Back in 2005, I wrote an Into the Centre Article, and mentioned this paper. It’s now 2008, and I got an e-mail from Conny, mentioning she’d seen my article, and that she’d taken her “Spiritual Emergency” paper off the web. I got her permission to place it on The Phoenix Centre Site, and have re-linked to it from the original article.
Here’s a link to Conny’s site.
During the 1960’s there was a great deal of dissent, which challenged the American status quo, such as civil rights, women’s rights, and the environmental movement. This unrest opened the doors to alternative possibilities for American people, as well as for people throughout the world. Many Americans were dissatisfied with the worldview and way of life of mainstream society, because they found it unfulfilling. Many began to realize that it was repressive and that it contained a host of serious biopsychosocial ills. Their dissatisfaction led them to seek other ways of living that would result in a more balanced, connected, and healthy way of life. Since then, many people in the Western World have begun to listen to the call of their inner spiritual longings, their need for spiritual fulfillment, and the desire to feel more passionate about, and connected with, all of life. They have begun to re-discover what ancient and tribal cultures have long known.
For the purpose of this article, it may be important to make a distinction between the use of the terms spirituality and religion. Spirituality involves the personal experience of reality that lends a mystical quality to one’s life and existence in the world. It is an awareness of the sacred or divine. Spirituality describes an individual’s relationship with the universe, and it does not necessarily require a particular structure, group ritual, or direction by a cleric. In comparison, religion is a prescribed set of beliefs and practices often carried out with an organized group. It “may or may not be conducive to true spirituality, depending on the degree to which it provides a context for personal discovery of the numinous dimensions of reality.” At the beginning of many prevalent religions are the undiluted revelations of their founders, prophets, and holy persons. However, over time a religion often loses its connection with its core foundation (Grof and Grof, 1990, pp. 39-40).
American society either denies or diminishes the spiritual realm of existence. Christina and Stan Grof (1990), leaders in the treatment of spiritual emergency, say that spiritual values have been largely replaced by materialistic concerns. However, materialistic pursuits and acquisitions do not satisfy the natural human need for spiritual connection or development (p. 31). Major religions have co-opted spirituality, and science has rejected it. Yet many people sense the spiritual within and around themselves, and they seek to connect with and develop it. Often they have little or no frame of reference or experienced teachers to guide them on their path. And as they attempt their journey in unknown territory, they stumble and fall, sometimes hurting themselves very badly. Spiritual growth becomes a spiritual emergency. Without proper guidance, and without understanding on the part of those around them, many of these people end up in mental institutions and on various medications. Many people in spiritual emergency actually believe that they are going crazy. Konior (1989) makes an interesting observation when she says that we tend to interpret our experiences in terms of our belief system. “So, when people of our culture experience the natural unfoldment of their spiritual nature in a context that has denied its existence, the result is the experience of madness” (p. 52).
Spiritual emergence is a normal process of inner growth and awakening, produced by regular spiritual practices that unearth one’s greater human potential (Feuerstein, 2000, p.1). This development expands one’s way of being in the world. It can enhance emotional and physical health, allow for greater freedom of personal choices, and intensify one’s connection with other people, nature, and the universe. It is a process of transformation that involves a deepening of one’s relationship with the divine. Stan and Christina Grof (1990) say that “Mystical states can be profoundly healing and can have an important positive impact on the life of the person involved.” When a person connects with and develops their divine nature, this can result in a way of being, both individually and collectively, that is more advanced than what is usually considered the norm (p. 31-34).
The development of spiritual awakening is often attributed to what is known as kundalini, the personal aspect of the universal life force (White, 1990, p. 21). Kundalini is cultivated by practitioners of Eastern disciplines such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. This spiritual energy produces a transformative effect on the individual, and it results in a powerful change of consciousness. Kundalini has a dramatic impact on both the body and the mind (Collie, 1995, p. 1).
Spiritual emergence is best experienced through a gradual and subtle process of change that happens over time, especially in a society so laden with stresses as ours is. In this way the transformation is more easily integrated. It takes time to prepare the body and the mind for such a radical change (Jasper, 2001).