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Spiritual Emergencies - What Are They, and How to Get Help
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.
"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
Mania (bipolar hyper-religiosity)
Authentic spiritual teacher
False guru, imposter, spiritual con artist
Obsessed, brainwashed by cult, victimized
Dark night of the soul
Low self esteem
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 Amazon.com
Mystic or Psychotic / Schizophrenic?
Do you think spiritual emergency is a legitimate diagnosis?
Should psychiatrists take spiritual emergency into account when diagnosing a patient?
Yes - spiritual emergency is a legitimate diagnosis that is often overlooked.
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: Schizophrenia & The Hero's Journey
Blog about Schizophrenia and Spiritual Emergencies.
- The Differentiation Between Spiritual Emergency and Psychosis
by Monika Goretzki
- Psychological Renewal Through the Central Archetype
These people were allowed and encouraged to go through the process without suppressive medication.
- Recovery & Advocacy - Spiritual Emergence
The Spiritual Emergency Resource Center (spiritual-emergency.com) David Lukoff's Experience Talk at Ruth Inge Heinz's Annual Conference on Shamanism 1990.
- MANIA OR MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE?
by Lori H. My most powerful experience yet of the "mysterium et fascinens" occurred five years ago when I lost my mind. This is an attempt to tell the story of what happened and why it happened, to the best of my current ability.