DATE: Monday, February 25, 2013
TIME: 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: Studio, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Gary Alvin German
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Liminality and Consciousness: The Missionary Experience "
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-G; 2006
CHAIR: Dr. Patrick Mahaffey
READER: Dr. Elizabeth Terzian
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Nitsa Marcandonatou
German, G. (2012). Liminality and Consciousness: The Missionary Experience (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)
This dissertation applies Victor Turner’s concept of liminality to the missionary experience. Part one provides a theoretical discussion of the complex and sometimes conflicting relationship between Christian and Native American worldviews. Part two consists of a memoir of personal experience with Lakota Sioux. Through an investigation of the history and spirituality of the Lakota Sioux, it is shown that Lakota ritual and culture encourage liminal experiences wherein the incumbent learns to enter the liminal world between the material and spiritual realms. This study demonstrates how the traditional Sioux culture and rituals are shaped to seek experiences from the liminal world which offers wisdom, guidance, and strength. Through a Jungian perspective, I argue that Christian missionaries experience liminality by having left their cultures and exposing themselves to cultures that are entirely different from their own. A comparative study of Western Christianity and the Native Lakota spiritualities reveal stark differences in how the two cultures approach life. That historical influences have deeply marked the thinking and soul natures of each culture is made evident. Utilizing the depth psychology of C. G. Jung, I show how the inculturation of the missionary involves many levels of exposure to the liminal. Each unique personality experiences liminality according to her or his spiritual and psychic availability at the time. Others are tricked into experiences through psychic buildup, or perhaps by the gods of the local cultures, as the need occurs. The unprepared may experience harsh consequences.
This study concludes that missionaries often become liminal personalities, bridging themselves between worlds; they become insightful forerunners in the face of the meshing of cultures and during periods of change. Persons who undergo such an experience demonstrate several psychological and spiritual imperatives: how liminality transforms identity, how one changes through discernment, and how the transcendent function integrates values derived from different worldviews. The memoir provides a narrative account of how liminality came upon the author as a missionary and student of theology while spending time on a Lakota reservation. The experience was deepened by contact with medicine men in years following. Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria.