Depth Psychology: Monistic & Dualistic Theories of Consciousness (Part 2)

In this series of essays, I will explore the tenets of consciousness from Eastern and Western perspectives. It is imperative for a researcher to identify the core concepts that drive his or her work. Because this study focuses on models of consciousness from Eastern and Western viewpoints, it is imperative to offer a definition of the conscious, conscience, and consciousness from the both philosophical traditions. In this section I will define the conscience, conscious, and consciousness from both the Eastern and Western perspectives. I will then define the textual concepts that will be utilized throughout this series of articles to orient the reader to the technical terminology utilized by the professions of psychoanalysis, analytical psychology, and the metaphysical tenets associated to Buddhist philosophy, religion, and Eastern models of psychology.

Definition of Terms

Anima: An archetypal construct that represents the unconscious femininity of man. While this archetype is originally housed within the mother imago, it eventually separates and forms the “chthonic part of the [masculine] soul” (Jung, 1954/1969).

Conscience: The Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1978) defined conscience as being “knowledge or feeling of right and wrong; the faculty, power, or principle of a person which decides on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of his actions, with a compulsion to do right; moral judgment that prohibits or opposes the violation of a previously recognized ethical principle (p. 387).

Conscious: The Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1978) defined conscious as having a feeling or knowledge (of one’s sensations, feelings, etc., or external things); knowing or feeling (that something is or was happening or existing); aware; cognizant; able to feel and think; awake; aware of oneself as a thinking being; knowing what one is doing and why (p. 388).

Consciousness: The Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1978) defined consciousness as being “the knowledge of what is happening around one; state of being conscience; the totality of one’s thoughts, feelings, and impressions; mind” (p. 388).

Dualistic Paradigm of Consciousness: This model of consciousness is based primarily on Descartes model of consciousness that suggested that res cogitan (mind or cognition) is separate from res extensa (matter). Both mind and matter are thought to exist as a duality yet fundamentally operate as complimentary to one another. Therefore, this form of consciousness proposes that a transcendent level of consciousness exists that the individual consciousness can not be fully aware of, yet acts as a driving force to greater levels of Self understanding (Ajaya, 1983).

Ego: Sigmund Freud (1923/1989) believed that “in each individual. There is a coherent organization of mental processes; and we call this his ego. It is to this ego that consciousness is attached; the ego controls the approaches to motility – that is, to the discharge of excitations into the external world; it is the mental agency which supervises all its own constituent processes, and which goes to sleep at night, though even then it exercises the censorship on dreams. From this ego proceed the repressions, too, by means of which it is sought to exclude certain trends in the mind not merely from consciousness but also from other forms of effectiveness and activity” (p. 630).

Id: A psychological construct of the personality structure that is unconscious, subject to natural laws, and impersonal. For Freud (1923/1989), the id contained the passions of humanity and the unconscious drive states of the Eros and the death instincts.

Monistic Paradigm of Consciousness: A paradigm of consciousness that is based on the notion that only consciousness exists. In particular, this differs from the term monotheistic in that monotheistic posits that there is only one God whom people are subservient to. Instead, monism posits that only consciousness exists, and there is no difference between the individual conscience and the universal conscience (Ajaya, 1983).

Nirvana: “Sanskrit word that literally means blown out. Highest spiritual attainment that transcends experience itself. Contrasted with samsara or the cycle of existence in which the unenlightened beings must take rebirth. To attain nirvana means to be free from suffering and compulsory rebirth in samsara” (Urubshurow, 2006).

In Jungian psychology, this state is spoken of by Jung’s contemporary Franklin Merrell-Wolf as a non subject and object mode of consciousness in which the center of consciousness, the Self exists in a spatial void that is like a dreamless sleep, which can then be projected into this void and exists with a non-dualistic model of consciousness (Merrell-Wolff, 1973).

Resurrection: The Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1978) defined resurrection as to raise from the dead or grave; to bring back to life; a coming back into notice, practice, use, etc.; restoration or revival, as of old customs; the state of having risen from the dead; in Christian theology, (a) the rising of Jesus from the dead after his death and burial; (b) the rising of all the dead at the Last Judgment” (p. 1545).

Rūpa: Tibetan Buddhist term describing the beginning stage of life. During this developmental stage, a person gains the ability to understand the limits of physiological space. Fremantle (as cited in Trungpa, 1975) stated that this form of consciousness represents “the first component of form, the beginning of individuality and separate existence, and the division of experience into subject and object… [it represents] a primitive ‘self’ aware of its surroundings” (p. xvii).

Samjñā: A Tibetan Buddhist term that describes the third stage of Self development. During this stage, the self becomes aware of environmental stimuli and therefore develops the ability to perceive external events (Fremantle, as cited in Trungpa, 1975).

Samskāra: A Tibetan Buddhist term that describes the fourth stage of Self development. This stage allows the individual to have conceptual response towards an environmental event by linking the affective qualities developed in the second stage (vedanā) with the perceptive qualities of the third stage (saṃjñā) (Fremantle, as cited in Trungpa, 1975).

Self: An archetype that represents the total personality including the unconscious aspects that cannot be known to the ego state of consciousness (Jung, 1951/1969).

Superego: Freud (1929/1989) defined the superego as the “the heir of the Oedipus complex and [it] represents the ethical standards of mankind” (p. 37). The superego has both cultural and personal components (Freud, 1929/1989). Freud believed at the personal level, the superego is set up to help rid humanity of the hindrance of “the constitutional inclination of human beings to be aggressive towards one another” (p. 770) and at the collective level the superego is the legacy of “the impression left behind by the personalities of great leader – men of overwhelming force of mind or men in whom one of the human impulsions has found its strongest and purest, and therefore often its most one-sided, expression” (p. 769).

Vedanā: A Tibetan Buddhist term that describes the second stage of Self development. This stage corresponds to the development of primary affective states. During this stage, an individual develops the primary sense of like, dislike, or indifference that will latter for the basis of emotional response (Fremantle, as cited in Trungpa, 1975).

Vijñāna: A Tibetan Buddhist term describing the final stage of Self development. This stage combines all the sense perceptions with the theory of universal consciousness as a means to make the mind a complete macrocosm upon itself (Fremantle, as cited in Trungpa, 1975). This stage encompasses individuated development.

Methodology Statement

This research study utilizes hermeneutic and heuristic research methodologies as a means to understand the nature of consciousness from an Eastern perspective, and its correlations to and divergences from Western theories of consciousness.

The hermeneutic research methodology has a long history dating to ancient biblical studies, and prescribes to a method in which meaning is derived from the text that is studied (Hermeneutics, 2009). Heuristic methodology allows a space for biographical material to be incorporated into a research study (Moustakas, 1990).

It is imperative for a researcher conducting qualitative research to identify his or her subjectivity to a study; this allows the researcher to assume an objective presence towards the study he or she conducts (Romanyshyn, 2007). All research is conducted at subjective and objective levels of reasoning. While quantitative and empirical research relies upon objectivity, many qualitative research methods rely upon the subjective predisposition a researcher has towards the subject matter that is studied. Therefore, in qualitative research it is imperative that the researcher identify his or her predispositions to the subject matter in order to establish a precedent that he or she can remain objective about the data presented despite personal predispositions. By identifying my personal experience with Eastern and Western religious, philosophical, and psychological systems, I will set the objective parameters for this study by identifying the personal history that called upon me to take part in this study.


Ajaya, S. (1983). Psychotherapy East and West: A unifying paradigm. Honesdale, PA: The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A.

Freud, S. (1989). An autobiographical study. In. P. Gay (Ed.). The Freud reader (pp. 628-661). London: W.W. Norton & Company. (Original work published 1923).

Freud, S. (1989). Civilization and its discontents. In. P. Gay (Ed.). The Freud reader (pp. 722-771). London: W.W. Norton & Company. (Original work published 1929).

Hermeneutics. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved April 23, 2009 from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:

Jung, C. G. (1969). Concerning the archetypes, with special reference to the anima concept (R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. Mcguire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung. Vol. 9-1 (pp. 54-74). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published in 1954).

Merrell-Wolff, F. (1973). The Philosophy of Consciousness Without an Object. New York: Julian Press

Moustakas, C. (1990). Heuristic research: design, methodology, and applications. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

Romanyshyn, R. (2007). The wounded researcher: Research with soul in mind. New Orleans, LA: Spring Journal Inc.

Trungpa, C. (1975). The Tibetan book of the dead: The great liberation through hearing in the Bardo (F. Fremantle, Trans.). Berkeley, CA: Shambhala.

Urubshurow, V. (2006). The complete idiots guide to the life of Buddha. New York: Penguin Group.

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