Peak Experience

From The SpiritWiki

A Peak Experience is a mild, positive, common form of Connection Experience, first recognized and named by Abraham Maslow.[1]

List of Connection Experience Types

Activation Experience, Aesthetic Experience, Birth Experience, Clearing Experience, Completion Experience, Death Experience, Deep Flow, Diminutive Experience, Dream Experience, Flow Experience, Forced Connection, Healing Experience, Nadir Experience, Peak Experience, Plateau Experience, Push Experience, Rebirth Experience, Restorative Experience, Union Experience, Unity Experience, Zenith Experience


A Peak Experience is characterized by a sudden feeling of intense happiness, well-being, wonder, awe, loss of fear and defensiveness, and transcendent joy[2] Maslow offered the following characteristics of peak experience.[3]

  1. Loss of judgment to time and space: The individual may have a sense of being outside time and space.
  2. Self-actualization: The individual feels the experience promotes personal growth and self-fulfillment.
  3. Sense of unity: Despite being a personal and unique experience, the individual often feels a sense of unity and interconnectedness with the rest of the universe.
  4. Overwhelming emotions: The individual may have feelings of wonder, awe, reverence, humility, joy, and even tears.
  5. Ineffability: The experience is often described as being beyond words.
  6. Feelings of being whole, one, and at harmony: The individual may feel more alive and in tune with themselves and the world around them.
  7. Spontaneity and naturalness: Peak experiences are not planned or forced but occur naturally.

Davis, Lockwood and Wright define a peak experience as follows.

Peak experiences have been defined as the best, happiest, most wonderful moments of one's life. A peak experience has some (but usually not all) of the following characteristics: an almost overwhelming sense of pleasure, euphoria, or joy, a deep sense of peacefulness or tranquility, feeling in tune, in harmony, or at one with the universe, a sense of wonder or awe, altered perceptions of time and/or space, such as expansion, a feeling of deeper knowing or profound understanding, a deep feeling of love (for yourself, another, or all people), a greater awareness of beauty or appreciation, a sense that it would be difficult or impossible to describe adequately in words.” [4]

Peak experiences can be intense. " A peak experience can produce great turmoil in the autonomic nervous system." At a certain point, Maslow became afraid that his body could not handle them. [5]

A Reward for Being Good?

Peak experiences are sometimes described as a “reward” for “being good.” Henry Geiger says in the introduction to Maslow (1971), and while expressing his confusion about the etiology of a peak experience, “We don’t know how the peak experience is achieved; it has no simple one-to-one relation with any deliberated procedure; we know only that it is somehow earned.” (Geiger quoted in Maslow, 1971: no page number in introduction) Geiger’s statements are questionable given that Maslow himself suggested, in the same book, that peak experiences may be elicited and are most often achieved through sex, music, and exposure to natural settings. In addition, Keutzer (1978) notes that several triggers exist including music, entheogens, prayer, nature moments, peaceful moments of quiet reflection, etc. In general, peak experiences are positively associated with individuals who are balanced, creative, and psychologically (Maslow, 1959) and physically healthy, and who have a more androgynous or feminine (as classified by the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI)) orientation (Mercer and Durham, 1999). However there are contraindications and these would include low self-esteem, imbalanced development (i.e., lack of attention to artistic, right-brain sensibilities), high levels of anxiety, significant childhood or perinatal trauma, stress (Hood, 1977) and the ingestion of Crown Stupifiers like alcohol.


We may examine peak experiences by requesting narrative records. Typically a researcher will ask “what was the most ecstatic moment of your life?” or “have you experienced transcendent ecstasy” (Maslow, 1971: 168). Hoffman and Muramoto (2007), in their retrospective analysis of childhood peak experiences, asked master’s level human service class of approximately 60 individuals “Think of the most wonderful or joyful experience of your life up through the age of 14. Describe this experience and how you felt. Has it subsequently affected your life? If so, how?”

It is not possible to elicit narrative records of peak experiences from children, however it is possible to study the peak experiences of children by relying on the retrospective recall of adults. After placing “author’s queries” in newspapers, Hoffman (1998) asked:

Can you recall any experiences from childhood—before the age of 14—that could be called mystical or intensely spiritual? Or, to put it another way: Can you recall any childhood moments in which you seemed to experience a different kind of reality—perhaps involving a sense of rapture or great harmony? As a child, you may not have recognized the experience as extraordinary or unusual, but think now from your current vantage point. I am especially interested in childhood experiences or perceptions that have endured in your memory and may have permanently affected your view of life or death, god, the universe, or the nature of human existence. (p. 114).

It is important to note that individuals may be reluctant to report their peak experiences either out of fear of being disparaged and belittled, because they feel that the experience will “lose power” if they do, because they cannot find the words to adequately describe it, or because they feel the experience is too intimate and personal to share (Keutzer, 1978).

Hoffman and Muramoto (1998; 2007) have provided a qualitative typology useful for categorizing childhood and adult epiphanies.


A peak experience is essentially a gentle, spontaneous crown opening. A Peak Experience is a brief period when the Consciousness is more "present" in the physical vehicle. Operationally a peak experience is a moment when the Consciousness Quotient of the Physical Unit is elevated above average or "normal" levels.

A Peak Experience may be viewed as a positive, but weak Mystical Experience. According to Maslow, everyone is capable of having a peak experience (Maslow, 1962) and in fact most people, when asked, report having peak experiences either in adult hood or childhood. Keutzer (2007) reports that 80% of a sample of college students reported peak experiences and that these reports where independent of religious activity, age, or course level!

Peak experiences are very common. [6] However, the etiology of the Peak Experience is not well understood. There is general agreement that psychological health is a precursor, but little systematic research has been done to establish the psychological or sociological precursors. It is the hypothesis of this author that peak experiences are more prevalent in healthy families and healthy environments.

There are questions about the prevalence of peak experiences in children. As with adult peak experiences, these are probably very common, perhaps even more common than in adulthood especially when we consider the cumulative abuse most adults bear. Research on the relationship between peak experiences and childhood trauma (i.e., abuse, neglect, poverty and other factors is desperately needed.


  1. Maslow, A. H. "Lessons from the Peak-Experiences." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2 1 (1962): 9-18.
  2. Maslow, A.H. The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. New York: Viking, 1971.
  3. Maslow, A. H. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1964.
  4. Reasons for Not Reporting Peak Experiences.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 31, no. 1 (1991): 86.
  5. Maslow, A. H. "Lessons from the Peak-Experiences." Journal of Humanistic Psychology 2 1 (1962): 112-113.
  6. Sosteric. Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Authentic Spirituality. St. Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press, 2019.