Absorption, Mentalizing, and Mysticism

Sensing the Presence of the Divine


  • Thomas J. Coleman III Coventry University and Grand Valley State University
  • James E. Bartlett Coventry University and Arden University
  • Jenny M. Holcombe University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Sally B. Swanson University of Maine
  • Andrew Atkinson Independent scholar
  • Christopher F. Silver University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Ralph W. Hood University of Tennessee at Chattanooga




Mysticism, Absorption, Mentalizing, Religious Experience, Spiritual


Research suggests trait absorption, individual differences in Theoryof Mind (ToM), and orthopraxical training are importantfor explaining a variety of extraordinary experiences typicallyassociated with religion. However, no studies exist quantifyingToM ability or testing its relationship with trait absorption inthe prediction of what is arguably the most ubiquitous type ofextraordinary experience-the mystical experience. To addressthis, two exploratory studies were conducted using a sample ofmeditators (N = 269) and undergraduate students (N = 123). Instudy one, regression analyses revealed weekly religious/spiritualpractice, absorption, and mentalizing predict increased mysticalexperiences. Moreover, moderation analysis indicated theabsorption-mysticism relationship is stronger among individualswith lower mentalizing ability. Study two only replicated therelationship of absorption and weekly practice with mysticism.These studies highlight the robust contribution of absorption inmystical experiences and suggest a more dynamic role for mentalizingthan is accounted for in the current literature.

Author Biographies

Thomas J. Coleman III, Coventry University and Grand Valley State University

Thomas J. Coleman III is a PhD Candidate in psychology at the Centre for Advances in Behavioral Science, Coventry University, and member of the Brain, Belief, and Behaviour Research Lab.

Ralph W. Hood, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Ralph W. Hood Jr., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, USA.


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How to Cite

Coleman III, T. J., Bartlett, J. E., Holcombe, J. M., Swanson, S. B., Atkinson, A., Silver, C. F., & Hood, R. W. (2020). Absorption, Mentalizing, and Mysticism: Sensing the Presence of the Divine. Journal for the Cognitive Science of Religion, 5(1), 63–84. https://doi.org/10.1558/jcsr.37551