Below is a list of scientific and other academic papers on or related to mystical experiences, other types of spiritual experiences, and consciousness in general. While not comprehensive, the list includes dozens of relevant academic papers published since 2000, as well as a few earlier papers.


Mystical Experience Scientific Papers Available Online for Free

Anthony, F.-V., Hermans, C. A. M., & Sterkens, C.  (2010). A comparative study of mystical experience among Christian, Muslim, and Hindu students in Tamil Nadu, India. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49(2), 264–277. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01508.x.

Abstract
Hood developed a Mysticism Scale based on the theoretical work of Stace. The scale was tested by Hood and others in a comparative perspective. Using an abridged version of Hood’s Mysticism Scale, we join the debate with a study of a much larger number of Christian, Muslim, and Hindu respondents (1,920 college students) living in Tamil Nadu, India. Our empirical analysis yields a moderately reliable model of mystical experience that permits comparison between the three religious traditions. We argue for the usefulness of a comparative model of vertical mysticism that combines with the complementary common characteristics of noetic quality and ineffability. Vertical mysticism has a revelatory, ineffable character and is comparable in the experience of adherents of the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions.


Barrett, Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2015). Validation of the revised Mystical Experience Questionnaire in experimental sessions with psilocybin. Journal of Psychopharmacology (Oxford)29(11), 1182–1190. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881115609019.

Abstract
The 30-item revised Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ30) was previously developed within an online survey of mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin-containing mushrooms. The rated experiences occurred on average eight years before completion of the questionnaire. The current paper validates the MEQ30 using data from experimental studies with controlled doses of psilocybin. Data were pooled and analyzed from five laboratory experiments in which participants (n=184) received a moderate to high oral dose of psilocybin (at least 20 mg/70 kg). Results of confirmatory factor analysis demonstrate the reliability and internal validity of the MEQ30. Structural equation models demonstrate the external and convergent validity of the MEQ30 by showing that latent variable scores on the MEQ30 positively predict persisting change in attitudes, behavior, and well-being attributed to experiences with psilocybin while controlling for the contribution of the participant-rated intensity of drug effects. These findings support the use of the MEQ30 as an efficient measure of individual mystical experiences. A method to score a “complete mystical experience” that was used in previous versions of the mystical experience questionnaire is validated in the MEQ30, and a stand-alone version of the MEQ30 is provided for use in future research.


Cardena, Etzel. (2018). The Experimental Evidence for Parapsychological Phenomena: A Review. The American Psychologist, 73(5), 663-677. (Contact the author for access.)

Abstract
This article presents a comprehensive integration of current experimental evidence and theories about so-called parapsychological (psi) phenomena. Throughout history, people have reported events that seem to violate the common sense view of space and time. Some psychologists have been at the forefront of investigating these phenomena with sophisticated research protocols and theory, while others have devoted much of their careers to criticizing the field. Both stances can be explained by psychologists’ expertise on relevant processes such as perception, memory, belief, and conscious and nonconscious processes. This article clarifies the domain of psi, summarizes recent theories from physics and psychology that present psi phenomena as at least plausible, and then provides an overview of recent/updated meta-analyses. The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms. The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them. The article concludes with recommendations for further progress in the field including the use of project and data repositories, conducting multidisciplinary studies with enough power, developing further nonconscious measures of psi and falsifiable theories, analyzing the characteristics of successful sessions and participants, improving the ecological validity of studies, testing how to increase effect sizes, recruiting more researchers at least open to the possibility of psi, and situating psi phenomena within larger domains such as the study of consciousness.


Carhart-Harris RL, Erritzoe D, Williams T, Stone JM, Reed LJ, Colasanti A, Tyacke RJ, Leech R, Malizia AL, Murphy K, Hobden P, Evans J, Feilding A, Wise RG, Nutt DJ. (2012). Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 7;109(6):2138-43.

Abstract
Psychedelic drugs have a long history of use in healing ceremonies, but despite renewed interest in their therapeutic potential, we continue to know very little about how they work in the brain. Here we used psilocybin, a classic psychedelic found in magic mushrooms, and a task-free functional MRI (fMRI) protocol designed to capture the transition from normal waking consciousness to the psychedelic state. Arterial spin labeling perfusion and blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI were used to map cerebral blood flow and changes in venous oxygenation before and after intravenous infusions of placebo and psilocybin. Fifteen healthy volunteers were scanned with arterial spin labeling and a separate 15 with BOLD. As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects. Based on these results, a seed-based pharmaco-physiological interaction/functional connectivity analysis was performed using a medial prefrontal seed. Psilocybin caused a significant decrease in the positive coupling between the mPFC and PCC. These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain’s key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition.


Elk, Michiel, & Snoek, Lukas. (2020). The relationship between individual differences in gray matter volume and religiosity and mystical experiences: A preregistered voxel‐based morphometry study. The European Journal of Neuroscience, 51(3), 850-865.

Abstract
The neural substrates of religious belief and experience are an intriguing though contentious topic. Here we had the unique opportunity to establish the relation between validated measures of religiosity and gray matter volume in a large sample of participants (N = 211). In this registered report we conducted a confirmatory Voxel-Based Morphometry (VBM) analysis to test three central hypotheses regarding the relationship between religiosity and mystical experiences and gray matter volume. The preregisterered hypotheses, analysis plan, preprocessing and analysis code, and statistical brain maps are all available from online repositories. By using a region-of-interest (ROI) analysis, we found no evidence that religiosity is associated with a reduced volume of the orbito-frontal cortex and changes in the structure of the bilateral inferior parietal lobes. Neither did we find support for the notion that mystical experiences are associated with a reduced volume of the hippocampus, the right middle temporal gyrus or with the inferior parietal lobes. A whole-brain analysis furthermore indicated that no structural brain differences were found in association with religiosity and mystical experiences. We believe that the search for the neural correlates of religious beliefs and experiences should therefore shift focus from studying structural brain differences to a functional and multivariate approach.


Facco, & Agrillo, C. (2012). Near-death experiences between science and prejudice. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience6, 209–209. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2012.00209.

Abstract
Science exists to refute dogmas; nevertheless, dogmas may be introduced when undemonstrated scientific axioms lead us to reject facts incompatible with them. Several studies have proposed psychobiological interpretations of near-death experiences (NDEs), claiming that NDEs are a mere byproduct of brain functions gone awry; however, relevant facts incompatible with the ruling physicalist and reductionist stance have been often neglected. The awkward transcendent look of NDEs has deep epistemological implications, which call for: (a) keeping a rigorously neutral position, neither accepting nor refusing anything a priori; and (b) distinguishing facts from speculations and fallacies. Most available psychobiological interpretations remain so far speculations to be demonstrated, while brain disorders and/or drug administration in critical patients yield a well-known delirium in intensive care and anesthesia, the phenomenology of which is different from NDEs. Facts can be only true or false, never paranormal. In this sense, they cannot be refused a priori even when they appear implausible with respect to our current knowledge: any other stance implies the risk of turning knowledge into dogma and the adopted paradigm into a sort of theology.


Fenwick. (2013). Can near death experiences (NDEs) contribute to the debate on consciousness? Revista de psiquiatria clínica40(5), 203–207. (Contact the author for access.)

Abstract
The near death experiences (NDEs) is an altered state of consciousness, which has stereotyped content and emotional experience. Some features of the experience are trans-cultural and suggest either a similar brain mechanism or access to a transcendent reality. Individual features of the experience point more persuasively to transcendence than to simple limited brain mechanisms. Moreover there are, so far, no reductionist explanations which can account satisfactorily for some of the features of the NDE; the apparent “sightedness” in the blind during an NDE, the apparent acquisition after an NDE of psychic and spiritual gifts, together with accounts of healing occurring during an NDE, and the accounts of veridical experience during the resuscitation after a cardiac arrest. Although nonlocal mind would explain many of the NDE features, nonlocality is not yet accepted by mainstream neuroscience so there is a clear explanatory gap between reductionist materialistic explanations and those theories based on a wider understanding of mind suggested by the subjective experience of the NDEr. Only wider theories of mind would be likely candidates to bridge this gap.


Greyson, Bruce. (2010). Implications of Near-Death Experiences for a Postmaterialist Psychology. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(1), 37-45.

Abstract
Classical physics, anchored in materialist reductionism, offered adequate descriptions of everyday mechanics but ultimately proved insufficient for describing the mechanics of extremely high speeds or small sizes, and was supplemented nearly a century ago by quantum physics, which includes consciousness in its formulation. Materialist psychology, modeled on the reductionism of classical physics, likewise offered adequate descriptions of everyday mental functioning but ultimately proved insufficient for describing mentation under extreme conditions, such as the continuation of mental function when the brain is inactive or impaired, such as occurs near death. “Near-death experiences” include phenomena that challenge materialist reductionism, such as enhanced mentation and memory during cerebral impairment, accurate perceptions from a perspective outside the body, and reported visions of deceased persons, including those not previously known to be deceased. Complex consciousness, including cognition, perception, and memory, under conditions such as cardiac arrest and general anesthesia, when it cannot be associated with normal brain function, require a revised psychology anchored not in 19th-century classical physics but rather in 21st-century quantum physics that includes consciousness in its conceptual formulation.


Greyson, Bruce. (2014). Differentiating spiritual and psychotic experiences: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Journal of Near-death Studies, 32(3), Journal of near-death studies, 2014, Vol.32 (3).

Abstract
Spiritually transformative experiences, either spontaneous or intentionally sought, lead people to perceive themselves and the world in profoundly different ways, expanding their identity, augmenting their sensitivities, and altering their values, priorities, and sense of meaning and purpose in life. Since the ascendance of psychodynamic theories a century ago, skeptical psychologists have interpreted spiritual experience as a neurotic defense against life’s vicissitudes. With the development of neurocognitive psychology in recent decades, skeptical neuroscientists have reinterpreted spiritual experience as a hallucination produced by the brain.

Although both of those interpretations are plausible for some experiences that are couched in spiritual terms, the assumption that all spiritual experiences are pathological is based on the erroneous notion that any experience that differs from normal perception is abnormal. That assumption can be maintained only by ignoring the profound differences between spiritually transformative experiences and psychotic experiences. These pervasive differences include the context in which the two kinds of experience occur, the content of the experience itself, how the experience is remembered, and how the experience affects the individual. Spiritually transformative experiences, unlike most forms of mental illness, may enhance serenity and sense of purpose and expand the experiencer’s perception and appreciation of the world.


Greyson, Bruce (2014). Congruence between near-death and mystical experience. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Vol 24(4), pp. 298-310.

Abstract
Near-death experiences, altered states during a brush with death, may include mystical features like a sense of sacredness and divine union, timelessness/spacelessness, positive mood, noetic quality, and ineffability. We quantified mystical elements in near-death experience by comparing responses on the Mysticism Scale of 292 near-death experiencers and 34 persons who had come close to death without near-death experiences. Two thirds of near-death experiencers reported mystical experiences during their brush with death, compared to none of the comparison survivors. Near-death experiencers scored higher on the Mysticism Scale than did nonexperiencers; they endorsed noetic quality, positive affect, and unity most often and ego loss, timelessness/spacelessness, and ineffability least often. Depth of near-death experience was correlated highly with scores on the Mysticism Scale, but factor analysis of features during the brush with death yielded two distinct factors representing mystical and near-death elements, suggesting that near-death experiences have commonalities with, but can be differentiated from, mystical experience.


Greyson, Bruce; Broshek, Donna K.; Derr, Lori L. & Fountain, Nathan B. (2015). Mystical experiences associated with seizures. Religion, Brain & Behavior, Vol 5(3), pp. 182-196. 

Abstract
Alterations of consciousness are critical factors in the diagnosis of epilepsy and seizure disorders. With this alteration in consciousness, some persons report unusual experiences that have been thought to resemble spontaneous mystical experiences. This study was designed to identify and characterize the mystical experiences associated with seizure activity, through the use of a quantitative instrument with well-documented reliability and validity for assessing the content and quality of mystical states of consciousness. Ninety-eight patients with epilepsy completed a modified version of the Mysticism Scale, of whom 86 had EEGs recorded. Fifty-five per cent of the patients in this study recalled some subjective experience in association with their seizures. However, none of the patients’ descriptions met the criteria for mystical experience. Although some features of mystical experience were reported in this study, particularly those suggestive of introvertive mysticism, they were not associated with any particular lobe of the brain nor were they lateralized to either the right or left side. Mysticism Scale scores were not significantly associated with demographics, medical history including seizure risk factors and precipitants, or seizure characteristics including localization and type of seizure.


Griffiths RR, Hurwitz ES, Davis AK, Johnson MW, Jesse R (2019). Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0214377. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214377

Abstract
Naturally occurring and psychedelic drug–occasioned experiences interpreted as personal encounters with God are well described but have not been systematically compared. In this study, five groups of individuals participated in an online survey with detailed questions characterizing the subjective phenomena, interpretation, and persisting changes attributed to their single most memorable God encounter experience (n = 809 Non-Drug, 1184 psilocybin, 1251 lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), 435 ayahuasca, and 606 N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)). Analyses of differences in experiences were adjusted statistically for demographic differences between groups. The Non-Drug Group was most likely to choose “God” as the best descriptor of that which was encountered while the psychedelic groups were most likely to choose “Ultimate Reality.” Although there were some other differences between non-drug and the combined psychedelic group, as well as between the four psychedelic groups, the similarities among these groups were most striking. Most participants reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with something having the attributes of being conscious, benevolent, intelligent, sacred, eternal, and all-knowing. The encounter experience fulfilled a priori criteria for being a complete mystical experience in approximately half of the participants. More than two-thirds of those who identified as atheist before the experience no longer identified as atheist afterwards. These experiences were rated as among the most personally meaningful and spiritually significant lifetime experiences, with moderate to strong persisting positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose, and meaning attributed to these experiences. Among the four groups of psychedelic users, the psilocybin and LSD groups were most similar and the ayahuasca group tended to have the highest rates of endorsing positive features and enduring consequences of the experience. Future exploration of predisposing factors and phenomenological and neural correlates of such experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial.


Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Carducci MA, et al. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30: 1181–1197.

Abstract
Cancer patients often develop chronic, clinically significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. Previous studies suggest that psilocybin may decrease depression and anxiety in cancer patients. The effects of psilocybin were studied in 51 cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. This randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial investigated the effects of a very low (placebo-like) dose (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) vs. a high dose (22 or 30 mg/70 kg) of psilocybin administered in counterbalanced sequence with 5 weeks between sessions and a 6-month follow-up. Instructions to participants and staff minimized expectancy effects. Participants, staff, and community observers rated participant moods, attitudes, and behaviors throughout the study. High-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in clinician- and self-rated measures of depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. At 6-month follow-up, these changes were sustained, with about 80% of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety. Participants attributed improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality to the high-dose experience, with >80% endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction. Community observer ratings showed corresponding changes. Mystical-type psilocybin experience on session day mediated the effect of psilocybin dose on therapeutic outcomes.


Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Richards W, et al. (2018). Psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience in combination with meditation and other spiritual practices produces enduring positive changes in psychological functioning and in trait measures of prosocial attitudes and behaviors. Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol 32(1), pp. 49-69. 

Abstract
Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences with participant-attributed increases in well-being. However, little research has examined enduring changes in traits. This study administered psilocybin to participants who undertook a program of meditation/spiritual practices. Healthy participants were randomized to three groups (25 each): (1) very low-dose (1 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2) with moderate-level (“standard”) support for spiritual-practice (LD-SS); (2) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70 kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with standard support (HD-SS); and (3) high-dose (20 and 30 mg/70kg on sessions 1 and 2, respectively) with high support for spiritual practice (HD-HS). Psilocybin was administered double-blind and instructions to participants/staff minimized expectancy confounds. Psilocybin was administered 1 and 2 months after spiritual-practice initiation. Outcomes at 6 months included rates of spiritual practice and persisting effects of psilocybin. Compared with low-dose, high-dose psilocybin produced greater acute and persisting effects. At 6 months, compared with LD-SS, both high-dose groups showed large significant positive changes on longitudinal measures of interpersonal closeness, gratitude, life meaning/purpose, forgiveness, death transcendence, daily spiritual experiences, religious faith and coping, and community observer ratings. Determinants of enduring effects were psilocybin-occasioned mystical-type experience and rates of meditation/spiritual practices. Psilocybin can occasion enduring trait-level increases in prosocial attitudes/behaviors and in healthy psychological functioning.


Griffiths, R. R., Richards, W. A., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2006). Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology, 187(3), 268-283. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-006-0457-5.

Abstract
Although psilocybin has been used for centuries for religious purposes, little is known scientifically about its acute and persisting effects. This double-blind study evaluated the acute and longer-term psychological effects of a high dose of psilocybin relative to a comparison compound administered under comfortable, supportive conditions. The participants were hallucinogen-naïve adults reporting regular participation in religious or spiritual activities. Two or three sessions were conducted at 2-month intervals. Thirty volunteers received orally administered psilocybin (30 mg/70 kg) and methylphenidate hydrochloride (40 mg/70 kg) in counterbalanced order. To obscure the study design, six additional volunteers received methylphenidate in the first two sessions and unblinded psilocybin in a third session. The 8-h sessions were conducted individually. Volunteers were encouraged to close their eyes and direct their attention inward. Study monitors rated volunteers’ behavior during sessions. Volunteers completed questionnaires assessing drug effects and mystical experience immediately after and 2 months after sessions. Community observers rated changes in the volunteer’s attitudes and behavior. Psilocybin produced a range of acute perceptual changes, subjective experiences, and labile moods including anxiety. Psilocybin also increased measures of mystical experience. At 2 months, the volunteers rated the psilocybin experience as having substantial personal meaning and spiritual significance and attributed to the experience sustained positive changes in attitudes and behavior consistent with changes rated by community observers. When administered under supportive conditions, psilocybin occasioned experiences similar to spontaneously occurring mystical experiences. The ability to occasion such experiences prospectively will allow rigorous scientific investigations of their causes and consequences.


James, Edward, Robertshaw, Thomas L, Hoskins, Mathew, & Sessa, Ben. (2020). Psilocybin occasioned mystical‐type experiences. Human Psychopharmacology, 35(5), E2742-N/a.

Abstract
Research into psychedelic therapy models has shown promise for the treatment of specific psychiatric conditions. Mystical‐type experiences occasioned by psilocybin have been correlated with therapeutic benefits and long‐term improvements in positive mental outlook and attitudes. This article aims to provide an overview of the topic, highlight strengths and weaknesses in current research, generate novel perspectives and discussion, and consider future avenues for research. This narrative review was designed to summarise and assess the state of research on psilocybin occasioned mystical‐type experiences and applications for the treatment of specific psychiatric conditions. Contemporary methods on the quantification of mystical‐type experiences and their acute subjective effects are discussed. Recent studies provide some understanding of the pharmacological actions of psychedelics although the neurological similarities and differences between spontaneous and psychedelic mystical‐type experiences are not well described. Applicability to modern clinical settings is assessed. Potential novel therapeutic applications include use in positive psychology interventions in healthy individuals. Since 2006 significant advancements in understanding the therapeutic potential of psilocybin‐assisted psychotherapy have been made; however, more work is required to understand the neuromechanistic processes and applicability in modern clinical settings. Despite promising results in recent studies, funding issues for clinical trials, legal concerns and socio‐cultural resistance provide a counterpoint to experimental evidence.


Khanna, Surbhi, & Greyson, Bruce. (2014). Near-Death Experiences and Spiritual Well-Being. Journal of Religion and Health, 53(6), 1605-1615.

Abstract
People who have near-death experiences often report a subsequently increased sense of spirituality and a connection with their inner self and the world around them. In this study, we examined spiritual well-being, using Paloutzian and Ellison’s Spiritual Well-Being Scale, among 224 persons who had come close to death. Participants who reported having near-death experiences reported greater spiritual well-being than those who did not, and depth of spiritual well-being was positively correlated with depth of near-death experience. We discussed the implications of these findings in light of other reported aftereffects of near-death experiences and of spiritual well-being among other populations.


Newberg, Andrew B, & Waldman, Mark R. (2018). A Neurotheological Approach to Spiritual Awakening. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 37(2), 119.

Abstract
A neurotheological approach suggests an analysis of spiritual awakening experiences by combining phenomenological data with neuroscience. This paper presents a synthesis combining information on the thoughts, feelings, and experiences associated with spiritual awakening experiences and neurophysiological data, primarily from neuroimaging studies, to help assess which brain structures might be associated with these experiences. Brain structures involved with emotions correlate with emotional responses while areas of the brain associated with the sense of self appear to correlate with the key feature of these experiences in which an individual loses the sense of self and feels intimately connected with God, universal consciousness, or the universe. This paper also seeks to address the assumption whether awakened states as described in popular spirituality are similar or different compared to spiritual enlightenment as described in Eastern spiritual traditions. Thus, the implications of such a neurotheological analysis are also considered.


Palmer, Genie & Braud, William (2002). Exceptional human experiences, disclosure, and a more inclusive view of physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol 34(1), pp. 29-59.

Abstract
The nature, accompaniments, and life impacts of 5 types of exceptional human experiences (EHEs: mystical, psychic, unusual death-related, encounter, and exceptional normal) were explored, using correlational and qualitative analyses. An experimental design and standardized assessments were used to explore possible beneficial outcomes of working with and disclosing EHEs, individually or in psychoeducational groups. EHEs occurred frequently, were perceived as meaningful and important, and their disclosure was perceived as beneficial. Correlational results indicated that frequent and/or profound EHEs were positively and significantly related to high levels of meaning and purpose in life, high levels of spirituality, ‘‘thin’’ or permeable boundaries, and a tendency toward transformative life changes. Disclosure was positively and significantly associated with meaning and purpose in life, positive psychological attitudes and well-being, and reduced stress-related symptoms. Qualitative analyses revealed that EHEs and their disclosure were accompanied by themes of well-being, meaning, openness, spirituality, need-satisfaction, and transformative change.


Palmieri, Calvo, V., Kleinbub, J. R., Meconi, F., Marangoni, M., Barilaro, P., Broggio, A., Sambin, M., & Sessa, P. (2014).  “Reality” of near-death-experience memories: evidence from a psychodynamic and electrophysiological integrated study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience8, 429–429. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00429.

Abstract
The nature of near-death-experiences (NDEs) is largely unknown but recent evidence suggests the intriguing possibility that NDEs may refer to actually “perceived,” and stored, experiences (although not necessarily in relation to the external physical world). We adopted an integrated approach involving a hypnosis-based clinical protocol to improve recall and decrease memory inaccuracy together with electroencephalography (EEG) recording in order to investigate the characteristics of NDE memories and their neural markers compared to memories of both real and imagined events. We included 10 participants with NDEs, defined by the Greyson NDE scale, and 10 control subjects without NDE. Memories were assessed using the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire. Our hypnosis-based protocol increased the amount of details in the recall of all kind of memories considered (NDE, real, and imagined events). Findings showed that NDE memories were similar to real memories in terms of detail richness, self-referential, and emotional information. Moreover, NDE memories were significantly different from memories of imagined events. The pattern of EEG results indicated that real memory recall was positively associated with two memory-related frequency bands, i.e., high alpha and gamma. NDE memories were linked with theta band, a well-known marker of episodic memory. The recall of NDE memories was also related to delta band, which indexes processes such as the recollection of the past, as well as trance states, hallucinations, and other related portals to transpersonal experience. It is notable that the EEG pattern of correlations for NDE memory recall differed from the pattern for memories of imagined events. In conclusion, our findings suggest that, at a phenomenological level, NDE memories cannot be considered equivalent to imagined memories, and at a neural level, NDE memories are stored as episodic memories of events experienced in a peculiar state of consciousness.


Taylor, S., & Egeto-Szabo, K. (2017). Exploring awakening experiences: A study of awakening experiences in terms of their triggers, characteristics, duration and after-effects. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 49(1), 45–65.

Abstract
Awakening experiences are temporary experiences of an intensification and expansion of awareness, with characteristics such as intensified perception, a sense of connection and well-being. Ninety awakening experiences were collected and thematically analysed to identify their triggers and characteristics, and also their duration and after-effects. Four main triggers of awakening experiences were found: psychological turmoil, contact with nature, spiritual practice and engagement with spiritual literature (or audio or video materials). Characteristics were found to be positive affective states, intensified perception, love and compassion, a transcendence of separateness, a sense of revelation and inner quietness. The duration of the majority of experiences was from a few minutes to a few hours. The most prevalent after-effects were a desire to recapture the experience and a shift in perspectives and values. The study confirms the importance of psychological turmoil in generating awakening experiences, and that most awakening experiences occur spontaneously, outside the context of spiritual practices and traditions


Taylor, Steve. (2016). From philosophy to phenomenology: The argument for a “soft” perennialism. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 35 (2). http://dx.doi.org/10.24972/ijts.2016.35.2.17.

Abstract
This paper argues for a soft perennialism, distinct from the hard perennialism which suggests that spiritual and religious traditions are expressions of the same underlying spiritual realities. There are two reasons why it is necessary to think in terms of a soft perennial model: firstly, because of a number of important common themes or trends across spiritual traditions; and secondly (and most importantly) because when the process of expansion of being or awakening occurs outside the context of spiritual traditions, broadly the same themes and tendencies appear, suggesting that there is a common landscape of experience which precedes interpretation and conceptualization by spiritual traditions. This applies to the perception of an all-pervading spiritual energy or force which may—in some traditions—become conceptualized as an allegedly ultimate reality but is not necessarily seen in those terms. It is suggested that transpersonal psychology would benefit from loosening its association with spiritual traditions and focusing more on studying expansive states of being in a non-traditional, secular context.


Van Lommel, van Wees, R., Meyers, V., & Elfferich, I. (2001). Near-death experience in survivors of cardiac arrest: a prospective study in the Netherlands. The Lancet (British Edition)358(9298), 2039–2045. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(01)07100-8.

Abstract
Some people report a near-death experience (NDE) after a life-threatening crisis. We aimed to establish the cause of this experience and assess factors that affected its frequency, depth, and content. In a prospective study, we included 344 consecutive cardiac patients who were successfully resuscitated after cardiac arrest in ten Dutch hospitals. We compared demographic, medical, pharmacological, and psychological data between patients who reported NDE and patients who did not (controls) after resuscitation. In a longitudinal study of life changes after NDE, we compared the groups 2 and 8 years later. 62 patients (18%) reported NDE, of whom 41 (12%) described a core experience. Occurrence of the experience was not associated with duration of cardiac arrest or unconsciousness, medication, or fear of death before cardiac arrest. Frequency of NDE was affected by how we defined NDE, the prospective nature of the research in older cardiac patients, age, surviving cardiac arrest in first myocardial infarction, more than one cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during stay in hospital, previous NDE, and memory problems after prolonged CPR. Depth of the experience was affected by sex, surviving CPR outside hospital, and fear before cardiac arrest. Significantly more patients who had an NDE, especially a deep experience, died within 30 days of CPR (p<0·0001). The process of transformation after NDE took several years, and differed from those of patients who survived cardiac arrest without NDE. We do not know why so few cardiac patients report NDE after CPR, although age plays a part. With a purely physiological explanation such as cerebral anoxia for the experience, most patients who have been clinically dead should report one.


Woollacott. (2020). The mystical experience and its neural correlates. Journal of Near-death Studies, 38(1), 3-25. (Email the author for access.)

Abstract
Despite their different etiologies, three types of spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) — near-death experiences, psilocybin experiences, and meditative experiences of cosmic consciousness — appear to have attributes that are common to a broad range of mystical experiences, including an experience of expanded awareness. In addition, all three appear to be associated with profound and lasting transformations in the lives of experiencers. Finally, these three experiences appear to share some common neural correlates. In this article, we discuss similarities in case studies of these STEs, in data from controlled clinical research studies on their transformative effects, as well as from neurophysiological data correlated with the occurrence of STEs themselves. In all three STEs, research shows a reduction in neural activity in the major centers of the brain, including the Default Mode Network, the foundation of egoic stories involving the narrative related to oneself and the world in which one lives. It is proposed that during these STEs, reduced neural activity in areas of the brain that normally act as a filter or reducing valve mechanism opens the capacity to expanded awareness, which is associated with lasting transformation in the lives of experiencers.


Yaden, David & Johnson, Matthew & Griffiths, Roland & Doss, Manoj & Garcia-Romeu, Albert & Nayak, Sandeep & Gukasyan, Natalie & Mathur, Brian & Barrett, Fredrick. (2021). Psychedelics and Consciousness: Distinctions, Demarcations, and Opportunities. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 24. 10.1093/ijnp/pyab026.

Abstract
Psychedelic substances produce unusual and compelling changes in conscious experience that have prompted some to propose that psychedelics may provide unique insights explaining the nature of consciousness. At present, psychedelics, like other current scientific tools and methods, seem unlikely to provide information relevant to the so-called “hard problem of consciousness,” which involves explaining how first-person experience can emerge. However, psychedelics bear on multiple “easy problems of consciousness,” which involve relations between subjectivity, brain function, and behavior. In this review, we discuss common meanings of the term “consciousness” when used with regard to psychedelics and consider some models of the effects of psychedelics on the brain that have also been associated with explanatory claims about consciousness. We conclude by calling for epistemic humility regarding the potential for psychedelic research to aid in explaining the hard problem of consciousness while pointing to ways in which psychedelics may advance the study of many specific aspects of consciousness.


Yaden, David & Le Nguyen, Khoa & Kern, Margaret & B. Belser, Alexander & Eichstaedt, Johannes & Iwry, Jonathan & E. Smith, Mary & Wintering, Nancy & R.W., Jr, Hood, & Newberg, Andrew. (2016). Of Roots and Fruits: A Comparison of Psychedelic and Nonpsychedelic Mystical Experiences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 57. 10.1177/0022167816674625.

Abstract
Experiences of profound existential or spiritual significance can be triggered reliably through psychopharmacological means using psychedelic substances. However, little is known about the benefits of religious, spiritual, or mystical experiences (RSMEs) prompted by psychedelic substances, as compared with those that occur through other means. In this study, 739 self-selected participants reported the psychological impact of their RSMEs and indicated whether they were induced by a psychedelic substance. Experiences induced by psychedelic substances were rated as more intensely mystical (d = .75, p < .001), resulted in a reduced fear of death (d = .21, p < .01), increased sense of purpose (d = .18, p < .05), and increased spirituality (d = .28, p < .001) as compared with nonpsychedelically triggered RSMEs. These results remained significant in an expanded model controlling for gender, education, socioeconomic status, and religious affiliation. These findings lend support to the growing consensus that RSMEs induced with psychedelic substances are genuinely mystical and generally positive in outcome.


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