The moderating role of mystical-type experiences on the relationship between existential isolation and meaning in life

This survey study (n=2055) explored if having a mystical-type experience impacted peoples levels of existential isolation (the subjective sense one is alone in one’s experience) and subsequently, their levels of meaning in life. It was found that the previously reported negative impact levels of existential isolation have on a person’s levels of meaning in life was not present in those who have had a mystical experience.


“Mystical-type experiences (MTEs) are unique phenomenological experiences that are often reported to induce significant and persisting changes in the experiencer’s worldview. Previous research suggests that higher levels of existential isolation (EI) are associated with lower levels of meaning in life (MIL). This study examines the hypothesis that people who have had an MTE (compared with those who have not) will not show such a relationship between EI and MIL. Data from two samples (N = 2055) support the idea that those who have not had an MTE show a negative relationship between EI and MIL while those who have had an MTE show no relationship between EI and MIL. Implications and future directions are discussed.”

Authors: Alex Sielaff, Dylan E. Horner & Jeff Greenberg


Authors Highlights

  • Existential isolation: to feel alone in one’s subjective experience of reality
  • Mystical experience: a unique, unitive, and transcendent psychical experience
  • Feeling existentially isolated is typically associated with lower meaning in life.
  • This negative relationship is not present for those who had a mystical experience.

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