November 25, 2007

Book Review: No Soul Hurricanes Here

The Call of Spiritual Emergency: From Personal Crisis to Personal Transformation-How to deal with the disorientation that can accompany death, illness, injury, childbirth, drug experiences, sex, meditation, and all life-transforming experiences by Emma Bragdon, PhD (Harper & Row, 1990, 0-06-250104-6)

This book was written by Emma Bragdon, who states that she does not fear death because she knows that it "would be a passageway into the ultimate peace that [she] had felt when [she] nearly drowned." (p.12) Dr. Bragdon "went from being an art student to being a Zen Buddhist Nun" (p.16) at the age of 20, and is ""not only a sensitive receiver, responding to the stimulation of others, but an organism looking for ways to express itself." (p.18) She has also undergone Neo-Reichian therapy while pursuing a life devoted to meditation so that now she "can help people to integrate their spiritual experiences with their ordinary reality, to reach levels of development beyond ego," (p.23) this is due in part to the fact that, "life and death, the archetypal opposites, had made love on [her] doorstep." (p.22)

What is in this book: "Guidance and reassurance in understanding your spiritual experiences." (p.9) The term spiritual emergency is used in this book not to describe emergencies in the sense of soul earthquakes, essence fires, or spirit floods, but rather to describe "critical points in the process of spiritual emergence" (p.15). This book has been written because people with emerging spirits may suffer from "a framework that classifies their experiences only as evidence of mental disease."(p.8) Since "intense spiritual experiences and inspired states of mind often look similar to psychosis," (p.16) and "the difference between psychosis, which is a breakdown, and spiritual emergency, which is a breakthrough, can be very subtle," (p.214) this book is necessary to let people at those critical points know that they're not going crazy.

What is not in this book: Permission to go crazy. "Psychotic states that are pathological, rather than gateways to higher functioning, are very real, and need to be treated by health professionals" (p.16). Dr. Bragdon notes that the way to tell the difference between inspired state and psychotic break is that "visual and auditory hallucinations, delusions, and inability to communicate" (p.16) are clear symptoms of psychotic behavior, and illustrates the difference by providing accounts of spiritual emergence from individuals who have heard eerie whistling noises unlike anything they have known (p.120), have had wild hawks land on them (p.146), see visions of purple orbs taking up all of space (p.95), and who are so overcome by their spiritual experiences that they don't want to communicate with those around them (p.142).

Would you recommend this book to cheerleaders? No. This book will do nothing to help for either spirit rallies or spirit week.

Would you recommend this book to either Carrot Top or Ed O'Neill? No. Spiritual emergence does not "dial down the center" when it calls, and is not interested in learning how to do so.

What was interesting about this book: The excerpts that Dr. Bragdon has included from sessions with her clients, describing their own moments of spiritual emergency. One client, "Louise," had "wanted to experiment with MDMA, a psychoactive drug, when it was still legally available [...] Since many of her patients had abused drugs, Louise wanted to try a drug "trip" once, because she felt it would help her understand her patients in more depth." (p.26) Louise states that after she began her experience with MDMA, her husband "knew that if [she] was taken to the hospital, they would give [her] antipsychotic medictaion to stop the process, so he decided to be with [her] at home."(p.26)
Also of interest is the section at the end of the book on how to help in a spiritual emergency. Of interest to those who have friends or family members undergoing a spiritual emergency, it offers helpful tips like "A woman who is mistrustful of men may be more comfortable appealing to a feminine personification of divine energy such as Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, than appealing to Jesus Christ or a masculine God"(p.206).

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