So lately I've been thinking a lot about spiritual emergencies.
Spiritual emergency: a brief introduction
The psychiatrist Stanislav Grof coined the term "spiritual emergency" to refer to periods of intense transformation that in our culture often get interpreted strictly as an illness and only treated through materialist means.
A spiritual emergency is a kind of sickness, but it's also a birth, a coming-into-being of the spiritual self - i.e., an "emergence" and a crisis that requires attention - i.e., an "emergency."
In his work, Grof used the term "spiritual emergency" to refer primarily to episodes of psychosis and disassociation that were actually involuntary or unconscious shamanic explorations. It's my personal experience that spiritual emergency also can include extremely intense misery (i.e., "depression") and unease (i.e., "anxiety").
Misery as spiritual emergency
Intense misery is probably a vastly more common symptom of spiritual emergence than the visionary shamanic episodes that interested Grof.
Intense misery relates to emergence because when it happens in the life of a magically-oriented person who's aiming for awakening, lucidity and illumination - well, that means that it's actually the alchemical phase known as "nigredo" or "blackening, decomposing."
Misery is what occurs when our natural self-centered quest for pleasure and status leads us into our own personal underworld.
For many people not gifted with awareness and knowledge this journey to the underworld leads directly to actual death and degradation.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in people aged 15 - 34 in America.
How misery becomes ultimately-liberating nigredo
Misery becomes transformed into ultimately-liberating alchemical nigredo when it's met with honesty, compassion and awareness. We learn to look at our self-centered grasping truthfully, and then to gradually transmute the selfish misery into altruism that uplifts and heals us and everyone around us.
If you're experiencing a state of spiritual emergency lately, please know that I'm always available to talk to on the phone.
image: [Abode of Chaos on flickr]