Universal Patterns of the Experience of Divine Guidance

During my research into the experience of divine guidance I discovered several universal patterns that seem to appear across spiritual traditions and cultures. This research included in-depth interviews with advanced spiritual practitioners and teachers from various spiritual traditions and cultures; a meta-analysis of sacred texts from the Judaic, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Shamanic, and metaphysical traditions; and over 20 years of experimentation and testing of numerous guidance theories and practices from these traditions. The following is a composite depiction of the universal patterns of the experience of divine guidance which I uncovered through this research journey:

Patterns of Experience

The Experience of Source

Individuals who have the experience of divine guidance appear to have a conceptualization of a SOURCE of guidance that either takes a 1st-person (Higher Self, Original Self, etc.), 2nd-person (God, Jesus, Angels, etc), or 3rd-person form (the Tao, Holy Spirit, the Word, Buddha Nature, etc.). This conception of a Divine Source of guidance also appears to include the projection of various particular attributes (imminent, transcendent, etc.), motives (beneficent, merciful, etc.), and activities (creator, sustainer, etc.) onto that Source. The attributes, motives, and activities the individual ascribes to the Source seem to affect their ability to connect with that Source. For example, individuals who perceive the Source of guidance as vengeful and judgmental tend to have a hard time receiving guidance, while those who perceive a loving and forgiving Source appear to have an easier time receiving guidance.

The Experience of Seeking

The individual who experiences divine guidance seems to go through a period of SEEKING a connection with the perceived Source through a process of preparation and purification facilitated by the performance of certain practices, such as prayer, meditation, and ritual. The perceived Source also appears to seek out the seeker, assisting with and/or instigating the process of preparation and purification, and sometimes even offering the seeker an experience of spontaneous guidance through divine grace.

The Experience of Receiving

The process of seeking culminates with the seeker having an experience of RECEIVING a communication from this perceived Source that seems to come in a variety of forms (perceptual shift, inner voice, visions, etc.) and appears to carry a particular content (information, direction, etc.), along with a range of experiential qualities (sense of a higher presence, heart-opening, etc.). The variety of forms seems to require a degree of openness and receptivity within the receiver. The receiver’s encounter with this perceived Source also appears to be experienced through the lens of an archetypal metaphor or theme of encounter (dipping into an inner river, becoming a divine vehicle, etc.), whose form seems to depend on the personal, cultural, and religious influences of the receiver’s life. There also appears to be a universal paradox around seeking and receiving, in that one must let go of all seeking in order to receive, yet one usually cannot receive unless one seeks; it appears that the challenge becomes knowing how long to seek before letting go of the seeking in order to receive.

The Experience of Following

The experience of receiving of communication from the Source ultimately leads to a period of FOLLOWING in which the receiver of Divine communication attempts to interpret and follow the guidance received. This following is based on various effects (fruits) of the experience of Divine communication (purification, consolation, transformation, etc.) that often follows the experience of receiving. The receiver of guidance then uses the effects of the experience, along with the form, content, and qualities of the communication that were received, to discern the authenticity, validity, and meaning of the communication. The receiver then seeks to incorporate the experience into their own life and consciousness.

Patterns of Influence

The individual’s entire process of conceiving of a Source of guidance, and seeking, receiving, and following guidance from that Source, also appears to be influenced by various other factors. These factors seem to contribute to, impede, develop, and mediate the experience.

Contributing Factors

There are a variety of internal and external factors that appear to have contributed to the seeker’s original seeking of the experience of divine guidance and that continue to influence the ongoing process. These may include experiences of insight, the individual’s relationship to the perceived Source, a sense of being called by the perceived Source, and various other life and religious experiences and influences.

Impeding Factors

There is an assortment of personal obstacles (ego, lack of awareness, fear, etc.) and personal constructs (mental, emotional, perceptual, etc.) that appear to impede or block the individual’s ability to seek, receive, and follow divine guidance. The individual must transform and/or transcend these obstacles and constructs through the processes of preparation and purification in order to move past the resistances to seeking and following, and to clear the barriers to receiving the guidance that is continually being transmitted.

Developmental Factors

The individual’s particular developing relationship to the Source, and their evolving degree of faith, will, and ability to surrender appear to develop over time and with experience. In turn, these same evolving forces may exert a developmental influence on the process itself.

Mediating Factors

The individual’s entire experience of divine guidance also appears to be mediated by a synergy between effort and grace, the creation of a conducive set and setting, as well as influential life experiences and events. A process of transcendent education also seems to influence the individual’s process of purification, and their personal and spiritual growth. This transcendent educational process includes the sense that the Source is transmitted lessons in the form of inner and outer life experiences as a way of inducing deep transformative change in us.

General Patterns

Ultimately, the individual’s authentic experience of divine guidance tends to be perceived as a profound subjective experience. It appears to offer superior information, knowledge, wisdom, and direction; foster constructive personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal growth and healing; and elicit a wide range of positive affectivity. These universal patterns also appear to manifest in unique ways according to an individual’s life experiences and perceptions, spiritual and religious tradition, and various cultural and social influences. 


THE SEARCH FOR A DIVINELY GUIDED LIFE: A Spiritual Autobiographical Inquiry into the Experience of Divine Guidance by Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D. (2014).

THE EXPERIENCE OF DIVINE GUIDANCE: A Qualitative Study of the Human Endeavor to Seek, Receive, and Follow Guidance from a Perceived Divine Source.  Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D., Dissertation Abstracts International, 2005, 66 (05), 2855. (UMI No. 3174544)

The Co-Evolution of the Moving Image, Consciousness, Culture, & Society Interactive Timeline (Beta)

Announcing the Beta launch of


An Interactive Web-Based Multimedia Research and Theory-Building Timeline

The Co-Evolution of the Moving Image, Consciousness, Culture, and Society Interactive Timeline represents a preliminary mapping of the co-evolution of the moving image in all its evolving forms, and consciousness, culture and society using a transdisciplinary and Integrally-informed cinematic analytic meta-approach to explore the history of cinema, self and world from 1878 through the present.

The current version includes a high degree of mapping from 1878 through the silent and early sound period with ongoing mapping taking place from the early sound period on.

Preliminary research suggests that the moving image in all its evolving forms, including movies, television, and video games, act as co-evolutionary catalysts for the development of individual and collective consciousness, cultural worldviews, and social change. In addition, it appears that the moving image medium itself goes through evolutionary cycles of the embedding of structures of consciousness from archaic to magic to mythic to rational to pluralistic to integral cinematic structures; with the recycling of this evolutionary cycle as each new form emerges. For example, the silent film era begins at archaic and peaks at integral, then with the introduction of sound, the medium appeared to revert back to archaic forms momentarily before progressively cycling through these stages of consciousness again, but this time with the sound film form.

Beta Version of the Timeline Available at: http://www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/126075/The-Co-Evolution-of-the-Moving-Image-Consciousness-Culture-and-Society/


I have set up a page on my website with links for how you can support my work in the world. This includes support through tax-deductible donations for my Integral Cinema research project and purchasing my books, videos and artwork.

If my work has touched you in any way I ask that you consider supporting my continuation of this work in whatever form you can.

I am deeply grateful for all the support I have received through the years and with your help I hope to continue my work for many years to come.


A Special 8-Week Interfaith and Integral Spirituality Holiday Season Course

With Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D., internationally-acclaimed film and spirituality scholar-practitioner and author of the newly released book “The Search for a Divinely Guided Life


From: December 7, 2014 (Sunday) at 1:00 pm Pacific Time 
To: January 25, 2015 (Sunday) at 5:00 pm Pacific Time 

Eventbrite - Living a Divinely Guided Life (8 Week Course)

About this Course
The LIVING A DIVINELY GUIDED LIFE course is a transformational interfaith and integral spirituality journey through the holiday season. It is designed to foster a more sacred and deeply transformative season, and to help you more fully open to and embrace your own evolutionary quest for the Divine. Using holiday season celebrations from many cultures and traditions as archetypal containers, we will explore how the Divine has already been guiding your life through the creation of your own spiritual autobiography, uncovering and reframing your past and current life situations and challenges in the context of your evolutionary journey toward a higher, deeper, and more expansive way of being. You will also learn how to develop your own integral spirituality guidance practice for seeking, receiving and following guidance from your highest, deepest, and most expansive Divine Source on a daily and moment-by-moment basis.

This event takes place online.

Who is this Course For?
This course is for anyone who is interested in exploring and living a divinely guided life from a non-denominational, interfaith, and integral spirituality evolutionary perspective.


Join Mark for this transformative interfaith and integral spirituality course, which explores how we can open to, connect with, and more fully and deeply enter into a co-creative and co-evolutionary dance with the living universe. This course will be taught through eight weekly 90-minute conference calls (recordings for the calls will be posted for participants who are not able to join a call). Each week we will deeply explore a dimension of the process of opening to living a divinely guided life with assigned practices, readings and self-reflection assignments, along with online threaded discussions to connect with fellow participants and deepen your understanding and application of this work. Throughout this process we will be uncovering the signs and stories of your life that reveal the divine’s participation in your life journey, and developing skills and practices to help you more fully engage with and participate in your divinely guided life adventure.

Topics covered will include:
  • Searching for the Divine Through Time and Memory;
  • Deconstructing and Rebirthing our Relationship with the Divine;
  • Transforming the Primal Wound into the Primal Calling;
  • Cultivating the Witness;
  • Tapping into the Evolutionary Impulse;
  • The Art of Transformational Reframing;
  • Interpreting Life Situations and Events from a Transcendent Educational Perspective;
  • Using Holy Days as Gateways to the Personal and Collective Kosmic Curriculum;
  • Discovering and Applying Universal Patterns and Practices of the Experience of Divine Guidance;
  • Living in the Divine Flow in the Everyday World.

This course uses an Integral Spirituality approach, which is a form of spirituality that seeks to integrate the theories and practices of all faith traditions in a way that recognizes the universal aspects of all paths while also honoring the unique gifts that each path offers. In addition, the Integral spiritual approach helps us integrate spirituality itself with all other dimensions of our being and becoming. From this Integral Spirituality perspective, the “Divine” refers to a higher, deeper and/or more expansive source of wisdom and guidance that can be perceived in various ways, including as a 1st Person Higher or Deeper Self; a 2nd Person “Thou” or “Other;” a 3rd Person Force or System; and/or a simultaneously individual and collective Evolutionary Impulse.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity – to open more fully to the blessings, graces, miracles, and tender mercies of a divinely guided life.

Dates: 8 weeks: December 7, 2014 – January 25, 2015   

Cost: $345.00 USD plus handling fee (Includes a free download of the book The Search for a Divinely Guided Life* in PDF eBook format)

Eventbrite - Living a Divinely Guided Life (8 Week Course)

Scholarships and Discounts: Discounts and Sliding-Scale Scholarships are available for those in need – For more information contact:  divineguidanceproject@gmail.com

Number of Participants: Up to 20

Instructor: Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D.

Weekly Conference Calls:  Sundays 1-2:30 pm Pacific Time

  • December 7
  • December 14
  • December 21
  • December 28
  • January 4
  • January 11
  • January 18
  • January 25

MARK ALLAN KAPLAN, Ph.D. is an internationally-acclaimed integral and transpersonal film and spirituality scholar-practitioner. He has conducted and published groundbreaking lived inquiry and academic research in integral and transpersonal approaches to art, media and spirituality, and practices professionally as an interfaith spiritual director, transformative personal development coach, award-winning filmmaker, and media psychologist and consultant. Mark is also a celebrated transdisciplinary artist, author and educator. His spiritual writings include the newly released "The Search for a Divinely Guided Life" and "The Experience of Divine Guidance," and he is the founder and Executive Director of the Divine Guidance Project, a trans-denominational research initiative devoted to the study and advancement of the experience of Divine guidance across religious traditions, cultures and domains of experience. Mark has studied and practiced the experience of divine guidance for over twenty-five years both personally and in an academic setting, and he is the researcher and author of one of the first cross-cultural and cross-traditional academic studies on the experience.

Eventbrite - Living a Divinely Guided Life (8 Week Course)

*The Search for a Divinely Guided Life book is also available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.com. SPECIAL OFFERS INCLUDE: Free Kindle Edition with Purchase of Paperback Edition and Kindle Unlimited Subscribers Read for Free

New Book Release: "The Search for a Divinely Guided Life"

Announcing the publication of 

A Spiritual Autobiographical Inquiry into 
the Experience of Divine Guidance

by Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D.

THE SEARCH FOR A DIVINELY GUIDED LIFE is a first-person true account of one individual's quest for the Divine through time and memory, across many cultures and traditions, through dark nights, gentle graces, and unimaginable miracles and wonders, ultimately leading to the discovery of the one path within the many and the heart of divine wisdom and guidance itself.