(Spiritual Emergence/Emergency . . . )
The Icarus Temptation and Other Dangers Due to the ecstacy and exhilaration of the experience, there is a real temptation, as demonstrated by the mythic Icarus, to fly too high, which is only a setup for a corresponding fall. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to be as grounded as possible during these experiences. The great psychiatrist C. G. Jung understood the importance of this during his "Confrontation with the Unconscious." He used to keep pictures of his family around, so he could remember that he was, in his words, "an actually existing, ordinary person."
Jung understood very well that one of the greatest dangers you encounter in spiritual emergence is to become inflated, thinking that you are someone special. You become identified with the archetype instead of relating to it from the standpoint of a conscious human ego. You've literally gotten swallowed up and possessed by the deeper, more powerful transpersonal forces, falling totally into your unconscious. You can become truly insane, thinking, for example, that only you are the Christ, instead of recognizing that we all have Christ nature. This is one of the places where the spiritual emergence can turn into a spiritual emergency. There is a big difference between someone who is truly mentally ill, who could be said to be drowning in the stormy ocean of the unconscious, compared to an accomplished mystic, who is being nurtured and nourished by swimming, surfing and snorkling in the healing waters of their psyche.
Jung understood that the thing which swings the balance one way or the other is the human ego’s capacity to confront and relate in a conscious way to these transpersonal forces. This is why creative work, in which you channel and transmute these deeper, very powerful, archetypal energies, is of the utmost importance.
At a certain point, the entire ordeal reveals itself to be an initiation for actualizing and giving expression to your true genius, or daimon, which is none other than your inner voice, guiding spirit and unfabricated true nature, which has never been lost. Like remembering something that's been long forgotten, you discover your unique calling, your true vocation as a Bodhisattva who is here to help other beings. You become a master creative multi-dimensional artist whose canvas is life itself.
Of course, another great danger, which I can talk about from personal experience, is to wind up in the clutches of and be diagnosed and medicated by the medical/psychiatric community. These people typically have no under-standing of spiritual emergence. One psychiatrist even diagnosed me as having the same illness as Freud’s infamous "Rat Man," saying I would need three years of intensive psychotherapy and then I would be cured! To again quote Laing, "Anyone in this transitional state is likely to be confused. To indicate that this confusion is a sign of illness, is a quick way to create psychosis....A psychiatrist who professes to be a healer of souls, but who keeps people asleep, treats them for waking up and drugs them asleep again....helps to drive them crazy."
My final hospitalization was in September of l982. I was flown back to New York and put in a hospital for three weeks. Instead of judging these hospitalizations to be a mistake, I've come to see the perfection of all that has happened. I now understand that the hospitalizations were in fact an aspect of the awakening; they were part of my journey to the underworld. There is a sense of accepting and embracing whatever has happened in my life, realizing it is all an initiation into the deeper mystery of my infinite and unspeakably magical being.
This is not to say that there is not something called mental illness. I do wonder, though, how many cases of mental illness are actually spiritual emergences gone unidentified, and hence, unacknowledged. The individual and society lose tragically in such cases.
We, as a society, need to recognize the existence of genuine spiritual emergences and learn to differentiate such cases from cases of psychosis.
Thankfully, there are explorers who are mapping this unchartered terrain for the rest of us, and there is now even a small paragraph in the psychiatrists DSM IV Book (their diagnostic manual) titled "Spiritual or Religious Problem."
As for me, I believe that we're all at different stages of the spiritual emergence process.
An artist and healer, with a passion for Dreamwork, Paul Levy is in private practice, assisting people who are spiritually emerging and beginning to wake up to the dreamlike nature of reality. Deeply steeped in the work of alchemy, shamanism and C. G. Jung, Paul is a long-time Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, and is the coordinator of the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. He can be reached at (503) 234-6480.