Ayahuasca and Spiritual Emergence: Expectation, Actual Happenings & How to Deal With It

Ayahuasca attracts people who wish to experience spiritual awakening and divine intervention. Many are drawn to it, but not everyone who turns to it experiences the same awakening. Some loved it while others had horrible experiences and that’s because ayahuasca is not for everyone.

Several have flown to Peru to experience ayahuasca, but they were disappointed because it didn’t deliver the result they expected.

You have to be sure about Ayahuasca before you try it because, as they say, Ayahuasca calls you and it’s not for the curious. So, when you seek it, be sure that you really want it.

Pretty sure, you have heard various stories about this from ayahuasca users and they probably talked about out of this world experiences like meeting God, seeing visions, being one with nature and more.

These experiences are referred to as spiritual crisis or spiritual emergence and if you are interested in it, then keep reading!


Psychosis vs Spiritual Emergence

When to know that you are experiencing spiritual emergence? The use of ayahuasca can result in psychosis but those who use it refer to it as a spiritual emergency or ayahuasca and spiritual crisis.

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogen brew that is traditionally used for ritual and therapeutic purposes in the Amazon. It is rich in tryptamine hallucinogens dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which acts as serotonin 5-HT2a agonist and works like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin. It can cause psychotic episodes that’s why those who use ayahuasca would often recall out of this world stories.

But are you experiencing psychosis or spiritual emergence? Dr. Nicki Crowley(1) … Continue reading provided an in-depth comparison between the two.

Psychosis is an altered state of consciousness. It incorporates the concept of consciousness and deepens your understanding of the brain, mind and consciousness. It’s defined as any one of the several altered states of consciousness, transient or persistent that prevents integration of sensory or extrasensory information into reality models accepted by the broad consensus of society. it can lead to maladaptive behavior and social sanctions.

Psychosis is frequently expressed as a symptom of mental illness for disorders like schizophrenia, schizoaffective, delusional, and psychotic.

Meanwhile, spiritual emergency, consciousness and transpersonal perspective refer to the observation from many disciplines including clinical and experimental psychiatry, modern consciousness research, experimental psychotherapies, comparative religions and mythology. This could result in a crisis or an opportunity to rise to a new level of awareness or what they called “spiritual emergence.”

Psychosis and a spiritual emergency seemed similar. According to Grof, a spiritual emergency is a non-ordinary state of consciousness that in the West is seen and treated as psychosis. Some professionals advised suppressive medication for it.

However, if one considers the study of non-ordinary states and other spiritual traditions, the experience is treated as crises of transformation or crises of spiritual opening.

Spiritual emergence can be seen as a natural process of human development when one moves beyond normal feelings and desires of the ego into the transpersonal reals of increasing relatedness to a Higher Power or God.

Although the two appeared the same, there are differences(2)digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/47986/8/02whole.pdf. According to Christina Grof and Stanislav Grof(3)https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/ijts-transpersonalstudies/vol36/iss2/5/, those who are in a spiritual emergency are very lucid and have senses of their inner processes, they realize the change in their experiential world due to the change within them which does not cause external events. Meanwhile, people afflicted with true psychosis lack the insights that their condition has something to do with their own psyche.

But overall, the differential diagnosis between the two is extremely difficult to identify because their constructs are not clearly defined, the psychiatric diagnostic system has been criticized for being culturally biased, the mainstream psychiatric paradigm is somewhat limited and there is a lack of understanding about the spiritual and mystical concerns among psychiatrists.

Also, both are within and across disciplines. But “psychosis” is a term used by psychologists and psychiatrists to explain a certain type of mental illness.

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When To Know That You Are Experiencing Spiritual Emergence

Spiritual emergence is a profound spiritual occurrence that lets you experience transpersonal elements and perspectives beyond your personal level of psyche and an ordinary being.

During the spiritual emergence, you will experience mild or severe distress resulting in impairments in your psychological and social functioning and it may or may not be difficult to handle.

The experience varies, you will see, hear, feel, laugh, cry, sing or make animal noises. The experience is too profound to describe and to make it easier to understand.

The Grofs discovered the different forms of Spiritual Emergency. According to them, there are six major experiential patterns when one is experiencing a spiritual crisis which are as follows:

1. Awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)
2. Shamanic Journey
3. Psychological renewal through Activation of the Central Archetype
4. Psychic Opening
5. Emergence of karmic pattern6. Possession state

1. Awakening of the Serpent Power (Kundalini)

In this stage, one feels striking and powerful sensations of heat and energy streaming up the spine. It can be associated with tremors, spasms, violent shaking and complex twisting movements.

There is also involuntary laughing or crying, chanting of mantras and songs, speaking in tongues, emitting vocal noises and animal sounds like that of a lion, monkey, frog or snake, and doing yogic gestures.

The body can be rigid or limp and feel unusually large or small. Kundalini frees one from physical blockages.

One may also see geometric patterns, bright radiant lights and complex visions of saints, deities, demons and the entire mythological sequences.

Kundalini awakening may range from ecstacy, orgastic raptures and indescribable peace and tranquility to unsettling feeling of anxiety, agitation, depression and feeling of insanity and or death.

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2. Shamanic Journey

It represents a dramatic episode of non-ordinary state of consciousness and usually marks the beginning of the career of many shamans, hence the name. The core experience at this stage is a profound encounter with death and subsequent rebirth.

One may encounter initiatory dreams and visions including a descent into the underworld under the guidance of ancestral spirits, demon attacks, extremely emotional and physical tortures and annihilation.

One might experience dismemberment, disposal of body fluids, scraping of flesh from bones, tearing of eye sockets and other worse scenarios.

Then, it’s usually followed by sequences of rebirth and ascent to supernatural realms by means of a rainbow, pole, birch tree, and a magical flight.

An example of this is being reduced to a skeleton and then receiving new flesh and fresh blood. Those who experience it also obtain supernatural knowledge and healing power.

3. Psychological Renewal Through Activation of the Central Archetype

Individuals in this crisis find themselves in the middle of the world process of being the center of all things which Jungian analyst John Weir Perry attributed to the activation of the central archetype. They are preoccupied with deaths and themes of ritual killing, martyrdom, crucifixion, after life.

The experience typically focuses on the clash of opposite forces like the light and darkness, Christ and Antichrist, Devil, Armageddon and Apocalypse. Its characteristic element involves the reversal of opposites.

One may experience intense misgiving to the opposite sex, homosexual wishes or panic, fears of the sex or gender reversal. And the union comes in the theme o the union of opposites like the feminine and masculine aspects of one’s personality.

Others also feels like they were selected as spouse for a god or goddess, becoming a bride of Christ, being visited by the Holy Spirit as Virgin Mary, identification with Adam and Eve, the marriage of the Sun and Moon, King and Queen or Prince and Princess.

It culminates in an apotheosis or being raised to a highly exalted status either above all humans or above the human condition altogether by becoming a world savior, messiah, king, president, emperor or the world of the universe.

4. Psychic Opening

It is characterized by striking accumulation of instances of extrasensory perception (ESP) and other parapsychological manifestations.

An individual can be flooded by paranormal occurences and various forms of out-of-the body experiences (OBE) when consciousness seems to detach itself from the body and the individual can observe himself or herself above or from a distance.

Some witnessed this happening in another room of the building or a remote location. The thanalogists described it when individuals face death.

Some reported clairvoyant visions of past and remote events. In some occasions, the experience may be associated with various forms of poltergeist phenomena.

Meanwhile, some also experience accurate telepathic reading of other people’s thoughts. The indiscriminate verbalization insights gained in this way is often among the factors that precipitate psychiatric hospitalization.

It might also accumulate synchronistic events. However, the traditional psychiatry doesn’t recognize this but transpersonal research has shown that individuals in spiritual crisis frequently encounter true synchronicities.

It is important not to discard every synchronistic report as insignificant coincidence as indication of distorted perception or as delusional interpretation of reality.

Synchronistic phenomena can occur during any type of transpersonal crisis but more frequent during the psychic opening process. Many people tend to interpret experiences of telepathy, clairvoyance or synchronicity as signs of self-deception or even insanity.

5. Emergence of Karmic Pattern

In this type of transpersonal crisis, one experiences dramatic sequences that seem to be occurring in a different temporal or spatial context in another historical period and another country.

The experience can be quite realistic and may be accompanied by strong negative or positive emotions and intense physical sensations.

One probably experienced those episodes because of their convinced feeling of retrieving events from their memories, or reliving episodes from previous incarnations.

Those seqences may shed a new light on various emotional, psychosomatic and interpersonal problems of the person’s present life which were previously obscure and incomprehensible.

Karmic experiences are frequently connected with simultaneous or alternating reliving of biological birth involving certain specific emotions and physical sensations linked with past life themes that contain the same or similar elements.

Others likened this to the first clinical stage of delivery that involves contractions, scenes of suffering in dungeons, torture chambers and concentration camps and strangulation by umbilical cord connected to past life scenes involving hanging and strangling.

But the concept of reincarnation and karma is not well accepted, so many of those who experience it tend to resist it thinking that it’s bizarre and insane. At this stage, one can experience a variety of strange emotions, physical sensations and distortions in interpersonal relations without confronting and recognizing the karmic pattern that underlies them.

6. Possession States

This can occur when under psychotherapy, psychedelic treatment or spontaneous development. During the experience, the nature of the process may suddenly change dramatically.

One might see distorted faces with cramped expressions that turn to a mask of evil, wild expression, the hands and body may show bizarre contortions, and the voice may have an uncanny quality.

When this condition is allowed to develop fully, the session can bear a striking resemblance to exorcist scenes.

The individual typically identifies the energy as demonic and may try to suppress it by all means and it may manifest in suicidal depression, murderous aggression, impulses for antisocial behavior or craving for alcohol and drugs.

These may alienate relatives, friends, and even professionals who refuse to interact with the person involved, withdraw or label him or her as evil.

To wrap things up, here’s a summary of the signs of spiritual emergence

Affects your senses

  • You may feel unusually tired or full of energy
  • You may feel restless and have difficulty sleeping
  • More sensitive to light, sounds, intuition, feelings
  • Body may feel hot or cold, may shake or vibrate or
  • Others experience involuntary movements

Affects your mind

  • It can temporarily impair your cognitive function including thinking, decision-making and memory
  • May lose sense of time, perception of space
  • May lose sense of identity
  • Feel disconnected and isolated
  • Heightened capacity to process information
  • Experience closer or better connection with nature

Affects your intuitions, visions, dreams and memories

  • Clairvoyance (visions, auras, spirits)
  • Clairaudience (hearing voices)
  • Clairsentience
  • Telepathy
  • Precognition
  • Out of body experiences

Behavioral changes

  • Decreased social and family contact
  • Change in relationship with food

Spiritual Crisis Risk And Opportunity

I know that before you decide to try Ayahuasca, you have some positive expectations in mind based on what you’ve read and heard. Pretty sure, your expectations are great that’s why you want to try it.

But if you do your research well, you also probably come across horrible stories saying that they won’t recommend ayahuasca.

In this section, I will cover the risks and benefits that you may experience during spiritual emergence.

There are various stories from different people when they were experiencing a spiritual crisis. Some had positive encounters while others negative that’s why you need to know the risk and advantages.


Experiencing spiritual awakening offers many benefits. Some felt overwhelming joy, transcending peace, and instant healing. Others said it helped them get over addiction and move on from their trauma. In short, taking ayahuasca and experiencing a spiritual crisis was life-changing in a good way.

It’s difficult to explain the various benefits from ayahuasca, but here are some of the things that convinced many, probably including you, to try ayahuasca.

  • Heightened state of self-awareness and consciousness
  • Feeling of purity
  • Enhanced psychic abilities
  • Better spiritual connection
  • Peace and enlightenment
  • Living a more meaningful life
  • Surrounded with positivity (No room for negative feelings)
  • Feeling more peaceful and calm (No inner conflict, fears and worries)
  • Feeling of oneness or being one with all
  • More empathy and compassion for people
  • You live and enjoy the present, the past and future don’t bother you anymore
  • You develop a new perspective like a child
  • Less concerned about the past and future
  • Your thoughts and emotions are in harmony
  • You are no longer drawn to material pleasures
  • You become more aware of the spiritual forces that govern the universe
  • You attain a wider perspective and trial matters no longer affect you
  • You no longer limit your identity to what the world gives you
  • You are engulfed with a heightened sense of morality and kindness
  • You enjoy solitude, quietness and calmness


However, there are also scary stories about ayahuasca experience. Some said that it opened the portal of hell and they encountered demons after using it.

Some said it worsened their condition while others didn’t want to take it because they couldn’t face the horrendous fears that consumed them.

During the spiritual crisis, you might encounter the worst form of you nightmare. Some claimed that they experienced negative entity attachment which could be a spirit that would be piggy backing on you.

Here are some of the risks that you might encounter.

  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Paranoia
  • Vomiting
  • Psychological distress
  • Attracting demons and bad spirit

Dr. Jacques Mabit, founder of the highly esteemed Takiwasi Rehabilitation Center shared his insights about the opportunities and risks of shamanic healing from ayahuasca ceremonies.

He said some chants invoke sacred science. He also described the worlds of spirits as something of an inspiration. For him, spirits can inspire one to do good or evil. If it’s evil it leans toward doing negative things. But they can also inspire you positively.

He also emphasizes the importance of being sure of what one asks for.

“If you ask something, to life, to God, no matter how you formulate, pay attention to what you ask for. For what you ask for, is what you’ll get. Many times, we ask for things we don’t want to get,” he said.

He adds that there are things that one thinks he likes but not anymore when it is given to them. He also reminds those who are interested in iowaska that once you discover something you can’t just ignore the weight of that knowledge, you are responsible for it. It can increase your degree of freedom but it also makes you more accountable. However, many want to be free but not accountable. Freedom is to find your true calling.

For this, ask yourself, where am I aimed at? What’s the intention of God? Of life? What is the thing I must do? How can I be most of service? Your calling can be a profession, family, social or religious goals. It can come in many forms.

Some said ayahuasca gives you the worst fear and anxiety you can ever imagine to teach you to conquer your fears because your anxieties and phobias are what hold you back from doing things you want and realizing it. Others said the demons you encounter were from your own. So, basically, whatever you experience or encounter is something you have within.

That’s why it’s best if you prepare yourself ahead of your planned ayahuasca trip. Meditate daily and eat healthy food, you have to be ready physically and mentally because going through a spiritual crisis is kind of draining. You should be ready to face your fears and worries especially those you have been trying to suppress.

In the next section, I will be sharing with you some tips to maximize the effects of ayahuasca ceremonies on you.

Spiritual Crisis To Spiritual Awakening

In the previous section, I have already discussed the different things one experiences during a spiritual crisis.

In this section, it’s time to understand how you process the spiritual emergence, so it will lead to spiritual awakening because not everyone achieves this.

A crisis can be painful and challenging and every person has his own way to confront it and handle it.

Some get stuck on it while others come out of it better and healthier. Remember this, the spiritual crisis can either make you bitter or better. It can be a breakdown or breakthrough and you have to choose your path.

What Is Spiritual Awakening?

Spiritual awakening is when your body, soul and mind are in sync. At this stage, you have passed through the pain, confusion, addiction and everything that held you back from enjoying the best that life has to offer.

You feel more connected to your environment, grounded, peaceful, joyful, loved and fulfilled. There are more freedom and confidence.

Since you are feeling the good things life has to offer no matter what you are going through, you tend to give back the same vibration to the world. You become more sympathetic, understanding, forgiving, compassionate.

You will potentially experience spiritual enlightenment after taking ayahuasca during the spiritual crisis when the spirit of ayahuasca presents you, your deepest fears, most traumatic experience, shameful past, and harrowing memories that you try to forget, hide or subdue.

During the crisis, you might feel like you die and you get reborn. It’s a deeply personal and spiritual experience that will affect you physically, emotionally, psychically, and intellectually.

Also, you should know that the process can be slow or fast. Some achieve immediate enlightenment while others have to confront and get over their fears and self-conflict. Some experience confusion and distraction. Others have to struggle to remain on the path because they drift away.

So, yes, not everyone experiences a spiritual awakening after a crisis. If you want one, you’ve got to do your part.

What To Do Post-Ayahuasca To Achieve Spiritual Enlightenment

If you are on the struggling end or you feel that the experience didn’t deliver your expectation, then here are some of the things that you can do to achieve the enlightenment you desire.

1. Embrace your fears

Some claimed that they encountered demons and horrible creatures during their crisis. Condition yourself that your fears are not based on reality.

Don’t let your fears hold you back and remind yourself that your worst fears will also come to pass. The worst thing that can happen rarely does. So take away its power by embracing it and it would bother you less and less over time.

2. Meditate

Meditate regularly because it will help you achieve a more peaceful, joyful and fulfilled life. This will also help you enjoy better sleep, lower levels of stress and a greater sense of calmness.

So, practice to calm your mind and enhance your sense of peace. It will also open your mind to new ideas and creativity. Also, it will significantly improve your ability to deal with the different challenges in your life with a new perspective during stressful situations, better skills in managing stress, reducing negative emotions, and increasing patience and tolerance.

3. Learn to forgive

Aside from fears, you have to learn how to forgive yourself as well as the other people in your lives. Don’t beat yourself too much.

The most common sign of spiritual awareness is an enhanced ability to let go of hurts and resentments whether they are real or imagined. Also, at this stage, you already realize that anger and malice toward others could harm you in the long run.

4. Be honest with yourself

Learn to look yourself in the eye and confront yourself of the things you want to change, especially about the negative ones. Yes, it’s difficult to do that but it’s necessary.

Look for areas to improve yourself. Move past your fears and doubt and believe in yourself that you can make it. Let go of your negative habits and do the change.

5. Be organized and declutter

Learn to declutter to make the whole experience easier and faster for you. Clutter can steal your peace of mind and overstuffing your desk, house or rooms can be stifling.

The pursuit of material items can hinder your peace and calmness. The desire to own too much stuff not only clutters your home but your mind as well. It can even lead you to worry or self-doubt. Your opinion about yourself matters the most and that’s wasted time and effort if you don’t hear it.

6. Spend time in nature

Nature is soothing to the soul. The spring breeze and the birds chirping offers you a sense of relaxation, peace, and calmness that brings you joy and healing.

So, take the time to head outdoors, go for a walk or run. Spend quiet time with nature and you will be surprised at how it can improve your mood and spiritual being.

Do not underestimate the power of nature because there is a sense of completeness by simply reuniting with it.

7. Work with a professional

If you are struggling to unpack all the confusion, pain, and hurting after the crisis, it’s best if you seek the help of a professional. Some ayahuasca centers have professional therapists to help you process your emotions.

Not everyone is capable of unpacking the Aya-facilitated self-revelations because let’s be honest, it can be hard and painful. In fact, some fall into post-retreat depression because they felt that nothing changed.

But those who struggled and asked help from the professionals were able to enjoy the enlightenment they desired. In fact, others were able to quit smoking and drinking. Many also testified that it helped them deal with addictions. So, if you think you need help, don’t hesitate to approach a specialist.

8. Find a support group

Approaching professionals and specialists work, but it’s not the same for everyone. Some just need a group of people who are willing to share their stories and reflection for them to not feel alone in their journey.

The awakening signs and symptoms might be the same, but there is no right or wrong way to navigate it. Some have to go through the process of enlightenment slowly and having a group that makes them feel safe and supported is a huge help.

So, if you are also feeling the angst of isolation and loneliness, find a support group. There are specific groups that offer this particular support. For instance, Awakening Anonymous(4)https://www.meetup.com/awakeninganonymous/ is a support group for real people experiencing the surreal after and it aims to support members through sharing in a safe environment free of hierarchy.


Spiritual crisis is not as easy and as beautiful as what most described. It’s a mixture of pain and relief, addiction and freedom, illness and health, and more. That’s why you may also find some horrible stories about their ayahuasca experience. Just let the spirit of ayahuasca work in your body and it will enable you to experience spiritual emergence that can lead to awakening and enlightenment.

Among the signs showing that one is already in a spiritual crisis is seeing visions, hearing sounds, crying, laughing, mourning, and more. But not everyone’s crisis can turn into enlightenment or awakening. In that case, you have to do your part to maximize the ayahuasca ceremony if you don’t experience immediate enlightenment, so it can give you the peace, calmness and serenity you desire.

A spiritual crisis is life-changing whether it works for you or not. So, make sure that you are well-prepared physically, mentally and emotionally before you join an Ayahuasca ceremony. And once done, ensure that you get yourself the support you need.


  • youtube.com/watch?v=gjRe5NzeyjE
  • digitalcommons.ciis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1524&context=ijts-transpersonalstudies
  • madinamerica.com/2020/02/spiritual-emergency-crisis-transformation/
  • rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/members/sigs/spirituality-spsig/spirituality-special-interest-group-publications-nicki-
  • crowley-psychosis-or-spiritual-emergence.pdf?sfvrsn=5685d4c1_2
  • digitalcommons.ciis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1524&context=ijts-transpersonalstudies
  • lightofmind.com/techniques-raise-spiritual-awareness/
  • retreat.guru/journal/2154/post-ayahuasca-integration-the-ultimate-guide
  • digitalcommons.ciis.edu/ijts-transpersonalstudies/vol36/iss2/5/
  • parenting.firstcry.com/articles/9-ways-to-achieve-spiritual-awakening-to-transform-your-life/#What_Are_the_Benefits_of_Spiritual_Awakening
  • https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/members/sigs/spirituality-spsig/spirituality-special-interest-group-publications-nicki-crowley-psychosis-or-spiritual-emergence.pdf?sfvrsn=5685d4c1_2


1 rcpsych.ac.uk/docs/default-source/members/sigs/spirituality-spsig/spirituality-special-interest-group-publications-nicki-crowley-psychosis-or-spiritual-emergence.pdf?sfvrsn=5685d4c1_2
2 digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/47986/8/02whole.pdf
3 https://digitalcommons.ciis.edu/ijts-transpersonalstudies/vol36/iss2/5/
4 https://www.meetup.com/awakeninganonymous/