A Study of Perennial Philosophy and Psychedelic Experience, with a Proposal to Revise W. T. Stace’s Core Characteristics of Mystical Experience


Authors
Ed D'Angelo
State University of New York, Stony Brook (PhD)
Abstract
A Study of Perennial Philosophy and Psychedelic Experience, with a Proposal to Revise W. T. Stace’s Core Characteristics of Mystical Experience ©Ed D’Angelo 2018 Abstract According to the prevailing paradigm in psychedelic research today, when used within an appropriate set and setting, psychedelics can reliably produce an authentic mystical experience. According to the prevailing paradigm, an authentic mystical experience is one that possesses the common or universal characteristics of mystical experience as identified by the philosopher W. T. Stace in his 1960 work Mysticism and Philosophy. Stace’s common characteristics of mystical experience are the basis for the Hood Mysticism Questionnaire, which is the most widely used quantitative measure of mystical experience in experimental studies of psychedelic experience. In this paper, I trace the historical roots of Stace’s common characteristics of mystical experience back to Christian Neoplatonism and apophatic theology, and I trace those, in turn, back to Plato’s concept of the Good and to Aristotle’s concept of God as active intellect. I argue that Stace’s common characteristics of mystical experience are not universal or culturally invariant but are the product of a specifically Christian religious and moral tradition that has its roots in ancient Greek metaphysics. My paper concludes with a revised list of common characteristics of psychedelic experience that is a better candidate for a list of invariant structures of psychedelic experience than Stace’s common characteristics of Christian mystical experience.
Keywords psychedelics  perennial philosophy  mysticism  W. T. Stace  Apophatic Theology  Neoplatonism  consciousness  metaphysics  phenomenology
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