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Rezo Kudryavtsev
Rezo Kudryavtsev

The Spiritual Experience


The great thing about a 12-Step program is that there are no religious affiliations and the suggestion is to simply find a Higher Power of your own understanding. There are no rules concerning your spirituality, because they are personal to your own belief. Although you may be averse to wanting to be part of having a spiritual experience in the first place, there is little to nothing you can do to prevent them from happening. What you may find yourself really contemplating is when, and if, you have had a spiritual experience at all.




The Spiritual Experience


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Regardless of if you have religious affiliation or no spirituality at all, it will not keep you from spiritual experiences. They happen to everyone, and some people are attuned to them while others are not. There is no baseline as to who gets to experience them. Sometimes they are the product of something positive, although being in the darkness often results in the biggest spiritual experiences of them all.


If you were to talk to others about their spiritual experiences, you will hear more about them happening in their most despairing moments to give them hope to carry on. Yes, there are many times that spiritual experiences produce ideal outcomes and blessings, but the most memorable ones come during unfortunate incidents. Jail time, deaths of loved ones, tumultuous relationships, or career slumps are all occasions that a Higher Power will show up to take care of things better than you can. Again, you do not necessarily have to put faith in a Higher Power to endure a spiritual experience. You just need to recognize and accept what has just occurred to receive the benefits of them.


Do not worry that you are being pulled into a religious belief due to a spiritual experience. You do not have to be religious, because you might only be finding out about spirituality. Spirituality is like blowing out a candle on your birthday, hoping for blessings. Depending on a higher power, the ocean, or the universe is not a bad thing because you are allowing something bigger than yourself to be in control. Placing some belief in these deities takes away the responsibilities of making everything work out the way you want it to be and allowing it to become the way it is supposed to be.


Abstract:The Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (DSES) is a 16-item self-report measure designed to assess ordinary experiences of connection with the transcendent in daily life. It includes constructs such as awe, gratitude, mercy, sense of connection with the transcendent and compassionate love. It also includes measures of awareness of discernment/inspiration and a sense of deep inner peace. Originally developed for use in health studies, it has been increasingly used more widely in the social sciences, for program evaluation, and for examining changes in spiritual experiences over time. Also it has been used in counseling, addiction treatment settings, and religious organizations. It has been included in longitudinal health studies and in the U.S. General Social Survey which established random-sample population norms. It has publications on its psychometric validity in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and Mandarin Chinese. Translations have been made into twenty languages including Hindi, Hebrew and Arabic and the scale has been effectively used in a variety of cultures. The 16-item scale does not have a psychometrically representative shorter form although a 6-item adaptation has been used. The DSES was developed using extensive qualitative testing in a variety of groups, which has helped its capacity to be useful in a variety of settings. It was constructed to reflect an overlapping circle model of spirituality/religiousness and contains items that are more specifically theistic in nature, as well as items to tap the spiritual experience of those who are not comfortable with theistic language. The scale has been used in over 70 published studies. This paper will provide an overview of the scale itself, describe why it has proved useful, and discuss some studies using the scale. See for more information on the scale.Keywords: DSES; spiritual experiences; spirituality; religiousness; assessment; well-being; quality of life


As the author of the DSES, and one of the lead developers of the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality (BMMRS) [5], this author sees religiousness/spirituality as a multidimensional construct. The DSES makes a significant contribution to measurement of this construct and continues to be actively useful in studies. This paper is designed to: (1) Give a review of some of the background to the instrument's development; (2) give some of its psychometric properties; (3) discuss issues of adaptation, translation and interpretation; and (4) describe some areas of study in which it has proven useful including some empirical studies using the instrument.


The DSES was designed to assess ordinary experiences of connection with the transcendent in daily life. It includes constructs such as awe, gratitude, mercy, sense of connection with the transcendent and compassionate love. It also includes items relating to awareness of discernment/inspiration and a sense of deep inner peace. It measures subjective experiences that form an integral part of daily life for many ordinary people. The goal of this instrument is to obtain a measure of various qualities of the spiritual life as it plays out in the experiential and emotional details of daily life. The experiences tapped by this instrument are feelings and sensations, rather than cognitive articulation of specific beliefs. For many people these experiences may have a highly charged emotional tone, for others, the sensations may seem less specifically emotional, and more like direct sensation or awareness. Some of the experiences that the DSES is attempting to capture can be best articulated using religious language; some do not require explicitly religious language. Some feelings or direct sensations are considered more important for particular religious traditions than others. Thus a breadth of particulars was included such as a sense of awe, a sense of thankfulness, feelings of compassionate love, mercy, and desire for divine closeness. It was not expected that everyone would have all of these experiences, but it was hoped that the spectrum would cover a variety of those present. One of the things that has helped the applicability of the scale has been this breadth and inclusiveness, while maintaining depth of meaning. Although the DSES can at times provide a useful proxy for spirituality, and operationalize one major aspect of spirituality, it does not capture the construct fully. Religiousness/spirituality is a multidimensional construct. Any complete operational definition of spirituality would need to consider the context of beliefs, practices, culture, and a variety of other factors, which can also include more negatively charged features of spirituality.


Details of the methods used in the development of the scale, conceptualization and design of each of the items and the Introduction, and results from the qualitative interviews, can be found in Underwood [1]. The development process included review of sources from theology, comparative religion, the social sciences, a review of available scales, and many in depth interviews with a large variety of people over time. Subsequently structured interviews were conducted to refine the items. These included a spectrum of religious perspectives and non-religious ones, gender, socioeconomic spread, educational levels, various countries and cultures accessed via a World Health Organization project and other contacts, in depth interviews with individuals for whom spirituality was central, and interviews with older children and adolescents as well as older adults. As the items were refined, feedback provided the ability to home in on the actual construct of interest, finding a group of words that would tap this for as many different kinds of people as possible, while still maintaining capacity to touch the depths of the construct.


Each item in the scale was designed to tap a separate feature of spiritual experience, but it was hoped that there would be a cohesiveness of conceptual underpinning. The original paper on the scale's psychometrics demonstrated a single factor, with weaker loadings by certain items, especially the two compassionate love items (13 and 14, self-less caring and accepting others) [2]. These two items often have a weaker loading, but conceptually are important to the breadth of content addressed in the scale.


Continuing to consider the scale as uni-dimensional seems warranted at this time, taking these various factor analysis investigations into account. Since each item was designed to tap a dimension of spiritual experience, it is expected that items will perform differentially in various studies. The inclusion of the Introduction is important to enable effective factor analysis of the scale to take place. Premature separation of items into subgroups can actually get in the way of understanding.


It is tempting to tweak a scale. One reason is our own biases. We read an item and it does not seem to fit how we and those we know personally describe things, and then we make what seems like a sensible change. Our biases in the religious/spiritual realm can be quite strong and we can often be unaware of them. A few authors have changed the wording of the scale items substantively and still call their versions a scale of Daily Spiritual Experiences. This is strongly not advised. The wording of this scale is critical to its effectiveness and ability to tap the construct of interest. Changes in wording can strongly affect performance, as well as the capacity to compare with the many studies that have used the scale. If the wording is changed, the capacity to use the available norms is adversely affected, as is the ability to compare results between studies. The DSES does not meet all needs, and other scales should be used to address other needs.


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