Insight 20223
August 31 – September 3 in Berlin

Psychedelically Occasioned Religious and Contemplative Experiences and Their Potential Effects on Well‐being: A Qualitative and Quantitative Study

  • 11/09/2021
  • 12:00 - 12:30
  • Track 3: Albrecht Kossel room (Charité)


Background: For thousands of years, certain indigenous cultures have used classic psychedelics for religious and healing purposes. Even in secular settings such as medical labs or university hospitals, serotonergic psychedelics are still known to frequently occasion phenomenological experiences that match traditional religious and/or contemplative experiences. While we refer to such experiences as “spiritual phenomenology,” our work still takes into account that such phenomenology can be interpreted religiously/spiritually, materialistically, or agnostically by the modern individual having these experiences. Psychedelically occasioned spiritual phenomenology in the form of “mystical experience” has for instance been associated with having persisting positive effects on attitudes, mood, and behavior in healthy participants and with symptom reduction in patients. However, despite the frequent occurrence of experiences matching religious/contemplative phenomenology in psychedelic experiences, major basic phenomenological concepts from the primal religions, the historic religions, and the contemplative traditions are not covered in contemporary psychedelic psychometrics.

Project aim: The presented project starts to capture some major experiences of the religious and contemplative traditions that are not covered in contemporary psychedelic psychometrics through qualitative and quantitative investigation combined with an in‐depth analysis of religious and contemplative literature. Furthermore, as the psychedelic state has also been shown to be associated with deep personal meaningfulness and constructive personal problem solving, this project examines how spiritual phenomenology relates to these two further aspects of the psychedelic experience that are, among other possibilities, of potential importance for psychiatric/psychotherapeutic research.

Project measurements: The psychometric research into psychedelically occasioned religious and contemplative phenomenology is carried out in the form of add‐on studies to psychopharmacological studies with a total of more than 200 healthy participants across seven psychedelic studies using four different serotonergic psychedelics – mescaline, psilocybin, lysergic acid diethylamide, N,N‐dimethyltryptamine ﴾intravenous DMT and pharmahuasca﴿ – in secular settings ﴾medical lab or university hospital﴿. Overall, quantitative psychometric data will include more than 300 filled‐in questionnaires, and qualitative psychometric data more than 200 conducted semi‐structured interviews on psychedelically evoked spiritual phenomenology. While the empirical findings of the individual studies using psychedelic substances will be published as separate articles, a novel questionnaire specifically developed for psychedelic experiences matching religious/contemplative phenomenology that is based on all qualitative and quantitative add‐on studies of this project will be introduced.


Kurt Stocker1,2,,3, Milan Scheidegger4, Laura Ley5, Anna Becker5, Isabelle Straumann5, Friederike Holze5, Helena Aicher2,4, Matthias Hartmann3, Matthias E. Liechti5


 1 Chair of Cognitive Science, ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Switzerland

2 Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, Switzerland

3 Faculty of Psychology, UniDistance Suisse, Brig, Switzerland

4 Psychedelic Research & Therapy Development, University Hospital of Psychiatry, University of Zurich, Switzerland

5 Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel, Switzerland

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