Philosopher Herbert Marcuse observed in 1964 that modern people's materialistic and consumer-based lifestyles have resulted in societies becoming more one dimensional, which has contributed to a growing attitude of ‘uncritical conformity’. Marcuse advocated that in order to transcend a one-dimensional existence people will have to engage and actualize their human potential. The increasing environmental and ecological crisis that is confronting the world today identifies a pressing need for change and adaptation at all levels of society including governments, businesses, individual and collective consciousness. The transformation of a one-dimensional consumer-based society will require people and societies to engage different dimensions of conscious experience in order to bring about change. This article discusses how developments within human consciousness have evolved in conjunction with spiritual capacities and how collective ritual encounters with the numinous have contributed to developments in the human brain, mind and culture. I propose that the modern phenomenon of spiritual emergencies can be evaluated from an evolutionary perspective, which may be revealing transformational patterns within consciousness that go beyond a one-dimensional materialistic existence. Spiritual emergency reinforces the need for spiritual awareness to challenge the one-sided materialistic consciousness prevalent within modern consumer based societies. The process of psycho-spiritual transformation could lead to a resacralized socio-political vision and validation of a re-emergent transpersonal consciousness. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.