Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 5: The Body > Chapter 8: Kundalini


At opposing ends of the spine, the human and the animal oppose each other.

Why did so many primeval cultures in Asia, Africa, and America worship the serpent? A full answer would contain some of the most important principles of metaphysics and one of the least known practices of mysticism--raising the force symbolized under the name of the "serpent fire." The advanced occultists of Tibet compare the aspirant making this attempt to a snake which is made to go up a hollow bamboo. Once aroused, it must either ascend and reach liberty at the top or it must fall straight down to the bottom. So he who seeks to play with this fiery but dangerous power will either reach Nirvana or lose himself in the dark depths of hell. If a man seeks to arouse kundalini before he has rid himself of hate, he will only become the victim of his own hatreds when he does raise it from its sleeping state. He would do better to begin by self-purification in every way if he is to end in safety and with success. The uprising of the penis closely resembles the uprearing of the cobra. Both become erect and stiff by their own innate force. When the serpent fire passes from the root of the penis up the spinal cord, the latter also becomes upright and stiff. Yet sex is not the serpent power but the chief one of its several expressions. The advanced yogis of India symbolize by the pent-up hissing of the serpent the aggressive energy of this sex power. They picture the threefold character of the process in their texts as a triangle with a serpent coiled up inside it. The intense fire of love for the higher self must be kindled in the "mystic" heart, kindled until it also shows a physical parallel in the body, until the latter's temperature rises markedly and the skin perspires profusely. Deep breathing is an important element in this exercise. It provides in part the dynamism to make its dominating ideas effective. The other part is provided by a deliberate sublimation of sex energy, through its imaginative raising from the organs in the lower part of the body to a purified state in the head.

The strange phenomena of a mysterious agitation in the heart and an internal trembling in the solar plexus, of sex force raised through the spine to the head in intense aspiration toward the higher self accompanied by deep breathing, of a temporary consciousness of liberation from the lower nature, are usually the forerunners of a very important step forward in the disciple's inner life. A twofold trembling may seize him. Physically, his diaphragm may throb violently, the movement spreading like a ripple upward to the throat. Emotionally, his whole being may be convulsed with intense sobbing. It is this same bodily agitation, this nervous repercussion of a higher emotional upheaval, which developed in the meetings of the early members of the Society of Friends and got them the name of Quakers. The agitation of his feeling will come to an end with the calm perception of his Soul. The kundalini's activity being primarily mental and emotional, the diaphragmatic tremors and quivers are merely its physical reactions. The necessity for keeping the back erect exists only in this exercise, not in the devotional or intellectual yogas, for such a straight posture permits the spinal column to remain free for the upward passage of the "serpent fire." The latter moves in spiral fashion, just like the swaying of a cobra, generating heat in the body at the same time. If the trembling continues long enough and violently enough, a sensation of heat is engendered throughout the body and this in turn engenders profuse perspiration. But all these symptoms are preliminary and the real mystical phenomena involving withdrawal from the body-thought begin only when they have subsided. This exercise first isolates the force residing in breath and sex, then sublimates and reorients it. The results, after the initial excitement has subsided, are (a) a liberating change in his consciousness of the body, (b) a strengthening development of the higher will's control over the animal appetites, and (c) a concentration of attention and feeling as perfect as a snake's concentration on its prey. It is a threefold process yielding a threefold result. In those moments when the force is brought into the head, he feels himself to be liberated from the rule of animality; then he is at the topmost peak of the higher will. Power and joy envelop him. The attainment of this state of deep contemplation and its establishment by unremitting daily repetition bring him finally to an exalted satisfied sense of being full and complete and therefore passion-free and peace-rooted.

The attempt to gain all or nothing and to gain it at once might succeed on the stock exchange but is hardly likely to succeed here. He cannot leap abruptly to this great height across the intervening stages but must travel laboriously step by step upwards to it. Nevertheless there exists a way of taking the kingdom by violence, a way which can be finished in six months. It is the arousal of the serpent fire. But unless the nature has been well purified, it may prove a highly dangerous way. Few are yet ready for it, and no teacher dare incur the responsibility of plunging into such a risky gamble with his pupil's health, sanity, morality, and spiritual future unless there is sufficient sexual stability and hardness of will in him. There is a slower way, the yoga of self-identification with the Guru. Practised once or twice daily, and combined with Mantramjapa practised continuously, it leads to the same goal in a period twelve times as long and is perfectly safe. He should understand that the goal both ways lead to is not the philosophic one. Yet to attain the latter it is indispensable to pass through the mystic's goal. From all this we may gather not only how long is the road, but also how grand is the achievement with which philosophy is concerned.

Time, space, and sex, which limit and make him captive, can also be used to serve and set him free. The mind can take time and slow it down by slowing down the procession of thoughts (yoga) and take space by holding the body immobile during the same work, so that both phases assist toward the success of the yoga. It can take sex and drive the inherent force of it, helped by breath and concentration, up the spinal column to the heart and brain, transmuting it by eliminating its cry of loneliness.

What the Hindus call kundalini, meaning the "coiled force," is really a manifestation of this power of the Overself. It does not necessarily have to appear in the case of every progressing disciple; but where it does, it is as if an uncoiled force moves rapidly up the spine and passes out through the head, whereupon the meditator involuntarily enters the deep trance condition for a while.

It is much easier to awaken spirit-energy than to deliberately divert it by drawing it up to the head as transformed spiritual power. It is a necessary precondition for this awakening that the body be purified and no less so the character.

The awakening of serpent fire gives a tremendous stimulation to the nervous system. There may be difficulty in sleeping as a result.

Not all yogas make so much of the quality of peace as an object to be secured by their means: there is one which makes even more of power. It frankly seeks enhancement of the spiritual and psychical energies, as well as the acquisition of new ones. Their exploitation leads to the diverse powers and "gifts of the Spirit."

The power which is felt is what the Hindus call kundalini, and it is gradually generated over the many years through which he practised meditation and sublimated sex. Usually when allowed to pass out of the head it leads to a spiritual experience of ecstatic illumination, but of course that can be done only when it is accepted without fear and in full faith. Its activity sometimes interferes with sleep for several months, but not usually longer.

After the Spirit-Energy awakes and begins to mount up the trunk, a double sensation is felt. From the meditator's own breathing, thinking, and willing activities, he himself seems to be pushing the force upwards. But from what he also experiences psychically and intuitively, something overhead seems to be magnetically pulling his head up and elongating his body and drawing the Spirit-Energy up to itself. The two influences do not counterbalance each other but prevail alternatively by turns.

In the Hindu chakra system (of which you can see gaudy coloured lithographs in the yogic circles of India) the lowest and first centre deals with survival, the second with sex, the third with power. Thus the first three are animalistic, egoistic, and materialistic; but when we come to the fourth there is a crossing over, for this has to do with spiritualization. The fifth is connected with surrender of the ego, and the sixth with the discrimination between truth and falsity, between reality and appearance. The seventh is the last and highest and is linked with enlightenment, liberation, realization--call it what you will. But all this applies to the particular yoga called kundalini yoga. Philosophy is not concerned with it, because it is not directly concerned with the awakening of kundalini.

The Spirit-Energy: What are the lines of connection between the Overself and the body?

The first can be traced to thoughts. These express themselves through, and are in turn conditioned by, the physical brain and the spinal nerve system.

The second can be traced to emotions. These express themselves through, and are also conditioned by, the solar plexus and the sympathetic nerve system.

The third line can be traced to the vital forces. Although these permeate every organ of the body, and express themselves through every cell of it, they are specially centered in the heart, lungs, and genitals.

These three connections can plainly be seen. But they are not the whole. There is still a fourth line, although it cannot be traced in a manner acceptable to the sciences of anatomy and physiology, and very little is known about it anyway. The Indian yogis have named it variously: the Serpent Power, the Snake Force, World Energy. The Christian mystics have named it the Holy Ghost and the Pentecostal Power. To the monks of famed Mount Athos it is "the Athos Light;" to Saint John it was "the light of men;" and to Saint Luke, "the light of the body." The Chinese mystics have named it the Circulating Light.

It is really nothing other than the soul's Energy, the dynamic aspect of the still centre hidden deep in man. Its first activity is traceable in psychical and intuitive experiences outside the normal range as well as in abnormal physical phenomena; its final one is the supreme mystical experience which throws out awareness of the body altogether.

Thus through thought and feeling, physical vitality and spiritual vitality, there occurs a mutual interaction between the soul and flesh. Each affects the other. Each can, in abnormal conditions, affect the other even so dramatically as to appear miraculous in its power over the other.

The seven chief endocrine glands of the human body are associated with psychic centres in or near the spinal structure not visible to the physical eye. When the "Spirit-Force" is brought by the power of aspiration into the first centre, which is associated with the sacral gland, the body's vitality is markedly increased and its resistance to disease correspondingly increased too. The Hindu's texts picture it under the symbol of a lotus flower with four luminous petals.

With the entry of this energy into the second centre, associated with the prostate gland in men and the ovarian gland in women, the nervous system is strengthened, resistance to nervous disorders correspondingly increased, ability to concentrate mentally enhanced, and a resolute determination to rise up and succeed in some chosen endeavour manifested. In the third centre, associated with the adrenal gland, the power to influence other people's minds and even, to some extent, to heal them of sickness is developed. Along with this, the quality of fearlessness shows itself to an extraordinary degree. In the fourth centre, associated with the thymus gland, the "Spirit-Energy" ascends to the region of the heart and with that consciousness touches a higher plane of being. There is a progressive thinning down of egoism. With the fifth centre, associated with the Thyroid Gland, the emotions are at last balanced by, and poised in, the intuition. Along with this development, the illusion of time is banished. This gives a feeling of agelessness. Physically it bestows an improved power of speech in the sense that it becomes creative, forceful, and illuminating to its hearers. With the sixth centre, associated with the pituitary gland in the frontal region of the head, creative power is bestowed upon the concentrated Will and the spoken or written Word. With the seventh centre, associated with the pineal gland at the base of the brain, the illusion of the ego's reality is shattered, and the true self, or soul, is discovered. The ancient Indian books symbolize it in the form of a lotus with one thousand petals. The immense contrast of this with the small number of four of the first centre is intended to show that here at last is full and final illumination.

He must redirect the generative power, raising it upward mentally and willing its transmutation intensely. This is the moment to express command over the lower nature and to exert obedience from the lesser faculties.

This Spirit-fire is to be brought from the perineum along the spinal column to the topmost point in the head. Such a passage is not accomplished all at once, but only by stages--seven in all. At the entry into each stage there is a tremendous agitation of feeling and thought and a vibrant ecstasy of dominating power.

The Sacral Plexus, at the spine's base and in the pelvic region, stores procreative power. If this power is stored for a sufficient length of time, and if it is undisturbed by sexual passions and kindred emotions during that time, and if there is a deliberate redirection in higher channels, whether they be the strengthening of the body and development of its muscles, or whether they be the achievement of professional ambitions or the unfoldment of spiritual qualities, transmutation will take place.

This explains why the old Sanskrit texts say the Spirit-Energy brings the yogi to his freedom but puts the universe into bondage. What other bondage could be meant than sexual slavery?

He who brings to the attempt a sufficient degree of informed spiritual development and mental-emotional self-control need have no fear. But he who does not--and such a type is in the majority--may find the solar plexus pouring the force unrestrainedly through his nervous system, inducing permanent insomnia by reason of its pressure upon his brain, until his mind becomes unhinged.

Those who awaken this Energy before they are in a position adequately to control it, put themselves in peril. For should they yield to temptation and misuse it to serve their lower nature or to harm other persons, it will return like an Australian boomerang to punish them.

Since sex is so near to the earlier manifestation of Spirit-Energy, it must be controlled and sublimated before that Energy is deliberately aroused, as the danger of becoming obsessed by sex is a serious one.

A current of electricity charging powerfully through the body is the nearest experience to it.

When the Spirit-Energy enables him to help others, he may see them surrounded by phosphorescent greyish-blue light.

They are really brain centres, although of a minor character compared with the great brain in the head. They are situated both in the cerebro-spinal nerve system and in the sympathetic one. The entry of Spirit-Energy into them energizes them and activates their psycho-spiritual functions.

This force lies within him, latent and unused, until he turns to the exercises and disciplines of the Quest.

The introduction of nicotine in appreciable quantities by smoking bars the way to the Spirit-Energy's movement and clogs the centres it would ordinarily open. The introduction of alcohol in similar quantities by drinking gives a wrong direction to the Energy so that its benefits are lost. From this we see how important for other than all the usual and well-known reasons is the ascetic self-discipline which limits or denies the use of these two poisons.

The defect of arousing the Energy by breathing exercises is that the effects finally wear off and leave the man without his powers. A permanent result cannot be obtained by this method. That is why hatha yogis are warned not to wait too long before taking the next step higher.

The region of the solar plexus is a sensitive receiving set into which the emotional forces of the lower nature can, by concentrating with the mind, be drawn. Here they are purified and driven upwards by a determined will and a deepened breath to the region of the heart. If this is successfully done, the "Spirit-Energy" may be aroused, with momentous consequences. A sense of well-being will be diffused through the trunk of the body and a feeling of happiness will arise in the emotions themselves.

In some of its aroused phases the Spirit-Energy is quite resistless; therefore a purified and disciplined life is essential before releasing it.

Oriental traditions speak of certain psychonervous centres situated near the plexuses of the physical body which are not physical themselves and hence are part of an invisible body or aura emanating from the physical one.

The creative force is to be drawn up by will and mind and breath from the sexual organ to the heart and to the brain alternately. These three mediums are to be united in the single endeavour.

The Egyptians signified the Spirit-Energy by a winged snake, and the Nepalese by a trumpeting elephant in a triangle.

When the upward flow of the force brings it to the pineal gland, which is located in the sympathetic nervous system and inside the brain, and when other requirements are complied with, the gland is energized and activated and gives man spiritual vision.

There is a stage in the disease of "progressive" syphilis (which is much harder to cure than ordinary syphilis) where the sufferer may have illusions of personal grandeur and be swept off his feet by egocentric ideas arising from his mental deterioration and unbalance. Hitler was one such sufferer. There is another curious fact about syphilis, and that is the course followed by the disease in the body itself. This course is identical with the path followed by the Serpent-Power (kundalini) as it moves upward from the sex centre to the brain centre, where it gives the true enlightenment. The imaginary enlightenment of a syphilitic dictator is thus its counterfeit satanic copy.

Such is the power of this Spirit-Energy that in the case of Padre Pio, the stigmatist, his bodily temperature in earlier years would rise on certain special occasions to such a high temperature that the thermometer could not measure it and would break!

The vagus nerve is part of the central nervous system and extends from the brain all the way down to the solar plexus. It actually traces the path of the kundalini moving on its return course.

Once this dormant energy is aroused, a man's whole nature begins to change. He begins to reform habits, engage in more regular and deeper meditations, move forward by determined efforts toward the mastery of his whole being.

Patanjali says, "This light shines from within only when all the impurities of the heart have been removed by practice of Yoga."

The Spirit-Energy is a fiery power. The yogis say it burns its way as it spirals through the body.

These exercises bring about a better flow of the body's vital force. When this force is blocked or impeded at any point, trouble appears there. The exercises open the blockages.

When the Spirit-Energy touches the heart, an exhilarating and ecstatic freedom is felt, a deep and boundless delight.

Ordinarily, it comes to birth very, very slowly, as the exercises are practised and the purifications are undergone; but, in quite a number of cases, it comes up with a sudden rush.

Kundalini is the driving force of sex. It is the original life-force behind all human activity--mental and physical, spiritual as well as sexual--because it was behind the very birth of the human entity itself.

The force is constructively raised from the genital organs by progressive stages upward to the pineal gland in the brain and then to the pituitary gland in the forehead.

The serpent fire starts at the sex organs, proceeds to the solar plexus as the most important ganglion of the sympathetic nerve system, continues up the spine and ends in the frontal brain. These are the progressive stations of its passage when governed by will and directed by aspiration. The first sign is an increase of the heat of the body, sometimes resulting in perspiration. The second sign of its movement is a trembling or agitation in the navel region of the abdomen as the solar plexus is entered and the magnetic centre within it begins to open. The third sign is an unconscious drawing of deeper breaths. The last sign is a sensation of added force on all levels--physical, emotional, mental, and mystical.

The creative energy is one and the same no matter how high or how low may be the level upon which it manifests and how refined or how gross the form through which it expresses itself.

This force is originally derived from the sun. It is universal, living, conscious, and like electricity in its dynamic potency. Its appearance in the sex energy is but one, and that the very lowest, of its appearances. Just as each member of the sound, light, heat, electricity and magnetism group is either convertible into one of the others or able to bring it into existence, so this solar force is convertible from sex, when governed, to higher and still higher forms.

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