Theses Doctoral

Content Analysis of Spiritual Life in Contemporary USA, India, and China

Lau, Elsa

Considering the unique cultural and political contexts through which spirituality emerges, this study investigates the lived-experience of spiritual life in USA, India, and China. In this study, culture was defined as geographic (primarily) and ethnically clustered groups of individuals with broad relative commonality in socio-cultural histories. Religion was considered an aspect of spirituality and spiritual life. A qualitative coding frame was formulated based on participants’ responses to open-ended questions regarding spirituality. The aim of this study was to clarify the qualitative content of spiritual life with the help of Dedoose, a mixed methods qualitative software. The exploratory approach of this study takes on a cross-culturally comparative lens, and has two primary questions: (1) What are the universal aspects of lived spirituality across cultures, and (2) How does culture shape spiritual experience (e.g., typology, and prevalence). A total of 6112 participants (41% women, mean age of 29 years, range 18–75 years) were recruited from crowdsourcing platforms. The primary thematic categories were religion (religious traditions, religious conversion, religious professionals, religious figures “theophany,” and religious forces “heirophany”), contemplative practice (meditation, mindful movement, prayer, and rituals), ancestors (ancestral worship, dreams about ancestors, and ancestors discussed), natural world (animals, and nature), and metaphysical phenomenon. Metaphysical categories were further parsed apart to include extrasensory perception (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, realistic dreams, and intuitive impressions), psychokinesis, survival hypothesis (near death experiences, out of body experiences, and apparitional experiences), and faith and energy healing (recovery/remission of illness, and spiritual practitioners).

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Clinical Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Miller, Lisa J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 21, 2019