Transliminality and Transcendence: An Exploration of the Connections among Creativity, Mystical Experience, and Psycho"pathology"
Kreiselmaier, Laura Rosser
People who are highly creative seem to have an increased propensity for mystical experience, on the one hand, and psychological suffering, on the other. Michael A. Thalbourne and colleagues’ concept of “transliminality”—the hypothesized tendency of psychological material to cross thresholds into and out of consciousness—helps corroborate and explain this observation. In this dissertation I propose a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual model for understanding the types of phenomena that people with large amounts of transliminality often encounter and for informing a holistic, empathic, effective clinical and pastoral response. First, I review evidence that transliminality is a valid construct, and I offer a model for how high amounts of this trait interact with contextual factors to result in individuals with a wider-than-usual range of flourishing versus decompensation. Next, using the 16th-century mystic St. Teresa of Ávila, 20th-century depth psychologist C. G. Jung, and contemporary musician Alanis Morissette as case studies, I examine how each embodies creativity, transcendent experience, and possible psychopathology; demonstrates a high degree of transliminality; and finds ways to move through psychospiritual suffering into ultimate flourishing and generativity. I then explore the psychological and theological ramifications of transliminal, transcendent moments by correlating the writings of practical theologian James E. Loder and cognitive psychologist Harry T. Hunt on the nature and potential purpose of these experiences (and, by implication, the type of personality that increases one’s tendency to have them). Finally, after integrating “transliminality theory” with insights from Loder, Hunt, Teresa, Jung, and Morissette, I translate this research into practical recommendations for how pastoral caregivers and psychotherapists can help highly transliminal people ameliorate suffering and actualize their considerable gifts.