Sunday, December 12, 2010

For Nathan in Response to His Comment: What Religion Does for one


I recieved a comment on Sunday to a year old post that has something to do with the religious experience that I talk about. This guy, Nathan, decided that they knew what studies I was talking about, becuase I suppose he thinks that only the things he knows about are worth knowing. He obvious has the wrong batch of studies in mind because he names one that not part of the or even the kind of study I'm talking about. He also speaking of "experiments" and I'm not talking about experiments. He names "Miller and Urey" this is how I know he has the wrong batch of studies in mind. These experiments were thought to be the quintessential attempt to recreate conditions under which life would have first emerged on earth. This has absolutely nothing to do with the studies I was talking about and could not be further from them. What does it tell us? It says he is assuming I'm a creationist. Why? Because he's not well read he doesn't know anything about theology or religion he assumes its too stupid to learn about. So he goes around making dumb assumptions other people becuase he's to arrogant to understand that he doesn't' know everything.

Moving on...
I concur with howgoodisthat, and I *do*, er, "know the studies". I could *perform* the experiments that I think you're referring to (Miller-Urey is the most famous, but you seemed ambiguous). Unless you meant the soft sciences, the "How happy are you" studies that you referenced in the post, which are humorously easy to refute. I'll start with one easy refutation: People are equally happy regardless of which religion they follow, including Unitarian Universalists, whose views are indistinguishable from atheists. Controlling for other factors, no religion gives its followers a substantially better life than any other, including atheism. In fact, it has recently been theorized that people are happy because they go to church, not because they are religious.

He doesn't really know much about social sciences either becuase he assumes that it's "soft science." That's what real sphincter-mind set reductionists say when they are too lazy and ideologically brain washed to learn about social scineces. Oddly enough he seems to have an intuitive sense that he's wrong and thinks he knows, because he does talk about being happy and social science. So he's really not sure what studies I'm talking about he's going to cover the bases. He knows about the studies of which I speak so it's useless. Atheists are always getting up on their high horses because they are angered by the existence of someone who dares to criticize their world view. They are even more angered by a Thinking Christian, which they really understand. Therefore, they have the old cave man response of angered by the unknown. They really do disservice to their own movement by illustrating how intellectually bankrupt it is.

Defining characteristics of mystical experience include:

"In a recent review of the mystical experience, Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences, which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;

2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;

3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";

4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;

5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.[i]

The Voyle study sets out defining characteristics that are very similar and based upon Stace. Stace’s work was a watershed; it influenced Hood, and has continued to influence many:

The contemporary interest in the empirical research of mysticism can be traced to Stace’s (Stace, 1960) demarcation of the phenomenological characteristics of mystical experiences (Hood, 1975). In Stace’s conceptualization, mystical experiences had five characteristics (Hood, 1985, p.176):

1. The mystical experience is noetic. The person having the experience perceives it as a valid source of knowledge and not just a subjective experience.

2. The mystical experience is ineffable, it cannot simply be described in words.

3. The mystical experience is holy. While this is the religious aspect of the experience it is not necessarily expressed in any particular theological terms.

4. The mystical experience is profound yet enjoyable and characterized by positive affect.

5. The mystical experience is paradoxical. It defies logic. Further analysis of reported mystical experiences suggests that the one essential feature of mysticism is an experience of unity (Hood, 1985). The experience of unity involves a process of ego loss and is generally expressed in one of three ways (Hood, 1 976a). The ego is absorbed into that which transcends it, or an inward process by which the ego gains pure awareness of self, or a combination of the two.[ii]

RE can be studied empirically

While it is probably impossible to study the actual experiences as people have them, it is certainly very possible to rather empirical data about RE and ME (mystical experience). A vast body of work has grown up around this phenomenon. Statistical scales and psychological instruments have been developed to study the authenticity of RE. It is possible to understand if one’s experiences do fall within the range of what is understood as ME. In essence the basic idea is construct a typology of the “peaker” by collecting data from surveys about experiences, then compare with standardized psychological personality theory instruments. Three major instruments have been developed for determining the authenticity of ME. Greeley’s questionnaire (1974), the “M” scale (“M” for mysticism) by Hood (1975, and the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI) by Alexander and Boyer (1987). Greeley asked the question "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" He used this in several national opinion surveys. Thomas and Cooper (1980) demonstrated that Greeley’s answers were general and varied considerably. Subjecting Greeley’s data to their own criteria they found that only 1% of his “yes” responses were genuine mystical experience. Thus Hood’s scale is more widely favored. Holm and Caird validated the “M” scale with cross-cultural data in 1982 and 1988.[iii] The SCI by Alexander and Boyer is the most researched. As the authors tell us, "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."[iv] The SCI is more focused upon meditation practices and their results. Items are constructed based upon first person but also drawn from authoritative literature. Subscales are added to differentiate experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic, and schizophrenic experiences. A misleading item scale is used. The authors assume that the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and out that emerges higher states of consciousness.

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that “during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310).” Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;[v]

How common are such experiences? Skeptics used to suggest that these experiences were confined to “strange people” who just had “that sort of temperament.” While estimate very as to incidence rate, all the major finds show that the rate is so high that this is one of the major reasons to rule out mental illness. We can that ME is really quite common and RE to some degree may be almost universal.


Several studies have charted the incidence rate of RE or ME: Greely (1974) found 35%, In 1970 Back and Bourque reported increases in frequency of such incidence from 20% in 1962 to 41% in 1967.[vi] Researchers once treated them as rare events limited to a small group of the fortunate. They were dealing mainly with regular experiences as a way of life. Alexander quotes Maslow: "In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."[vii] On the other hand Maslow also suggested that everyone probably has them to some degree. While most research focuses upon the dramatic and constant events, Maslow felt that everyone experiences some degree of transcendence at some point.[viii] In his 1978 study Wuthnow asked three different questions designed to reflect a general sense of how commonality of “peak” experience.[ix] The three questions were: “have you ever had the feeling that you were in contact with something holy or sacred?” This was designed to reflect a religious dimension to the experience. The second question: “have you experienced the beauty of nature in a deeply moving way?” The third: “have you had the feeling that you were in harmony with the universe?” For those who answered affirmatively for any of these three questions they were asked it had a lasting and deep influence upon their lives. The findings show that one in two has experienced contact with the sacred. Eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature. Four in ten have experienced harmony with the universe. Wuthnow concludes that Maslow was right, and the right kind of probing would show that virtually everyone has had some degree of experience of this kind. “This data clearly demonstrates that peak experiences are not just the domain of mystics or artists or people with unusual talents for having such experiences…”[x] Noble found in her 1984 study that 100% of her 120 subjects drawn from Seattle area college experienced transcendence; measured by both Hood’s “M scale” and Mathes’ et al. “Peak scale.” [xi]

Incidence rate suggests no pathology.

A group of professional psychiatrists called Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry has made the statement:

Numerous studies assessing the incidence of mystical experience (Back and Bourque, 1970; Greeley, 1974, 1987; Hay and Morisy, 1978; Hood, 1974, 1975, 1977; Thomas and Cooper, 1980) all support the conclusion that 30-40% of the population does have such experiences, suggesting that they are normal rather than pathological phenomena. In addition, a recent survey (Allman et al., 1992) has demonstrated that the number of patients who bring mystical experiences into treatment is not insignificant. Psychologists in full-time practice were asked to estimate the percentage of their clients over the past 12 months who had reported a mystical experience. The 285 respondents indicated that of the 20,670 clients seen during the past year, the incidence of mystical experience was 4.5%. This clearly challenges the GAP report on Mysticism, which claims that "mystical experiences are rarely observed in psychotherapeutic practice" (Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, 1976, p. 799).(website: Spiritual Competency Resource Center)[xii]

“The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) is an organization of nationally respected psychiatrists dedicated to shaping psychiatric thinking, public programs and clinical practice in mental health. GAP meets twice a year at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains, New York.”

There have been a few studies with negative findings. When I say no skeptic has been able to supply the data that is true, Wuthnow supplies it in his own article. Prince in 1966 found that ME “may be associated with pathological regression.” Adler in 1972 found that such people were antinomian personalities who can’t cope with their problems.[xiii] These seem more like judgments imposed by the researcher rather than the result of data. Wuthnow’s study is much more systematic and rigorous, and most of the positive studies are latter and better done. He finds that “peakers” have more confidence, more self assured, and more apt to find life meaningful. These experiences do make a big difference between those who have had them and those who have not. Peakers are more apt to be analytical, to feel that their lives are meaningful, and that there is meaning to life. 68% of those who had had such experiences in the past year said their lives were meaningful, compared with 46% of those who had had such experiences but not in the past year, while 39% of those who had not had them but wanted to have them, and 36% of those who neither had them nor wanted them.[xiv] Noble found that the negative effects were only temporary, or short-term disorientation.[xv]

The M Scale

The “M Scale” (Mysticism scale) was developed by Ralph Hood Jr. at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It has become the standard study instrument by which validation of mystical experience is accomplished empirically. Hood’s instrument has been cross culturally validated and is probably represents the cutting eduge of research in this field of Religious experience. The scale is a series of questions and a scoring technique, which has been worked out according to standard social scientific assumptions. The scale has been so successful it has become the standard operating procedure[i] and replaces the former practice of the researcher trying to develop her own scale, a practice that led to as many scales as there were studies. The M scale is by far the most successful and has been cross culturally validated with great successes. It is based on the phenomenological categories of mystical study by W.T. Stace and makes certain assumptions of William James. Hood’s original measuring instrument, the REEM, was based upon the categories of James. The M scale follows the phenomenological development of Stace. The scale uses 32 items (these are questions that are asked of the subject). The items are organized with 16 Positive and 16 negatively worded. Independent studies supported Hood’s original design, (Caird, 1988, Reinert and Stifler, 1993).[ii] Originally M scale measured two factors: (1) Assesses items of an experienced unity (introvertive or extrovertive). (2) Assesses items of a experience of religious or non religious and knowledge claims. This is consistent with Stace’s concept that Mystical experience can be interpreted in many ways. Reinert and Stifler suggested religious items and knowledge items might emerge as separate factors. This would split the interpretative factors between religious and non-religious factors. That would not contradict Stace. There is a distinction between “spiritual” and “religious.” Mystical experience can be interpreted (as we have seen already) as “spiritual” without being thought religious, or as “mystical” without involving God. The two-item approach allows greater interpretation. But the interpretive factor was religious in nature. The assumptions made in the study and taken to answering the questions tended to be religious.[iii]

Hood changed his strategy from two analytic factors to three (“the three factor solution”). The Three factor solution sets up three categories, which more closely follow the predictions of Stace based upon his reading of mystics and person experience. (“phenomenological”). The three categories for Stace were: Staces’ categories of Introvertive and extrovertive mysticism emerging as two separate factors. The third factor is an interpretive dimension where the respondent relates the experiences to knowledge claims (“God is love” or some such). Interovertive means the mystical experience is beyond word though or image, it is iner directed and not related to any outside phenomenon and I supposed to be beyond description. This will also be discussed more in chapter five (“Religious Apiori”). Extrovertive means the subject’s experience is related to nature or to some external image in the immediate environment, a sense of the numinous, the harmony underlying all of nature or something on that order. The tables below demonstrate the basic structure Stace’s theory and the three factor test. They demonstrate the closeness with which the latter validates the former.

Stace Model of Mystical Experience (phenomenologically derived).

Introvertive Mysticism

Extrovertive Mysticism

a. contentless Unity

a. a unity in diversity

b. Timeless/Spaceless

b. Inner subjectivity


a. Noetic

b. Religious

c. Positive Affective

d. Paradoxicality (Not measured in M scale)

e. Ineffability (alleged)

Hood Model of Mystical Experience (Empirically Derived): (triple solution)

Introvertive Mysticism (12 items)

Extroverstive Mysticism 8 items

a. Contentless Unity Items

a. Unity in diversity items

b. Time/space items

b. Religious Items

c. Ineffability items

c. Positive affect items

Interpretation (12 Items)

a. Noetic

b. Religious

c. Positive Affective

This chart is from the Spilka/Hood book.[iv]

One thing that will become important in Chapter eight (“Drugs”) the fact that Hood’s M Scale is designed to measure mystical experience related to Stace’s theorizing, not the wide verity of experiences labeled “Peak” experiences that may not even relate to mystical experience. Such as the case with Panhke, who did the “Good Friday” experiment (Drug induced mystical experiences).[v] That will become important in Chapter eight as well.

Several different versions of the M scale were made, and they were designed to reflect cross-cultural validation. Rather than just measuring two factors, they measured three factors or “general categories” that more closely mirrored Stace’s reading of mystical accounts and experiences. The important thing is the empirical studies demonstrate the findings that corroborate Staces’s theory of mystical experience. This demonstrates the basis for a body of work confirming the common core theory: the idea that mystical experiences are the same, minus the details of individual traditions. That is a good indication that the same basic reality stands behind all of these experiences regardless of the religious tradition. The tailored the questions to treat the overall ontological structure of a belief system. So “God” is treated not as a specific personality but as the transcendental signifier (although Hood does not use that term). This means atheist mystics who sense a void and Christian mystics who sense Christ are talking the same things, because weather they call it “a void” or “Jesus” the void or Jesus function the same way in the over all economy of an ontological system. That means that mystics the world over is probably experiencing the same thing, but they load that into different cultural constructs in order to explain it.

The M scale follows Stace’s phenomenological accounts of mystical experience. It also reflects, therefore, Stace’s theoretical concerns. The major such concern is known as “the common core” hypothesis. The common core assumption is a universalistic approach, whereby it is assumed that a verity of different interpretations and descriptions match the same experiences. A corollary might be that one reality stands beyond the many different mystical traditions. One of the major critics of this view, who we will meet again in defense of Proudfoot (chapter six) is Steven Katz (1977) who wrote an edited an anthology against Stace’s work. He assumes that the common core thesis is asserting that mystical experience is unmediated. Thus he argues that extreme language is used not just to describe mystical experience but that langue itself is experience. Language used in description constitutes the experience itself rather than merely describing it. This position will be critically examined in chapters five and six (a priori, and Proudfoot). [vi] But Stace doesn’t argue that the experience is unmediated. Hood points out that Stace only says there are degrees of interpretation and descriptions can makes similar but not identical experiences. Hood also points out that Foreman marshals opponents against Katz. He argues that since introvertive is devoid of description language can’t really play a role in constituting it.(for more on this issue see chapters five and six).

Hood and Spilka point three major assumptions of the common core theory that flow out of Stace’s work:

(1) Mystical experience is universal and identical in phenomenological terms.

(2) Core Categories are not always essential in every experince, there are borderline cases.

(3) Interovertive and extrovertive are distinct forms, the former is an experience of unity devoid of content, the latter is unity in diversity with content.

The M scale reflects these observations and in so doing validate Stace’s findings. Hood and Spilka (et al) then go on to argue that empirical research supports a common core/perinnialist conceptualization of mysticism and it’s interpretation.

The three factor solution, stated above, allows a greater range of interpretation of experience, either religious or not religious. This greater range supports Stace’s finding that a single experience may be interpreted in different ways.[vii] The three factor solution thus fit Stace’s common core theory. One of the persistent problems of the M scale is the neutrality of language, especially with respect to religious language. For example the scale asks about union with “ultimate reality” not “union with God.” Thus there’s a problem in understanding that ultimate reality really means God, or unify two different descriptions one about God and one about reality.[viii] There is really no such thing as “neutral” language. In the attempt to be neutral non neutral people will be offended. On the one had the common core idea will be seen as “new age” on the other identification with a particular tradition will be off putting for secularists and people of other traditions. Measurement scales must sort out the distinctions. Individuals demand interpretation of experiences, so the issue will be forced despite the best attempts to avoid it. In dealing with William James and his interpreters it seems clear that some form of transformation will be reflected in the discussion of experiences. In other words the experiences have to be filtered through cultural constructs and human assumptions of religious and other kinds of thought traditions in order to communicate them to people. Nevertheless experiences may share the same functionality in description. Christians may want the experiences they have that would otherwise be term “ultimate reality” to be identified with Christ, while Muslims identify with Allah and atheist with “void.” The expressed is important as the “social construction of experience” but differently expressed experiences can have similar structures. Hood and Williamson designed the three factor analysis to avoid these problems of language.

Hood and Williamson (2000) created two additional versions of the M Scale. Each paralleled the original M scale, but where appropriate made reference to either God or to Christ. Both the original M Scale and either God language Version or Christ-langue version were given to relevant Christ-committed samples. The scales were then factor analyzed to see weather similar structures would emerge. Basically, whether the M sale items were phrased in terms of God, Christ, or more neutral terms the structures were identical. The structures for all three versions of Stace’s phenomenologically derived model quite well. For all versions of the scale, clear introvertive, extrovertive, and interpretative factors emerged. [ix]

M scale and Cross Cultural Validation

In a series of empirical measurement based studies employing the Mysticism scale introvertive mysticism emerges both as a distinct factor in exploratory analytic studies[x] and also as a confirming factor analysis in cultures as diverse as the United States and Iran; not only in exploratory factor analytic studies (Hood & Williamson, 2000) but also in confirmatory factor analyses in such diverse cultures as the United States and Iran (Hood, Ghornbani, Watson, Ghramaleki, Bing, Davison, Morris, & Williamson. (2001).[xi] In other words, the form of mysticism that is usually said to be beyond description and beyond images, as opposed to that found in connection with images of the natural world, is seen through reflection of data derived form the M scale and as supporting factors in other relations. Scholars supporting the unity thesis (the mystical sense of undifferentiated unity—everything is “one”) have conducted interviews with mystics in other traditions about the nature of their introvertive mystical experiences. These discussions reveal that differences in expression that might be taken as linguistics culturally constructed are essentially indicative of the same experiences. The mystics recognize their experiences even in the expression of other traditions and other cultures. These parishioners represent different forms of Zen and Yoga.[xii] Scholars conducting literature searches independently of other studies, who sought common experience between different traditions, have found commonalities. Brainaid, found commonality between cultures as diverse as Advanita-Vendanta Hinduism, and Madhmika Buddhism, and Nicene Christianity; Brainaid’s work supports conclusions by Loy with respect to the types of Hinduism and Buddhism.[xiii]

The M scale developed by Hood has been validated by many studies in cross cultural context, while Greely’s Gallop Poll questions have been used both cross culturally and longitudinally.

The two major exceptions to the lack of shared instrumentation are the mysticism scale by Hood (1975) which has been used in quite a number of studies by Hood and others, and the repeated use of certain questions in survey research by Greeley and the Gallop Organization over a sixteen year period.[xiv]

Holm (1982) “mysticism and intense experiences” demonstrates another level of cross-cultural validation.

Method: The author translated into Swedish several Hood scales designed to measure mystical experiences. The items describing religious experiences drawn from William James, on Hood’s (1970) Religious Episode Experience Measure (REEM) with narratives taken from Nordic anthologies. Eighteen teachers of religion and psychology each administered the scales to 6-9 persons.

Findings: The study replicated most of Hood’s findings with the same instruments. “The results of our empirical study of mysticism in a Finnish-Swedish environment largely coincide with Hood’s results in an American environment…The cross-cultural testing that some of Hood’s methods have received as a result of our research on another continuant and in another linguistic area means that the results have received a wider range of applications.[xv]

Holm (1982) presented a Swedish M scale administered to 122 Swedish “informants.” Factor I correlated best to non Christian profiles, while factor II worked best with those who had Christian assumptions. Holm accounts for a general mysticism factor and general religious factor. This parallels earlier research in Sweden (Solderblom—see Holm 82, 275-76) .[xvi]

The M scale has been validated with Iranian Muslims.

In a mostly Christian American sample (N = 1,379), confirmatory factor analysis of Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale verified the existence of Stace's (1960) introvertive and extrovertive dimensions of mystical phenomenology along with a separate interpretation factor. A second study confirmed the presence of these three factors in not only another group of Americans (N = 188), but also a sample of Iranian Muslims (N = 185). Relationships of the introvertive and extrovertive factors with the interpretation factor were essentially identical across these two cultures, but the Americans displayed a stronger association between the two phenomenology factors. In both samples, the interpretation factor correlated positively with an intrinsic and negatively with an extrinsic religious orientation, and the introvertive factor predicted psychological dysfunction. Associations of the interpretation factor with relative mental health appeared only in the Iranians. These data offered general support for Stace's phenomenology of mysticism, although the ineffability he linked with interpretation proved to be as much or even more a feature of the introvertive experience, as hypothesized by Hood.[xvii]

The M Scale in Relation to other measurement scores.

The over all result demonstrates the superiority of Hood’s model (and Stace’s categories) over other models. “Thus empirically there is strong support to claim that as opporationalized from Stace’s criteria mystical experience is identical as measured across diverse samples, whether expressed in “neutral language” or with either “God” or “Christ” references.”[xviii] M Scale has been correlated to scores on standardized personality measures in two studies. In 1985 Hood found that the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) “did not correlate with the M Scale. Different correlations of factors between factors I and II were compatible with non pathological interpretations of mysticism.”[xix] The score for the MMPI applies to people who are apt to lie or present themselves in a favorable light to their own advantage. But Hood argues that high scores on factor II (religious) may be due to the fact that traditional religious people are less likely to engage in deviant behavior. Thus the score doesn’t apply to them.

Spanos and Moretti (1988) directly correlated M scale scores with Tellegen and Atkinson absorption scale.


A sample of 124 female university students was administered measures of mystical experience, diabolical experience, absorption, hypnotizability and psychopathology. The mystical experience scale correlated significantly with measures of absorption and hypnotizability but failed to correlate significantly with indexes of psychopathology. However, the diabolical experiences scale correlated significantly with indexes of neuroticism and psychosomatic symptoms as well as with hypnotizability and absorption. Subjects who reported out-of-body experiences scored higher than those who did not on all measures of hypnotizability, but these groups failed to differ from one another on absorption, mystical or diabolical experiences, or on most indexes of psychopathology. Theoretical implications are discussed.[xx]

The scale correlated positively with all measures. Absorption proved to be the single most important veriable in regression analysis with 29% verience. None of the other hypnosis scales added predictive power. John Kilstron’s website:

By any standard, the most frequently studied correlate of hypnotizability is absorption, or "openness to absorbing and self-altering experiences (Tellegen & Atkinson, 1974). A series of studies from our laboratory by Martha Glisky and her colleagues offered a close examination of the relationship between absorption, hypnotizability, and a broader trait of openness to experience identified by Costa and McCrae as one of the "Big Five" traits of personality measured by various versions of the NEO Personality Inventory. The first of these studies (Glisky et al., 1991) confirmed the basic absorption-hypnotizability relation, and showed that absorption was related to those facts of Openness having to do with imaginative involvement (i.e., Fantasy, Aesthetics, and Feelings), but not with those facets having to do with sociopolitical liberalism (i.e., Actions, Ideas, and Values). The second study (Glisky & Kihlstrom, 1993) showed that hypnotizability was related to Absorption, but not to either Sociopolitical Liberalism or Intellectance (an alternative construal of Openness). For a review of the early literature on absorption, see Roche & McConkey (1990).[xxi]

Spanos and Moretti concluded that “although Mystical experience can occur among distraught and troubled individuals, it is as frequent among psychologically untroubled people.”[xxii] In other words hypnotizablity is a standard of other traits that can indicate mental instability. From this scale there is no indication that mystical experiences tend to be any more unstable than the average person.

Research by Hood and Morris in 1981 shows that mysticism is better known than previously thought and that while the full advanced from of intervertive experience may be somewhat rare, there is a continuum of experience and most people have had some experience. This research further shows that mystical experience is not the result of mental illness, it’s normal among healthy individuals, but it is not confined to healthy individuals alone.[i]

Thus the M Scales remains the state of the art standard for research and measurement of religious experience in terms of that which is known as ‘mystical.” This is very important was we will see in the chapters on “god part of the Brain (“God Pod” chapter 7) and in the chapter “Drugs and Placebo” (Chapter 8).

[i] Ibid. Spilka and Hood.

[i] Ibid.

[ii] Robert J. Voyle, “The Impact of Mystical Experiences Upon Christian Maturity.” originally published in pdf format:
google html version here:

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Alexander, C.N., Chandler, K. & Boyer, R.W. (in press). Experience and understanding of pure consciousness in the Vedic Science of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In Gackenbach, J.I. & Hunt, H. (Eds.). Higher states of consciousness: Theoretical and experimental perspectives, N.Y.: Plenum.

[v] Gackenback, Ibid.. Alexander, C.N., Davies, J.L., Dixon, C.A., Dillbeck, M.C., Oetzel, R.M., Muehlman, J.M. & Orme-Johnson, D.W. (1990). Alexander, C., Boyer, R. & Alexander, V. (1987). Higher states of consciousness in the Vedic psychology of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: A theoretical introduction and research review. Modern Science and Vedic Science, (1), 89-126.

[vi] Ibid. the increase might be explained by the growth of he counter culture in those years, practices such as transcendental meditation, yoga, and greater general awareness of the spiritual. This is my own speculation.

[vii] Alexander, C.N., Chandler, K. & Boyer, R.W. (in press). Experience and understanding of pure consciousness in the Vedic Science of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In Gackenbach, J.I. & Hunt, H. (Eds.). Higher states of consciousness: Theoretical and experimental perspectives, N.Y.: Plenum.

[viii] Abraham Maslow, Toward a psychology of Being, Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand company, 1962 sited in Wuthnow, Robert. Journal Humanistic Psychology Vol. 18, no. 3 summer 1978, p60

[ix] “Peak experience” is Maslows term. It is often used by sociological and psychological researchers, and is not highly distinctive from “mystical” experience. “Peak” is used because “mystical” has religious and metaphysical overtones which my not apply to the one doing the experiencing.

[x] Wuthnow, Robert, pp. 61-62.

[xi] Katheleen D. Noble, The Counseling Psychologist, vol. 15, no. 4 , Oct. 1987, p602

[xii] This is a statement Group for the advancement of psychiatry, which is a collection of qualified psychiatrists . URL:

Group for advancement of psychiatry website URL:

[xiii] Withnow, 64

[xiv] Ibid, 65

[xv] Kathleen D Noble. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.


Loren said...

That still doesn't prove that mystical experiences are not hallucinations. From brain-activity studies, it ought to be evident that they are.

You might want to consider the epistemology of phantom limbs some time; those are sometimes called stump hallucinations.

Does one believe that one is correctly perceiving the presence of a limb? Or does one believe that that is a false perception because it does not match what one deduces from all one's other perceptions?

Metacrock, you seem to be yelling "The limb is real! The limb is real! The limb is real!" over and over and over again.

Metacrock said...

That still doesn't prove that mystical experiences are not hallucinations. From brain-activity studies, it ought to be evident that they are.

Meta:Yes it sure does. you don't know anything about hallucinations. you don't have any data to support such a claim. Hallucinations do not correlate with self transformation. mystical experience does.

there is no example of hallucination all begin the same around the world and this proved with mystical experience.

you cannot face the truth objectively.

You might want to consider the epistemology of phantom limbs some time; those are sometimes called stump hallucinations.

Meta:there is absolutely no data of any kind to connect that. you are guessing your clutching at straws based upon fallacious reasoning about things that seem vegly analogs. reasoning by analogy is fallacious.

the reason for phantom limbs is becuase there's a system in the brain that makes an association and the limb is gone the structure is till in the brain. you can't have that with mystical experience nothing has been taken away, there's prior structure for it. it's totally different deal.

it's your burden to prove becuase it's your argument.

Does one believe that one is correctly perceiving the presence of a limb? Or does one believe that that is a false perception because it does not match what one deduces from all one's other perceptions?

totally unrelated.

Metacrock, you seem to be yelling "The limb is real! The limb is real! The limb is real!" over and over and over again.

you are reasoning by analogy. it's a bad analogy too because yo have no reason to put the two together.

what you are doing is like saying Bubonic pleasure must be related to the common cold becuase you are awake for both of them. The both involve feeling bad. Sot they must be the same thing.

a-hermit said...

"what you are doing is like saying Bubonic pleasure must be related to the common cold becuase you are awake for both of them. The both involve feeling bad. Sot they must be the same thing."

Interesting analogy. They ARE both caused by germs you know...;-)

I recently took the time to test myself on the M-scale by the way. Scored a 120. Still no gods in sight.

Metacrock said...

hermit:I recently took the time to test myself on the M-scale by the way. Scored a 120. Still no gods in sight.

Yea you do. I've spotted it before. You are what I call a re-labeled. Your sermon on love that time shows me that you do have a concept of God if you plug that into my TS argument that's just what you are doing, you are re naming your sense of the object of ultimate concern. But you have one.

a-hermit said...

"Yea you do. I've spotted it before. You are what I call a re-labeled. Your sermon on love that time shows me that you do have a concept of God if you plug that into my TS argument that's just what you are doing, you are re naming your sense of the object of ultimate concern."

See, I think you have this backwards; you're taking the infinite and trying to jam it into a pigeon-hole labelled "God",which you narrow and distort even further with all that convoluted Christian theology.

Metacrock said...

See, I think you have this backwards; you're taking the infinite and trying to jam it into a pigeon-hole labelled "God",which you narrow and distort even further with all that convoluted Christian theology.

that's obvious bull shit. you are not even listening to what I've said. you are racing to word, because it's association with people in your past, or brain wishing or something.

The association with God is mllina old. It's going back at least 7000 years. There's no reason not to use it. I've obviously said it's beyond our understanding, you can't get more borad than bien gitself.

you don't even understand the theology and you don't read it. I doubt you have ever read anything I've written about God. you look at the first line and go "O there's nothing here I can raise a big stink about or or call him a right winger for so point in reading further."

a-hermit said...

"that's obvious bull shit. you are not even listening to what I've said."

And this is why you end up in all those flame wars; you can't even stop to consider any point of view that doesn't conform to your precious preconceptions. Instead of considering the ideas (or the feelings) of other people you must dismiss them as "bullshit" and launch a barrage of personal insults to protect yourself from the awful prospect of having to open your mind a little.

I'm done. There's no point in even trying to have a conversation with you and your ego, is there?