Relation between Psychedelic and Transcendental Experiences

  •  Frederick Travis    


Psychedelic use is generally considered safe, and their effects are being equated with those of meditation practices. To assess these conclusions, this paper compares psychedelic and meditation experiences in terms of 1) EEG patterns, 2) brain blood-flow patterns, 3) content of experience, 4) mechanism of action, and 5) therapeutic application. On these five factors, psychedelic and transcendental experiences during meditation practice are completely different: gamma vs alpha EEG; decreased brain blood-flow vs higher frontal blood-flow; intense mental and emotional content vs content-free self-awareness; influenced by the set and setting vs transcending the set and setting. 
Since brain patterns and inner experiences differ, it is not accurate to equate psychedelic and transcendental experiences or to use effects or mechanism of one to justify the other. Yes, carefully designed research into both psychedelic and transcendental experiences should continue. But the results of these studies should not be superficially combined. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.