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Record Type: Review   ID: 170

Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences

Braud, William, & Anderson, Rosemarie

This is a very welcome guide to both basic and innovative social science research with the emphasis on transpersonal perspectives. As the subtitle indicates, whatever the subject matter or approach, the aim is to honor human experience, especially transformative, spiritual experiences, all of which are exceptional human experiences. The book is intended as a supplement to more standard methods. It concentrates primarily on qualitative in-depth approaches. These methods differ from many qualitative approaches in that, as Anderson points out in the Preface, "one of the unique properties of applying transpersonal approaches to research is the potential transformation of the researcher...pursuing these transpersonal methods potentially becomes a self-realizing act" (p. x). An overview of the development of transpersonal psychology is presented in the Introduction.

Part I, Critiques and Extensions, "contrasts the assumptions and practices of conventional research approaches with the complementary assumptions and practices of the extended and expanded approaches to research that are developed and advocated in this book" (p. xxxi). It consists of two very important chapters by the authors/editors entitled "Conventional and Expanded Views of Research" and "A Preview of New Methods." They provide the context and tone for the sections to follow. Summaries are given of Chapters 2-7, which they feel represent the heart of the book. [Speaking for myself, it is hard to find any part of the book less exciting than another!]

Part II, "Expanded Methods of Inquiry," consists of 5 chapters that set forth major research approaches in considerable depth, starting with Braud’s "Integral Inquiry: Complementary Ways of Knowing, Being, and Expression." Anderson has a chapter on intuitive inquiry, Ron Valle and Mary Mobs one on phenomenological inquiry, Jennifer Clements and three others one on organic research (feminine spirituality), and my. chapter on the role of EHEs in research and..on the scientific EHE autobiography.

Part III, "Applying the Principles: Selected Examples," consists of 5 short chapters, each of which illustrates one or more of the transpersonal research methods proposed in Part II. They were selected from doctoral dissertations and master’s theses at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Nancy L. Fagen uses nonverbal dreamwork reflexively: it is not only the topic of the research but she asked the participants, after the research was completed, to comment on it via nonverbal dreams, which are not interpreted. Kathleen Barrett investigated channeling by interviewing not only the channel about the experience of channeling but the source of the channeled material about its experience of being channeled. Sharon Van Raalte, in "Direct Knowing," used a shamanic journeying technique as a complement to contemporary psychiatry by collaborating with a psychiatrist and doing the journeying herself. Sheila Lynn Belanger studied the healer archetype with 15 participants using a verbal qualitative analysis of shamanic journeying themes, an artistic analysis, with touch drawing, and a poetic analysis with haiku. Genie Palmer, using Braud’s integral inquiry approach, explored how disclosure of exceptional human experiences (EHEs) to self and others might promote assimilation of the experiences and have an impact on their well-being and spiritual growth. She used quantitative and qualitative approaches and other ways of knowing. Chapter 9, "Alternative Ways of Working With Data (Engaging and Confronting Data), includes four student projects. Dorothy Ettling meditated and paid attention to creative expressions such as metaphors before working with her data. Alzak Amlani attended "to his emotional and intuitive reactions, as well as his visual, auditory, and proprioceptive imagery, while working with taped interviews in a quiet, meditative state" (p. 175). He also explored the "metaphorical, symbolic, and archetypal aspects" of the imagery and developed "a cross-cultural, mythic personification of each of his research participants" (p. 175). Jan Fisher, in a phenomenological study of being-movement, tried to "reproduce in herself...the same experience that she was studying in her research participants" (p. 175). This improved communication and shed light on the study’s findings. Sophie Arao-Nguyen, when working on her data, used rituals, dreamwork, bodily knowing, creative expressions, and intuition to supplement more conventional approaches. The next chapter is on "Alternative Ways of Presenting Results (Expressing and Communicating Findings). Lisa Shields let her dreams guide her in selecting coresearchers, interview questions, and organ-izing/writing his dissertations. In her report, she used a different type-face and font style for the three participants. Wendy Rogers used heuristic research methods to explore the experience of loss of fertility. She created an oracle and guidebook and she herself used it and invited others to do so when considering their own experiences of lack of creativity or feelings of barrenness. Susan Newton studied 10 female senior practitioners of Aikido or sabre fencing and their reflections on coparticipants. They reflected on each other’s descriptions "to provide a series of iterative cycles successively approximating the essential qualities of the experience of the space between things" in the practice of the two disciplines (p. 194). Linda Bushell Spencer studied the transpersonal dimensions of painting by asking artists to tell their stories fully without researcher intervention. Afterward the artists not only reported "changes in themselves and in their art as a result of having told their stories and reading those of the artists" (p. 194), but they continued meeting on their own to carry on the beneficial dialogues.

The final part, "Further Extensions," consists of "An Expanded View of Validity" by Braud and "Additional Suggestions, Ethical Considerations, and Future Challenges" by Anderson and Braud. There are three useful appendixes: synopses of Five Transpersonal Approaches to Research, Synopses of Six Related Research Approaches, and Synopses of 17 Conventional Methods of Inquiry. Also included is a directory of Centers of Transpersonal Studies. In this landmark volume a subject that is as old as the human race is explored in many exciting, innovative, meaningful ways: castles in the air with groundwork already laid beneath them. Many readers/users of this book will be ever grateful to the editors for the care, courage, sound judgment, and creativity that have gone into the production of this important work.

Publisher Information:Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998. xviii + 321p. Appendix A: Synopses of five transpersonal approaches to research 256-263; Appendix B: Synopses of six related research approaches 264-269; Appendix C: Synopses of 17 conventional methods of disciplined inquiry 270-283; Bibl: 287-306; 8 figs; 4 illus; 9 tables
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