Mystical experiences are commonly reported by practitioners of meditation, yoga and even psychedelic plant medicines. These occurrences can often be hard to describe or talk about with the uninitiated, and can be related to a kind of ‘waking dream’. In a new study, published in Human Brain Mapping, the brains of volunteers took psilocybin, a chemical known to increase the likelihood of mystical experience in certain individuals. The results of the experiment are as follows: “[The experiment] increased the amplitude of activity in regions of the brain that are reliably activated during dream sleep and form part of the brain’s ancient emotion system; [The psychedelic] facilitated a state of “expanded” consciousness – meaning that the breath of associations made by the brain and the ease by which they are visited is enhanced.” More commonly, mystical experience is achieved by devout spiritual practice.
Below are the distinguishing qualities of a mystical experience along with an excerpt from a volunteer’s description of this experience.
Unity – A core feature of the mystical experience is a sense of unity or interconnectedness with all people, things or the universe as a whole. An intuitive sense of pure consciousness and an understanding of everything as one usually follows this realization.
Encountering The Sacred – A mystical experience can hold a special and sacred quality of reverence, deep respect or a sense of awe and holiness in what one has encountered.
Noetic Sense – Reports of mystical experiences often include a sense of encountering an ultimate reality, claiming that the experience was “more real” than the ordinary state of consciousness we live in day to day.
Transcendence Of Time And Space – The unthinkable union of the past and future into the present moment may occur at the height of a mystical experience, drawing one into a peak experience of existence that sometimes causes a “messiah moment”, in which a deeper calling to be a leader or savior of a particular group or cause is felt.
Ineffability And Paradoxicality – The inability to explain the encounter with words usually accompanies a powerful mystical experience. Seemingly beyond language, these experience are often described with metaphors, poetry, art or music so that the initiated may intuitively perceive the experience one has had. Paradoxical understanding may also be felt during and after a mystical experience as the initiated may hold a heightened perception of duality or the ‘illusion of separateness’.
Spiritual Rebirth – A profound and divine revelation of connection to one’s true self or soul usually accompanies a mystical experience. Uncovering a lost passion, talent or ambition that once meant everything, but was suppressed by influences or society is a common result of the mystical experience. A deeper sense of self acceptance, purpose and life path may be unveiled during this time, offering the initiate a newfound appreciation for what it means to be alive.
Excerpt from a volunteers description of experience:
“In my mind’s eye, I felt myself instinctively taking on the posture of prayer in my head. I was on my knees, hands clasped in front of me and I bowed to this force. I wasn’t scared or threatened in any way. It was more about reverence. I was showing my respect. I was humbled and honored to be in this presence. This presence was a feeling, not something I saw or heard. I only felt it, but it felt more real than any reality I have experienced. And it was a familiar place too. One I had felt before. It was when I surrendered to this, that I felt like I let go. I was gone, or should I say, this earthly part of me was. It was still on the couch in some sort of suspended animation awaiting my return. I was in the void. This void had a strange and indescribable quality to it, in that there was nothing to it but this unconditional and undying love. It felt like my soul was basking in the feeling of this space. I have no idea how long this lasted. Time and space did not exist there. It was all different manifestations of this love feeling that I found myself wrapped in.”
Roland Griffiths explores The Mystical Experience and Psilocybin Research
Griffiths, Roland. “Roland Griffiths on “The Mystical Experience and Psilocybin Research”” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2015.