The Characteristics of Mystical Experience
In the study of the author mentioned above, and in others (as Drugs and Mysticism. Walter N. Pahnke, The International Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. VIII, No. 2, Spring 1966, pp. 295-313.), the nine characteristics outlined below come together as the phenomenological essence of mystical experience in general, independent of the techniques used to induce it.
is a sense of cosmic unity achieved through a positive transcendence of the ego. Although the habitual sense of identity is dissolved, consciousness and memory remain. The individual sees that he belongs to a broader and vaster dimension, a dimension which goes beyond fundamental dichotomies like that of subject and object. Everything is one.
the subject feels himself beyond time and space, beyond the limits of past, present and future, beyond ordinary three-dimensional space, in an kingdom of eternal infinity.
a profoundly positive mood, containing the virtues of joy, of good nature, peace and love to an intense degree. It is frequently accompanied by laughter and tears.
an intuitive feeling, a thrilling response of admiration and awe in the presence of an inspiring reality. The main elements are humility and reverence (the theological terms of normal religion do not necessarily manage to describe the experience).
feelings of intuitive clarity, liveliness and intelligence, which on some level give the experience the strength of certainty, a glimpse of absolute reality. This knowledge is not factual but is instead an additional, a quantum leap in psychological, philosophical and religious perceptiveness.
is a reference to the logical contradictions which emerge in the analysis of experiences. The individual seems to be able to experience the “identity of opposites”, something which seems to make sense at the time and afterwards as well.
the experience seems to be at some level subtler, beyond verbal expression, impossible to describe entirely, essential.
the splendour of the climax does not last in all its intensity, but it becomes a memory and leave fertile, healthy, guiding traces.
the experience is potentially transformative. Positive changes occur in the attitude of the individual, in his behaviour and in his relationships, both in himself and in the reflections which this awakens in other beings, culminating in a more integrated life, incorporating all aspects in the one.
(1) Drugs and Mysticism. Walter N. Pahnke, The Interntional Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. VIII, No. 2, Spring 1966, pp. 295-313.