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
Stuart Sovatsky, Ph.D.
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
McFetridge, Grant. ÒSpiritual Emergency and the Triune BrainÓ at