In 1978, Christina Grof, having had intimate exposure to spiritual emergency through her own experience, with some hesitancy, described her own experiences to her husband, Stan Grof, a practicing Psychiatrist, who went on to outline the theoretical insights he had developed during his years of working with non-ordinary states of consciousness. They realized that there was a sizable group of people who had had transformative experiences that they had never talked about with to anyone for fear of being considered crazy. Many others said that they had made the mistake of telling the wrong people about their experiences: they had been hospitalized, medicated, and given psychiatric labels, even though deep within themselves they felt they had not been involved in a pathological process. Mental-health professionals, physicians, and clergy repeatedly told them of their dissatisfaction with professional limitations and of their own often lonely work, which departed from traditional approaches. They were interested in locating like-minded colleagues for mutual support and the exchange of information.
“Christina had a meditative image of the globe encompassed by a large interconnected web. At each intersection a point of light sparkled, this beautiful experience made her feel that we had to start systematically putting people in touch with one another. People wanting help needed to contact those offering assistance and vice versa. Those already working with approaches compatible with the new understanding of spiritual emergence should be connected with others who shared the same world view. – But how to do it? – The Spiritual Emergence Network was the answer.”
Quote from the book the “Stormy search for the self” by Stanislav and Christina Grof.
As a result, Christina Grof founded the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN) in the spring of 1980.
Over the years, it has grown into an international organization that offers a referral service, education, and information to people going through transformational processes, as well as to the families, friends, and professionals around them. SEN is based on an expanded understanding of human experience offered by transpersonal psychology and is dedicated to helping people find their way through a process that is often misunderstood and mistreated in our culture.
The Grofs eventually handed SEN over to other individuals who have done a fantastic job over the years, carrying on their work. SEN has also found a home at institutions of higher education, such as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology and the California Institute of Integral Studies, where a clinic specializing in spiritual emergencies was established. Due to inadequate funding, the clinic had to close in 2004. However, Ted Esser kept SEN going as an information and referral service until the Grof Foundation took it under its wing in 2015. In the meantime, other SEN-like networks had developed independently in several other countries around the world.
In 2012, Catherine Lucas from the Spiritual Crisis Network (SCN) in the UK contacted Ted and a few other national directors to discuss creating the International Spiritual Emergence Network (ISEN) linking all national networks together to inspire best practices and expanding the work of helping those in spiritual crisis. Catherine inspired Katie Mottram at SCN to continue the formative work of establishing ISEN when she mentioned the same idea to her two years later.
Katie and Ted helped gather some potential national “SEN” directors to meet during a UK Spiritual Crisis Network conference in 2015 in England, where Rozália Kovács-Napier from Hungary and Emma Bragdon, PhD joined their initial discussions and shortly after the conference started to work on the organization’s vision and mission statements together.
Katie, Rozalia and Ted decided to take on the mission from there and followed the lead of Rozalia’s vision to approach the Stanislav and Christina Grof Foundation with ISEN to honor the legacy of Christina where thanks to the support of Kenneth Sloan, the Executive Director of the Grof Foundation at that time, the GF Board decided to take ISEN officially under its wing in April, 2016.
At the beginning of 2017 ISEN became independent of the Grof Foundation to better pursue it’s own mission. Part of this reconstitution saw Matthew Gorner join Katie and Rozalia from December 2016 and Ali Chapman from January 2017. Together with representatives from SENs around the world we’ve been working on the rebirth of ISEN to create an organisation with a TEAL base (you can read more about TEAL here.) The focus in this kind of structure is where members’ self-management replaces the traditional hierarchical pyramid. Additionally, ISEN is seen as an organisation with its own orientation and so the journey involves listening to where ISEN wants to go (or not go!) It is a living process that we witness together.