Spiritual Emergency: The Crisis of Psychic Opening | Stanislav Grof MD. PhD.

The Crisis of Psychic Opening

An increase in intuitive abilities and the occurrence of psychic or paranormal phenomena are very common during psychospiritual crises of all kinds. However, in some instances, the influx of information from nonordinary sources, such as astral projection, precognition, telepathy, or clairvoyance, becomes so overwhelming and confusing that it dominates the picture and constitutes a major problem, in and of itself.

Among the most dramatic manifestations of psychic opening are out-of-body experiences. In the middle of everyday life, and often without any noticeable trigger, one’s consciousness can detach from the body and witness what is happening in the surroundings or in various remote locations. The information attained during these episodes by extrasensory perception often proves to correspond to consensus reality. Out-of-body experiences occur with extraordinary frequency in near-death situations, where the accuracy of this “remote viewing” has been established by systematic studies (Ring 1982, 1985, Ring and Valarino 1998, Ring and Cooper 1999).

People experiencing intense psychic opening might be so much in touch with the inner processes of others that they exhibit remarkable telepathic abilities. They might indiscriminately verbalize accurate incisive insights into other people’s minds concerning various issues that these individuals are trying to hide. This can frighten, irritate, and alienate others so severely that it often becomes a significant factor contributing to unnecessary hospitalization or punitive measures within the psychiatric facility. Similarly, accurate precognitions of future situations and clairvoyant perceptions, particularly if they occur repeatedly in impressive clusters, can seriously upset the persons in crisis, as well as alarm those around them, since they undermine their notion of the nature of reality.

In experiences that can be called “mediumistic,” one has a sense of losing one’s own identity and taking on the identity of another person. This can involve assuming the other person’s body image, posture, gestures, facial expression, feelings, and even thought processes. Accomplished shamans, psychics, and spiritual healers can use such experiences in a controlled and productive way. Unlike the persons in psychospiritual crisis, they are capable of taking on the identity of others at will and also resuming their own separate identity after they accomplish the task of the session. During the crises of psychic opening, the sudden, unpredictable, and uncontrollable loss of one’s ordinary identity can be very frightening.

People in spiritual crisis often experience uncanny coincidences that link the world of inner realities, such as dreams and visionary states, to happenings in everyday life. This phenomenon was first recognized and described by C. G. Jung, who gave it the name synchronicity and explored it in a special essay (Jung 1960). The study of synchronistic events helped Jung realize that archetypes were not principles limited to the intrapsychic domain. It became clear to him that they have what he called “psychoid” quality, which means that they govern not only the individual psyche, but also happenings in the world of consensus reality. I have explored this fascinating topic in my other writings (Grof 1988, 2006).

Any researcher, who seriously studies Jungian synchronicities, discovers that they are without any doubt authentic phenomena and cannot be ignored and discounted as accidental coincidences. They also can not be indiscriminately dismissed as pathological distortions of reality — erroneous perception of meaningful relations where, in actuality, there are none. This is a common practice in contemporary psychiatry where any allusion to meaningful coincidences is automatically diagnosed as “delusion of reference.”

In case of true synchronicities, any open-minded witnesses, who have access to all the relevant information, recognize that the coincidences involved are beyond any reasonable statistical probability. Extraordinary synchronicities accompany many forms of transpersonal crises, and in crises of psychic opening they are particularly common.



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