The Trace of God (Argument from religious experience as God Corrolate)

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Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa*

Decision Making Paradigm:

God Corrolate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisible man in the snow. You can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the world.The only question at that point is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? The answer is in the argument below. Here let us set out some general parameters:

We can set up criteria based upon what we would expect from encounter with the divine:

A. Life Transforming and vital in a positive life=affirming sense

B. It would give us a sense of the transcendent and the divine.

C. No alternate or naturalistic causality could be proven

These criteria are based upon the writings of the great mystics and religious thinkers of history, especially in the Christian tradition, and distilled into /theory by W.T. Stace. The theory is verified and validated by several hundred studies using various methodologies all of them published in peer reviewed journals. The following argument is based upon the findings of these studies. All of this, the studies, the methods used, Stace's theory, these studies and their methodologies are discussed in depth in The Trace of God: a Rational Warrant for Belief by Joseph Hinman, (all proceeds go to non profit) available on Amazon

Read much about the book on the Trace of God blog..


(1) Real effects come from real causes

(2) If effects are real chances are the cause is real

(3) the effects of mystical experience are real

(4) Therefore, the cause of mystical experience is real.

(5) the content of mystical experience is about the divine

(6) Since the content of ME is divine the cause must be the divine

(7) Since the cause is real and it is divine then the divine must be real.

(8) Therefore belief im the divine is warranted by ME


Real Affects of Mystical Experience Imply Co-determinate

A. Study and Nature of Mystical Experiences

Mystical experience is only one aspect of religious experience, but I will focus on it in this argument. Most other kinds of religious experience are difficult to study since they are more subjective and have less dramatic results. But mystical experience can actually be measured empirically in terms of its affects, and can be compared favorably to other forms of conscious states.

1) Primarily Religious

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integrationm (unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback

Gackenback website is Spiritwatch

"The experience of pure consciousness is typically called "mystical". The essence of the mystical experience has been debated for years (Horne, 1982). It is often held that "mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions (p. 16; Happold, 1963)." The empirical assessment of the mystical experience in psychology has occurred to a limited extent."

2) Defining charactoristics.


"In a recent review of the mystical experience Lukoff and Lu (1988) acknowledged that the "definition of a mystical experience ranges greatly (p. 163)." Maslow (1969) offered 35 definitions of "transcendence", a term often associated with mystical experiences and used by Alexander et al. to refer to the process of accessing PC."

Lukoff (1985) identified five common characteristics of mystical experiences which could be operationalized for assessment purposes. They are:

1. Ecstatic mood, which he identified as the most common feature;
2. Sense of newly gained knowledge, which includes a belief that the mysteries of life have been revealed;
3. Perceptual alterations, which range from "heightened sensations to auditory and visual hallucinations (p. 167)";
4. Delusions (if present) have themes related to mythology, which includes an incredible range diversity and range;
5. No conceptual disorganization, unlike psychotic persons those with mystical experiences do NOT suffer from disturbances in language and speech.
It can be seen from the explanation of PC earlier that this list of qualities overlaps in part those delineated by Alexander et al.

3)Studies use Empirical Instruments.

Many skeptics have argued that one cannot study mystical experince scientifically. But it has been done many times, in fact there are a lot of studies and even empirical scales for measurement.



"Three empirical instruments have been developed to date. They are the Mysticism Scale by Hood (1975), a specific question by Greeley (1974) and the State of Consciousness Inventory by Alexander (1982; Alexander, Boyer, & Alexander, 1987). Hood's (1975) scale was developed from conceptual categories identified by Stace (1960). Two primary factors emerged from the factor analysis of the 32 core statements. First is a general mysticism factor, which is defined as an experience of unity, temporal and spatial changes, inner subjectivity and ineffability. A second factor seems to be a measure of peoples tendency to view intense experiences within a religious framework. A much simpler definition was developed by Greeley (1974), "Have you ever felt as though you were very close to a powerful, spiritual force that seemed to lift you out of yourself?" This was used by him in several national opinion surveys. In a systematic study of Greeley's question Thomas and Cooper (1980) concluded that responses to that question elicited experiences whose nature varied considerably. Using Stace's (1960) work they developed five criteria, including awesome emotions; feeling of oneness with God, nature or the universe; and a sense of the ineffable. They found that only 1% of their yes responses to Greeley's question were genuine mystical experiences. Thus Hood's scale seems to be the more widely used of these two broad measures of mysticism. It has received cross cultural validation" (Holm, 1982; Caird, 1988).

4) Incidence.



"Several studies have looked at the incidence of mystical experiences. Greeley (1974) found 35% agreement to his question while Back and Bourque (1970) reported increases in frequency of these sorts of experiences from about 20% in 1962 to about 41% in 1967 to the question "Would you say that you have ever had a 'religious or mystical experience' that is, a moment of sudden religious awakening or insight?" Greeley (1987) reported a similar figure for 1973".

"The most researched inventory is the State of Consciousness Inventory (SCI; reviewed in Alexander, Boyer, and Alexander, 1987). The authors say "the SCI was designed for quantitative assessment of frequency of experiences of higher states of consciousness as defined in Vedic Psychology (p. 100)."

"In this case items were constructed from first person statements of practitioners of that meditative tradition, but items were also drawn from other authority literatures. Additional subscales were added to differentiate these experiences from normal waking experience, neurotic experience, and schizophrenic experience. Finally, a misleading item scale was added. These authors conceptualize the "mystical" experience as one which can momentarily occur in the process of the development of higher states of consciousness. For them the core state of consciousness is pure consciousness and from it develops these higher states of consciousness.

Whereas most researchers on mystical experiences study them as isolated or infrequent experiences with little if any theoretical "goal" for them, this group contextualizes them in a general model of development (Alexander et al., 1990) with their permanent establishment in an individual as a sign of the first higher state of consciousness. They point out that "during any developmental period, when awareness momentarily settles down to its least excited state, pure consciousness [mystical states] can be experienced (p. 310). " In terms of incidence they quote Maslow who felt that in the population at large less than one in 1,000 have frequent "peak" experiences so that the "full stabilization of a higher stage of consciousness appears to an event of all but historic significance (p. 310)."

"Virtually all of researchers using the SCI are very careful to distinguish the practice of meditation from the experience of pure consciousness, explaining that the former merely facilitates the latter. They also go to great pains to show that their multiple correlation's of health and well-being are strongest to the transcendent experience than to the entire practice of meditation (for psychophysiological review see Wallace, 1987; for individual difference review see Alexander et al., 1987;

B. Empirical Studies show Long-Term Positive Effects of Mystical Experience

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

(1) Studies Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.

Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

(2)Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

(3) Trend toward positive view among psychologists. Spiriutal Emergency MYSTICAL OR UNITIVE EXPERIENCE "Offsetting the clinical literature that views mystical experiences as pathological, many theorists (Bucke, 1961; Hood, 1974, 1976; James, 1961; Jung, 1973; Laski, 1968; Maslow, 1962, 1971; Stace, 1960; Underhill, 1955) have viewed mystical experiences as a sign of health and a powerful agent of transformation." (4) Most clinicians and clinical studies see postive. (Ibid) "Results of a recent survey (Allman, et al,. 1992) suggest that most clinicians do not view mystical experiences as pathological. Also, studies by several researchers have found that people reporting mystical experiences scored lower on psychopathology scales and higher on measures of psychological well-being than controls (Caird, 1987; Hood, 1976, 1977, 1979; Spanos and Moretti, 1988)".

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