I to We: The Role of Consciousness Transformation in Compassion and Altruism

January 16, 2007
Cassandra Vieten, PhD

Vieten, C, Amorok, T, Schlitz, M. (2007) I to We: The Role of Consciousness Transformation in Compassion and Altruism. Journal of Religion & Science, 41(4), 915-932.


It is clear that human consciousness can be transformed through spiritual experiences and practices. Little is known, however, about what the predictors, mediators, and outcomes are of such transformations in consciousness. In-depth structured interviews were conducted with forty-seven teachers and scholars from religious and spiritual traditions and modern transformative movements to identify factors common to the transformative process across traditions. Compassion and altruism were almost universally identified as important outcomes of positive consciousness transformation. Results of our analysis suggest that altruism and compassion may arise as natural consequences of experiences of interconnection and oneness. These experiences appear to lead to shifts in perspective and changes in one’s sense of self and self in relationship to others. Based on these findings, we suggest several mechanisms by which transformative experiences and practices might influence the development of compassion and altruism.

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