Defining Mysticism

An Examination of Hood's 1975 Publication
"The Construction and Preliminary Validation
of a Measure of Mystical Experience"

~Sandra Stahlman

Ralph W. Hood, Jr. has generated a measure of reported mystical experience. Based upon the characteristic categories conceptualized by Stace, Hood has generated a thirty-two item scale as "an instrument for persons interested in the investigation of mystical experience, especially within a religious context"(Hood,pg.39).

Hood reports that, from factor analysis, results support Stace's notion that mystical experiences are best thought of as "forming a single continuum with all criteria related via a pattern of 'family resemblences'"(Hood,p34) He explains that a religious interpretation of the experience is possible, but not necessary. Indeed, this religious element of the experience is one of seven characteristics of the mystical experiences created by Stace. Stace writes that the experience need not meet all seven categories. Borderline cases exist where some and not others are fulfilled. He presents this as one of the two fundamental assumptions upon which he based his concepts on. The other is that the experience is a universal experience, differences arising from individual cultural interpretation. Hood's Mysticism Scale is designed to measure the reported mystical experience of a wide variety of populations and help distinguish experience from interpretation.

Similarly, the categories the scale was generated from were created by Stace in 1960 to distinguish the "core" mystical experience. First Stace differentiates between "introvertive" and "extrovertive" mystical experiences, the extrovertive being "...on a lower level than the introvertive type...a partly realized tendency to unity which the introvertive kind completely realizes"(Stace,pg.132) Next, examining the reports of mystics, he generates two lists of common "core" characteristics, one for each type - introvertive or extrovertive. It is from these categories Hood generates his scale items.

Hood writes that he has chosen Stace as his reference because of the "cold, dispassionate logic" used by Stace in creating the operational categories. However, Stace overlooks an important realm of experience in his discussion. His fourth category describes "the characteristic emotional tone of blessedness and peace." It seems necessary to note that reports of experiences, meeting criteria of mystical experience, may also carry a "negative" emotional tone; this should be taken into account in the measure of mystical experience.

Hood, Jr, Ralph W. "The Construction and Preliminary Validation of a Measure of Reported Mystical Experience." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 1975: Vol 14, p29-41.
Stace, W.T. Mysticism and Philosophy. J.B. Lippincott Company: Philadelphia, 1960.

Written by Sandy Stahlman, 1992, at the University of Rochester

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