Extra-Ordinary Human Experience: Indian Psychological Perspective

Have you ever heard of someone describing near-death experiences or experiences of being one with the divine? These seem almost unreal unless one has had such an experience. However, it is quite common for people to have these experiences. There are signs of challenges, deficiencies, and "bad news" receiving sooner and more focused attention than comparable examples of adequacy, success, progress, and "good news" in almost all spheres of life and cognition.

Evidence for this greater focus on disturbances than on more optimal functioning can be found in news reports of crimes, dangers, and disasters in the mass media; in counselors' and therapists' attention to difficulties, deficits, maladjustments, and traumas; in health professionals' emphasis on illness and disease; in the development of concepts of psychosomatic illness much earlier than those of psychosomatic health; and the strong emphasis of many spiritual traditions.

What are Extraordinary Human Experiences?

Rhea White invented the term "exceptional human experiences" (EHEs) to serve as a catchall for a group of extraordinary, spontaneous experiences that had previously been handled independently by researchers and practitioners from other fields. Due to their atypical character, such experiences tend to be downplayed or overlooked in many facets of Western culture. White contended that if these experiences are viewed as curios, transitory, or functional flukes that need to be explained away, many of them may continue to be merely anomalous—and, hence, discounted. In contrast, similar experiences might, according to White, contribute to the experience going through transformative changes if they are attended to more fully, respected, valued, supported, and engaged with—deeply and thoroughly.

The encounters become what White called extraordinary human experiences as this process progresses; she added the word "human" to denote the possibility that these experiences may disclose and contribute to the fuller manifestation of one's genuine human potential. Working with these experiences can lead to significant and deep transformations, according to White. Through fostering less identification (dissociation) with one's "skin encapsulated ego" and more identification (association) with the "All-abbreviation Self"—White's for oneness with all things—and by encouraging a change in the narratives used to describe oneself and the world, they can assist people in evolving in awareness, worldview, sense of the meaning of life, and appreciation of their very nature.

Common Types of Extraordinary Human Experiences

Some common types of extraordinary human experiences include

Spiritual Experiences − These include experiences of a deeper connection to something greater than oneself, such as a sense of oneness with the universe, a sense of the divine, or a connection to a higher power.

Mystical Experiences − These experiences involve a sense of unity with all things, a loss of a sense of self, and a sense of transcendence beyond the boundaries of ordinary reality.

Near-death Experiences − These experiences occur when an individual is close to death and can include experiences of out-of-body sensations, intense feelings of peace, and encounters with spiritual beings or a higher power.

Altered States of Consciousness − These include experiences such as lucid dreaming, hypnosis, and psychedelic experiences, which involve a change in the normal functioning of consciousness.

Other Extraordinary Experiences − This category can include experiences such as paranormal experiences, past-life memories, and encounters with UFOs or extraterrestrial beings, which can be considered profound, unexpected, and unconventional experiences that challenge an individual's understanding of reality.

It is important to note that extraordinary human experiences can vary widely in intensity, duration, and context and that people's interpretation of these experiences may also vary. Additionally, not all people may have such experiences, which are subjective and personal to each individual.

The Indian Perspective

From the Indian psychological perspective, extraordinary human experiences are understood as states of consciousness that go beyond the normal boundaries of the ego and the individual self. These experiences are considered transcendent or transpersonal and can include spiritual or mystical experiences, near-death experiences, altered states of consciousness, and other extraordinary experiences.

The Indian psychological perspective also includes a rich tradition of spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness, which are believed to facilitate these extraordinary experiences. These practices are believed to help individuals develop self-awareness, inner peace, and a deeper understanding of the self, leading to experiences of transcendence. The Indian psychological perspective also emphasizes the importance of ethical and moral conduct in achieving spiritual growth and enlightenment. It emphasizes the importance of living in alignment with one's values and the concept of karma, the belief that actions have consequences and that actions should be taken with the greater good in mind.

Indian Psychology also has the concept of "Samadhi," an extraordinary state of consciousness characterized by a profound sense of inner peace, joy, and unity with all things. It has considered being the highest level of spiritual realization in Indian Psychology. In summary, the Indian psychological perspective posits that extraordinary human experiences are opportunities for self-transcendence and spiritual growth. Spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can facilitate these experiences. Additionally, the Indian perspective emphasizes the importance of moral and ethical conduct and the connection between spiritual growth and virtuous life.

The Study of Extraordinary Human Experiences

In Indian psychology, the study of extraordinary human experiences is often referred to as "sādhanā," which translates to "spiritual practice" or "spiritual endeavor." These experiences result from intense spiritual practices, such as meditation, yoga, and other forms of self-discipline, which lead to heightened awareness and spiritual insight.

In Indian psychology, the study of extraordinary human experiences is often referred to as "sādhanā," which translates to "spiritual practice" or "spiritual endeavor." These experiences result from intense spiritual practices, such as meditation, yoga, and other forms of self-discipline, which lead to heightened awareness and spiritual insight.

One key concept in Indian psychology is the idea of "dharma," or the natural laws and principles that govern the universe. This includes physical, moral, and ethical laws governing human behavior. Indian psychology views the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and experiences as a way to understand and align oneself with these natural laws to live a more fulfilled and meaningful life. One well-known Indian psychological text that deals with these concepts are the "Yogasutra" of Patanjali, a collection of 195 sutras (aphorisms) that outlines the principles of yoga and meditation and the stages of spiritual development that one can go through. Another key text is "Bhagavad Gita," a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna on the eve of the Kurukshetra war. The text summarizes the main Indian spiritual path, Bhakti Yoga.

In India, spiritual practices have been part of the culture for thousands of years and passed down through generations of spiritual teachers and practitioners. Studying these practices and the experiences they can lead to is an ongoing process and is considered an important aspect of Indian psychology. In modern times, psychology is still developing in India, though more and more western psychological concepts and therapies are being adopted, such as Cognitive Behavioral therapy. However, Indian Psychology is not only limited to the study of spiritual practices but also provides a holistic perspective of the mind, body, and spirit and the interconnectedness of all aspects of human experience.


Indian psychology views the study of extraordinary human experiences as central to spiritual development and self-discovery. According to this perspective, these experiences result from intense spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, and other forms of self-discipline. These practices help individuals align with the natural laws and principles of the universe, known as dharma, which leads to a heightened state of awareness and spiritual insight.

Indian psychology also provides a holistic perspective of the mind, body, and spirit and the interconnectedness of all aspects of human experience. This holistic perspective can provide unique insights and understanding of human experiences, including those considered extraordinary. Overall, the Indian psychological perspective on extraordinary human experiences is based on the central belief that these experiences can provide individuals with a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them and ultimately lead to a more fulfilled and meaningful life.

Updated on: 03-Feb-2023


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