Dissertation Title:

Awareness of Spirit in the Therapy Room: An Alchemical Hermeneutic Study


Lou Bigelow

Date, Time & Place:

May 6, 2024 at 3:00 pm


Yogic teachings depict the aim of life as reuniting with Spirit, and Paramahansa Yogananda (1982, 1995, 2011) expounded on the deep meaning of living one’s life in this way. Although the practice of meditation has been shown to allow for greater access to experience outside of functional ego consciousness (Bruce et al., 2010; Nanda, 2005; Yogananda, 1995), the connection of how Spirit may be felt directly while engaged in life’s activities is less well understood. This study explored how Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings about communing with Spirit might impact a therapist’s ability to be aware of a Force greater than themself while actively engaged in the therapy room. Using an alchemical hermeneutic methodology, this research integrated Yogananda’s writings with literature on including the Divine in clinical work from therapists of diverse spiritual traditions including Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim faiths, providing a larger context in which the therapist, client, and therapeutic relationship can hone a connection to Spirit (Hoffer, 2018; Tan, 2001; York Al-Karam, 2018). Directing attention toward love, service, and surrender to Spirit were revealed as potential guides toward greater connection with the Oceanic Presence that unites all beings, both in one’s personal life and clinical work (Yogananda, 1982, 2000, 2011).

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology with Emphasis in Depth Psychology, A, 2016
  • Chair: Dr. Avedis Panajian
  • Reader: Dr. Elizabeth Schewe
  • External Reader: Dr. Kathy Greathouse
  • Keywords: Spiritual, Yogananda, Psychotherapy, Alchemical Hermeneutics, Clinical Applications, Divine, Self-realization