Shared Transformation

Introduction to Issue 22


"There is something called schizophrenia," said Jill Johnson, "and it means brokenhearted." Not long ago I came across a tragic story of a young woman whose unhappiness due to sad life experiences was medically mismanaged so badly it destroyed her life. She had married young to an abusive husband and had suffered a miscarriage with her first pregnancy. Her depression after the loss of her baby combined with the other stresses in her life prompted her to seek professional help. Unfortunately, the professional she contacted was a psychiatrist devoid of empathy or any understanding of human emotion. Instead of helping her deal with her grief and bad marriage, he labeled her schizophrenic and prescribed antipsychotic drugs. Being told her problems all stemmed from her mental defects -- her "schizophrenia" -- dashed her hopes of recovery and crumbled the remains of her self-esteem. This and the brain-damaging effects of long term antipsychotic and antidepressant drug use turned her life into a blur of medication-induced stupor and hospitalizations in psychiatric wards. After years of this dehumanzing regime, she became one of psychiatry's hidden Frankenstein monsters, developing full blown psychosis.

For as long as psychiatry as a whole cannot distinguish between mental deterioration and natural emotional responses to life crises, the brokenhearted remain at risk of medical assault. This is doubly true for those of us experiencing the "holy madness" of spiritual awakening. Psychiatry mistakenly lumps together those suffering from life's many blows with those who are overwhelmed by spiritual awakening. A mistake in the opposite direction may be occurring among those who claim that all cases of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and manic-depression are in fact Kundalini disturbances. In his book, Science and the Evolution of the Consciousness, Hiroshi Motoyama, (who has personally experienced Kundalini) describes his scientific findings using an apparatus by which some of the bioelectric changes associated with risen Kundalini can be measured. As part of his research, Motoyama, a physician, acupuncturist and electrical engineer, compared test results from examination of patients clinically diagnosed as psychotic (group C) with two other groups. Group A was composed of highly spiritually developed individuals who had experienced major alterations in consciousness, and group B were people who had begun to spiritually awaken and were noticing physical and psychological changes, but had not had transcendent experiences. The results of the study strongly suggest that Kundalini-triggered psychosis is of a different order -- organically and energetically -- than other mental illnesses. "In general," Motoyama summarized, "I found that group A subjects can easily be distinguished from individuals diagnosed as mentally unbalanced, whereas many group B subjects initially show distinct similarities to the deranged." On further testing, the differences between the B and C group widened. A corroborating series of studies examining galvanic skin resistance data consistently indicated global imbalances of the autonomic nervous system of the psychotic patients. No such systemic problems were detected in groups A or B. Further tests measuring the overall metabolic state of the organism showed high readings for those with awakened chakras, and extremely low readings for the psychologically unbalanced subjects.

Truth or Consequences

Carl Jung discovered that archetypal themes repeatedly appear in the dreams of both ordinary and insane people, which would suggest that at our core, there is a universal connection to the Spirit. But this does not mean we are all traveling in the same direction. Anyone who has studied case histories of seriously deranged patients (or has had much personal contact with such people) knows that while there may be a strange internal logic to their madness, there is also a chaotic and insular quality to it. This is not true of mystical "psychosis." Observers of people in spiritual crisis report that they remain cognizant that their experiences are extraordinary, while psychotics have no such sense that they are behaving and talking bizarrely. Psychosynthesis founder Roberto Assagioli remarked that some individuals experiencing spiritual awakening have tendencies toward mental illnesses which also occur in people who are not in a Kundalini process. I have witnessed several cases of this type. I believe they are in a parallel predicament to my difficulties with my spine injury. Kundalini complicates and aggravates my condition, but it certainly could not therefore be said that because some of us have both a risen Kundalini and back pain, everyone whose back hurts has an activated Kundalini. Much mental/emotional illness is a defense against consciousness. Jung had a case of a psychotic woman who, he learned through her dreams and symbolic language, had allowed and encouraged her own children to drink contaminated water in a subconscious desire to rid herself of them and be reunited with a lost lover. When one child -- her little daughter -- actually died, the woman went crazy. Jung saw clearly that she could not recover until she had squarely faced what she had done and taken responsibility for it. This proved true. Once he confronted her with her culpability, she totally regained her sanity and had no relapses thereafter. By contrast, in spiritual awakening, what is being called psychosis is not a defense against knowing the truth, but an awareness of realms the populace is defended against! We break cultural taboos when we see more of reality than other people can see. In this case, we do not need help to face up to our own truth, although we may need help dealing with the terrible loneliness that comes of knowing too much. If our previous beliefs about reality were too rigid, the new material can throw us into shock, temporarily producing mental/emotional disturbances. This may be why there were superficial similarities between psychotics and neophyte mystics in Motoyama's studies. If we are unfamiliar with spiritual phenomena, even something as benign as sensory awareness of our own chakras can make us feel crazy, but this is only our fear and bewilderment in the face of the unknown. In this regard, Motoyama assures us, "Anyone, no matter how healthy, who is successful in the practice of a spiritual discipline will most likely undergo a period of psychological and/or physical instability as a matter of course, since the body and mind must change and adjust to their new relationship to the non-sensory dimensions of existence. This is a natural function, and no cause for alarm."

As Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat remarked, "We're all mad here." But different kinds of craziness ask for different kinds of healing. Some, like the God-intoxication of the true mystic, may not need help at all. Just letting be is sometimes the best medicine.

Reconnaissance Mission

I had originally planned to end this article with the preceding paragraph, but the Spirit had other ideas, and synchronistically sent me the newly published Caring for the Mind: The Comprehensive Guide to Mental Health, which is a thick compendium of diagnostic criteria for major mental disorders recognized in the DSM-IV. Reading this book has been educational to me in ways unintended by the authors, Dianne Hales and Robert E. Hales, M.D. This is the stuff taught in medical schools; these are the suppositions mainstream doctors measure our symptoms against. I feel it is so important to share this information that we have devoted an unusually large portion of this issue to this topic. In the introduction, Dr. Allen J. Frances, Professor and Chairman of the Psychology Department of Duke University Medical Center, proudly states: "I recommend this timely, authoritative, and insightful book as a reference you can use with confidence for problems that affect you and those close to you, and as a source of information and enlightenment now and for years to come." News flash, doc, it's not so confidence-inspiring as you think. For anyone experiencing Kundalini, psychic opening or other forms of spiritual emergence, segments of this hefty tome read like the Inquisitioner's Handbook. The most glaring omission in the book -- and indeed, in Western culture -- is a failure to consider spiritual elements as having any impact or influence whatsoever on the human psyche. In light of the considerable advances made in other disciplines, it is astounding that modern psychiatry is still bound by the very constrictions that Jung found so objectionable in his early psychiatric training in 1900: It believes only in what is "probable, average, commonplace, barren of meaning" and by so doing, it manages "to renounce everything strange and significant, and reduce anything extraordinary to the banal." (from Memories, Dreams, Reflections)

The following are various "mental disorders" which include (without being officially recognized as such) Kundalini phenomenon. This is not to say that any of these categorizations exclusively concern Kundalini; rather, they reveal a confusion of symptoms whereby a doctor using these guidelines could easily mistake the Kundalini process for mental illness. I am listing the disorders alphabetically. (Because the relation between Panic Disorders and Kundalini symptoms was already covered in detail in Issue #16, I will not repeat that material here.)

Brief Psychotic Disorder is a sudden outbreak of disorganized speech and behavior, catatonia, and/or what is diagnosed as delusions and hallucinations. The episode lasts anywhere from a few hours to a month, and is usually triggered by "overwhelming stress." Spontaneous Kundalini trance states could be misdiagnosed as catatonia, and most mystical experiences are dismissed as hallucination by psychiatry.

Conversion Disorder includes symptoms that have no apparent physical cause, such as psychosomatic "blindness, double vision, deafness, loss of sensation, inability to speak, impaired coordination or balance, weakness or paralysis, difficulty in swallowing, seizures, tremors, loss of consciousness, numbness of hands and feet." The authors explain that "conversion symptoms are not consciously or intentionally produced," and say that the syndrome can result from trauma. It is often found among shell-shocked soldiers during war. I know of cases that would fall into this category which are non-Kundalini related, such as a woman who became inexplicably paralyzed for a year after the shock of learning that her fiancee had secretly married another woman. The fact that the disorder frequently occurs to patients with medically diagnosed neurological and orthopedic problems, including head injuries, seems in direct contradiction to the standing psychiatric theory that the symptoms are unconsciously produced to hide shameful emotions or to avoid self- responsibility!

Delirium: This condition is not the same as dementia, which is found in Alzheimer's disease. Delirium is often preceded by "restlessness, difficulty in thinking clearly, hypersensitivity to sights and sounds, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, and vivid dreams and nightmares." We are told that "severe delirium" can lead to such hallucinations as sensations of "insects crawling under the skin," which the authors claim is really just "itching." (What clinical instrument, pray tell, detects these real sensations?)

Tremors, shaking, rapid heartbeat and flushed face are common in delirious patients, as is difficulty concentrating and memory lapses. Many physical illnesses cause delirium, as do head injuries, drug overdoses or abrupt drug withdrawal. Antipsychotic drugs have been known to cause it, yet antipsychotic drugs are often administered to control it! (I very much doubt that doctors prescribing Thorazine to counter delirium are deliberately employing the homeopathic theorem that like cures like.)

Delusional Disorder: This category includes stalkers who believe against all evidence to the contrary that the object of their affections returns their love; persecution complexes which often lead to violent "retaliation" over imagined slights; inordinately controlling, possessive spouses who are certain -- again, without cause -- that their partner is unfaithful; and you or I, if we are convinced of the reality of chakras, spirits or Kundalini and our doctor is convinced otherwise.

Depersonalization Disorder "involves a persistent, strong, disquieting, and unpleasant sense of unreality about one's self" which people find very difficult to describe. Out-of-body and near-death experiences, as well as many levels of transcendent consciousness would fall into this category. It is considered a mental illness, despite the fact that, as the authors state, 70% of young adults have reported an episode of this nature. (This may mean the younger generation is expanding in consciousness very rapidly!) While this condition can be a reaction to extreme crisis, loss or trauma, it is not an uncommon response to transcendent experience, and in such cases, surely should be treated through spiritual (not psychological) counseling.

Depressive Disorders: These speak for themselves. The greatest danger from psychiatric intervention is the use of electroconvulsive therapy, still considered the treatment of choice for drug-resistant depression. This is not in the book, but relevant: After Ernest Hemmingway was given ECT treatments for his depression, his brain was so damaged he could no longer write, and writing was the great love of his life. He committed suicide soon afterwards.

Schizoaffective Disorder: "The combination of a psychotic disorder and a depressive disorder..." In essence, this is schizophrenic tendencies combined with a potential for suicide.

Schizoid Personality Disorder: I am including this purported disorder, not because it has direct relevance to the Kundalini process, but to show how at odds psychiatry is with religion. An individual may be diagnosed with SPD if he or she is a loner, very emotionally restrained, disinterested in socializing or intimacy, involved in few activities and indifferent to the opinions of others. This may be a description of the Unibomber suspect, Ted Kaczynski, but these very qualities are also cherished in monastic religious groups. What is being described is none other than the detachment of a natural ascetic. Yogis, hermit- mystic types, nuns and monks of all traditions as well as many shamans display these traits -- and work hard to attain them!

If modern psychiatry could have gotten its hands on Buddha, he would have been diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder and plied with antidepressants! In fact, every Avatar, saint and holy person from time immemorial meets the current diagnostic criteria for multiple mental disorders. This would be hilarious if psychiatrists did not wield such obscene power over people's lives. In many states, psychiatrists are legally entitled to commit anyone -- regardless of whether or not the person is their patient -- to a psychiatric hospital and force them to undergo drug or electroshock treatments against their will and against the wishes of their families! (If I am suddenly "disappeared" after this Issue is published, you'll know why.)

Schizophrenia: While this affliction is believed to develop between the ages of 17-24, another term -- Schizophreniform Disorder -- is attached to symptoms arising later in life and sounds more like a description of temporary Kundalini psychosis than does the profile for general schizophrenia.

As usual, anything which would strike the average citizen as preposterous, from the outright bonkers to signs of psychospiritual development, are classified as schizophrenic delusions. I.e., weird paranoid ideas (believing you are victim of a conspiracy between the CIA and Roger Rabbit, or that the TV weather forecaster is deliberately sending you coded messages about very personal matters); absurd positive or negative inflation (being convinced you are Napoleon, the Devil or the Tooth Fairy); weird behavior or utter disregard for personal appearance and hygiene without awareness of the affect this has on others... and hypersensitivity; hearing inner sounds, music, voices; tingling or burning sensations. Another schizophrenic delusion, we are told, is the belief that "they have a rare gift, such as extrasensory perception." (The authors do not make clear whether the schizophrenic is delusional because he or she is not, in fact, experiencing ESP, or because ESP is impossible and therefore anyone who thinks they have this ability is bananas.)

Shared Psychotic Disorder: Oh boy, are we sitting ducks for this one! Actually, it applies to two individuals in close contact (and generally isolated from the rest of the world) who share a delusion — what the French call a folie à deux.

Somatization Disorder is psychobabble for "we can find no biological explanation for your illness so you must be nuts." Many physical Kundalini symptoms would easily fall into this category, which tellingly includes menstrual difficulties beginning early in life for women. For years, male doctors pooh- poohed menstrual problems as "all in the head." With today's increasing numbers of female physicians, women are no longer being told they are imagining PMS or menstrual cramps, but psychiatry is still male- dominated.

Undifferentiated Somatoform Disorder: Do researchers hand out prizes for whoever comes up with the most unintelligible label for a disease? Don't be surprised if this one winds up on your medical chart. Symptoms include difficulty in swallowing, fatigue, loss of appetite, digestive complaints and so forth, which have no apparent physical cause. USD symptoms often begin or get worse during periods of stress or crisis in the patient's life. These symptoms are also believed to be caused by repressed emotion.

I am not arguing that emotional repression cannot cause difficulties of this sort; I am sure that it can. Were psychiatry not so cut and dried in its assertions, there would be greater chance of earnest dialogue between the medical and spiritual communities. Many psychiatric insights could be applicable to mitigate the severity of certain Kundalini symptoms. But as it stands, confiding in a shrink can be hazardous to your health, particularly if you are experiencing awakened Kundalini.

It's a Mad World

We now live in the Brave New World of biopsychiatry, born of the pharmaceutical industry's in-house research, which threatens to sweep away what few humanitarian strides have been made in psychiatry in the last century. Biopsychiatry assumes that we are utterly mechanical creatures, at the mercy of our defective genes and renegade neurochemistry, and that the cure for all mental and emotional distress is to be found in corrective drugs. Nevermind that the widely touted "abnormal brain chemistry" theory has never been scientifically proven, nor that drug interventions act on the order of chemical straight jackets to subdue unwanted feelings. Biological science has discovered that the chemical composition of tears of grief differs from tears that occur to naturally cleanse the eyes. Does this mean that grief is caused by aberrant chemicals, or that chemical changes accompany -- and may be produced by -- our emotions? It has been scientifically demonstrated that depression and grief compromise our immune systems. Strangely, this is rarely reversed to proclaim that immune system disorders cause depression and grief. I am not suggesting that this is a better perspective; rather, I am questioning the way certain correlations are medically interpreted. The fact that brain chemistry differs between contented and unhappy individuals in no way proves feelings are caused by chemicals in the brain.

The current popularity of psychotherapeutic medications rests on corporate greed and our modern demand for fast-fix solutions to all our troubles. How much easier it is for all involved when the doctor gives a patient a ten minute assessment and sends him off with a prescription than it would be to sit with him long enough to get some inkling of the complex psychological, social and spiritual conflicts in his life.

According to recent statistics, depression is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide. Rather than interpreting this as some kind of global siege of neurochemical dysfunction, might this not be a healthy response to a world on the brink of disaster? Our depression, grief, anxiety, anger, outrage or "manic" sense of urgency: all these are nature's way of telling us that something is wrong, not simply with us personally, but with the whole setup here. These difficult feelings are cries from our souls, not for chemical brain adjustments but for new values, new possibilities, new relationships founded on something more meaningful, beautiful and sacred than "normal" reality allows.

Our personal suffering, physical and psychological, is a microcosm of the macrocosmic suffering of all living beings on this planet. This suffering is trying to tell us something, trying to teach us something. If we refuse to listen, individually and collectively, madness will be the least of our