Mystical experiences and mental health

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Mystical experiences and mental health three perspectives
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vii, 113 leaves : ; 29 cm.
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Martin, Charles Rochelle, 1961-
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Mysticism   ( lcsh )
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Psychology thesis Ph. D
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1993.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 106-112).
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by Charles Rochelle Martin.
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Typescript.
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Vita.

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MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH:
THREE PERSPECTIVES
















By

CHARLES ROCHELLE MARTIN


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1993










ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Gratitude and appreciation are owed many persons for

their direct and indirect help in the completion of this

dissertation. Thanks go to my chairperson, Dr. Harry Grater,

and to the other members of my committee, Dr. Martin

Heesacker, Dr. David Suchman, Dr. Robert Ziller, and Dr.

Sheldon Isenberg, for their feedback, tolerance and support

in this major project. Sincere appreciation is felt for

their support of my decision to study such an unusual

subject. Thanks are also extended to friends who supported

me, and special thanks go to Tom Britt for the major part he

played in helping analyze my data.

Words cannot express the appreciation I feel for

everyone I worked with in my master's program at Wake Forest

University for their caring, warmth and encouragement to

pursue my interests and further education.

Finally, I want to express my most heartfelt thanks to

my fiancee, Tamara Vore. Tamara helped, encouraged and

supported me through every step of this program, through

qualifying exams, and through every phase of this

dissertation. She was patient and understanding beyond

reason. I would also like to thank our dog Spooky, who slept

nestled at my feet, and thereby gave his wordless and fuzzy






support to me throughout the many hours I sat at the computer

working on this project.











TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................ii

ABSTRACT ................................................... vi

CHAPTERS

1 INTRODUCTION......................................... 1

2 LITERATURE REVIEW.................................... 7

Mystical Experience ............................... 7
Definitions and Characteristics ................ 7
A Common Definition of Mystical Experience .... 13
Incidence ..................................... 16
Mystical Experience and Mental Health ........... 18
Mental Health ................................. 18
Societal Definitions of Mental Health ......... 19
Structural Definitions of Mental Health ....... 25
Subjective Definitions of Mental Health ....... 36
Conclusion and Hypotheses ....................... 39

3 METHODS............................................. 44

Subjects ........................................ 44
Instruments ..................................... 44
Mystical Experience ........................... 44
Mental Health Social/Interpersonal .......... 48
Mental Health Structural .................... 54
Mental Health Individual/Subjective ......... 56
Procedure ....................................... 58
Analyses ........................................ 59

4 RESULTS............................................. 61

Descriptive Statistics .......................... 61
Hypotheses ...................................... 62
Further Analyses ................................ 66

5 DISCUSSION.......................................... 69

Measures of Mystical Experience ................. 70
Societal View of Mental Health .................. 74
Structural View of Mental Health ................ 80
Individual View of Mental Mealth ................ 84
Further Analyses ................................ 86





Limitations and Recommendations ................. 88
Conclusions ..................................... 90


APPENDICES

A MYSTICISM SCALE, RESEARCH FORM D...

B SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY SCALE ........

C SOCIAL AVOIDANCE AND DISTRESS (SAD)

D THOMAS-ZANDER EGO STRENGTH SCALE...

E EXPRESSED ACCEPTANCE OF SELF SCALE.

REFERENCES .................................

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ........................


SCALE...


....... 92

....... 95

....... 99

...... 101

...... 103

...... 106

. 113











Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH:
THREE PERSPECTIVES

By

Charles Rochelle Martin

August 1993

Chairman: Harry Grater, Ph.D.
Major Department: Psychology

Historically, writers from a number of theoretical

traditions have argued that mystical experience is a possibly

regressive experience that is predominantly the province of

individuals of questionable mental health. The present study

was an empirical examination of the relationship between the

report of mystical experience and mental health using several

measures of mental health.

Specifically, the report of mystical experience was

measured using both Hood's Mystical Experience Scale and a

question that has been repeatedly used in surveys with a

variety of populations. The definition of mental health used

was based in a tripartite model developed by Strupp and

Hadley which recommends that mental health be simultaneously

assessed from social, structural and individual perspectives.

Specifically, four measures of mental health were used: level






of social avoidance and distress, social responsibility, ego

strength and self-acceptance.

Data were collected from 106 undergraduates.

Correlations between the four measures of mental health and

the two measures of mystical experience were calculated.

The four measures of mental health were also entered into a

regression analysis and discriminant function analysis to

predict the report of mystical experience.

Results suggest a picture of the mystical experiment that

stands in contrast to images portrayed in the traditional

literature of psychology and psychiatry. In summary, the

mystical experiment tends to be less socially anxious and

avoidant, neither more nor less socially responsible,

slightly more accepting of their self, and tends to have

higher ego strength than the nonexperient. In addition, the

relationship between the two measures of mystical experience

was examined and implications for refining definitions of

mystical experience were explored.


vii










CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Historically, mystical experience has been dealt with by

psychology in one of two ways; the experience has been

largely ignored, or it has been pathologized. Modern

psychology, however, offers a set of empirical research

methods that can validate the mystical experience as a

legitimate subject of inquiry. Lukoff and Lu (1988) have

noted that recent researchers have already begun to explore

some of the psychological correlates of mystical experience

in a more unbiased and scientific manner. This paper will

include a review of the literature and research that was

designed to explore the relationship between mystical

experience, psychopathology, personality characteristics and

style, personality structure and subjective well-being.

One of the greatest difficulties in the scientific study

of mystical experiences is defining the experience, and

further, operationalizing the definition. Fortunately, Stace

(1960) has generated an excellent conceptual framework in his

clear description of the universal phenomenological qualities

of the mystical experience. As will be seen, there is a core

phenomenology to the mystical experience, whether that

experience is labeled as mystical, religious, peak or

transcendent.








Stace's (1960) phenomenological descriptions have

allowed for the development of operational categories and

definitions that have been used by a number of researchers.

Hood (1975) has constructed a Mysticism Scale based on

Stace's categories, which measures the report of mystical

experience. Hood's scale has provided researchers with the

shared instrumentation necessary for scientific inquiry and

has been used in a number of studies (Hood, 1977; Hood, Hall,

Watson, & Biderman, 1979; Spanos & Moretti, 1988).

Another issue arises in attempting to define mental

health. As Strupp and Hadley (1977) have noted, there is a

lack of "consensus on what constitutes mental health" (p.

187), and they have developed a tripartite model of mental

health, which approaches assessment from the perspectives of

three interested parties: society, the mental health

professional, and the individual. The current study has

provided the basis for a more complex understanding of the

relationship between mystical experience and mental health

through the use of this multifaceted definition of mental

health.

The research on the relationship between mystical

experience and mental health has been limited and at times

equivocal. The literature that does exist has focused

primarily on societal definitions of mental health, which

include traditional measures of psychopathology as well as

personality characteristics, interpersonal style and social

integration. Though writers have often hypothesized that








clinical psychopathology is positively related to mystical

experience, research has indicated there is no or a very low

correlation between the two (Hood, Hall, Watson, & Biderman,

1979; Leach, 1962; Spanos & Moretti, 1988). The relationship

between a few nonpathological personality characteristics and

mystical experience has also been investigated by some

researchers (Hood et al., 1979; Spanos & Moretti, 1988).

Beyond isolated personality characteristics, theorists

have written at length on the possible relationship between

interpersonal style and mystical experience. The idea that

the mystical experiment tends toward a more detached,

escapist, or socially uninvolved lifestyle is reflected in

the conclusions of the Committee on Psychiatry and Religion

(1976). The Committee speculated that the mystic is

motivated to withdraw from interpersonal relations and seek

the mystical experience due to higher than average levels of

social or interpersonal anxiety. Theorists from a number of

theoretical traditions (Ellis, 1989; Freud, 1961, 1964;

Schneider, 1987) have echoed these thoughts and have often

assumed that these higher levels of anxiety, coupled with a

more passive attentional style (Deikman, 1982), lead the

mystic to manifest a reduced involvement with, or generally

poor integration into, larger society.

Since there has been some difficulty in isolating stable

clinical pathological correlates of mystical experience

(Hood, Hall, Watson, & Biderman, 1979), a review of the

literature suggested that assessments of socially adaptive








behavior would provide a more useful indicator of mental

health from the societal perspective. Strupp and Hadley

(1977) have noted that social integration, adaptation and

adherence to societal norms are aspects of the societal view

of mental health and could be assessed through an examination

of the construct of social responsibility. Consequently, the

current study used a measure of social responsibility

developed by Gough, McClosky and Meehl (1952). In addition,

given that theorists have repeatedly voiced the hypothesis

that mystical experiments are motivated to withdraw due to

high levels of interpersonal anxiety, the study also used an

assessment of social avoidance and anxiety developed by

Watson and Friend (1969). Thus, the current study used two

measures of mental health from the societal perspective.

From the perspective of the mental health professional,

personality structure or depth psychology is of great

importance in determining mental health (Strupp & Hadley,

1977). From a depth perspective, the similarities between

mystical experience and various forms of structural pathology

has suggested a possible relationship between the two. Both

mystics and those with structural pathology, for example,

report a blurring or loss of boundaries between self and

other. Traditional theorists have assumed that, given the

characteristics of the mystical experience, the experiment by

definition manifests poor ego structure and poor reality

adaptation (Committee, 1976; Epstein, 1989; Freud, 1961,

1964). Given the phenomenological similarities between




5



mystical experience and structural pathology, traditional

assumptions about the mystical experiment's poor reality

perception and mastery, and lack of research in the area,

this second perspective provided an exceptionally fertile

area for research.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have indicated that an

appropriate assessment of personality structure would address

ego structures and functioning (Blanck & Blanck, 1974;

Kernberg, 1976), the assessment of which may be made through

an examination of the individual's ego strength. In fact,

assessment of ego strength provides the clinician with one of

the broadest measures of personality structure in that the

concept encompasses a wide variety of ego structures and

functions (Lake, 1985), including relationship to reality,

self-regulation and personal adequacy. Therefore, the

current study used a measure of ego strength (Zander &

Thomas, 1960) to provide a broad assessment of the

personality structure of the mystical experiment.

Research on the relationship between subjective well-

being and mystical experience has also been very limited.

Although mystical experiments often report intensely positive

mood states during the experience (Stace, 1960), little

research has been done to assess the ongoing degree of

subjective well-being reported by those who have mystical

experiences. The few studies that do exist seem to have been

contradictory (Greeley, 1975; Spanos & Moretti, 1988).

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have noted that subjective








perceptions of self-esteem and self-acceptance provide a good

yardstick of the individual's perception of his or her mental

health, thus the current study used a measure of self-

acceptance (Berger, 1952) as an assessment of mental health

from the individual's own perspective.

The literature on mystical experience, personality

style, personality structure and subjective well-being has

suggested that there may be relationships between mystical

experience and the three definitions of mental health.

However, most of the literature has been theoretical and some

of the contradictory conclusions regarding the relationship

between mystical experience and mental health may have arisen

from the use of overly narrow or differing definitions of

mental health. The purpose of the current study was to

examine the relationship between mystical experience and

mental health using a tripartite definition of mental health,

which included assessments of social behavior (social

responsibility, social avoidance and distress), personality

structure (ego strength), and subjective well-being (self-

acceptance).











CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW

Mystical Experience

The purpose of this part of the chapter is to examine

definitions, characteristics and interpretations of the

mystical experience, as well as its incidence in the general

population.

Definitions and Characteristics

Mystical experience has been viewed as the great

universal core of ultimate personal experiences (Stace,

1960), and Leuba (1929) broadly defined mystical experience

as union of the self with something larger than the self,

with that something being variously labeled God, the Absolute

or the Cosmos. Wulff (1991) has noted that mystical refers

to that which is "related to a spiritual reality not

ordinarily present to the senses or comprehended by the

intellect" (p. G-18), and Tisdale (1980) has written that the

mystical experience is "an intensely personal one in which

one apprehends himself [sic] to be in touch with Ultimate

Reality" (p. 179).

Throughout history those who have had mystical

experiences have attempted to describe that experience as

best they could. However, one of the defining characteristics

of mystical experience is its ineffability (James, 1961;








Stace, 1960), and as Lukoff (1985) has noted, there are

obvious difficulties in "describing operationally an

experience which defies description by words" (p. 158). Some

of the difficulty in describing the experience is reflected

in the varied definitions used by researchers.

Lukoff and Lu (1988) have reviewed the literature on

research on the mystical experience, and stated that one of

the difficulties in researching the mystical state is the

"wide range of conceptual variability among researchers" (p.

163). The authors have noted how the definition of mystical

experience often varies along the dimension of intensity,

with some writers using "upheaval of the total personality"

(Neumann, 1964, p. 381) as a criterion for the experience,

while others use a more broad definition that encompasses

everyday forms of mysticism (Scharfstein, 1973).

Another basic conceptual issue is the split among

writers on the pluralistic or unitary nature of the mystical

experience. Donovan (1979) has clearly characterized this

historical split and has noted that one class of writers, the

essentialists, argue that the mystical experience is a

universal phenomenon "appearing under different descriptions

in all religions and mystical paths" (p. 5). The other class

of writers, the pluralists, argue there are "distinct

categories of mystical experience, superficially similar, but

with quite different implications for the truth" (p. 6).

Donovan's (1979) arguments fall in the pluralistic camp,

as he notes that the phenomenological characteristics of the








mystical experience vary by culture and cannot be separated

from the culture, language or spiritual discipline that led

up to the experience. Stace (1960) typifies the unitary or

essentialist position in his argument that a universal core

phenomenology of the mystical experience may be identified,

regardless of time or culture. More recently, Loy (1988) has

examined a variety of mystical traditions and has cogently

argued for the universal nature of the mystical experience.

The debate between the essentialists and the pluralists may

ultimately be unresolvable, and for research to proceed a

stand must be taken on the issue. The arguments presented in

this paper are consistent with the universalist tradition.

Also consistent with the universalist approach, there is

a distinction made in this paper between mystical experience,

qua experience, and whatever psychospiritual training or

technique that may have been a precursor to that experience.

Indeed, there exists a significant body of literature which

has addressed the numerous methods designed to induce the

proper conditions in which a mystical experience may be most

likely to occur (Lukoff & Lu, 1988). Hay (1985), for

example, has reviewed the variety of instruments that have

been considered as possible avenues for creating the

prerequisite conditions, including pharmacological, physical

techniques such as breathing and/or rhythmic movement, as

well as meditation and prayer.

However, as various writers have noted (Stace, 1960;

Hay, 1985; Hood, 1975), mystical experiences share certain








phenomenological characteristics regardless of whether or not

there are identifiable precursors to that experience. Stace

(1960) was sensitive to this issue and noted that although

some mystical experiences are more spontaneous and some are

more likely to be preceded by a training discipline designed

to lead to the mystical experience, both types of experience

share identifiable core phenomenological characteristics (p.

60). Consequently, the focus of this paper is on mystical

experience in and of itself rather than on the various

methods that may be linked to the induction of that

experience.

Hay (1979) echoes the essentialist theme and has noted

that even though the descriptions have extraordinary

features, there are uniformities within the mystical

experience that lend themselves to scientific examination.

Researchers have used a variety of methodologies and

classification systems to gain some understanding of the

mystical experience (Hardy, 1979; Hay, 1979; Hood, 1975).

Though some researchers have developed their own definitions,

the majority have consistently based their definitions on

generally-accepted literature on the mystical experience.

Researchers are fortunate to have had Stace's (1960)

excellent description of the universal characteristics of the

mystical experience. Stace has provided a clear conceptual

framework for describing the phenomenology of the mystical

experience, a framework that lends itself well to the

development of operational definitions. For the purposes of








research, then, one of the best ways to achieve a working

definition of the mystical experience is to define it in

terms of its more universal characteristics.

Stace's (1960) conceptualizations have been based on two

assumptions, clarified by Hood (1975). The first is that

mystical experience is universal and has clearly identifiable

phenomenological features that transcend the differing

ideologies of the experiments. The second assumption is that

all of the phenomenological categories of the mystical

experience are not "definitionally essential to any

particular individual mystical experience" (p. 30) because

there are family resemblances among those experiences that

fulfill only some of the core categories.

The universal elements of the mystical experience

identified by Stace (1960) and elaborated by Pahnke (1966)

are as follows:

1. The experience of unity or oneness, perceived either
outwardly, in the external world, or inwardly

2. A feeling of transcendence of time and space

3. A deeply felt positive mood

4. A sense of sacredness

5. A conviction of objectivity and reality

6. A quality of paradoxicality

7 Alleged ineffability

As Lukoff and Lu (1988) have noted, most researchers in the

field have linked their definitions of the mystical

experience to these universal characteristics distilled by








Stace. Many writers and researchers have since come to the

conclusion that although positive mood may often be present,

it is not definitionally essential to the mystical experience

(Hood, 1975; Mathes, Zevon, Roter, & Joerger, 1982; Spanos &

Moretti, 1988).

Maslow (1964) noted that mystical experiences can be

relabeled as peak or transcendent experiences and that such

experiences are "perfectly natural of the kind that can

easily be examined today" (p. 20). Some of the

characteristics common to peak experiences include the

following:

1. Experience of the universe as a unified whole

2. A feeling of ego-transcendence

3. A sense of awe/reverence

4. A sense of being in touch with ultimate reality

5. Transcendence of dichotomies

The clear correspondences between Maslow's work and the work

of Stace (1960) support Maslow's assertion that peak

experiences may be understood as essentially mystical in

nature.

In their development of a measure of the tendency to

report peak experiences, Mathes, Zevon, Roter, and Joerger

(1982) have also concluded that the peak experience is

primarily a mystical event. In addition, they have noted

that Maslow's "conception of peak experiences is that they

are experiences in which the individual transcends ordinary

reality and perceives Being or ultimate reality" (p. 93).








However, the authors remind readers that Maslow's conception

of the peak experience is that it is an experience of Being

and that positive affect is incidental to the experience. In

many ways, Maslow's (1964, 1970) work legitimized the study

of the mystical experience through its re-definition as peak

experience and through the introduction of peak experiences

into his psychology of the healthy person.

In summary, some of the difficulties first apparent in

researching the mystical experience have yielded to the work

of a number of theorists and researchers in the fields of

psychology and religion. The issues of alleged ineffability

and the conceptual variability among researchers were

originally major obstacles to a scientific study of the

mystical experience. However, descriptions of the mystical

experience offered by experiments have demonstrated some

striking uniformities which makes the experience amenable to

scientific exploration (Hay, 1979). The phenomenological

features common to the mystical experience have been

identified by a number of theorists (Maslow, 1964; Pahnke,

1966; Stace, 1960) and researchers have already begun to

develop a common language with which to communicate about the

experience (Lukoff & Lu, 1988).

A Common Definition of Mystical Experience

A study of mystical experience requires not only

agreement upon the essential features of that experience, but

also upon coding of criteria. Before a common operational








definition can be settled upon, however, the issue of

differing interpretations of the mystical experience must be

more fully addressed.

Hay and Morisy (1978) have argued that the mystical

experience is a universal part of human experience and that

"society gives meaning to experience, or awakens awareness to

particular aspects of experience" (p. 265) and that the

socially available explanatory system for this kind of

experience is often religious. Hay (1979) has noted that the

religious interpretation of mystical experience may be

rejected by the individual but only when there is an

acceptable alternative. As noted previously, Maslow (1964)

has offered an alternative psychological explanation that

does not invoke a deity: an explanation that relabels the

mystical experience as a peak experience.

The literature supports the assumption that mystical

experiences manifest a core phenomenology, but that various

interpretations may be overlaid on that experience (Hood,

1975; Loy, 1988; Lukoff & Lu, 1988; Stace, 1960).

Religiously-oriented experiments may label it using religious

terminology, while psychologists may use psychological terms

and refer to the phenomenon as a peak or transcendent

experience. Consequently, in this paper the term mystical

experience will be used to refer to a body of experiences

which share a core phenomenology, regardless of specific

interpretations given that experience (religious, peak, or

transcendent). This definition is consistent with the








universalist or essentialist stance delineated earlier in the

literature review.

Given that Stace's (1960) conceptualization has been the

most widely used in research on the mystical experience, a

definition based on his work was used in this study. As

noted earlier, one of the greatest difficulties in

researching the mystical experience has been in defining the

experience, and Cook and Campbell (1979) have stated that one

of the threats to construct validity is "inadequate

preoperational explication of constructs" (p. 64). The

phenomenological characteristics of the mystical experience

described by Stace (1960) represent, for writers in the

field, the best preoperational explication of the construct

available. In addition, the measurement of several different

phenomenological characteristics purportedly related to the

mystical experience represents an attempt to establish a

nomological network among difficult-to-define constructs and

a variety of observable phenomena (Walsh & Betz, 1990).

However, there should be a clear understanding that there are

some ongoing difficulties in defining the essential features

of the construct of mystical experience, and consequently, in

the development of operations to measure that construct.

Hood (1973) has developed operational categories for the

assessment of mystical experiences based on Stace's (1960)

conceptualizations. These criteria have become the basis for

Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale, and in the current study

mystical experience was operationally defined by a continuum








of scores on this scale. Hood's scale is also the instrument

in the field for which there exists the strongest evidence of

construct validity.

Thus, based on Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale, a mystical

experience is an experience that is characterized by a

combination of the qualities noted earlier: a sense of unity,

a feeling of transcendence of time and space, a loss of sense

of self, a felt sense of sacredness, and a sense of

ineffability. Again, not all of the qualities need to be

present simultaneously for the experience to be assessed as

mystical. This inability to precisely characterize the

number of necessary and sufficient features of the mystical

experience represents a difficulty in this field, and further

research is necessary to determine which features account for

the most variance in the report of mystical experience.

Incidence

Given the paucity of empirical research on the mystical

experience, one might assume that the experience must be rare

or that psychologists believe that it has little relevance

for the average person. Lukoff (1985), however, concluded

that mystical experiences are not rare events, and that

mental health professionals as well as others need to be able

to recognize them. In fact, surveys have consistently

revealed that approximately one-third of the population

report intense transcendent or mystical experiences (Lukoff &

Lu, 1988).








Greeley (1974) reported on a representative survey

(1,468 adults) of the United States population where the

question was asked: "Have you ever felt as though you were

very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift

you out of yourself?" Greeley found that 35% of the

respondents answered in the affirmative and half reported

more than one instance of such an experience. Greeley (1987)

readministered the same survey question to another

representative sample of the United States population and

found that the positive answers had increased to 43%. In a

national survey of a representative sample of person's in

Great Britain, Hay and Morisy (1978) asked Greeley's (1974)

question and received a 30.4% affirmative response, revealing

only a five percent difference between the British and

American samples.

Thomas and Cooper (1980) have argued that the

experiences gleaned by Greeley's question may vary

considerably from the classic mystical experience. Hufford

(1985, cited in Wulff, 1991, p. 504) asked Greeley's (1974)

question of 30 randomly chosen nonpsychiatric hospital

patients and asked for detailed descriptions of affirmative

responses, which he then categorized using criteria which

reflect Stace's (1960) and Hood's (1975) conceptualizations.

Of the 14 affirmative responses, 8 proved to be false

positives, with a resultant reduction of positive responses

from 47 to 20 percent. Though these results suggest

Greeley's survey numbers may have been inflated, the reduced








numbers still indicate there may be a significant body of

mystical experiments in the general population. Hufford's

study also reinforces the importance of using a definition of

mystical experience based on phenomenological categories

rather than on a single question that may be more loosely

interpreted by respondents.

Mystical Experience and Mental Health

The purpose of this section is to review the theoretical

and empirical literature that has addressed the relationship

between mystical experience and mental health. Areas to be

addressed include the relationship between mystical

experience and the following: psychopathology, personality

characteristics and interpersonal style, personality

structure and subjective well-being.

Mental Health

Any study of mental health requires an explicit

definition of that often nebulous construct. Strupp and

Hadley (1977) have noted that "only by considering multiple

perspectives will it be possible to derive a truly

comprehensive definition of mental health" (p. 187). They

recommend simultaneously taking into account the "vantage

points" of the three major parties interested in defining

mental health: society, the mental health professional, and

the individual.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have noted that "each of these

parties defines mental health in terms of certain unique








purposes or aims it seeks to fulfill" (p. 188), and that

these perspectives may be seen to represent: social behavior

(e.g. measures of interpersonal behavior and societal

integration as well as traditional measures of clinical

pathology and nonclinical personality characteristics),

personality structure (e.g. measures of depth psychology or

ego functions), and a subjective sense of well-being (e.g.

measures of self-esteem or self-acceptance). This section

will explore the relevant writings from each of these three

perspectives, but as Strupp and Hadley have noted, there are

often areas of overlap among the three definitions.

Consequently, there may be some overlap in the presentation

of literature from the three perspectives.

Societal Definitions of Mental Health

In this section of the paper literature will be reviewed

which has addressed the relationship between mystical

experience and societal definitions of mental health. Given

that deviance from typical conduct forms a definitional

component of many pathologies, more traditional clinical

syndromes will be reviewed largely from this definition of

mental health. However, it should be understood that

traditional measures of psychopathology have some overlap

with all three perspectives.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have stated that mental health

from the societal perspective is often defined "in terms of

behavioral stability, predictability, and conformity to the








social code" (p. 188). Therefore, measures of personality

characteristics and social-interpersonal style are included

here and are perhaps most representative of this definition

of mental health.

Clinical psychopatholoqv. Nelson (1989) has noted that

in the history of western psychology there has been a

tendency to implicitly associate mystical or transcendent

states of consciousness with pathological states. This

implicit connection seems particularly true of the analytic

writers (Freud, 1961; Committee, 1976), but has been true of

theorists from other schools as well, including the

cognitive-behavioral (Ellis, 1989) and existential schools

(Schneider, 1987). Even James (1961), who was generally

sympathetic to the positive value of mystical states, warned

that those who do experience such states not uncommonly

demonstrate signs of psychopathology.

The literature supporting these traditional assumptions

has been largely theoretical, and in fact, the empirical work

that has been done reveals at best only moderate correlations

between mystical experience and various assessment of

clinical psychopathology. Taft (1969), for example, found

only a slight positive correlation (r = .15) between the

report of peak experiences and a measure of neuroticism

(Eysenck, 1958). In an earlier study, Leach (1962) had found

no correlation between the report of peak experiences and the

Neuroticism (Nf) scale (Comfrey, 1957) on the MMPI.








In a direct study of mystical experience, Hood (1975)

found a correlation between that experience and the

Hypochondriasis (r = .37) and Hysteria (r = .38) scales of

the MMPI. There were no other significant correlations, and

Hood argued that a concern with bodily processes and intense

experiential states was characteristic of the mystical

experience itself. In a study of female undergraduates,

Spanos and Moretti (1988) found that a measure of mystical

experience failed to correlate significantly with measures of

depressive affect or psychosomatic symptoms, traditional

measures of clinical psychopathology. The researchers

conclude that "mystical experiences occur as frequently among

those who are psychologically stable as among those who tend

to be distraught and troubled" (p. 113). In an unusual

study, Vaughan and Maliszewski (1982) found that for 43

mothers who reported experiencing a mystical state during

childbirth, there was no correlation between the experience

and psychological health. Hood, Hall, Watson, and Biderman

(1979) summarized the research on mystical experience at that

time, concluding that the literature indicated a general lack

of correlation between traditional clinical pathological

characteristics and mystical experience, a conclusion

supported by others (Koltko, 1989).

Personality characteristics and style. Beyond the

examination of traditional measures of psychopathology, there

is a body of literature that addresses the personality

characteristics and personality style of those who report








mystical experiences. These characteristics form a part of

the societal definition of mental health, and they often

address the experiment's interpersonal behavior and/or

adherence to social norms.

Nelson (1989) has argued that the tendency to enter into

mystical states may be conceptualized as a cluster of

biologically-determined personality characteristics that

facilitate the onset of such experiences. Empirical research

has already addressed some isolated personality

characteristics of the mystical experiment. One personality

characteristic of interest to researchers has been openness

to experience or ego permissiveness, that is, the ego's

ability to use conscious and unconscious potentialities

(Taft, 1969). Hood (1975) found a significant correlation (r

= -.75) between scores on his mystical experience scale and

scores on Taft's ego permissiveness scale. In contrast,

Vaughan and Maliszewski (1982) found no correlation between

the mystical experience and openness to new experiences,

value orientation or social desirability.

The personality characteristic of absorption has also

been assessed in mystical experiments. Tellegen and Atkinson

(1974) believe absorption represents "total attention

involving a full commitment of available perceptual, motoric,

and imaginative and ideational resources to a unified

representation of the imaginal object" (p. 274). Noting the

similarities between descriptions of absorption and the

mystical experience, Spanos and Moretti (1988) assessed the








relationship between absorption, four measures of

hypnotizability and the tendency to report mystical

experience. The researchers used a multiple regression

procedure and found that absorption was the single best

predictor of mystical experience, accounting for 29% of the

variance in the mysticism scores. The authors found that

four measures of hypnotizability correlated positively (r =

.36 to .39) with the report of mystical experience, but only

the measure of hypnotic depth added significantly (another

5%) to the prediction equation.

Hood et al. (1979) used the Jackson Personality

Inventory (Jackson, 1976) in an attempt to isolate stable

personality correlates of mystical experience. The authors

concluded that individuals who report mystical experiences

tend to have higher levels of tolerance, broader interests

and are more creative and socially adept than non-experients.

In addition, Hood (1977) found a positive correlation between

reports of mystical experience and a measure of self-

actualization.

The previous studies have allowed for some conclusions

regarding isolated personality characteristics of mystical

experiments. However, the societal definition of mental

health is perhaps best exemplified by indicators of the

individual's social and interpersonal behavior (Strupp &

Hadley, 1977). There have been a number of historical

assumptions about the social behavior and interpersonal style







of the mystical experiment, but virtually no empirical

research has been done in this area.

Freud (1961), for example, believed that mystical

experience was a way of avoiding the demands of mature adult

development in the areas of work and love. Others elaborated

on this idea (Committee on Psychiatry and Religion, 1976;

Prince & Savage, 1972), concluding that mystical experience

is a regression to an earlier ego state that enables the

experiment to withdraw from the world and to escape higher

than average levels of interpersonal anxiety. Schneider

(1987, 1989), an existential theorist, has also argued that

focus on the mystical state of consciousness can be socially

debilitating or escapist. At best, Schneider viewed mystical

experiments as out of step with the realities and demands of

their social environment, a view supported by Ellis (1989),

who has addressed the escapist attitude inherent in the

pursuit of mystical experience.

In summary then, empirical research has suggested a weak

relationship between the report of mystical experience and

traditional measures of clinical psychopathology. In

addition, a review of the literature on societal definitions

of mental health indicates that if pathological correlates of

the mystical experience do exist, they might be more likely

found in some domain other than in traditional measures of

pathology. Further, research that has addressed

circumscribed personality characteristics of mystical








experiments has been informative, but has rarely explored the

experiment's social and interpersonal behavior.

Given that much of the theoretical literature has

addressed the interpersonal style and social integration of

the mystical experiment, an examination of the mystical

experiment's interpersonal behavior would offer one of the

most useful tests of traditional assumptions about the social

mental health of the mystical experiment. In that the area of

functioning most often addressed by traditional theorists is

social-interpersonal in nature, two measures were used from

this perspective in order to address a wider range of

assumptions. In addition, the social perspective on mental

health is somewhat loosely defined. Consequently, the

current study used two measures of social-interpersonal

behavior to assess the mental health of the mystical

experiment from the societal perspective.

Structural Definitions of Mental Health

The phenomenological similarities between mystical

experience and various forms of structural pathology raises a

question as to the equivalency of the experiences. This

section will focus on the relationship between mystical

experience and a definition of mental health from the

perspective of the mental health professional, that is, from

a structural or depth psychology perspective. This area of

the review will include literature on mystical experience and

structural pathology, reality testing and ego strength. With








very few exceptions, virtually all of the literature in this

area has been theoretical.

Personality structure. The concept of personality

structure may be best understood in the context of the

developmental spectrum model of psychopathology (Mahler,

Pine, & Bergman, 1975; Masterson, 1985; Rinsley, 1981), a

model in which "qualitatively different levels of personality

organization and ego functioning are rooted in failures,

arrests or regressions in different stages of intrapsychic

development, above all the crucial line of object relations"

(Engler, 1984, p.27). Thus, level of personality structure

is often inferred through analysis of the ego functions

(Blanck & Blanck, 1974; Goldstein, 1985; Kernberg, 1976) and

structural pathology is often described in the language of

ego psychology and object relations (Mahler et al. 1975;

Masterson, 1985).

Object relations (Cashdan, 1989) essentially refers to

the manner in which a child's sense of self evolves out of

ongoing interactions with his or her significant others

(objects) and through the internalization of those

interactions as representations of the self and objects.

Arrests or fixations at earlier stages of ego development can

result in ongoing poor differentiation between self and

others and in a lack of a cohesive sense of self (Blanck &

Blanck, 1974; Kernberg, 1976; Masterson, 1985). This

vulnerability to fusions and confusions of self and object

representations might also be referred to as having poor ego








boundaries (Bell, Billington, & Becker, 1985). In contrast,

persons functioning at higher levels of ego development have

a clearer differentiation between self and other and have a

more integrated sense of self.

Because these developmental arrests largely affect the

ego functions, structural pathology may also be understood as

self or ego pathology, which may be seen to differ from

personality style and traditional psychiatric symptoms

(Engler, 1984). At this point it would be worthwhile to

examine some of the pathological characteristics common to

the various levels of personality organization: psychotic,

narcissistic, borderline, neurotic and healthy.

Psychosis, borderline and narcissistic pathology. The

similarity between aspects of the mystical experience and

certain symptoms of psychosis has been discussed in the

literature (Buckley, 1981; James, 1961; Lukoff, 1985). The

bias in historical conceptions of mystical experience has

often resulted in the use of some of the phenomenological

characteristics of the mystical experience as definitional

criteria for psychosis (James, 1961). Some writers have

argued that confusion arises from the possibility that

mystical experience and psychosis may at times manifest

simultaneously, even though the two experiences are

independent phenomena (Lukoff, 1985; Scharfstein, 1973).

One of the primary characteristics of the mystical

experience is the loss of a sense of self, in particular, the

feeling that the self is united with or absorbed into some








other or some larger whole (Maslow, 1964; Pahnke, 1966;

Stace, 1960) and for some theorists this absorption is

indicative of a psychotic level of organization. The

borderline level of organization manifests related forms of

structural pathology, including identity diffusion (Kernberg,

1976) and incomplete self-object differentiation (Mahler et

al. 1975; Masterson, 1985), which tend to result in fluid

boundaries between the self and the world.

Further comparisons may be made between mystical

experience and certain characteristics of narcissistic

pathology. Epstein (1986) has reviewed the traditional

analytic perspectives on mystical phenomena, noting that

mysticism in general has been seen as a narcissistic attempt

to merge ego and ego ideal, or to fuse the self with the

primary object (the mother) even when that object is

consciously believed to be God or some other absolute.

Engler (1984) has speculated that persons with borderline and

narcissistic pathologies are likely attracted to meditative

and mystical traditions which reinforce their subjective

feelings of emptiness, poor self-cohesion and poor self-

object differentiation. Given these views, one hypothesis

that derives from the traditional psychological paradigm is

that those who have poor ego development, or a lower level of

personality organization, would be more likely to experience

the loss of a sense of self so characteristic of mystical

states.







Reality testing. Reality testing is another ego

function that provides clinicians with a good indicator of

the level of psychostructural organization. Reality testing

has been seen historically to have a primary role in the

development of the ego and in the ego's adaptation to its

environment (Freud, 1949). Bell, Billington, and Becker

(1985) have noted that the reality testing ego function has

been linked theoretically to the development of ego

boundaries and "the ability to distinguish internal from

external and self from not self" (p. 506), functions which

might theoretically be considered impaired in a mystical

experiment. Bell et al. have echoed the writings of others

(Kernberg, 1976; Masterson, 1985) in noting that reality

testing generally distinguishes between greater and lesser

forms of structural pathology. The greater the structural

pathology, the more reality testing is impaired, and

consequently the greater the difficulty in handling the

everyday commonsense tasks of living and functioning and in

maintaining a shared intersubjective reality with others

(Lukoff, 1985).

Eqo strength. Reality testing, object relations

development and ego boundaries are characteristics of the ego

that form a part of an even broader structural concept, ego

strength. The concept of ego strength was originally

introduced in the psychoanalytic literature, and for Freud

(1949) the concept was related not only to the ego's

management of drives and prohibitions of the id and superego,








the internal world, but also to the ego's maintenance of its

adaptability to the external world. Lake (1985) has provided

an excellent overview of the historical conceptions of ego

strength in psychotherapy. Demonstrating many areas of

overlap among equivalent concepts described by a variety of

clinicians and theorists, Lake has argued that the concept of

ego strength is most often related to a strong sense of

competence, and the ability to adapt to reality and master

it.

One of the earliest attempts to quantify ego strength

was made by Barron (1953), who originally developed a 68-item

MMPI scale to predict response to psychotherapy. Barron

concluded that the scale measured some even broader

dimensions of personality functioning, which could be

referred to collectively as ego strength, and found the scale

to be useful in making some estimate of the individual's

adaptability and personal resourcefulness. In addition

Barron has noted that

among the characteristics which are collectively
referred to as ego-strength are physiological stability
and good health, a strong sense of reality [italics
added], feelings of personal adequacy and vitality,
permissive morality, lack of ethnic prejudice, emotional
outgoingness and spontaneity, and intelligence (pp. 332-
333).

Barron attributed a variety of characteristics to the

construct of ego strength, but for the purposes of this

discussion, the most salient are those that refer to the








person's ability to sense, adapt to, and influence reality,

as well as the person's sense of personal adequacy.

In general, the definition of ego strength is intimately

tied to such qualities as personal competence, personal

adequacy, reality perception and mastery and the ability to

influence the environment. Zander and Thomas (cited in

Crandall, 1973) later revised Barron's scale and

conceptualized ego strength as having two parts, executive

ability and tension control. That is, ego strength

represents "the ability to be self-directing and to translate

intentions consistently into behavior... [as well as] the

ability to control and discharge tension without disrupting

other psychological processes" (p. 132). These qualities

characteristic of ego strength represent psychostructural

qualities which would directly address the mental health of

mystical experiments. That is, given some of the traditional

assumptions about the personal inadequacy, poor reality

perception and mastery, and regressiveness of the mystical

experiment, one would assume the typical experiment manifests

poor ego strength.

Speculations about the ego strength of mystical

experiments may be found in the literature, and historical

assumptions on that point have been thoroughly reviewed. In

contrast, Epstein (1988) has argued that it is the synthetic

function of a well-developed ego that allows for the

integration of the experience of disintegration, or the

experience of egolessness. Engler (1981) has also noted that








meditative techniques which focus on deconstructing the self

first "assume an intact and structured ego" (p. 66). These

authors have argued that only a strong ego can be

relinquished nonpathologically, which leads to one final

structural issue, the pre/trans fallacy.

Pre/trans fallacy. In much of the traditional

psychological literature there is an assumption that because

mystical experience and disorders involving structural

pathology share some common features, the states themselves

are therefore equivalent. An alternative explanation has

been forwarded by Wilber (1983), who has labeled this logical

error the pre/trans fallacy:

since prerational and transrational are both, in their
own ways, nonrational, then they appear quite similar or
even identical to the untutored eye. Once this
confusion occurs the confusion of "pre" and "trans" -
then one of two things inevitably happens: the
transrational realms are reduced to prepersonal status,
or the prerational realms are elevated to transrational
glory (p. 202).

Thus, a clearer understanding of the relationship between

mystical experience and structural pathology might be gained

through placing each in a developmental context.

One possible result of the pre/trans fallacy is the

equating of mystical experience with more regressed or

unhealthy levels of experience. For example, the

phenomenology of a prepersonal experience (borderline self-

object fusion) could be confused with that of a transpersonal

experience (the ego loss in mystical union). In a further

example, Epstein (1989) has noted that the phenomenological








experience of emptiness has different meanings depending on

the context, and thus emptiness may refer to the numbness of

the psychotic, the incompleteness of the personality

disorders, the identity diffusion of the borderline,

existential meaninglessness, or the ultimate reality

purportedly experienced by some meditators. In theory, these

various experiences may be distinguished in large part

through an assessment of the level of personality development

of the individual.

Engler (1981, 1984) has voiced many of the same concerns

as Wilber (1983) and has asserted that lower levels of ego

structure contraindicate pursuit of certain kinds of mystical

practices. Otherwise, those individuals who have structural

pathology may have fusion experiences that look like mystical

experiences, but their poor ego strength suggests such

experiences would be regressive rather than progressive.

Thus, an intact ego is considered requisite for the

experience of union to be properly labeled transcendent or

mystical, or as Engler has noted, "you have to be somebody

before you can be nobody" (p. 31). This final issue leads

into a review of the empirical work that has addressed

personality structure and mystical experience.

Empirical studies. Though a number of theoretical works

have addressed structural views of mental health and mystical

experience, the empirical literature is almost nonexistent.

Hood (1974) completed a study on intense religious experience

and ego strength. Although his definition of religious







experience does not clearly reflect the criteria for mystical

experience, his study is included here because it represents

one of the only studies that is relevant to this area, and

because it touches on some important measurement issues.

Hood used Barron's (1953) Ego Strength Scale (Es) and Stark's

(1971) Index of Psychic Inadequacy to measure psychological

strength in college students and correlated scores on these

measures with scores on Hood's (1970) Religious Experience

Episodes Measure (REEM), a measure of intense religious

experience.

Hood (1974) predicted a negative correlation between

Barron's scale and the REEM, since Barron's Ego Strength

Scale "reflects psychodynamic principles compatible with

psychoanalytic theory" (p. 66). Specifically, the Es scale

includes a six-item subscale that refers to attitudes toward

religion, the endorsement of which results in a lowered Es

score. Hood found a statistically significant negative

correlation (r = -.31) between ego strength (Es) and the

report of intense religious experience. However, removal of

the six-item religious subscale reduced the correlation to

nonsignificance (r = -.16).

In addition, Hood (1974) predicted a positive

correlation between psychological strength on Stark's scale,

which has no religiously oriented items, and scores on the

REEM. Hood found a statistically significant point-biserial

correlation (r = .29) between psychic adequacy and the report

of intense religious experience. The results of this study








suggest the importance of being aware of biases in theory and

in traditional assessments of ego strength. Hood has noted

that "Barron's own bias in constructing the Ego Strength

Scale was to use fundamentalist religious commitment and

intense personal religious experiences as indicative of lack

of ego strength" (pp. 68-69). Zander and Thomas (cited in

Crandall, 1973) have since produced a revised version of

Barron's ego strength scale, which does not manifest these

religious biases.

In a study referred to earlier, Taft (1969) performed a

factor analysis of an experience questionnaire and found a

higher order factor labelled ego reduction, under which the

peak experience questions clustered. The merging of self

with the outside world and reductions in self-consciousness

characteristic of these questions hint at the concerns

traditional theorists have about the mystical state. In

themselves, these results support the concept of boundary

loss during mystical experience, but without concurrent and

independent measures of mental health, few conclusions can be

drawn regarding the ongoing mental health of the experiment.

This section has focused on the possible relationship

between mystical experience and structural definitions of

mental health. The similarity between aspects of the

mystical experience and certain symptoms of structural

pathology has been addressed by a number of writers (Engler,

1981; Epstein, 1989; Lukoff, 1985). That is, such phenomena

as the loss of a sense of self and feelings of unity appear







to be characteristic not only of the mystical experience, but

of the psychotic, borderline, and narcissistic pathologies as

well. Various writers, however, have suggested that mystical

experience involves developmentally higher phenomenon than

the phenomena associated with structural pathology, and that

the determining factor is the individual's level of

psychostructural development (Engler, 1981; Epstein, 1989;

Wilber, 1983).

The only empirical research in this area (Hood, 1974)

has not addressed mystical experience directly, and

consequently the structural definition of mental health

offers an exceptionally fertile area for research. An

assessment of the psychostructural development of the

mystical experiment would offer a useful test of the

traditional assumption that mystical experience is de facto a

regressed experience. Therefore, the current study employed

a broad structural measure of mental health.

Subjective Definitions of Mental Health

This section will focus on the relationship between

mystical experience and the third view of mental health: the

subjective definition. As Strupp and Hadley (1977) have

noted, the individual uses a criterion of mental health

distinctly different from those used by society and

therapists. "The individual wishes first and foremost be be

happy, to feel content. He thus defines mental health in

terms of highly subjective feelings of well-being -- feelings








with a validity all their own" (p. 188). The authors include

subjective perceptions of self-esteem and self-acceptance as

representative of the client's assessments of their well-

being.

A small body of literature has addressed the

relationship between subjective assessments of well-being and

mystical experiences. In a review of the literature, Lukoff

and Lu (1988) have reported on a study by Greeley (1975) who

found that scores on a measure of well-being correlated

significantly with the report of mystical experience. Hay

and Morisy (1978) used the Bradburn Balanced Affect Scale

(Bradburn, 1969) to assess the psychological well-being of

persons reporting religious experiences, which was defined as

a positive response to their question of being "aware of, or

influenced by a presence or power, whether referred to as God

or not, which is different from their everyday selves" (p.

255). The authors found that those "reporting religious

experiences are significantly more likely to report a high

level of psychological wellbeing than those who do not" (p.

259).

Nelson (1989) used the Differential Personality

Questionnaire (Tellegen, 1982) to examine the personality

characteristics of those reporting praeternatural

experiences, a variety of paranormal experiences which

included mystical experiences. The author found that persons

reporting high numbers of praeternatural experiences

demonstrated significantly higher levels of well-being than








those reporting medium levels of such experiences.

Unfortunately, this study cannot directly address mystical

experience in that mystical experience was only one of the

criteria. In a more direct study of mystical experience and

in contrast to the previous studies, Spanos and Moretti

(1988) used Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale and found that

mystical experience failed to correlate significantly with a

measure of self-esteem. The research results in this area

have been somewhat contradictory, with some studies

indicating a positive relationship between mystical

experience and subjective well-being, while others have found

no such relationship.

Historically, the theorists and clinicians who have

assumed that mystical experience is regressive have had

concerns that relate specifically to this third definition of

mental health. That is, writers have typically assumed that

the strong positive feelings often present during the

mystical experience offer the experiment an alternative to the

anxiety of reality demands. Given Strupp and Hadley's (1977)

assertion that the individual's assessment of his or her own

mental health may be at odds with assessments from the two

other vantage points, the importance of gathering assessments

from the other perspectives may be seen. The current study

included a measure of the experiment's ongoing well-being in

addition to assessments from the other two perspectives.







Conclusion and Hypotheses

The previous sections have included reviews of the

theoretical and empirical literature on the relationship

between mystical experience and mental health. The

literature was reviewed from the three different perspectives

on mental health recommended by Strupp and Hadley (1977):

societal, structural, individual.

There is the possibility that the inconsistent or even

contradictory results in the literature arise from a number

of difficulties. The definitions and measures of mystical

experience have been inconsistent or unclear, only one mental

health perspective was used, and measures of mental health

have tended to exclude the structural and individual

perspectives. The researcher suggests that assessment of the

mental health of the mystical experiment from the three

perspectives simultaneously would yield a more comprehensive

picture and possibly clarify some of the inconsistencies in

the literature. In addition, an instrument designed

specifically to measure mystical experience is required.

To achieve a more comprehensive and consistent view, the

current study used a widely accepted phenomenological

definition of mystical experience, operationalized in Hood's

(1975) Mysticism Scale (M Scale Research Form D), and

assessed mental health from all three perspectives

simultaneously. Lukoff and Lu (1988) have noted that Hood's

(1975) scale and Greeley's (1974) question are the shared

instrumentation in this field of study that allows consensual








research on the mystical experience. Consequently, Greeley's

question was used as a secondary measure to assess the

occurrence of mystical experience. This secondary measure

was used to examine the concurrent validity of the two

criterion measures, and to provide a replication of the many

studies that have used the question.

There has been a great deal of theory and some empirical

research that has addressed the relationship between mystical

experience and societal definitions of mental health. The

results of the empirical studies using traditional measures

of pathology have been equivocal, and the correlations have

usually been small or insignificant. A review of the

literature suggests that an examination of the interpersonal

behavior of the mystical experiment would yield one of the

best assessments of the experiment's mental health from the

societal perspective. It would be informative to examine the

levels of social anxiety and social avoidance in the mystical

experiment given that traditional theorists have often assumed

high levels of social anxiety drive the mystical experiment

into escapist or avoidant behaviors. The current study

therefore used a widely-accepted measure of social anxiety

and avoidance developed by Watson and Friend (1969).

As noted earlier, societal definitions of mental health

often address the issues of social adjustment, social

integration and adherence to standards of sanctioned conduct.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have noted that appropriate

assessments from the societal perspective would include








measures of the individual's ability to "assume

responsibility for their assigned social roles" (p. 190), and

their ability to adhere to prevailing standards. Therefore,

another area that bears examination is the mystical

experiment's adherence to accepted social standards and roles:

behaviors reflected in the individual's level of social

responsibility. The current study used another measure from

the societal perspective, a measure of social responsibility

developed by Gough, McClosky and Meehl (1952).

The possible relationship between mystical experience

and structural definitions of mental health was also explored

through a review of the literature on mystical experience and

various concepts related to structural pathology. Given some

of the traditional assumptions about the personal inadequacy,

poor reality perception and mastery, as well as the general

regressiveness of the mystical experiment, one might assume

the typical experiment manifests a lower level of

psychostructural development. As noted earlier, empirical

research in this area is greatly needed.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have suggested that appropriate

measures from the structural perspective would include

assessments of: personal adequacy, the ability to balance

psychic forces, and the ability to cope with reality and to

self-regulate. The literature has indicated that many of

these characteristics and related constructs that are used to

assess psychostructural level may be subsumed under the broad

structural concept of ego strength. In fact, a measure of







ego strength has already been used as a structural measure of

mental health in a study based on Strupp and Hadley's three

perspectives (George & Tittler, 1984). Consequently, the

current study used the Zander and Thomas (1960) revision of

Barron's Ego Strength scale (Barron, 1953) to make a broad

assessment of the mystical experiment's mental health from the

structural perspective.

The review also included literature that has addressed

the relationship between well-being and mystical experience.

The few relevant studies reviewed suggest an unclear

relationship between the two, but given that positive mood is

often present during the mystical experience, the importance

of making other assessments of mental health is clearly seen

in this area. Strupp and Hadley (1977) have indicated that

subjective measures of self-acceptance and self-esteem

represent appropriate measures from the individual's

perspective. Further, self-acceptance was used by George and

Tittler (1984) as a subjective assessment of mental health in

a study based on Strupp and Hadley's tripartite definition.

Therefore, the current study used Berger's (1952) Self-

Acceptance Scale to measure the ongoing mental health of the

mystical experiment from the individual's own perspective.

Each null hypothesis of the study was tested twice, once

using Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale as a measure of mystical

experience, and a second time with Greeley's (1974) question

as a measure of mystical experience. Thus, there were ten

null hypotheses.








With Hood's (1975) scale as a measure:

1) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and social avoidance and distress.

2) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and social responsibility.

3) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and ego strength.

4) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and self-acceptance.

5) A combination of the mental health measures does not

predict the report of mystical experience.

With Greeley"s (1974) question as a measure:

6) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and social avoidance and distress.

7) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and social responsibility.

8) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and ego strength.

9) There is no significant relationship between mystical

experience and self-acceptance.

10) A combination of the mental health measures does not

predict the report of mystical experience.











CHAPTER 3
METHODS

Subjects

One hundred and twelve University of Florida

undergraduates originally served as participants in the

study. The study took place during portions of a Personal

Growth (PCO 2714) class period and a Personality (PPE 3004)

class period. Participants received extra course credit for

their participation in the study. Six protocols were

determined to be unscoreable due to mismatches between

question number and answer sheet number. Thus, 106

undergraduates served as the final number of participants on

whose protocols the analyses were performed.

The ages of the respondents ranged from 17 to 39, with a

mean of 21.5 and a standard deviation of 3.2. One person did

not report gender, and thus approximately 32% percent were

males (n = 34) and approximately 68% were females (n = 71).

The sample had a range of undergraduates from freshman to

seniors, with seniors comprising the largest percentage of

respondents (78%).

Instruments

Mystical Experience

Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale, Research Form D (M scale)

was used as a measure of the report of mystical experience.








Hood used Stace's (1960) conceptual categories as a framework

for the development of the M scale, noting that Stace's work

and the M scale are based on two assumptions: 1) mystical

experience is universal and has clearly identifiable

phenomenological features which transcend the differing

ideologies of the experiments, and 2) all of the

phenomenological categories of the mystical experience are

not "definitionally essential to any particular individual

mystical experience" (p. 30) since there are family

resemblances among those experiences that fulfill only some

of the core categories.

Hood (1975) began with 108 items rationally selected to

represent Stace's (1960) phenomenological categories. After

several revisions the final scale consists of 32 items, four

of which cluster under each of eight categories: ego quality,

unifying quality, inner subjective quality, temporal/spatial

quality, noetic quality, ineffability, positive affect, and

religious quality (See Appendix A). Final items were those

which were most clearly understood, had face validity in

terms of Stace's conceptualizations, and which had the

highest ability to distinguish between upper and lower

quartiles of respondents on initial forms of the test. Final

scale values are based upon 300 undergraduate males and

females. The average age of the males in the sample was 21.2

years (SD = 4.2) and the average age of the females was 20.1

(SD = 4.2). The mean score on the M Scale for males was

109.3 (SD = 22.6) and for females 119.4 (SD = 18.8). Half of








the questions are positively worded and half are negatively

worded to avoid response acquiescence.

Item-to-total scale correlations ranged from .29 to .54

with an average of .42. Hood has noted that the items "have

adequate item-total coefficients, although items vary

reasonably widely. However, in no instance are the

coefficients unacceptably low" (p. 33). Hood has also noted

that high significant correlations between positively and

negatively worded questions in the same category indicates

that the form of expression does not affect the

meaningfulness of the statement or the measurement of the

phenomenon.

In a study that addresses the construct validity of the

scale, Hood (1975) reports a correlation of .81 between the M

Scale total score and a measure of intrinsic religious

orientation, data which is "consistent with other research

indicating a greater report of mystical or other intense

religious experiences among intrinsically oriented people"

(p. 35). In addition, Hood found a correlation of .47

between the M Scale and a measure of intense religious

experience, and a correlation of -.75 with a measure of ego

permissiveness (where a lower score represented greater ego

permissiveness). Anastasi (1982, p. 145) has noted that

moderate correlations with scales that measure similar

constructs are supportive of an instrument's construct

validity, while exceptionally high or low correlations tend

to make the instrument suspect.








Anastasi (1982, p. 146) has also noted that factor

analysis is particularly relevant to construct validation. A

factor analysis of the M Scale yielded two factors (I and

II). Factor I was found to represent a quality of intense

transcendent experience, which Hood (1975) has labeled the

core experience of mysticism, or a general mysticism factor.

Minimally, this factor was characterized by ego loss and

alterations in the perception of time and space, and the

experience was not necessarily accompanied by positive

emotion. Factor II was found to be indicative of "a joyful

expression of more traditionally defined religious

experiences which may or may not be mystical" (p. 34), or as

Hood has concluded, a possible religious interpretation of

the core mystical experience indicated by Factor I.

Thus, the M Scale addresses the distinction between core

phenomenon and interpretation of that phenomenon noted

earlier in this paper, supporting the idea that "some

religious experiences may in fact not be mystical and some

mystical experiences may in fact not be interpreted as

religious" (Hood, 1975, p. 34). Hood's scale has provided

researchers with a consistent measure of the report of

mystical experience and has been used in number of studies

(Hood, 1977; Hood, Hall, Watson, & Biderman, 1979; Spanos &

Moretti, 1988). As noted in the literature review, the M-

scale essentially represents the best, if not the only,

measure of mystical experience in the field. In addition,








research with Hood's M-scale has generated some evidence for

its construct validity.

Greeley's (1974) question will be used as a secondary

measure of the report of mystical experience. The question

is: "Have your ever felt as though you were very close to a

powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of

yourself?" Greeley (1974, 1975, 1987) has used this question

in a number of surveys and the question has been used by

others as well (Hay & Morisy, 1978; Thomas & Cooper, 1978).

No reliability or validity data are available for Greeley's

question. Only a yes or no response is possible to this

question and consequently the question offers a dichotomous

measure of the report of mystical experience.

Mental Health Social/Interpersonal

Two measures of mental health from the societal

perspective were used: a measure of social responsibility and

a measure of social anxiety and avoidance. As noted earlier,

these measures were chosen to address the social withdrawal,

social anxiety, and generally poor integration into the

larger social world that traditional theorists predict would

be characteristic of mystical experiments.

Social responsibility. Only a handful of measures have

been developed to assess the construct of social

responsibility. Gough, McClosky, and Meehl's (1952) scale

demonstrates greater evidence for validity and reliability

than the other most relevant scale, a measure of social








responsibility developed by Berkowitz and Lutterman (1968).

The latter scale had significantly fewer items, no data were

reported for test-retest reliability or for internal

consistency, and there were no objective behavioral indices

of validity. Of particular concern was the strong

"conservative individualist theme" (Robinson, 1973, p. 467)

and its strong ties to politically traditional values.

Another instrument often used to assess social

responsibility was developed for use with children (Harris,

1957) and was inappropriate for use with college students.

Berkowitz and Daniels (1964) have attempted to revise the

Harris (1957) scale for use with college students but the

researchers used only a measure of internal consistency as a

measure of the scale's validity. Consequently, Gough,

McClosky and Meehl's (1952) scale was determined to be the

best and most appropriate instrument and was used to assess

social responsibility in the current study.

Gough, McClosky and Meehl (1952) developed their measure

of social responsibility using a peer group nomination

technique, and the scale has since been incorporated into the

MMPI and MMPI-2 (Hathaway & McKinley, 1989). Student samples

included 221 ninth graders, 503 high school students and 100

University of Minnesota students, who were "asked to choose

the 'most' and 'least' responsible members in their

particular group, and were urged to ignore such

considerations as friendliness, popularity, etc." (p. 73).

Further, students were asked to consider the responsible








person as "one who shows a ready willingness to accept the

consequences of his own behavior, dependability,

trustworthiness, and a sense of obligation to the group" (p.

74). University students were asked to name the ten most and

ten least responsible members in their group. Students

reported little difficulty in making the ratings and felt

that the task was meaningful. These attitudes in combination

with the widespread agreement in ratings lead the authors to

conclude that responsibility is a dimension which people can

reliably use in judging the behavior of others.

Gough, McClosky and Meehl (1952) then administered a

questionnaire to the high and low responsibility groups, and

using an item analysis retained the 56 items (See Appendix B)

that were able to discriminate between the groups. Items

were initially drawn by rational analysis from the MMPI and

from questions developed by the writers. Item review

suggested that the most responsible students tended to be

characterized by: a greater concern for social and moral

issues, a strong sense of justice, an emphasis on carrying

one's own share of burdens and duties, and a greater sense of

trust and confidence in the world in general. Correlations

with scales on the MMPI suggested the more responsible

student tended to have greater academic achievement, to

engage in more extracurricular activities, and to be more

social and socially tolerant. These characteristics are

representative of the standards, values and behaviors







addressed in the societal definition of mental health (Strupp

& Hadley, 1977).

The authors noted that the aim of their study was to

develop a scale which would classify individuals according to

their level of social responsibility, and thus most of their

attention was given to the issue of criterion-related

validity. For the college students the range of scores was

from 29 to 53, with a mean of 40.62, and a standard deviation

of 4.71. The correlation of the total responsibility scale

with group ratings was .50 in the college sample and .59 for

the high school group. Scores on the responsibility scale

had a biserial correlation of .20 with participation in a

voluntary social service system instituted in the sample

group's high school system.

In an analysis of the screening efficiency of the scale,

the Gough et al. (1952) noted that a cutting score of 38

correctly classified 78 percent of the college sample. In

addition, the MMPI items were studied as a separate scale and

were found to have a .84 correlation with the total scale for

the college students. Split-half reliability on the scale

was .73, but this reliability information was available for

the ninth-grade sample only. The authors concluded that the

scale has sufficient reliability for group use and

interpretation. In the current study, the total score on the

Social Responsibility Scale was used as a measure of the

level of social responsibility.







Social anxiety. Scales which have purported to measure

the construct of social anxiety (Dixon, deMonchaux, &

Sandler, 1957; Sears, 1967) have manifested a number of

difficulties in their construction. These potential measures

of the construct have evidenced either too few items, poor

reliability, or no attention to construct validity. The

notable exception to this trend is the Social Avoidance and

Distress Scale (SAD) developed by Watson and Friend (1969).

The SAD scale represents a marked improvement over other

measures of the construct of social anxiety in that it

controls for social desirability and response set, addresses

anxiety specific to social situations, and measures both the

subjective experience of anxiety as well as the behavioral

response of avoidance.

Watson and Friend (1969) developed the SAD scale to

measure both anxiety in and avoidance of social interactions.

For the authors, "social avoidance was defined as avoiding

being with, talking to, or escaping from others for any

reason. Both actual avoidance and the desire for avoidance

were included" (p. 449). In addition, "social distress was

defined as the reported experience of a negative emotion,

such as being upset, distressed, tense, or anxious in social

interactions" (p. 449).

In the development of the scale, 145 items were

initially selected by rational analysis, and the items were

administered to 297 undergraduates. Empirical analyses were

performed to increase scale homogeneity and discriminant








validity, to reduce the likelihood of response acquiescence,

and to reduce the effects of a social desirability response

set. These analyses left 28 final items for the SAD scale

(See Appendix C).

KR-20 reliability for the SAD scale was .94 and there

was a -.25 correlation between the SAD scale and a measure of

social desirability. The distribution of the SAD scale was

skewed. The modal score was zero, the mean was 9.11, the

median was 7, and the standard deviation was 8.01. A

significant difference was found between the sexes: the mean

for males was 11.20 and for females the mean was 8.24. Thus,

males reported more social avoidance and distress than

females. Two measures of test-retest reliabilities for a

one-month period were .68 and .79. The authors concluded the

SAD scale has sufficient reliability.

Watson and Friend (1969) described a number of studies

which reflect on the validity of the SAD scale. The authors

reported that high scorers on the SAD scale were

significantly less likely to be interested in returning for

another part of the experiment and were more likely to choose

to write essay rather than interact in a group. In addition,

high scorers on the SAD scale reported being more worried and

uneasy, as well as less calm and confident in a group

discussion indicators of social distress. In another

study, high scorers on the SAD scale reported talking to

others significantly less than low scorers. Finally, the

authors concluded that a measure of social avoidance should








correlate negatively with affiliation, and they did find that

the SAD scale correlated negatively (-.76) with a measure of

affiliation.

The authors concluded that the high SAD person tends to

avoid social interactions, is isolated and often fearful, and

in the extreme may have a more schizoid style. In that

"distressful social relationships may be one powerful

determinant of psychopathology" (Watson & Friend, 1969, p.

448), the SAD scale provides a measure not only of

interpersonal style, but also of the potential for other

forms of pathology that fall under the societal definition of

mental health. In the current study, the total score on the

SAD scale was used as a measure of the level of social

anxiety and avoidance.

Mental Health Structural

Barron's (1953) Ego Strength Scale and the Thomas-Zander

Ego Strength Scale (Zander & Thomas, 1960) are the

instruments most commonly used to measure the construct of

ego strength, and the Thomas-Zander version offers a number

of advantages over the original scale developed by Barron

(Crandall, 1973). The Thomas-Zander Ego Strength Scale

essentially represents a more refined version of Barron's

scale, demonstrating greater evidence for reliability and

validity, and manifesting no bias against religious beliefs.

Consequently, the current study used the Thomas-Zander scale

to measure the construct of ego strength.







Zander and Thomas (1960) have conceptualized ego

strength as having two parts. "First is a person's ability

to be self-directing and to translate intentions consistently

into behavior (i.e. executive ability). Second is the

ability to control and discharge tension without disrupting

other psychological processes (i.e. tension control)"

(Crandall, 1973, p. 132). The authors' first attempt to

measure ego strength involved the coding of open-ended self-

referent statements. The final form consists of 27 items,

answered true or false, which were selected from a larger

pool of 48 items (See Appendix D). Twenty of the items

reflect both executive ability and tension control, as well

as more general ego functions. Seven of the items form a

Guttman scale thought to reflect executive ability as well as

tension control. The primary groups sampled to date include

adults, mental patients and military men, and at least one

study has provided some construct validity for the scale

using college undergraduates (Sadowski, Woodward, Davis, &

Elsbury, 1983), where a significant positive relationship was

found between ego strength and internal locus of control.

Crandall (1973) has further summarized some of the

studies on validity for the Thomas-Zander Ego Strength Scale

noting a correlation of -.65 between the combined 27-item

scale and a manifest anxiety scale. In addition, a median

correlation in the .20's has been reported between the ego

strength scale and the Tennessee esteem scale total score.

Crandall has noted that the Thomas-Zander version of the Ego








Strength scale is a demonstrated improvement upon Barron's

version of the scale. The Thomas-Zander version correlated

.72 with an unpublished open-ended ego-strength scale, while

the Barron version correlated only .37 with that scale.

Crandall reports that ego strength has predicted several

behavioral variables, but perhaps one of the most relevant

variables for the current study has been status of

inpatients. The Thomas-Zander scale "obtained a significant

difference in scores of patients in open versus closed wards

not obtainable with the longer [Barron] scale" (p. 130).

Crandall (1973) has also summarized the reliability

studies on the scale, noting that the 20-item and the 7-item

scales correlated .50. In addition, there was a median item-

total scale correlation in the .40's for all 27 items. Test-

retest reliability for the 20 items was .81 and .72 for the

seven items over one week for 541 men. In the current study

the total score on the Thomas-Zander Ego Strength Scale was

used as a measure of the level of ego structure.

Mental Health Individual/Subjective

A variety of scales have been developed to measure self-

acceptance or the self-acceptance aspect of self-esteem

(Crandall, 1973). Rosenberg's (1965) Self-Esteem Scale, for

example, was designed to measure the self acceptance aspect

of self-esteem in high school students. In addition, the

Coopersmith (1967) Self-Esteem Inventory was designed to

measure evaluative attitudes toward the self in children.








The Berger Self-Acceptance Scale (1952), however,

exhibits a number of advantages over these other scales as a

unidimensional measure of the construct of self-acceptance.

For example, the Berger scale was developed with college

students, and also manifests a higher degree of reliability

and convergent validity than the shorter Rosenberg (1965)

self-esteem scale. In addition the Coopersmith (1967) scale

has manifested a more ambiguous four-factor structure with

low inter-item correlations, and in comparison to the Berger

scale, has manifested somewhat lower convergent validity

indices with other measures of self-esteem and self-

acceptance. Consequently, for this study, Berger's scale was

determined to be the most appropriate measure of the

construct of self-acceptance.

In the development of the Self-Acceptance Scale, Berger

(1952) began with 47 self-referent items which were selected

using a definition of self-acceptance based on the work of

Scheerer (1949). Items were answered on a five-point scale,

from not at all true to completely true. A preliminary scale

was administered to 200 undergraduate psychology and

sociology students at the University of Pittsburgh. The 36

items that were retained in the final scale (See Appendix E)

best discriminated between those who scored in the top 25

percent and those who scored in the bottom 25 percent of the

scale. The final items were approximately balanced for

response acquiescence.








The Berger scale has been used with adults, college

students, prisoners, stutterers and others. Spearman-Brown

estimates of reliability ranged from .75 to .89. Crandall

(1973) has reported a correlation of .91 for a sample of

Berger items administered before and after an experiment.

Evidence for the validity of the scale may be found in a

number of studies. Omwake (1954) found a correlation of .73

between the Berger (1952) scale and the Phillips (1951)

scale, another measure of self-acceptance. Crandall (1973)

concluded that there is some evidence for the discriminant

validity of the Berger scale.

Berger (1952) has also reported a correlation of .90

between scores on the scale and judges' ratings of a free-

response paragraph description of the subjects' attitudes

toward themselves. In addition, Berger found some

significant group differences in self-acceptance which lend

support to the scale's validity. Berger has concluded that

the scale manifests satisfactory reliability and both Berger

and Crandall (1973) have noted that the scale demonstrates

some good evidence for its validity. In the current study,

the total score on the self-acceptance scale was used as a

measure of mental health from the individual's own

perspective.

Procedure

Participants were seated in the lecture halls of a

Personal Growth (PCO 2714) course and a Personality (PPE








3004) course during regular class periods. Participants were

administered all of the instruments simultaneously; the

instruments were numbered in series to facilitate responding

on a computer scan sheet. Participants received and

responded to the instruments in six different orders, the

order being determined by an incomplete counterbalanced

design.

Analyses

Hypotheses were tested using the following analyses.

Using Hood's (1975) Mysticism Scale as a continuous measure

of mystical experience:

1) A Pearson product-moment correlation (Huck, Cormier,

& Bounds, 1974, p.31) was used to determine the relationship

between mystical experience and social avoidance and

distress.

2) A Pearson product-moment correlation was used to

determine the relationship between mystical experience and

social responsibility.

3) A Pearson product-moment correlation was used to

determine the relationship between mystical experience and

ego strength.

4) A Pearson product-moment correlation was used to

determine the relationship between mystical experience and

self-acceptance.








5) A multiple regression analysis was used to determine

if a combination of the mental health measures would predict

the report of mystical experience.

Using Greeley's (1974) question as a dichotomous measure

of mystical experience:

6) A biserial correlation (Huck, Cormier, & Bounds,

1974, p. 35) was used to determine the relationship between

mystical experience and social avoidance and distress.

7) A biserial correlation was used to determine the

relationship between mystical experience and social

responsibility.

8) A biserial correlation was used to determine the

relationship between mystical experience and ego strength.

9) A biserial correlation was used to determine the

relationship between mystical experience and self-acceptance.

10) A discriminant function analysis was used to

determine if a combination of the mental health measures

would predict the report of mystical experience.

Further analyses were also performed to examine the

relationships among the measures of mental health, mystical

experience, gender and age.











CHAPTER 3
RESULTS

Descriptive Statistics

Descriptive statistics were calculated for each of the

variables used in the study: 1) Hood's measure of mystical

experience (MEH), 2) Greeley's question on mystical

experience (MEG), 3) social responsibility (SR), 4) social

avoidance and distress (SAD), 5) ego strength (ES), and 6)

self-acceptance (SA). The results appear in Table 1.


Table 1
Descriptive Statistics for the Measures of Mystical
Experience and Mental Health

Variable Mean SD Range


MEH 103.60 26.95 35-160

MEG 64.2% said "no"
35.8% said "yes"

SR 35.79 5.69 13-53

SAD 7.86 6.05 1-26

ES 13.98 4.57 5-31

SA 137.47 21.36 74-175

MEH = mystical experience (Hood), MEG = mystical experience
(Greeley), SR = social responsibility, SAD = social avoidance
and distress, ES = ego strength, SA = self-acceptance


Descriptive statistics of responses on Hood's measure of

mystical experience are very similar to statistics reported








in other studies using Hood's scale (Hood, 1975; Spanos &

Morretti, 1988).

Greeley's (1974) question was: "Have you ever felt as

though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force

that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" Approximately 36%

of the participants responded affirmatively to the question,

a result consistent with responses reported by other

researchers who have used the same question (Greeley, 1978;

Hay & Morisy, 1978). In addition, descriptive statistics of

participants' scores on the four measures of mental health in

this study were similar to scores on those same measures

reported in other studies (Berger, 1952); Gough, McClosky, &

Meehl, 1952); Sadowski, Woodward, Davis, & Elsbury, 1983);

Watson & Friend, 1969). In summary, the sample of students

in this study appeared to be similar to other samples of

students with regard to their responses on the scales used in

this study.

Hypotheses

A correlation matrix depicting the relationships among

the variables used in this study appears in Table 2. The

results that address the ten major null hypotheses of the

study will be reviewed first.

For hypotheses one through five Hood's (1975) Mysticism

Scale was used as a continuous measure of mystical

experience. Hypothesis one predicted there would be no

significant relationship between mystical experience and







Table 2
Pearson Correlations Among the Measures of Mystical
Experience and the Measures of Mental Health

MEH MEG SR SAD ES SA


MEH --- .51*** -.06 -.25** .24* .16

MEG --- -.02 -.05 .15 .19*

SR --- -.11 .26** .08

SAD --- -.31** -.55***

ES --- .46***

SA ---

MEH = mystical experience (Hood), MEG = mystical experience
(Greeley), SR = social responsibility, SAD = social avoidance
and distress, ES = ego strength, SA = self-acceptance
*p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.0001


social avoidance and distress. In this case the null

hypothesis was rejected. A significant relationship (r =

.25, p < .01) was found between mystical experience and

social avoidance and distress. That is, as mystical

experience increased, the level of social avoidance and

distress decreased.

Hypothesis two predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and social

responsibility. In this case the null hypothesis was not

rejected. No significant relationship (r = -.06, p > .05)

was found between mystical experience and social

responsibility.

Hypothesis three predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and ego strength.








In this case the null hypothesis was rejected. A significant

relationship (r = .24, D < .05) was found between mystical

experience and ego strength. That is, as mystical experience

increased, level of ego strength increased.

Hypothesis four predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and self-acceptance.

In this case the null hypothesis was not rejected. No

significant relationship (r = .16, p > .05) was found between

mystical experience and self-acceptance.

Hypothesis five predicted that a combination of the

mental health measures would not predict the report of

mystical experience. In this case the null hypothesis was

rejected. When the four measures of mental health were

entered into a simultaneous multiple regression equation, two

predicted unique variability in mystical experience. Ego

strength (F [1,105] = 4.58, p < .05) and social avoidance and

distress (F [1,105] = -4.04, p < .05) significantly accounted

for independent variance in the regression equation, yielding

a multiple R of .30 (p < .05). That is, as ego strength

increased and social avoidance and distress decreased,

mystical experience increased.

For hypotheses six through ten, Greeley's (1974)

question was used as a dichotomous measure of mystical

experience. Hypothesis six predicted there would be no

significant relationship between mystical experience and

social avoidance and distress. In this case the null

hypothesis was not rejected. No significant relationship (r








= .05, p > .05) was found between mystical experience and

social avoidance and distress.

Hypothesis seven predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and social

responsibility. In this case the null hypothesis was not

rejected. No significant relationship (r = .02, p >.05) was

found between mystical experience and social responsibility.

Hypothesis eight predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and ego strength.

In this case the null hypothesis was rejected. A significant

relationship (r = -.15, P < .05) was found between mystical

experience and ego strength. That is, the report of mystical

experience was associated with higher levels of ego strength.

Hypothesis nine predicted there would be no significant

relationship between mystical experience and self-acceptance.

In this case the null hypothesis was rejected. A significant

relationship (r = .19, p < .05) was found between mystical

experience and self-acceptance. That is, the report of

mystical experience was associated with higher levels of

self-acceptance.

Hypothesis ten predicted that a combination of the

mental health measures would not predict the report of

mystical experience. In this case the null hypothesis was

not rejected. The discriminant function equation using the

four measures of mental health did not significantly (F =

1.31 [4,105], p > .05) predict mystical experience.







Further Analyses

Although the sample size of this study was too small to

allow for any strong conclusions regarding the factor

structure of Hood's M-Scale, a principal components factor

analysis (Varimax rotation) of the scale failed to replicate

the two-factor structure reported in Hood (1975). Hood used

this same procedure in his validation study, at which time he

selected two factors which appeared to have the most

conceptual meaningfulness. In rotating among two factors in

the current study, 19 of the 32 items loaded at .3 or above

on both factors. Of the remaining 13 items, only 9 loaded in

the direction indicated by Hood in his original validation

study. In addition, in the current study a scree plot showed

the presence of one general factor accounting for the

variability among items, and as noted, a two factor rotation

did not approximate simple structure. Consequently, in the

current study the report of mystical experience via Hood's

scale was based on the total score on that scale.

Further analyses were performed to examine the

relationship among the measures of mental health, mystical

experience, gender and age. Not surprisingly, the report of

mystical experience on Greeley's question correlated

significantly (. = .51, p < .0001) with the report of

mystical experience on Hood's scale. Biserial correlations

between individual items on Hood's scale and responses to

Greeley's question appear in Table 3. As may be seen,

Greeley's question correlated significantly with all but four




67



items on Hood's scale. Also included in Table 3 is a

correlation matrix depicting the relationships between

individual items of Hood's scale and total scores on the

mental health measures.


Table 3
Correlations between Hood items, Greeley's question, and
total scores on the four measures of mental health

Hood
Item # MEG SR SAD ES SA
1 .36*** -.12 -.10 .05 .10
2 .28** -.09 -.14 .14 .18
3 .54*** -.07 -.14 .08 .07
4 .35*** -.17 -.10 .09 .05
5 .14 -.08 -.07 .04 .81
6 .31** -.12 -.09 .07 .01
7 .17 .03 -.07 .11 .02
8 .26** -.10 -.19* .21* .16
9 .38*** -.16 -.16 .03 .01
10 .23* .01 -.24** .20* .07
11 .32*** .03 -.12 .16 .12
12 .45*** -.06 -.22* .15 .15
13 .41*** -.03 -.16 .04 .03
14 .37*** -.11 -.29** .10 .07
15 .28** -.09 -.09 .15 .12
16 .28** .03 -.13 .29* .08
17 .43*** -.06 -.11 .27* .10
18 .09 .01 -.10 .09 .04
19 .38*** .02 -.13 .24* .18
20 .26** -.18 -.21* -.04 .01
21 .15 .02 -.10 .21* .13
22 .24* -.07 -.06 -.04 .14
23 .20* .05 -.31** -.04 .10
24 .25* -.11 -.04 .21* .04
25 .38*** -.03 -.04 .10 .02
26 .41*** -.06 -.13 .24** .13
27 .34*** -.03 -.19* .22* .17
28 .39*** .02 -.23* .27** .23*
29 .20* .07 -.26** .22* .17
30 .37*** -.05 -.17 .32*** .19*
31 .37*** .19* -.23* .08 .07
32 .20* -.02 -.23* .16 .08

MEG = mystical experience (Greeley), SR = social
responsibility, SAD = social avoidance and distress,
ES = ego strength, SA = self-acceptance
*j<.05, **p<.01, ***2<.001








Further analyses revealed that sex had no relationship

to the report of mystical experience on either the Hood scale

(r = .10, p > .05) or the Greeley question (r = .04, p >

.05). However, a significant relationship was found between

sex and social avoidance and distress (r = .24, p < .05),

with males reporting higher levels of social avoidance and

distress than females. In addition, a significant

relationship was found between sex and social responsibility

(r = .21, p < .05), with females reporting higher levels of

social responsibility than males.

A significant positive relationship was found between

age and the report of mystical experience on Hood's scale (r

= .19, p < .05), but no relationship was found between age

and the report of mystical experience via Greeley's question

(r = .12, p > .05). No significant relationships were found

between age and any of the four measures of mental health.

In summary, using Hood's (1975) scale, mystical

experience was found to increase with the ego strength and

age of the respondent. Also, mystical experience was found

to increase as social avoidance and distress decreased.

Using Greeley's (1974) question, mystical experience was

found to increase with the ego strength and self-acceptance

of the respondent. No relationship was found between

mystical experience and either social responsibility or sex

of the respondent, whether Hood's scale or Greeley's question

was used as a measure of mystical experience.











CHAPTER 5
DISCUSSION

The purpose of the current study was to examine the

relationship between mystical experience and mental health

using a tripartite definition (societal, structural,

individual) of mental health first elaborated by Strupp and

Hadley (1977). Assessments from the three perspectives

included measures of social behavior (social responsibility,

social avoidance and distress), personality structure (ego

strength), and subjective well-being (self-acceptance).

The study was designed to address a number of

problematic issues historically seen in research which has

examined the relationship between mystical experience and

mental health. The problems have been: 1) definitions and

measures of mystical experience have been inconsistent or

unclear, 2) only one mental health perspective has typically

been used in a given study, and 3) measures of mental health

have tended to exclude the structural and individual

perspectives. This study was designed to assess the mental

health of mystical experiments simultaneously from the three

perspectives to yield a more comprehensive picture and

possibly clarify some of the inconsistencies in the

literature. In addition, the report of mystical experience

was assessed using two different methods that have gained the








reputation of being the instrumentation of choice in this

field of research (Lukoff & Lu, 1988).

Measures of Mystical Experience

In the current study, Hood's (1975) measure of mystical

experience was assumed to be a more valid and reliable

measure of mystical experience than the Greeley (1974)

question. Hood's scale not only has operational definitions

that are based in a theory of mystical experience (Stace,

1960), but the scale has both a greater number of items and

the items sample a wider range of phenomenology thought to be

representative of the mystical experience. Further,

subsequent research has offered empirical support for the

construct validity of Hood's scale.

Greeley's (1974) question was utilized as a secondary

measure of mystical experience for several reasons. The

question was used primarily because it has been viewed as one

of the two measures (the other being Hood's scale) that has

served as the more or less agreed-upon instrumentation in

this field of research (Lukoff & Lu, 1988). Further, given

that Greeley's question and Hood's scale have both been

commonly used to measure the construct of mystical

experience, it was thought to be important to determine the

degree of agreement between the two measures. Such a

correlation would be useful in establishing a nomological

network, and consequently, in establishing the construct

validity of the two measures.








In the current study a significant positive correlation

(r = .51, P < .0001) was found between the report of mystical

experience on Hood's (1975) M-Scale and on Greeley's (1974)

question. This correlation suggests that the two measures

may be sampling related domains of experience, and

consequently lends some support to the construct validity of

the two measures. Further, whereas a very high correlation

would have suggested the two may be in a fact measuring the

same phenomenon, the moderate correlation discovered here

suggests that the two instruments may not be measuring

precisely the same phenomenon.

The results of the study will be reviewed in light of

research that has suggested Hood's scale has greater

reliability and validity. Multi-item measures are preferable

to single-item measures in that multiple items lead to

greater reliability and validity. Consequently, conclusions

drawn using Hood's scale as a measure of mystical experience

will be given greater weight. However, results that involve

Greeley's question will be reviewed with the understanding

that samples have repeatedly answered that question in a

similar fashion, which suggests that the Greeley question

appears to be reliably measuring some subjective experience.

The question Greeley (1974) and others have used to

assess the presence of a mystical experience is: "Have your

ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful,

spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" As

noted earlier, approximately 36% of the participants in the







current study responded affirmatively to the question. This

result is consistent with Greeley's (1978) survey of a

representative sample of Americans wherein 35% of the

respondents answered the same question affirmatively. In Hay

and Morisy's (1978) survey of a representative sample of

persons in Great Britain, 36.4% responded affirmatively to

Greeley's question.

Biserial correlations were calculated between

Greeley's question and each question on Hood's (1975) scale

to determine areas of overlap in the measures. Greeley's

question correlated significantly with all but four items on

Hood's scale (Table 3). Three of these items (75%) were of

the four items that cluster under the positive affect cluster

of Hood's conceptualization. These results are consistent

with the conclusions of a number of writers (Hood, 1975;

Mathes, Zevon, Roter, & Joerger, 1982; Spanos & Moretti,

1988) who have argued that not all mystical experience is

positive. In addition, these results may suggest that while

Hood's scale tends to address mystical experience as a more

positive experience, Greeley's question may elicit

experiences that are mystical in nature, but not necessarily

characterized by positive affect.

The lack of correlation between the positive affect

questions on Hood's scale and Greeley's question might, in

theory, suggest there is a bias toward positive experience in

Hood's scale. Consequently, there might be a bias that would

lead to a positive relationship between Hood's measure of








mystical experience and mental health. However, a review of

the correlations between total scores on the measures of

mental health and the positive affect questions (questions 5,

7, 18, and 25) on Hood's scale revealed no significant

correlations. In fact, the item clusters on Hood's scale

that had the most correlations with the measures of mental

health were the inner subjectivity cluster (questions 8, 10,

29, and 31), unifying quality cluster (questions 12, 19, 28,

and 30), and noetic quality cluster (questions 13, 16, 17,

and 26). For clarification see Table 3 and Appendix A. That

is, these are phenomenological aspects of the mystical

experience that have the highest correlation with the

measures of mental health used in this study.

In summary, Hood's scale and Greeley's question appear

to be measuring related, but not identical, experiences. One

possible interpretation is that Greeley's question taps into

a variety of experiences, some of which may or may not be

mystical in nature. Further, Greeley's question appears to

be measuring some aspect of the experience that is not

necessarily positive in nature. Finally, though Hood's scale

may have a bias toward mystical experiences characterized by

positive affect, this bias did not appear to be the source of

the significant correlations between Hood's scale and the

measures of mental health.








Societal View of Mental Health

As noted earlier, many writers have speculated on

various possible aspects of the relationship between mystical

experience and societal definitions of mental health. In

this study, two representative measures from the the societal

view of mental health were used to test some of the

traditional assumptions about the mental health of the

mystical experiment. Since there has been some difficulty in

isolating stable clinical pathological correlates of mystical

experience (Hood, Hall, Watson, & Biderman, 1979) assessments

of socially adaptive and interpersonal behavior were chosen

to provide indicators of mental health from the societal

perspective.

Given that traditional theorists have often assumed

high levels of social-interpersonal anxiety drive the

mystical experiment into escapist or avoidant behaviors, the

study used a widely-accepted measure of social anxiety and

avoidance developed by Watson and Friend (1969). In

addition, a measure of social responsibility developed by

Gough, McClosky and Meehl (1952) was used to address

traditional assumptions about the mystical experiment's social

adjustment, social integration and adherence to standards of

sanctioned conduct.

Social avoidance and distress. As noted in the

literature review, the Committee on Psychiatry and Religion

(1976) has suggested that mystical experiments manifest higher








than average levels of social-interpersonal anxiety and tend

to withdraw from interpersonal relations. This assumption

does not appear to be supported by the results of the present

study.

The social avoidance and distress (SAD) scale developed

by Watson and Friend (1969) was designed to measure both

anxiety in and avoidance of social interactions. As noted

earlier, "social avoidance was defined as avoiding being

with, talking to, or escaping from others for any reason.

Both actual avoidance and the desire for avoidance were

included" (p. 449). Also, "social distress was defined as

the reported experience of a negative emotion, such as being

upset, distressed, tense, or anxious in social interactions"

(p. 449). High scorers on the SAD scale tended to be more

worried and uneasy, as well as less calm and confident in a

group discussion. In addition high scorers tended to avoid

social interactions, were more isolated and fearful, were

less likely to interact with others, and tended to have lower

levels of affiliation.

The significant negative correlation (r = -.24, p < .01)

found between mystical experience (Hood's scale) and social

avoidance and distress suggests that, contrary to traditional

assumptions, the report of mystical experience tends to be

associated with less social avoidance and distress. That is,

mystical experiments appear to be less likely to isolate and

avoid social interactions and are less likely to be worried

or anxious when they are interacting with others.








Interpretations of these findings include: a) mystical

experiments tend to be characterologically less socially

avoidant and anxious to begin with, and/or b) mystical

experience actually decreases the experiments' social anxiety

and avoidance. Since the SAD scale measures socially

avoidant behaviors as well as subjective anxiety, the results

would appear to indicate mystical experiments tend not only to

feel less socially anxious, but to engage in less social

avoidance. However, an inspection of the SAD scale items

that had significant correlations with the total score on

Hood's scale suggests that the social distress items had the

greatest weight in determining the significant relationship.

Consequently, there is strong support for the conclusion that

mystical experiments tend to manifest less social anxiety, and

there is some limited support for the conclusion that

mystical experiments tend to manifest less social avoidance.

Though it is clear that mystical experiments in this sample

tended to manifest less social anxiety and possibly less

avoidance than nonexperients, a longitudinal study would be

required to determine the actual causal link and

directionality of that link, if in fact a causal link exists.

In contrast, when Greeley's (1974) question was used as

a dichotomous measure of mystical experience, no significant

relationship was found between mystical experience and levels

of social avoidance and distress. As noted earlier, Hood's

scale provides for a wider range of phenomenology in the

mystical experience, has a greater number of items, and








consequently offers a more valid and reliable picture of

mystical experience. Also, Greeley's question may be

measuring a variety of experiences, possibly even mystical

experiences that are not necessarily characterized by

positive affect. Though it is difficult to draw conclusions

about the meaning of results using his question, it may be

concluded that whatever the experience measured by Greeley's

question is, that experience is not related to social

avoidance and anxiety. To summarize the results using both

measures, there is partial support for the conclusion that

mystical experience is negatively related to the levels of

social avoidance and distress.

Social responsibility. As noted in the literature

review, writers from a number of theoretical traditions have

assumed that the mystical experiment tends toward a more

detached, escapist, or socially uninvolved lifestyle

(Committee on Psychiatry and Religion, 1976; Ellis, 1989;

Freud, 1961, 1964; Schneider, 1987). Further, these writers

have often assumed that higher levels of social anxiety,

coupled with a more passive attentional style lead the mystic

to manifest a reduced involvement with, or generally poor

integration into, larger society. The previous section has

already called into question assumptions about the mystical

experiment's level of social anxiety and avoidance. To test

the assumptions about the mystical experiment's social

integration, a measure of social responsibility was chosen to

assess the mystical experiment's adherence to society's role








expectations and codes of normative social behavior (Strupp &

Hadley, 1977).

As noted earlier, Gough, McClosky, and Meehl (1952)

determined through item review that the socially responsible

student tended to: show a greater concern for social and

moral issues, have a strong sense of justice, emphasized

carrying one's own share of burdens and duties, and

demonstrated a greater sense of trust and confidence in the

world in general. In addition, correlations with scales on

the MMPI suggested the more responsible student tended to

have greater academic achievement, to engage in more

extracurricular activities, and to be more social and

socially tolerant.

In the present study no significant relationship was

found between the report of mystical experience on Hood's

scale and level of social responsibility. In this case, the

results using Greeley's (1974) question were consistent with

the results using Hood's scale. That is, no significant

relationship was found between the report of mystical

experience and level of social responsibility. Consequently,

there is consistent support for the conclusion that mystical

experience appears to be unrelated to degree of adherence to

society's role expectations or codes of normative social

behavior. Stated in another manner, the mystical experiment

is neither more nor less likely to manifest the socially

responsible behaviors described above.








A summary of the results from the social perspective on

mental health suggests that the mystical experiment tends to

manifest lower levels of social avoidance and distress, but

is just as likely as not to engage in socially responsible

behaviors. Thus, though mystical experiments may tend to be

characterized by lower levels of socially anxiety and social

isolation, they still may or may not behave in a way

consistent with societal expectations. This finding is

consistent with Schneider's (1987) observation that mystics

are not necessarily moral people, and that in fact, mystics

may be just as opportunistic and manipulative as nonmystics.

This finding is also consistent with the assertions of a

number of writers (Koltko, 1989; Wilber, Engler, & Brown,

1986) who have noted that the relationship between

transpersonal development and personal morality is complex.

These writers have argued that it is naive to assume that

because a person has mystical experiences, that person will

necessarily adhere to socially normative or socially

acceptable behavior.

These findings are also consistent with the research of

Spanos and Morretti (1988) who have found that mystical

experiences "occur as frequently among those who are

psychologically stable as among those who tend to be

distraught and troubled" (p. 113). Another way of

interpreting these findings, then, is that mystical

experiences are as likely to be reported by those who are

socially responsible as by those who are not.








Structural View of Mental Health

As noted in the literature review, traditional theorists

have assumed that the apparent phenomenological similarities

between mystical experience and various forms of structural

pathology implied an equivalence of the two experiences. For

example, such phenomena as the loss of a sense of self and

feelings of unity in the mystical experience are assumed to

be equivalent to certain phenomena experienced in psychotic,

borderline, and narcissistic pathologies (Engler, 1981;

Epstein, 1989; Lukoff, 1985). That is, for many theorists,

the mystical experiment by definition manifests lower levels

of psychostructural development, and concomitantly poor

reality adaptation, perception and mastery (Committee, 1976;

Epstein, 1989; Freud, 1961, 1964).

As noted earlier, Strupp and Hadley (1977) indicated

that appropriate measures of mental health from the

structural perspective would address the ego structures and

functions (Blanck & Blanck, 1974; Kernberg, 1976) and would

include assessments of the individual's personal adequacy and

their ability to balance psychic forces, to cope with

reality, and to self-regulate. It was argued that an

assessment of ego strength would provide one of the broadest

measures of personality structure in that the concept

encompasses a wide variety of ego structures and functions

(Lake, 1985). Consequently, a measure of ego strength

(Zander & Thomas, 1960) was used to provide a broad








assessment of the personality structure of the mystical

experiment. As noted earlier, the Thomas-Zander Ego Strength

Scale (Zander and Thomas, 1960) essentially represents a more

refined version of Barron's Ego Strength (1953) scale.

In general, qualities attributed to higher levels of ego

strength include: personal competence, personal adequacy,

reality perception and mastery and the ability to influence

the environment (Barron, 1953; Lake, 1985). In addition,

Zander and Thomas (1960) have conceptualized ego strength as

being characterized by "the ability to be self-directing and

to translate intentions consistently into behavior... [as well

as] the ability to control and discharge tension without

disrupting other psychological processes" (p. 132), and

research has found ego strength to be related to internal

locus of control. Given some of the traditional assumptions

about the personal inadequacy, poor reality perception and

mastery, and regressiveness of the mystical experiment, one

would assume the typical experiment manifests lower levels of

ego strength.

The significant positive correlation (r = .24, P < .05)

found between mystical experience (Hood's scale) and ego

strength suggests that, contrary to traditional assumptions,

the report of mystical experiences tends to be associated

with higher levels of ego strength. Alternatively, it may be

said that those who manifest higher levels of ego strength

are more likely to have mystical experiences. Consequently,

results suggest that those reporting mystical experience tend








to be characterized by greater ability to be self-directing,

to translate intentions into behavior, and to control and

discharge tension without disrupting other psychological

processes. In addition those reporting mystical experiences

are likely characterized by a greater sense of personal

adequacy, a greater ability to perceive, cope with, and

master reality, a greater ability to self-regulate, and a

greater ability to influence the environment.

These findings are consistent with literature suggesting

that an intact ego is required for the experience of union to

be properly labeled mystical, or as Engler (1981) has noted,

"You have to be somebody before you can be nobody" (p. 31).

Epstein (1988) has supported Engler in arguing that only a

person with a strong ego is able to integrate in a healthy

manner an experience in which the sense of self is lost.

Wilber's (1983) explication of the pre/trans fallacy may

be relevant to these findings. Wilber has argued that it is

a logical error to assume that mystical experience and

disorders involving structural pathology are equivalent

simply because the two appear to share common features. In

fact, a number of writers (Engler, 1981; Epstein, 1989;

Wilber, 1983) have argued that mystical experience involves a

developmentally higher phenomenon than the phenomena

associated with structural pathology, and that the

determining factor is the individual's level of

psychostructural development. The results of the current

study suggest that the subjective phenomenological








experiences of persons characterized by lower levels of ego

structure (e.g. borderline self-object fusion) may not be

equivalent to the phenomenological experiences that

characterize mystical states (e.g. ego loss in mystical

union).

In contrast to the results using Hood's scale, when

Greeley's (1974) question was used as a measure of mystical

experience no significant relationship was found between

mystical experience and ego strength. The limitations of

Greeley's question as a measure have already been described.

Again, it may be concluded that whatever experience is

measured by Greeley's question, that experience is not

related to ego strength. Regardless, based on the results of

the current study there is partial support for the conclusion

that mystical experience is positively related to ego

strength.

In summary, the traditional assumptions regarding the

personal inadequacy, poor reality perception and mastery, and

general regressiveness of the mystical experiment are not

supported by this study. In fact, the reverse appears to be

true; the mystical experiment tends to manifest higher levels

of ego strength. Many different assessments of personality

structure could have been chosen for this study, but a broad

assessment was used. Consequently, the structural

perspective on the mental health of the mystical experiment

can continue to be a fertile area for research. This is

particularly true given the rich body of literature appearing








in the field of developmental transpersonal psychology.

Further directions could include emphasis on greater clarity

of definitions, attention to specific ego functions, and

different experimental designs.

Individual View of Mental Health

As noted earlier, writers who have assumed that mystical

experience is regressive have had concerns that relate

specifically to this third the subjective definition of

mental health. That is, theorists have typically assumed

that the strong positive feelings often present during the

mystical experience offer the experiment an alternative to the

anxiety of reality demands. As noted earlier, the importance

of making a multifactorial assessment of mental health

becomes most apparent in this third area. That is, writers

have had concerns that mystical experiments may feel good, but

may not have a healthy personality structure or be able to

interact with society in a healthy manner.

Strupp and Hadley (1977) have noted that subjective

perceptions of self-acceptance provide a good measure of

mental health from the individual's own perspective.

Consequently, in this study a measure of self-acceptance

(Berger, 1952) was used to assess the mystical experiment's

subjective sense of well-being.

In the present study no significant relationship was

found between mystical experience (Hood's scale) and self-

acceptance. That is, mystical experience appears to be








unrelated to degree of subjective well-being as measured by

levels of self-acceptance. Alternatively, it may be said

that those reporting higher levels of mystical experience are

neither more nor less likely to be self-accepting than those

reporting lower levels of mystical experience.

As noted earlier, research on the relationship between

subjective definitions of mental health and mystical

experience has been both limited and equivocal. However, the

results of this study are consistent with the results of

Spanos and Moretti (1988), who also used Hood's (1975) scale

as a measure of mystical experience. Spanos and Moretti

found that mystical experience failed to correlate

significantly with a measure of self-esteem, another

construct Strupp and Hadley (1977) have indicated is

reflective of subjective well-being.

These results are also inconsistent with the assumptions

of traditional theorists, who have argued that the positive

feelings associated with the mystical experience offer an

escape from the demands and anxieties of interpersonal

relatedness. The results of this study suggest that the

mystical experiment, in fact, tends to be less socially

anxious and avoidant than the non-experient. Simultaneously,

the mystical experiment tends to be neither more nor less

self-accepting than the non-experient in the context of those

social interactions. This is a conclusion that could only be

drawn from a study that utilized a multifactorial definition

of mental health.








When Greeley's (1974) question was used as a measure of

mystical experience, a small but significant positive

relationship (r = .19, P < .05) was found between mystical

experience and self-acceptance. This stands in contrast to

results using Hood's (1975) scale, but is consistent with

previous research that has used Greeley's question. Both Hay

and Morisy (1978) and Greeley (1975), for example, have found

a positive correlation between measures of subjective well-

being and the report of mystical experience. To summarize,

results of this study suggest that if there is a relationship

between mystical experience and self-acceptance, that

relationship tends to be small, but positive.

Further Analyses

As noted earlier, sex was found to have no relationship

to the report of mystical experience on either the Hood scale

or the Greeley question. A significant positive relationship

was found between age and the report of mystical experience

on Hoods's scale (r = .19, p < .05), but no relationship was

found between age and the report of mystical experience via

Greeley's question. It is possible that Hood's scale, having

more questions, had greater reliability in detecting

variations in the report of mystical experience, and

consequently found a relationship that could not be found

with the lower reliability of Greeley's question. Further,

the results on Hood's scale might be theoretically consistent

with the literature on transpersonal developmental psychology








(Wilber, 1983), with the likelihood of mystical experience

increasing as personality structures become sufficiently

developed. An alternative explanation might be that older

individuals have had a longer opportunity to have more such

experiences. Further research could more closely examine the

relationship between the two variable. Regardless of the

possible explanations, the relationship between mystical

experience and age does not appear to be strong.

Finally, inspection of the correlation matrix depicted

in Table 2 reveals moderately strong correlations among the

various measures of mental health. These results are

consistent with Strupp and Hadley's (1977) assertions that

the three views of mental health may agree, but need not

necessarily do so. Further, it might be hypothesized that

the measures are sampling overlapping domains of mental

health. Though there was a significant negative correlation

(r = -.31, p < .01) between ego strength and social avoidance

and distress, the simultaneous regression equation indicated

these two variables contributed significantly and

independently to the regression equation's prediction of

mystical experience (Hood's scale). However, consistent with

the small or statistically nonsignificant correlations

between Greeley's question and each of the four measures of

mental health, a combination of the mental health measures

did not predict the report of mystical experience using

Greeley's question. In summary, there is some limited

support for the conclusion that mystical experience may be








predicted from a combination of structural and social-

interpersonal measures of mental health (ego strength and

social avoidance and distress).

Limitations and Recommendations

This study manifests several limitations. The

population examined was limited to University of Florida

undergraduates who had a mean age of 21.5 years. Descriptive

statistics of this sample's responses to the instruments

suggest they are similar to other samples who have been given

these measures. However, the external validity of this study

is limited by the restricted nature of its sample and the

results may be generalized only to similar samples. Future

studies might include nonstudent samples with a wider range

of ages and educational backgrounds.

Another limitation lies in this study's failure to

replicate the two-factor structure reported by Hood (1975)

for his mystical experience scale. This calls into question

to some degree the validity of breaking Hood's scale into a

measure of two different constructs: core mystical experience

and religious interpretation. Unfortunately this made it

necessary to use the total score on Hood's scale as a measure

of mystical experience in this study. This may ultimately

call into question the construct validity of the measure. If

future researchers use Hood's scale, a larger sample could be

used to address the issue of replication of the scale's

factor structure.








Another issue that warrants addressing is the lack of

correlation between Greeley's question and three of the four

positive affectivity items on Hood's scale. As noted

earlier, a number of writers have argued that positive affect

is not a defining component of mystical experience. The

results of this study suggest that the experiences tapped by

Greeley's question and Hood's scale have much in common, but

positive affect is not necessarily a component of the

experience tapped by Greeley's question. In fact, this

finding has significant implications for refining definitions

of mystical experience. Spanos and Morretti (1988) have

already noted that mystical experience may have either

positive or negative qualities. Further work in

conceptualization and experimental design may clarify this

issue.

Finally, the correlational nature of the study does not

allow for definitive statements about possible causal links

among the variables or about the directionality of such

links. As Lukoff and Lu (1988) have noted, the study of

mystical experience does offer challenges to the researcher

interested in using an experimental design. However, for

research to proceed in this field, experimental designs are

needed, or quasi-experimental designs that use such

techniques as cross-lagged panel analysis. Lukoff and Lu

have argued for the importance of using experimental designs

even in the face of the difficulties inherent in manipulating

the variable of mystical experience.








Conclusions

To summarize, in comparison to their peers, mystical

experiments tend to be less socially anxious and avoidant, are

neither more nor less socially responsible, tend to have

higher ego strength, and may have a slight tendency to be

more accepting of themselves. This picture of the mystical

experiment stands in direct contrast to the images long

portrayed in the traditional literature of psychology and

psychiatry. In no case was there evidence of mystical

experience being negatively related to mental health. That

is, in all cases, mystical experience had either no

relationship or a positive relationship to the various

measures of mental health. This was true whether Hood's

(1975) scale or Greeley's (1974) question was used as a

measure of mystical experience.

As noted earlier, research has indicated there is either

no or a very low correlation between mystical experience and

traditional measures of clinical psychopathology (Hood, Hall,

Watson, & Biderman, 1979; Leach, 1962; Spanos & Moretti,

1988). When measures of interpersonal and social behavior

were used, a similar but somewhat broader picture emerged.

Indeed, level of social responsibility appears to be

unrelated to mystical experience. However, it would appear

that mystical experience is related to lower levels of social

anxiety and avoidance. These results are consistent with the

work of Hood et al. (1979) who argued that persons reporting








mystical experiences have stable and healthy personality

characteristics that can be identified. Hood et al., for

example, found that those reporting mystical experiences

tended to have higher levels of tolerance, broader interests

and were more socially adept than non-experients.

In this study, a tripartite definition of mental health

was used, with measures from each perspective used

simultaneously on the same sample of experiments. Results are

consistent with prior research literature which has suggested

that measures of mental health either tend not to be related

to the report of mystical experience or are positively

related to the report of mystical experience. One of the

most significant findings is what appears to be a positive

relationship between ego strength and mystical experience.

These findings belie traditional arguments that the mystical

experiment by definition manifests poor personality structure.

In addition, this study was designed partially with the

intention of escaping the use of overly narrow definitions of

mental health, or the use of only one definition of mental

health. The use of simultaneous measures has yielded results

that are largely consistent with the previous experimental

literature, and stand in contrast to traditional theory and

assumptions about the mental health of the mystical

experiment.











APPENDIX A
MYSTICISM SCALE, RESEARCH FORM D


The instructions for the scale are as follows:
The attached questionnaire contains brief descriptions
of a number of experiences. Some descriptions refer to
phenomena that you may have experienced while others refer to
phenomena that you may not have experienced. In each case
note the description carefully and then place a mark on the
answer sheet according to how much the description applies to
your own experience. Write +1, +2, or -1, -2, or ? depending
on how you feel in each case.

+1: This description is probably true of my own experience or
experiences.
-1: This description is probably not true of my own
experience or experiences.
+2: This description is definitely true of my own experience
or experiences.
-2: This description is definitely not true of my own
experience or experiences.
?: I cannot decide.

Please mark each item trying to avoid if at all possible
marking any item with a ?. In responding to each item, please
understand that the items may be considered as applying to
one experience or as applying to several different
experiences. After completing the booklet, please be sure
that all items have been marked leave no items unanswered.

(Items are listed under each criterion from which they were
operationalized and numbered according to actual scale
position.)

EGO QUALITY (E): Refers to the experience of loss of sense of
self while consciousness is nevertheless maintained. The loss
of self is commonly experienced as an absorption into
something greater than the mere empirical ego.

3. I have had an experience in which something greater than
myself seemed to absorb me.
4. I have had an experience in which everything seemed to
disappear from my mind until I was conscious only of a
void.
6. I have never had an experience in which I felt myself to
be absorbed as one with all things.







24. I have never had an experience in which my own self
seemed to merge into something greater.

UNIFYING QUALITY (U): Refers to the experience of the
multiplicity of objects of perception as nevertheless united.
Everything is in fact perceived as "One".

12. I have had an experience in which I realized the oneness
of myself with all things.
19. I have had an experience in which I felt everything in
world to be a part of the same whole.
28. I have never had an experience in which I became aware of
a unity to all things.
30. I have never had an experience in which all things seemed
to be unified into a single whole.

INNER SUBJECTIVE QUALITY (Is): Refers to the perception of an
inner subjectivity to all things, even those usually
experienced in purely material forms.

8. I have never had an experience in which I felt as if all
things were alive.
10. I have never had an experience in which all things seemed
to be aware.
29. I have had an experience in which all things seemed to be
conscious.
31. I have had an experience in which I felt nothing is ever
really dead.

TEMPORAL/SPATIAL QUALITY (T): Refers to the temporal and
spatial parameters of the experience. Essentially both time
and space are modified with the extreme being one of an
experience that is both "timeless" and "spaceless".

1. I have had an experience which was both timeless and
spaceless.
11. I have had an experience in which I had no sense of time
or space.
15. I have never had an experience in which time and space
were non-existent.
27. I have never had an experience in which time, place, and
distance were meaningless.

HOETIC QUALITY (N): Refers to the experience as a source of
valid knowledge. Emphasis is on a nonrational, intuitive,
insightful experience that is nevertheless recognized as not
merely subjective.

13. I have had an experience in which a new view of reality
was revealed to me.
16. I have never had an experience in which ultimate reality
was revealed to me.
17. I have had an experience in which ultimate reality was
revealed to me.