Skip to main content

There has long been a discussion in scientific circles about the importance of transcendent states of consciousness through spiritual practices – yoga, meditation, prayer, and others. Mystical experiences are considered to be some of the most intense transcendent states of consciousness. Researchers from Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) have also focused on researching this phenomenon. The results of the study were recently published in Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Considering that during a mystical experience people feel a dissolution of the boundary between self and surroundings, that the experience is inexpressible and can include feelings of timelessness and spacelessness, science has long viewed mystical experiences as being either pathological, or spiritual. Having a mystical experience can make you feel like you are one with everything that exists, feel vivid positive emotions, and people often choose to call this experience one of the most important moments of their lives. This study aims to contribute to the historical discussion of whether mystical experiences should be interpreted as a symptom of mental illness or rather seen as spiritual development.

Using both internationally approbated tools and tools created in Latvia, the research carried out at RSU supports the second interpretation. The study measured mystical experiences, spiritual intelligence, schizotypal personality traits, and psychotic symptoms. The results show that mystical experiences have a stronger relationship to spiritual intelligence than with the two pathological concepts. The data used in the study was obtained from people who have never been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

‘This study is important because it provides the public with knowledge about transcendent states of consciousness and mystical experiences specifically’, the author of the study Daiga Katrīna Bitēna explains. Bitēna is the recipient of the annual Gada psihologs 2021 award (Psychologist of the Year) in the category Gada jaunais zinātnieks (Young Researcher of the Year). ‘The study helps bring awareness to the existence of mystical experiences and promotes the normalisation of this state as well as increases acceptance towards people who experience them. It is important to mention that anyone could potentially experience a transcendent state of consciousness, sometimes so intense it can provoke a pathological state. Properly integrated, however, these experiences can become a wonderful internal resource. Awareness helps, so I invite everyone to read the study!’

Dr. psych. Kristīne Mārtinsone, Professor of the RSU Department of Health Psychology and Pedagogy, who oversaw the research, points out that, ‘It should be emphasised that one of the results of this study is that the application of mathematical modeling methods provides an empirically based explanation that can clarify the theory. I am glad that this research is both part of the Vertically Integrated Project programme at RSU, and also part the study process as a master’s thesis.’

The research process took four years during which time the work of international scientists was analysed, psychological instruments for measuring mystical experiences were were adapted into Latvian, and data from the Latvian target audience was collected and analysed. 

“Mystical Experience Has a Stronger Relationship With Spiritual Intelligence Than With Schizotypal Personality Traits and Psychotic Symptoms”, Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice (in English)