Is Spirituality The Result Of A Combination Of Hallucinations And Happiness?


Epiphenom suggests that positive moods and an inclination towards hallucinatory episodes may be the ingredients that produce the spiritual mindset:

Hallucinations and such like are actually a rather common part of the human experience – probably 70% of people experience some form of ‘unusual experiences’ at some time in their lives. You might think that hallucinations would be distressing, but people often report them to be quite pleasant. What’s more, spiritual people often report being happier than average.

James Schuurmans-Stekhoven, at the Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, Australia, speculated that that the two might be causally related. In other words, he thinks that when basically happy people have ‘unusual experiences’ like auditory hallucinations, it inclines them to a spirtual worldview.

To test this, he surveyed Australians about their spirituality, their unusual experiences, and their positive affectivity (mood). As happiness and unusual experiences increase, so to does spirituality.

But [for] people with the lowest levels of unusual experiences, changing levels of positive affect has basically no effect on their spirituality. These people are not spiritual, regardless of their happiness levels. And if you look at those with the least positive affective (the least happy), well their spirituality actually decreases slightly with increasing unusual experiences.

Maybe there’s even a reinforcing effect at work. So if you’re feeling in a good mood, then experience something weird, that gets interpreted in a spiritual way that lifts your mood even further!

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  • emperorreagan

    Naturally, they assume causality to work in the direction that suits the hypothesis.

  • TJ Dolan

    whats subjective about telepathy and what is so casual about it?

  • kowalityjesus

    what happens when the “hallucinations” are collective?

    • Adamas Macalz

      You just hit the nail on the head… here’s my view the division between psychology and spirituality is a false dichotomy… the both have their root in the same word: psyche… ever heard of the global consciousness project?

      • kowalityjesus

        wow, nice link. There is WAY more to this story than science can currently put a label on, and that makes it VERY interesting.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do

      You get reality, or perhaps a large part of perceived reality. Dreams are often collective but because no one talks about them or holds value for them anymore not many people realize it.

      • kowalityjesus

        I run into so many anomalous coincidences. I wonder about people who are unswervingly rational/atheistic. They must not be very observant people, so I would gather.

        • NarwhalNecropsy

          I typically find quite the opposite myself, just going about day to day life. Almost all of the keen, observant and thoughtful people that I know are almost exclusively rational/atheistic. I’m not trying to say that all spiritual people are not very observant, but it is something that I have come to notice more frequently.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do

            And there are a small amount of people that transcend rational or irrational labels and understand that the very act of observing makes something rational.

          • NarwhalNecropsy

            Well put.

          • kowalityjesus

            meh, I won’t make my stand on the opposing side with a disputing polar statement, but I do not find among the people I encounter that observant and thoughtful people have always or even usually been atheists/rationalists. I understand the nature of the archetype which you mention and generally see what you mean. I suppose the inability to define my attitude toward your statement represents my inability to propound whether being thoughtful and observant actually means anything or even what it is.

            To maintain and expound my previous statement, I will quote a Cardinal Newman via Huxley “In religious enquiry each of us can speak only for himself. His own experiences are enough for himself, but he cannot speak for others: he cannot lay down the law; he can only bring his own experiences to the common stock of psychological facts.” Thus, from my perspective, in order to consider myself an atheist I would have to be woefully unobservant or willfully ignorant, though I cannot say whether others’ experiences are in any way congruent with my own.

          • emperorreagan

            It’s just confirmation bias.

            Everyone is more likely to find people who share similar experiences, who are operating from similar premises, and who are making similar arguments to be more observant, insightful, thoughtful, etc.

          • kowalityjesus

            As much as I know that must be true to some degree, I would also care to think that I can see things more objectively than “average,” and would give myself credit for what I know is a very thoroughly-considered position.

    • jnana

      like the events at Fatima?

      • kowalityjesus

        thank you, precisely.

        • jnana

          Fatima and other such events lead me to think the catholic church may be involved in white or even black magic rituals. it was way too similar to ufo experiences. whats most interesting is adamant unbelievers saw the same things as believers. also, there was too much anti-communist propaganda, and the early church was communist, so I don’t think Fatima was of god, but I may be wrong.

          • kowalityjesus

            bizarre notions that I had never before considered. By the way, I read all your comments in the last 7 days and they are awesome.

          • jnana

            They are bizarre notions, but how else explain Fatima?

          • kowalityjesus

            a facile parlor trick to God. I have a book detailing 400 different resurrections performed in the Christian era by Catholic saints. I was looking for the passage on Fatima but I don’t have time. Truly amazing things have been done in the name of the Holy Trinity, though.

          • jnana

            don’t get me wrong. I believe in miracles, including resurrections. some performed by the Holy Spirit, others by counterfeit spirits. It takes some real analysis to determine which. Fatima has not given me the impression it was motivated by the Holy Spirit. Too many similarities to ufo and other magical ritual experiences. Does the Holy Spirit manifest like that, usually? Maybe. I’ve had my own Holy Spirit experiences, and some are similar to some of the Fatima experiences. Specifically the audio stuff. But what were the fruits of Fatima? Anything to point to to the Good God?

  • mannyfurious

    People fear what they don’t understand. Strict “rationalists” don’t understand so-called “spirituality” and so they fear it. Because they fear it, they have to try to explain it away, and they look sillier and sillier as this little game goes on.

    I mean, it goes both ways. Obviously there are “spiritual” and/or “religious” people who fear science and rationality, and they have to try to explain it away in increasingly incredulous ways, but I think it’s funny that both sides are playing the same game and are unable to see or understand it.

  • sambacomet

    This is just subjective speculation- not science.

  • James Schuurmans-Stekhoven

    Ahhh sorry but No!!! This study did not assume causality at all. It was just written as a challenge to the Religious Right researchers (largely funded by the Templeton Foundation – so don’t talk to me about my confirmation bias) that repeatedly make propagandist claims that spirituality “causes” happiness. The data shown in the graph above illustrates that “even if” their presumed causal direction is correct (which is a highly contestable assumption), happiness is only higher among those who are spiritual AND also report frequent hallucinations. So why does God (or whoever) only make this subgroup of spiritual people happy? Why is it that the spiritual people low in hallucinations are no happier than atheists? Look at the graph when “unusual experiences” are low (left-hand side)- happiness stays unchanged – a flat line – as spirituality levels change!

    Clearly the simple American theory that spirituality always makes people happier is not true (well not in Australia). Oh and by the way, giving people drugs that stimulate dopamine in the brain (the happy brain-chemical) subsequently increases their self-reported spirituality… That is, induce happiness first and you seem to cause spirituality as a consequence!!! Don’t believe me? Look up the research yourself.

    Bottom-line: Hey believers you need to concoct a more convoluted story for yourself if you wish to continue to believe (ie confirmatory bias) that spirituality makes you happy. The data suggests it is not that simple.

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