Spiritual Emergency: The Dark Night of the Soul!

I would like to give thanks to Stan & Christina Grof for all their wonderful information on spiritual emergency. My dedication goes to Alli Lawler who was the beautiful woman who introduced me the Spiritual Emergence Network.  And I would also like to thank Kama Frankling for her support and wisdom on spiritual emergence.

In my blog “The Law of Attraction… Are My Beliefs Ruining My Life?”, the third point that was raised was that spiritual emergence without grounded reason can lead to serious mental illness with dangerous implications. Many people are inspired towards the spiritual path because they want to be special or because they think it will bring happiness and enlightenment!!! What most people are not told is that a spiritual journey is actually the harder path. It’s not a Sunday walk in the park… Spiritual awakening is about transformation at a soul level, this sort of stuff often happens through trauma or tragedy. It can shake the core of your being. In spiritual awakening you are changing your old thought and emotional patterns on a deep level and then relearning how to interact with the world and people again. Through the process some people even experience what we term in the West, mental illness such as depression, anxiety and psychosis.

In some non-western cultures Shamans may go through a dark night of the soul before they emerge into the tribe’s Sharman. In the West we would see that person as having a mental illness and possibly a psychotic episode. In these cultures they are seen as a Sharman in training. These cultures understand the psychotic episode to be a deep transformation and spiritual emergence lead by their own inner demons (and maybe outer demons too). People can go through this type of spiritual awakening for years, supported by their communities until they come out of it. Some never come out of it. However it is interesting that there is a far higher rate of these people emerging out of a “spiritual emergence” than there is a person in the West recovering from a “psychotic episode” through the mental health system.

In Eastern practices such as Buddhism, it is also well known that a person can suffer from symptoms of mental illness through regular meditation practice and spiritual awakening. When someone begins to experience symptoms of anxiety, depression or even psychosis through their emergence, they are guided away from spiritual practice to re-ground themselves. It is the only time they can eat red meat, they work in the gardens or fields and they cease meditation practices.

It is no wonder demons and scary images are captured and portrayed in religious art, including Christian art. Spiritual awakening burns through what we want to see least about ourselves. While not all of us go through a full blown spiritual emergency (that looks much like mental illness), spiritual emergence does tend to bring us to our knees in humility. It often throws us into an egotistical state for a while SO WE CAN CLEARLY SEE THE EGO! It’s a little embarrassing, trust me!!! We go sky high and lose our grounding for a while… I was ungrounded for years. It has bouts of pristine clarity and then complete confusion and disorientation. Any underlying unconscious patterns tend to be brought up to the light of consciousness, even when we struggle to remain ignorant and try to avoid what we don’t want to see. If we don’t know what we are doing we can get lost on the spiritual path… it can be a frightening place!

In saying all of that, I do believe with the right psychospiritual guidance, the practice of balance and mindfulness, and honouring the self and others, emerging into spiritual awareness can be a rewarding and honorable journey. The more aware we become, the responsible we can be and the more we can make choices where before we were largely ignorant of ourselves and reacting out of unconscious patterns. For those who chose to walk the path… you have my blessings and be wise on your journey!!!!


Have your say on the Law of Attraction and contribute to the greater consciousnesses of humanity …





6 Responses to “Spiritual Emergency: The Dark Night of the Soul!”

  • Kama:

    Thank you for the mention Vanessa. I love our conversations! For me personally I find that with each new spiritual growth there is always some grief. I know that once I have moved forward there is a part of me that will no longer be on my journey, a part of me that I must say goodbye to. Without the wisdom I would label this stage as being depressed. Now with a sense of awareness I am able to observe the grief of saying goodbye to what I thought was me and see the emotions for what they are. You raise some important issues that I feel are important to talk about. It is so important that spiritual practice is not rushed in to but taken one step at a time with the guidance of wise teachers and the support of the like minded.

    • Hi Kama, Thank you for your kind words. I treasure our conversations on metaphysics and the psychospiritual. Yes, there is a grief or change that occurs as we shed the old and embrace the new. Sometimes this is subtle and sometimes this is all too real, either through loss of a relationship or actual person’s life. But I think you are right, these losses change from physical and emotional separation to transformation (with a sense of no-separation at the level of spirit).

      I agree proper guidance is essential!
      I look forward to your future comments
      Lots of love

  • Vanessa, we do have the choice to walk the spiritual path with ease and grace – of course, this means total surrender, trust and faith … no wonder we resist and fear it so much! Anything which challenges our ego and sense of identity of who we THINK we are, is bound to throw us into a state of panic, depression and anxiety.
    Support and understanding from like-minded people certainly helps us know that we’re not alone and we’re not really going crazy. Yes, it is a rewarding (and ultimately the only) path to walk along – we all get there eventually, at our own pace and in our own time.
    It helps to keep breathing through it! And enjoy the illusion of it.

    • Hi Hari, we can chose to walk the spiritual path with ease and grace. I think you and Kama are right about having the guidance of someone with the wisdom who knows about how to walk this path and/or like-minded people, to help with that ease. I have seen some people who have huge stuff come up when spiritually emerging. Some of it may be their conscious choices but a lot of it is simply powerful unconscious attractor patterns from their family heritage and (for those who believe in it) past lives etc. I’m writing more on that in my next blog on the unconscious in the attraction process.

      I fully agree that our ego (mind) does do a lot of harm when it fights the flow and direction of life!!! You are so right! Mastering the mind is a big part of the journey. I love mindfulness for that.

      Thank you for your great response
      Lots of love

  • Terry:

    Thank You Vanessa… still at it after all these years! To other readers, I sat with Vanessa on a committee back in 2004 tasked with trying to rebirth the Australasian Spiritual Emergence Network, with a mission to provide networking and support services to people in SE crisis and their loved ones. It didn’t fly for all sorts of reasons, but the intent was (and still is) a good one. As I said, glad you’re still at it Vanessa. It’s good work.

    In the meantime I’m just exiting my own dark night, where I was lost in a maze of ideas and aspirations and contexts and other constructs, unable to choose. One of my teachers (Terri O’Fallon) describes the journey into new consciousness as like moving into a new home that is, at first, entirely unfamiliar, and where all that I am about to learn is still a mystery, still packed in boxes strewn through the various rooms. It takes time to unpack everything, to make sense of what I discover, and then to give it a place in the context of my new psychic home. When I first move in though, it feels like inner chaos. Nothing is known for certain.

    And, she adds, while unpacking, it can be quite difficult to live in the world. If my inner world is in chaos, that makes it hard to know what to do in any given moment. I tended to question every decision, endlessly, as if in a hall of mirrors, and then at the end would be overwhelmed by 10,000 reflections. In that place, anything out of the ordinary was a bit scary. I’m quite sure the wrong kind of psychologist could have stuck several nasty labels on me and prescribed all sorts of pharmaceutical horrors, but meanwhile, it was just me growing, learning how to be in a brand new world(view).

    So much gratitude to you Vanessa for being the right kind of psychologist, one who has done her own evolutionary work, and who engages the whole person… body, mind and (especially) Spirit, in service of healing and awakening. Blessings on you for your efforts.

    Terry Bishop

    • Hi Terry, thank you so much for leaving a comment. I love your writing style and your life wisdom. I agree that the journey through awakening needs to be supported and embraced rather than medicated. It gets especially tough when it seems that life is throwing everything at us… But the difference in conscious awakening is how we perceive and respond to difficult events. The difficult events become transformational rather than simply devastating. The meaning we make from adversity will make or break us.

      Thank you for sharing your experience in walking the dark night of the soul.
      Lots of love

Leave a Reply