While people have reported having a mystical-type experience without the help of psychedelics – the drugs undoubtedly increase the likelihood of such effects.
To date, many psychedelic studies have found that the therapeutic effects of psychedelics are entangled with the mystical experience they endure. Researchers are always striving to understand more about the nature of this experience – and – while it has now been quantified thanks to the MEQ, there’s still a lot we don’t know.
With rapidly evolving VR technology at our disposal – many wonder if it will soon be possible to induce a mystical experience without the need for psychedelics – in short, the answer is yes.
David Glowacki and his team are proving that is possible through their project “Isness,” – a project exploring how VR tools can be adapted to enable participants to experience the energetic essence of matter and elicit perceptual responses comparable to the psychedelic experience.
Our editor-at-large, George Fejer had to chance to speak with David about the potential of VR and psychedelic experiences.
𝗦𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗩𝗥 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗽𝘀𝘆𝗰𝗵𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗰𝘀
David and his team began analysing “a lot of phenomenological accounts of people who had drug-induced and nondrug-induced mystical-type experiences.”
The researchers noticed a particularly common theme in these accounts - sensitivity to the energetic nature that is underlying matter all around us.
“We realised that there was a synergy between these phenomenological accounts of energy and our quantum mechanical simulations of energy,” says David – a short while after, “Isness” was born.
𝗪𝗵𝘆 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝘆𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲?
Alongside his Ph.D. in molecular physics, David holds a Master’s degree in religious studies and has had a longstanding interest in spirituality.
However, it wasn’t until he “started looking into how mystical-type experiences were measured and stumbled upon the research on psychedelics by Roland Griffiths at Johns Hopkins” that he became interested in using a scale similar to the MEQ to measure such experiences induced by VR.
While the MEQ may have been an inspiration, it wasn’t used as a template when designing Isness.
Ultimately, whether or not these experiences arise from psychedelics, spiritual practices, meditation or elsewhere – “These different classes of experiences fall under the larger umbrella term of mystical-type experience, and it makes sense that they can be measured consistently and reproducibly via questionnaire.”
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲
“We would like to start doing systematic studies of cohorts whose preparation/integration involves VR and compare the outcomes to those which do not,” says David.
Other potential avenues for VR in this space could be combing psychedelics with VR to optimise the psychedelic experience – or, one step further – designing a VR psychedelic experience.
Check out the full interview with David on the Blossom website.