Mystical Experience Definition
Mystical experiences are sudden, distinctive, benevolent, and often profoundly meaningful experiences that can result in personal transformations across a range of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Also known as religious experiences, quantum change experiences, and epiphanies, mystical experiences have been described across cultures and religions for millennia.
Psychedelics are not required for a person to have a mystical experience; for example, awe-inducing encounters in nature, intense spiritual connection, and even virtual reality can occasion mystical-type experiences. However, certain psychedelics have been shown to reliably cause mystical experiences, including DMT, mescaline, and psilocybin.
Psychedelic-occasioned mystical experiences include features such as ego dissolution (aka ego death), a sense of oceanic boundlessness, and connectedness with the broader world. These experiences are associated with therapeutic effects, including improved quality of life, reductions in depression, and improvements in cancer-related distress. Evidence shows that these epiphanies are dose-dependent; people are unlikely to have a mystical experience on a psilocybin microdose, but more likely to have one on a higher dose of psilocybin.
Integration is particularly important after a person has a mystical experience, which can radically shift a person’s identity and sense of self. Integrative practices include journaling, talking to a facilitator, or working with a therapist trained in psychedelic-assisted therapy. These practices can help people understand and process the insights they gather from these shifts when they are pursued in the days and weeks after a mystical experience.
- Griffiths RR, Johnson MW, Richards WA, et al. 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. J Psychopharmacol. 2018;32(1):49-69. doi:10.1177/0269881117731279.
- 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), 268–292. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-006-0457-5.
- Ko K, Knight G, Rucker JJ, Cleare AJ. Psychedelics, Mystical Experience, and Therapeutic Efficacy: A Systematic Review. Front Psychiatry. 2022;13:917199. Published 2022 Jul 12. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.917199.