ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Openness mystical experience and creativity in the The Five Factor Personality Model

Updated on February 19, 2013

Salvadore Dali, a perfect example of a creative high Openness scorer said “The difference between Dali and a madman is that Dali is not mad”. High openness scorers can be sculptors or psychotics, madmen or mystics and some may cross and recross the wafer thin boundary of sanity. You do not have to dig far to find highly open creative and intelligent people with psychological problems. Comic Genius Spike Milligan and the artist Vincent Van Gogh come to mind. Some of these geniuses refused treatment fearing that would remove their talent, and who were cured have indeed lost their talent. Openness, sometimes referred to as openness to experience, is perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing of the big five personality traits .

Overview of Openness

Openness involves active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. Low scorers can be considered practical and down to earth. tend to be conventional and traditional: conservative with a small “c”, prefer familiar routines to new experiences, and generally having a narrow range of interests.

High openness is asociated with crystallised intelligence, the ability to use skills, knowledge and experience, but not fluid intelligence, the ability to see order in confusion, solve problems and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge. Fluid intelligence is predominant in individuals with Autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger syndrome , a milder form of Autism. Incidentally IT workers tend to develop Asperger's syndrome though careful work life balance can avoid this problem. The two forms of intelligence do however correlate with each other and both forms are needed for a balanced life.

High Scorers

While the paradigm of the high openness scorer is the creative artist the core of this trait seems to be the ability to find associations between apparently disparate objects or concepts. This can lead to a mystical experience in which everything seems connected and it is impossible to pick up a pen without picking up the table it was resting on and the table brings images of all tables everywhere as does the pen. Ouspensky in a mystical experience summed this up by saying “A man could go mad from a single ashtray”. Another way of putting it is that a high openness scorer with high intelligence can throw a handful of ideas into the air like common stones and knit them into a diamond necklace before they landed.

High openness predicts participation in those cultural and artistic activities that need some sort of effort such as listening to complex music or following a novel with a twisted plot. It is also associated with mystical experience. I also think it is associated with scientific creativity at the highest level. Many great scientists have had experiences that could be regarded as mystical and these have sometimes resulted in discoveries that changed the world.

The high openness scorer works by metaphor rather than meaning. To the low scorer a brick is a brick, but to a high scorer it is a bed for a baby doll, a weight for a pendulum, a whetstone, a symbol of the weight of the baggage we carry from the past or something that floats in the air the way dogs lack fleas. It can also represent the transition from nomadism to agriculture to city living.

The high scorer tends to challenge social norms and may sometimes seem protean adopting and abandoning political and religious views as part of a quest for self expression. High Scorers tend to be politically liberal and tolerant of diversity.As a consequence, they are generally more open to different cultures and lifestyles. They are lower in ethnocentrism and right-wing authoritarianism.

Openness, mysticism, religious experience and psychosis

In “Personality” Nettle looks at Alan Ginsberg, author of the poem “Howl” and describes an incident which many mystics will recognise no matter how imperfect words are to describe it. Then he dismisses it as having features common to psychotic disorders and notes Ginsberg's mother had psychiatric problems. Ginsberg's experience started with an auditory hallucination, and I have noted elsewhere that hearing voices does not mean you are insane or even at risk of going insane.

It is true that high openness scorers tend to have experiences that can be regarded as either mystical, religious (St Teresa, Francis of Assisi and James Fox for example) or psychotic and most religions tend to put such peoiple in monasteries and convents, but in a small number of cases there seems to be an indication that spirits, or at least conscious entities outside the experiencer's mind are involved. Some of these are mentioned in books by Colin Wilson, and some of the communicators in spiritualist seances appear more intelligent and completely different from the medium. So there is a possibilty (much more research is neede )that sometimes there may be a psychic component to these experiences and that high openness may involve a natural tendency towards a condition in which spirits may communicate with, obsess or even possess the high scorer. High scorers seem to be unusually susceptible to hypnosis and this may help spirits affect the experiencer.

Only connect

The major theme of openness is however the ability to see connections others miss. Like Picasso who saw a bike saddle as a sculpture of a bull. Sometimes the associations something arouses lead to auditory hallucinations, and these may just be random mental noise ans Nettle indicates, or may be genuine communications from some entity. Sometimes such communications are helpful, sometimes harmful and sometimes they lead to the impression of receiving communications from advanced beings in distant galaxies.

The Wrap

Openness has advantages as well as risks. Creativity may create triumph from disaster and lead to world shattering ideas. It may lead to higher status and it certainly seems like fun.

Openness is squeezed out of children as they grow though there are certain places where openness is allowed and encouraged up to a point: places of worship (as long as the power structure of the religion is not threatened) and brainstorming sessions (but suggesting the board be shot is a bad career move) are immediate examples ( and religious experiences are often uncomfortably like psychotic experiences)

Oh, I forgot to mention: High scorers tend to have more sexual partners over a lifetime.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • AlexK2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks Deborah

      I love Dali's work. Also Escher, MAx Ernst and Hieronymus Bosch. And Chinese and Japanese paintings

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander Reno 

      10 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      What a fascinating hub. I particularly like your quote about Dali, one of my favorite artists.

      Glad to know I run with the right crowd!


    • AlexK2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks Melinda.

      I read Feynman's autobiography and decided to adopt his playful approach to life. I noted his experiences with the unknown. He was a great guy as far as I can tell.

      I have had such experiences but unlike him I want to go there scientifically.

    • AlexK2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks Hello, I hope it spawned some ideas and I am glad it was useful

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      10 years ago from London, UK

      Very, very interesting read. I have learned a lot from it. Thank you.

    • msorensson profile image


      10 years ago


      This is true, Alex

      "The high openness scorer works by metaphor rather than meaning. To the low scorer a brick is a brick, but to a high scorer it is a bed for a baby doll, a weight for a pendulum, a whetstone, a symbol of the weight of the baggage we carry from the past or something that floats in the air the way dogs lack fleas. It can also represent the transition from nomadism to agriculture to city living."

      Even Richard Feynman has had brushes/exposures with the unknown.

      As his scientific mind could not..or did not want to go into the unknown, he had dismissed them as "pure chance."

      Great hub, Alex.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)