The experience of "sensed presence" or "felt presence" in the absence of "other" has been described as a complex multimodal experience to which meaning is given. Sensed presence (SenP) is a transdiagnostic experience that exists along a continuum that can appear during isolation, spirit quests, exposure to extreme elements, bereavement, anxiety, and psychosis. Given the prevalence and vast heterogeneity of SenP, in addition to a surprising lack of targeted research into this phenomenon, this research examined the interrelationship of SenP, attenuated psychosis symptoms (APS), and transliminality. Transliminality is composed of absorption, fantasy proneness, paranormal belief, mystical experiences, increased creativity, and hyperaesthesia.
A completely anonymous online survey of unusual experiences and mental health was distributed via social media (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and mass emailing lists) to recruit participants. Demographic data were analyzed using χ2 tests and one-way ANOVAs. A two-step cluster analysis was conducted to identify distinct sub-categories of transliminality followed by ANOVAs with bootstrapping at 1,000 iterations to compare SenP, increased APS, and transliminality. Pearson's bivariate correlations were conducted to determine the association between SenP, APS, and transliminality.
Together with descriptive findings, we show distinct characteristics between clusters. T1 cluster consisted of individuals with few SenP experiences, low APS, and low transliminality. T2 consisted of individuals with a moderate prevalence of SenP, low APS, moderate transliminality, and increased overall feeling of closeness to G-d. There was no significant difference in APS between T1 and T2 or in the level of distress associated with APS. T3 individuals showed a significantly higher prevalence of SenP in all domains (frequency, distress, vividness, and total score), higher APS, and higher transliminality, compared to T1 and T2. The T3 cluster met criteria for high risk to develop psychosis.
Thus, our findings demonstrate a strong association and entanglement of these experiences which suggests that the interrelatedness of transliminality/absorption and APS may serve as a potentially provocative underlying structure in the phenomenology of SenP.