The Mysterious Kundalini
Probably most of our readers have some familiarity with the Indian theories about the Kundalini. According to ancient tradition, it exists as an energy that is partly physical and partly psychic. In many people, it is said to lie quiescent at the base of the spine where it is metaphorically described as a sleeping serpent. As individuals begin to develop toward higher levels of consciousness, the Kundalini is said to “awaken” and move up the spine, activating a series of psychic-physical energy centers as it moves. When it reaches the center at the top of the head, the individual is said to reach enlightenment or cosmic consciousness. The passage of the Kundalini up the spine may occur very rapidly, or over a period of many years. A teacher who has personally reached higher consciousness may stimulate it into activity in a student, sometimes just by his presence. Or it may be aroused by sustained meditation.
In recent years, as Eastern beliefs have migrated West, there has been an increase in the interest and attention focused on the Kundalini theories, and an increase in the number of Western-born individuals who describe experiences similar to the Indian traditions. A number of books have also appeared to further fuel the interest, including a series by Gopi Krishna. In his major and most helpful book which is simply titled Kundalini Yoga, Krishna described his own experiences when the Kundalini was apparently awakened by intense, sustained meditation. Krishna suggests that his life-threatening crises were partly due to his becoming ego-involved in the process, but whatever the cause, the result was an increase in his sensitivity which prevented him from working for a considerable time, and which interfered with his body handling food. He came close to death in the process, and his family was reduced to poverty. There is no welfare in India.
Krishna’s book is well worth reading as a caution against rushing into some of the yoga breathing exercises without guidance from a competent teacher, and also on the dangers of ego-inflation. His later books are less impressive, seeming to be mostly a defense of his particular theories about the Kundalini which he credits with causing all genius and all insanity. His emphasis on the material nature of the energy also grates on me, seeming almost reductionistic, as if spirituality were totally dependent on this diversion of the sex fluid from its normal use to send it up to the brain.
Now that the book edited by John White is out, you can get the gist of Krishna’s theories along with a great many other primary sources on the subject. For anyone interested in the area, I highly recommend White’s book, Kundalini, Evolution and Enlightenment, Anchor Books, Doubleday, l979. White has done a beautiful job of pulling together a variety of opinions which show the controversy in the area and give readers a chance to compare different ideas with personal experiences and personal beliefs.
Another recent book is called And the Sun is Up: Kundalini Rises in the West, published in l978 by Academy Hill Press. The author, W. Thomas Wolfe, is a technical writer and advisory planner, and his book is mostly a personal account of his own experiences in raising the Kundalini. The book is well written and well worth reading.
Still another book is Kundalini—Psychosis or Transcendence? by Lee Sannella, M.D., published by H.S. Dakin in l976. Dr. Sannella is a psychiatrist in the Berkeley, California area who has worked with a number of people while they were apparently undergoing a Kundalini experience. In almost all cases, all that was needed was some insight into what was happening, and some support through the transition period, and the subjects gained greatly in their capacity to function in life, solving a variety of earlier problems in the process. The one exception mentioned by Dr. Sannella was a woman who became ego-involved in the experience, saw herself as a spiritual teacher, and was upset that others did not accept her every word as gospel.
Krishna, Wolfe and Sannella all accept the correlation of the arousal of Kundalini with the development of exceptional creativity and psychic abilities. It is also credited with the achievement of cosmic consciousness. The physical correlates of the Kundalini experience are well-described by both Wolfe and Sannella, and are included in some of the selections in White’s book. These physical sensations include seeing light, feeling tingling and heat, hearing sounds, an energy flow in the body that may seem to shake the whole body, etc. For a more complete description, readers are referred to any of these books.
One of the appendices in Sannella’s book offers a hypothesis by Itzhak Bentov to account for some of the physiological effects of the Kundalini experience. Bentov suggests that in meditation, the heart-aorta system acts as a resonating oscillator which rhythm entrains four additional oscillators in the body, eventually resulting in a fluctuating magnetic field around the head. In the subjects studied by Sannella and Bentov, the energy did not stop at the top of the head, as is suggested by Hindu traditions, but continued over the face and down the front of the body to the abdomen. Since this pattern was quite common in the experiences of Westerners, but distinct from the Eastern descriptions, Sannella called it “physio-Kundalini” as a sub-variant of the general area. An interesting side report by Sannella was an observation of subjects in deep meditation whose “normal” brain waves (0 to 50 hertz) dropped in amplitude while there was an amplitude increase in very high frequency waves ranging from 350 to 500 Hz. Sannella suggested that these high frequency waves might accompany “out-of-the-body” or other psychic experiences. Research is just beginning in these areas, and future years should see some exciting developments.
Sannella comments that in addition to the energy flow down the front of the body, many Western experiences also differ in terms of time. Classic Hindu traditions claim that even advanced initiates require at least three years to reach full Kundalini awakening. In contrast, Sannella has observed many “ordinary” people who have completed the physio-Kundalini cycle in a matter of months. Sannella suggests that one logical explanation would place the physio-Kundalini process as a part of a larger complex. He also suggests that the physical process is essentially one of purification, with problems only arising when there are “blocks” in the system. These blocks may be emotional conflicts which have to some degree crystallized in the physical body, and the dissolution of the blocks may be painful. Psychoanalysis (Reichian theory) has postulated such physical “armoring,” and Rolfing and Bioenergetics are based on the theory.
My own thinking is quite in harmony with the preceding. In India, the primary emphasis is on the spiritual enlightenment as the end product of the Kundalini awakening. In the Western world, the emphasis of objective science encourages placing major attention on physical and measurable facts. The books listed above, starting with Gopi Krishna and including Wolfe and Sannella have shared this focus though they have tried to place the physical in perspective with the more intangible. Of all the books listed, Krishna’s is the most guilty of over-emphasizing the physical elements in the process.
I have been able to collect a limited number of horoscopes of individuals who feel that they have had a Kundalini experience. The emerging patterns include a house emphasis on the transpersonal area (houses 10,11, and 12) plus heavy first house emphasis, with aspect emphasis connecting the fixed planets: Sun, Venus, Pluto, Mars and Juno (as co-rulers of Scorpio?), and Uranus to a slightly lesser extent. See the separate table for some of the figures. The combination fits perfectly into Sannella’s suggestion that the physical energy part of the Kundalini process is only a part of a larger scene, and it seems quite possible that these physical experiences are normal for certain types of individuals, but not necessarily a part of all spiritual awakening. Sannella opens the door to this idea when he comments that individual differences must play a part in determining the variations of experience.
If we accept the theory that life is an evolutionary process toward a spiritual goal, and that the twelve sides of life conceptualized by astrology symbolize the path to that goal, Sannella’s theories and our horoscopes make beautiful music together. In the charts, we have the urge toward the transpersonal shown by the 10th to 12th house emphasis, symbolizing the concern for higher ideals, for humanity, for mystical oneness, combined with an emphasis on personal action — “I have the right and power to do what I want” with the first house emphasis. The combination will not necessarily unite the individual identity and the collective in a positive way, but certainly there is likely to be an urge in that direction. We were especially impressed, in these charts, by the weakness of houses 4 to 8, the area of close inter-personal relationships. Do home and family distract or deflect one from merging with the larger collective? Many religions have seen these as antithetical pulls; commitment to security with a family or to a larger framework.
But, given this clear house emphasis, what are we to do with the planetary aspect emphasis on learning to share power with the close- others in the life? Repeatedly, we have Sun-Juno, Sun-Venus, Venus-Juno, Moon-Pluto, Mars-Venus aspects. These emphases call for loving and being loved; for physical sexuality and sensuality; but also (with Pluto) for mastery over the appetites. Uranus coming into the picture repeats the urge to transcend the personal and the inter-personal, to become impersonal. Individuals with that kind of fixed emphasis in their nature, with strong sensuality and yet with an urgent drive to transcend it, are precisely the type we would expect to experience physical-emotional blocks in their efforts to attain spirituality. Sannella suggests that the Kundalini physical experiences mark the working through of these blocks. Theoretically, this should leave the individual free of the absorption in and subjection to the material sense needs. The Hindu idea that sexual semen is literally diverted to the brain would be a metaphorical description of the transcendence of physical self-indulgence as the individual accepts her/his role as part of a larger community with as much (but not more) concern for others as for the self. If this theory is accurate, there is no need to renounce all sensuality, only to keep in balance with the needs and rights of others. We can and should continue to be able to give, receive, share and enjoy the physical world, without extremes of either self-indulgence or asceticism.
We can see why a blockage of the process at the ego (letter five) level would be so destructive. If the pressure toward spiritual realization that should include a healthy ego in the service of higher ideals is, instead, dammed up at the ego, it becomes an inflation that is potentially highly dangerous. From the descriptions of the physical-Kundalini, it is often experienced as a super-orgasm. The last stage of childbirth is quite similar; an enormous outpouring of energy that is the essence of life at the physical and emotional level. If we stop at that point, to prolong our indulgence in the sensation (either the physical sensation or the emotional pride of creativity), and fail to let the birth process continue to the end, poor baby!
To sum up what I have been saying, strong aspects between the fixed planets are likely to intensify sensual involvement, and when combined with a denial of normal marriage outlets, a strong urge towards self- mastery, and a strong inclination to merge with the transpersonal, we certainly set the stage for some struggles within the system. What has been observed in the Western world seems to be, as Sannella suggests, the process of resolving this inner conflict. Once integrated, of course, the person is more at peace, more effective in general functioning, as Sannella indicates. But astrologically, it would be quite possible for a person to reach cosmic consciousness with a primary emphasis on the mutables without experiencing the physio-Kundalini. My next thrust in this project is to get horoscopes of individuals who feel that they have had mystical experiences without the accompanying physiological sensations described by Wolfe, Sannella, etc. Readers are invited to send in data on both theoretical types of higher consciousness, those with and those without physical sensations in the body. My hypothesis would be a combination of the transpersonal and mutable emphasis in the latter group.
To bring the general principles down to earth, I would like to describe a few of the personal experiences of some of the subjects in our limited sample. Since there is no point in repeating what is in print in the books of others, these are all from my own contacts.
One woman feels that she has experienced Kundalini sensations over a period of more than ten years. She was much disturbed by the sensations until she read about the Kundalini and was able to understand the experience as a spiritual one. She has a Taurus Sun conjunct Mars in the 11th house square a Leo Moon conjunct Juno and Neptune in the second house, giving the fixed emphasis. Venus in Gemini is semi-square (octile) the Leo conjunction and Pluto is rising, widely conjunct the Ascendant from the 12th house, while Jupiter is right on the Ascendant to add to the spiritual quest.
A young man working as a holistic healer, with acupressure, began experiencing intense energy flows all over his body, apparently as a result of daily meditation of two hours or more. The experience became so disruptive that he was unable to function in a normal way. He was able to moderate it by discontinuing meditation. His Sun-Moon-Jupiter are conjunct in Capricorn in the third house, square Juno in Aries in the sixth house. Venus is in its own 2nd house in Sagittarius, trine Pluto in Leo as the most elevated planet, dominating the chart from the 10th house. He has Scorpio rising, and the Nodes of the Moon fall in Taurus-Scorpio.
Another male started as a traditional psychotherapist, but became increasingly involved in exploring parapsychology and in working with psychic healing, using some “laying on of hands” which included an actual transfer of energy to the clients. He was a meditator and in frequent contact with professional psychics, both of which might have helped to trigger the Kundalini experiences. They began for him with an intensity that left him almost incapacitated for a month or more. His whole body felt as if it were radiating energy, but it shook him physically and emotionally to the point where he could not work. After sitting under a pyramid with a violet light, following the suggestion of a local psychic, he was able to bring the experience under more control. He described it as very pleasurable when it was just a state of extra high energy. He could walk for miles without getting tired.
His chart includes a Moon-Pluto conjunction sextile Venus and quincunx Juno (Venus and Juno are square) while Mars in Leo is octile the Sun. The nodes of the Moon are across Leo-Aquarius in a fixed cross with Mercury-Uranus opposition in Scorpio-Taurus. He has Leo rising.
Another woman was apparently triggered into her first Kundalini experience through biofeedback training. Wolfe mentions in his book how he used the biofeedback in his meditation and development of mind control. The woman just mentioned has the Moon in the eighth house in a yod (double quincunx) to a Sun-Mars sextile—all exact to the degree. Juno is the most elevated body in the chart, trines Pluto and is semi- sextile Venus. Mars and the ruler of her Ascendant are in Pisces, Jupiter is rising in the first house and the Sun is in the 12th house, to show the spiritual search.
A male astrologer who says that he can now bring on the sensations or stop them at will has a strongly Capricorn chart with a Sun-Moon conjunction quincunx Juno while Venus in quincunx Pluto and sextile Mars. A male professional researcher has Moon opposite Juno with the Sun sextile Mars and both sextile-trine the Moon-Juno axis. Pluto is rising, in the 12th house conjunct the Ascendant, widely square the Moon-Juno. The Ascendant is closely square the axis. A female astrology student and computer programmer who just had her first Kundalini experience while meditating with her yoga teacher has a Pluto-Moon conjunction in a T-square to Venus-Juno. The Sun and Mars are trine.
Many more charts will be needed to test the hypotheses offered here. Also, we hope to do more work with longitudinal studies — checking out the current patterns at the times of presumed Kundalini experiences. We hope that any readers who have data will share it with us. Identities will be kept anonymous. Future explorations can go in many directions, including the ease with which individuals go through the experience to reach integration and/or control over the body reactions. Wolfe mentions aborting his experiences, not deliberately, but because of his need to analyze them and write about them. I do not have Wolfe’s birth data, but hope to get it since he kept good accounts, including dates, of his experiences. In future issues of the journal also we hope to include more comments from readers on the subjects discussed, and I, for one, would love to hear from others who might also be fascinated with this mysterious Kundalini.
First 26 Kundalini charts
James Eshelman statistics
Totals for 32 charts:
Highest few numbers listed.
Planets in Houses:
12th house 80
11th house 62
1st house 58
2 & 10 houses 52