A ‘‘‘Spiritual Emergency’’’ is a sub class of Spiritual Pathology which occurs when a psychologically damaged, spiritually misled, or simply unprepared Physical Unit experiences direct contact with the Fabric of Consciousness. Cases of spiritual emergency may be distinguished from minor forms of spiritual pathology by the intense affective and egoic disintegration that can occur during a full blown spiritual emergency.
Individuals undergoing spiritual emergency are often diagnosed as psychotic by the mainstream psychiatric and medical profession. Within the mainstream, treatment is based on the medical model which is, as Whitney (1998) notes, is woefully unprepared to properly conceptualize and handle spiritual emergencies. As Whitney, a trained medical practitioner writing about his own spiritual emergency noted, “If I had accepted the medical model of my experience, I would not have survived to tell this tale. Despair would have consumed me.” (1989: 1548).
Spiritual problems are prevalent. Estimates in the field of psychology suggest that between 29% and 60% of practitioners have dealt with some form of spiritual pathology (Lukoff, Lu, and Turner, 1998). How much of these may be considered severe spiritual emergencies is unknown. Despite the prevalence, Lukoff and Robert (1998) note general lack of training as an obstacle to proper therapeutic approach. For those with the ability to prescribe drugs, treatment often amounts to no more than the application of a chemical straight jacket (i.e. Crown Stupifier) in order to “disconnect” from higher consciousness.
Properly handled, a spiritual emergency can lead to significant therapeutic and spiritual advance, even spontaneous healing of emotional, psychosomatic disorders (Grof and Grof, 1989), and physical disorders. Improperly handled, a spiritual emergency can leave the individual with lingering psychological problems and deep seated fears surrounding the whole experience. In severe cases, and in unsupportive environments, it may take decades to recover.
A spiritual emergency is experienced when remedial Crown Activation leads to psychological disorientation and dysfunction. It is important to note that crown activation itself is not the direct cause of a spiritual emergency. In a healthy and prepared Physical Unit, contact with the Fabric of Consciousness is always a positive, uplifting, and empowering experience (Sharp, 2008). Difficulties emerge when either…
a) The psychological structures of the physical unit are damaged (i.e., damaged PU) or
b) The concepts and ideas that the physical unit uses to understand spirit, spirituality, and even reality (i.e., the Psychological Set of the physical unit) are erroneous.
In the case a physical unit with damaged psychological structures, spiritual emergencies may be precipitated when, as a result of significant psychological trauma, the bodily ego of the physical unit is weak or damaged. In such cases, the weakened ego may be unable to maintain itself against even slight contact with The Fabric. In such cases egoic boundaries may collapse leading to severe psychological difficulty (i.e., identity problems, ideational difficulties and confusions, etc.)
In the case of erroneous set, accidental or induced activation of the crown may lead, for example, to dramatic “eye opening” experiences and perceptions of the realities of this earth which may be profoundly disjunctive of the units previous psychological set. This disjuncture may lead to psychological emergency, although this is not a given. Rather, it is the inability of the individual to find a proper reference point that leads to psychological disturbance. Attaining a proper reference point in the face of dramatically expanded perceptions may require sensitive and spiritually sophisticated therapeutic interventions. In all cases of spiritual emergency, proper treatment can mean the difference between a successful and salutatory resolution to the emergency or ongoing trauma, neurosis, and even psychosis.
The 2000 issue of DSM-IV has a category, V62.8 Religious or Spiritual Problem which covers “distressing experiences that involve loss or questioning of faith, problems associated with conversion to a new faith, or questioning of spiritual values that may no necessarily be related to an organized church or religious institution. (p. 741). This is a conflation and abstraction of Lukoff and Turner’s (1998) suggestion for two distinct categories—Psychoreligious problem and Psychospiritual problem. The reader is referred to Lukoff, Francis and Robert (1998) for additional explanation.
The literature on spiritual emergencies is sparse and undeveloped. In addition, there is a general lack of theoretical grounding in the literature and no good understanding of transpersonal realities. Some individuals see spiritual emergency as a problem of development, evolution, higher personality integration, or even as the manifestation of some kind of “dark night” of the soul (Assagioli, 1978).
“…when the clear light beats upon them, so the soul, by reason of its impurity, suffers exceedingly when the Divine Light really shines upon it. And when the rays of this pure Light shine upon the soul in order to expel impurities, the soul perceives itself to be so unclean and miserable that it seems as if god had set Himself against it and itself were set against God.” (St. John of the Cross quoted in Assagioli, 1989: 40).
Others see spiritual emergency as a type of evolutionary crises (Grof and Grof, 1989). The problem, however, should be exclusively located in the pathology of the physical unit. Avoiding spiritual emergency, and even encouraging Peak or Mystical Experiences is a problem of properly training and sensitizing the body.
In some cases, spiritual emergency may usefully be conceptualized as a “crises of repression.” A formerly un-receptive physical unit may suddenly become receptive to consciousness if ego repression and blockages are suddenly subverted. In cases where psychological pathology or ideational disjuncture exist, a spiritual emergency may result..
As noted throughout, a spiritual emergency rests on unprepared or pathological connection of the physical unit with the Fabric of Consciousness. I suggest my own cosmological treatise, The Book of Light as a tentative theoretical statement of the nature and structure of the Fabric of Consciousness. This book may help professionals and practitioners conceptualize the basic nature of the spiritual emergency.
Assagioli, Roberto (1989). Self-Realization and Psychological Disturbances. In Grof, Stanislav and Grof, Christina (eds.). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crises. New York: Penguin Putnam.
Grof, Stanislav and Grof, Christina (1989). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crises. New York: Penguin Putnam.
Laing, R.D. Transcendental Experience in Relation to Religion and Psychosis. In Grof, Stanislav and Grof, Christina (eds.). Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crises. New York: Penguin Putnam. pp. 49-60
Lukoff, David (1988). Transpersonal Therapy with a Manic Depressive Artist. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 20(1): 10-20
Lukoff, David, Lu, Francis & Turner, Robert (1998). From Spiritual Emergency to Spiritual Problem: The Transpersonal Roots of the New DSM-IV Category. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 38(2): 21-50.
Shafranske, E.P. & Maloney, M. (1990). Clinical Psychologists’ Religious and Spiritual Orientation and Their Practice of Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy 27: 72-78.
Shafranske, E.P. & Gorsuch, R.L. (1984). Factors Associated with the Perception of Spirituality in Psychotherapy. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. 16: 231-241.
Sharp, Michael (2008). Crown Activation. The SpiritWiki. http://www.thespiritwiki.com/index.php/Crown_Activation [Accessed: April 16, 2008]
Sharp, Michael (2006). The Book of Light: The Nature of God, the Structure of Consciousness, and the Universe Within You. Avatar Publications.
Whitney, Edward (1998). Mania as Spiritual Emergency. Psychiatric Services. 49(12): 1547-1548.