The aim of this project is to develop a new scientifically grounded theory of mystical experiences (MEs), that does justice to both the variety of MEs reported in different mystical traditions and to the scientific study of MEs in contemplative science and psychedelic research.
The central hypothesis that will be pursued is that the concept of entropy provides us with a useful tool to study MEs at both a psychological level (“mental entropy”) and a brain level of analysis (“neural entropy”).
This hypothesis will be pursued through the following project activities:
(1) We will develop a modern, empirically informed philosophical analysis of MEs based on traditional mystical philosophies;
(2) We will resolve key conceptual and methodological problems that have arisen from the recent science of psychedelic-induced mystical experiences, mainly related to the measurement of neural entropy and the psychometric approach to MEs;
(3) We will develop a unified theory of MEs that (i) stays true to mystical traditions as much as possible, (ii) connects the wisdom of these traditions to the neuroscientific theories, and (iii) provides a solid theoretical foundation for the psychometric measurement of MEs.
These activities will be implemented through (a) a philosophical analysis of the key concepts (e.g., MEs; entropy) through the joint involvement of a philosopher and a scientist as PLs on this project, (b) the organization of yearly workshops including experts in both the science and the practice of MEs, using Open Space Technology (OST), (c) the writing of 5 journal articles, 2 special issues, 12 blog posts.
An improved scientific and philosophical understanding of the phenomenology, mechanisms, psychological benefits, and spiritual import of MEs will ultimately lead to new models of cognition, countering the public’s stereotypical associations with MEs, and potential breakthroughs in psychotherapy.