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Spiritual Emergencies - What Are They, and How to Get Help

Updated on September 23, 2012

What is a spiritual emergency? Is it different from mental illness or psychosis or a spiritual emergence?

In 2007, after 7 cranial surgeries to remove a brain tumor I had a break with reality. My psychosis has been diagnosed as schizophrenia, ICU psychosis and schzoaffective disorder but I have always preferred to think of my experiences as spiritual in nature.

While psychotic, I was convinced that I was enlightened. However, I now believe that what I had was a spiritual emergency - or a spiritual experience that came before I was spiritually equipped to interpret it.

This lens is only half finished but I am compiling a list of resources on the differences between mental illness, spiritual emergency (not an authentic spiritual state), and spiritual emergence (an authentic spiritual state) as well as helpful information for overcoming a spiritual emergency.

What's the difference between psychosis, spiritual emergency and spiritual emergence?

Can schizophrenia really be a spiritual emergency?

I'm still trying to answer this question myself (and am adding everything that I find to this website). I know that personally, I was diagnosed as schizophrenic when I started showing psychotic symptoms. Perhaps I was predisposed to schizophrenia, or just undiagnosed... But I know for a fact that I was consciously growing spiritually right before I was psychotic.

My current theory is that I grew spiritually too fast, and I couldn't handle it (either because I was predisposed to being schizophrenic, or because I did not have the proper spiritual guidance and preparation).

However, I do know my psychosis was not an authentic spiritual state just from looking at this chart.

How to recognize spiritual emergence?

What causes spiritual emergences?

Authentic Spiritual State vs. Pathological State

On page 261 from Dr. David Hawkins' book titled "Transcending the Levels of Consciousness" there is a table that shows the different diagnoses of spiritual states versus pathological states, and he says distinguishing the difference can be difficult.

Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment
Transcending the Levels of Consciousness: The Stairway to Enlightenment

"Although the state of ecstasy is recognized in spiritually-advanced communities and the subjective experiences has been described by well-known mystics such as Ramakrishna, it is unknown to the world at large to which it is really incomprehensible."


Chart Comparing Authentic Spiritual States to Mental Illness States

This chart will help you differentiate between authentic spiritual states, and spiritual emergencies or pathological states. It can also assist in differentiating a real mental illness from a spiritual emergency.

Authentic Spiritual State

Pathological State



Religious Ecstasy

Mania (bipolar hyper-religiosity)




Religious delusion







Authentic spiritual teacher

False guru, imposter, spiritual con artist


Zealotry, hyper-religiosity


Obsessed, brainwashed by cult, victimized

Dark night of the soul

Pathologic depression


Withdrawal, indifference

Non-attachment, acceptance


Transcendent state




Advanced state

Psychosis, egomania




Low self esteem

Spiritual sharing






God shock

Schizophrenic disorganization

Spiritual ecstasy

Manic state high on drugs

Genuine spiritual leader

Spiritual politician, cult leader





Holotropic Experiences - Positive Nonordinary State of Conciousness

Stanislav Grof Spiritual Emergencies vs Pathological States

Books on Spiritual Emergency that ship from

Mystic or Psychotic / Schizophrenic?

Do you think spiritual emergency is a legitimate diagnosis?

Should psychiatrists take spiritual emergency into account when diagnosing a patient?

More Resources on Spiritual Emergency, Psychological Renewal and Mental Illness

These resources and recounts have helped me understand spiritual emergence / spiritual emergencies much better. I hope that you also find them helpful. I keep adding to the list as I discover more.

Spiritual Emergency Recounted By a Psychiatrist

Amazon Spotlight Personal Review

What's your spiritual emergency story?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      The truth is that earthly life is not our true reality with the One True God of All in All, our heavenly parent, which is also our true home. The truth is that our spirits reside in eternity, which is the true reality of life, we are all divine sparks of God as His children.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      sadly,it's common that psychics often misunderstood as psychos-_-even me,I felt 'lost' before(back when I was 11-12)and only now I could find the answer why I acted that ways :) this is such an interesting topic and I agree that we need guidance to Spirituality

    • astaramay profile image


      7 years ago

      There are many out there that have had an "spiritual emergency", and most Western doctors who do not understand have put different labels on it. About 4 years ago I went in for emergency back surgery, and while nothing happened while under the knife, when I awoke I found everything that I had once known looked different to me somehow. I was unsure what happened and have sense found through much research and meditation that I experienced and continue to experience an heightened awareness about things that I couldn't explain. Since then I have found a Shaman Elder to help lead me in the direction of understanding and working with the new awareness that has become my normal. I for one would not take this to a Western doctor to look at me as some kind of science experiment. I chose to go to a more traditional doctor, a Shaman. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me with my new outlook. I pray that more people experience this freedom and joy!

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      @shauna1934: Hi Shauna, I am in Sedona right now and it's wonderful - met a fellow on the bus who was going from Seattle to the Grand Canyon .. to jump. He got off in Flagstaff instead and says he may go see the Doc, said he went thousands of miles just to have the conversation we had. You are doing incredibly valuable work Shauna, please keep sharing.

    • shauna1934 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Sensitive Fern: You should write up your experiences, or at least a good ebook or squidoo lens or blog about it. I'd love to read your experiences.

    • shauna1934 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @darciefrench lm: thank you Darcie for the support - I started this lens after reading karma's story and doing a little more research about my own psychosis... Totally relate about people thinking your actions were something to be afraid of. I feel that I am much more equipped to suppress and control my actions now so that I don't scare my family so much... Partially because I'm more accepting of the term schizophrenia - and partly because I am now very aware of my actions' impact on others (although am not able to completely normalize it). But the first time, my mind was very confused by the dizzying symptoms I experienced... Not sure if that makes it a true break or not.

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 

      7 years ago

      I just found this lens Shauna - thank-you so much for this speaking to spiritual emergence vs psychosis, and thanks for the features too. I love how you've posted Dr Hawkins' comparison as I think it can help folks understand the differences. Emerging Unconditional Love was the basis of the experience for me, as it sounds like it was for you as well. In this case, folks thought the drastic change was something to be afraid of, I had to 'quell' the love as it rushed forth; I was aware of the impact on those around me (which is generally not the case for mental illness or a true break from reality). You are such a joyful spirit, your love for life and everything about it shines through your work.. schizophrenia by definition, with it's basis in paranoia, doesn't quite 'fit'. I am very happy to feature this lens, many many thanks. Keep up the awesome writing! -:))

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 

      7 years ago

      I need to write a book about mine someday! It was a kind of divine intevention, I think, because I was stuck and couldn't move forward. Great lens!


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