Tolmie, L. (2022). Crossing thresholds: Exploring stories and visual art from beyond the boundaries of ordinary consciousness [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Liverpool John Moores University.

The aim of this study was to explore the lived experience of individuals using creative expression as a way of documenting or processing experiences that occur beyond the threshold of ordinary consciousness. Integral Inquiry (Braud, 2011) was used in connection with Narrative Inquiry (Kim, 2016) and Arts-based Methods (Leavy, 2015) to investigate the connection between transliminal art, boundaries, and heightened perception. A holistic, multi-modal approach was used during data collection and analysis. A purposive sampling strategy focused recruitment on individuals who had created a piece of art based on a nonordinary state of consciousness, or who had an unusual experience related to a piece of art. Twenty five participants shared their stories and experiences in an online survey, and were subsequently invited to send a digital copy of their artwork. Ten of these individuals were interviewed on Zoom. All data were collated, analysed, re-storied and validated by participants. Themes were then identified across cases. Throughout the process, the focus was on an inclusive approach using multiple ways of knowing including analytical and intuitive, embodied and cognitive, as well as ordinary and nonordinary states of consciousness. Results showed that although the artwork was often created in challenging circumstances, a co-creative process emerged with participants often feeling a connection to a transpersonal source. Creative practice provided a pathway for self-expression that was not always possible in everyday life. As the participants were from a Western background, the findings are culture-specific. Although the intention of this study was to focus on lived experience, integrating a validated scale of measurement may have substantiated the findings. In addition to implications for wellbeing, the participants’ stories support the perspective of post-materialist science and may indicate innate human potential to access non-physical information.

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