So-called ‘Schizophrenia’: Process of Uncontrolled Spiritual Emergence or ‘Spiritual Emergency’

Much needless suffering results from ignorance of the multi-dimensional nature of the human psyche, human personality or 'human nature'. Insights into the workings of human nature or ‘the nature of human nature’ are revealed by combining scientific research in western psychology with concepts provided by Eastern psychologies such as Buddhism which are concerned with human psychology on the level beyond individual self-image, the ‘persona’ or ‘ego' as a concept of the self which is created by the mind. These insights can be applied to the study of the healthy healing process involving psychic overload of uncontrollable spiritual growth i.e spiritual emergency or so-called 'schizophrenia'.

The psychiatric profession has created one of the greatest myths of our time by describing so-called 'schizophrenia' as a nonspecific disease or ‘mental illness’. It was German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) who originally coined the Latin name 'dementia praecox' meaning 'prematurely out of one's mind' because he believed that this supposedly devastating condition resulted from irreversible mental deterioration. Later it became clear that the term was a misnomer and in 1910 a new term was provided by the kind and humane Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939), teacher of Carl Jung and professor of psychiatry at the University of Zürich where he headed the famous Burghölzli Clinic. Bleuler coined the term 'schizophrenia' for 'splitting of the mind' since the condition seemed to involve a mental separation between thought and emotion.The term is derived from German 'schizophrenie' from Greek 'skhizein' meaning 'to split' and 'phren' of unknown origin meaning 'heart or mind' so that ‘schizophrenia’ actually means 'broken soul' or 'broken heart’. Although there is still no universally accepted definition of the term, it has been applied to various conditions including a set of socially and culturally unacceptable thinking and behaviour patterns thus making it a model of ‘unwanted conduct’.

In fact so-called ‘schizophrenia’ is not a disease nor is it a hopeless condition. It is a brilliant condition which is the concern of the psychology of the transpersonal or spiritual dimension of human nature i.e. 'transpersonal psychology'. In this light schizophrenia is a personal 'story' of a natural and temporary self-healing and self-organising process involving the dissolution and removal of illusions and false beliefs which originate from social conditioning. In this sense schizophrenia is a transformative process, a crisis of transformation or ‘psychospiritual crisis’. Furthermore it can be understood as a part of the human condition and as a process which reveals information about the nature of the human psyche or ‘human nature’.

So what is the nature of ‘human nature’? The human species is a social species, the human organism is a social organism and human nature is a social nature as a function of moral or ‘spiritual’ development… morality or ‘spitituality’. Human instincts for social cooperation and social harmony - the ‘social instincts’ - must be cultivated in a process of development of moral consciousness or ‘conscience’. The function of the conscience is to preserve the integrity or ‘wholeness’of the personality during the process of adaptation to changes in the social environment… social intelligence required for effective social adaptability. Rational conscience is the result of social, moral or spiritual involving transformation of the self and the knowledge of one’s human nature or ‘self-knowledge’. The process is also known variously as 'individuation', 'self-realisation', 'self-actualisation', 'spiritual renewal', 'spiritual awakening', 'spiritual rebirth’, 'enlightenment' or 'spiritual emergence'.

Spiritual emergence is a gradual dynamic, fluid, naturally ordered controlled and integrated on-going process of personal psychological development which takes place over a period of years and results in an inner sense of emotional liberation. It is a transformation process which involves moral or ‘spiritual’ development to greater maturity and spiritual awareness… from the limited sense of self or 'ego' and its egocentric perspective to the expanded sense of self beyond ego, the ‘higher self’, the ‘authentic self’ or 'Self'. Transcendence of the ego or ‘ego-transcendence’ with its transpersonal perspective allows for expansion of consciousness and heightened awareness of the understanding of the ultimate connectedness or ‘unity’of all things. In the process of personal evolution intuition is purified and sharpened thus allowing for a clearer more accurate perception of reality and the discovery of ideas and behaviours which are effective for social adaptability. Spiritual emergence is the source of personal power because it allows for the attainment of knowledge of one's true nature (‘self-knowledge’) as the source of motivation for personal productiveness and creativity or ‘work’ i.e. self-empowerment’. Each person is at a different stage of spiritual emergence depending on the level of moral or spiritual development which they have reached.

"In the most general terms, spiritual emergence can be defined as the movement of an individual to a more expanded way of being that involves enhanced emotional and psychosomatic health, greater freedom of personal choices, and a sense of deeper connection with other people, nature and the cosmos. An important part of this development is an increasing awareness of the spiritual dimension in one's life and in the universal scheme of things. Spiritual development is an innate evolutionary capacity of all human beings. It is a movement towards wholeness or 'holotropic state', the discovery of one's true potential." (Stanislav Grof)

If in highly sensitive individuals the process of spiritual emergence is blocked for whatever reason then they might undergo a period of crisis or ‘emergency’ involving the rapid formation of essential adjustments for effective adaptation. The transformation process of spiritual emergence can be so dramatic as to become uncontrollable ‘spiritual emergency’, also known as transpersonal experience, transpersonal crisis, psycho-spiritual transformation, psychospiritual crisis, spiritual journey, hero's journey, dark night of the soul, spiritual opening, psychic opening, psychic awakening, spiritual awakening, enlightenment, kundalini awakening, kundalini process, kundalini crisis, shamanic initiation, shamanic crisis, psychotic-visionary episode, ego death, ego loss, alchemical process, positive disintegration, post traumatic stress disorder with psychotic features, night sea journey, psychosis, shamanism, mysticism, gnosis, inner apocalypse, and so on. Spiritual emergency is characterised by spontaneous alternative consciousness states or ‘realities' in which the person experiences unbearably distressing psychic overload involving chaotic and overwhelming sensory experiences which in fact offer invaluable opportunities for personal growth and positive transformation.

  Spiritual emergency is a process of healing and renewal which involves the dissolution and removal of illusions and false beliefs originating in the programming of social conditioning. The conditioning leads to the formulation of aberrant thought complexes and these prevent the person from making accurate evaluations of their social environment. Inaccurate evaluations lead to inappropriate decision-making and non-adaptive behaviour patterns. In a period of crisis, the person instinctively surrenders to the organismic process which involves the temporary separation of thought and emotion (‘ego-loss’) which is necessary for the reassessment of their thoughts without having to deal with the emotional implications. The apparently bizarre speech and behaviour patterns reveal the passage from lower to higher consciousness states in which the person experiences a series of varying stages or ‘episodes’. These can be frightening and confusing to onlookers because they appear to be out of context with everyday reality and as a result they are often misunderstood. They are mistakenly believed and discredited to represent ‘symptoms’ of disease or ‘mental illness'. Perceived as pathological they are considered to be medically ‘treatable’. In fact the apparent 'symptoms' are manifestations of a spontaneous healing effort by the organism as a whole. The person eventually learns to grow beyond fear based ego-consciousness, beyond cultural conditioning and the ‘conditioned self’, beyond the expectations of others and towards the new transpersonal, moral or ‘spiritual’ dimension of awareness which allows for development of personal potential and effective social adaptability.

"The successful outcome of spiritual emergency depends on the correct understanding, respect, encouragement and support which allow it to reach full completion." (Stanislav and Chrisitina Grof, co-authors of Spiritual Emergency)

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