Since the 19th century, mystical experience has evolved as a distinctive concept. It is closely related to "mysticism" but lays sole emphasis on the experiential aspect, be it spontaneous or induced by human behavior, whereas mysticism encompasses a broad range of practices aiming at a transformation of the person, not just inducing mystical experiences.
Perennialists regard various mystical traditions as pointing to one universal transcendental reality, for which those experiences offer the proof. The perennial position is "largely dismissed by scholars" but "has lost none of its popularity". Instead, a constructionist approach became dominant during the 1970s, which states that mystical experiences are mediated by pre-existing frames of reference, while the attribution approach focuses on the (religious) meaning that is attributed to specific events.
Neurological research reveals which areas in the brain are involved in so-called "mystical experience" both spontaneous and behavioral induced. Especially the brain's temporal lobe seems to have a significant role here.
In mystical and contemplative traditions, mystical experiences are not a goal in themselves, but part of a larger path of self-transformation.