Spiritual Emergence

SPIRITUAL EMERGENCE is a term evolved from ‘spiritual emergency’, which was coined in the 1970s by psychiatrists Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina to describe a range of non-ordinary states of consciousness that can be unsettling because of their sudden onset. From the point of view of psychotherapy such experiences can be described as signs of a mental breakdown, but to the Grofs they are interpreted as indications of spiritual awakening. In 1980, after founding the Spiritual Emergency Network, Christina replaced the word ‘emergency’ with ‘emergence’ to emphasize that such experiences need not always be upsetting or traumatic.

Christina Grof drew on her own experience of spiritual awakening, which began shortly after her marriage to Stanislav Grof in the late 1970s. Symptoms of her awakening included feeling overwhelmed with psychic energies, emotions and inner experiences. In response to this the Grofs founded the Spiritual Emergence Network to help others ‘find their way through unexpected and often unsettling mystical and psychic openings’, rather than limit them with traditional psychotherapy.

According to the Grofs spiritual crises last seconds, minutes, hours or weeks and are most likely to occur during times of great physical stress or crisis, such as childbirth, surgery, near death or during sex, during spiritual practices such as meditation and during transitional stages of life. In most cases the crisis disrupts the person’s ability to function normally. Spiritual emergences are common to humans and need to be integrated into the person’s consciousness, not ignored or suppressed. Integration, which can last several years, leads to spiritual growth. Failure to integrate these experiences can lead to poor mental and physical health.


The Element Encyclopedia of the Psychic World: The Ultimate A–Z of Spirits, Mysteries and the Paranormal: The Ultimate A-Z of Spirits, Mysteries and the Paranormal – Written by Theresa Cheung – © Theresa Cheung 2006