Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening

if you are experiencing the symptoms of psychosis and you have just begun to start reading about whether it may or may not actually be a spiritual awakening, you still need to seek the help of a trained, objective individual who can help you understand your experience ~ I wish I could direct you to someone immediately, but the best I can offer right now is that you call Lifeline on 13 11 14

Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually
who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy
and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house
(which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India
and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’
they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.’
~ Alan Watts

In January 2017 I had a spiritual emergency and was hospitalised with a diagnosis of (temporary) acute paranoid delusional schizophrenia. The doctors and nurses believed that my condition was deeply pathological, a diagnosis that did not match my increasingly strong sense that I was becoming more and more sane by the day. The clarity I was experiencing left me wondering if I hadn’t been deluded my whole life until then ~ everything made sense in a way that nothing ever had before.

I had been doing yoga at a lam rim retreat for two weeks solid. I was detoxing and responding to a recent violent trauma. It was a pressure-cooker of humidity with cleansing rains. I was seriously sleep deprived. And my yearning for renunciation was stronger than ever before.

These were a few among many factors contributing to the experience ~ I would have a hard time elucidating all of the factors in these pages, let alone to the weary and jaded nurses I met in the emergency room. Instead, after a cursory appraisal, the single factor of drug withdrawal was reduced to drug induced, and my experience was reduced to a psycho-pathological condition. Their proposed treatment for this condition … for drug-induced psychosis … was … drugs.

A cornerstone of my ability to refuse the pharmaceuticals was the argument that I was trying to get off drugs, not off one drug and on to another. It didn’t help their case that I kept over-hearing Abilify (the name of the anti-psychotic) as ‘a vilify’. “Would you like to be vilified with your breakfast gruel?”

I was aware that I was going through some kind of spiritual emergence, and I wanted to allow the experience to play out in full. I managed the symptoms with restorative yoga and herbal tea, and in doing so managed to dodge a bullet: I feel certain that if I had used the drugs they prescribed I would have interrupted the process I was going through and perhaps gotten stuck where the ‘delusions’ were suppressed, the same as any psychological wound becomes hidden in the unconscious if we don’t respond appropriately at the time. The same as we interrupt the body’s trauma-response instincts in physical emergencies, we interrupt the natural instinct of our mind responding to the emergence of new realms of reality through hallucination.

A number of the patients I spoke to during my stint in the psych ward were in much the same position. A major astrological shift was underway that I believe was related to the end of the Age of Pisces and the emerging Age of Aquarius. Reports had been coming in from our various online social networks to suggest that numerous others were experiencing heightened states of consciousness ~ flare ups of “bi-polar disorder”, spontaneous shamanic initiations, wacky electronic-communications dissonance. During that week I learned more about occult realities from my fellow “inmates” than I had in all of my earlier research. And most of them were stoned on pharmaceuticals.

As the world undergoes a massive restructuring of consciousness, those at the forefront are being persecuted, penalised, arrested and chemically lobotomised the same as witches and mystics throughout the ages, a persecution motivated by the same age-old ignorance and fear of the unknown. Those who might help to usher in the new age of consciousness, which we need to survive and thrive as a species, are being segregated from society like criminals, and drugged into oblivious compliance, destroying the great minds of our generation [4:44] as effectively as burning a witch at the stake.

There were enough nurses who were sympathetic to what I was saying, and they seemed like angels. I was able to state my case and manage myself, but many others are not able to. I want to help identify cases of spiritual emergency and nurture the people through it. To do this we start with understanding the difference between psychosis and spiritual awakening.

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The above is one of my many and varied attempts to document the experience of what felt like a spiritual awakening and was diagnosed as a psychosis. I was going to delete it because there is really no way I could do the experience justice, but then I remembered wabi sabi. If you’ve got this far it’s probably because you already appreciate that we need to understand the difference between pathological psychosis and spiritual awakening, which is the main message of this page.

If you have a story that illuminates this point, please get in touch or leave a comment below.

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in an especially long and ranty post that ended up being about God, suffering and evolution, I found myself adding the following details from my experience of spiritual emergency, which are all part of the story that is teaching me things about myself and the true nature of reality. These are my interpretations of my experience, that is all.

Around the time in 2015 when I first began to realise I might be experiencing ~depression~, there was a period of three to four weeks where I was manifesting the symptoms of what might be called bipolar disorder, except that I was more manic than I was depressed … unipolar disorder?

(What even is bipolar anyway? Aren’t we all … isn’t everything … characterised by polarity? Isn’t that what the dualist human experience is? And isn’t it a tautology to say ‘bipolar’? Something can’t be tripolar, because that messes with the whole notion of polarity/duality. One or something can be unipolar though ~ stuck at one extreme of the polarity.)

One thing I realised (apart from the maxim, expression is the antidote for depression) is that maybe I had been depressed my whole life, the same as I had been deluded my whole life (see above, January 2017), because:

the peace, joy and awe I was frequently experiencing was like nothing I had experienced before;

the symptoms of depression ~I found on Google~ described feelings I had been having off-and-on my whole life.

In the state of hyper-awareness (and perhaps because of the life-regression practices I was somewhat-recklessly experimenting with) I was experiencing that month, I had a computational power I hadn’t known before (and which has since only been exceeded in January 2017), a power of ad hoc analytical meditation with which I was able to track back through experiences in my life I had been previously doing my darndest to forget, and I saw patterns of depression and even suicidal tendencies going right back into my early childhood. [This is what I talk about when I talk about the power of suffering to catalyse profound spiritual evolution.] I used to daymare about running away from home and hiding in the creek to hold my breath until I died, certain that not only would I not be missed, but that my absence would be welcomed and celebrated by my ~family of origin~.

Now, to just call a spade a spade for a moment: that’s profoundly fucked up. ~My childhood wasn’t even that bad~, which is a stupid thing to say, because it negates the extent of my suffering (and if you’re reading this and you were belittled and neglected by your father and brother, then it has the potential to negate yours as well, which is the last thing I wanna do), and something we need to talk about as a community is the idea that to have suffered trauma in childhood you don’t need to have been [*TRIGGER WARNING*] raped or tortured:

putting aside the trauma of our clinical birth practices and the profoundly maladjusted society we live in from the moment we exit the womb, wailing, it is profoundly traumatic to feel unrequited love for your family in the formative years of your life, and potentially more problematic than having been actively tortured, because the wounds go unacknowledged for being ~not serious~.

Russel Brand talks about this, that ‘minor’ addictions that don’t wreak havoc in your life can be more problematic because they go unrecognised. Other addictions, such as workaholism and consumerism, are actively celebrated, applauded. Hardcore addiction/suffering can catalyse profound spiritual awakenings. Our mediocre suburban traumas can do the same. The events and their causes are on a spectrum, the same order of event to different degrees ~ our addictions to chemicals and behaviours are also on a spectrum, meaning we are all addicted to something.

There’s a line in the book I’m using as a mousepad right now:

During these first years of life, environmental conditions are crucial. On top of the basics of physical safety, food, and shelter, a sense of belonging is essential for all subsequent stages of development. A fragile sense of belonging can leave the individual prone to lifelong anxiety.

This is from Ego, which makes a compelling case for the probability that human suffering is and has always been driving our evolution through what they call the ‘post-conceptual’ revolution, comparable only to the conceptual revolution 50 000 years ago.

Reading this (and the whole book) was a bombshell for me, who (it was conceded to recently by Mum) was ‘always a rather anxious child, always worried about being liked’. That I didn’t inherently feel liked, or have a strong sense of belonging, could have been treated as a red flag, but instead I was frequently derided for being ‘too sensitive’, for ‘taking things too much to heart’ and for not having a thick enough skin.

I don’t want to have a thick skin! Who wants to be a dinosaur!? I want to be sensitive ~ it’s a quality, goddamn it!

I know now that my family did the best they could, but I evidently didn’t know this at the time, and an (un)fortunate paradox of family relations is that best is often still not good enough, because we’re all still a bit fucked up ~ Philip Larkin has a great poem about this:

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
….They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
….And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
….By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
….And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
….It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
….And don’t have any kids yourself.

This historical reality is one of the reasons we need to take all of those ‘basics’ we have secured for ourselves in the twenty-first century and begin putting them to use in the pursuit of thrival.

That said, it could be that our persistent failure to learn from the mistakes of history and the lives of our parents/ancestors is a fundamental and necessary quality of the human condition: without this paradox we would never encounter the cause to grow (the cause being suffering and the growth coming from the search to end, or at least transmute, that suffering). The Buddhists have a great teaching about this in the lojong: we can choose to feel grateful for our suffering because it gives us an opportunity to practise the dharma, and because a skilful response to suffering purifies our karma.

So this is not about my parents or my brother or ~the society~: this is just my lot, my karma. And I always, for some reason, had enough grit (enough knowing) to turn my childhood suffering into a cause to never be mean to others (a resolution I haven’t always been able have f(l)ailed to keep). I became a gregarious little boy despite (or because of) being relentlessly bullied by (among others) two of the main actors on the stage of my boyhood universe.

I bring this up only because these were important insights I had during that month in 2015, powerful catalysts for understanding what was happening to me. I see now that the suffering I had experienced throughout my life became a major catalyst for the awakening experience I had in that month. The accumulation of that suffering had gathered enough force that it broke me, but instead of exploding outward into a mess of retaliative fury, I broke inward … I imploded, and the weight of suffering drove me deep toward realising the true nature of myself.

So I suppose that when I say it broke me, I mean it broke ‘me’, the illusion of the ‘I-sense’ ~ at least, it put a bloody big dent in it, because it wasn’t until January 2017 that I had a genuine experience of no longer identifying one-hundred per cent with ~my ego~.

I didn’t exactly see it this way in 2015, but I knew something profound was happening, and despite a few fleeting concerns about the state of my mental health, I didn’t feel sick ~ on the contrary, I knew that I had been sick my whole life and that now I was feeling healthier than ever: joy, wonder and awe … these are signs of good health.

Those concerns about my mental health (which I experienced to a similar extent in January 2017) were, I believe, due to the unfamiliarity of the experience ~ we are so familiar with our ego-identification that when it falls away, it can be scary and we can wonder if we are going insane. We are not ~ at least, most of the time we are not: pathological psychosis is almost certainly a thing, but all psychosis is not necessarily pathological.

This might be a good time to break down my interpretation of the word ‘psychosis’, though I feel like a broken record because I’m sure it’s scribbled down somewhere, and may even already be published on this site

When I say ‘awe’, I mean awe: there were moments in that month, around the full moon, when I stepped outside my girlfriend’s house, looked into the sky and understood that in the moon I was seeing the eye of God, and that God was watching over me. It should be noted here that I am essentially an atheist: when I say “God” I mean cosmos, and when I say ‘cosmos’ I mean divine order, as understood by the Ancient Greeks, so when I say ‘divine order’ I mean the antonym of chaos.

[8:03~4am48% ~ lojong reminder: do not seek out sorrow as a condition for happiness, replete with extra-long phone vibration

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~> “This means that we should not hope for others’ sorrow as a means for our happiness.” Der.

Does it though? It can mean whatever I want it to mean, and I choose for it to mean “don’t over-identify with misery”, and it means I need to question whether suffering is necessarily a catalyst for joy: it can be transmuted, yes, but this doesn’t mean that one should seek it out ~ once suffering has done its work, we can move on to non-suffering, whereby we choose to not suffer when we experience pain (pain being, of course, an evolutionary signpost).]

When we suffer pain as a kind of evil, we live with a bias that chaos (disorder) is more predominant than cosmos (order), which is not true: the universe is profoundly and precisely balanced ~ it is only our perception that convinces us otherwise.

When we shed this bias in these moments of temporary (non-abiding) awakening, our lives are funda-mentally trans-formed because we have, for a moment, seen beyond the veil of our ego delusions. When I told a friend about this experience of ‘seeing God’ in the moon (and other experiences from that month), he said, “Congratulations!, you’ve seen through the matrix”, which, obviously, is a statement loaded with (un)fortunate pop-cultural references, but it’s a statement that points (as the finger points at the moon) at the same ineffable truth alluded to in the quote from Alan Watts above: we are all (aspects of) God; our misperception of the world this truth is what causes our suffering, and our suffering catalyses the experience of perceiving this truth, which is that, like God, the universe is equal parts benign and malign, and perfectly balanced whether we accept that balance or not.

To perceive the universe as predominantly one or the other (benign or malign) constitutes a profoundly and uniquely human pathology we must all go through before we emerge from our delusions into the light of awareness (of balance and truth).

From this perspective (of equanimity, of profound acceptance of all that is), we can begin to see that depression is not an illness (a malignant mental disorder) but a symptom (a benign psychological balm that is helping to bring us back toward order, as puss heals a wound). From this perspective we can begin to accept suffering as a necessary evolutionary force, which … *takes a deep breath* … might actually constitute an answer to the question, “Why does God allow suffering?”

I promise I did not sit down to answer this question this morning ~ this is just where my mind goes when I let it free.

God ~allows~ suffering because we allow ourselves to ask that question from the misconception (from the false assumption) that God is all-loving [4:15pm54%], which is a lie we tell ourselves because we lied to ourselves about ~man~ being made in the image of God: believing this, we are able to deny our shadow (another pathological behaviour that only humans are capable of). God is not all-loving: God is a bastard, the only unbegotten sun. God ~allegedly~ arose out of nothing ~ it doesn’t get much more illegitimate than that. We want to believe God is all-loving because then we can delude ourselves about our own nature.

We, who have made God in our image (not the other way round), are not all-loving. We are hateful cunts. Admit it. The moment we admit this in ourselves is the moment we see that God, who we made in our image, is equal parts yoni and lingham, yin and yang, Christ and anti-Christ, as … are … we, the whole fucking lot of us. To deny this is to be not-human ~ or else it is to be human after the image we have created of God, which is deluded, pathological and … just straight-up confusing.

I really did not intend to arrive at this point by sitting down to write this mourning.

All I really wanted to say is that depression is not an illness and suffering is not malign. It’s all just a matter of perspective. [3033 words]

Actually I sat down to write about feeling meh. I feel much better now, so this has been a case study in action ~ expression is an antidote to depression. What follows from this is that suppression and oppression are causes of depression, but that’s a subject for another day.

I am not the first person to say ‘depression is a call to spiritual awakening’ (in deed, I stole that from Jeff Foster), but I am the first person I know directly who has experienced this as a first-hand reality. (I mean, there’s Eckhart Tolle, but obviously he’s just an ~illuminati avatar~, right?) An extension of this view is that ‘psychosis’ is not necessarily a pathology, and may indeed be an experience that is more conducive to true health than any drug that may be prescribed to prevent it.