Universität Bielefeld

© Simon A. Eugster

Mysticism Scale – New Developments

History and Conceptualization

The Mysticism Scale (M-scale) was developed and validated by Ralph Hood (1975). It has become the most widely used measure of mysticism. The M-Scale is not only deeply rooted in James´ (1902) account of mysticism, but also clearly reflects the phenomenology of mysticism presented by Stace (1960).

The three-factor structure of mysticism is proposed conceptually and demonstrated empirically: The three-factor solution of the M-Scale has been corroborated by confirmatory factor analysis (Hood, Morris, & Watson, 1993). According to the three factor structure, mysticism includes. . .

Introvertive mysticism as first factor consists of items exploring:

  • timelessness and spacelessness („I have had an experience which was both timeless and spaceless.“)
  • ego loss („I have had an experience in which something greater than myself seemed to absorb me.“)
  • ineffability („I have had an experience which cannot be expressed in words.“)

Extrovertive mysticism is the second factor, which consists of items of:

  • inner subjectivity („I have had an experience in which all things seemed to be conscious.“)
  • unity („I have had an experience in which I realized the oneness of myself with all things.“)

Interpretation which consists of items associated with the three aspects of:

  • positive affect („I have experienced profound joy.“)
  • sacredness („I have had an experience which I knew to be sacred.“)
  • noetic quality („I have had an experience in which a new view of reality was revealed to me.“)
Exemplary Empirical Results

The M-Scale is a classic measure for mystical experiences which has been developed on a sound theoretical basis long before spirituality became a hot topic within the psychology of religion and has empirically been tested in various cultural contexts. In our Bielefeld-based Cross-cultural Study on Spirituality, we could demonstrate that the M-scale is an excellent predictor of self-rated spirituality (Klein, Silver, Coleman, Streib, & Hood, 2016). These results of a structural equation model to estimate the effects of the three mysticism factors on self-rated religiosity and spirituality on the basis of the N = 1886 cases (Klein, et al., 2016) could be recently replicated on the basis of a total of N = 2300 cases (Streib, Klein, Keller, & Hood, in press).

Interestingly, mysticism relates differentially to the subjective understandings of spirituality, as described by Streib and colleagues (in press). An understanding of spirituality as connectedness and harmony with the universe, nature and the whole correlates relatively high with all three mysticism factors, but more so with introvertive mysticism and extrovertive mysticism. Similar in the pattern of mysticism factors, but somewhat lower are the correlations of mysticism with an understanding of spirituality as inner search for a higher self, meaning, peace and enlightenment. Thus, semantic variants of spirituality as (all)connectedness and as search for higher self/inner peace stand out as having highest correlations with the M-scale total, but especially with introvertive mysticism and extrovertive mysticism. While these semantic dimensions of subjective understandings of spirituality appear to be most closely related to the core components of mystical experiences, the interpretation (the third mysticism factor) of such experiences shows the strongest association to an understanding of spirituality as part of explicit religion.

New Developments for Empirical Research

Given the potential of the M-scale, Streib and colleagues (in press) have constructed and validated an efficient short 8-item version which can be included in surveys if the number of items needs to be limited.

Using a sample of N = 2300 respondents, the three-factor structure of the M-scale could be corroborated not only for the 32-item version, but also for the new 8-item version of the M-scale.

Based on the longitudinal data from 290 participants, who answered the M-scale two times with a time distance of approximately five years, we were able to run retest reliability analyses for both the 32-item and the 8-item version of the M-scale. From the inspection of the correlations between the two times of measurements, we can conclude that the M-scale has good retest reliability in both the full and the short versions.

Streib, H., Klein, C., Keller, B., & Hood, R. W. (in press). Assessing Spirituality as Individualized Experience-Oriented Religion. The Mysticism Scale and Its Short Forms. In A. L. Ai, K. A. Harris, & P. Wink (Eds.), Assessing Spirituality and Religion in a Diversified World: Beyond the Mainstream Perspective. New York, London: Springer.

Klein, C., Silver, C. F., Coleman, T. J., Streib, H., & Hood, R. W. (2016). „Spirituality“ and Mysticism. In H. Streib & R. W. Hood (Eds.), Semantics and Psychology of „Spirituality“. A Cross-cultural Analysis (pp. 165-187). Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer International Publishing Switzerland. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-21245-6_11.

Hood, R. W. (1975). The Construction and Preliminary Validation of a Measure of Reported Mystical Experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 14, 29-41.