Homo sapiens is going through a collective spiritual emergency, a collective near-death experience. Executive authority is breaking down, established institutions and entrenched habits are dissolving, there is a loss of certainty and consensual reality; archetypal and apocalyptic thinking is flooding in from the margins of consciousness. For the first time ever, our collective species-consciousness is connected and focused on the same threat. We are walking together through the valley of death.
I have been researching spiritual emergencies for the last few years, and have just co-edited a book on the topic, together with psychiatrist Tim Read, who is the consultant psychiatrist both for Imperial College’s psychedelics lab and the Synthesis retreat centre in Holland. The book is called Breaking Open: Finding a Way Through Spiritual Emergency.
It’s a collection of 14 personal accounts of people’s spiritual emergencies, which can be defined as messy spiritual experiences which involve extended distortions in the person’s normal ego-functioning and sense of reality. These extended bouts of ego-dissolution can be both ecstatic and terrifying. Handled wisely, they can be integrated and the person is able to flourish afterwards.
Spiritual emergencies are often triggered by either psychedelics or intense spiritual exercise, but they also arise spontaneously. And in one of our 14 stories, the emergency is triggered by a political crisis (Brexit). As more and more people take psychedelics or practice spiritual techniques, there is evidence a growing number of people are having mystical experiences (see below). Some of those experiences will be spiritual emergencies. Indeed, I personally know at least 10 other people who have had such messy, frightening experiences, where the self and reality are altered for several weeks or months. Few of them ever talked about it or found help for dealing with it.
We need better information and resources regarding such experiences. And the rest of us can learn from their stories, when we go through our collective spiritual emergency. As environmental mystic Joanna Macy…