The Kundalini Process: A Christian Understanding
Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality
- by Philip St. Romain
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A Jungian View of Kundalini
The basic elements of the Hindu view of kundalini, that is kundalini energy itself, chakras and an ultimate goal towards which this energy tends find counterparts in C.G. Jung's psychology. He too knows of a fundamental soul energy that he calls psychic energy, centers of psychic activity that he named archetypes and a final goal of psychological developement that he described under the heading of individuation. Lets look briefly at each one of these Jungian concepts in order to better compare it with kundalini.
Jung, following the physical sciences, conceived of the psyche as a closed system endowed with a fixed amount of psychic energy. The energy in one part of the soul did not differ qualitatively from that in another part, but the psyche as a whole possessed a definite quantity of energy that flowed through both the conscious and unconscious. After carefully observing the psyche Jung framed what he called the law of equivalence. Since there is a fixed amount of energy in the psyche, if energy is expended or disappears from one area of the psyche, we can expect to appear somewhere else. If, for example, I was to devote by energy to a form of meditation in which the discursive mind is quieted that energy would flow elsewhere and I might find myself suddenly daydreaming about the dinner I was going to have when my period of meditation was over, or it might give rise to the kinds of illusions that are familiar to Zen meditators. The important point is that this energy is never destroyed, but flows throughout the psyche activiating now this part and now another.
Jung founded his natural science of the psyche on an intensive obsevation of psychic images and the energies attached to them and this intensive observation led him to what he called archetypes. He noticed that all over the world whether in ancient myths or modern dreams certain basic patterns seemed to organize different images in similar ways. The actual images were different but the pattern was the same. For example, I might dream of climbing the stairs in a tall building, another person might be climbing a mountain, and an ancient shamanistic ritual might call for the shaman to ascend the pole of his tent. Yet all three sets of images could have the same underlying meaning. This pattern Jung called an archetype and compared it to the axial system of a crystal which somehow guides the formation of the actual structure of the crystal. Put in another way, the hypothesis of archetypes allowed Jung to begin to describe the underlying structures of the soul. The myriads of psychic images that he examined were not simply random debris cast off by the psyche, but point to the very nature of the psyche that gave birth to them. The psyche then, could be said to be in some way made of archetypes.
But these archetypes are not simply static parts of the psyche. Psychic energy flows from one of them to the next and the more energy that an archetype possessed the more it attracts our interest and attention. Further, both archetypes and psychic energy aim at a goal that Jung called intergration or individuation. In simplist terms this meant that the whole personality both conscious and unconscious has to be be given its due. Consciousness or the ego is not the only part of ourselves and not even the center of our psyches. Our real center, which Jung called the self, manifests itself in a dialogue between the conscious and the unconscious. The self is the realization of the whole being of the psyche.
It is tempting to identify Jung's psychic energy with kundalini energy, the archetypes with chakras and individuation with realization. Both psychic energy and kundalini are depicted as energies intrinsic to the soul, and they both have a built in sense of direction and purpose. Archetypes and chakras have close affinites as well. They are the articulations of the soul and manifest its structural complexity. Although less overtly than chakras, archetypes invoke the different dimensions and layers of the soul and body. In fact, on occasion, Jung identifies the farthest reaches of the unconscious with the body. Both are the focal points where energy gathers and is transformed. Both the chakras and the archetypes are interconnected among themselves and form purposive energetic systems.
Could these similarities be accounted for by Jung's knowledge of eastern thought and kundalini in particular? It is certainly true that Jung was well acquainted with kundalini. In the fall of 1932, for example, he gave a series of seminars on kundalini. But these notions did not play a formative role in the creation of his psychology.
What Jung does in regard to eastern thought is to create a Jungian style interpretation of it. The convergence we see is that of two very different and independent ways of thinking about the deeper aspects of the psyche and all the more eloquent for that.
Despite these deep analogies I really don't think it is possible to identify the two systems. The process of individuation is intimately connected with realization or enlightenment for they both are fundamental processes taking place in the depths of the same psyche and there is no doubt they strongly influence each other. But when we read modern accounts of kundalini awakening and similar ones of the journey to individuation it just doesn't sound like they are talking about identical experiences in different vocabularies. Growth in individuation is not necessarily accompanied by the arousal of kundalini energy in the classical sense even though it is surrounded by powerful transformations of psychic energy. The attainment of some degree of enlightenment can coexist with serious psychological problems and thus a lack of intergration. Nor is there any immediate correspondence between the chakras and their rather precise localization and the various Jungian archetypes.
This lack of identity in no way diminishes the important role that Jungian psychology can play in our understanding of kundalini energy. This can happen in two ways. In the first there can be a dialogue between Jungian psychology and eastern thought and in fact this dialogue began with Jung and has continued to today. The other possibility for dialogue is much less known but potentially very fruitful for a Christian understanding of kundalini. In it the philosophy of nature of St. Thomas enters into dialogue with kundalini and is aided in this process by its attempts to understand Jung's psychology in the light of St. Thomas' teaching on the soul. Any progress that can be made in understanding Jungian psychology in this way will help our understanding of kundalini because of the close interrelationship between them.
Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion.
(from the innerexplorations.com web site; gratitudes to Jim and Tyra Arraj)
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