Roeper Review, 31:103–112, 2009
Copyright © The Roeper Institute
ISSN: 0278-3193 print / 1940-865X online
UROR Peace Pilgrim, Exemplar of Level V
Peace Pilgrim, Exemplar of Level V Michael M. Piechowski
Cases of secondary integration (Level V), the most advanced level of development through
positive disintegration, are easily found within the religious sphere. To find a secular case of
secondary integration presents a greater challenge. The life of Peace Pilgrim (1908–1981),
known personally to a great many people, appears to be such a case. The course of her personality
development appears to reflect successive phases of multilevel growth. This article examines
Dabrowski’s concept of secondary integration, personality ideal, and Peace Pilgrim’s state of
inner peace in an attempt to arrive at some purchase on these concepts. This study also raises
the subject of spiritual experience as personal experience unbounded by systems of religious
beliefs. This stratospheric study does carry actual implications for gifted education.
Since her death in a head-on collision in 1981, Peace Pilgrim
has become widely recognized as an extraordinary person,
“an American saint who transcended all national, religious, or
sectarian bonds to communicate love, understanding and
integrity. Her life was her teaching” (Dan Millman, 1996).
There are very few examples of individuals who have
reached Level V, the highest level of development of person-
ality in Dabrowski’s theory. Drawing on the sources about
Peace Pilgrim’s life, Dabrowski’s definition of secondary
integration (Level V), and of the processes leading to it, this
article examines the evidence and attempts to show that
Peace Pilgrim is indeed one of those rare individuals who has
taken up the arduous task of “psychological mountaineering”
(Assagioli, 1991, p. 32) to its utmost attainment.
I begin by introducing the image of multilevel develop-
ment as climbing a mountain and then present Peace Pilgrim’s
outline of the phases of her personal growth in order to exam-
ine the parallels between her development and Dabrowski’s
levels. Was her developmental potential indicative of strengths
sufficient to bring her to secondary integration? In what way
are Dabrowski’s concepts of secondary integration and per-
sonality ideal reflected in her “inner peace”?
In Dabrowski’s paradigm of positive disintegration, per-
sonal growth is indeed much like scaling a mountain rather
than a sequential unfolding of childhood, adolescence, and
adulthood. Imagining personal growth as ascent of a moun-
tain, encountering danger, facing tests of courage, and forg-
ing on with perseverance suggests that not everyone has the
strength, endurance, and determination to climb far; few
manage to reach the summit. Moreover, not everyone is
interested in climbing and may prefer to remain in the valley.
Some may not even be aware of the mountain. The endowment
for how far in scaling the figurative mountain an individual
can go constitutes developmental potential. An endowment
for multilevel development signifies that a person starts
already a considerable distance up the slope.1 A person with
limited potential starts in the valley and does not reach far.
Can we line up Dabrowski’s levels on such a mountain
slope? Possibly, though we must leave Level I (primary
integration) out of consideration because with its limited
developmental potential and a narrow, rigid, and emotion-
ally limited scope, Level I cannot be the starting point for
multilevel development (Piechowski, 2008). Levels are
peculiar constructs. They are abstract categories of types of
development quite different from the intuitively obvious
stages of life. For this reason, Dabrowski’s theory does not
define a starting point for development, the way fertilization
or birth do, because there is none. Alternatively, the starting
point for multilevel development can occur anywhere on the
slope. One thing is certain, the absence of transforming ele-
ments in limited developmental potential precludes multilevel
development (Dabrowski, Kawczak, & Piechowski, 1970;
Piechowski, 1975, 2008).
Received August 15, 2007; accepted February 24, 2008.
Address correspondence to Michael M. Piechowski, 119 Ski Court,
Madison, WI 53713. E-mail: email@example.com
1Barry Grant (personal communication, September 2, 2007) asked if
someone could start at the top. Laurence Nixon (personal communication,
September 6, 2007) said that the Danish-born mystic Sunyata (1890–1984)
is known as a “rare-born mystic,” one who from the very earliest of his life
was in conscious union with the Infinite (Sunyata, 2001).
104 M. M. PIECHOWSKI
With this said, Level II would represent meandering
around the valley, perhaps going a little up and down again,
but without a significant advance up the slope. The quest for
self and one’s own voice would be the start of inner growth
that might lead higher up the slope (Piechowski, 2008).
Level III would be about serious climbing but with many
setbacks. Still, at the end of the day, the person would be
higher up the slope than at the start. Level IV would repre-
sent serious, determined, purposeful climbing. Level V would
be the broad summit.
Level V is not easy to grasp. Who can say they know
personally someone sufficiently advanced to qualify to
represent this lofty plane of the most advanced development?
Is such a person possible at all in our midst, other than
Jesus Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi, Gautama Buddha,
Paramahansa Yogananda, Pope John XXIII, or the Dalai
Lama? Would Bishop Tutu be a good example? Or Mother
Teresa, her detractors notwithstanding? Shall we look among
Religion, if followed with conviction, imposes a
demanding personal discipline, and one could argue that
a person without a religion would have no chance of
attaining the most advanced level. I always felt that the
most convincing examples of high levels of development
Dabrowski defined Level V (secondary integration) as
Secondary integration as the highest level of development is
also called here the level of personality. By “personality” is
meant here a self-aware, self-chosen, and self-affirmed
structure whose dominant dynamism is personality ideal. . . .
Through the synthesis and organization carried out in
Level IV, all dynamisms operate in harmony. They become
more unified with the Disposing and Directing Center,
which is now established at a high level and inspired by the
personality ideal. Personality ideal becomes the only dyna-
mism recognizable in the fifth level [italics added]. (1977,
Dabrowski’s earlier descriptions put more emphasis on
the concept of personality as the outcome of development
through positive disintegration, a person in the fullest real-
ization of the most fundamental and universal human quali-
ties. Secondary integration was defined as the level of
personality (Dabrowski, 1967, 1973). Interestingly, a similar
concept of personality was proposed by Assagioli (1965), as
the result of a synthesis and integration of all component
What developmental potential must be present for devel-
opment of this magnitude to be possible? Dabrowski is explicit
on this. The endowment must be positive, the environment
for growing up must be favorable, and self-directed multi-
level development must have an early start with some energy
(Dabrowski et al., 1970).
SOURCES ON PEACE PILGRIM’S LIFE
To find a representative example of secondary integration
depends on the availability of information and documenta-
tion about a person that would allow making a good case.
The case would be more persuasive if the person were a
contemporary known to many people. Peace Pilgrim is a
living example of multilevel development as it was precipi-
tated by her search for meaning. Her work of inner transfor-
mation was self-chosen, deliberate, and carried out to
completion with unswerving determination.
Mildred Ryder, née Norman, was born in 1908 and died in
1981. She changed her name to Peace Pilgrim and went
through the legal process partly in order to protect her family
from investigation by the FBI, as they regarded her as a com-
munist (A. Rush & J. Rush, 1992). Her talks were recorded
on audio and videotape. They were transcribed and published
as a book, Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own
Words (1982), which also includes replies to questions from
people who heard her speak. A 70-minute documentary, The
Spirit of Peace (Friends of Peace Pilgrim), was made in 1995
and another, Peace Pilgrim: An American Sage Who Walked
Her Talk, in 2002. Peace Pilgrim’s Steps Toward Inner
Peace: Harmonious Principles of Human Living (n.d.) were
transcribed from her talks and printed early in her life as
Peace Pilgrim. The interview with Ann and John Rush (1992)
offers information on her early life and the “total revision” to
become Peace Pilgrim. These sources offer adequate material
to examine her development and the attainment of secondary
integration. A brief outline of her life and the statements
revealing what motivated her are combined here with an anal-
ysis in Dabrowski’s terms. This study follows the model of
examining lives of mystics in the light of Dabrowski theory
as carried out by Nixon (1990, 1994, 2008).
PEACE PILGRIM’S DEVELOPMENTAL
Talents, abilities, intelligence, overexcitabilities, and capac-
ity for inner transformation constitute developmental poten-
tial (Dabrowski, 1977; Piechowski, 2003).
Her sister said that, even as a child, Mildred had a bear-
ing that made other children listen to what she had to say.
She was a precocious child with an inquisitive mind and a
“fantastic memory and could recite long poems at age three.
She learned to read at age four or five before starting school.
She taught herself to play the piano over the course of one
summer” (A. Rush & J. Rush, 1992, pp. 64–65). “She was
always a dare devil when she was younger.” Diving off a
bridge she would do “a somersault, jack knife and the
swan dive” (p. 65). In high school she was a bright, articu-
late, strong-willed student. Academically she maintained
the highest grade point average and headed the debating
team (Daniels, 2004).
PEACE PILGRIM, EXEMPLAR OF LEVEL V 105
In high school, she refused to drink and smoke. When
pressured by her friends she said to them, “Look, life is a
series of choices and nobody can stop you from making your
choices, but I have a right to make my own choices, too. And
I have chosen freedom” (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 4). As a
teenager, she asked fundamental existential questions that no
one could answer for her. She then looked for answers within
herself. At 16, as a senior in high school (she must have been
accelerated, as it was then a common thing to do with bright
students) she asked, “What is God?” But nobody could tell
her. She had no formal religious upbringing but the question
of the nature of God intrigued her. Thinking deeply about it
she realized that we call “God” everything that is beyond our
capacity. Intuitively she understood “beyond all doubt” that:
God is a creative force, a motivating power, an over-all
intelligence, an ever-present all-pervading spirit—which
binds everything in the universe together and gives life to
everything. That brought God close. I could not be where
God is not. You are within God. God is within you. (Peace
Pilgrim, 1982, p. 2)
She discovered that she could get her spiritual answers from
the inside (A. Rush & J. Rush, 1992, p. 66). The mysteries of
nature, love and kindness, all things good and beautiful spoke
to her of God’s immanence. Yet inner transformation was not
to follow this profound intuition at this point.
After graduation from high school she had no trouble finding a
job and spent her money on clothes, matching shoes and hat, a
luxurious very soft bed her sister envied, and a flashy car. . . .
She would spend quite a bit of time before she would go out,
before the mirror, putting on all sorts of makeup. (p. 66)
She was a popular dance partner. She also wrote plays, in
which “she was the director, costume designer, lighting
manager, and producer” (p. 66). Her engagement in theater
is evidence of imagination and creative talent. Creative people
tend to have strong sensual overexcitability, and it showed
in her attention to matching her outfits and accessories, con-
spicuous use of makeup, but also in her habit of striking a
glamorous pose for pictures.
Her intellectual ability and her great inquisitiveness were
combined with high energy and many talents, not the least
her leadership and public-speaking talents. In other words,
her psychomotor and intellectual overexcitabilities were
very strong in addition to her strong sensual overexcitabil-
ity. Her imagination is evident not only in the creative work
of the theater but also in her boldness of breaking conven-
tions, in her ability to see wider horizons than those circum-
scribed by her environment. At this point we have no
obvious indicators of emotional overexcitability; neverthe-
less, her strong emotional nature shows in her independence
of character, the passion she later developed for peace work,
as well as her deep compassion and the way she acted on it.
Although the indicators of developmental potential are
strong, we do not see any signs foretelling her advanced
development. In fact, her brother-in-law remarked that “While
Mildred’s background was intellectual and moral, there was
little evidence of the altruistic, self-sacrificing traits so
prominent in the personality of Peace Pilgrim. In order for
her to become Peace Pilgrim it was necessary for her to
undergo a complete revision. This goes far to explain why
so many of her family and former friends actually rejected
her” (A. Rush & J. Rush, 1992, p. 65).
As a young person she was not free of prejudice, as she
disapproved of her sister’s friends who were of other races
or social classes. In 1933, on impulse she married Stanley
Ryder, but the marriage was not successful. According to
her sister, it was “physical attraction only” (A. Rush & J. Rush,
1992, p. 66).
Somehow she became an ardent pacifist. When her hus-
band was drafted in 1942, she urged him to become a con-
scientious objector, but he refused. Her pacifist views
stopped her from visiting him at the camp. He filed for
divorce. She volunteered with peace organizations and was
a legislative lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s
International League for Peace and Freedom (A. Rush &
J. Rush, 1992).
PEACE PILGRIM’S TIMELINE OF HER
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
In her talks Peace Pilgrim would draw the phases of her
psychological and spiritual maturing as shown in Figure 1.
The flat horizontal phase of emotional ups and downs of
small amplitude—point (1) in her graph—she called “ordi-
nary living, stably governed by self-centered nature,” a life
spiritually lacking and of little depth, with maybe only an
occasional glimpse of higher truth. This would correspond
to Dabrowski’s unilevel development that is characterized
by shifting mood, inconsistent ways of acting, being easily
swayed by social opinion as well as a tendency to recycle
one’s problems, with little of inner direction. However,
there is no evidence of anything like this in her life; rather,
there are strong multilevel elements; that is, evaluating
experiences and behaviors in terms of higher versus lower
in oneself (and also in the world), as we saw in the charac-
teristics of her developmental potential: awareness of
choice in her life, sense of responsibility for the choice,
evaluation of what was around her, looking at the world
with clear eyes and sorting out what made sense. She said
that among the hodgepodge of her childhood learnings was
a set of opposites. She was trained to believe that she should
be kind and loving and never hurt anyone and, on the other
hand, if so ordered, that it was honorable to maim and kill
people in a war. This did not confuse her, because it was so
obviously wrong. The other did, and that was “to be generous
and unselfish and, on the other hand, to get out there and
106 M. M. PIECHOWSKI
grab more than my share” (Friends of Peace Pilgrim, 1977).
This one confused her until she reached the point of surren-
der to a higher cause.
She made two important discoveries that brought her to
the first critical point in her spiritual journey. As her values
were emerging, she was moving away from material things
but seeking a deep purpose to give her life meaning:
In the first place I discovered that making money was easy.
And in the second place I discovered that making money
and spending it foolishly was completely meaningless. I
knew that this was not what I was here for, but at that time
. . . I didn’t know exactly what I was here for. (Peace Pilgrim,
1982, p. 4)
The next excerpt shows how her compassion brought her to
the point of radically changing her life—point (2) in her
I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much
while my brothers and sisters were starving. Finally I had to
find another way. The turning point came when, in despera-
tion and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of
life, I walked all one night through the woods. I came to a
moonlit glade and prayed. I felt a complete willingness,
without any reservations, to give my life—to dedicate my
life—to service. “Please, use me. Take all of me!” I prayed
to God. And a great peace came over me.
I tell you, it’s a point of no return. After that, you can
never go back to completely self-centered living. (p. 7)
This moment was a decisive act of will and of surrender.
She called it “the first hump of no return.” A new phase
And so I went into the second phase of my life. I began to
live to give what I could, instead of to get what I could, and
I entered a new and wonderful world. My life began to
become meaningful. . . . From that time on I have known
that my life work would be for peace—that it would cover
the whole peace picture: peace among nations, peace among
groups, peace among individuals, and the very, very impor-
tant inner peace. However, there’s a great deal of difference
between being willing to give your life and actually giving
your life. (pp. 7–8)
From this point on her “positive disintegration” was deliberate,
self-chosen, and carried out to completion.
Dabrowski used to gesture how in multilevel develop-
ment the ups and downs have an upward trend. And this is
how Peace Pilgrim drew it in two of her recorded talks. The
amplitude of the ups and downs at point (3) is far greater
than in ordinary living, no doubt because the moments of
higher consciousness illuminate dramatically the lowness of
their opposites. The overall trend is upward, whereas in
ordinary living it is flatly horizontal (unilevel!).
In Dabrowski’s terms, intense inner conflict takes
place in Level III, between “what is”—the undesirable
traits and tendencies that one has—and “what ought to be”—
the desirable, humanly better qualities that one yearns to
In the 15 years that followed her first point of no return,
Mildred Norman attempted to live what she believed. She
entered the battle between the lower self and the higher
self or, as she put it, the self-centered nature struggling
with the God-centered nature. This took hard inner work:
“It’s as though we have two selves or natures or two wills
with two contrary viewpoints” (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 8).
It was “lots of hills and valleys” (Peace Pilgrim, n.d., p. 2).
The first phase of multilevel development is called spon-
taneous; it has humble beginnings in disquietude and aston-
ishment with oneself, the first stirring of the higher versus
lower in oneself. But Peace Pilgrim started with a total com-
mitment and determination to carry through on her vow to
give her life over to service; “Use all of me” she said. In
other words, her development at this point already had strong
features of Level IV.
During the spiritual growing up period the inner conflict can
be more or less stormy. Mine was about medium. The self-
centered nature is a very formidable enemy and it struggles
fiercely to retain its identity. . . . It knows the weakest spots
of your armor and attempts a confrontation when one is
least aware. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 8)
It is hard to say at what point the transition to Level IV
(when inner conflict attenuates) took place or whether ever
there was a distinct transition. In fact, Dabrowski did not
see a clear demarcation between these two levels.
FIGURE 1 Peace Pilgrim’s timeline of her inner growth: (1) ordinary living; (2) radical change; (3) the struggle between the lower and the higher self;
(4) first experience of inner peace; (5) extended periods of inner peace; (6) complete inner peace; (7) continued growth.
PEACE PILGRIM, EXEMPLAR OF LEVEL V 107
Knowing that her life’s work was going to be work for
peace, she embarked on a program of preparation.
Looking back on her life, she said that she felt she was pre-
paring for her mission even as a child, without knowing
what she was preparing for. A sense of mission, that some
gifted children feel as a compelling guiding force in their
lives, is called entelechy (Lovecky, 1990).
After that night of prayer and complete surrender, her
first moment of no return, she went on to work with troubled
teenagers, the psychologically troubled, and the physically
and mentally handicapped. It is in those 15 years that the
struggle between her self-centered nature and her God-centered
nature took place.
She undertook a tough program of physical and spiritual
preparation. From May to October 1952, starting in Georgia
and finishing in Maine, Mildred embarked on a 2,000-mile
hike of the Appalachian Trail, plus 500 miles of side trips to
“points of special beauty.” She was the first woman to com-
plete the entire trail in one continuous trek.
I lived out-of-doors completely, supplied with only a pair of
slacks and shorts, one blouse and one sweater, a lightweight
blanket, and two double plastic sheets, into which I some-
times stuffed leaves. I was not always completely dry and
warm, but enjoyed it thoroughly. My menu, morning and
evening, was two cups of uncooked oatmeal soaked in water
and flavored with brown sugar; at noon two cups of double
strength dried milk, plus any berries, nuts or greens found in
I had been thoroughly prepared for my pilgrimage by
this toughening process. A walk along the highway seemed
easy by comparison. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 54)
Completing the Appalachian Trail was her test of living
simply, at the bare level of one’s needs, including tests of
endurance in all weather conditions, without hot water,
Walkman, or iPod. In short an extraordinary program of
self-development. What she did through the extreme reduc-
tion of her basic needs is what Dabrowski called “partial
death,” a progressive stripping of all that is unessential. It is
a characteristic of Level IV and associated with the dyna-
mism of self-perfection. She did it with great joy. Toward
the end of trekking the Appalachian Trail she had a vision
of her pilgrimage coast to coast across America.
STEPS TOWARD INNER PEACE
She had by then a complete program of spiritual develop-
ment consisting of 12 steps, on which she elaborated in
detailed, practical terms (Peace Pilgrim, 1982).
Preparations. These steps include (a) assuming the
right attitude toward life, (b) bringing our lives into
harmony with the laws that govern this universe, (c)
finding a special place in the Life Pattern, and (d) sim-
plification of life.
Purifications. These steps include purifications of (a) the
body, (b) thought, (c) desire, and (d) motive (to serve
without thought of a reward).
Relinquishments. These steps require relinquishments of
(a) self-will, (b) the feeling of separateness, (c) all
attachments, and (d) all negative feelings.
These 12 steps would test the mettle of any spiritual
aspirant. They form a succinct distillation of the ideal goals
of many spiritual traditions. Putting such steps into practice
cannot fail to engage the person in the process of multilevel
The steps can be taken up in any order. Again and again
she stressed the supreme effectiveness of service: “The
motive, if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing
motive. Service, of course, service. Giving, not getting. . . .
The secret of life is being of service” (Peace Pilgrim,
1982, p. 17).
The four relinquishments are the most demanding com-
ponents of her discipline. Relinquishment of self-will means
nothing less than to be governed completely by the higher
self, the God-centered nature. Relinquishment of the feel-
ing of separateness means developing a transpersonal con-
sciousness of a universal self that knows itself to be in all
Relinquishment of all attachments means not holding
onto possessions and realizing that one does not possess any
person. It means being happy doing good without any
thought of reward. One can be detached and yet full of joy.
Relinquishment of all negative feelings means to be free of
worry, fear, jealousy, anger, and such. About the relinquish-
ment of the feeling of separateness she said:
We are all cells in the body of humanity. We are not sepa-
rate from our fellow humans. . . . It’s only from that higher
viewpoint that you can know what it is to love your neighbor as
yourself. From that higher viewpoint there becomes just one
realistic way to work, and that is for the good of the whole.
As long as you work for your selfish little self, you’re just
one cell against all those other cells, and you’re way out of
harmony. But as soon as you begin working for the good of
the whole, you find yourself in harmony with all of your fellow
human beings. You see it’s the easy harmonious way to live.
(Peace Pilgrim, 1982, pp. 18–19)
Unlike Assagioli (1991), who advocated a gradual process,
Peace Pilgrim recommended quick relinquishment. To her it
was the easier, faster, and more economic way:
The path of gradual relinquishment of things hindering spir-
itual progress is a difficult path, for only when relinquishment
108 M. M. PIECHOWSKI
is complete do the rewards really come. The path of quick
relinquishment is an easy path, for it brings immediate
blessings. And when God fills your life, God’s gifts over-
flow to bless all you touch. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 21)
UNSHAKABLE INNER PEACE
At point (4) in Figure 1 her graph shows a sharp lift to a
higher level and a profound experience, “the first glimpse of
Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful
mountain-top experience, and for the first time I knew what
inner peace was like. . . . All of a sudden I felt uplifted, more
uplifted than I had ever been. I remember I knew timeless-
ness and spacelessness and lightness. I did not seem to be
walking on the earth. There were no people or even animals
around but, every flower, every bush, every tree seemed to
wear a halo. There was a light emanation around everything
and flecks of gold fell like slanted rain through the air. . . . I
knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew
also a oneness with the rest of creation. . . . And most won-
derful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and
binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that
which many would call God. . . . I have never felt really sep-
arate since. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 21; italics in original)
From this moment on the amplitude of the ups and downs
diminishes and attenuates. The “longer and longer plateaus
of inner peace” at point (5) can be interpreted as the initial
phase of secondary integration. The struggle ceases and
there is no more than a slight wobble, perhaps from not yet
being steady on the new level, as Peace noted, slipping out
only occasionally. The occasional loss of inner peace she
now felt more acutely than before. To lose even temporarily
that perfect inner state caused her great distress.
And then at point (6) came “complete inner peace.” It
grew in depth and was hers for the remaining 28 years of
her life. How can we comprehend a complete inner peace?
I could return again and again to this wonderful mountaintop,
and then I could stay there for longer and longer periods of
time, and just slip out occasionally. [Then came a morning
when] I knew that I would never have to descend again
into the valley. I knew that for me the struggle was over,
that finally I had succeeded in giving my life, or finding
inner peace. Again this is a point of no return. You can
never go back into the struggle. The struggle is over now
because you will to do the right thing and you don’t need
to be pushed into it. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 22; italics in
Note that Peace Pilgrim is using the image of
mountaineering—reaching the mountaintop and leaving
the valley behind. The attainment of complete inner peace
was her spiritual birth: “No longer was I a seed buried under
the ground but I felt as a flower reaching out effortlessly
toward the sun” (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 27). On that day,
toward the end of 1952, she had a vision of her mission. She
saw a map of America with lines drawn in zigzag between
cities from Los Angeles to New York: the outline of her
first marching route across the country.
“AN EMBODIMENT OF ALL HUMAN HEARTS
THAT ARE PLEADING FOR PEACE”
Amidst the Cold War, the Korean War, in the height of the
McCarthy era, when the threat of nuclear annihilation hung
over humanity, on January 1, 1953, Peace Pilgrim placed
herself ahead of the Rose Parade initiating her march of
25,000 miles for peace. She was 44 years old. Her message
was simple: “This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with
good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is
nothing new about this message, except the practice of it”
(Peace Pilgrim, n.d., p. 4; italics in original).
Peace Pilgrim simplified her life to an absolute mini-
mum. She wore only one set of clothing and carried with her
only a comb, a toothbrush, and a pencil. She wore a tunic
with the letters PEACE PILGRIM in front and on the back
25,000 MILES ON FOOT FOR PEACE. In this way she did
not have to approach people in order to persuade them of
the importance of working for peace but was approached by
those who were interested. She gave up money and to the
end accepted none. Her diet was simple and vegetarian. She
accepted food and shelter when they were offered. Peace
Pilgrim was fond of saying that she never had to skip more
than three or four meals in a row. When shelter was not
offered, she kept on walking, finding a place to rest in the
woods, by the roadside, and in bad weather under a bridge
or in a bus station.
In the next 28 years she crossed the country on foot
seven times. She talked to churches, schools, interested
groups, colleges, and radio and TV stations. She counseled
people in spiritual as well as in practical matters. She wrote
thousands of letters, sent in care of her sister in New Jersey,
answering questions. Her schedule of appearances was
filled 2 years in advance. She worked hard every day, but in
spirit she was free in her unbroken communion with God.
INNER PEACE, PERSONALITY IDEAL,
AND SECONDARY INTEGRATION
Peace Pilgrim would mention her “contact” without saying
what, or whom, she meant:
I had learned to pray without ceasing. I made the contact so
thoroughly that into my prayer consciousness I put any condi-
tion or person in the world I am concerned about and the rest
takes place automatically. (1982, p. 73; italics in original)
PEACE PILGRIM, EXEMPLAR OF LEVEL V 109
This was when she undertook a 45-day fast in order to stay
concentrated on her prayer for peace, to make her prayer
consciousness a state of being. One time she was caught in a
freak snowstorm in Arizona but walked on while her feet
were numb “like lumps of ice.” In the darkness she hit upon
a railing of a bridge, went under the bridge and there she
found a large cardboard packing box with wrapping paper.
She crawled in and pulled the wrapping paper around her.
“Even there shelter had been provided” (Peace Pilgrim,
1982, p. 83). In that experience “only God seemed real . . .
nothing else. I made a complete identification—not with my
body, the clay garment which is destructible—but with the
reality which activates the body and is indestructible” (p. 82).
In other words, her essence is of a higher dimension, a transper-
sonal or spiritual dimension on which the material reality
depends for its existence. Therefore, by her “contact,” she
meant her anchoring in that higher dimension of reality.
Accepting even the smallest provision would have nicked
her living totally on faith.
She referred to her God-centered nature as “my divine
nature,” and she appeared to be able to see that divine nature
in others. To intercede, she presented others to God’s light:
[M]y divine nature reaches out—to contact their divine
nature. Then I have a feeling of lifting them, lifting them,
lifting them, and I have the feeling of bringing God’s light
to them. I try to envision them bathed in God’s light, and
finally I do see them standing and reaching out their arms
bathed in golden light. At that point I leave them in God’s
hands. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 73)
Though permanently established in the state of inner
peace, she assured us, inner growth continues. Now the progress
is harmonious, with no risk of slipping out. This is how she
described this state:
There is a feeling of always being surrounded by all of the
good things, like love, and peace, and joy. It seems like a pro-
tective surrounding, and there is an unshakeableness within
which takes you through any situation you may need to face
. . . . There is a calmness and a serenity and unhurriedness—no
more striving or straining. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, pp. 22–23)
And the supply of energy is endless. She remarked, that
when she spoke, energy flowed through her “like electricity
flows through a wire.”
Her mastery over her body, mind, and emotions was
[T]he higher nature controls the body and the mind and the
emotions. I can say to my body, “Lie down there on that
cement floor and go to sleep,” and it obeys. I can say to my
mind, “Shut out everything else and concentrate on this job
before you,” and it’s obedient. I can say to my emotions,
“Be still, even in the face of this terrible situation,” and they
are still. (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 23)
People who knew her could attest that she indeed possessed
this level of mastery.
Peace Pilgrim realized her goal to become totally gov-
erned by her higher self or, as Dabrowski would say, her
personality ideal, the dynamism that unifies the psyche at
the level of secondary integration.
DYNAMISMS PREPARING SECONDARY
The review of dynamisms of multilevel development draws
on their descriptions and definitions to be found elsewhere
(Dabrowski, 1977; Piechowski, 2003). Peace Pilgrim’s
jagged but steep path to secondary integration is clearly out-
lined in her own drawing (Figure 1). Her 15-year battle
between “what is” and “what ought to be” would seem to
correspond to Level III. Although the dynamisms of Level
III come by many names—disquietude with oneself, positive
maladjustment, dissatisfaction with oneself, and so on—all are
different forms of the tension between the higher and the
lower in oneself, all are varieties of inner conflict, all are
emotionally charged (Dabrowski, 1977). The will is present
in the concept of a disposing and directing center, which at
this level is ascending or descending, that is acting either in
line with “what ought to be” or with “what is”; hence these
great peaks and valleys.
Level III is called spontaneous multilevel disintegration.
But after her surrender there is nothing spontaneous about
Peace Pilgrim’s process. She entered the battle determined
to carry it through, to establish “what ought to be.” One has
to entertain the possibility that in her case dynamisms of
Level III and Level IV ran side by side.
Dynamisms of Level IV are agents of inner restructuring,
exactly what she started doing from the moment of surrender.
Subject-object in oneself, as the process of critical examination
of one’s motives and aims, is an instrument of self-knowledge.
Peace Pilgrim’s recounting of the contradictory principles
she was exposed to as a child—to be kind yet to kill in war
and to be generous and yet to grab for oneself as much as
one can—is one example of this process. But note that it
took place early in her life. Her search to make her life
meaningful is another. Third factor, the executive power of
choice and decision in one’s inner life, a factor of “defining
oneself and acting upon oneself” (Dabrowski, 1967, p. 41),
is strongly expressed in her preparation for her life’s work.
But it is already evident in her response to her high-school
friends, “I have chosen freedom.” Responsibility, taking on
tasks for the sake of one’s own and others’ development,
and an empathic responsiveness to social needs are clearly
manifested in how she was helping others with spiritual and
practical counseling, direct intervention when called for,
uplifting the discouraged, giving talks to interested groups,
through her work with mental patients, and above all taking
up the work for peace.
110 M. M. PIECHOWSKI
The change from a fun-loving woman to a penniless and
homeless pilgrim for peace, from someone with prejudices
to a person of deep empathy, is evidence of extraordinary
inner transformation. Peace Pilgrim’s goal was to serve a
higher purpose and to strip herself of everything that was
not aligned with it. Her 12 Steps Toward Inner Peace con-
tain a clear, detailed, and rigorous program of self-perfection
and education-of-oneself, which she carried out with the utmost
consistency. The dynamisms of self-control—regulating
development and keeping in check interfering processes—
and autonomy—confidence in one’s own development and
freedom from baser inclinations and motivations—appear
redundant at this point.
According to Dabrowski, at Level IV, the disposing and
directing center is unified, one-pointed, acting in total con-
cordance with one’s ideal. As the personality ideal becomes
stronger throughout this level, and the only dynamism at
Level V, the disposing and directing center merges into it.
Pilgrim simplified her life out of empathy and solidarity
with the millions who lead a life of forced deprivation. She
had profound compassion for each individual, and especially
for evildoers. Because she was able to see the spark of good
in everyone, and because “from that higher viewpoint” she
saw all people inseparable from her own universal self, such
malefactors were to her emotionally and psychologically
sick. If this is hard to comprehend, it is because the degree of
inner transformation, her total surrender to her higher self, her
personality ideal, is not within our experience. We would
have to understand first, at some deeper level, what Dabrowski
meant by personality ideal, what transformation of conscious-
ness its realization in Peace Pilgrim’s life has brought about,
what does it mean to be plugged into the inexhaustible source
of the energy of the spiritual universe. Just as we cannot create
an image of the Earth from space without going into space,
we cannot comprehend the spiritual workings of someone
like Peace Pilgrim until we have gone a good distance up the
jagged mountain path.
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON SECONDARY
Her inner transformation appears to be more far-reaching
than the neutral terminology of secondary integration would
This clay garment is one of a penniless pilgrim journeying
in the name of peace. It is what you cannot see that is so
very important. I am one who is propelled by the power of
faith; I bathe in the light of eternal wisdom; I am sustained
by the unending energy of the universe; this is who I really
am! (Peace Pilgrim, 1982, p. 126)
If one is not open to her spiritual reality, how is one to
understand her affirmation, “this is who I really am”; that is,
not this body, not this outward personality but someone
immersed in divinity? Saying she is sustained by the inex-
haustible energy of the universe, she uses the same words as
William James did in his study of spiritually gifted people.
He concluded that the visible world is part of an invisible
spiritual universe, and that inner communion with that uni-
verse, or God, fosters inner transformation. The person
gains new zest, an infusion of energy and enthusiasm, and in
relationship to others “a preponderance of loving affections”
(James, 1902/1937, pp. 476–477). James argued that spiri-
tual life of a deep nature is possible only because there is
another side—the spiritual universe—that responds and pro-
duces effects within a receptive mind.
As a philosopher, William James was a pragmatist. A
pragmatist judges ideas, concepts, and observable phenom-
ena by how well they work and by the effects they produce.
James concluded that although the spiritual universe remains
unseen, it nevertheless produces real observable effects,
such as we see in the lives of mystics. Therefore, if the
unseen can produce real effects, the spiritual universe must
be real, too (James, 1902/1937). In a similar vein, Dabrowski
stressed that reality is multilevel and multidimensional, as
each level is a distinct universe. At higher levels the experience
of transcendent realities and the reality of the transcendent
are part of the process (Dabrowski, 1973, 1977).
One of Peace Pilgrim’s associates related how he kept
asking her “What is your secret?” Always extremely reti-
cent about herself, she tried to brush him off but he per-
sisted. She finally said, “I have a secret, but I would not
call it that. There was a time, long ago, when I died,
utterly died to myself” (Friends of Peace Pilgrim, 1995). Relin-
quishing the ego, the self-centered nature, is the goal and
the ultimate achievement of spiritual life. Only then a
person may become a pure channel for God’s light
Peace Pilgrim’s will and her program of inner develop-
ment were perfectly unified with her higher self. She meets,
and surpasses, the criteria of secondary integration as given
by Dabrowski. At the same time, she shows the validity of
Dabrowski’s concept of personality ideal as the dynamism
that at the highest level gathers into itself all the prior dyna-
misms and becomes the source of energy and illumination.
Dabrowski’s definition of secondary integration as the level
of “personality”—“a self-aware, self-chosen, and self-affirmed
structure whose dominant dynamism is personality ideal”
(1977, p. 53)—fully applies here yet falls short of convey-
ing its spiritual depth and transpersonal dimension.
To what does Dabrowski’s concept of personality ideal
correspond in Peace Pilgrim’s (1982) state of permanent inner
peace? From calling her higher self a “God-centered nature”
she moved to calling it “my divine nature” (p. 73), “oneness
with God” (p. 21), “a channel through which God works”
(p. 26), “merged with the whole” (p. 27), “I am not the
body. I am that which activates the body—that’s the reality.
If I am killed it destroys merely the clay garment” (p. 37). In
PEACE PILGRIM, EXEMPLAR OF LEVEL V 111
other words, it is the higher reality of cosmic consciousness
(Bucke, 1901, Yogananda, 1995).
If the above gives some idea of her higher consciousness,
it goes beyond the concept of personality ideal. There is no
longer a “dynamism,” however conceived, but another
dimension of being, through and through a spiritual dimen-
sion, a higher reality. As long as Peace Pilgrim was in the
process of trying to live according to her higher self, we
could see in it a personality ideal. After attaining inner
peace she felt no separation from people’s individually
packaged selves but an actual consciousness of continuity
with everyone and everything else, a cosmic consciousness.
Yogis have terms for these high states. One is called
sabikalpa samadhi (samadhi “with difference), in which
the experience of oneness requires that the body be still
and the breath suspended. The experience ends when
breath returns. The second is called nirbikalpa samadhi
(samadhi “with no difference”), in which the experience of
cosmic consciousness continues unbroken while operating
the body normally (Yogananda, 1995). It is quite likely
that this was Peace Pilgrim’s state of consciousness.
That’s what all her characterizations of inner peace appear
Dabrowski, writing about the fully developed person in
secondary integration, suggested that “special organs or
functions, a kind of transcendental sense” develop that
makes “union with the Infinite” a reality (Dabrowski, 1967,
pp. 23, 26). He also recognized the increased energy that
comes with a high level of development. In some ways,
then, some aspects of Dabrowski’s concept of secondary
integration approach peace Pilgrim’s description of inner
peace. The difference is that her inner peace, borne of union
with God, leaves behind the personality ideal and makes it
Personality ideal will take a different form with each
individual and it is good to remember that it is very active
already in Level IV. For Eleanor Roosevelt it was following
in Christ’s footsteps (Roosevelt, 1940). Dag Hammarskjöld
expressed it in a double image—one of a sustaining element,
suggesting a state of profound inner peace and another of a
magnetic field conveying the ever stronger pull of spiritual
Now you know. When the worries over your work loosen
their grip, then this experience of light, warmth, and power.
From without—a sustaining element, like air to a glider, or
water to a swimmer . . . through me there flashes this vision
of a magnetic field in the soul, created in a timeless present
by unknown multitudes, living in holy obedience, whose
words and actions are a timeless prayer. (1964, p. 84)
The metaphor of a magnetic field in the soul offers a
glimpse into the inner source of inspiration and energy that
is powered by the willing surrender to an inner ideal
The possible representatives of secondary integration
mentioned at the beginning of this paper are all spiritual
luminaries associated with religion. Peace Pilgrim and Dag
Hammarskjöld started as secular persons but became deeply
spiritual, as did Eleanor Roosevelt. This raises the obvious
question of whether on the path to secondary integration
there is a point when one cannot fail to discover in oneself
one’s spiritual nature.
Peace Pilgrim’s example poses the question of whether
her attainment sets the standard too high by which to judge
secondary integration in other cases. What Peace Pilgrim
called inner peace is a state so profoundly anchored in a
higher dimension of spiritual reality (just recall her descrip-
tions of unshakeableness, unending energy, oneness with all
creation and all human beings)—just as it was for Christ
and Saint Francis, Buddha and Yogananda—that it goes
beyond Dabrowski’s requirements for attaining secondary
integration. If by Kawczak’s (2002) analysis Abraham Lin-
coln can be seen to represent Level V, he did not seem to
have attained inner peace. The question of “minimum require-
ments” for secondary integration remains open for future
investigation to tease out the criteria out of Dabrowski’s
somewhat diffuse and not always consistent descriptions.
One must bear in mind, though, that as each level is a large
universe of many possible patterns, so it is with secondary
integration; there may be many levels within this “highest”
IMPLICATIONS FOR GIFTED EDUCATION
Peace Pilgrim was not alone in stressing that working for
world peace requires personal transformation toward becoming
peaceful in deed, word, and thought. Similarly, Eleanor
Roosevelt (1940) affirmed that democracy cannot work
without each one of us becoming sincere in following a high
ideal. Amidst the Holocaust, Etty Hillesum (1985) wrote in
her diary: “Each one of us must turn inwards and destroy in
himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others . . .
every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more
inhospitable” (p. 222).
Education in general and gifted education in particular
have no provisions for a curriculum of personal growth
(Roeper, 2006). The pressure to achieve and become suc-
cessful increases with every year of schooling. A competi-
tive society works against cooperation and compassion; it
denies the importance of educating the whole person. Until
we take emotional development and personal and spiritual
growth seriously, we have nothing to offer gifted young
people who are seeking ways to secure peace in the world.
Because of their overexcitabilities, gifted teenagers are
more likely to go through the developmental crises of ado-
lescence with greater intensity and anguish than their regular
counterparts (Buescher, 1991; Christensen, 2007). This is
the time when positive disintegration may hit with great
112 M. M. PIECHOWSKI
force but few counselors are equipped to offer understand-
ing and help. When will personal growth come into the
mainstream? When will we be mature enough to give it
attention? We have gradually accepted yoga and meditation
for the benefit of reducing high blood pressure and anxiety.
Yet this is a mere beginning. Though the techniques of per-
sonal and spiritual growth are accessible, their practice with
children is not widespread (Piechowski, 2006).
Assagioli, R. (1965). Psychosynthesis. New York: Viking.
Assagioli, R. (1991). Transpersonal development. London: Crucible.
Bucke, R. M. (1901). Cosmic consciousness. New York: Innes.
Buescher, T. M. (1991). Gifted adolescents. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis
(Eds.), Handbook of gifted education (pp. 382–401). Boston: Allyn and
Christensen, M. (2007, February). Supporting the gifted via Dabrowski’s
perspective. Paper presented at the Illinois Association for Gifted Chil-
dren 12th Annual Convention, Chicago, IL.
Dabrowski, K. (1967). Personality-shaping through positive disintegra-
tion. Boston: Little, Brown.
Dabrowski, K. (1973). The dynamics of concepts. London: Gryf.
Dabrowski, K. (1977). Theory of levels of emotional development: Vol. 1.
Multilevelness and positive disintegration. Oceanside, NY: Dabor.
Dabrowski, K., Kawczak, A., & Piechowski, M. M. (1970). Mental growth
through positive disintegration. London: Gryf.
Daniels, M. (2004). Ryder, Mildred Norman (Peace Pilgrim). In S. Ware
(Ed.), Notable American women: A biographical dictionary completing
the twentieth century (pp. 564–566). Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim (Producer). (1995). The spirit of peace [Motion
picture documentary]. Somerset, CA: Author.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim (Producer). (1977). Peace Pilgrim answering
questions of students in applied psychology class at the University of
Georgia [Motion picture documentary]. Somerset, CA: Author.
Friends of Peace Pilgrim (Producer). Peace Pilgrim: An American sage
who walked her talk [Motion picture documentary]. Somerset, CA:
Hammarskjöld, D. (1964). Markings. New York: A. A. Knopf.
Hillesum, E. (1985). An interrupted life: Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941–43.
New York: Washington Square Press.
James, W. (1937). The varieties of religious experience. New York: Modern
Library. (Original work published 1902).
Kawczak, A. (2002). Abraham Lincoln’s personality development seen
through the theory of positive disintegration. Part II. In N. Duda (Ed.),
Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on the Theory of Pos-
itive Disintegration (pp. 59–62). Ft. Lauderdale, FL: Institute for Posi-
tive Disintegration in Human Development.
Lovecky, D. V. (1990). Warts and rainbows: Issues in the psychotherapy of
the gifted. Advanced Development, 2, 65–83.
Millman, D. (1996). Statement on the back cover of C. Canfield’s Peace
Pilgrim’s Wisdom. San Diego: Blue Dove Press.
Nixon, L. F. (1990). The mystical struggle: A psychological analysis.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec,
Canada. Available from http://members.shaw.ca/positivedisintegration/
Nixon, L. F. (1994). Multilevel disintegration in the lives of religious mystics.
Advanced Development, 6, 57–4.
Nixon, L. F. (2008). Personality disintegration and reintegration in mystical
lives. In S. Mendaglio (Ed.), Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration
(pp. 203–226). Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Peace Pilgrim. (n.d). Steps toward inner peace: Harmonious principles for
human living. Somerset, CA: Friends of Peace Pilgrim.
Peace Pilgrim. (1982). Peace Pilgrim: Her life and work in her own words.
Santa Fe, NM: Ocean Tree Books.
Piechowski, M. M. (1975). A theoretical and empirical approach to the
study of development. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 92, 231–297.
Piechowski, M. M. (2003). From William James to Maslow and Dabrowski:
Excitability of character and self-actualization. In D. Ambrose, L. Cohen, &
A. J. Tannenbaum (Eds.), Creative intelligence: Toward a theoretic integra-
tion (pp. 283–322). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Piechowski, M. M. (2006). “Mellow out,” they say. If only I could: Intensities
and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison, WI: Yunasa Books.
Piechowski, M. M. (2008). Discovering Dabrowski’s theory. In S. Mendaglio
(Ed.), Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration (pp. 41–77).
Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Roeper, A. (2006). The “I” of the beholder: A guide to the essence of a
child. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press.
Roosevelt, E. (1940). The moral basis of democracy. New York: Howell,
Rush, A., & Rush, J. (1992). Peace Pilgrim: An extraordinary life.
Advanced Development, 4, 61–74.
Sunyta. (2001). Dancing with the void. San Diego, CA: Blue Dove
Yogananda, P. (1995). God talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita. Los
Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.
Michael M. Piechowski, PhD, the author of “Mellow Out,” They Say. If I Only Could: Intensities and Sensitivities of
the Young and Bright, collaborated with Kazimierz Dabrowski while at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
A Senior Fellow of the Institute for Educational Advancement and the Yunasa summer camp for highly gifted youth,
he coedited Living With Intensity with Susan Daniels. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org