Transformative Phenomenology and Us
A Bouquet of Reflections on the Impact of Transformative Phenomenology
An eBooklet created by the students of
Professors Valerie Malhotra Bentz, PhD & David Allan Rehorick, PhD
eBooklet Edited by Ayumi Nishii, PhD & James Marlatt, PhD
Fielding Graduate University Alumni Network, 2018
During the process of writing a chapter titled, “The Silver Age of Phenomenology at Fielding Graduate University” in The Fielding 45th Anniversary Monograph, the authors of the chapter (James Marlatt, Ayumi Nishii, Carol Estrada, Barton Buechner, Valerie Bentz, and David Rehorick) invited Fielding phenomenologists to reflect on the impact of Transformative Phenomenology. This booklet is a compilation of these reflection statements. A collective story as the analysis of the reflections, the lived experiences of the impact, is included in the chapter.
The contributors of this booklet are: Adair Nagata, Ann Alexander, Ayumi Nishii, Bart Buechner, Carol Estrada, Carol Laberge, Daniel Maxwell, David Haddad, Evelyn Torton Beck, Frank Rojas, James Marlatt, Lee (Shirley) Knobel, Lori Schneider, Luann Drolc Fortune, Rosa Zubizarreta-Ada, Sergej van Middendorp, Tetyana Azarova, Theresa Southam, and Valerie Nishi.
As phenomenologists we are always on a path of becoming, and so is this booklet. We invite you to join us with your reflection. Please contact Ayumi Nishii at email@example.com or James Marlatt at firstname.lastname@example.org for submissions or questions.
What is Transformative Phenomenology?
Transformative Phenomenology is a somatic-hermeneutic-phenomenology that is put into action in the lifeworld. It is an application of phenomenology—the study of consciousness and phenomena— that can lead to personal, professional, organizational, and social transformations. Transformative Phenomenology is founded on the eidetic phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz, the embodied phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the ontologic-existential phenomenology of Martin Heidegger, and the reflective hermeneutic methods of Hans-Georg Gadamer.
Rehorick and Bentz (2017) identified ten qualities of phenomenological scholar-practitioners based on their analysis of 76 phenomenological and hermeneutic related dissertations completed at Fielding from 1996 to 2016. Writing rich descriptions of lived experience and collaboratively interpreting meaning is a foundational activity. Additional qualities include adopting phenomenology as a way of being and embracing embodied consciousness, wonderment and authenticity. Phenomenological scholar-practitioners are focused on looking beyond the taken for granted, with awareness that lifeworlds are constructed through patterns of communication. Transformative phenomenologists seek to transcend the reality of everyday lived-experience in service of generating common understanding.
The Ten Qualities of Transformative Phenomenologists
Want to know more about Transformative Phenomenology?
Transformative Phenomenology Described
Transformative Phenomenology is a somatic-hermeneutic-phenomenology that is put into action in the lifeworld. It is an application of phenomenology—the study of consciousness and phenomena—that can lead to personal, professional, organizational, and social transformations. It is also a form of applied socio-cultural research and practice that supports positive change.
Transformative Phenomenology emerged from extensive applied phenomenological doctoral research supervised by David Rehorick and Valerie Malhotra Bentz from 1996-2016 during the “Silver Age” of phenomenology at Fielding Graduate University.
It is founded on the essence-based phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz, the embodied phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the ontologic-existential phenomenology of Martin Heidegger, and the reflective interpretative hermeneutic methods of Hans-Georg Gadamer.
Transformative Phenomenologists seek positive change in the world of everyday life and exhibit qualities including the adoption of phenomenology as a way of being and embracing embodied consciousness, wonderment and authenticity.
Phenomenology is a way of knowing which employs enriched and embodied awareness. A person’s view of the world of everyday life, understandings, and situations of others can be clouded by preconceptions, scientific and popular constructs, and media images and distortions. Over time, these may blind us to what is apparent to the unclouded phenomenological eye.
Phenomenology directs us to the fullness of experience rather than a remote or pro forma accumulation of information and facts. The creative capacity is enhanced by the opening of vision resulting from immersion in the subject matter rather than limiting the researcher to the traditional mode of observation or data gathering at a discrete distance.
The aim of the study of phenomena (objects of consciousness) is to bring about awareness and understanding of direct experience. Unlike traditional methods of inquiry, phenomenology involves an enriched awareness of our own consciousness. It challenges one to let phenomena reveal themselves, rather than predetermining what phenomena are. Phenomenology seeks to portray the essential, or necessary structures of phenomena, and to uncover the meaning of lived experience within the world of everyday life.
Somatics is an approach, with a long scholarly tradition, that promotes whole-bodied awareness and communication where the capacity for knowing from within becomes the primary instrument of change.
Hermeneutics involves the reflective search for meaning through the interpretation of texts and life that include conversations, relationships, and social interaction. The interpreter seeks to reveal personal, cultural, and historically sculpted prejudgments and prejudices, making them visible and explicit within the research process.
Historically, the social sciences followed the path of the physical sciences taking an objectivist view, governed by positivist assumptions. Phenomenology sought to fill this gap by paying careful attention to how we know everything from within our senses, brains and bodies in connection with other beings. Phenomenologists use the term “lived experience” to connote the direct feelings, thoughts, and bodily awareness of actual life—what the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, called the things in themselves.
Phenomenological inquiry is a way of being as well as a way of knowing. It involves a practice of “bracketing,” through which prior judgments and categorizations are suspended so that one’s vision opens to what is occurring. Another phenomenological strategy is to change one or more elements of the phenomenon using imagination, so that one may see how things may be different, thus freeing the mind’s grip on perceptions and feelings. By writing and re-writing about an experience using these and other techniques one comes to realize what Vedantic philosophy called the “Atman” or the “I” behind the “I”. When one continues bracketing, including bracketing away the object of consciousness itself one becomes aware of an inner spaciousness which Edmund Husserl called the “transcendental ego”. This is a sense of peaceful or blissful openness and unity with all beings, “God” or “Brahman”. Transformative phenomenology is what Swami Vivekananda called Jnana Yoga or the yoga of knowledge by discriminating what one’s essence is from the superficial aspects of lived experience.
From Alfred Schütz, social phenomenology is a way of looking beyond the taken-for-granted in the world of everyday life—the lifeworld.Social phenomenology offers approaches to connect with social and cultural worlds from the perspectives of an individuals’ motivation, sense of topical relevance, the typification of others, relationships, and other vantages.
Somatic psychology brought in practical techniques of knowing from within. Discoveries from neuroscience and ancient insights from yoga and Vedanta intensify somatic phenomenology. Transformative Phenomenologists place emphasis on somatics, not only from the philosophical tradition, but also through healing practices such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness that considers the interconnected nature of the body, mind, and spirit.
David Rehorick and Valerie Malhotra Bentz identified ten competencies of Transformative Phenomenologists based on their analysis of applied phenomenological research. Writing rich descriptions of lived experiences and collaboratively interpreting meaning is a foundational activity that can increase self-awareness and enhance the understanding of the everyday world in which they practice.
Learners become immersed in their research project from a first-person perspective. They often experience a thoughtful, disorienting, incoherence through phenomenological writing, conducting interviews, engaging with hermeneutic explorations, and reflecting on lived experience that can be transformative. The veiled nature of the taken-for-granted is acknowledged and the unclouded phenomenological eye emerges.
Additional qualities of transformative phenomenologists include adopting phenomenology as a way of being and embracing embodied consciousness, wonderment and authenticity. Phenomenological scholar-practitioners focus on looking beyond the taken-for-granted, with awareness that lifeworlds are constructed through patterns of communication.
Transformative phenomenologists seek to transcend the reality of everyday lived experience in service of generating common understanding among others. They focus on the creation of spaces for social and ecological justice through a practice that offers ways of raising consciousness and healing and creating change in persons, organizations, and society.
Transformative phenomenologists address practical concerns in the lifeworld from the diverse vantage of the executive coach, human development professional, leadership specialist, company executive, directors of medical organizations, professional musician, community social innovators, and more.
Engaging others from a somatic and phenomenological foundation acknowledges being as the primary instrument of change through communicative-embodied-awareness. Somatics promotes whole-bodied communication, and phenomenology and hermeneutics increases self-awareness through reflective understanding of the world of everyday life. The capacity for guiding the communicative construction of meaning creates a sense of collaborative action for change. Put together, communicative-embodied-awareness processes offer new avenues for improving the well-being and effectiveness of participants in transformation efforts
James Marlatt, Ph.D., Alumnus
David Rehorick, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus
Professor Valerie Malhotra Bentz, Ph.D.
Fielding Graduate University, June 2019
Bentz, V., & Shapiro, J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Bentz, V. M., & Giorgino, V. M. B. (Eds.). (2016). Contemplative social research: Caring for self, being, and lifeworld. Santa Barbara, CA: Fielding University Press.
Bentz, V., Rehorick, D., Marlatt, J., Nishii, A., & Estrada, C. (2018). Transformative phenomenology as an antidote to technological deathworlds. Schutzian Research, 10, 189-220.
Marlatt, J., Nishii, A., Estrada, C., Buchner, B., Bentz, V. Rehorick, D. (In Press). The silver age of phenomenology at Fielding Graduate University. Santa Barbara, CA: Fielding University Press.
Rehorick, D. A., & Bentz, V. M. (Eds.). (2008). Transformative phenomenology: Changing ourselves, lifeworlds, and professional practice. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Rehorick, D., & Bentz, V. M. (Eds.). (2017). Expressions of phenomenological research: Consciousness and lifeworld studies. Santa Barbara, CA: Fielding University Press.
Vivekananda, S. (no date). Jnana Yoga. Loschberg 9, Duetschland. Jazzybee Verlag Jugen Beck.
What to Know More? Check Out These Books.
Former students of Valerie Bentz and David Rehorick contributed chapters to the edited volumes that outline the transformative impact of phenomenology on their research, practice and lives. These authors provide rich stories of the diverse practices that embody truthful communication to address practical concerns in the lifeworld from the diverse vantage of the executive coach, human development professionals, leadership specialists, company executives, directors of medical organizations, professional musicians, community social innovators, and more.
Bentz, V., & Shapiro, J. (1998). Mindful inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Rehorick, D., & Bentz, V. (Eds.). (2008). Transformative phenomenology: Changing ourselves, lifeworlds, and professional practice. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Bentz, V., & Giorgino, V. (Eds.). (2016). Contemplative social research: Caring for self, being, and lifeworld. Santa Barbara, CA: Fielding University Press.
Rehorick, D., & Bentz, V. (Eds.). (2017). Expressions of phenomenological research: Consciousness and lifeworld studies (Vol. 10). Santa Barbara, CA: Fielding University Press.
Bentz, V. M. & Marlatt, J. (Eds.). (2021). Deathworlds to lifeworlds: Collaboration with strangers for personal, social and ecological transformation. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Bentz, V. M. & Marlatt, J. with Carol Estrada (Eds.). (2021). Handbook of transformative phenomenology. Santa Barbara: Fielding Press.
© Ayumi Nishii & James Marlatt, 2021
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