson (1977) found that 15% of his adult respondents spoke of childhood mystical experiences. As this from a 40 year old female:
When I was eleven years old I spent part of a summer holiday in the Wye Valley. Waking up very early one bright morning, before any of the household was about, I left my bed and went to kneel on the window seat, to look out over the curve which the river took just below the house. The trees between the house and river ... The scene was very beautiful, and quite suddenly I felt myself on the verge of a great revelation. It was as if I had stumbled unwittingly on a place where I was not expected, and was about to be initiated into some wonderful mystery, something of indescribable significance. Then, just as suddenly, the feeling faded. But for the brief seconds while it lasted I had known that in some strange way I, the essential "me", was a part of the trees, of the sunshine, and the river, that we all belonged to some great unity. I was left filled with exhilaration and exultation of spirit. This is one of the most memorable experiences of my life, of a quite different quality and greater intensity than the sudden lift of the spirit one may often feel when confronted with beauty in Nature (p. 37).
The only extensive scientific studies of mystical or pure conscious experiences in children and their effects is with the Vedic group. Nidich and Nidich (1987; 1990) offer these descriptions from children of their experiences while doing the child's TM technique:
Grade 2: I feel silent waves of love and waves of happiness. (Allan)
Grade 3: I feel like I just did something really good, like I just did something for my mom or dad and they gave me a big hug. (Laura)
Grade 6: When I meditate, I am happy and glowing. Sometimes I get a very profound feeling, like I am floating on a cloud. (Arnie) (Nidich & Nidich, 1990; p. 21 & 26)
Randi Nidich commented (personal communication, Jan. 23, 1992) that if you talk to the parents and teachers around here (Maharishi International University, MIU) you'll find that higher states of consciousness experiences are quite common. These children who attend a special school at MIU where the study of consciousness is part of the curriculum. Nidich and Nidich (1990) report that in addition to significant academic improvement:
grade level . . . scores . . . were achieved by 58% of new students at the start of their first year at Maharishi School, 82 percent were at or above grade level by the end of the year. A second study on new students entering grades 3 through 7 also showed significant improvements in overall academic achievement, reading, vocabulary, language, and work-study skills over approximately a 12-month period (p. 90).
These authors point out that these gains in academic achievement were not just a function of attendance at this special school but were also significantly correlated with the number of years the child had been practicing the TM technique which was independent of age and sex.
These children also showed significantly higher creativity (Nidich & Nidich, 1987) and field independence (Gelderloos, Lockie, & Chuttoorgoon, 1987). The last was from meditating students at the MIU school (mean age = 8.98 yr.) and students at a Montessori school (mean age = 8.6 yr.) allowing for school, special attention, individual curriculum confounds. In a summary of work with elementary students Dillbeck, Msemaje, Clayborne, and Dillbeck (1990) write:
Research on students of elementary school age has evaluated the effects of the TM technique or for younger students the Children's TM technique. Cross-sectional studies found that elementary school children practicing the Children's TM technique showed advanced cognitive development in comparison to controls, as measured by Piagetian tasks, controlling for age and socioeconomic status (SES) . . . In a similar cross-sectional study, children aged 7-11 practicing the meditation technique suitable for their age displayed higher performance on a measure of field independence than matched children . . .
In longitudinal studies, elementary and secondary school children already practicing the Children's TM technique or the TM technique show increased academic achievement on standardized tests over one school year, in contrast to normative data . . . A longitudinal study of matched pairs of elementary school children used a time series design with daily repeated measurement of memory and field independence . . . six weeks before and six weeks after a self-selected member of each pair learned the TM technique; children learning the technique showed improved performance . . . In the first pre-post longitudinal study of the Children's TM technique, Dixon (in press) tested four year old preschool children about to learn the technique, in comparison to other preschool children, on a battery of cognitive measures, and post-tested after six months. Differences in age, gender, SES, parental education, and previous preschool experience were controlled statistically. Regularly meditating children showed enhanced performance on factor-derived measures associated with field independence, intelligence, . . . and reasoning ability . . . in comparison to controls (p. 2-3).
Similar positive results were found by these Vedic researchers with low-income inner-city young children.
Although the children's technique is not designed to facilitate transcendence based on Nidich's remarks, it is likely that these children are having experiences of this nature. So although we need to make a somewhat inferential leap with these children, none-the-less this body of work, in the context of their extensive research on transcendence in adults, is the strongest scientific support that "mystical" states may be good for you in childhood.
E. Recap Pure Consciousness/Mystical Experience
In this section I have introduced the idea of pure consciousness as the basic state from which the mystical experience is derived. I've argued that pure consciousness is healthy, life enhancing and promotes development and although its access is facilitated by the practice of meditation it is naturally experienced by all each day as states of consciousness are changed. Further, I have shown that children can experience pure consciousness/mystical experiences and it is as with adults a marker of well-being. I will now turn to a discussion of one of the early markers of pure consciousness, sleep consciousness, and other related experiences.
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