The Death Transcendence Scale operationalizes the African proberb which states that a person is not truly dead unless he is forgotten. James (l 96 l) observes that religion for many people means "immortal­ity and nothing else." Lifton (l 979) elaborates this sentiment by asserting that per­ sons try to transcend death and seek immor­tality by several means, including mystical, religious, nature, biosocial, or creative modes.

The items in this scale seek to identify how individuals implicitly wish to be re­ membered after they die. The theoretical foundation for the scale, therefore, is strong and the items measure a cognitive orienta­tion toward death, except for the experi­ence-based mystical items.


As developed, the scale con­tains 23 items with a 4-point response for­ mat. The three items of the biosocial mode, and the five items for each of the other modes, create five subscales. The mysticism items are from the first factor of Hood's Mysticism Scale (1975); items for the other modes are new. The score is the sum of the responses on the Likert scale, the total of each subscale indicating the level of invest­ment in that particular mode.

In subsequent testing of the scale, Van­derCreek and Nye (1993) add three addi­tional biosocial items. They report the strength of all six. The strongest of these can now be included in the scale.

Practical Considerations:

This instrument requires no special skill to administer, score, or interpret. No instructions are necessary beyond the usual guarantee of confidential­ity and the emphasis on no "right" or "wrong" answers.


In their first study, Hood and Morris (1983) report results from three separate samples of undergraduate psychology majors. The samples consist of 587, 342, and 105 students respectively. In the same report, they describe interview re­sults from 30 female and 9 male older adults. They code these interview results in relation to four of the death transcendence modes (the mysticism items are excluded because earlier reports [Hood, 1975] indi­cated that older persons experience diffi­culty in responding to these items).

VandeCreek and Nye (1993, 1994) report results from two samples, 166 community persons and 273 general-hospital-related in­dividuals (132 patients and 141 family members waiting during surgery). Hospital patients complete the instrument alone in their rooms; family members complete it in a hospital family waiting room.

VandeCreek and Nye (1993) report one concern about the mysticism items. Some respondents found them difficult to under­ stand, particularly the ones that were worded negatively.

They recommend that some items be re­ worded (this problem may be an extension of that reported earlier by Hood [1975]).


The average alpha for the Hood and Morris (1983) study is .62, ranging from .53 for the nature mode and .75 for the religious mode. Alphas from the first study of VandeCreek and Nye (1993) are .79, ranging from .84 for the mystical subscale and .55 for the nature items. In their second sample, the alpha is .74, ranging from .79 (religious mode) to .51 (nature mode).


Hood and Morris (1983) reported a principle components factor analysis fol­ lowed by a quartimax rotation. It identified 23 items clearly related to Lifton's five modes, which they use in their scale.

They administered the scale to 342 un­dergraduate psychology students along with Spilka's Fear of Death Scale (1977), which contains five subscales: Fear of the Dying Process, Lack of Fear of Death, and Fear of Loss of Experience and Control in Death. The major finding was that all modes except religion were significantly correlated with the Sensitivity toward Death subscale.

In the third sample with 105 students they demonstrated that Spilka's Death Pre­spective Scale relates meaningfully to re­sults from both the Death Transcendence Scale and intrinsic/extrinsic religiosity as measured by the scale developed by Allport and Ross (1967). These results suggest that perspectives concerning death transcen­dence relate to other consciously held per­spectives on death. Additionally, intrinsic religiosity significantly correlated with all modes: positively with the religious, mysti­cism and biosocial modes and negatively with the creative and nature modes. Extrin­sic religiosity correlated positively with the creative, biosocial, and nature modes.

VandeCreek and Nye (1993) report re­sults from two factor analyses, including the three new items. The results of the second analysis using the hospital-related data are more similar to those of Hood and Morris. However, in both analyses the nature items seem to be the weakest. Larger samples are needed for more definitive re­sults.

The Death Transcendence Scale

Please respond to each of the statements below using the following rating scale.

  1. strongly disagree
  2.  agree
  3. disagree
  4. strongly agree
  • I have had an experience in which I felt everything in the world to be part of the same whole.
  • I have had an experience in which I realized the oneness of myself with all things.
  • I have never had an experience in which all things seemed to be unified into a single whole. (R)
  • I have never had an experience in which I became aware of the unity of all things. (R)
  • I have never had an experience in which I felt myself to be absorbed as one with all things. (R)
  • My death does not end my personal existence.
  • Death is a transition to something even greater than this life.
  • I believe in life after death.
  • Death is never just an ending, but is part of a process.
  • There is a Force or Power that controls and gives meaning to both life and death.
  • Only nature is forever.
  • Death is as natural as anything else in nature.
  • I may die, but the streams and mountains remain.
  • No matter what, all of us are part of nature.
  • Streams, trees, and people are all one in nature.
  • Meaningless work makes for a meaningless life.
  • It is important for me to do something in life for which I will be remembered after I die.
  • If I never do anything significant, my life will have been wasted.
  • If others I love do not remember me after I die, my life will have been wasted.
  • To be creative is to live forever.
  • After death much of myself lives on through my children.
  • Without children, much of what is most precious in life would be wasted.
  • Without children, life is incomplete.
  • *My life may end, but that which is important will live on through my family.
  • *Solid relationships with family and friends is a lasting value.
  • *Relationships with family and friends are among the most lasting values.

(R) indicates reverse-scored item.

The last three items are added by VandeCreek and Nye. All items should be placed in random order.

Mysticism Subscale = Items 1-5 Religious Subscale = Items 6--10 Nature Subscale = Items 11-15 Creative Subscale = Items 16--20 Biosocial Subscale = Items 21-26


VandeCreek, L., & Nye, C. (1993). Testing the Death Transcendence Scale. Journal for the Scien­tific Study of Religion, 32, 279-283.

Subsequent Research:

VandeCreek, L., & Nye, C. (1993). Testing the Death Transcendence Scale. Journal for the Scien­tific Study of Religion, 32, 279-283.

VandeCreek, L., & Nye, C. (1994). Trying to live forever: Correlates to the belief in life after death. The Journal of Pastoral Care, 48(3), 273-280.


Allport, G. W., & Ross, J. M. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Per­ sonality and Social Psychology, 5, 432-443.

James, W. (1961). The Varieties of Religious Ex­perience. New York: Collier.

Hood, R. W., Jr. (1975). The construction and preliminary validation of a measure of reported mystical experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 17, 179-188.

Hood, R. W., Jr., & Morris, R. J. (1983). Toward a theory of death transcendence. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 22(4), 353-365.

Lifton, R. J. (1979). The Broken Connection. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Spilka, B., Stout, L., Minton, B., Sizemore, D, (1977). Death and personal faith: a psychometric investigation. Journal for the Scientific Study of Re­ligion, 16, 169-178.