— Clara Lindstrom
“Better Living Through Chemistry? Not Necessarily.”
Spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) appear to be the gateway to a biologically-based transformation of the human personality. At times, the evolutionary process of spiritual emergence becomes a crisis, and one’s egoic defenses suffer a breakdown. Support that integrates psycho-spiritual, physiological & community resources may be needed. Ultimately, one may be radically transformed and achieve higher-order functioning, including creative and healing gifts.
No creature... can attain a higher grade of nature without ceasing to exist.
— Ananda Coomaraswamy
Shamanic or transformational crisis is a process by which human consciousness evolves. Joseph Campbell describes this universal process in “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” (see Shamanic Illness). Transformational crisis occurs today among modern-day shamans, who are initiated by a variety of intense stressors. Experiencers emerge from the ordeal transformed—with the conviction that a great truth or a “new world” has been discovered. Fundamentally, the metamorphosesundergone by indigenous shamans occur today through psychogenic or physical illness. Spiritual emergence.
A transformational crisis involves “emotional healing, a radical shift in values, and a profound awareness of the mystical dimension of existence…. for some, these changes can be so rapid and dramatic that they interfere with effective everyday functioning, creating tremendous inner turmoil.”
— Stanislav Grof
Spiritually transformative experiences (STEs) may happen in many different contexts. I have assisted in the following:
A transformational crisis involves seemingly overwhelming intensity and a fundamental challenge to one’s egoic identity. The stages of psycho-spiritual transformation include:
A transformational shift unlocks the discovery of a truer identity and what connects one with the cosmos. With support, this process can result in radical spontaneous healing. It is potentially beneficial and should be supported rather than suppressed.
“The emergence [of difficult symptoms] into consciousness, traditionally seen as a sign of mental illness, may actually be the organism’s radical effort to free itself from the effects of various traumas, simplify its functioning, and heal itself.”
— Christina Grof & Stanislav Grof
“The Stormy Search for the Self”
“Years ago as a [Spiritual Emergency Network] helper I was taught that true spiritual emergencies generally happen to mentally healthy people, probably as a developmental step. In contrast, real mental illness was categorized as somehow not spiritual, as it was more devastating, permanent, the realm of therapists and drugs, and by implication hopeless…. I’ve come to reject that model.”
— Grant McFetridge
“Spiritual Emergency and the Triune Brain”
Spiritual emergence may present with the symptomatology of psychiatric disorders. What if transformational crisis happens within the context of a psychiatric hospitalization? Such experiences are at odds with the medical model of Western psychiatry that emphasizes pathology, and prescribes anti-psychotic medication. Is there a coherent approach that finds no absolute delineation between spiritual emergence and what we call mental illness?
A historical perspective begins with the presumed difference between authentic spiritual experience and psychiatric illness. We have come a long way since Kundalini awakening was framed as transcendence versus psychosis. A more functional approach to spiritual emergence takes into account the experiencer’s perspective, their communication & meta-communication skills, as well as their physiological needs.
Janet Colli, Ph.D.
Thomas Beck, Ph.D.
360.678.7737 (Whidbey Island)
The Good Shepherd Center
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Ste. 341
Seattle, Washington 98103, also
Coupeville (Whidbey Island)
Personal stories of spiritual crises are presented alongside practical guidance. When spiritual emergencies, such as mystical psychosis and dark nights of the soul, are understood, managed, and integrated, they offer enormous potential for growth. An essential resource for avoiding the paralysis or exhaustion that can result from the current age of increased individual and global emergencies.
The world's foremost authorities on spiritual emergence draw on years of dramatic personal and professional experience with transformative states to explore altered states so powerful they threaten to overwhelm the individual's ordinary reality. The cycle of inner death and rebirth that typifies spiritual emergency ultimately leads to personal transformation through a connection to a transcendent Higher Power. This book provides insights, assurances and practical suggestions for those experiencing such a crisis, for their friends and families, and mental-health professionals.
During a self-help seminar, Sean Blackwell entered a state of ecstasy so powerful he thought he had died and was headed for Heaven. Instead, he was arrested, handcuffed and shipped to a psychiatric hospital where he was restrained and forcibly medicated during a traumatic stay. Once released, Sean rejected the possibility that he had a mental disorder. Instead, he began a search for the deeper meaning of his abrupt awakening. This book brings light to those wondering "Am I really crazy?"
Paris Williams takes the reader on a highly engaging journey of discovery, exploring how the mainstream understanding of schizophrenia has become so profoundly misguided. He reveals the findings of his own groundbreaking research of people who have fully recovered from schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, weaving their stories into the existing literature and crafting a surprisingly clear and coherent vision of the entire psychotic process, from onset to full recovery.