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Concomitants of Exceptional Human Experiences

Rhea A. White
Suzanne V. Brown
(1st ed., 1997; 2nd ed., 2000)

In describing or reading accounts of exceptional experiences (EEs) and exceptional human experiences (EHEs), we can divide the descriptors used to depict the experience into two types. The first, and perhaps the primary one, describe the features that identify the experience as an anomaly one or else as an anomaly of personal experience, such as a precognitive dream, levitation, mystical experience, being in the zone in sports, a near-death experience, and many other desolation/nadir, dissociative, encounter, healing, psychical, transcendent, death-related, and peak experiences. The second are components of the experience that may or may not be unique to that type of experience. It appears that several are mentioned in descriptions of a few or even many types of exceptional experience. We call these seemingly secondary qualities of experience concomitants. These can be classed as physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual. We will list below the concomitants in each of these four categories that were cited in the accounts received for 1994 Alexander Imich Essay Contest on , which was sponsored by Dr. Imich and the EHE Network.

The reason we think it is important to be aware of the kinds of concomitants associated with EEs and EHEs is that in our view each EE can be considered a puzzle piece, so in order to discover its place in the overall picture it is necessary to know as many of its characteristics as possible. Certain concomitants may cluster in certain types of experiences and therefore may point to a certain portion of the picture, just as in a jigsaw puzzle it is important to study each piece’s form and color. Knowing the concomitants of EEs and EHEs may also help us to identify such experiences and possibly to differentiate between EEs and EHEs. The placement of concomitants in the four categories below is phenomenologically determined. That is, according to the experiencers, they saw lights or electrical effects outside themselves or heard sounds. This does not mean that physically detectable sounds and lights were present, nor can this possibility be ruled out. Here we are only saying that the experiencers experienced these EHE effects as if they were physical or physiological. In regard to the psychological or spiritual categories, we need to work out rules for discriminating between them. Perhaps there is no need for a spiritual category, or maybe the only category we need is either the psychological or the spiritual, but at this exploratory stage we are using all four.

When reporting, investigating, or studying experiences, people are urged to attend to the concomitants of the experience as well as the experience proper. Whereas the experience undoubtedly has unique identifying features, we need to know more about the four kinds of concomitants. They may be present with only certain types of experience, or some may occur with any exceptional experience. In that case, it could be the concomitants themselves that are primary. It also could be that they express what it is like to be inside the Experiential Paradigm, whereas the experience itself is the means used to get there. These speculations await the research necessary to confirm, correct, extend, or deny them.

Many of the descriptors listed below are synonymous, but we cite all forms mentioned because in searching for concomitants the user may have experienced, one person may look under one variant and another may think of a synonym to check under.

Physical Concomitants

Blackness/black space, seeing

Books/library, seeing

Blue light

Blue star


Bubble of light, seeing

Butterfly, seeing

Buzzing sounds

Celestial/ indescribable music, hearing

Chimes, hearing

Color misty grayness, seeing

Color/light phosphorescent, seeing


Colors fuschia, seeing

Colors iridescent, seeing

Colors swirling, seeing

Crackling sounds

Darkness, seeing

Dematerialize before eyes, seeing objects

Dense forms, seeing

Dogs/wolves, seeing

Electric shocks (benign)

Electrical effects

Flames in another’s eyes, seeing

Flames in surrounding environment, seeing

Flames in vision, seeing

Flames overhead

Flutter in air, was being touched by

Golden globe of light


Hissing sounds

Humming sounds


Light "fantastic," seeing

Light as white swirl in surroundings, seeing

Light blinding, seeing

Light brilliant and sharp, seeing

Light faintly at distance, seeing

Light flooding all around, seeing

Light forms/ subtle light forms of no discernable shape, seeing

Light golden all around, seeing

Light soft and glowing, seeing

Light, pinpoints of



Music, hearing

Net, seeing

Objects in surroundings softened, seeing that the quality of

People as molecules of light

Pinpoints of light

Points of light

Probed by another, being physically

Roar or roaring sound

Rushing wind

Sage-like figure, seeing

Screech of eagle, hearing

Screen of consciousness, seeing a


Shape-shifting/levitation of another, seeing



Slow motion

Snapping sounds

Stars, seeing tiny

Streams of light

Substance of object transparent

Substance seen as illusory

Symbol, seeing

Time loss

Time slowing down


Tunnel at a distance, seeing

Tunnel/ dark tunnel, seeing

Violated /invaded by another, being physically

Vision through, into or under covered areas, seeing with

Voice of another, hearing

White light

Wind, was being touched by

Words spoken from another outside of self, hearing

Physiological Concomitants

Blacked out, sensation of being

Blinded momentarily

Body feels like flames (no heat)

Body feels like swirls of light

Body feels translucent

Body flooding with water, sensation of

Body glowing, sensation of

Body heat

Body levitation with bed, sensation of

Body luminosity, inner

Body movement involuntary

Body rising/floating in air, sensation of

Body stiffened

Buzzing in ears

Cellular knowing/infusion inner sensation

Chest caving in

Chest pressure

Chills down spine

Deafened momentarily

Driving involuntarily

Dry mouth

Electrical tingling

Energy influx

Faint, feeling


Goose pimples

Hair curling

Hair standing on end

Heart racing, sensation of

Heart-ache suddenly gone

Heat in palms of hand(s)

Heat (inner fire)

Hunger, sensation of immediate


Levitation sensation

Light circles around eyes

Light coursing through body

Light coursing through body

Light flooded every pore

Light in brain

Light (inner) moves neck up, sensation of


Lightness, sensation of inner

Moved, sensation of being involuntarily

Music, sensation of melting into


Pain (non-physical inside) suddenly goes away

Pain (physical) suddenly goes away



Pulled, sense of being involuntarily

Ringing in ears

Scalp tingling

Senses enhanced

Senses overwhelmed


Shaking (uncontrolled)


Space, sense of zipping/flying/moving/swirling through

Speaking involuntarily

Speechless momentarily

Speeding, inner sense of

Stomach, felt big hole in

Strength, extraordinary

Swaying sensation



Temperature drop

Temperature shift in extremities, sensation of


Throat constricted

Time ended, sensation that all of

Time stopped/suspended, sensation of


Transparent body


Tunnel, sense of swirling into



Vision, changes of

Vision, clear and perfect

Vision from back of head

Vision improved

Voice, hearing an inner

Volition, acting/moving in absence of personal


Weight loss


Wobble/weak kneed

Psychological Concomitants

Aliveness, immediate feeling of

Anger, immediate feeling of

Anomie/alienation, immediate feeling of


Boundaries dropping away

Boundaries (ego) understood as "me" and "them"


Connection with another, immediate feeling of


Conviction of beliefs, immediate confirmation of one’s

Conviction of that there is "more"

Courage, immediate feeling of

Covering face/protecting self as if being attacked, immediate impulse of

Dance with joy, immediate impulse to

Emotional rush/tidal wave of emotion


Familiarity (specific to person/others), immediate feeling of

Familiarity (specific to place/ situation), immediate feeling of

Forgiven, immediate feeling of being

Free-floating frictionless emotional state

Gratitude, immediate feeling of simple




Identity breaking up

Identity change

Identity restructuring


Imaging, not thinking

Impulse/ acting impulsively not with directed thought

Inner smile


Isolation/ being isolated, immediate feeling of

Jump, immediate impulse to


Liberation of body, immediate feeling of

Liberation of depression/ depression lifted, immediate feeling of

Liberation of worries/concerns, immediate feeling of

Loss, immediate feeling of a sense of

Mental clarity

Mind focused

Mind is a blank slate, immediate feeling that one’s

Moan, immediate impulse to

New life, feeling of getting/being given a

Observing self from outside of physical boundaries of self

Oneness with humans


Peace (indescribable)

Perceptual/cognitive shift


Personal "seal of approval"/validation, received

Physical body/self is non-existent, immediate feeling that

Power, immediate feeling of personal


Recognition/insight/realization of answer, immediate feeling of

Sadness to leave experience, immediate feeling of

Scared stiff

Scared to death


Shout, immediate impulse to

Shriek, immediate impulse to


Volition, acting/moving with

Volition, acting/moving with the absence of (intellect understands)


Yearning, intense

Spiritual Concomitants

Acceptance, overwhelming and complete

Being of light

Blessed, overwhelming sense of being

Bliss/ ecstasy, overwhelming sense of total

Choice/being asked to choose to live or to die, overwhelming sense of

Clean Slate, overwhelming sense of being given a

Cleansed, overwhelming sense of being totally

Contrition, overwhelming sense of

Death (desirability of)

Essence/formless self, overwhelming and total sense of own

Eternity within

Fear of death, loss of

Feeling of being home

Feeling blessed

Flooding, overwhelming sense of

Force/power greater than oneself, overwhelming sense of

Forgiven, overwhelming sense of being

Fusion with another person

Fusion with circumstances/environment

Fusion with something greater than oneself

Gratitude, overwhelming sense of

Home, not wanting to leave newfound sense of


Infusion/implanting of special/profound information, recipient of

Knowledge (special, profound), overwhelming sense of newfound

Never alone/knowing that one is never alone

Oneness with Nature/Earth

Oneness with place

Overwhelming love

Peace, sweet silence of

Profundity, overwhelming sense of

Quickening to the core of oneself, overwhelming sense of


Sacred(ness), profound sense of the

Shrieking from the core of oneself, overwhelming sense of

Simplicity, core knowing that all is

Spiritual energy infusion/influx overwhelming sense of

Surrender to experience, overwhelming and total

Surrender to life’s circumstances, overwhelming and total

Surrender will to Divine Will, overwhelming and total

Suspension of self in outer/inner space (not identifiable location/place)

Suspension of time

Terror, overwhelming

Thrilled to the core

Transformation of every facet of body to feeling of unbounded love that extends to environment and all life

Truth, overwhelming sense of

Unbounded love

Unconditional love

Sacred(ness), profound sense of the

Shrieking from the core of oneself, overwhelming sense of

Simplicity, core knowing that all is

Spiritual energy infusion/influx overwhelming sense of

Surrender to experience, overwhelming and total

Surrender to life’s circumstances, overwhelming and total

Surrender will to Divine Will, overwhelming and total

Suspension of self in outer/inner space (not identifiable location/place)

Suspension of time

Terror, overwhelming

Thrilled to the core

Transformation of every facet of body to feeling of unbounded love that extends to environment and all life

Truth, overwhelming sense of

Uplifted, overwhelming sense of being


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