Factor Analysis of the Mystical Experience Questionnaire: A Study of Experiences Occasioned by the Hallucinogen Psilocybin

J Sci Study Relig. 2012 Dec;51(4):721-737. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5906.2012.01685.x.


A large body of historical evidence describes the use of hallucinogenic compounds, such as psilocybin mushrooms, for religious purposes. But few scientific studies have attempted to measure or characterize hallucinogen-occasioned spiritual experiences. The present study examined the factor structure of the Mystical Experience Questionnaire (MEQ), a self-report measure that has been used to assess the effects of hallucinogens in laboratory studies. Participants (N=1602) completed the 43-item MEQ in reference to a mystical or profound experience they had had after ingesting psilocybin. Exploratory factor analysis of the MEQ retained 30 items and revealed a 4-factor structure covering the dimensions of classic mystical experience: unity, noetic quality, sacredness (F1); positive mood (F2); transcendence of time/space (F3); and ineffability (F4). MEQ factor scores showed good internal reliability and correlated with the Hood Mysticism Scale, indicating convergent validity. Participants who endorsed having had a mystical experience on psilocybin, compared to those who did not, had significantly higher factor scores, indicating construct validity. The 4-factor structure was confirmed in a second sample (N=440) and demonstrated superior fit compared to alternative models. The results provide initial evidence of the validity, reliability, and factor structure of a 30-item scale for measuring single, hallucinogen-occasioned mystical experiences, which may be a useful tool in the scientific study of mysticism.