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Aftereffects of Exceptional Human Experiences
Rhea A. White
Probably the most important aspect of an exceptional human experience (EHE) is its aftereffects, and yet—with the exception of near-death experiences—little attention has been paid to what happens as a result of an exceptional human experience. The experience itself has been the center of attention, and not even the experience as such, but the objectively verifiable facts associated with it. In an attempt to redress this situation, the EHE Network is undertaking an investigation of the aftereffects of all types of EHEs along with descriptions of what the experience felt like and the meaning of the experience for the experiencer.
The sources of the aftereffects listed were varied. One was a preliminary survey of the 171 essays submitted in 1994 to the Eighth Imich Essay Contest, which was on EHEs. Many of the essayists concentrated only on what happened during the experience, so we do not know whether they had long-range aftereffects or not. Some, however, wrote EHE autobiographies, a form that allows long-term effects to be described. White contributed some, based on her general knowledge of aftereffects from her reading and personal experience. Additional items added by Suzanne V. Brown from her own reading and experience. A number of published sources, described next, were searched by White and the authors’ names are listed in parentheses after each aftereffect found in one or more of them. They are referenced fully at the end.
Sir Alister Hardy founded the Religious Experience Research Unit at Oxford. Hardy and his group collected many accounts of spiritual experiences, and he reported on 3,000 of them in a book (Hardy, 1979). Several types of EHEs were represented. Million (1992) surveyed 22 people who had had paranormal experiences in regard to aftereffects. Kennedy and Kanthamani (1995) also investigated aftereffects of paranormal and transcendent experiences (i.e., EHEs). We will also list below aftereffects cited in these three of these studies, indicating which one by citing author’s or authors’ name(s) followed by the page number in parentheses. Note: Several of the phrases are synonymous but we included all forms used. (We have listed both short- and long-term aftereffects in one alphabetical order. Sometimes the same aftereffects occur not only at the time of the experience but later, as well.)
The original list based on the above was augmented by two studies performed since it was compiled. One was an examination of the concomitants, triggers, and aftereffects of 50 accounts of experiences taken from 50 of the essays from the 8th Imich Essay Contest selected randomly. For that study, which was funded by the Institute of Noetic Sciences, we used three checklists White had prepared, including the aftereffect one. Before the analysis was begun, Brown and White added any additional aftereffects they could think of from their reading and experience. We then used the checklists during the analysis to check off any aftereffects noted, each researcher working independently. If an aftereffect was not on the list, we added it. One of us (White) tended to add specific items, whereas Brown tended to go up one or two levels of generalization. (Ideally, both methods should be used for the whole list, and White hopes to do this.) The new aftereffects we noted have been added to the current list. The preliminary report of the entire study will be in the library on EHE Research. (White hopes to prepare a fuller report of the study after the data have been rechecked.)
In addition, for the 1999 meeting of the Institute for the Scientific Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM), White prepared a paper on aftereffects of various types of anomalous experience and anomalies of personal experience based on a literature survey of studies she could locate within a one-month period working as time permitted. She found 71 individual and group studies and searched them for aftereffects to add to the list. A short version of that paper, listing the most frequent aftereffects noted, is listed here under About EHEs.
Here are some of the references checked in looking for aftereffects. The full list will be presented eventually, but will require hours of work we do not have available at this time.
Hardy, A. (1979). The Spiritual Nature of Man. Oxford, UK: Clarendon.
Kennedy, J.E., & Kanthamani, H. (1995). An exploratory study of the effects of paranormal and spiritual experiences in peoples’ lives and well-being. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 89, 249-264.
Milton, J. (1992). Effects of "paranormal" experiences on people’s lives. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 58, 314-323.
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