EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES: 20th Annual Conference of the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section


20th Annual Conference of the Consciousness and Experiential Psychology Section

Friday 7 – Saturday 8 September 2018

Regents University, Regents Park, London

This conference will explore exceptional experiences such as mystical, spiritual, psychic, NDE and other ‘anomalous’ experiences whether occurring spontaneously or induced through meditation or psychedelics for example. It will also address experiences engendered through the use of psychedelics. Exceptional experiences can involve a sense of interconnectedness, a wider sense of self, a sense of peace, joy, bliss, awe and may be perceptually intense. In some cases they appear to offer exceptional knowledge and in many instances such exceptional experiences have a positive transformative effect on the experient.

The conference will look at the nature of exceptional experiences, pertinent psychological factors, recent research on what is happening in the brain in altered states and the benefits of exceptional experience seen for example in recent work on the potential therapeutic benefit of various psychedelics. All welcome.


Keynote Speakers

Professor Etzel Cardeña (Lund University): 

Derangement of the senses or alternate epistemological pathways? Research on alterations of consciousness and human potentials

Certain traditions in both the West and the East have deemed the ordinary state of consciousness as circumscribed and potentially misleading, and have described alternate states of consciousness that may provide new insights into the nature of mind. This presentation will briefly describe some of the constraints of the ordinary state of consciousness. Next, it will cover research on how spontaneous or purposefully induced (e.g., through hypnosis, or meditation) anomalous experiences and alterations of consciousness relate to the enhancement of abilities, including decreased perceptual and cognitive automaticity; enhanced physiological control; recovery from different ailments; and positive changes in emotions, sense of meaning, and relationships with others and the environment. The final section will review research evidence for a daring claim about alternate states of consciousness: that they may give access to information not bound by common sense notions of time, space, and selfhood.

Etzel holds the Thorsen Chair in Psychology and directs the Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP) at Lund. He is a Fellow in the APS and APA. His areas of research include alterations of consciousness and anomalous experiences, dissociative processes and acute posttraumatic reactions, the neurophenomenology of hypnosis and meditation, and the stream of consciousness during waking and altered states. He was a postdoctoral fellow and scholar resident at Stanford University. He has more than 300 publications in the American Journal of Psychiatry, American Psychologist, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Current Directions in Psychological Science, and Psychological Bulletin etc. and various awards for his empirical, theoretical, and pedagogical contributions. His books include Varieties of Anomalous Experience (2014, APA) and Altering Consciousness: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives (2011) (see our reading list for details).


Dr Milan Scheidegger (University of Zurich): 

Neuroepistemology of drug-induced exceptional experiences

Psychoactive plants have been used in ritualistic contexts throughout human history to induce exceptional experiences for therapeutic and psycho-spiritual purposes. Nowadays, in the context of the renaissance of psychedelic research, psychoactive drugs could serve as promising epistemological tools for the scientific exploration of altered states of consciousness. In this talk, I will give an overview about how drug-induced exceptional experiences can be explained from the perspective of contemporary neuroscience. In particular, advanced neuroimaging technologies provide exciting novel insights into the brain dynamics underlying pharmacologically induced altered states of consciousness. Beyond shaping social and cultural evolution, psychedelic states also raise profound philosophical questions about the nature of subjective experience and the creation of meaning in living systems. Interfaces between different epistemological perspectives such as pharmacology, neuroscience, biosemiotics, philosophy of mind, and deep ecology will be explored.

Milan has an academic background in medicine, neuroscience, philosophy, and psychiatry. His MD-PhD degree was in functional and molecular neuroimaging from the Institute for Biomedical Engineering (University and ETH Zurich). He is currently researching the neurobiology and pharmacology of altered states of consciousness as a resident physician at the Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and Psychosomatics (University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zurich). He is member of the Swiss Society for Psycholytic Therapy (SAEPT) and investigates the potential of psychedelics such as ketamine, psilocybin, ayahuasca and DMT to facilitate therapeutic transformation. On his ethnobotanical expeditions to Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, he explored the traditional use of psychoactive plants in indigenous rituals.



Professor Chris Roe (University of Northampton): 

Making sense of exceptional experiences

Surveys consistently show that between a third and two thirds of people report belief in a range of so-called ‘paranormal phenomena’. Levels of belief seem to be independent of geographic region and culture, and such phenomena have been reported throughout recorded history. The most significant driver of paranormal belief is personal experience. In this talk I will draw on research conducted over the last 20 years (including case collections, interviews, and experiments) to elucidate the range of phenomena experienced and the approaches used in parapsychology to investigate them, looking at how such experiences can be accounted for in conventional psychological terms, associated psychological factors, and subjecting claims to experimental test under controlled conditions that potentially rule out normal explanations.

Chris is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes at Northampton, and Perrott-Warrick Senior Researcher (Trinity College, Cambridge). His research interests concern understanding the nature of anomalous experiences including the phenomenology of paranormal experience, the psychology of paranormal belief and deception, and experimental approaches to test claims for extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. His recent research concerns the relationship between altered states of consciousness and psychic experience. He is Chairman of the British Psychological Society Transpersonal Psychology Section, Past-President of the Parapsychological Association and a Council Member of the Society for Psychical Research. He is on the editorial board for the Journal of Parapsychology, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and the Transpersonal Psychology Review and has published over 100 journal papers and book chapters.


Call for Papers & Submission

Submissions are welcome on any aspect of exceptional and anomalous experience and are open to all, including both psychologists and those from other disciplines. Submissions can be papers, posters, workshops, or symposia and are based on 250-500 word abstracts.

Submissions Guidelines can be dowloaded here.

The Online Submission System is available here.

Submissions will close at midnight on Tuesday 31 July 2018.

Most papers will be allocated 30 mins, symposia an hour and a half and workshops 1-2 hours.

Those presenting at the conference need to register. Registration opens shortly.



There are five bursaries open to postgraduate students and psychologists within 12 years of qualifying. Two are aimed at CEP members, three are open to all. Papers (empirical, theoretical/review/practice-based), symposia and workshops are eligible for consideration, posters are not eligible. Please notify CEP of your interest in a bursary by Tuesday 31 July 2018 at the latest. The bursaries will be awarded to the best submissions that fit the programme and complement other submissions. Some bursaries include accommodation, others whole conference or day delegate registration. Travel will not be covered.

To apply bursary applicants should email their abstract to [email protected] (with Exceptional Experiences bursary in the subject line). This is in addition to submitting their abstract to the Online Submission System (above) in the normal way. Applicants should also indicate if they are CEP members or not in their email. Successful applicants will be contacted via email. Those applying by 31st July should hear by early August at the latest.


Registration & Pricing

Registration is now open! Please visit our registration page on Eventbrite here.

Registration closes at 23:30 on 30 August.

Early bird registration has been extended to 23:30 on 24 July. This saves approximately 10% of the registration fee below (rounded to £5 or £10).

Registration includes programme, abstracts, tea/coffee biscuits.

Meals extra: breakfast and lunch can be pre-booked for £15-£20, or alternative meals purchased on the day at the on-site café/refectory or bistro.

Dinner on 7 September is £45.

On-site accommodation is in standard rooms with shared bathroom. You will be asked for £10 deposit refundable on return of room key.

For ensuite accommodation delegates need to book local hotels. Regents University website offers suggestions (see below for link). A list of local hotels will also be added here.


Regents University is situated in Regents Park in Central London. Link to the venue website here.


Further Details

Conference queries to [email protected]

Tell your friends and colleagues using the short weblink for this page: www.bps.org.uk/cep/exceptionalexperiences

Download our printable conference poster (pdf) for your department noticeboards here (updated 18 June with pricing information).


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