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Contexts and modes of mystical experience

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Modes of religious experience

  • Ecstasy (emotion), a trance or trancelike state in which an individual transcends ordinary consciousness
  • Religious ecstasy, an altered state of consciousness characterized by expanded spiritual awareness, visions or euphoria

Context of religious experience

Psychological procedures

Physical procedures

The states can also be manipulated through the over or under stimulation of the senses and appetites:

  • Hearing - Quietness versus loud noise, particularly bass notes {{Organ, Shawan}
  • Vision - Pure white vs colour (stained glass, ornate colourful garments)
  • Social - Retreat vs congregations and holy crowds
  • Food - Fasting or feasting
  • Drink - Abstinence or dionysian imbibing
  • Sex - Abstinence - extended practice (Tantric sex, pagan orgies)
  • Breathing - minimal breathing to hypoxia vs deep or regular breathing Anapanasati


Physical activities that are repetetive and rhythmic appear to aid the attainment of ecstatic states, particularly in a group setting where concentration is required. These activities are given religious form in ritual and practice.

  • Clapping
  • Chanting
  • Dancing
  • Drumming
  • Singing
  • Listening to music


The drinking or eating of particular etheogenic substances is also used to contribute to attaining these states.

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