Mysticism and Mystery Moves: An Examination of Flow Theory

John Michael Trembley, University of Tennessee - Knoxville


This study takes a phenomenological approach to squirt kayaking. It looks to examine mystical states of consciousness, as defined by William James, and flow theory, as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and focuses on what these experiences mean for participants of the squirt kayaking community. The study poses three research questions. (1) Do squirt kayakers experience mystical states of consciousness through squirt kayaking, and what does this experience mean? (2) Do squirt kayakers experience flow states of consciousness through squirt kayaking, and how was this experienced? (3) What is the mystery zombie or the mystery trance state, and how is it experienced?

By posting messages on online message boards dedicated to squirt kayakers twenty participants responded to the post and were then contacted by telephone for an interview based off of an original questionnaire created for this study.

The results show that mysticism and flow does occur through the squirt kayaking medium. Four primary themes emerged from the data about the experience and are as follows: defies expression, serious leisure, different realm, and the trance. Results indicate that there is not a distinctive difference between mysticism and flow, although further research should be done to support this. Also this study would suggest that further research be conducted concerning the build-up of carbon dioxide in the brain and its effects on mystical experiences. Implications of this research to look to challenge the concept of mysticism and flow by broadening what recreation offers its participants.

Keywords: charc, flow, mystery trance, mystery zombie, mysticism