A UNIVERSITY OF York researcher has launched a potentially groundbreaking study into ‘mystical’ experiences and their effects on the lives of those who have them.
Madeleine Castro, a postgraduate researcher attached to the Sociology Department, is investigating ‘extraordinary experiences’ and their interpretation by her respondents.
The research focuses not on whether or not these experiences “happened”, a judgement Castro claims is “not relevant to this project”, but instead frames them in a sociological context, asking what they meant to her respondents.
Respondents have reported a wide range of experiences. Those who have had near-death experiences often claim to have seen blindingly bright lights, tunnels, or a review of their lives and to have felt the presence of passed on loved ones or a separation from their physical self.
Others have reported visions or apparitions that have appeared to them. Castro tells of one male respondent who, having recently come out of hospital, was visited by what he later described as ‘an angel’. Despite his lack of traditional religious belief, the man felt certain the angel had come to confirm that he was going to live. For many participants this is the first time they have spoken about their experiences.
Castro is reluctant to apply labels to her research. The aim is not to “categorise experiences in a way that respondents wouldn’t categorise it themselves”.
She believes her research could help further knowledge in the field of human consciousness, something “we know so little, relatively speaking, about”. As well as the academic value of the research, Castro also hopes it will make a “very small contribution to helping people see these experiences as normal and without stigma”. Castro’s research is ongoing and those interested in contributing should get in touch at [email protected] or log on to www.theperiphery.co.uk.
By Raf Sanchez