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Introduction: Influenced by post-colonial thinking around difference and diversity, I here present a uniquely transpersonal exploration of difference, and an important definition of spiritual othering. Objectives: This research aimed to provide evidence of that being made the other by a majority holds unforeseen unconscious consequences, both psychologically and spiritually. Methodology: This phenomenological study used semi-structured interviews to explore 25 participants" unconscious experiences as the other, using meditation, visualizations and drawing. Results: Presented as a phenomenological case study, one of the major themes from my research is that spiritual othering leads to the death of the unconscious other within us. Conclusion: This research sees spiritual othering as the self-destruction of that which makes us unique, and of that which would aid us in achieving our ultimate spiritual potential.
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Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 1
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal
Exploration of the Death of the Other
Cruzando el Río Estigia: Una Exploración
Transpersonal de la Muerte del Otro
Dwight Turner*
University of Brighton
Brighton, England, UK
Introduction: Influenced by post-colonial thinking around difference and diversity, I here
present a uniquely transpersonal exploration of difference, and an important definition of
spiritual othering. Objectives: This research aimed to provide evidence of that being made
the other by a majority holds unforeseen unconscious consequences, both psychologically
and spiritually. Methodology: This phenomenological study used semi-structured inter-
views to explore 25 participants‟ unconscious experiences as the other, using meditation,
visualizations and drawing. Results: Presented as a phenomenological case study, one of
the major themes from my research is that spiritual othering leads to the death of the un-
conscious other within us. Conclusion: This research sees spiritual othering as the self-
destruction of that which makes us unique, and of that which would aid us in achieving our
ultimate spiritual potential.
Keywords: transpersonal, creativity, other, difference, creative imagination
Introducción: Influenciado por el pensamiento postcolonial sobre la diferencia y la diver-
sidad, presento aquí una exploración transpersonal única sobre la diferencia, y una impor-
tante definición de la otredad espiritual. Objetivos: Esta investigación tuvo como objetivo
proporcionar evidencia de las consecuencias inconscientes e imprevistas, tanto psicológi-
camente como espiritualmente, del hecho por el que el otro crea nuestro concepto de yo.
Metodología: Este estudio fenomenológico utilizó entrevistas semiestructuradas para ex-
plorar las experiencias inconscientes de 25 participantes como un otro, usando meditación,
visualizaciones y dibujo. Resultados: Presentado como un estudio de caso fenomenológico,
uno de los principales temas de mi investigación es que la otredad espiritual conduce a la
muerte del otro inconsciente, dentro de nosotros. Conclusión: esta investigación ve la dife-
renciación espiritual como la autodestrucción de aquello que nos hace únicos, y de lo que
nos ayudaría a alcanzar nuestro máximo potencial espiritual.
Palabras clave: transpersonal, creatividad, otro, diferencia, imaginación creativa
Received: October 13, 2017
Accepted: December 20, 2017
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 2
In the present era, the other, in its ex-
clusion via the building of walls or its rejection
as an implied drain upon majority society, is an
aspect which is seen as both threatening and as
something which should be marginalised. Yet
within psychotherapy, as von Franz states
(1980), this fear is based upon projection,
where psychologically a client assigns un-
wanted aspects of them self to the therapist, and
that culturally whole groups can project these
aspects of themselves onto other groups. This
essay though is not concerned with the projec-
tion of these aspects, but considers the impact
of said projection upon the other. What is it
like to be the other? How is one made into the
other by the majority? And what are the uncon-
scious consequences of this form of othering?
As a transpersonal psychotherapist, ex-
perienced in using creativity to understand dif-
ficult real-world problems, my research there-
fore looked to understand this experience from
within a transpersonal framework. A phe-
nomenological study, this research utilised
creative techniques, such as visualisation,
meditation and drawing, to explore the uncon-
scious, internalised experience of being the
other. Yet, to fully facilitate this, it is important
for me to construct a perspective of difference
out of the spiritual and the more mainstream
post-colonial as I explore the internalised death
of the other.
The Transpersonal and the Other
It is this route towards self-
identification that from a psychotherapeutic
angle brings into focus transpersonal ideas of
the other, and in particular the idea of the infi-
nite. A concept which in the Global North
dates back to the time of Aristotle (Edel, 2010)
discussions about the nature of the infinite have
confused generations of thinkers and even led
to varying forms of Christian religious persecu-
The work of St Thomas Aquinas
(Tomarchio, 2002) though is of particular im-
portance here at this point. A theologian and
philosopher, whilst not straying too far from the
religious doctrines of the time, his vision of the
infinite allowed for there to be an infinite num-
ber of expressions of the spiritual. This there-
fore opened the doorway to spiritual intersec-
tionality of God, its presence in a multitude of
presentations, no one more or less important
than the other.
When we engage with the spiritual
other from outside of a central spiritual hegem-
ony we then begin to witness how a relation-
ship with the other and therefore God occurs.
Yet these ideas are not purely Western. From
the traditions of West Africa there is the impor-
tant idea that one is not alone, but that one is
part of a complex web of others who inform us
at all times; from our connection to family, to
the tribe, to our the ancestors, to the spirits, and
to God beyond (Mazama, 2003). In other im-
portant African centric religions, the other is
also seen as all the things around oneself; the
trees, the animals, the sky and the earth (Hailey,
2008). This recognition is important because as
Myers says, „this deification process seeks to
transform the finite, limited conception of hu-
man consciousness into an infinite conscious-
ness that is supremely good or divine. In order
to accomplish this task, one must begin to
know that everything, including self, is the
manifestation of one permeating essence‟ (1985,
p. 35). So, already we witness the movement
away from the spiritual dyad of the West into
this more participatory and relational one ex-
horted by Ferrer and Heron.
Moving away from an Afro-centric
perspective, it is important to offer another
spiritual view to highlight both the commonal-
ity and the importance of understanding the
other. For this, I will be using Nishida‟s work,
from the Buddhist traditions, as a metaphor for
what I mean. For example, his statement that
„the true God must possess himself in self-
negation‟ (1989, p. 35), his meaning being
taken further when he talks of God being the
contradictory union of the absolute and noth-
ingness, where the nothingness is seen as infi-
nite and boundless whilst the absolute is con-
tained and whole. God is therefore a singular
union of opposites, the absolute and the infi-
nite/nothingness, yet to understand God is to
recognise the dualism within it. Although Ni-
shida‟s perspective originates out of the Bud-
dhist traditions, this vision is also echoed in
Afrocentric spiritual beliefs.
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 3
From a more Western perspective there
is a problem, as this absolute/infinite conjuntio
with God is one that as humans we can only
vainly strive for, and therefore rarely achieve.
This important understanding then directs us to
the conflict hidden within a transpersonal dis-
course around the other from several angles.
When seen through the psychodynamic lens
discussed earlier, the narcissistic position of the
I then becomes a very human attempt to
achieve godhood, whilst simultaneously negat-
ing, or projecting, its own flaws and inadequa-
cies onto the other. Here, we clearly acknowl-
edge a very human inability towards a humble
inclusiveness which sits at the core of the nar-
cissistic absolute‟s need to create, exclude and
negate the presence of the spiritual other.
Arguing my point from a post-colonial
perspective, the absolute attempts to negate the
presence of the externalised infinite by colonis-
ing it. The encounter with the infinite is there-
fore a realisation of the existence of God within
the infinite, and a questioning of uniqueness of
God within the absolute. For example, this is
like the experiences of those of Aristotle‟s time,
where their philosophical and mathematical
encounter with the infinite was fraught with
anxiety and fear (Edel, 2010). So, if the infinite
is unobtainable then spiritual colonisation, to-
gether with the attempt to limit and name reli-
gious and political differences, are a means of
containing the infinite differences that we all
externally experience and that also reside
within ourselves. The absolute therefore is
constantly striving for godhood through control
over just what the other is; naming it, defining
its role, resisting its attempts to define itself.
Importantly, the absolute here creates then
other, with the other being a separate entity to
the infinite as explored in Figure 1.
The creation of the other, via a process
of spiritual othering, is therefore an attempt by
the narcissistic absolute to attain godhood by
removing that which is deemed flawed within
itself. It creates the other for this purpose,
drawing its narrow, stereotypical identity from
out of the infinite potentialities that is the infi-
nite, before negating the other‟s innate human-
ity and spirituality in order to make it an object
for its projections. The narcissistic absolute
also uses the other as means of distancing itself
from the expansiveness of the infinite, attempt-
ing to become god by rejecting God. The other
here therefore becomes an additional barrier
between the pair.
On a practical level though, the abso-
lute becomes that which in its denial of the
infinite believes itself to be always right. In
these extremities, the absolute is fanatical,
harsh, or stereotypical in its treatment of spiri-
tual others, and in its need to maintain this
sense of righteousness will always reduce the
other to a position of inferiority, dehumaniza-
Figure 1: Absolute & Infinite
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 4
tion, or part object, like a form of transpersonal
apartheid where in the grandiosity of its god-
hood it feels it can define and control the other,
whilst naively distancing itself from the infinite.
Spiritual stereotyping here therefore becomes a
means of making the other less than the un-
countable total of its parts. It limits it, reduces
it, placing it under scrutiny as if the other were
to be studied under a microscope. Any rela-
tionship or feelings for the other are placed to
one side, meaning there is no compassion or
care for the other unless the absolute gains
something from offering this temporarily. Ex-
amples of this arise out of the French official
policy towards its colonial subjects where the
policy of assimilation immediately placed the
other at a deficit to the French majority, with
the other challenged to fit inside French culture
and give up much of its own well-ingrained
identity (Mazama, 2003). Although the experi-
ence of this type of subjugation has often been
explored, the underlying spiritual explication
has not, my fear being that there is a deeper
spiritual destruction of self that occurs when
the other is placed into a position as less than.
Conversely, within a more Afrocentric,
or relational, experience of the other, the abso-
lute sees its relationship with the infinite in
everything around itself; it is connected to all
things as simultaneously it is all things (Grange,
2015). So where indigenous cultures speak of
God being in all things, human or otherwise,
what they are expressing is their comfort in
embracing differences and therefore the infinite
(Mark & Lyons, 2010; Paris, Clark, Smith, &
Oliver, 1993). So, at its most ideal point there
is no other. And whilst it sees the infinite
within all things around it, the absolute also
sees itself within that infinite, meaning that it
chooses a less objectified stance in relation to
the other, adopting one which is more subjecti-
fied or relational. God therefore becomes that
which we all are in our multitude and our dif-
ference, at the same time, and for all time. It
becomes life and death, tears and laughter, the
addict and the Yoga practitioner. This is also
of huge importance to the participatory per-
spective of Ferrer (2000) where he strongly
believed that understandings of the transper-
sonal, or its identity, is something co-created by
the gathering of the many different spiritual
perspectives and traditions.
Although there have been numerous
calls for a more relational approach to under-
standing the human experience, as Anderson
and Braud (1998) do from a transpersonal per-
spective, this is a call that has more often than
not been missed. It is this lack of a relational
vision of human experience that Merleau-Ponty
(2002) writes about via the human need to
make sense of the environment around us by
attaching meaning to each and every thing we
encounter. For Merleau-Ponty (1962), this
approach was ideal for exploring our world
around us, and our place within it, with its be-
ing used in various research and studies where
the aim has been to provide a wider perspective
on a human experience. Adopting a phenome-
nological perspective therefore allowed for a
more human and relational understanding of
this unconscious experience as the other that
we all encounter, whilst also marrying itself to
the transpersonal perspective of the infinite
discussed in the review of the literature. In
adopting a phenomenological approach this
research hoped to carve a space alongside the
more political and social constructs of differ-
ence, where the numerous, self-identified, per-
sonal everyday experiences of difference would
lead to the recovery of personal responsibility
as the other.
Another reason for a phenomenological
approach was that if difference is something we
all encounter, then to gain a full understanding
of the experience would need a methodology
that at least tried to embrace these varying hu-
man perspectives of that experience. Then a
collective composite picture can be built of that
phenomena and our relationship to it, which
then deepens our collective understanding. It
also realises that utilising both the relationship
between the psychotherapist and client, an area
essential to the work of a transpersonal psycho-
therapist, and the creative tools common to
transpersonal psychotherapy could together
work in raising from the unconscious this mate-
rial for clients and individuals to then work
through within psychotherapy. This material
can then be used to help us all to understand the
unconscious cost of being othered.
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 5
For this research, I interviewed twenty-
five participants using a blend of one-to-one
interviewing techniques and creative methods.
The interviews were structured to provide crea-
tive data via:
1. A short semi-structured interview ex-
ploring the participants‟ experience of
2. A creative exercise:
A visualisation around one of the par-
ticipant‟s aforementioned experiences
of difference which they discussed and
then drew.
To advertise for my participants, no-
tices were therefore sent out via the Centre for
Counselling and Psychotherapy Education
(CCPE) database of qualified psychotherapists
and counsellors, together with leaflets and fly-
ers being left on the CCPE premises. Although
the flyers for the research were posted through
a psychotherapy centre, only a third of those
selected were therapists or had some connec-
tion to the world of psychotherapy. The other
two thirds of participants were from the public
and were either clients attending the centre for
their own reasons, or persons who had heard
about the research via third parties. What all
the participants who contacted myself felt
though is that they had an experience of being
the other that they wanted to discuss with my-
self. For ethical reasons, none of my psycho-
therapy clients were engaged in this work as
Semi-Structured Interview
The semi-structured interview was de-
signed to allow participants to freely speak
about their experience of being different, bring-
ing this into the room where it could be wit-
nessed by myself the researcher without
judgement (Braud & Anderson, 1998). This
structure was important as it allowed the par-
ticipant to feel comfortable enough in the space
to reflect deeply on their experience, and for a
level of trust to be built between us in order
before the creative exercises. Fitting perfectly
within the phenomenological paradigm, my
relational interview style therefore helped to
create this container of trust. The list of the
questions used is included as Appendix 1 to this
The open-ended questioning here cre-
ated the level of relationship and connection
necessary in order to construct the necessary
container for the following creative exercise.
This was important because when working with
unconscious processes, a large element of trust
was needed for the participant to feel comfort-
able enough to work with me at depth. Suffi-
cient time was therefore necessary for this sec-
Visualisation and drawing exercise
One of the most powerful starting
points for understanding internalised experi-
ences is by working with the body. Lowen
(2013) strongly felt that the body holds mem-
ory, acting like its own unconscious. Merleau-
Ponty (1962) also wrote about this, seeing the
body as a conduit into the unconscious. It is for
this reason that the visualisation work con-
ducted with the participants included some time
for them to orientate themselves within their
physical self, allowing themselves to feel com-
fortable in their body, before then accessing the
hidden feelings, and therefore the symbols,
located there. The instructions for the visuali-
sation exercise is included as Appendix 2 to
this article.
The visualisation exercise involved the
participant reliving one of their memories of
difference and being taken back into that ex-
perience, a means similar to the waking dream
technique of psychotherapy where imagination
is used to recall the unconscious felt experience
of the dream (Storr, 1979). The participant was
encouraged to reconnect with that episode, and
feel the feelings of that time, feelings which
would then be presented in symbolic form.
After the visualisation, participants completed a
drawing that reflected their symbolic experi-
ence of being the other, thereby echoing other
visual methodological studies (Guillemin,
2004; Literat, 2013). The uniqueness of this
exercise though is that it allowed an expression
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 6
of the internalised experience of the phenomena
with the drawing being the bringing forth of the
repressed emotional impact of that said experi-
ence, following Cox and Thielgaard‟s (1986)
idea that any symbols presented would be the
echoes of the same symbol within the uncon-
Data analysis
This research had a phenomenological
epistemology, and utilised the varying stages of
data analysis as expressed by Moustakas (1994).
Firstly, during the epoche stage, time was built
into my working week to facilitate giving space
to this research project. This allowed me to
immerse myself in the reading around this topic,
and also enabled me to bracket off my own
prejudices and preconceived ideas about the
research, an essential tenet to working phe-
nomenologically. This therefore further created
space for my participants to enter into the re-
search process alongside myself, a space where
they would feel comfortable enough to explore
their difficult experiences of othering. The next
stage, phenomenological reduction, involved
the reading through of each of the transcripts
six times. On each read through, notes were
made about just how each participant experi-
enced being the other, from the stage of the
semi-structured interview all the way through
to their experiences in relation to the drawings
themselves. The process of coding began at the
end of this stage, where groups of emergent
themes were collected together with the sec-
tions of the transcripts which underlined them.
Imaginative variation was the most time inten-
sive stage of the research. Repeatedly, I was
challenged with exploring each of the tran-
scripts to delve deeper into their understanding
of being different. Their words, together with
the drawings and their expression of what these
meant for them, were analysed to be understood
as thoroughly as possible. What this researcher
recognised on completing this stage, was an
additional hermeneutic in the connecting of the
drawing and their words to the earlier semi-
structured section of the interview. As will be
explored in the results section of this paper, a
type of unconscious synchronicity bound the
two in a means not anticipated in the construc-
tion of this project. This triple hermeneutic
was therefore applied by myself, as my own
analysis of the drawings then allowed for a
further understanding to be laid on top, like the
drawing together of unconscious dots into a
coherent relational pattern. The final stage
involved the writing of both textual and struc-
tural analysis of my participant‟s experiences as
the other, or the noema and noemis, in order to
fully reveal the experiences of being different
for my 25 participants.
Where Sartre states that „what I con-
stantly aim at across my experiences are the
Other‟s feelings, the Other‟s ideas, the Other‟s
volitions, the Other‟s character. This is be-
cause the Other is not only the one whom I see
but the one who sees me‟ (1943, p. 228), in
terms of this project what he speaks of is the
mutual recognition of self and other in each
other‟s gaze. The importance of his words
connects with a more transpersonal perspective
of say Ubuntu (Hailey, 2008) where the other
sees the spiritual in the other as a reflection of
its own. Figure 2 explores this idea further.
Firstly, it presents, the absolute as only seeing
or being drawn to the unconscious potential of
the other, missing the actual other across from
it. This therefore creates a conflict within the
other where that which is seen as unique or
special is then envied from within. The narcis-
sistic need to destroy the (Thou) then becomes
an internal one for the other. This also means
the idea of othering then becomes one where
for the other to maintain a presence under the
gaze of the absolute, that which is seen as dif-
ferent or unusual, and therefore fascinating,
must then be destroyed.
A good initial example emerged from
Carl‟s story. A gay man, he was bullied at
school for being „overly feminine‟ leading him
to find solace in his creativity, eventually build-
ing a career as a Graphic Designer. Carl chose
to work with a memory from his childhood
where he was being disruptive in class, some-
thing he did as he was already seen as naughty,
and an outsider. As an artist, this was art class,
his favourite class of the day. The image was
of a woman on the shore of a lake, being col-
lected by death who is holding a scythe. It re-
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 7
minded him of an image he once created in art
class saying:
Carl: There is a darkness about the
painting. But I think people
liked it, they thought it was
really good. But I’m just sort
of thinking about the nature of
the image and the feminine fig-
ure going off to some other
realm. Yeah, wanting to know
more about it actually. To try
and get a clearer image of it
because I think I’ve binned it
some time ago, obviously
DT: so how do you feel having this
memory, how do you feel wit-
nessing it? This is the boy who
finished his O level and this is
one of the pieces he presented,
so how do you feel at the mo-
Carl: I think that that’s where I felt
most at home. And um, a mix-
ture of feelings in a way, be-
cause I have a very, the next
memory that comes up is the
last day of school and I’m leav-
ing. And the joy that I remem-
ber, it was beautiful weather, I
got the bus to go home and
there was a girl that was at the
6th form college that I was go-
ing to next, and she was a punk,
and I remember thinking that’s
where I want to be. So, look-
ing at the painting it reminds
me of the sort of feeling that I
still have now. I never really
progressed, that part of me,
that sort of creative side. And
the still burning desire that I
have now to paint and go back
into that, but instead I’ve de-
cided to go down a more com-
mercial route and do design.
So, I’m a little bit angry about
For Carl, people were drawn to his im-
agery, and the otherness presented within them,
yet they seemed to be less drawn to Carl him-
self. This set up a conflict for Carl where the
battle becomes between himself and his creativ-
ity. The othering here then becomes self-
created, with the tension and anxiety located
between himself and, using ideas posited by
Emma Jung (1957) his inner feminine. His
words though throughout the rest of this pas-
sage then explore how he identifies with both
his creativity and his non-conformity to the
subject, and speak of how even though others
may have liked him for being the other, he did
not like this position himself. Carl also ex-
plores this in his discussion of his work as a
commercial graphic designer, a far departure
from the boy who was drawn to being a Goth.
Figure 2: Death of the unconscious other
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 8
It is important to also notice the struggle Carl
went through in his attempts to allow himself to
be seen through his artistic gift (together with
the cost of this), versus the desire to be more
authentic. This was a theme explored in more
depth in Carl‟s drawing, together with an ex-
ploration of what happens to the anger the other
holds when it has been othered. In Carl‟s case
this led to his trying to destroy that which made
him different. This desire to „kill off‟ the femi-
nine aspect of himself in his visualisation and
his image was not just metaphorical, as Carl
unconsciously linked this to another memory,
‘You know, at the time from a young
age I got into drawing female figures
and I would draw them and draw them
and change things about them, but
once I’d finished them I’d put them in
the bin. I didn’t want them to be found
out and I didn’t show them to anyone.
I think it was just a way of me express-
ing that feminine side of me that I was
ashamed of as well. So, I think this
was a way of expressing that but cloak-
ing it in a lot of darkness.’
Tying Carl‟s words together with the
image presented as Figure 3, what he is talking
about is how graphic design encouraged his
creativity, but through conforming to a set of
business ideals also destroys this same creativ-
ity, much like he used to do with his images of
the feminine. This could be seen through a
Jungian perspective where he is trying to de-
stroy his anima, or his internal feminine (Jung,
1957). It could also be seen as a form of self-
othering, where his contra-sexual other then
becomes that which he wishes to destroy within
himself. Essentially, this is a wonderful exam-
ple of the other sending that which makes them
different into the unconscious in order to com-
ply and fit in with the majority. His creative
gift is that which makes him unique, and be-
cause of the powerful pressures of the majority
this aspect of himself is cast off into the end-
lessness of the underworld.
This interesting link in Carl‟s story also
shows how deep his experience of being bullied
went for him. From his being picked upon at
school by his peers for being „overtly feminine‟
this experience appears to have become inter-
nalised so that in the section above Carl would
specifically destroy the images of women he
created echoing ideas around the internalised
hatred of being other (Davids, 2012). This
Figure 3: Carl's woman crossing the Styx
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 9
struggle to conform was also apparent in his
memories from school, where he wanted to be
like the Goth girl on the bus, but couldn‟t quite
manage it at that time. Yet, my own research
shows something deeper in its visually power-
ful transpersonal depiction of the experience of
othering, for example through the darkness of
the image that emerged from Carl‟s uncon-
scious experience as the other, with his re-
pressed need to destroy that creative aspect of
himself that set him apart. The darkness in the
image, with absence of colour, is also striking,
as is the archetypal theme to the image, an as-
pect which only emerged as we discussed it
further. This suggests that the experience of
othering impacts at a very deep level, an attack
on the very soul itself. Another way to view
this is by considering the masculine image of
Death coming across the river to transport the
feminine, his symbolic creativity, into the un-
derworld, or the shadow. Carl did not say if he
was only bullied by men, so I am unable to
offer direct testimony to this effect, but what I
can surmise from this image, and out of his
being drawn to the woman on the bus on the
last day of term, is that one aspect of himself,
his masculine, was attempting to kill that which
made him separate and other, in this case his
inner feminine.
Exploring the theme of death further, it
is worth beginning with both existential and
post-colonial visions of how this relates to the
other. For example, Kierkegaard‟s often de-
pressing death laden work speaks of this ex-
perience of othering where he says „thus the
self co-here‟s immediately with the Other, de-
siring craving, enjoying etc.‟ (Kierkegaard,
1989, p. 81). What that means here is that for
the self to exist it needs the other, and vice
versa, echoing ideas put forward from a post-
colonial perspective. What is different though
is Fanon‟s (2005) idea that there is a psycho-
logical cost to this process of being the other
for the subject where the other sacrifices its
own identity in order to comply with the mir-
roring needs of the subject. My participant‟s
image here speaks of the cost for the other in
„co-hereing‟ with that subject, and the murder-
ing of that within them that makes them sepa-
rate and therefore different. There is a killing
off, or a shutting away into the unconscious, of
difference here for the other, but it never totally
dies, it just sits within the unconscious waiting
to be known.
From a transpersonal perspective,
Death therefore means the murdering of that
which makes one different, plunging it into the
infinite of not existing. This holds echoes from
an existential social constructionist perspective,
where Sartre (1943) speaks of the narcissistic
drive of humans to do that to the other, but
what we see here in these images is the uncon-
scious drive of my participants to do this to
themselves. Yet, where does this drive arise
from? This drive arises out of the pressures
from the majority to conform; for example, for
Carl being feminine and creative was not ac-
ceptable. In the suppression of his difference
there is an avoidance of the tension of the op-
posites posited in the first theme. The other
here hides their otherness to try to fit in but it
never totally disappears. For example, from
Carl‟s story where even though he has made
efforts to destroy his femininity by tearing up
his drawings, his statement that on the last day
of term he was drawn to the Gothic woman on
the bus actually shows his metaphorical attrac-
tion back towards a form of the feminine he
saw as different.
Spiritual Othering and Death
Death by spiritual othering therefore
becomes a process of destroying that which
makes them different, which makes them
unique. It is the distancing of oneself from
ones infinite potential as presented in the re-
view of the literature, and making oneself other
to comply with the demands of the absolute.
As discussed in the review as well, the process
of spiritual othering involves an external ele-
ment, the absolute, represented in Carl‟s story
by the masculine. This is not a literal transla-
tion though. It is more representative of the
role of the ego and the mind, and in particular
the external nature of the absolute in these sto-
ries. To expand further, it is the rigid nature of
the judgements and opinions of the absolute
which create this spiritual othering, judgements
based upon fear of the infinite nature of other-
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 10
Evolving out of a transpersonal para-
digm, this research has shown the self-
annihilation involved within a process of being
othered. Firstly, it has done so by combining
the creative techniques common to transper-
sonal psychotherapy with a more traditional
research methodology to uncover the qualita-
tive experience as the other. Although my find-
ings are extremely important, and highlight
insights both the other and the majority need to
be aware of, I must also advocate for further
research into this rich and culturally timely
subject. Secondly, the choice of techniques
used within this research also moves away from
the purely rational, placing it beyond Aristotil-
ian logic (Cox & Thielgaard, 1986) and open-
ing this research to participants from different
cultures, or minority groups. This builds upon
my work using sand play to understand the
unconscious pull the other has towards the ma-
jority, presented in another article on the sub-
ject (Turner, Callaghan, & Gordon-Finlayson,
2016). My final point, is a recommendation for
this research that more be done to combine
transpersonal and creative techniques to the
more traditional qualitative research methods as
this obviously provides a unique voice for the
other, and they are then ultimately heard by the
majority. Only then can change occur, only
then can the full impact of their experiences be
realised and respected.
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* Dwight Turner is Senior Lecturer within the
School of Applied Social Sciences at the Uni-
versity of Brighton, lectures on their PG Dip
and MSc courses in Counselling and Psycho-
therapy, and is a PhD Supervisor at the Univer-
sity of Brighton Doctoral College. In 2017
Dwight completed his PhD through the Univer-
sity of Northampton & the Centre for Counsel-
ling and Psychotherapy Education (CCPE).
His phenomenological and heuristic study used
creative techniques such as visualisations,
drawing and sand play work to consider the
unconscious transpersonal experience of differ-
ence & being the Other. Dwight is also a psy-
chotherapist and supervisor in private practice,
and a part-time lecturer at the CCPE.
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 12
Appendix 1: Semi-Structured Interview Questions
I would like to invite you to tell me about what the term „different‟ means to you specifically?
Can you give me an example of a time when you were particularly aware of being „different‟ in some
What was this experience like for you?
Do you recall why it was difficult? or Do you recall why you found this experience easy?
Questions to consider if the participant‟s experience was either negative or positive:
Negative experience of difference
How was this experience negative for you?
How did this difficult experience make you feel?
Did this experience remind you of anything from your past?
How did you cope with this experience?
Do you feel you learnt anything from the experience?
Have you ever told anyone else about this experience of being different?
If you had the choice, would you go through the experience again?
Positive experience of difference
How was this experience positive for you?
What feeling(s) did this experienced leave you with?
What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Did you ever talk to anyone else about your experience of being different?
How do you feel you have benefitted from the experience mentioned?
If you had the choice, would you go through the experience described again?
Appendix 2: Experience of Otherness Visualisation
Using this experience (as the other), I would like to perform a visualisation that will take you
back into this memory, allowing you to reconnect with this memory by using your imagina-
tion. I would therefore like you to make yourself comfortable, to close your eyes and connect
with your breathing.
As you breath, allow yourself to turn inwards, allowing any thoughts or feelings to emerge,
before you let them go.
As you breathe allow yourself to connect with your heart beat.
When you are ready, then nod your head for me and we will begin.
Imagine you are back within that experience (mentioned in Section One). When you are there
tell me what you see. What happens to you next?
How do you feel as you look around you?
Can you locate this feeling in the body?
See if you can allow yourself to stay with the feeling and allow yourself to breathe into the
area of your body where you experience that feeling.
Now see if you can allow an image to come up for that area of your body. What is this im-
What qualities does this image have?
Does this image have a message for you at all?
Crossing the Styx: A Transpersonal Exploration of the Death of the Other Dwight Turner
© Journal of Transpersonal Research, Vol. 9 (2), xxx-xxx
e-ISSN: 1989-6077 // p-ISSN: 2307-6607 13
Bringing that image back with you, I would like you to reconnect with your breathing and
slowly come back into the room.
As you breathe, allow yourself to reconnect with your feet on the ground, your legs, your
thighs, your body on the chair/floor, your torso, your chest, your arms and shoulders and
hands, your neck, your head, all the way up to the top of your head.
When you are ready come back into the room and open your eyes
(Note: the interviewer would then spend a few minutes asking the participant to stretch and come
back into their body in the room, allowing them to ground themselves).
I would now like to invite you to draw this image.
Does this image remind you of anything at all?
Would you like to say anything further about this image?
Is there anything else you would like to add about the exercise at all?
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