Connecting the two worlds (heaven above and the sphere of darkness below) is the spinal column, a chain of thirty-three segments protecting within them the spinal cord. This ladder of bones plays a very important part in the religious symbolism of the ancients. It is often referred to as a winding road or stairway. Sometimes it is called the serpent; at other times, the wand or scepter, The ancient Hindus have a legend concerning the goddess Kundalini, in which it is said that she descended by means of a ladder or cord from heaven to a little island floating in the great sea. Connecting this with embryology, it is evident that the ladder or cord represents the umbilical cord, while the little island is the solar plexus. When the ladder is cut away from heaven the goddess flees in terror to a cave (sacral plexus). where she hides far from the sight of men. Like Amaterasu, The Japanese Goddess of the Shining Face, she must be lured from her cave, for while she is there and refuses to come forth the world is in darkness. Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning “a serpentine or twisting gas or force.” This force, so the Eastern sages claim, can be drawn up through the central spinal canal (the Sushumna). The Kundalini, when awakened, is the giver of all power, health, wealth and success. The Kundalini feeds the baby in the mother’s womb. She fulfills our every desire. She is the All in All. The Kundalini, has three angles as well as three circles, and her Bhupura is three-lined. Her Mantra is three syllables, and she has three aspects. The Kundalini energy is also threefold in order that she may create the three Gods (Brahma, the Creator, or air; Vishnu, the Preserver, or water: Rudra, the Destroyer, or fire).
Swami Vivekananda describes Kundalini briefly in his book Raja Yoga as follows:
According to the Yogis, there are two nerve currents in the spinal column, called Pingalâ and Idâ, and a hollow canal called Sushumnâ running through the spinal cord. At the lower end of the hollow canal is what the Yogis call the “Lotus of the Kundalini”. They describe it as triangular in a form in which, in the symbolical language of the Yogis, there is a power called the Kundalini, coiled up. When that Kundalini awakens, it tries to force a passage through this hollow canal, and as it rises step by step, as it were, layer after layer of the mind becomes open and all the different visions and wonderful powers come to the Yogi. When it reaches the brain, the Yogi is perfectly detached from the body and mind; the soul finds itself free. We know that the spinal cord is composed in a peculiar manner. If we take the figure eight horizontally (∞), there are two parts which are connected in the middle. Suppose you add eight after eight, piled one on top of the other, that will represent the spinal cord. The left is the Ida, the right Pingala, and that hollow canal which runs through the center of the spinal cord is the Sushumna. Where the spinal cord ends in some of the lumbar vertebrae, a fine fiber issues downwards, and the canal runs up even within that fiber, only much finer. The canal is closed at the lower end, which is situated near what is called the sacral plexus, which, according to modern physiology, is triangular in form. The different plexuses that have their centers in the spinal canal can very well stand for the different “lotuses” of the Yogi.
When Kundalini Shakti is conceived as a goddess, then, when it rises to the head, it unites itself with the Supreme Being of (Lord Shiva). The aspirant then becomes engrossed in deep meditation and infinite bliss. Paramahansa Yogananda in his book God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita states:
At the command of the yogi in deep meditation, this creative force turns inward and flows back to its source in the thousand-petaled lotus, revealing the resplendent inner world of the divine forces and consciousness of the soul and spirit. Yoga refers to this power flowing from the coccyx to spirit as the awakened kundalini.
Paramahansa Yogananda also states:
The yogi reverses the searchlights of intelligence, mind and life force inward through a secret astral passage, the coiled way of the kundalini in the coccygeal plexus, and upward through the sacral, the lumbar, and the higher dorsal, cervical, and medullary plexuses, and the spiritual eye at the point between the eyebrows, to reveal finally the soul’s presence in the highest center (Sahasrara) in the brain.
Western awareness of kundalini was strengthened by the interest of Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung (1875–1961). Jung’s seminar on Kundalini yoga presented to the Psychological Club in Zurich in 1932 was widely regarded as a milestone in the psychological understanding of Eastern thought and of the symbolic transformations of inner experience. Kundalini yoga presented Jung with a model for the developmental phases of higher consciousness, and he interpreted its symbols in terms of the process of individuation, with sensitivity towards a new generation’s interest in alternative religions and psychological exploration.
In the introduction to Jung’s book The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, Sonu Shamdasani puts forth “The emergence of depth psychology was historically paralleled by the translation and widespread dissemination of the texts of yoga… for the depth psychologies sought to liberate themselves from the stultifying limitations of Western thought to develop maps of inner experience grounded in the transformative potential of therapeutic practices. A similar alignment of “theory” and “practice” seemed to be embodied in the yogic texts that moreover had developed independently of the bindings of Western thought. Further, the initiatory structure adopted by institutions of psychotherapy brought its social organization into proximity with that of yoga. Hence, an opportunity for a new form of comparative psychology opened up.”
The American writer William Buhlman, began to conduct an international survey of out-of-body experiences in 1969 in order to gather information about symptoms: sounds, vibrations and other phenomena, that commonly occur at the time of the OBE event. His primary interest was to compare the findings with reports made by yogis, such as Gopi Krishna (yogi) who have made reference to similar phenomenon, such as the ‘vibrational state’ as components of their kundalini-related spiritual experience. He explains:
“There are numerous reports of full Kundalini experiences culminating with a transcendental out-of-body state of consciousness. In fact, many people consider this experience to be the ultimate path to enlightenment. The basic premise is to encourage the flow of Kundalini energy up the spine and toward the top of the head—the crown chakra—thus projecting your awareness into the higher heavenly dimensions of the universe. The result is an indescribable expansion of consciousness into spiritual realms beyond form and thought.”
In his book “The occult anatomy of Man” Manly P. Hall elaborates on the concept of kundalini and it’s relation to human anatomy:
“The ancient Hindus have a legend concerning the goddess Kundalini, in which it is said that she descended by means of a ladder or cord from heaven to a little island floating in the great sea. Connecting this with embryology, it is evident that the ladder or cord represents the umbilical cord, while the little island is the solar plexus. When the ladder is cut away from heaven the goddess flees in terror to a cave (sacral plexus). Where she hides far from the sight of men. Like Amaterasu, the Japanese Goddess of the Shining Face, she must be lured from her cave, for while she is there and refuses to come forth the world is in darkness. Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning “a serpentine or twisting gas or force.” This force, so the Eastern sages claim, can be drawn up through the central spinal canal (the Sushumna). When this essence strikes the brain it (pens the center of spiritual consciousness and inner perception bringing with it spiritual illumination. The system of culture whereby this is made possible is the most secret teaching of the Eastern saints, for they realize that this spiral, twisting force is not only illuminating but, like the serpent which is its symbol, also a deadly poison.”
The Twisted Serpent
When the Kundalini awakens or moves, what then remains? What will become of the Kundalini? She will go to the Six Chakras and also remain at her place. As steam is converted from water by heat and again returns to it, so rises the dynamic energy of the Kundalini, which goes up to the different Chakras and returns again and again.. While she will reach to the Sahasrara, still she will be at her home at the Muladhara Chakra. The Kundalini power can only be known by Master Yogis, but sometimes even ordinary Yogis can see it, however not as clearly, as long as the inner eye is not open. When the Yogi has opened the inner eye, then he sees the different Chakras and the energy of the Kundalini, which is Life of Life, and Light of Lights. The following Masterly and Scientific explanation of the Kundalini is by Prof. P. Mukhyopadhyaya, and was written for Arthur Avalon and brought out in his book – The Serpent Power, Arthur Avalon ” pp. 302-313.
Figure 1. Human Body Polarity
“When you say that Kundalini Shakti is the primordial Shakti at rest, I am led to think of an analogy (and it may be more than an analogy) in modern science. Cosmic energy in its physical aspect may be considered either as static or as dynamic, the former being a condition of equilibrium, the latter a condition of motion or change of relative position. Thus, a material thing apparently at rest (there being no absolute rest except in pure Consciousness or Chitta) should be regarded as energy or Shakti equilibrated. Various elements of it holding one another in check (or, as the mathematicians will say, the algebraic sum of the forces being zero). Of course, in any given case the equilibrium is relative rather than absolute. The important thing to note is this polarization of Shakti into two forms, static and dynamic. In the tissues of a living body, again, the operative energy (whatever the nature of that may be, whether we believe in a special ‘vital force’ or not) polarizes itself into two similar forms—anabolic and katabolic—one tending to change and the other to conserve the tissues, the actual condition of the tissues being simply the resultant of these two coexistent or concurrent activities. In the mind or experience also this polarization or polarity is patent to reflection According to the Hindu scriptures, the only attribute of God, is ‘Pure Consciousness’. This is the energy that infuses life in all its manifestations.
Figure 2. Major Nadis & Chakras in Kundalini rising
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This polarity between pure Chitta and the stress which is involved in it: there is a stress or Shakti developing the mind through an infinity of forms and changes; but all these forms and changes are known as involved in the pure and unbounded ether of awareness (Chidakasha). This analysis therefore exhibits the primordial Shakti in the same two polar forms as before—static and dynamic—and here the polarity is most fundamental and approaches absoluteness. Lastly, let us consider for one moment the atom of modern science. The chemical atom has ceased to be an atom (indivisible unit of matter). We have instead the electron theory; According to this, the so-called atom is a miniature universe very much like our own solar system. At the center of this atomic system we have a charge of positive electricity round which a cloud of negative charges (called electrons) is supposed to revolve, just as myriads of planets and smaller bodies revolve round the sun. The positive and the negative charges hold each other in check, so that the atom is a condition of equilibrated energy, and does not therefore ordinarily break up, though it may possibly break up and set free its equilibrated store of energy, as probably it does in the emanations of the radium. What do we notice here? The same polarity of Shakti into a static and a dynamic partner-viz., the positive charge at rest at the center, and the negative charges in motion round about the center; the most suggestive analogy or illustration, perhaps, of the cosmic fact. The illustration may be carried into other domains of science and philosophy, but I may as well forbear going into details. I think, draw this important conclusion:
Shakti, as manifesting itself in the universe, divides itself into two polar aspects—static and dynamic—which implies that you cannot have it in a dynamic form without at the same time having it in a corresponding static form, much like the poles of a magnet. In any given sphere of activity of course we must have, according to this cosmic principle, a static background—Shakti at rest or ‘coiled’, as the Tantras say. Now, the Divine Mother Kali is a symbol of the cosmic truth just explained. Sadashiva, on whose breast She dances, nude and dark, is the static background of pure Chit, white and inert (Shavarupa), because pure Chit is in itself Svaprakasha (self manifest) and Nishkriya (actionless). At the same time, apart from and beyond Consciousness there can be nothing—no power or Shakti—hence the Divine Mother stands on the bosom of the Divine Father. The Mother Herself is all activity and Gunamayi (in Her aspect as Prakriti composed of the Gunas). Her nakedness means that, though She encompasses all, there is nothing to encompass Herself; her darkness means that She is inscrutable, Avang-manasagochara (beyond the reach of thought and speech). The cosmic Shakti is the Samashti (collectivity) in relation to which the Kundalini in the bodies is only the Vyashti (individual): it is an illustration, a reproduction on a miniature scale, a microcosmic plan, of the whole. The law or principle of the whole—that of macrocosmic Shakti—should therefore be found in the Kundalini. That law we have seen to be the law of polarization into static-dynamic or potential-kinetic aspects. In the living body, therefore, there must be such polarization. Now, the Kundalini coiled three times and a half at the Muladhara is the indispensable and unfailing static background of the dynamic Shakti operative in the whole body, carrying on processes and working out changes. The body, therefore, may be compared to a magnet with two poles. The Muladhara is the static pole in relation to the rest of the body, which is dynamic; the working of the body necessarily presupposes and finds such a static support, hence perhaps the name Muladhara, the fundamental support. In one sense, the static Shakti at the Muladhara is necessarily coexistent with the creating and evolving Shakti of the body, because the dynamic aspect or pole can never be without its static counterpart. In another sense, it is the Shakti left over (you have yourself pointed this out, and the italics are yours), after the Prithivi—the last of the Bhutas—has been created, a magazine of power to be drawn upon and utilized for further activity, if there should arise any need for such. Taking the two senses together (yours as well as mine), Shakti at the Muladhara is both coexistent with every act of creation or manifestation and is the residual effect of such act—both cause and effect, in fact—an idea which, deeply looked into, shows no real contradiction. There is, in fact, what the physicist will describe as a cycle or circuit in action. Let us take the impregnated ovum—the earliest embryological stage of the living body. In it the Kundali, Shakti is already presented in its two polar aspects: the ovum, which the mother-element represents, one pole (possibly the static), and the spermatozoon, which is the father-element, represents the other (possibly the dynamic). From their fusion proceed those processes which the biologist calls differentiation and integration; but in all this process of creation the cycle can be fairly easily traced. Shakti flows out of the germinal cell (fertilised ovum), seizes upon foreign matter, and assimilates it and thereby grows in bulk; divides and subdivides itself, and then again co-ordinates all its divided parts into one organic whole. Now in all this we have the cycle. Seizing upon foreign matter is an outwardly directed activity, assimilation is an inwardly directed activity or return current; cell division and multiplication is an outwardly directed operation, co-ordination is inwardly directed; and so on. The force in the germ-cell is overflowing, but also continuously it is flowing back into itself, the two operations presupposing and sustaining each other, as in every circuit.
Kundalini, Durga, Kali
When kundalini has just awakened and you are not able to handle it, it is called Kali. When you can handle it and are able to use it for beneficial purposes and you become powerful on account of it, it is called Durga. Kali is a female deity, naked, black or smoky in color, wearing a mala of 108 human skulls, representing the memories of different births. Kali’s lolling tongue of blood red color signifies the rajo guna whose circular movement gives impetus to all creative activities. By this specific gesture, she is exhorting the sadhakas to control their rajo guna. The sacrificial sword and the severed head held by the left hand are the symbols of dissolution. Darkness and death are by no means the mere absence of light and life, rather, they are their origin. The sadhaka worships the cosmic power in its female form, for she represents the kinetic aspect, the masculine being the static which is activated only through her power. In Hindu mythology, the awakening of Kali has been described in great detail. When Kali rises in red anger, all the gods and demons are stunned and everybody keeps quiet. They do not know what she is going to do. They ask Lord Shiva to pacify her, but Kali roars ferociously, throwing him down and standing on his chest with her mouth wide open, thirsty for flesh and blood. When the devas hold prayers to pacify Kali, she becomes calm and quiet. Then there is the emergence of Durga, the higher, more refined and benign symbol of the unconscious. Durga is a beautiful goddess seated on a tiger. She has 8 hands representing the eightfold elements of man. Durga wears a mala of human heads to symbolize her wisdom and power. These heads are generally 52 in number, representing the 52 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which are the outer manifestations of Shabda Brahma or Brahma in the form of sound. Durga is the remover of all evil consequences of life and the giver of power and peace that is released from mooladhara. According to yoga philosophy, Kali, the first manifestation of the unconscious kundalini is a terrible power; it completely subdues the individual soul, represented by her standing on Lord Shiva. It sometimes happens that by mental instability some people get in contact with their unconscious body and see inauspicious, ferocious elements – ghosts, monsters, etc. When Kali, the unconscious power of man, is awakened she goes up to meet the further manifestation, being Durga, the superconscious, bestowing glory and beauty.