spiritualemergencyFull title: The Call Of Spiritual Emergency: From Personal Crisis To Personal Transformation

Though a bit dated (written in 1990), Emma Bragdon presents information about “spiritual emergencies”, what they are and how to help your loved ones or yourself through it.

To begin, what is a “spiritual emergency”? : “Spiritual emergence is a natural process of human development in which an individual goes beyond normal personal feelings and desires-ego- into the transpersonal, increasing relatedness to Higher Power, or God. … When spiritual emergence is punctuated by profound emotions, visions, psychosomatic illness, and compelling desires to behave in unusual ways, including suicidal thoughts, the spiritual emergence becomes a crisis, a spiritual emergency. Although the course of growth toward higher levels of functioning and perceiving life follows a predictable progression; spiritual emergency is generally unpredictable, erupting chaotically and spewing forth contents of the psyche that demand attention.” pg 1. And it can be absolutely terrifying if the person has no idea what is going on and is surrounded by professionals who are also clueless.

I think that the main problem with integrating such experiences is that modern society neither supports or recognizes them as valid: “People in our culture are afraid of speaking openly about spiritual experiences, because psychic phenomena… have been considered symptomatic of psychosis. Most psychiatrists, psychologists, and even clergy have believed that most spiritual experiences are indicative of either retarded development or emotional disease.” pg 12. The clergy part of that passage is particularly interesting to me. These are the so-called experts on the spiritual realm, yet, when something breaks through into reality, they’ve got nothing.

And humanity is the poorer for it. Bragdon then relates numerous instances of men and women from all over the world who have gone through this process and reminds us: “In all the major religions of the world can be found examples of people … who have been through intense and sometimes physically and emotionally debilitating periods of spiritual experiences and ultimately attained transpersonal levels of consciousness. The preliterate, although no less enlightened, ancient shamanic cultures also relate stories of individuals strengthened by cultural religious rituals, blessed with a special connection to spiritual forces. In all cultures, these people become the teachers and leaders, for they are living examples of the energy that draws us to spiritual practices and religious institutions in the first place. Through these people, we are reminded that it is possible to commune with the highest source of wisdom and love on a personal level.” pgs 81-82. It makes one wonder, if Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, or pick-your-prophet had been born in the modern era, would his/her vision just been medicated into oblivion?

Bragdon points out that the problem is in the attitudes of the religious and medical establishments- the places that should be the most educated and accepting of these sorts of troubles: “The administrators of (religious) institutions are inconsistent in their view of spiritual experience as part of spiritual growth. The conventional religious establishment is similar to the conventional medical establishment, which is so ambivalent about the reality of spiritual experiences that it doubts their validity altogether.” pg 101. When did we completely separate the health of the body from that of the soul? After all, one won’t work without the other.

Then, she goes on to talk about all of the different ways that these sorts of experiences emerge from drug use, sex, stress, and just life. It is so pervasive that it seems that it must be a part of the human experience, but, it is hard to study and come to grips with in scientific term because the phenomena can’t be forced or replicated. However, Bragdon suggests that being present for the person going through it is enough: “But those who have the experiences seem to have no need for scientific proof; the direct and emphatic knowledge bears no need for outside validation. What these people do want is acknowledgement, recognition that they aren’t crazy, and the companionship of others who know what they have experienced is real.” pg 113 So, even though this book was written 26 years ago, I don’t think that we’ve really made that much progress in that time- at least not in the arena of holistic medicine or transpersonal psychology.

Some further reading: Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart, Dreambody: The Body’s Role In Revealing the Self, or The Power of Myth.

Thanks for reading!


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