#170 Navigating a Spiritual Emergency – Jules Evans

While more of us are becoming aware of the idea of spiritual awakening, the arising question is what is the actual experience of a spiritual awakening actually like?

Many may have a preconception that this is a lovely serene experience, however the truth of the matter is often something very different and scary, which is where the term ‘Spiritual Emergency has come from’.

This week had the great privilege of exploring the topic of spiritual emergencies with Jules Evans, practical philosopher and co-editor of the book Breaking Open, which documents real cases of individual spiritual emergencies.

In this conversation, Jules provides some of the characteristics and surrounding mechanics and dynamics of spiritual emergencies, as well as the impacts.

In an uncertain and rapidly changing world that can so easily trigger a deep change within us set against a noticeable increase in an uptake of differing healing modalities, this is an important conversation to normalise and map out what exactly is happening during these deeply subjective experiences.

FURTHER NOTE: – If you listen to this podcast, and you resonate with the contents based on your own experience, and would be willing to share and participate in a WA based research study to deepen our understanding of these experiences – then please, reach out because we’d like to hear about your spiritual emergency experience.

Read Full Transcript

Bryn 

More and more of us are becoming aware of this idea of spiritual awakening. But what does the actual experience of a spiritual awakening and what is it actually, like, as many of us may have this preconception that this is lovely, this is a lovely, serene experience. More often than not, the truth of the matter is something different, something scary and uncertain and confronting, which is where the term spiritual emergency has come from.

 

This week had the great privilege of being able to speak with Jules Evans, just about the nature and characteristics of spiritual emergencies. As well as being a practical philosopher Jules is also the co-editor of a book Breaking Open, which researches spiritual emergencies.

 

So in this conversation, we really managed to have had a great discussion about the characteristics and some of the surrounding mechanics and dynamics of spiritual emergencies.

 

Now, I believe that this is a really, really important conversation to have right now, particularly as you’ll find out in the discussion, given that some of the surrounding things that are happening in society can cause and trigger spiritual emergencies within us.

 

But I also think it’s really, really important because more and more I’m seeing people go to yoga and meditation and sound healing and try dabbling with psychedelic drugs, which is all amazing stuff. But the moment you decide to go and do something like that, you are consciously opening the door to the possibility of having a spiritual emergency.

 

And I believe that there’s need for more conversation to normalise and map out what exactly is happening during these experiences.

 

Which leads me to another point. If you listen to this podcast, and you resonate with the contents of it, and would like to participate in a small research study and speak to me You’re based in WA, then please, can you reach out because we’d like to hear about your spiritual emergency experience.

So enjoy Jules.

 

Bryn 

Hello, welcome back to WA Real. I’m your host, Bryn Edwards. Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming Jules Evans to the show. Jules, welcome to the show.

 

Jules Evans

Thank you Bryn.

 

Bryn 

So for those who don’t know, Jules is over in England, in Bristol. And you are a writer, Speaker Research Fellow, particularly in the world of practical philosophy. Is that first summary?

 

Jules Evans 

Yes, I think so. Yeah. I think it’s from my website. So that’d be

 

Bryn 

pretty much Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s Yeah. Well, it wasn’t just from your website that I found you. But yeah, always like, by quickly without sort of diving too far. Why did you feel the need to stick practical in front of philosophy?

 

Jules Evans 

I think people get very put off the word philosophy. I mean, in some ways, maybe it’s a bit rich, me calling myself a philosopher. Now, you know, I don’t have a PhD. I’m interested in ideas and how they can help or harm people’s lives. Yeah. And I also have a natural interest in the history of ideas. So I love tracing some ideas begin in our culture, though, like, Where did that come from? How did that, you know, so I love to trace that. But the practical is just Unfortunately, when philosophy became an academic discipline about a century ago, it was said, right, we, we want to prove the we’re almost like a science. So what we’ll do is we’ll make ourselves in comprehensible to ordinary people, this will be the test that we’re we’re genuine discipline. And we’ll have journals that will be and you know, it’s still the case that unfortunately, or just philosophies had a really bad century, I would say, ever since it became an academic discipline. So by saying practical, you’re trying to say, don’t be put off, this isn’t going to be boring, this isn’t gonna be incomprehensible, this can be useful. And it’s unfortunately, you have to kind of make that clear. But that’s the state of play

 

Bryn 

is interesting, because I find more and more now for myself as I connect into my own inner compass in who I am in the world. And I feel like at the age of 45, I’m starting to get a little bit of a grip on that. And that understanding my own philosophy in my own direction and finding that by listening to how others act, what what is good for some people what is bad for some people, what’s their grip on reality? It helps me to refine my own. It gives me more direction at a time when many things out there in the world that we would normally cling on to for a sense of identity or becoming less stable.

 

 

Yes, quite.

 

Bryn 

So but so One of the, what the reason why I wanted to really speak to you today was very much around your work that you’ve been doing recently with spiritual emergencies, and particularly your book and breaking open, which you did with Tim Reid. And I just set the context for this. And whilst I myself have had what I’ve referred to as sort of existential dissolving experiences over the last couple of years, also in the podcast, I’ve had like a very rich thread of inquiry over the last two months, which is sort of come about and were really sort of delved into the the mechanics and dynamics of what it is to be a human navigating through the human experience and life. And that’s included diving into narcissism as an organising principle with Professor sand back then, looking at core trauma, and looking at codependency with with the likes of Richard Grandin, speaking to a local union analyst who were really touched on opening up to the numinous and having numinous experiences, and then recently with them sort of a quite spiritual leader here in Australia, dark pan, and we started talking about spiritual bypassing, and how it’s a great way to avoid things. And I guess, as I look around here in Western Australia, I’m starting to see more and more people it’s been happening for a while, but see more and more people set it gates, the changeable context of COVID, and things like that. But more and more people are going to cacau ceremonies in breathwork, and ice baths and yoga, and then all the way through to psychedelics, and Iosco. And so there’s a real want to focus inwards and journey inwards. And I guess, just even through my own experience, and speaking to some of those who are close to me, though, there’s that great meme that you know, what you think a spiritual enlightenment is gonna look like? And it’s lovely, you know, a woman that sit on a beach like this was really like, is you under the duvet go, what duck is going on. And as more and more people particularly here in who start to, I guess for me, every time you decide to go and do something of that ilk, you are consciously inviting a spiritual awakening to happen. And for me, it’s not something we talk about very much. It’s not very normalised there isn’t that many maps about for this, and there certainly isn’t much support. I mean, as I, as I just sort of briefly said to you beforehand, when it happened to me, I drew on my boarding school resilience, and just took myself away and locked myself in a box, because that’s what I do. But that’s not for everybody. So what I really wanted to do is speak to somebody who has done some research and investigated this because I think it’s really important, do you is that kind of how you got into this, I’d be interested to know.

 

 

I

 

Jules Evans 

wrote a book. So first book I wrote was about how people use stoicism in modern life, which is a very rational approach to resilience and flourishing. And at the end of that book, I was like, stoicism misses some things out, it misses out its main, perhaps there’s a risk of it being over rational, and over individualistic. And it misses out the importance of things like connection to other people, it misses out non rational states of consciousness, and all their importance in human existence. It misses out the arts and dancing and partying and romantic love. So there’s a lot that it misses out. And a lot of that you could define as the kind of the ecstatic. So, you know, when I looked at ancient Greek culture, which was, you know, an inspiration for me in my 20s, I really kind of dived into it. They balanced the rational and the non rational. They balanced the Socratic, like Socrates and the dionysiac, Dionysus the God of ecstasies, they would, they would have both in Greek culture. So I wrote a second book, and it was looking at how people find moments of ecstasy in modern culture. ecstasy, it comes from ancient Greek exegesis, a moment when you go beyond your ordinary self and feel connected to something bigger than you. Yeah. We think of ecstasy as meaning very, very happy. But actually, as you know, the ecstatic can be terrifying. You are You are beyond your usual Customer he kind of you know, comfort zone of who you are. And and so that’s really scary being kind of out of your head out of your wallet can be anyway. So an external experience can be both euphoric and also frightening. So in that book, which is called the art of losing control, I just looked at the different ways people can find ecstasy today, in a culture that’s, to some extent, still quite suspicious, and hostile to ecstasy as a consequence of like the Enlightenment, and as a consequence of 19th century and 20th century psychiatry, which tended to find ecstatic experiences as delusional and pathological. Yes, you know, any non rational states of consciousness, suspect and delusional. So that’s the kind of main picture but then as you said, there are these subcultures like spiritual culture, ecstatic Christianity. You know, previously, they’ve been things like romanticism or Methodism, which which actively sought the ecstatic, and kind of, you know, and really fetishize them in a way and thought that ecstatic experiences were the most important experiences a human could have, and you should go and seek them. Um, so in that book, the author losing control, I mentioned a little bit about spiritual emergencies. Yeah, I did a couple of pages on it, basically saying, there is some research on how ecstatic experiences can be quite messy and crazy psychotic, sometimes. Yeah. And you know, how to help people through them. So I did a little bit on the dark side of it. I mean, I also did things on you know, how people find ecstatic experiences through violence and war, which isn’t much talked about in the kind of New Age scene, but it’s huge historically that certainly no, hunting and fighting is such a route to ecstatic experiences for humans. Almost. Yeah, and, and war and, you know, and just hunting as well, like, you know, you think about human long human history, hunting in a pack would have been such a kind of high.

 

 

So

 

Jules Evans 

what then happened was, that book came out. As part of writing that book, I I looked at some of the new psychedelic research coming out over the last 10 years, from Johns Hopkins psychedelic lab from Imperial College, from Australia now from Zurich. There’s been quite a few papers saying psychedelic therapy is wonderful for people. It helps you you know, overcome your fear of death, overcoming chronic depression, stop you smoking, cure, you have PTSD, and it will be the most meaningful experience of your life. So I like everyone else and reading these things though. This sounds amazing. Maybe it’s maybe it’s time I am I try psychedelics again. By the by the reason I started this whole journey was that I did a lot of psychedelics when I was a teenager. Yeah. And then I had a couple of bad trips, which kind of traumatise me because I didn’t talk to anyone about them and didn’t ask for help or anything like that. So that’s what got me into philosophy and stoicism and all this stuff right here myself. But 20 years on reading all this new psychedelic research, I thought I you know, I would like to try psychedelic therapy again, but in a safe context in what they call a held space well as favourite spiritual phrases. And I thought because I just thought that that would might help heal me as a kind of deeper level, stoicism and massively helped me but you know, there’s, there’s the rational maybe can only get so far. Like, there’s there’s this there might be kind of subliminal kind of trauma, and maybe I thought maybe psychedelics in a safe space would help me down there. So, so I went to and I finished, I finished the story. I finished the story scene. So often, the art of losing control came out, I went to do an Iraq Lasker retreat in the Amazon. And it was it was at a place called the Temple of the way of light 10 day retreat five ceremonies. And it was really extraordinary to go back into that psychedelic space and tell the truth. I mean, this is this is powerful stuff. You know, I’ve never done a question before and never done. psychedelics in the context of a shamanic ritual before shamans singing and things. And it was pretty amazing. But in the week after that retreat, I had a kind of messy fallout from it. And I wasn’t expecting I thought it might be scary on the retreat. And it wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t expecting it to come up. You know, for all Please, for me to get into mental difficulties after the retreat when I was no longer on I have Wesker. Yeah. So for about five days, for, let’s say, five to 10 days on and off. I was I was in a very dissociated state where I felt I’m not in Normal Reality, like this is this is I’m in some kind of altered reality. And my mind was desperate trying to figure out what kind of reality I was in. I was like, I think I’m in a dream, or maybe I’m in I’m dead in a coma. And this is like, Limbo, or something like that. So and I’ve watched because I’ve travelling on my own, I didn’t have anyone to just check in with, yeah, and say, No, Jules, you just been on an iOS retreat for 10 days. That’s what your high size is, like, you know, and it was very unnerving, of course, because I wasn’t on drugs at the time, I’d been on drugs before. And, and it didn’t go away. Even when I went sleep and wake up, woke up again. I’d be like, I’m still in this dream. So you can imagine that feeling of being like, in a dream for several days. And I didn’t freak out. I was like, I’ll just have to go along with it. But all this weird stuff was happening as well, which always confirmed to me like, Are you in a dream or something. And then finally, I got home, and from the Amazon and, or from South America, and my friends kind of just looked out for me. And I and after, after a few days, I was totally fine. But that is what got me interested deeper in this topic. And I thought, how can we best support people who have an experience like that, and not traumatise them further, if they get into kind of weird spaces of art, you know, whether on a meditation retreat, or after psychedelics, or just, you know, after yoga, or just spontaneously, how can you help people not just go, you’re crazy. And you’ll always be crazy. Yeah, just how psychiatry can sometimes you know, if I can see a psychiatrist, there is a real risk, they’d have said to me, okay, you’ve got this, and that’s for life. And therefore, you got to take this medication for life. And that would have fucked me up. Like, that would have been bad. So also can what can we do to better understand this kind of experience, and to support people through it?

 

Bryn 

So coming out of your subjective experience, and looking at this sort of more objectively, what typically characterises a spiritual awakening or spiritual emergency, would you say

 

Jules Evans 

was so an ecstatic experience or a spiritual experience, as I said, is a moment when people go beyond their everyday self construction? Yeah. And that somehow or other kind of dissolves, or there’s a window through it, our everyday selves are kind of cobbled together over the years, through beliefs and habits and expectations. And they do the job like a cobbled together car, of kind of getting us through the day. But there’s a lot more to us than that. When there’s consciousness is bigger, a lot of it’s subconscious. You know, you we access that world, in our, in our dreams every night, and you see the kind of weird mythical way our minds are, you know, our subconscious does work. But also there can be wisdom there as well and there can be healing. So, what happens in in a, in a positive and kind of easy spiritual experience is that that kind of cobbled together self you know, either dissolves or there’s a there’s a chink that you can see through it. And you and you’ve, you know, you feel like blissfully connected perhaps to, I don’t know, to the cosmos and you feel like everything’s as it should be. Maybe you see everything a new it’s what a lot of poets talk about, like seeing the world fresh. Look at that. That flower is so beautiful, you know, like there’s people like with psychedelics as well, like, Aldous Huxley famously stared at his grave flannel trousers and just thought this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And so they see the world in you that their eyes are cleansed from habit. And that’s all lovely. As you know, a spiritual emergency is when you go beyond your ordinary sense of ordinary ego construction or dissolves or something. But, and it can be both beautiful, but it’s also scary. And it’s an extended thing where for some reason or other it’s like It’s difficult to just kind of come back into the spaceship as it were. Yeah. So there’s a difficult reentry. And you basically can get into a kind of extended, altered state of reality, where it doesn’t just last for a day, but it may maybe last for like, several days or weeks or months. And it can involve things like, you know, mania, or let’s or the positive side of that is intense energy. You might not sleep for days or weeks, you might see kind of, you know, patterns and hidden meanings in everything. The inner world and the outer world blend together. So the kind of dream world and the outer world start overlapping. You might start thinking in mythical terms, people can archetype or material from the subconscious can spill out. So people could start thinking like that they are divine, and you know, but interpret in a certain way like they are uniquely divine. Yeah, like they are they are Jesus or they are coming. Ishtar, yeah, and they’ll start thinking apocalyptically because what happens is like, you’re in a stage where your old ego has as it were died. Yeah, and something new has come into place. And you can interpret that cosmically as the death of the old world, and the birth of a new world. And really, you know, it’s more like just personal. However, what what you notice, what I noticed in the research I’ve done is sometimes the personal and the macro cosmic interact. So during political crises, people are more prone to spiritual emergencies. Like in this book I wrote, which gathered together 14 people’s stories of spiritual emergencies. One was triggered during Brexit, one woman had a kind of spiritual awakening, it was triggered by Brexit. I’ve come across other stories during the pandemic of people have been like, you know, yeah, we’re in a fevered state, all of us at the moment.

 

Bryn 

And we’re all clear, this isn’t just psychedelics, this is this can happen, just by interacting with the environment.

 

Jules Evans 

Well, yeah, and like, you know, we’re in a bit of a collective spiritual emergency at the moment of need dissolving of the old, the dissolving of the habitual sense of hyper connectedness, a sense of both kind of, you know, possibility of the new but also the sense of Is this the end times, and so, and also the flooding of mythical magical thinking and conspiracies, this kind of stuff from the outer edges are flooding into the mainstream. So we’re in that kind of collective state. So, so it’s like that, and, and it can be very scary for people because often they’re like, God, I just went on a yoga retreat, or I just, I just, you know, tried LSD for the weekend, I wasn’t expecting, you know, the dissolution of my world for like, several weeks or months, and now having to kind of try and find their way in a culture, which we don’t have many maps or guides, or words for this domain of experience, because we’re supposed to be super irrational. So, so they’re having to kind of, they’re having this. They’re also in a culture where if they asked for help, they might get psychiatric help, which would, which would fit their experience into a very narrow materialist box? Yes. and ignore what they feel might feel is the kind of meaningful or even beautiful aspects of their experience. Yeah, so these kind of experiences are unnervingly ambiguous, they both can feel very meaningful and and kind of beautiful, and hyperconnected. But they can also feel terrifying and painful. What I what we found in our research is people are more prone for their spiritual experience to be a messy spiritual emergency if they’ve had trauma in their

 

Bryn 

youth. Right, because,

 

Jules Evans 

because what’s basically happened is they’ve gone beyond a usual ego shell. Yeah, and that’s both wonderful, but also the dark stuff comes out to Yes, definitely what happened with me, like old trauma came out and is like, so involves that kind of confrontation with traumatic or shadow stuff.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, because I guess like I said, there’s been a thread in the podcast and on my own experiences, we create these protective familia strategic protective persona. And, and I guess, I guess on one level, it takes a lot of energy to run those personas. And after 2025 years, I just wonder whether there’s a part of us that just goes tired, and it looks for a safe place to just go, I think We’ll sleep and just go to one side. And then all of a sudden, yeah, things started to happen for me, I suddenly felt tired. And then it was happening. The world seemed very dreamy. And, and you know, I just wanted it like when you come back from holiday, and it’s still a little bit tricky, but you just think, Oh, yeah, do this, this and this. And I’ll be back into gear and off. I’ll go. Yeah, I just couldn’t find the gears. And then after a while, this happened sort of frequently. I give up trying to find the gears.

 

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah,

 

Bryn 

exactly. And ease into it. But

 

Jules Evans 

yeah, I mean, I think what I found, what we found in our research was a lot of times people were talking about experiences that had happened to them in their 20s. And they really didn’t have the kind of were with or to deal with it. They they often had no kind of spiritual training. So they were flung into the deep end of some complete ego dissolution experience, and they go, what the hell is happening, and they kind of just had to patch themselves up and get through, and it wasn’t really resolved or integrated. And then sometimes they came back to that kind of messy place in their late 30s. Also, and we’re a bit more unable to kind of cope with it. But yeah, for me, it was like, Yeah, when I was around the time I turned 40. And I just in terms of what you were saying, I think that kind of shedding of persona, and they’re kind of like, is quite a midlife thing when I didn’t have 40 years of life. But like, I think it was a good brainy brown quote, which is like you spend the first 40 years constructing armour, and the next 40 years, kind of trying to take it down. But yeah, as you said, there’s the kind of dreamy aspect of it, because you know, what you called going through the gears, that’s the kind of normal ego trucks that we’re in, I’m this person, and this person does this, this and this. And that’s the day. And then when, when, you know, and then in one of these moments, yeah, you kind of just go off these usual rails creates this fluid, numinous state, but it’s, and it’s both a bit scary, because there’s literally like, I’ve done it who I am. Yes, I if I’m not that usual habitual person, then who am I, but it also that dreamy fluidity creates the space for change as well. Yeah. Yeah. So this is, I suppose this is the main message of these of this, this book breaking open is like, other people have gone through this. Here’s it, you know, you’re not alone. Here’s what they found helpful in terms of the kind of wisdom practices. That statement true in particular, what they found helpful was a frame, which is, this is not just a break down, this can be like, the transition to something else, this doesn’t have to be the end of your life. It doesn’t mean you’re on the scrap heap of the rational, enlightened society, this can be this can be a transition to a new you, and you know, who knows better worse, but definitely a new you like, like, you know, this can be the transition to something else where, you know, which, which also has kind of meaning and, and flourishing to it. So that’s the kind of Yeah, that’s in some ways, the main message of the book, like, don’t, don’t be totally freaked out. If this happens, this happens to other people as well. Yeah, you can, you can learn ways to steer through this kind of experience.

 

Bryn 

Hmm. And already you early on use words like wisdom and healing. So yeah, there is that going on?

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah, that’s right. And the people in, in breaking open that we spoke to, they often draw on quite similar things to help them through, like when you’re in a very altered state, you can be quite detached from your body and from material reality and quite kind of in it like a bit of a transcendent, you know, dreamy state. So a lot of people talked about grounding themselves in their body, and in material reality, one contributor when she was really in a very altered state. She said what really helped her was she went apple picking in a friend’s orchard and for several days, just worked incredibly hard picking apples and that just kind of tired out her mind to stop and really racing around and it grounded her in her body. And I remember for me when I would came back from the Amazon and was also in a very weird altered ghostly state. like sitting in front of my brother’s fire with his dogs like stroking his dog that was that was so grounding, because it was just like, yeah, the fire and the dog had like a, you know, a cup of tea or like that. So, so, so getting in touch with one’s body, and I think also like learning to control Your fear and anxiety with your breath is very helpful. Because I would get these waves of anxiety and feeling like, Am I am I going to come back from this? And I would I would learn to kind of breathe and calm myself down. And I would say to myself things like, you know, this will pass? Yeah, don’t worry, this will pass, because the thing that can really take you down the rabbit hole is if you start thinking, it’s gonna be like this forever, you know, it’s like this. Yeah, I mean, it’s like the worst thing you could say to yourself on it on a trip as well, you know, the alternative is just say, like, this will pass everything passes. So you know, I’m going to be okay. So that kind of thing. And like practising kindness to oneself, even when you’re really not fulfilling your idea of a kind of normal functioning. ego, just go, Okay, that’s just what’s happening. That’s what’s happening the moment I’m going to be kind to myself, and let myself have this kind of, you know, fall apart moment and trust that, you know, good stuff will come from it. Because we can be, again, what can really mess people up is they can, they’re in a messy experience, and then they just really beat themselves up for, for not fulfilling their norm, their, you know, normal

 

Bryn 

model, super ego will come in and start to tell you, yeah, we should be doing this is what we normally

 

Jules Evans 

  1. Yeah, exactly. And just just let it go, it’s not gonna last forever, just kind of go go with it for a bit, keep yourself safe, be kind to yourself.

 

Bryn 

Get another bit in there about the people that you have around you. Because, and to actually to actually share. I mean, you’re at your most vulnerable point, when you’ve let you’ve let go of, you know, you’re letting go or you’ve let go, or you’ve been been letting go. And if there is such a

 

 

and,

 

Bryn 

but you’re at your most vulnerable point. And, and, you know, friends, work colleagues, even family members will have a perception of, you know, brain or jaws like this. And all of a sudden, you’re like that. And yet, you actually let go and just said, Oh, I am in a state here. And this is what

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I said the first.

 

 

You know, when I was

 

Jules Evans 

18, when I had a, I had a bad acid trip at a party where I didn’t really know anybody. And I didn’t trust them, I guess. And I felt pretty paranoid. And I left it in a still a very altered state, and I went home to my parents place. And I didn’t trust them to talk about it. Because I didn’t think they would understand. And I didn’t talk to anyone about it. And that really, you know, that that that made it much worse, that made that was a bad trip, turn into a kind of traumatic event, which I didn’t recover from for several years. When this happened to me this time, when I was 14, and in some ways, I think it was the return of that old trauma. Yes, I could, I could not go and hide away might because I’ve rented out my flat on Airbnb, so I had to rely on my my brother and my friends. And luckily they were they were also in their kind of 40s. And some of them had had messy experiences. So they were they were great. Taking care of me. But and trusting ob All right. And it was it was amazing that that kind of week when they were looking out for me, or maybe it was a bit more maybe like a week or 10 days. So it was in some ways, it was beautiful. Like it was a beautiful time. And my friend said the same, like my heart was really open. But I was also quiet out there. Like I couldn’t read. I couldn’t understand books. I would watch, they would show movies to me and I couldn’t really follow the movies. Like oh, so so. I mean, I remember they showed me the Blues Brothers. They’re like ours, one of his favourite movies, this will help ground him. But there was a scene in it, which I’d never seen before. And I thought, Oh, this isn’t this isn’t real. This is this is a figment of my imagination. And it turned out it was like the director’s cut. So I had these scenes that it was like, but I was just like, what’s what’s this scene? Like? But but they were great. And it was just like to know that I could trust my friends in that state and that they saw me you really hardly without any mask on at all. I mean, I was just in this kind of, you know, I suppose like child’s state of just my heart being very open but being quite cognitively disabled. And that was that was fantastic. And people in the book like one of the contributors she went to a when she was in a real mess, she went to a nunnery She kind of took retreat in a nunnery. And the sisters she said just kind of just were very patient and loving and supportive of her when she was feeling so kind of raw and such a mess. I suppose some others might find that, you know, I had a friend who just went through a kind of midlife, ego dissolution, and she more like, went on retreat herself. So she, you know, so that I suppose people have different things that work for themselves. So she, you know, she was she was more solitary, I guess. Hmm. Anyway, yes, certainly, in my case, like, my, my friends, and the kind of setting was super important.

 

Bryn 

Yeah. And since I’m doing the research, publishing the book, I’ve been very open about that. Have you? It’s always one of those things. If you got to be looking for things you go and find them. But has that sort of created more impetus? Or have you noticed more impetus for people to start normalising the discussion around this now?

 

 

Maybe a bit.

 

Bryn 

I mean, he’s got a bit of a way to go in the UK, but

 

Jules Evans 

in the world? It is this this very little discussion about this? Yeah. What’s strange is, if you do start talking about it, people will quietly say, Yes, I had something like that I went through something like this. And I haven’t told anyone about it. So I hear that quite a lot. And, or people will say, I went through that, and I’ve never heard any kind of description of it. And that’s that, you know, but I can tell you that, you know, even within, like psychedelic communities, there’s not very much on spiritual emergencies. Even within meditation communities. There’s only one research project of all the studies on mindfulness, there’s only one research project on difficult meditation experiences. Yeah. Are you know, people who go on retreats, and they go into kind of crazy psychotic states? So or take kind of, you know, personal transformation courses like landmark? Or Hoffman? You know, I don’t think there’s hardly any research on the fact that a small proportion of people go into psychotic states now after going on one of these weekend intensive courses, so so there’s extremely little on it, unfortunately. I mean, like, so we bought this, but there is some there, you know, that there’s definitely some there are these kind of communities and networks like the spiritual crisis network, the spiritual emergence network. So there is there is some there’s a there’s an organisation called emerging crowd in the UK. But I don’t know, I mean, I kind of feel like we’re in a state, we’re in such a kind of waiting to transition time at the moment, as a, you know, as a species, really. And I suppose it is a window where, where ideas that were normally not part of the mainstream, are coming into the mainstream. So there’s a kind of breakdown of the ruling narrative of the ruling myth of just growth and technocratic order. And so, I wonder if kind of some ideas which are basically kind of spiritual ideas are coming more into the mainstream. There’s also of course, you know, that kind of ruling psychiatric paradigm of there are these neuro chemical disorders, called things like a, b, and c, which are, which are best treated solely with these drugs? There’s a lot of there’s a lot of pushback against that kind of narrative at the moment, including among psychiatrists. I mean, my co editor of the book, Tim Reid, is a psychiatrist. So there are lots of psychiatrists saying, look, you know, we’re not really helping people much here. We’re kind of just ignoring the meaning of their experience and just giving them kind of sedatives. So I don’t know. I mean, I, we’ve done kind of some talks and articles and things about the book. And I think when we do do talks about them, like we get a really positive response, but, you know, I still think we’re long from, you know, a mainstream newspaper, doing an article on spiritual emergencies, even in the UAE, a mainstream newspaper wouldn’t even do an article about spiritual experience, let alone a spiritual emergency. So it’s like, you know, I didn’t about what it’s like in Australia, but in the UK, our mainstream culture is, is quite secular and kind of non transcendent. You know, we’re quite,

 

 

we’re quite

 

Jules Evans 

just practical down to worth kind of culture. You know,

 

Bryn 

here in Australia, we moved here 10 years ago, forming leave Australian or British? I am British English. Okay.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah. Because of your accent, sir. You know, less.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, a bit more slower in things. And so, I guess where I see it here is, there is more legitimization of looking after yourself, because we have such an outdoor culture. So, you know, to go to the gym, and, you know, there’s a lot of people that look physically ripped and things like that. But with that, also, then, is this we’re beginning to, we’re beginning to understand that maybe there’s something more there, maybe there is something around this mental health business. And maybe we should pay attention to the number of people who are committed suicide and things like that, and anxious and depressed. So there’s almost like this token bit of, we’ll take some exercise, consider meditation, you know, obviously, is just a throwaway thing. Yeah, in and of itself is the gateway for me into this as soon as you start saying, Take yourself more seriously, and your well being and your mental well being. I’d like to see the word emotional well being in there as well. And that’s the gateway

 

Jules Evans 

to staying like, What? What in the 60s would have been called like, I don’t know, New Age culture, or, you know, consciousness culture. Yeah. Spiritual, but not religious. And now it’s called wellness culture. Yeah, so this idea of like, we’re not really going to talk about, you know, metaphysics. If we’re not gonna talk about the soul. We’re not gonna talk about life after death, or the grand meaning of life, which we’ll talk about wellness, you know, well, yeah, the compito who couldn’t, who could argue with wellness, like, I know, I know. How to be well

 

Bryn 

given still stays in that rationalised state.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah, exactly. And it’s, it fits quite well, with, with consumerism, and with capitalism, and health. I mean, gosh, we’re so obsessed with health, aren’t we? So, so everyone wants to be and also it’s like, you know, you think about, like, say, the kind of 19th century idea of the, or, you know, the, the old idea of a spiritual seeker would be this kind of, you know, someone who’s renounced the world, you know, lived in a cave, and it’s very thin, maybe, or if they’re an Indian, you know, Yogi, they’d be covered in ash or something. And now, but now, that kind of wellness influencer, they’re absolutely gorgeous, you know, their bodies. Beautiful. And so they haven’t renounced the world at all. I know probably,

 

Bryn 

probably sitting on a beach with a picture of them and on Instagram, sitting on a beach with the crystal meditating.

 

Jules Evans 

Well, sure, you know, if you go to Goa, and you go to the beach at sunrise, it’s literally about 100 people taking Instagram photos of themselves, doing poses, which is which is, you know, that’s, that’s fine. And I suppose there’s always been an overlap between kind of religion and spirituality and wellness for the last century, you know, you have movements like Christian Science or new thought. That’s just an American thing. I think Americans are obsessed with health. Yeah, well.

 

Bryn 

So yeah, I mean, that’s why I was so keen to do got but

 

Jules Evans 

I am interested, tell me like in in Australia, to what extent is the culture open to kind of self transcendence? To what extent is that a mainstream conversation?

 

Bryn 

And I think if you go into onto the TV, which is generally so out, you’ve got Netflix, and the the advent of Netflix has meant that TV is just full of reality TV, which is Yeah, shite. Let’s be honest. Yeah. So and I guess, this still, I mean, you’re talking to me here in Western Australia, there’s still a very conservative core to that. On the other end of the scale, there are a lot of people who are out there, you know, I’m connected to networks where cow ceremonies, breathing ice bath. And yeah, those three, they’re very in vogue at the moment. Very enjoy. Yeah, those three together, and these meditation retreats, and

 

Jules Evans 

there’s a kind of personal development. Yeah.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, there’s a growing

 

Jules Evans 

kind of spirituality. And so,

 

Bryn 

yeah, so despite the fact we have this very conservative core, there, is there is this growing and growing and growing, like curiosity and wanting to get further into it, which, you know, for somebody who’s, who is intrinsically curious about the the depths of the dynamics of what it is to be human in the human experience. You know, my nectar is reading young and Kenny over and people like that. And so, so I can start to see things moving and shifting. Yeah, I think it’s brilliant, that we’re moving towards that because that’s, you know, a society that I want to live in. Yeah. recognise? You know, as you as you pointed out, there’s a lot of us carrying trauma, trauma and scars that we have our psyche is just very cleverly, you know, our personas are very cleverly hidden. Yeah. And, and, and then all of a sudden, when the time’s right, out, it comes. And I think, as you rightfully said, there’s a lot of, you know, there’s a lot of collective shadow work to be done.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah. And there’s there can be a naivety within spiritual subcultures about the kind of the dark side of the subconscious, and the dark side of, you know, going opening up beyond your ordinary ego. Yeah, like, it’s, it’s, it’s not all angels and an incense, no. Less stuff. There’s nothing to say. I mean, I think the message I’ve kind of come back to you quite often is like, you know, finding a balance between the rational and critical and the mystical and ecstatic. Yeah, like, there is a risk in rejecting kind of mainstream rationalist culture. You just kind of, you know, you throw out the baby with the bathwater, and you lose, you lose critical thinking. And you kind of you even reject the idea of, you know, truth and evidence, and then just say, you know, when you go into altered states of consciousness, that can give you different types of wisdom, but it can also make you prone to you can be very suggestible. You can you can, there’s a risk of getting stuck in mythical thinking and mythical thinking has its role or magical thinking. But it’s also can be prone to distortions as well. You can be prone to kind of cult thinking. Unfortunately, sometimes people go for it, they, they find ecstatic experiences within a certain community, which feels wonderful. They feel so kind of bonded to the people in that community. They feel like this is my true family, it kind of brings up this infant stuff that are my actual family rubbish. But this family is one of the leaders of this community, and my perfect mother or father. Yeah. And, and, you know, what we, what we saw, all through the kind of 70s up to the present day is the risks of that when when you’re finding ecstatic states within a kind of little community, which may be isn’t necessarily that safe. Yeah. And, you know, when you join it, it seems absolutely beautiful and wonderful, but actually, it has hidden authoritarian dynamics within it. So, I think there’s, there’s another risk, which I see now is like, in this collective breakdown, we are more prone to magical solutions, and to magical and mythical thinking. And, you know, like, that’s not all bad, like to kind of be able to shift to different types of thinking, but it can be if you start looking for magical solutions in the realm of politics. So, you know, like we’ve I don’t know, I think in Australia and in the UK, and in the US. I don’t know if you’ve seen kind of some kind of quite extreme conspiracy theories spreading you know, quite quickly Through like wellness and spirituality networks, yes. Um, like, I saw it at the start of April, people, people questioning like, you know, of course a lot of people in the spiritual communities are anti Vax, and they’re pro alternative medicine and all that kind of stuff. And they’re also suspicious of kind of the state and lockdown. You know, okay, I’m not going to get into a big argument about vaccines, but then you saw this kind of Q anon conspiracy also spreading through wellness communities. And basically, that is, to me a very kind of magical thinking, you know, it’s like there’s a secret occult group, who are, you know, liberal paedophiles and they’re, they’re ritually sacrificing children and then controlling the world. That is an example to me of like, dangerous, magical thinking. And if only Trump the Messiah will save us, everything will go back to an age of love. So this is almost the kind of millenarian almost a kind of mediaeval theory. And, and, you know, like, this is, this is why in altered states and in altered times, you need to keep your critical discrimination. Yeah. Because otherwise you’re basically going to become hijacked by a myth, you will be possessed by a myth, and you will just become a cube bot, you know, like it kind of just like, you’ll be, uh, you know, radicalised basically. And then and zombie, basically, zombie. I guess,

 

Bryn 

having watched the social dilemma movie on Netflix. Yeah, I only just recently, somebody who’s going through a spiritual emergency, who is in a very suggestible state, who’s had this numinous energy brought into them, and they’re all Yeah, yeah. And you’ve only got to click on one new video, or new link or, or pay attention to a radical friends post, that they’re longer and we’ve, you know, from if social dilemma is to be believed, and I suspect it is. And then immediately, you’re going to be fed more and more and more and

 

Jules Evans 

more, more and more and more, and each one pops up, you’re going to think it’s a sign.

 

Bryn 

Like you just like, ya know, one of the key symptoms, being seeing signs and seeing collection and things like that. Yeah, just gonna be fed more and more and more and more, which, which, yeah, so maybe part of how helping out your friend in the spiritual emergencies,

 

Jules Evans 

the fucking phone off? Absolutely, yeah. Because when you’re, you know, when you’re in a frightening state where your old beliefs have melted, you, you just very much can be looking for certainty. Like, give me another story. Give me something to hold on to, because I feel like I’m drowning. And so it’s, you know, you’ve got to be very careful in that, that you don’t end up holding the wrong story just seizing onto it. And like, you know, okay, what the story might be like, Oh, I’m the Messiah. That’s what that’s what David I thought, you know what I mean by David I,

 

Bryn 

yeah. Oh, I know exactly. Who You mean, I know, the original waggon. And there it is.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah. And he and he had a kind of spiritual emergency, I think, where he thought I feel divine and connected to all things. But the world’s gonna end but I’m going to tell everybody, and he went on waggon in the nation laughed at him. Yeah, or men and, and then and then, you know, he went down this very dark rabbit hole of all, it’s all in evil conspiracy with kind of lizard people. And unfortunately, you know, that that kind of found resonance with an audience. So he’s now had to kind of stick to that story for like, 30 years or something. But I guess the point is that in that fluid stage, just to try and not just grasp hold of this, the first magical narrative you come across, but often it’s, it’s our, it’s our beliefs and our need for certainty, mess up, like, can we can we stay grounded in uncertainty? Like, we have this experience, and it’s both beautiful, and it’s also quite painful, and it has some meaning to it, but there’s also a bit of that. The fog knows, like, you know, I mean, I I do not like it’s okay to say I do not know precisely what’s going on. In the spiritual world. I’m not exactly sure. The nature of the Divine, that is totally okay to say that. No, and also like, politics. I’m not even entirely sure what’s going on globally. Politically, that’s okay too. But no one I’ve met leading kind of political thinkers and politicians, they don’t know what the fuck is going on either. You don’t have to have one global theory about the nature of, you know, the divine, the political and everything. It’s okay not to know, you know what I mean?

 

Bryn 

I think I’ve spoken about my own. I did a presentation about this not long ago about my own addiction to knowing things. Yeah. And, and, and I think I tracked it back to almost like, when you have original source trauma, and you don’t know what’s going on, you feel out of control. And you have these nasty things called emotions that come up. So then you create a persona, which is in control, and knows things and, and suppresses these things. So immediately, we need to know we need to know we need to know, we need to know we need to know, and then that persona just goes off and just just sit there go. I’m gonna fucking clue who I am right now.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah, you look. And you look, if we compare now, it’s like the 20s and 30s. People got seduced by grand theories, you know, explain everything, like Marxism and fascism. And these were kind of magical solutions, magical total solutions. Yeah. And we lost the messy middle. So can we kind of stay in that messy middle of not sure. Where this is kind of you know, this isn’t, this isn’t going to create an age of love. But this might kind of, you know, make it a little less bad and a little bit better. So that just kind of, you know, the politics of the practical. Yeah, no, but it is tough. And like we can be even, you know, even kind of, even in very negative story is sometimes less scary than being unsure about what’s going on. yet. Like we sometimes get, even if we have a very negative story about ourselves, or about the world, at least it’s familiar. Yeah, it’s better. It’s better than admitting, I’m not really sure. I don’t know. I mean, I saw that when I was in a support group for people who had social anxiety, and like, when I was in my early 20s, people would really cling to their negative beliefs that are, you know, like, for example, I’m a I’m a loser, and I have no friends. They would really cling to that because it’s familiar. Yeah.

 

Bryn 

Anxiety was their friend. Yeah, right. For companion.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

 

Bryn 

And two last quick questions. And because I know you got a busy self off to pre lockdown Britain, and without disappearing into wishful thinking. And do you think there’s also a role here, that not only a week, we sort of individually is that, dare I say, nodes opening up to spiritual emergencies? But also, do you think there’s a, I explore this for the union analyst that this psyche or the self capital T, capital S, is starting to emerge more, which will force more of the spiritual emergencies? Do you see what I’m saying? So it’s not yet us? It’s a collective us?

 

Jules Evans 

I don’t know. I’m, I’m open to the possibility I think like people have been in in New Age spirituality have been saying, a massive paradigm shift is upon us. Any day now. They’ve been saying that for a century. So for example, in the kind of 1890s you had psychical researchers, you, you know, invest investigated light, spiritualism and seances. And they thought that within 1020 years, every human would be functionally telepathic, and the communication between the dead and the living would be like, like you and me communicating now. Like, it’d be like zoom. So, so yeah, and then and then. And then in the 60s, certainly people thought that there was a massive spiritual awakening happening, and that, I mean, Ram Dass and Timothy Leary thought the whole of America become enlightened in a matter of months. And then in the 90s people thought the same and then in 2012, with the kind of, you know, Harmonic Convergence in the Mayan calendar. So, you know, I wrote an article called dude, where’s my paradigm shift? Like about like, Well, you know, where’s the where’s this? Where’s this grand spiritual awakening that we’ve been told is happening any enter. But nonetheless, there is data that shows more more people say they’ve had a spiritual experience, like since since 1960, you can look at data that shows like it’s like more than doubled in America. So, I don’t know if you know, I’m wary of the idea that we’re going to shift to some people The age of love, you know, that kind of millenarian type expectation, because it’s always a bit messy. But at the same time, you know, there are these grand cultural and spiritual movements that happen throughout history. Yeah. And so spirit, as it were, is unpredictable and extraordinary things do happen. That’s why I’m

 

Bryn 

asking this question at the moment.

 

Jules Evans 

Yeah. So. So it is never quite what one expects as well. So, and it’s never entirely good, either. It’s always like a bit of a mixed bag. Yeah. But I’m sure that I don’t think humans are going to go extinct. There on a bad day things, you know, but so something something, you know, is going to emerge something new and extraordinary is going to merge on this on this kind of adventure. I hope that it’ll be this kind of balance of the of the critical, rational and the kind of Numinous. But I would I wouldn’t bet against some kind of, you know, more dark, fundamentalist kind of thing. taking hold in, in some bits of the world. Yeah. And, you know, unfortunately, I see extremist politics rising on right and left, particularly in the States. So I, you know, I i’m not sure i suspect we’re going into a period where we’re not going to have one kind of grand myth, but but several quite different kind of cultures. With quite Yeah, with quite different realities. which is unfortunate, because we need some kind of there we are facing global problems, like the pandemic or, you know, climate change, which, which requires all to work together. So it’s unfortunate that we are losing any kind of collective myth or collective. Yeah. belief system, and instead, wherever the mushrooming of different realities.

 

Bryn 

Yeah. Last question I asked all my guess, is, is a hypothetical one, but it’s what I always find it fun is if you could upload a single question into the collective consciousness. So everybody just sat still and considered it for seven or eight minutes. What would that be? Well, I suppose

 

Jules Evans 

I suppose I, I suppose I reckon the most interesting question that we don’t sit with enough. Is, is Who am I? Because I think if you follow that question, it can take you beyond kind of narrow egocentricity. And I suppose in some ways I feel like this might be wrong is that the meaning of life is to try and kind of wake up to our our deeper identity, which is kind of collective and spiritual and connected to the natural world. So my hope is if but i don’t know if i think if people just sat with it for nine minutes, I’m not sure what would change. But I think that’s the most interesting question, and it wants it. What fascinates me about it is I still don’t entirely know the answer. So I’m still kind of, well, of course I do. But so I think that probably is why everyone says, isn’t it? No,

 

Bryn 

  1. Joe, it’s been absolutely fantastic talking to you today. And I think more than anything, it highlights the need for conversations exactly like the one we’ve had today. And if if it begins to just normalise it for a handful of people who watch this conversation, I’m keen to hear and why I’m keen to do a little bit more research and try and harvest some of the stories in a similar way that you did over in the UK. And just because for all the reasons that I wanted to talk to you today and I outlined today, I see more and more people wanting to go down this path, which is great. But I just think we need to be able to have few bits, few bits of material and support out there. So when it happens, it happens and not just for the individual but for the community as well. So

 

Jules Evans 

I think I think also like it doesn’t it’s not just happening in in spiritual communities as well. It will also happen in Christian communities and Muslim communities. So there’s also an interesting thing about how two different cultures make sense of this. What can we learn from each other?

 

 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Bryn 

So if people want to find you and your work, where do they go to?

 

Jules Evans 

My website is philosophy for life.org. I got a free kind of newsletter, which I recommend people sign up for. And then this book about spiritual emergencies is called breaking open. Finding a way through spiritual emergency.

 

Bryn 

Yeah, I got a copy on order at the moment. So yeah. Great. Thank you very much.

 

Jules Evans

Thank you Bryn.

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