Rhythmic chanting and mystical states across traditions

Gemma Perry, Vince Polito, William Forde Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Chanting is a form of rhythmic, repetitive vocalization practiced in a wide range of cultures. It is used in spiritual practice to strengthen community, heal illness, and overcome psychological and emotional difficulties. In many traditions, chanting is used to induce mystical states, an altered state of consciousness characterised by a profound sense of peace. Despite the global prevalence of chanting, its psychological effects are poorly understood. This investigation examined the psychological and contextual factors associated with mystical states during chanting. Data were analyzed from 464 participants across 33 countries who regularly engaged in chanting. Results showed that 60% of participants experienced mystical states during chanting. Absorption, altruism, and religiosity were higher among people who reported mystical states while chanting compared to those who did not report mystical states. There was no difference in mystical experience scores between vocal, silent, group or individual chanting and no difference in the prevalence of mystical states across chanting traditions. However, an analysis of subscales suggested that mystical experiences were especially characterised by positive mood and feelings of ineffability. The research sheds new light on factors that impact upon chanting experiences. A framework for understanding mystical states during chanting is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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