Department for the Study of Religions, Masaryk University

What does mean “mystical” in context of experience with psychedelics? Critique of perennialism in experimental psychology

Experimental research on mystical experience induced by psychedelics suffer by two major problems. General theoretical problem lies in conceptualization of mystical experience, specifically in the idea, that mystical experience is sui generis and that psychedelics like psilocybin or LSD are controllable shortcuts to this kind of experience. Major methodological problem concerns primarily theoretical background of mysticism scales, which are composed in the same (perennialistic) way as the theory. Thus, psychedelic experience with sustained positive outcome is primarily seen as mystical. We will try to show, that considering experience with psychedelics mystical is not theoretically tenable. However, we cannot ignore that higher subjective ratings of mystical experience can predict sustainable positive changes in participants. Thus, we argue that concept of universal mystical experience should be replaced by more empirically valuable subjective ratings of experience with psychedelics.

Jana Nenadalová and Adam Karásek