Crises Caused by Spiritual Awakening

Last time we looked at the crises that can precede spiritual awakening on the path towards Self-realisation. In this post we explore the kinds of experiences that can happen as a result of awakening and the problems they can lead to. The following notes are taken from Psychosynthesis by Roberto Assagioli:

“The opening of the channel between the conscious and the superconscious levels, between the ego and the Self, and the flood of light, joy and energy which follows, often produce a wonderful release. The preceding conflicts and sufferings, with the psychological and physical symptoms which they generated, vanish sometimes with amazing suddenness, thus confirming the fact that they were not due to any physical cause but were the direct outcome of the inner strife. In such cases the spiritual awakening amounts to a real cure.

“But in some cases, not infrequent, the personality is inadequate in one or more respects and therefore unable to rightly assimilate the inflow of light and strength. This happens, for instance, when the intellect is not balanced, or the emotions and the imagination are uncontrolled; when the nervous system is too sensitive; or when the inrush of spiritual energy is overwhelming in its suddenness and intensity.

[My note: or all of the above!]

“An incapacity of the mind to stand the illumination, or a tendency to egotism or conceit, may cause the experience to be wrongly interpreted, and there results, so to speak, a ‘confusion of levels.’ The distinction between absolute and relative truths, between the Self and the ‘I’, is blurred and the inflowing spiritual energies may have the unfortunate effect of feeding and inflating the personal ego.”

“The inner experience of the spiritual Self, and its intimate association with and penetration of the personal self, gives to those who have it a sense of greatness and internal expansion, the conviction of participating in some way in the divine nature. In the religious tradition and spiritual doctrines of every epoch one finds numerous attestations on this subject – some of them expressed in daring terms.

“In the Bible there is the explicit sentence “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” St Augustine declares: “When the soul loves something it becomes like unto it; if it should love terrestrial things it becomes terrestrial, but if it should love God (we may ask) does it not become God?” The most extreme expression of the identity of the human spirit in its pure and real essence with the Supreme Spirit is contained in the central teaching of the Vedanta philosophy: “Tat Twam Asi” (Thou art That) and “Aham evam param Brahman” (In truth I am the Supreme Brahman).

“In whatever way one may conceive the relationship between the individual Self and the universal Self, be they regarded as identical or similar, distinct or united, it is most important to recognise clearly, and to retain ever present in theory and in practice, the difference that exists between the Self in its essential nature – that which has been called the ‘Fount,’ the ‘Centre,’ the ‘deeper Being,’ the ‘Apex’ of ourselves – and the small ordinary personality, the little ‘self’ or ego, of which we are normally conscious. The disregard of this vital distinction leads to absurd and dangerous consequences.”

The fatal error of all who fall victim to these illusions is to attribute to their personal ego or ‘self’ the qualities and powers of the Self. In philosophical terms, it is a case of confusion between an absolute and a relative truth, between the metaphysical and the empirical levels of reality; in religious terms, between God and the ‘soul.’ … instances of such confusion are not uncommon among people dazzled by contact with truths which are too powerful for their mental capacities to grasp and assimilate. The reader will doubtless be able to record instances of similar self-deception which are found in a number of fanatical followers of various cults. Once the delusion has become established it is a waste of time to antagonise and to ridicule the patient’s aberration; it will merely arouse his opposition and resentment. The better way is to sympathise and, while admitting the ultimate truth of his belief, point out the nature of his error and help him learn how to make the necessary distinctions.

In other cases the sudden influx of energies produces an emotional upheaval which expresses itself in uncontrolled, unbalanced and disordered behaviour. Shouting and crying, singing and outbursts of various kinds characterise this form of response. If the individual is active and aggressive he may be easily impelled by the excitement of the inner awakening to play the role of prophet or saviour; he may found a new sect and start a campaign of spectacular proselytism.

In some sensitive individuals there is an awakening of parapsychological perceptions. They have visions, which they believe to be of exalted beings; they may hear voices, or begin to write automatically, accepting the messages at their face value and obeying them unreservedly. [My note: we could probably include certain channelled communications here too.] The quality of such messages is very varied. Sometimes they contain fine teachings, but they should always be examined with much discrimination and sound judgement, and without being influenced by their uncommon origin or by any claim by their alleged transmitter. No validity should be attributed to messages containing definite orders and commanding blind obedience, and to those tending to exalt the personality of the recipient.”

Next time: Reactions to Spiritual Awakening