In our Cartesian-oriented world, we have lost touch with anything we can measure and systematize. We have lost the instinctual and unconscious forces that continue to run the script of our culture from the background. So we don’t have the capacity to understand irrational (from a different order but orderly) processes that can take hold of many of us. We pathology everything we can’t fit in our rationalist system.

In this Ted Talk, we can see how other cultures we referred to as “uncivilized” understand and support this process for others.  (Youtube Ted Talk on references at the bottom)

Not every “spiritual emergency” (…) will produce a visionary or healer, some do actually need medical intervention and render the subject dysfunctional within a society, even a tribal one, yet this is usually a very low percentage.

Most people, given the right support, containment, mentorship, and space to go through an emergen-cy of this sort will find their way through with newly gained insight and a re-organization of the personality. As they find cohesion for what seems irrational and scary a new “self” emerges that with different answers to the same issues.

"There exists increasing evidence that many individuals experiencing episodes of nonordinary states of consciousness accompanied by various emotional, perceptual, and psychosomatic manifestations are undergoing an evolutionary crisis rather than suffering from a mental disease (Grof, 1985). The recognition of this fact has important practical and theoretical consequences. If properly understood and treated as difficult stages in a natural developmental process, these experiences—spiritual emergencies or transpersonal crises—can result in emotional and psychosomatic healing, creative problem-solving, personality transformation, and consciousness evolution. is fact is reflected in the term “spiritual emergency,” which suggests a crisis, but also suggests the potential for rising to a higher state of being." (Grof, 1989)

So we have deeply misunderstood and underestimated the potential of what we call mental illness.

On the other side of this, we have in our Western culture, the ever-increasing “self-proclaimed shaman”

In the last 20 years, we have seen the proliferation of plant medicine practices, the decriminalization of psychedelics, and the new age movement revolution that has brought back ancient practices of the East and native nations. This is all good in itself, in my opinion, it points to growth in the right direction. Many of us have started seeking elsewhere as we realize our highly sophisticated culture doesn’t provide meaning and peace.

The problem arises when by getting in touch with higher meaning and true personal power we somehow believe that we now have the means to take this out into the world and heal others.

The new age culture also feeds us that we can get-do anything we want leading to a sense of infantile omnipotence that inflates our ego.

The ego-self is tricky, especially for Westerners who have internalized a sense of conquering-pioneering spirit. Becoming a shaman doesn’t usually involve a self-declared act. It is sort of chosen for us by Spirit or our “Soul-Self, it almost always involves some type of “shamanic illness” that brings us to the brink of death and, in the West, would probably be labeled as mental illness and heavily medicated.

We can become practitioners or facilitators of many of these lineages, yet only some of us will become the visionaries-healers. This will not be an easy path, it will require a long term of development, and it will not be picked by usual as if we were deciding what to major on in college.

It is important to remain mindful of our tendencies to project our own socio-cultural meaning on other traditions. It is important to




Grof, Stanislav. 1989. Spiritual Emergency, When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crises. Penguin
Borges, Phil. 2014. Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening. Ted Talk