A Question of Schizophrenia or Spiritual Emergence.

Mental Illness or Psychic Awakening?

A cross-paradigmatic reference for mental health professionals, people with schizophrenia and individuals experiencing signs of spiritual emergence.

Bookmark this page and let it be your starting point in looking at issues that can be indicative of spiritual awakening on one hand and of schizophrenia on the other.  On it you will find links to web sites that deal with both issues and/or the merging of the two as well as links to sites that deal with complementary medicine and personal experiences of mental health consumers.

The mystic, endowed with native talents... and following... the instructions of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged and is drowning.

Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By

While schizophrenia has been described as a disease by the psychiatric profession and can be a seriously disabling condition for individuals that are experiencing it there are a number of conditions that manifest in individuals that are similar to some of the 'symptoms' of schizophrenia but are considered a desirable attribute to possess. Clairvoyance, where the individual 'sees' things that others do not see, and clairaudience, where the individual 'hears' voices that others do not hear are examples of these attributes and are seen by many individuals as a desirable faculty to possess.

The DSM-IV has included a new category called Religious or Spiritual Problem (Code V62.89). This code was included to detail a spiritual condition as a process that mimics a psychiatric disorder. Basically, this code allows for the possibility that not all psychiatric crisis is a mental disorder or evidence that something is wrong. Spiritual emergence is a transformative and growing personal experience, with characteristics of other DSM-IV types of behavior present.

According to Dr. John W. Perry in Trials of the Visionary Mind: Spiritual Emergency and the Renewal Process.; stress may cause highly activated mythic images to erupt from the psyche's deepest levels in the form of turbulent visionary experience. Depending on whether the interactions between the individual and the immediate surroundings lean toward affirmation or invalidation, comprehension of these visions can turn the visionary experience into a step in growth or into a disorder, as an acute psychosis. Dr. Perry has found and formulated a mental syndrome which, though customarily regarded as acute psychosis, is in actuality a more natural effort of the psyche to mend its imbalances. According to him, if the upset is received in the spirit of empathy and understanding, and allowed to run its course, an acute episode can be found to reveal a self-organizing process that has self-healing potential.

Dr. Clancy D. McKenzie in his book Delayed Post Traumatic Stress Disorders From Infancy: The Two Trauma Mechanism; states that common unsuspected events overwhelm the infant/toddler and set the stage for later development of serious mental/emotional disorders. The events in the first two years of life, which correlate with the later development of Schizophrenia, are the identical events that in the next year of life correlate with the later development of non psychotic Major Depression. This has been tested on data from nearly 10,000 patients by leading researchers, and is presently being tested on thousands more. The findings do not disagree with biological or genetic findings, but clearly demonstrate why biological change is the result of the desease process and not the cause.

Dr McKenzie states that he "cannot recall a single patient in the last 15 years - with the exception of severely regressed state hospital type patients - who required rehospitalisation after gaining correct understanding and maintaining an absolute total and permanent" (p 156) adherence to the prerequisites that he sets down for recovery.

It seems that the majority of biomedical professionals are unaware of there being alternatives in diagnosis to those that have traditionally been expounded by the psychiatric profession as symptoms of 'mental illness' in individuals that are experiencing alternative realities.  It is hoped that these pages may stimulate a re-examination of 'taken for granted' paradigms in psychiatry as well as serving as a convenient cross-paradigmatic reference for mental health professionals, for individuals suffering symptoms that have been diagnosed by mental health professionals as schizophrenia or schizophrenia related illnesses and for individuals that are experiencing signs of spiritual emergence.

Experience that can be loosely categorized as spiritual emergence and some that come under the heading of 'kundalini' are definitions of various phenomenon which are seen by many as a sign of spiritual or psychic opening.  It is not uncommon that individuals that are experiencing these cases of emergence and that come under the attention of psychiatric professionals are diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia or as suffering from schizophrenia related disorders.  The question is whether these crisis periods are a sign of 'mental illness' or whether they are a process of psychic 'opening' and a part of the human condition.

These different perceptions of what counts for spiritual emergence on one hand and mental illness, and specifically schizophrenia, on the other hand highlight a clashing of ideologies and a possibility that some instances of the condition called schizophrenia are uncontrolled spiritual emergence, or what counts for spiritual emergence might be cases of schizophrenia or schizophrenia related disorders.  I leave you, dear reader, to work through those issues for yourself.

For individuals that are interested in going a step further in understanding of issues relating to spiritual emergence in psychosis and psychotic episodes I recommend the website Internet Guided Learning - Online CE Courses on Mental Health and Spirituality. It is run by David Lukoff, Ph.D. who is a licensed psychologist in California and Professor of Psychology at Saybrook Graduate School in San Francisco. He is an author of 50 articles and chapters on spiritual issues and mental health, one of which won the Exemplary Paper award from the Templeton Foundation. He is co-author of the DSM-IV category Religious or Spiritual Problem and lectures internationally on spirituality in mental health and mental illness. He trained in psychology and anthropology at the University of Chicago, Harvard, and Loyola University of Chicago, and has been a member of the faculties of Harvard, UCLA, Oxnard College, California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.