Mystical experiences – on demand

Lynne McTaggart

When astronaut Edgar Mitchell was returning from his flight to the moon, he had an epiphany that would change the entire trajectory of his life. Staring out the window of the Kittyhawk, he experienced a feeling of connectedness, as if all the planets and all the people of all time were attached by some invisible web.

It was an overwhelmingly visceral feeling, as if he was physically extending out to the furthest reaches of the cosmos. In a single instant, he had discovered and felt The Force, and he spent the rest of his life trying to determine what in fact had happened out there.

But Mitchell’s extraordinary experience is more common than we think. Nearly half of all Americans and two-thirds of those in Britain admit to having had some sort of mystical experience.

At the end of his life, US psychologist Abraham Maslow turned his attention to what he termed ‘peak experiences, ’ in which a person suddenly perceives:

  • the universe as integrated and whole
  • the world as part of nature rather than human destiny
  • the moment fully, with every pore of his being and without ego, without a sense of time or space
  • the world as beautiful, good, desirable and worthwhile
  • a sense of universality or ‘oneness’—a sense of the eternal

Modern technology has enabled us to peer inside and isolate what happens during such peak moments.

The late Eugene d’Aquili and neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, both at the time neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania, carried out a two-year study of Tibetan monks.

They found that feelings of calm, unity and transcendence, such as during peak moments, show up as less activity in the parietal lobes (at the back of the top of the head).  This was also the conclusion of a study carried out by team of neuroscientists from Life University, the largest chiropractic university in the world, on a sampling of Power of Eight® groups composed of student volunteers.

Our neuroscience team also found  a diminishment of activity in our volunteer’s temporal lobes, which house the amygdala, a cluster of cells responsible for the sense of ‘I’ and the emotional response in relation to ‘I’.

The ancients believed that transcendent experiences were only achievable after years of religious study, but our student volunteers, none of whom had never carried out a Power of Eight® group or even meditated before entered this state after just a minute or two.

Over the years, my Power of Eight groups continuously talk about immediately entering into a state of ecstatic oneness.

But if you don’t have a group handy, you can maximize your possibility of a mystical state at certain times of the day.

According to Peter Fenwick, former neurophysiology consultant at St Thomas' Bethlehem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley’s Institute of Psychiatry, who has extensively studied near death experiences and altered states, we all possess an internal cycle where the brain peaks from morning till noon, hits a low at 3 pm, rises again until 9 pm, then falls to its lowest state of activity around 2 in the morning.

This brain activity is independent of specific neural activity or of how busy we are, but determines how well we mentally or physically perform throughout the day.

Fenwick’s most interesting evidence suggests that we ‘switch’ between hemispheric dominance at night. We alternate between two modes of sleep: slow-wave sleep, when brainwaves are slowest (theta and delta waves), dreams are either verbal or movement-orientated, and the left brain is dominant; and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, with vivid three-dimensional visions and dreams, and the right brain is dominant.

Mystical experiences usually occur in the evening or in the middle of the night, when people suddenly awake and feel a sense of awareness.

To attempt it yourself, sake yourself up a few times to determine when its hardest for you to wake up. That’s when your right brain is sleeping. From that time, work out 90-minute intervals to determine when you are likely to be in REM dreaming.

Those are the moments when you should attempt to clear your mind to induce a mystical experience.

But researchers like parapsychologist Dr Richard Broughton suggested that this pattern, which repeats every 90 minutes or so, also occurs during our waking day. This suggests there’s an alternating rhythm throughout the day between our logical verbal self, and our creative dreaming self.  Once you work out when you’re at your most mystical during the night, you can calculate when you are during the day.

Even time of day can play a part.  Evidence shows that our ability to access information beyond our senses vastly increases at approximately 1:30 pm local time – the approximate mid-point in the sun’s daily journey – known as local sidereal time.

That’s the hour angle of the vernal equinox, the ascending node of the ecliptic on the celestial equator. The daily movement of this point offers a means of measuring the rotation of the earth in relation to the stars, not the sun.

In one study of more than 1500 participants attempting extrasensory perception, the effect size, or rate of success, increased by 350 percent if attempted within an hour of local sidereal time.

This all suggests that mystical experiences can be generated by different thinking patterns or practices that cause one side of the brain to be dominant.

“The change that modification of all these systems brings about in the neurotransmitter balance allows new patterns of cerebral activity to arise,” noted Fenwick. “Some of these are without doubt the basis of the mystical experience.”

In other words, with a little practice, you can induce a mystical experience on demand.



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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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7 comments on “Mystical experiences – on demand”

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  5. The exploration of these peak experiences by psychologists like Abraham Maslow and neuroscientists like Eugene d'Aquili and Andrew Newberg sheds light on the neurological basis of these profound moments. It's a fascinating look at the intersection of spirituality, psychology, and neuroscience.

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