Transpersonal experiences are more commonly known and often referred to as spiritual, mystical, religious, occult, magical, or paranormal experiences. The word transpersonal refers to transcendence of the ordinary boundaries of personality (Grof, 1989). Transpersonal experiences may be induced by various methods and techniques such as meditation, sensory deprivation, yoga, kundalini practices, mindfulness of breathing, pranayama, psychedelic therapy, ritual ingestion of entheogens, brainwave entrainment, visualization, mantras, hypnosis, and many others.
The scientific field that studies these experiences is called transpersonal psychology. Stanislav Grof is one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology and a pioneering researcher into the use of altered states of consciousness for purposes of healing, growth, and insight.
In his book entitled Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research, Grof classified twenty six types of transpersonal experiences based on his observations while conducting research on LSD and its effects on human patients.
Here’s a short description of those transpersonal experiences:
1. Embryonal and Fetal Experiences – these involve the reliving of memories of specific events in the maternal womb, typically in stunning and dramatic detail. Experiences may vary from traumatizing events to being in a continuous state of bliss or joy.
2. Ancestral Experiences – the subjects report gaining access to information about their biological ancestors reaching back many generations and centuries or in more recent times. The experiences generally correspond to a person’s racial and cultural background.
3. Collective and Racial Experiences – involve visions and insights into the various aspects of cultural groups such as history, social structure, religious cosmology, forms of worship, moral code, art, and technology.
4. Phylogenetic (Evolutionary) Experiences – involve regression into the past and insights into the evolutionary development of animals such as insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, and various species of sea creatures. Subjects reported gaining an intuitive understanding of Darwinian or Lamarckian concepts of evolution.
5. Past-Incarnation Experiences – are fragmented visions of scenes and individual events or a full reliving of experiences in one’s previous lives. Although one may experience being in another form, place, and time, individual identity is not lost.
6. Precognition, Clairvoyance, Clairaudience, and “Time Travels” – the subjects reported being able to perceive events far into the future or into the past, see objects and hear sounds from vast distances, and travel through time at will.
7. Ego Transcendence in Interpersonal Relations and the Experience of Dual Unity – the subjects reported experiences of merging with another person like the therapist, a family member, and so on while still maintaining their individual identity. These experiences may evoke deep feelings of love and sacredness.
8. Identification with Other Persons – an individual experiences herself as another person and may completely lose her own identity. The person experiencing this may identify with relatives or other people (often well-known) both in the past and in the present.
9. Group Identification and Group Consciousness – an individual identifies with an entire group of people. Some examples given were groups like the victims of the Spanish Inquisition, prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, tortured Jews and Christians, people joining the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hindus worshipping at the Ganges River, and many others.
10. Animal Identification – an individual experiences what it is like to be an animal, but unlike phylogenetic (evolutionary) experiences, the person does not regress into the past and there are no Darwinian-like or Lamarckian-like processes witnessed.
11. Plant Identification – an individual identifies with different species of plants and experiences what it is like to be in the here and now, to have direct contact with the four elements (earth, water, fire, wind), to bring beauty to the surroundings, to transform cosmic energy into useful resource for food, and to nourish other forms of life unselfishly. (Sounds nice to be a plant. Hmm.)
12. Oneness with Life and with All Creation – identification with all forms of life on the planet and insight into the fundamental laws of nature.
13. Consciousness of Inorganic Matter – an individual gains insight into macroscopic and microscopic phenomena of non-living things such as the ocean, fire, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, windstorms, computers, jets, diamond, gold, steel, atoms, electromagnetic forces, and so on.
14. Planetary Consciousness – an individual gains insight into the nature of the entire planet including the different aspects of its geological, biological, cultural, and technological development.
15. Extraplanetary Consciousness – are experiences involving phenomena outside the planet Earth. These may include observations of other planets, satellites, solar systems, supernovas, quasars, black holes, etc. Subjects who have studied mathematics and physics have reported gaining intuitive understanding of complex theories and principles of time and space.
16. Out-of-Body Experiences, Traveling Clairvoyance and Clairaudience, “Space Travels,” and Telepathy – the individual feels that he can read other people’s minds, go beyond the usual limitations of time and space, and go out of the body to travel at will to any location that one chooses.
17. Organ, Tissue, and Cellular Consciousness – one experiences tuning in to the consciousness of the different parts of the body (muscles, organs, tissues, etc.) which can extend all the way to cellular and subcellular levels.
18. Spiritistic and Mediumistic Experiences – one may experience phenomena similar to those found in occult writings such as glossolalia (speaking in tongues), automatic writing, encounters with astral bodies or spirits of deceased persons, spirit possession, mediumistic trance states, etc.
19. Experiences of Encounters with Suprahuman Spiritual Entities – an individual may encounter and interact with spirit guides, religious teachers, and enlightened beings like buddhas and saints.
20. Experiences of Other Universes and Encounters with Their Inhabitants – an individual finds herself in strange extradimensional realities with entities that appear in strange physical forms and operate in unintelligible ways.
21. Archetypal Experiences and Complex Mythological Sequences – an individual experiences visions of archetypal and mythological figures like those found in the writings of analytical psychologist, Carl Jung, and comparative mythologist, Joseph Campbell.
22. Experiences of Encounters with Various Deities – an individual experiences visions of benevolent and malevolent deities (gods and goddesses) like the ones described in various cultures and religions (Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Egyptian, Mesoamerican, and so on).
23. Intuitive Understanding of Universal Symbols – an individual experiences visions of universal symbols and insight into the various levels of their meaning. Some examples are the cross, star of David, swastika, Nile cross, lotus flower, yin-yang, Shiva lingam, and so on.
24. Activation of the Chakras and Arousal of the Serpent Power (Kundalini) – these experiences involve the release of energy from the individual chakras of the body. According to Grof:
“Kundalini yoga bears the closest resemblance to LSD psychotherapy. Both techniques mediate an instant and enormous release of energy, produce profound and dramatic experiences, and can bring impressive results in a relatively short time. On the other hand, they involve the greatest risk and can be quite dangerous if they are not practiced under careful supervision and responsible guidance.”25. Consciousness of the Universal Mind – an individual experiences the boundless, supreme, unfathomable, ineffable, transcendental, non-rational, infinitely blissful, formless, dimensionless, and ultimate principle of being, i.e., the consciousness of the Universal Mind.
26. The Supracosmic and Metacosmic Void – Grof described this as “the primordial emptiness, nothingness, and silence, which is the ultimate source and cradle of all existence.”
Please be reminded that many psychoactive substances such as LSD are illegal in most countries. If ever they are legal, only licensed professionals are permitted to administer them for research and treatment use. I have written tons of articles that could help you reach higher consciousness states using techniques that don’t rely on the use of any kind of substance. I’m not an advocate of unsupervised and uncontrolled use of psychedelics as you will understand when you read my next post regarding spiritual crisis. If the experiences listed above inspire you to explore the realms of the unconscious, try practicing meditation (not only is it legal, but it’s also free).
- Grof, Stanislav (1975). Realms of the Human Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research. New York: Viking.
- Grof, Stanislav & Grof, Christina (1989). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis. Tarcher