'Secondary Spiritual Emergence'

In 1994, the APA revised the DSM-3, by adding a new entry called ‘Religious or Spiritual Problem (Code V.62.89)’, also known as a ‘Spiritual Emergency’, to the guidebook.

"The inclusion in the DSM-IV of a new diagnostic category called "Religious or Spiritual Problem" marks a significant breakthrough. For the first time, there is acknowledgment of distressing religious and spiritual experiences as non-pathological problems. Spiritual emergencies are crises during which the process of growth and change becomes chaotic and overwhelming. The proposal for this new diagnostic category came from transpersonal clinicians concerned with the misdiagnosis and mistreatment of persons in the midst of spiritual crises.” David Lukoff

Code V.62.89 is categorized as a transient, non-pathological mental disturbance. Similar to the depression, that naturally follows losing a loved one. The affects of spiritual crises eventually wear off, and consequently the experience is not considered a mental illness. However, before 1994 all spiritual experiences—no matter how graceful—were viewed by the prevailing authority as troublesome pathology. Sigmund Freud’s ignorance and out-right denial of Jung, and Eastern Spirituality, is largely to blame for this blunder. This was not a victimless mistake.  

What people don’t give much thought to, is that this nonsense has been going on for thousands of years, i.e., this business about the spiritual authority (or in our case, the American Psychiatric Association), not being able to recognize a valid spiritual rebirth when it occurs.

At any rate, Carl Jung’s synchronicity, spontaneous confrontation with the unconscious, and the recollection of infantile amnesia, as well as Stanislav Grof’s, transpersonal experience (i.e., abreaction of a core experience, a visitation from a divine being, or a lost loved one, etc.), and 'spiritual emergence', can all come into play with this kind a numinous, visionary experience. Unfortunately, all history has left us with, are symbolic references and vague metaphors relating to the visionary experiences of the major religious icons, no detailed descriptions exist.

Most likely, a first-hand account of say, Moses' experience on Mount Horeb, or the Buddha’s experience under the Bodhi tree, or Jesus’ long lost virgin birth (the virgin birth was interpreted by Joseph Campbell to mean, spiritual birth), would undoubtedly involve lots of weird synchronicities, happening around a major visionary experience/confrontation with the unconscious, ego collapse and spiritual rebirth--followed by an intense spiritual crisis. The passages below are unmistakably descriptive of a spiritual emergency.

“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 23:20-21, 31-35

In order to better understand how epic myths and new religious movements, spring forth from the unconscious mind and spread; it would profit the Jungians and Integral Movement, to adopt the notion of a, ‘Secondary Emergence’. Some confrontations with the unconscious, yield visions and examples of spiritual emergence so vivid and emotionally powerful, an emotive disclosure of it, can inspire a secondary spiritual emergence in others.

Anthropologists and Evolutionary Psychiatrists are calling this observable psychological phenomenon, ‘Primary and Secondary Mazeway Resynthesis (PMR/SMR)’. Our ancestors once called this, ‘Anointing by God’, and ‘Baptism by Fire’.

Universal Religious Symbolism 101:

'New Wine', Chicha and other similar intoxicants, are code words for a new PMR vision. For example, when St. Paul and his followers, were babbling incoherently and rolling around on the floor, at Pentecost--the people were amazed. But the wise men said, "They are simply drunk on new wine."

Contrary to popular belief, the elders didn't believe them to be literally drunk on fresh wine. Rather, they understood the cause of their jubilation, to be a secondary spiritual emergence. That is to say, Paul's followers were ecstatic because they just digested a disclosure of his famous vision on the road to Damascus...

“What, then, is the resurrection? “It is always the disclosure of those who have risen.” The Treatise on Resurrection, Nag Hammadi Library ca. 200 CE


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  • This is wonderful Scott!  I was not aware the APA had made this revision. It is wonderful to know spiritual emergencies are beginning to be more fully understood. Thank you so much for sharing this. :-)

  • I appreciate very much your insightful and informative post.

    Thank you

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