Article by Robert Davis, Ph.D. originally published in EdgeScience Issue 52
Across cultures and throughout history, humankind has reported spiritual, mystical, and extraordinary experiences of varying kinds. Very little is known, however, about the essence of such experiences that facilitate a perceived sense of union. An indescribable sense of self is a form of awareness in which the person feels that they have found a new way of understanding the world. This Spiritually Transformative Experience (STE) represents an altered state of consciousness consisting of complex perceptual attributes and insights full of significance and importance (Kason, 2019). It is often regarded as one of life’s most personally meaningful and lifetime experiences – a profound life-changing ego-transcending incident of reality, wherein the person is significantly changed in terms of personal and philosophical beliefs, behavior, and attitude (Stace, 1960).
STEs have been of increasing interest within the psychological and medical communities in recent years for their potential to facilitate positive aftereffects on physical and mental health. This may include positive shifts in perception, worldview, well-being, improved self-identity, integrity, and coping skills (Woollacott & Peyton, 2021), which can lead to a decrease in psychopathological tendencies (Ko et al., 2022; McClintock, 2016; Stoliker et al., 2022). However, despite anecdotal and experimental evidence suggesting the benefits of STEs, psychological research on this topic is still in its infancy. Although an STE often results in an initial adverse shock to the individual, an established and effective process by the medical community is required for proper professional management, which is severely lacking. Consequently, this evidence, when combined with the high incidence of an estimated 80 million American adults who claimed to have had an STE (Gallup, 2003), a strong argument can be made for more research across multiple domains on STEs in scientific and medical communities.
Triggers of a Spiritual Transformative Experience
As with any experience that is filtered through our layers of culture, language, and individuality, STEs also share several similar themes and features. These different transcendent states of reality take on a myriad of forms, from extraordinary experiences to perceptions of non-Earthly environments. These events are believed with a sense of certainty typical of any perception or experience during everyday life.
Given the complex dimensions of an STE, it may be practical to categorize the various triggers known to facilitate this complex subjective phenomenon. These include, but are not limited to, the following phenomena:
- Near-death experiences (NDE) – a common pattern of events that many people experience when under an intense threat, are seriously ill, or come close to death.
- Out-of-body experiences (OBE) – a visual and somatosensory perception that one’s mind or soul is acting or perceiving independently of the body.
- Interactions with Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP) – observations in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or other known phenomena.
- Psychoactive drugs – such as psilocybin or N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – a principal psychoactive component of ayahuasca.
- Kundalini awakenings (KAs)– traditionally understood as the force that gives rise to the universe and governs our physiological processes and spiritual awareness.
- Others – such as interactions with non-human intelligent beings (NHI), meditation, yoga, traumatic events, prayer, sensory isolation, and non-invasive brain stimulation, among others.
It is hoped this article will help generate hypotheses to test for future research to better understand STEs’ impact on well-being and to develop methodological considerations to study the importance of this poorly recognized intuitive phenomenon.
No matter the specific trigger, however, the overall psychological impact is similar in many ways (Yaden & Newberg, 2017) in those who report an STE. People express the belief of acquiring new knowledge of the self and the world, where life is viewed more positively (Kason, 2019; Wollacott, 2021; Wollacott & Shumway-Cook, in press; Yaden & Griffiths, 2020). In fact, most STEs are described positively using concepts related to their interaction, such as God or a Deity, a force, an energy, a UAP, a spirit, consciousness, or Love (Luke & Yanakieva, 2021; Newberg, 2016). The use of these terms raises interesting questions about an individual’s beliefs, cognitive processes, and the complex dimensions of each person’s STE and the unique trigger that facilitates it.
Among the core sub-components of an STE, there are themes and features unique to each trigger. This includes the following:
- UAP –physical reactions such as a sense of being immobilized, experiencing sexual encounters, receiving medical experiments, and interactions with hybrid babies, among others, such as burns, headaches, medical healings, altered perceptions, and/or moving through solid objects, and non-physical interactions such as non-verbal or telepathic communication, unexplained events prior to observing NHIs associated with or without a UAP, an OBE and feeling of entering a non-Earthly environment, exchange of information, and/or missing time, among others.
- DMT – encounters with “sentient entities” experienced as “beyond the self” and emerging into other “worlds”
- NDE – reported perceptions of a “tunnel of light,” “life review,” and exchange of communication concerning the decision to re-enter the body
- Kundalini Awakenings – (KAs) sensations of heat or energy rising or “shooting up” in the body, typically in and around the spine; bursts of tingling in the body; and spontaneous involuntary movements, among others (Kason, 2019).
- Ingestion of psychoactive drugs –the sensations of traveling at warp speed through a tunnel of bright lights and shapes, having an OBE, feeling like one has changed into something else and/or visiting other worlds and communicating with alien-like beings.
One consistent conclusion from the few large-scale phenomenological studies of STE-induced triggers is that the majority (approximate range of 60-80%) describe their entity encounter experiences to be markedly similar (Davis, et al.; 2020, Davis & Scalpone 2018; Greyson, 2014; Griffiths et al.; 2016; Luke et al., 2021). More specifically:
- The encounter was initiated by the entity, with communication being telepathic in nature.
- The primary senses involved were extrasensory and visual in nature, and the general experience was considered more real than normal everyday consciousness.
- The predominant emotions reported by the respondent for both the entity and themselves were positive (i.e., love, kindness, and friendship).
- Most beings encountered were conscious, intelligent, and benevolent in nature.
Beings considered “malicious” or “distrustful” were reported, but less often (~20%) than those positively judged (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Greyson, 1994). Other similar perceptual features consist of OBEs, “seeing a bright light,” “encountering spirits/people,” and a “feeling of peace” (Greyson, 2004; Martial et al., 2019). One may also sense rising rapidly towards a light, often considered another “plane of consciousness.” In this altered state, one may encounter a Being of Light reported to be either God, another spiritual deity, or an energy form recognized by non-theists.
Relatedly, such shared and distinct features noted among STE triggers may be dramatized by those who report having had a conscious recall of interacting with UAP and/or associated NHIs, often described as the “alien greys,” “human-looking,” and “energy” or “light beings” (Vallee, 2008; Marden, 2021). One large-scale (N = 3,256) phenomenological survey study, for example, concluded that the vast majority (~ 75%) of those who report having had a UAP interaction considered it to be a non-physical” manifestation of some type, with attributes being both psychic and symbolic. More specifically, contact and interaction seem to occur in the form of sensing, visualizing, and/or communicating with NHIs, but only occasionally in connection with a UAP sighting (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Marden, 2021). These conclusions were based, in part, on the findings that the majority of subjects (60-75%) reported having been contacted in a non-physical way (telepathic communication), sensed being separated from their body (expanded consciousness), and/or to have perceived a “holographic” or “hyperdimensional” reality at the time of their UAP-NHIs interaction (Ring, 1992; Davis et al., 2018; Marden, 2021; Vallee, 2008).
Collectively, similar findings from independent studies (Vallee, 2008; Davis et al., 2018; Marden, 2021) that involve interaction with an NHI, indicated that the majority of subjects did not report events and experiences typically associated with the traditionally held belief (Hopkins, 1993) that the alien-abduction phenomenon is a purely physical experience. In other words, physical abductions, or the conscious recall of being relocated from one place to another are reported, but much less frequently than previously claimed (Jacobs, 2002; Hopkins, 1993). These preliminary results support the conclusions between professor of psychiatry and DMT researcher Rick Strassman and leading Harvard psychiatrist and UAP abduction researcher John Mack. According to Strassman, when they discussed their comparative research results, they were “blown away by the similarity” of reported experiences and associated transpersonal outcomes in both Mack’s UAP abductee and his DMT research subjects (Strassman, 2001).
Based on recent large-scale phenomenological studies (Lawrence et al., 2022; Griffith et al., 2019; Kason, 2019), one’s perceptual shift in the personal and philosophical beliefs that accompany ego-dissolution may be the common factor responsible for the psychological benefits resulting from an STE trigger (Stace, 1960; Grof & Grof, 2019,). There is now ample evidence, for instance, that psychedelic drugs (e.g., psilocybin and DMT) can have long-lasting beneficial effects on subjective well-being and reduce the severity of certain psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, addiction, and PTSD (Ko, 2021; Stoliker, 2022). In fact, a recent systematic review of twelve studies on psychedelic administration to those with psychiatric and/or addictive disorders concluded that the occurrence of mystical-type experiences is predictive of long-term therapeutic benefit (Griffith et al., 2019).
Supporting evidence was found in a study by Woollacott et al., (in press) on the quantitative and qualitative nature of KAs. The attributes of the experience itself, and subsequent transformations in the lives of 53 scientists and academics were evaluated and consistent with prior research results (Kason, 2019). The participants’ beliefs, values, and behavior, for example, were substantially transformed following their STE and included marked increases in their belief in the immortality of the spirit, in their experience of “unity awareness,” their dedication to truth, and desire to serve others. They also substantially reduced their interest in material goals, their fear of death, and any tendencies toward aggression.
Consistent with prior research examining the phenomenology and effects of STEs with an energetic component, or KAs, Woollacott, (2021) evaluated the transformational changes of persons (N = 18) who reported a spontaneous STE induced through NDEs, and through spiritual practices. Common descriptions of their perceptual and philosophical outcomes covered a myriad of symptoms, some of which included feelings of “expansion,” very similar to an out-of-body experience. Other symptoms included a sense of being enveloped in “light” or “Love,” increased “sensory sensitivity,” “creativity,” and “changes in beliefs.” Of 18 descriptors of experiences of energy, the vast majority (85%) reported unusual “flows of energy” through or around the body. Principle triggers for these experiences included concentrating on spiritual matters, the presence of a spiritually developed person, and intense meditation or prayer (Woollacott, 2021). And, consistent with other STE triggers mentioned prior, the poorly understood KA triggers also appear to induce a newly found desire to serve others and an enhanced connectedness with others and belief in life after bodily death.
It is important to note, however, that while many who have an STE report little or no problems adjusting to life, a minority (~10-30%) experience negative and undesirable changes such as the feeling of fear and powerlessness, loss of situational and self-control, and anxiety. They often deal with adverse long-term consequences in relationships, careers, and other important matters in life (Stellar et al., 2018; Grof, 2017; Kason, 2019). Understandably, many suffer in silence, feeling afraid to share their experiences and even fearing for their sanity. Such research findings indicate that mental health practitioners can benefit from the transpersonal outcomes facilitated by an STE, wherein agreed-upon guidelines can be developed to deliver proper diagnosis, treatment, and referrals among medical and psychological professionals. This is especially important since an STE can have adverse psychological consequences and be incorrectly diagnosed as a psychotic disorder in some cases.
Despite the initial ontological shock of an STE, preliminary phenomenological studies indicate that regardless of the specific trigger, the majority (range of 70-90%) report persisting increases in well-being and life satisfaction in healthy populations (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Greyson, 1994; Kason, 2019; Lawrence et al., 2022; Wollacott, 2021). However, although a minority (range of 10-30%) of those who report an STE describe a decline in certain aspects of their life, such as relationships, jobs, or a sense of religion and spirituality (Lawrence et al., 2022; Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Greyson, 1994), this minority may represent hundreds of thousands, or many millions of individuals who are having a spiritual emergency – a critical and experientially difficult stage of a profound psychological transformation following an STE. This crisis is compounded by the fact that few psychiatrists and psychologists are adequately trained in understanding what an STE is, nor has the psychological community yet to develop specific clinical criteria to properly diagnose and treat one’s unique psychological reaction to an ineffable life-altering trigger event in a well-balanced individual.
The complex symptoms that tend to emerge from an STE, which include, but are not limited to: voluntary movements and visual disturbances, greater sensitivity to the thoughts, feelings, and energies of one’s self and others, enhanced emotions, and the realization of a greater sense of purpose, among others, can be overwhelming for many who experience them. It can leave one challenged with new insights that contradict many pre-existing beliefs and concepts of life without an appropriate framework and support system to which they can turn (Grof & Grof, 2017). Many turn to spirituality as a buffer against this stress by promoting positivity and resilience (Kason, 2019). And, unfortunately, Western medicine is more likely to diagnose and treat a spiritual emergency as a psychological disorder with suppressive medication. Alternatively, if we view the study of non-ordinary states from other spiritual traditions, an STE should really be treated as a crisis of personal transformation or spiritual opening (Grof & Grof, 2017; Kason, 2019). And, if properly supported rather than misdiagnosed and misunderstood by almost all, an STE may be conducive to improvements across many life domains. Consequently, the STE trigger and associated spiritual emergency (Grof & Grof, 2017) must be considered a distinct non-pathological state. This conclusion is supported by studies that have convincingly shown that those who experience STEs exhibit signs of more adequate adjustment, not less, especially with appropriate support over time (Kason, 2019; Steller et al., 2019).
Moreover, the magnitude and mediation of the ontological shock associated with any awe-inspiring STE trigger varies considerably, given its complex personal and contextual dimensions. This includes attributes such as delusional thinking and absorption, which indicate that subjective traits contribute towards the intensity and quality of the overall experience. This has been evidenced by findings of a strong relationship between fantasy proneness and NDE phenomena reported by individuals in situations where there has been no genuine threat to their life (Michael et al., 2019).
Additional evidence to support the transpersonal nature of an STE was provided in a large-scale survey study (N = 3,256) in those who reported having had either a physical (abductee) or non-physical (contactee) UAP-NHI type contact experience, as follows (Davis and Scalpone, 2019):
- A large majority (84% of N = 1,919) did not want their contact experience to end.
- Approximately three-quarters (N = 455) of those who reported having had conscious recall of being on board a UAP craft claimed that their experience changed their life in a positive way, (~20% reported a negative impact from their contact experience).
- The majority (71% of N = 433) of those who reported more frequent contacts (>10 times versus < 3 times) were more likely to have experienced a positive impact on changing their life.
Similarly, transpersonal outcomes of an STE were also dramatized in an independent study of DMT subjects (Griffith et al., 2019). Following ingestion of the drug, for example, the percentage of those identified as being atheist or agnostic decreased significantly (from 55% to 26%), and belief in an “ultimate reality, higher power, or universal divinity” increased significantly (from 36% to 58%). It is also common for an STE to alter one’s viewpoint about the nature and ecological status of our planet. A large majority (~ 70% of N = 156) of respondents in one DMT survey-based study (Lawrence et al., 2022) reported that its use had increased their subsequent degree of interaction with and concern for nature. A similar outcome was also found in the majority (~ 75%) of NDE cases, as well as in those who report a UAP-NHI encounter following their STE (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Greyson, 2004; Marden, 2021; Ring, 1992).
Regardless of the STE trigger, there appears to be some degree of consistency in the content of messages received in the form of counseling and guidance, as follows:
- More than two-thirds (N = 3,778) of respondents in one qualitative DMT study reported receiving a message, purpose, or insightful information about themselves and the universe (Michael et al., 2019). This finding was similar to themes reported by both NDE and UAP study subjects (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Greyson, 1993; Ring, 1992).
- The general content of telepathic messages reported from subjects (60-70% of N = 3, 256) that were reassuring, spiritual, and/or of “Love” or “Oneness” from an NHI, associated with or without a UAP (Davis & Scalpone, 2018), are consistent with information obtained during an NDE (Ring, 2010) and from psychedelic drugs (Lawrence et al., 2022).
Despite the overlap in many phenomenological features among STEs, the specific interpretations and meanings are unique to the perceived content of each trigger itself and the individual’s personal characteristics. Individuals who report an NDE and interaction with a Supreme Being or deceased relative, for example, are more likely to believe in life after death. And, those who encounter a UAP and/or NHI, such as alien greys, are more prone to the notion that extraterrestrials are interacting with humans. In contrast, DMT users more frequently report perceiving “hyperspace beings” of varying kinds. But, perhaps the most significant consideration from such narrative and survey studies mentioned prior is that the majority believe that the often described “hyperspace” environment and NHIs encountered continue to exist after their STE trigger. In one DMT study, for example, a majority of a large subject population (>75% of N = > 2,000) deemed this to be the case following ingestion of the psychoactive substance (Griffith et al., 2019), and after other STE induced triggers (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Kason, 2019; Greyson, 2014; Griffiths et al., 2016)
Moreover, entity encounters cannot be dismissed as non-sensical hallucinations without meaning nor accepted as true alternate and transcendent realities. In fact, evolutionary psychology and neurophenomenology of entity experiences have led to an interesting theory regarding psychedelics (Winkelman & James, 2018). That is, they may partially liberate innate modules that subserve social inferences, agency attribution, intentions, causality, and animacy detection that facilitate the experience of such encounters. This notion is reflected in the opinion of Roland Griffiths, professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences, and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who commented: “We have the capacity and are biologically predisposed for these experiences with psychedelics…” and, are “wired to detect sentient others…a predisposition that would have a significant survival value in hostile environments”(Winkelman & James, 2018, p. 14).
Regardless of who holds the truth in the matter, however, the individual’s convincing realization that reality is far more complex than could ever have been imagined appears sufficient to somehow facilitate the largely positive transpersonal aftereffects reported in a majority of individuals after a period of appropriate integration and support.
Future Research Directions
understand the phenomenological features associated with each STE trigger. This multidisciplinary approach is required to help determine if the subjective experience and transpersonal outcomes incurred represent either:
(1) an actual misrepresentation of the true relationships between one’s consciousness and reality caused by a possible psychoactive drug, sleep disorder, drug interactions, and/or central nervous system disorder, among other pure brain-based explanations; or does,
(2) an STE trigger represent actual interactions with other realms and non-humans?
Consequently, research should focus on the effects of intra and inter-individual variables on the thematic and semantic content of each STE trigger. This analysis should also incorporate the physiological and cultural characteristics/environmental contexts in which they take place. Unfortunately, however, one major limitation to this approach is that since STE triggers have, and will likely continue to be studied by separate disciplines, firm conclusions based on phenomenological comparisons are impeded by the different terminology, conceptual frameworks, and theoretical lenses unique to each area of specialization. These inherent layers of complexity present confounding variables that inhibit our ability to conduct well-controlled studies on the comparative phenomenological themes and features reported by those who have STEs, both within and among each trigger.
More specifically, the theoretical grounds upon which each trigger, an STE, and associated transpersonal outcomes are based suggest the need to address several research objectives, as follows:
- Development of specific criteria to more accurately define and categorize the perceptual features of each STE trigger
- Assessment of neurobiological (EEG, fMRI, etc.) and psychological parameters in individuals diagnosed with an STE facilitated by each trigger
- The effect(s) of psychological and socio-cultural factors on the general meaning and content of the STE on the individual and significant others
- Assessment of the transformative outcomes and associated integrative process on one’s personal and family life
- The development of standardized methods for evaluating various STE themes, such as ways of engagement, knowing, affecting, and expressing information for therapeutic purposes
- Others generated from the above analysis
Spiritual Transformative Experiences, which contradict established scientific principles and seem conceptually implausible, are an unquestionable part of human experience. This ego-transcending incident of reality, which somehow facilitates inexplicable perceptions of other realms and beings, sounds like the stuff of science fiction. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that while it cannot be easily rationalized and scientifically validated, an STE has the potential to be the most meaningful and influential moment in one’s life. It is evident that we have too long ignored the potential aspects of this complex area of study. Only in more recent years have theoretical models in neuroscience, such as a reduction in default mode network activity and dopamine transporters in the basal ganglia (Dean et al., 2019), attempted to explain what governs and regulates the complex manifestations of an STE. And the rationale for an STE in psychology is often explained in the form of predictive processing in terms of the deep self-models (Chirico, 2021), Despite these discipline-specific theoretical models, among others, perhaps the answer (if there is one) resides in the profound awe-inspiring nature and associated ego-dissolution facilitated by the trigger itself. That is, ego-dissolution may provide the common foundation in the development of models to explain an STE. Moreover, is the individual’s newly found realization, whether illusory in nature or not, that we live in a multidimensional universe populated by other life sufficient to facilitate the ineffable ego-transcending moment and subsequent transformative and integrative processes common to STEs? Regardless of the actual truth, therefore, the feeling of realness of the experience and associated self-reported impacts across multiple life domains are what matters most of all.
Despite studies on the transpersonal aftereffects of STEs, the specific contextual themes and features of each trigger have seldom been explored. Given our limited understanding of the multifaceted nature of STEs, we cannot expect science to explain the many reports by those who fiercely believe in having interacted, in some way, with an alternate reality and/or non-humans. This is the paradox at hand because individuals want to know what happened to them, why it happened, what it all means, and who they can tell, among many other questions for which they seek answers with fierce determination following their STE trigger. Given this lack of scientific justification, an admittedly controversial and critical overarching question must be raised. That is, does an STE actually cause one to see a different world or, instead, to see this world differently?
Perhaps the answer can be best obtained once the concept of consciousness, or the subjective dimensions of life, are uniformly defined and integrated within traditional principles into an overarching science in the establishment of true reality within the principles and practices of humanity’s next scientific paradigm shift (Davis, 2019). This is an important notion, especially since it is based, in part, on the prior evidence which suggests that information exchange may extend in time and space in ways that seemingly transcend current scientific principles, such as extrasensory perception and telekinesis (Mossbridge & Radin, 2018; Kauffman & Radin, 2021). This evidence, combined with several meta-analyses amassed over hundreds of studies on anomalous cognition that demonstrate significant effect size estimates, supports the validity of extrasensory perception or non-local communication (Mossbridge & Radin, 2018). To stimulate needed research progress in this area, however, a willingness on the part of scientists with an objective perspective on STEs and anomalous cognition is required to help determine whether it can be substantiated by science or remain just a fascinating conjecture that captures our speculation, but nothing more.
The similarities of thematic and semantic content among studies (Griffiths, 2019; Luke, 2012, Luke, & Yanakieva, 2021).) of subjective accounts of STE-induced DMT and NDE triggers raise a critical issue. Since new receptors in the human brain for DMT have been identified as endogenous regulators (Deane et al., 2019) and are also released from the pineal gland (Barker, 2018), DMT may play a role in NDEs and other triggers. If valid, a pure brain-based explanation would likely account for many STE trigger-based symptoms, such as the subjective feeling of transcending one’s body, entering an alternative realm, perceiving NHIs, and themes related to death and dying believed as “more real than real,” among others.
Another more recent theory is that the brain features a “God spot,” or one distinct region responsible for many aspects of spiritual experiences. The deep subjective essence of intense oneness and enhanced self-transcendence associated with an STE, for instance, has been reported to occur when the activity of the ipsilateral parietal lobe is reduced from a space-occupying tumor (Newberg, 2018). According to several neuroscientists (Newberg, 2018; Persinger, 2001), this perceptual distortion occurs when one is no longer able to differentiate between their inner self and external reality, and the sense of self-transcendence. Interestingly, only patients who had their tumors removed showed a greater tendency towards religious and spiritual beliefs and experiences (Newberg, 2017). Several other brain regions (e.g., medial frontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, precuneus, posterior cingulate cortex, default mode network, and caudate) have also been potentially associated with spiritual development and behavior, which may also mediate an STE (Rim et al., 2019). If the brain is indeed hardwired for, at least, some STE symptoms, the next question is whether an STE is a normal part of the physical evolutionary experience, or an innate physiological coping mechanism to manage times of crisis to help maintain the survival of humanity.
Regardless of the cause, however, the results from independent studies (Davis & Scalpone, 2018; Marden, 2021; Ring, 2010; Greyson, 1994; Kason, 2019; Griffith et al., 2019; Wollacott, 2021) have shown similar comprehensive, detailed, and convincing analysis of anecdotal accounts of personal messages received from one’s STE. While this evidence may lack uniform scientific merit, especially given its qualitative nature, one undeniable fact raises a fundamental question about the concept of truth within different contextual beliefs and discipline-specific practices. The scientific and medical communities, for instance, want to know if an STE is brain-based in certain circumstances, whereas a philosopher, religious scholar, or practitioner of Eastern Medicine will likely hold an alternative explanation. The dichotomy of viewpoint and need for the study of the triggers and an STE are palpable. However, although my curiosity is high for many reasons, the transpersonal outcome in the form of a fiercely determined belief that humanity must change their beliefs and viewpoints towards our planet, each other, and ourselves is the main issue. The point is that no one, at this moment in our evolutionary stage of development, understands the potential meaning and implications of each trigger and the STE that gives rise to dramatic changes in one’s philosophical and personal viewpoints.
In summary, these fleeting notions, combined with the collective evidence addressed previously, raise the primary issue at hand. That is, whether or not each trigger and an STE are part of a normal evolution of human potential associated with the integration of poorly understood neurobiological and/or psycho-cultural processes or, are instead, a reflection of a realistic experience occurring within an altered realm of existence.
Given this foundation, my objective to elevate the level of awareness of an STE is pronounced to the point whereby I am now co-producing a documentary entitled “The Consciousness Connection” (consciousnessfilm.info) with many committed leading participants in the medical and scientific communities and those who have reported an STE. Pending funding, it is hoped this film will help promote the significance of what we can learn about ontology, consciousness, and our self-identity as potential catalysts for personal transformation and healing. We need to take up the challenge to further the knowledge of our own potential and the further development and understanding of what we prize as our most unique human characteristic, the untapped possibilities of the mind. Perhaps the largely positive personal outcomes facilitated by an STE hold potential for all of us, especially since it represents a movement away from destructive behavioral characteristics and the attainment of values that appear to promote individual and collective survival.
Robert Davis,Ph.D. served as a professor for the State University of New York for over thirty years, where he conducted research in the behavioral and neurosensory sciences. He has authored or co-authored more than 30 presentations and 60 papers, which included invited lectures at Harvard, Cambridge, and Peking University. Davis was also awarded numerous grants to support research. He has published three books: 1) The UFO Phenomenon: Should I Believe? 2) Life after Death: An Analysis of the Evidence, and 3) Unseen Forces: The Integration of Science, Reality and You. He has also decided to turn his book, Unseen Forces, into a documentary called The Consciousness Connection with Emmy Award winner Dave Beaty of Dreamtime Entertainment and Wilson Hawthorne of Eyeland Telemedia, Inc.
Barker, S. A. (2018). N, N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an endogenous hallucinogen: Past, present, and future research to determine its role and function. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00536
Chirico, A., Pizzolante, M., & Villani, D. (2022). Self-transcendent dispositions and spirituality: the mediating role of believing in a benevolent world. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/19349637.2022.2079041
Davis, A. K., Clifton, J. M., Weaver, E. G., Hurwitz, E. S., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2020). Survey of entity encounter experiences occasioned by inhaled N, N-dimethyltryptamine: Phenomenology, interpretation, and enduring effects. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 34(9), 1008–1020. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881120916143
Davis, R. (2019). Unseen forces: The Integration of science, reality and you. Visionary Living, Incorporated.
Davis, R., Scalpone, R., & Schild, R. (2018). A study on reported contact with non-human intelligence associated with unidentified aerial phenomena. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 32(2), 298–348. https://doi.org/10.31275/2018.1282
Dean, J. G., Liu, T., Huff, S., Sheler, B., Barker, S. A., Strassman, R. J., Wang, M. M., & Borjigin, J. (2019). Biosynthesis and extracellular concentrations of N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in mammalian brain. Scientific Reports, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45812-w
Deane, G. (2021). Consciousness in active inference: Deep self-models, other minds, and the challenge of psychedelic-induced ego-dissolution. Neuroscience ofConsciousness, 2021(2). https://doi.org/10.1093/nc/niab024
Gallup, Inc. (2003, January 14). Religious Awakenings Bolster Americans’ Faith. Gallup.com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/7582/religious-awakenings-bolster-americans-faith.aspx
Greyson, B. (1993). Near-death experiences and satisfaction with life. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 13(2). https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc799014/m2/1/high_res_d/vol13-no2-103.pdf
Griffiths, R. R., Johnson, M. W., Carducci, M. A., Umbricht, A., Richards, W. A., Richards, B. D., Cosimano, M. P., & Klinedinst, M. A. (2016). Psilocybin produces substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer: A randomized double-blind trial. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1181–1197. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881116675513
Griffiths, R. R., Hurwitz, E. S., Davis, A. K., Johnson, M. W., & Jesse, R. (2019). Survey of subjective “God encounter experiences”: Comparisons among naturally occurring experiences and those occasioned by the classic psychedelics psilocybin, LSD, ayahuasca, or DMT. PLOS ONE, 14(4), e0214377. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214377
Grof, C., & Grof, S. (2017). Spiritual emergency: The understanding and treatment of transpersonal crises. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 36(2), 30-43. https://doi.org/10.24972/ijts.2017.36.2.30
Hopkins, B. (1993). Invisibility and the UFO abduction phenomenon. Proceedings of the MUFON 1993 International Symposium, 2 (12). 183–201.
Kason, Y. (2019). Touched by the light: Exploring spiritually transformative experiences. Dundurn Press.
Kauffman, S. A., & Radin, D. (2021). Is brain-mind quantum? A theory and supporting evidence. ArXiv: Neurons and Cognition. https://arxiv.org/pdf/2101.01538
Ko, K., Knight, G., Rucker, J. J., & Cleare, A. J. (2022). Psychedelics, mystical experience, and therapeutic efficacy: A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.917199.
Lawrence, D. W., Carhart-Harris, R., Griffiths, R., & Timmermann, C. (2022). Phenomenology and content of the inhaled N, N-dimethyltryptamine (N, N-DMT) experience. Scientific Reports, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-11999-8
Luke, D., & Yanakieva, S. (2021). The transpersonal psychedelic experience and change in ecological attitude and behavior. Paper presented at the International Conference on Psychedelics Research, Stichting Open, Amsterdam, 3rd-5th June.
Luke, D. (2012). Psychoactive substances and paranormal phenomena: A comprehensive review. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31(1), 97–156. https://doi.org/10.24972/ijts.2012.31.1.97
Marden, K. (2021). Experiencer resource team. Mutual UFO Network. Unpublished Manuscript.
Martial, C., Cassol, H., Charland-Verville, V., Pallavicini, C., Sanz, C., Zamberlan, F., Vivot, R. M., Erowid, F., Erowid, E., Laureys, S., Greyson, B., & Tagliazucchi, E. (2019). Neurochemical models of near-death experiences: A large-scale study based on the semantic similarity of written reports. Consciousness and Cognition, 69, 52–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2019.01.011
McClintock, C. H., Lau, E., & Miller, L. (2016). Phenotypic Dimensions of Spirituality: Implications for Mental Health in China, India, and the United States. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01600
Michael, P., Luke, D., & Robinson, O. (2021). An encounter with the other: A thematic and content analysis of DMT experiences from a naturalistic field study. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 72-77. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01724
Mossbridge, J., & Radin, D. (2018). Precognition as a form of prospection: A review of the evidence. Psychology of Consciousness, 5(1), 78–93. https://doi.org/10.1037/cns0000121
Newberg, A., & Waldman, M. R. (2017). How enlightenment changes your brain: The new science of transformation (Reprint). Avery Press.
Newberg, A. (2018). Neurotheology: How science can enlighten us about spirituality. Columbia University Press.
Persinger, M. (2001). The neuropsychiatry of paranormal experiences, Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 13, 515-523. https://doi.org/10.1097/hrp.0000000000007546
Rim, J. I., Ojeda, J. C., Svob, C., Kayser, J., Drews, E., Kim, Y., Tenke, C. E., Skipper, J., & Weissman, M. M. (2019). Current understanding of religion, spirituality, and their neurobiological correlates. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 27(5), 303–316. https://doi.org/10.1097/hrp.0000000000000232
Ring, K. (1992). The Omega Project: Near-death experiences, UfO encounters, and mind at large (1st ed.). William Morrow & Co.
Stace, W. T. (1960). The teachings of the mystics: Being selections from the great mystics and mystical writings of the world, edited, with introduction, interpretive commentaries, and explanations. New American Library.
Stellar, J. E., Gordon, A., Anderson, C. L., Piff, P. K., McNeil, G. D., & Keltner, D. (2018). Awe and humility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 114(2), 258-269. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000109
Stoliker, D., Egan, G. F., & Razi, A. (2022). Reduced precision underwrites ego dissolution and therapeutic outcomes under psychedelics. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 16, 124-135. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2022.827400
Strassman, R. (2000). DMT: The Spirit Molecule. Park Street Press.
Timmermann, C., Spriggs, M. J., Kaelen, M., Leech, R., Nutt, D. J., Moran, R. J., Carhart-Harris, R. L., & Muthukumaraswamy, S. D. (2018). LSD modulates effective connectivity and neural adaptation mechanisms in an auditory oddball paradigm. Neuropharmacology, 142, 251-262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2017.10.039
Vallee, J. (2008). Messengers of deception: UFO contacts and cults. Daily Grail Publishing.
Winkelman, M., & James, M. (2018). An ontology of psychedelic entity experiences in evolutionary psychology and neurophenomenology. Journal of Psychedelic Studies, 2, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1556/2054.2018.002
Woollacott, M., & Peyton, M. (2021). Verified account of near-death experience in a physician who survived cardiac arrest. Explore, 17, 213-219.
Woollacott, M., Kason, Y., & Park, R. D. (2021). Investigation of the phenomenology, physiology and impact of spiritually transformative experiences – kundalini awakening. Explore, 17(6), 525-534.
Woollacott, M., & Shumway-Cook, A. (in press). Spiritual awakening and transformation in scientists and academics. Explore.
Yaden, D., & Griffths, R. (2020). The subjective effects of psychedelics are necessary for their enduring therapeutic effects. Pharmacological Translational Science, 4, 568–572. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsptsci.0c00194
Yaden, D., & Newberg, A. (2017). The noetic quality: A multi-method exploratory study. Psychology of Consciousness. Theory, Research, and Practice, 4, 54-62. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsptsci.0c00172