Spiritual Emergence, Spiritual Emergency, and Psychospiritual Healing, Georg Feuerstein
Spiritual Emergence, Spiritual Emergency, and Psychospiritual Healing
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Spiritual Emergence, Spiritual Emergency, and Psychospiritual Healing
Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D.

Yoga Research and Education Center often receives calls for help from individuals who are experiencing spiritual breakthroughs that they cannot handle or actual breakdowns as a result of premature spiritual awakening. Our Center is not able to deal with such cases directly, and we hope that the following comments and suggestions will be useful to people who find themselves in a spiritual crisis.

Spiritual emergence refers to spiritual growth and awakening, which involves tapping into our higher human potential (at the transpersonal level of development). In the course of this process, the individual is likely to encounter critical points where he or she may experience emotional and mental turmoil as well as unusual physiological effects. Unless these experiences are properly understood within the context of psychospiritual growth, they might be misdiagnosed and cause the individual needless worry and potentially damaging psychiatric or medical intervention.

Frequently spiritual awakenings accompanied by certain mental and physical effects are typified as kundalinî arousals. In actual fact, however, few awakenings fall under this category. The psychospiritual consciousness-energy represented by the kundalinî-shakti (serpent power) is not readily activated. In most cases, an arousal of the life force (prâna) is involved, which is known in the Sanskrit language of Yoga as prâna-vyutthâna.

Spiritual emergencyÑa term coined by Stanislav and Christina GrofÑrefers to a dysfunctional state or phase within the comprehensive process of spiritual emergence. During spiritual emergency, the individual finds himself or herself overwhelmed, in a genuine crisis involving troublesome emotions, thoughts (including suicidal thoughts), and also disruptive behaviors that clearly need outside help.

Although modern medicine acknowledges that the mind plays a pivotal role in sickness and health, it is ill equipped to deal with either spiritual emergence or spiritual emergency. This is true even of alternative or complementary medicine, which is offering a new, holistic paradigm that takes a patient's lifestyle (behavior and attitudes) into account but generally does not have experiential knowledge of the mechanisms involved in spiritual emergence and emergency.

Psychospiritual healing represents a third orientation that is designed to handle cases of psychospiritual emergence or emergency. It goes beyond the somatic and psychosomatic approaches of conventional and alternative/complementary medicine and relates to the deeper aspects of an individual's inner being. More specifically, it works with the subtle energetic structures of human embodiment. These structures are known in Yoga as the ÒconduitsÓ (nâdî) through which the life force (prâna) circulates or which are the arcs of that life force, and the ÒwheelsÓ (cakra), which are important nodal points of that network of Òchannels.Ó This approach also is referred to as ÒTantric medicine.Ó

The idea behind this approach is that the imbalances present in spiritual emergency are best (though not necessarily exclusively) dealt with at the level of our subtle energetic field. The reason for this is that the life force is the medium that connects the mind with the body and thus can act upon both. The deeper causes of spiritual emergency are located in the mind and first find expression in the subtle energy field before they manifest in the body (as various symptomsÑfrom pain to tremor of the limbs). While medical and transpersonal psychological approaches can be helpful in lighter cases of spiritual emergency, in more challenging situations the individual is advised to look for help from a psychospiritual healer who has first-hand knowledge of the kundalinî process.


Spiritual Emergence Network
California Institute of Integral Studies
San Francisco, CA
Website: http://www.ciis.edu/comserv/sen.html
Phone: 415-648-2610

Kundalini Clinic
Stuart Sovatsky, Ph.D.
Richmond, CA
Email: stuartcs@jps.net

Suggested Reading

Bragdon, Emma. The Call of Spiritual Emergency: From Personal Crisis to Personal Transformation. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990.

Grof, Christina, and Stanislav Grof. The Stormy Search for the Self: A Guide to Personal Growth Through Transformational Crisis. Los Angeles: Jeremy Tarcher, 1990.

Sannella, Lee. The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence? Lower Lake: Integral Publishing, 1992. [This book is now available only through YREC.]


McFetridge, Grant. ÒSpiritual Emergency and the Triune BrainÓ at http://www.peakstates.com/spiritual_emergency.htm