Physiology of Trance, Meditation and Pseudo-trance.

For a number of years I have been interested in mediumistic trance and in particular its physiology after coming across an experiment conducted many years ago with the medium Eileen Garrett and published in the Proceeding of the Society of Psychical Research[1].

Using equipment referred to as a Skin Conductance Meter I have been measuring the tonic skin conductance level (SCL) of individuals demonstrating mediumistic trance and comparing with other practices; such as meditators and individuals mimicking mediumistic trance.

A more thorough explanation has been given in my article published in the Paranormal Review, which can be found in the [Articles] section on this site.But for the purpose of this blog I just wanted to summarise my findings with the hope that others who may be interested in carrying out their own work and compare findings.

The diagrams below are asimplified SCL profiles measured from the different groups. Here the y axis (up and down bit) represent the level of skin conductance which typically can be considered as the level of mental/physical stress, stimulation etc. Where the high the level signifies more stress and lower the level signifies less stress and more relaxation. The x axis represents ‘time’.

In the sample of trance mediums, their baseline SCL showed no significant differences and during the demonstration their SCL followed a similar profile, with three maincomponents.

There was the initial phase of general physical and mental relaxation shown with the conductance slowly reducing, before there was rapid and exponential rise at the start of the trance demonstration. The SCL seemed to flatten off for the duration of the trance, before approximately 60-90 seconds before the medium emerged from the trance condition the SCL started to reduce once again. On returning to their normal awareness the SCL returned approximately to their baseline level.

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Individuals practicing meditation on the other hand showed a very different SCL profile. Here the profiles revealed and common thread of progressive steps to a deeper level of relaxation before reaching a plateau of relaxation. Across the sample the difference between the baseline and plateau SCL varied, and perhaps signified the experience of the meditator? Again as the meditation ended the SCL slowly increased but never reached their baseline level, perhaps signifying the meditators relaxed state once coming out of the meditation.

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The SCL of individuals asked to mimic demonstrators of mediumistic trance showed very little variation in their SCL. Even when the individuals where asked to compose an address on the spot thus to encourage a stress response, the SCL responded with a slight increase but nothing like that was seen with the trance demonstrators. The overall profile showed a slight increasing SCL trend during the period of the mimicking.

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[1]K. Goldney and S. Soal, 'Report of a Series of Experiments with Mrs Eileen Garrett, Part 1, An Examination into Physiological Changes Alleged to take place during the Trance State, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (1937), 154.

Chris Connelly 2017