Sze-oi Lau

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Jeria, Jorge

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Taoist philosophy--Psychological aspects; Art therapy


Personal growth and spiritual integration are very important to many adults but are often neglected in the practice of adult education. As infinite empty space, Tao Te Ching can encompass the different worlds of psychology, art, and religion. When adult education is thought of and valued as transformation, the philosophy of Tao Te Ching enables the intuitive consciousness and wisdom to integrate the spirit, mind, and body. The individual thus learns to avoid extremes and to cultivate an unbroken unity between life and the environment in a process of growth and self-actualization. This dissertation is about the integration of the philosophical view of Tao Te Ching with art psychotherapy activities, and adult education practices in general. In order to explore this process, eight Chinese adult learners, all women diagnosed with clinical depression, went through a sixteen-week art therapy workshop. All participants sought to clarify their inner dimensions of self and achieve spiritual development. Hermeneutic methodology was used to interpret their art. The learners became conscious of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors by creating art. Through art they were able to create new meanings in their lives. As a result of a psychotherapy directed towards spirituality, participants experienced different levels of transformation. In addition, six artists were interviewed on the topic of art and spirituality, and a cross-cultural discussion between five scholars was also recorded. Tao is based on the premises of lifelong learning and is achieved by daily effort. Personal growth and spiritual integration constitute an interwoven pattern of action-inaction (Ying and Yang) and make for a balance between vertical (transcendent experience) and horizontal (experience with others and self) relationships. Tao is grounded in infinite sympathy and creativity. Freedom emerges within the self, not from the dictates of government or institutions that mandate policies. The Tao of adult learning is focused on developing success; on “emptying oneself” of biases, egocentrism, degradation, class, and ethnocentrism; on cultivating a sense of “critical consciousness” through self-corrective participation and reflection. A person comes to know one's position between heaven and earth. As a “co-creator” breaking through the boundary, we embrace the paradox of life with compassion and work towards change and transformation. Finally, we find meaning in life by “passing on” life experiences.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [153]-173).


xii, 212 pages, portraits




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