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Mystical Experience Among Tibetan Buddhists: The Common Core Thesis Revisited


Zhuo Chen, Psychology Department #2803, 350 Holt Hall—615 McCallie Avenue, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN 37403. Email:


In the study of mysticism the debate has centered on whether a universal experiential core exists regardless of religious interpretation. The current investigation combines Jamesian empiricist and social constructivist perspectives to argue that stable experiential facets load variously on factors to construct local interpretations. Local interpretations reflect a family resemblance—a mystical common core experienced across cultures. Results of confirmatory factor analyses, based on data from 240 Tibetan Buddhist adults, suggest statistical model fit and superiority for the three-factor model compared to the unidimensional model. Pure experience can be distinguished explicitly from its context-specific hermeneutical construal.