Mystic & The Mind: Of Mental and Spiritual Health

The landscape of mental health and spirituality in relation to the Pagan and Polytheist experience is vast and regularly uncharted territory. How can we gather the tools to help those that are experiencing spiritual emergence? What happens when emergence becomes an emergency? How can we support our community members who experience mental illness? And is it possible that there is a spectrum of experiences relating to mental health and spiritual transformation instead of a dichotomy? This blog explores the realm of mental health's intersection with spiritual health, both from a personal perspective and an academic one.

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At the Crossroad of Spiritual and Mental Health

In my early 20s, I experienced a spontaneous awakening that fully opened up my world to the life of a mystic. Years later nothing quite cements the phrase “spiritual emergence” than the exact moment when the energetic point at my heart broke open.

There were a few problems with the journey I was about to begin. One, I didn't have a community, and the network of support I did have hadn't experienced anything like I was describing. I didn't have any local teachers. The greatest hurdle, though, was the fact that I'm bipolar with the diagnosis now of Bipolar Type II.

I tried my best to keep it together with varying degrees of success. I struggled with wondering if I was having psychotic episodes, but with such a heavy weight on the spiritual nature of these episodes I wasn't willing to talk to my therapist or psychiatrist at the time for fear I would be hospitalized.

I continued to work on treating the disabling parts of what I was going through, but my life absolutely fell apart.

I found myself so overwhelmed by the heightened psychic awareness I was experiencing. To a certain degree, I'd always done these things. Now the experiences were no longer something I could control or ignore, and it was terrifying at times. It forced me to find a teacher to help learn how to manage what was happening.

By then my psychiatrist and I had found some equilibrium in my medication, but I was still struggling. The depressive episodes slowly cleared with careful medical intervention. I was left with many questions about what was happening to me spiritually.

I'm not exactly sure how I managed to stumble upon the concept of spontaneous Kundalini Awakening, but I'm sure I was searching for answers. This discovery led me to Transpersonal Psychology, which seeks to treat both the mental and spiritual health of a person. Spiritual emergency was the concept that rung very true to me, and it is when spiritual experiences turn into crisis, especially when a culture has very few ways of leading people through these experiences.

In my early days of studying the subject, there was a firm line between what is a mental illness and what is a spiritual emergency. My personal experience told me that this wasn't actually the case. The two can happen at the same time, sometimes so woven together that it's impossible to tell where mystical experiences end and mental illness begins.

These days many experts recognize that instead this dichotomy is false. Mental illness and spiritual experiences are better presented as a spectrum. While some people are on the extreme of either ends of that spectrum, there is quite a lot of us walking around out there that deal with both.

I believe we are starting to see the very early building blocks in a structure that will normalize the experiences brought about by spiritual crisis. In the future, I hope people going through what I did find help that meets all the unique needs that come with the experience.

Our greater community is in need of resources, education, and training to address not only spiritual crisis but mental health as a whole. We must untangle ourselves from the idea that mental illness can be cured with time in nature, exercise, and diet. That may help, but they aren't the only legitimate route to wellness when it comes to a genuine medical condition.

We also need to build the framework for helping our people through the sometimes extreme nature of spiritual health emergence and emergencies. We have a unique chance to strengthen our spiritual lives by doing this, and we cannot grow our vibrant community until we begin.

I hope this blog will expand the awareness of this need. When I write about the subjects of mental and spiritual health in the Pagan and Polytheist communities, I do so with personal experience as someone who has been in need of help and has come out the other side of the tunnel. I am not a licensed professional, though I hope to be in the future. Instead I have the position of someone who has delved deeply into learning for the last decade to find the answers for my own experience. I've spent time communicating with others in and out of the community that share stories that are uncanny in their common threads with my own.

My goal for this blog is to explore where mental and spiritual health intersect. Sometimes we will slip further down the two paths to see where they will lead us. I'll share my own experiences and share stories that others have given me permission to tell. I hope that this writing will help not only those going through similar troubles, but that it will advocate for those unable to speak right now. I will provide tools and practices that have helped me along the way, and I will share the resources I've collected over the years for others to learn more.

Today is the perfect day to start building the foundation of a much needed resource in our communities. I invite you to explore, learn, and lend a hand in writing this chapter of healing in our community.


Image by Laenulfean at http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5943132296, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alice 2.0 Generic license.

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Camilla Laurentine is a mother, artist, writer, and craftswoman wandering about Memphis, TN. She is a Roman Revivalist and American Pagan. Her path is a living, continuously changing entity that could best be described as a syncretic blend of the Continental Europe, honoring a careful balance of Spirit-informed gnosis and scholarly study. She has big dreams of building temples and a safe sanctuary for those struggling with spiritual and mental health issues. Camilla is a sibyl and teacher, available for spiritual consultation and mentoring. You can find her jewelry and art at her Etsy shop: Wunderkammer by C. Laurentine - http://www.etsy.com/shop/wunderkammerbycl  

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