While living in a Buddhist community in the mid-1980s Mick Collins experienced a numinous encounter, which led to a profound crisis and spiritual emergency. The experience challenged him to his core and took many years to integrate, but it led to engagement in a life-changing journey of discovery and self-renewal that ultimately inspired and informed the development of this most heartfelt book. The book begins with an overview of the global crisis that we now face, together with a humanistic and transpersonal account of human potential, arguing for how, as human beings, we are in important ways predisposed to grow and flourish to our full potential.

The author then explores how we can bring a greater awareness of our human potential to the actions we take in our daily lives, our everyday doings. This leads to the idea at the heart of the book – that a more conscious engagement with doing and a more textured understanding of how consciousness is bound up with our doings are a vital part of how we might co-create an improved future. Collins proposes that it is only through doing with greater awareness, a greater depth of consciousness, that we make tangible the productive links between human occupation (doing) and our human potential (being), and that ultimately this can bring us into a sacramental alignment with our broader transpersonal or psycho-spiritual potential. The global crisis we now face, he argues, requires of us that we recover and reimagine our ability to engage with the transformative nature of doing – the co-creation of an improved future must be facilitated by bringing a greater depth of awareness to our everyday doings.

The meaning of human potential is elaborated with a discussion of how Jung’s work on the collective dimensions of the unconscious helps us to understand that we are part of an interconnected world: “At the most subtle level we are deeply enmeshed and embedded within the universe as a whole, yet we behave in the world today as if we were separate,” and the insight from both ancient wisdom traditions and contemporary consciousness studies is that “we are capable of having deep experiences in consciousness that reveal experientially our interconnection with all life.” The book explores how dreams can be understood as encounters with contents from the unconscious that can be engaged with through an active process of psycho-spiritual growth and development in the world (doing). Encounters with the numinous, deep experiences of the mystery of life are another way in which an individual may be confronted with a potential for a greater awareness of life. The book surveys what is known about such encounters with the numinous, and notes how they can catalyse meaningful transformation but can also lead to spiritual emergencies with a ‘pulverising’ effect on the individual experiencing them.

This book is significant in bringing together an understanding of spiritual emergency and personal transformation with an agenda for global transformation and renewal. It articulates and illustrates how spiritual emergencies can, if facilitated with the right awareness and supporting structures, play a positive role in a collective response to a global crisis.

Collins offers an inspirational and moving but also highly practical guide for integrating self-transformation with the task of a deeper communion with and healing of our long-suffering planet. It provides a thoughtful and well-grounded summary of how addressing the damaging material impacts of our industrial-growth society is ultimately a collective voyage of discovery that calls upon each one of us to awaken to our common heritage as the story of the human race.

Alex Haxeltine is a Senior Research Fellow in the Science, Society and Sustainability (3S) group at the University of East Anglia, where he is researching the role of transformative social innovation in the emergence of post-materialist worldviews and transitions to sustainability.