Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality - Discussion

  Kundalini energy, the ancient serpent power of India, has come to the West. It is appearing visibly in the lives of westerners for the first time. Sometimes it has been invited, but sometimes it has erupted spontaneously, much to the recipient's surprise and dismay. This discussion area is devoted to the encounter of kundalini with Christian spirituality. What happens when Christians begin to experience kundalini and reflect on it in the light of their own tradition? This discussion area is based on  four resources written by Philip St. Romain and James Arraj.

Note: For information on how to buy the latest edition of Philip St. Romain’s book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, go to http://shalomplace.com/books/kundalini.html


Kundalini:The Hindu Perspective by Philip St. Romain

Some Psychological and Philosophical Reflections on  Kundalini Energy by James Arraj

Should a person desire the activation of kundalini energy? It would be a mistake to read the following account of kundalini experience and the philosophical reflections about it, and imagine that this question must be answered in the affirmative.

The story of a man who underwent a full-scale kundalini awakening illustrates this. He grew up as a Catholic, went to Catholic schools for his higher education, thought about becoming a priest, and eventually became a lawyer. He lost touch with his Catholic faith and experimented with various spiritual traditions, the last of which had some teachings about chakras. Rather quickly he began to experience various phenomena associated with the activation of kundalini energy: movements of energy around the body, tingling and pressure in the head, the opening of the "third eye," etc., all phenomena that could be documented in one fashion or another in the kundalini literature either ancient or modern.

But these kundalini phenomena began to act strangely. The energies took the form of invisible hands that touched him, and amorphous animals that would attach themselves to him and bite him or lick his face. At first he accepted these things as part of some sort of spiritual journey, but he eventually became concerned about them and sought psychiatric help. But this was no psychosis in the ordinary sense of the term. Rather, what appears to have happened is that this powerful kundalini awakening activated the psychological unconscious, which produced a whole halo of images and experiences. It clothed itself in the contents of the unconscious, and so created a highly visible and tangible kundalini drama. But the activation of the unconscious was so strong that it began to flood the ego in a manner akin, but not the same, to what happens in psychosis.

Finally, rather battered, he began to emerge from these experiences, regain his ordinary life, and reconnect with his spiritual roots, and tried to live a life in relationship to Mystery. He writes: "I mostly just want to live a natural, engaged, moderate life and to relate to Him. I am a human being. That's all." In this regard he composed the following haiku:

"My heart beats, not I,
and as new centers throb, why
grasp or meddle now?"

And he comments: "If there is one thing I've learned, it is that "experiences" only serve to show that reductionistic scientism is incorrect. If they have any other purpose (and they well may), I don't know what that is, and I don't care to speculate. My profound intuition is that life itself - all the events of our lives, especially the small and ordinary - is ultimately the best, most growth-enhancing "experience"."

Kundalini may well, indeed, be an inner movement towards enlightenment, but this does not mean we should seek it in a highly visible and dramatic form. This kind of search for "experiences" can be dangerous to both our psychological and spiritual health.

See also A Cautionary Note on Seeking Experiences and a discussion of Christian spirituality and kundalini in our Christian Prayer and Contemplation Forum Newsletter Number 5.  Visit Bob Boyd's Kundalini Survival and Support

 

Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion. Send us your questions and comments: arraj@innerexplorations.com

A Response

Thanks for another (rare) intelligent, informed article on this very misunderstood subject. A misunderstanding about Kundalini is that it is an "energy." This is to confuse metaphor with mechanism -- and it is dangerous to do so. Many people take up Eastern spiritual practices with the intention of having an "Experience" and of manipulating "Energy" and have no clue about what they are doing in terms of meaning, method, or consequences. The literature is metaphorical, cryptic, and I suspect, incomplete for good reason, and some Eastern teachers certainly have been irresponsible -- or ignorant themselves -- in how they've disseminated the information. The Kundalini phenomenon is better described as a process that works with the energy. The process is the catharsis of consciousness. It's equivalent in Christianity is the mystical descent of the Holy Spirit. Those touched can experience a dramatic shift in consciousness and they may display "gifts of the spirit," such as glossolalia ("speaking in tongues"), which yogins may demonstrate as well but do so, not as prayer per se, but as a phenomenon that spontaneously arises during a certain esoteric meditative practice (the "feeling" for the yoga practitioner doing this however, can be very "prayerful.")

Certain forms of Kundalini yoga, like the types I've studied, aim at observing one's thought processes -- and even provoking one's habitual negative thoughts and emotions -- to observe, gain insight, and disengage from them. Rather than experiencing explosive altered states of mind and neurological mayhem, the practitioner gains increasing calmness, naturalness, quietness and clarity of mind, and a sense of grace and empowerment in daily life.

Altered states of consciousness can and do arise during the practice -- ecstatic states such as those described in classical Kundalini literature may occur -- but the instruction is to remain nonattached and to see it as both a crossing-over point (as in shaktipata in which an advanced teacher transmits a cathartic effect on the student) and also as just more phenomenon. So the practitioner realizes that the occasional ecstatic experience is not the goal, but an epiphenomenon of a transformative process and its methodology.

As you can tell, I have a great interest in this subject and I am hungry for authentic information and research on it -- which is hard to come by -- because real info seems to get mixed up with a lot of mummery. If you can suggest reading material, I'd be grateful.

I'm a technical writer by professional and work in medical communications. I've also had a lifelong interest in spirituality.

I was a Charismatic Christian as a teenager but became contemplative and universalistic in mindset after being introduced to the work of Fr. Thomas Merton. Then, in postadolescence, I made a big shift and began to study Advaita Vedanta, a philosophy I know Catholic intellectuals and theologians have an keen interest in. I've kind of been with that for the past 20 years and have also taken a peripheral interest in related topics. Over the past maybe 6 years, I've practiced different forms of Kundalini yoga. From reading the literature, I've realized that I experienced a lot of the uncanny phenomena that people are carrying on about long before I ever took up this type of yoga -- since childhood. But since I began practicing, I rarely experience any of the peculiar or preternatural effects I had experienced prior to taking it up. Counter to some people's experiences, it's been very
healing and "grounding" for me. I feel that I was blessed with very good instruction from people who have a keen and delicate understanding of the Kundalini process. It's shaped my views of how it should be approached and why untoward events occur.

The end result of the practice, as in other types of yogas and meditation practices, is to achieve clarity of consciousness and naturalness in being that translates into a true intimacy with the divine. Hindu mysticism (at
least my brand of it) talks about it in the monistic sense, Christian mysticism in a dualistic sense, but I think the experience itself must be the same -- the definition separated and distinguished by semantics (I recently told a Buddhist lama the same thing in comparing Hinduism to Buddhism -- theism to atheism -- so, don't mind me). Some of the yoga literature on "Kundalini rising", however, seems to talk about having ecstatic or hallucinogenic experiences , as if that is the goal. It certainly isn't; it is a kind of low-level epiphenomenon of the process that some people can experience and some get really stuck in. A person needs a teacher -- and a good, personal teacher from a respectable lineage -- to really work with this thing. Otherwise, there are, indeed, milder and safer ways to feel spiritually involved.

I write my views based on information I've picked up from teachers, from the literature that I believe is scientifically or philosophically sound, and based on my own experiences and insights from the practice. I know my views will certainly evolve and change as I continue to do so.

An article I wrote on the subject is scheduled to appear in the journal Yoga International sometime toward the end of the year. I'm hoping to learn and write more on the subject and develop meaningful dialogue with others about it. So, I thank you for the opportunity to comment on it and to communicate with you through this exchange.

Best regards, Dee Rapposelli, DRapposelli@aol.com


 

Response from Stephen Nelson, samson@so70.freeserve.co.uk

So glad to find Kundalini addressed from a Christian perspective. Perhaps my own story will raise a few issues for folks to ponder. I'll try to be brief. Was brought up in Brethern churches. Devoted Christian until about the age of 18 when began to wander into drug culture (And here's something interesting - Kundalini and drug use). 7 years ago, aged 24, began experiencing these symptoms - burning sensation at the base of my spine, hearing my name called as I lay to sleep, sensation of a bird flying around inside me, energy rushes - sometimes blissful; othertimes anxious, burning in my body, telepathic sensitivity, precognition. Because I was unprepared and on drugs I had a weird mental breakdown. Every night, when I went to bed, conversations and scenarios filled my head. I thought I had tapped into some collective consciousness.

Eventually gave up drugs and things settled down. My research into what had happened to me led me to a knowledge of Kundalini and Eastern mysticism - so I explored. Got involed with new age groups, spiritual healers , practised yoga and all kinds of taoist exercises.

Then I began to suffer psychic attacks and for a while ,3 years ago went thro' a traumatic time. These attacks sprang from fool-hardy practise and association with "healers" and I found that I was living in a massive deja vu. Everything I had heard as voices while lying in bed at night during my mental breakdown was now being lived thro, 3 years on. I felt trapped, was completely taumatised.

I have recovered and given myself to Christ once again, although I still suffer attacks from dangerous individuals, not demons but occultists. Indeed just this month psychic channels have re-opened after contact with a Christian healer. I am very attracted by Charismatic worship and praise and go to a local Chrrismatic church but find that there is a confusion with the work of the Holy Spirit and Kundalini in what they do and that there is an ignorance of the relationship between Charismatic phenomena and Kundalini.

The Lord has certainly enriched my life recently and, despite continuing attack, he is teaching me acceptance and hope and faith in His power. There are many overlapping phenomena in Kundalini awakening and the work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord is teaching me discernment. Praising Him, enjoying His creation is a continual delight .

 

Editor's response

Yes, that is a very interesting story. It is also a story that sounds a cautionary note for the potential readers because it shows the difficulties involved in keeping such a kundalini energy process in balance so that it doesn't have negative, as well as positive, effects on a person's life. Would you really advise people to actively seek an activation of kundalini? Sincerely, Jim
 

Stephen responds

I would probably advise against active kundalini awakening.More balanced, grounded spiritual growth can be achieved without the excessive intensity of the energy coming into play, although I completely understand that it can be a blessing to some people's lives.

Another Response

Just read your description of Kundalini from a Christian perspective. Aquinas was certainly as full of wonder for life as he was intellectually endowed!

I've had some helpful, personal contacts with Philip St. Romain over the past 9 months. I've also had an active kundalini (or kundalini's had me) for about 12 years, mostly a sane, gradual unfolding of the nondual awareness you describe, as well as an increasing inner space in which to receive God's transcendental grace. Maybe you allude to it in your distinction between the soul's direct apprehension of itself/existence and the intuition of being in its multiplicity of forms, but one aspect of that distinction includes what the affective dimension of Christian contemplative prayer reveals . . . the way we are known by God, the wholly Other, without knowing how we are known/cherished so intimately and personally at the same time.

I guess what I'm saying is that the "Otherness" aspect of God doesn't seem accidental, or simply the byproduct of a lack of abiding permanently in nondual reality . . . but since I'm in no way permanenty situated as such, still an ego being in easily recognizable ways, I'm resting on speculation here. I guess this is where you and others have taken up the discussion on transcendental divine reality and nonduality.

One possible neglected aspect of the kundalini process, as encountered in more mechanical styles of yoga, or through traumatic arousals, is just how intimate and nurturing the holy space of the body is, which Jung seems to know of and respect. I've read very little, outside of Gendlin's Focusing, that treats the body in its subjectivity, always wanting us to learn its language and beingness rather than being treated as a solid inert container, or simply as an impersonal domain of primitive forces. To become as a little child holds whatever meaning people want to put into it, but for me it is the secret of the body in a most intimate way that both apprehends the exquisite order of existence and opens out/in so docily to the surrendered will.

 

Another Response

I am a thirty year old female, and I experienced Kundalini about three and a half years ago. At first, I had some energy problems - I really didn't know what I was doing or what I was getting into - but these days, all this seems to have settled down. I am these days a practising Christian, having converted after my Kundalini experience (which occurred during Easter). I think that in many ways, it has helped me to cope with it. Maybe it is not for me to judge, but over the past few years, I feel that I have met many people who were just 'nominal' Christians. However, I also feel that I've met a few who were sincere in their faith, and who were truly 'anointed'. I accept that not all people are drawn to the 'mystical' side of things, and nowadays think that perhaps it not always necessary to have been through a powerful kind of experience like Kundalini in order to have a strong relationship with God. I have read many stories about people who have experienced Kundalini and suffered some very harmful effects. To me, yes it is preferable to have had a stable grounding built up over many years through dedicated prayer and study, rather than put oneself through this. Kundalini is something I'd really only recommend to people who are very mature, stable and responsible - not to young and impressionable people who are mainly out for the thrill of an 'out of this world' type experience, because having had the experience, you then have to deal with it and the repercussions over the long term, for the rest of your life. Whichever way you choose, to me what is most important is the way in which you transmit your faith/beliefs/experiences to your overall life. I wish to thank you for providing an open, balanced discussion and forum on this often very heated topic.

 

Another Response

I have just read the article and letters on your website and I would like to tell you my story of the Kundalini Awakening.

I come from Australia and I have been living in Germany for the past 9 years. I am 52 years old and the dramatic change to my life happened in 1995. At the time I was in Jungian analysis and I decided to do some bodywork - Neo-Reichian - Bioenergetics. The therapist worked with me on a mat and strange things happened to me - noises coming out of my stomach, energy moving through my body etc Unfortunately, against the advice of my Jungian therapist, I continued to go for a few more months. In one session something opened up in me and out of my mouth came  a primal scream. The therapist pushed me back onto a mattress on the wall. I felt so ashamed by what I had done. This was the beginning of the nightmare!

A few months later I woke up with the feeling that a large female snake was coiled on top of my head. It was pushing me down, down. I was terrified! By this time I had stopped doing the bodywork. I told my Jungian therapist and she told me that that night she had had a dream of a snake in her home. The next day I was walking to work along a busy street in my home town. It was 8.30 am and the sun was shining. Suddenly I felt a movement at the bottom of my spine -  I then saw a vision of a snake curled there. It start talking to me and I started talking to it. I was still walking. Then I was in the park and I put my arms around a gum tree with a white trunk and the snake uncurled and attached itself above my head to the tree. This was to change my life forever.

For the next months I managed to keep going with my work and my Jungian therapist supported me. I used to have moments when my whole body shook as if electricity was pulsating through it. I would begin to shake and feel terror and panic. My body would make involuntary movements. This went on for quite a while until I started taking anti-depressants which helped me. I gave up my job as an English as a Second Language teacher, and I started my own business. It slowly grew and I had enough money coming in.

At that time there wasn't very much written about the Kundalini experience or perhaps without the internet it was difficult to find much.

During 1996 I was in the art gallery and I looked up at a huge (I think Renaissance) painting of Christ on the cross. The experience was so powerful and from that moment my life took another direction. I began collecting the small prayer cards with pictures of Christ, Mary and various Saints - made in Italy. Then I heard from my therapist of a Roman Catholic Church. So I went to a service. I started going every week and it gave me inner support as I was experiencing so much psychic pain. The service was mainly run by Dominican nuns and the priests were not old and conservative as many are in Germany. It was always simple with no dogma - singing modern songs accompanied by a guitar. Members of the community gave the homily and then broke the bread with the priest - a very unconventional service and not so steeped in dogma as here in Europe!! I then decided to become Catholic and after a few months of preparation in a small group was accepted into the church.

Since then my connection to Christian spirituality has deepened. I have been to the Taize community a few times since I have been in Europe and the last time was in September. There I met a Catholic priest from India and two Australians from Melbourne. One of the Australians had been to Bede Griffith's ashram and of course the priest had been there too. This was for me another turning point in my Kundalini awakening - meeting these people wasn't a coincidence. It was as if God was leading me in the right direction!! I hope that I can visit India in the near future as I am fascinated by  the connection between the Hindu and Christian spirituality that Bede Griffith was part of. At the same time I came home feeling that I was being looked after by a greater energy all around me and that I could leave my burdens at the foot of the cross. Since this time I have been feeling less worried about my future and have a greater sense of inner contentment. I pray every morning, (and do the yoga  Tree pose) that the Holy Spirit fill me with love and compassion for others - that the Holy Spirit be part of me, in every cell and an energy protecting me and guiding me.

I still do Jungian analysis here in Germany and my analyst has helped me so much to live my life with `my feet on the ground, but also I have developed a greater connection to God and to Christ Jesus. We look at my dreams and have worked through my depressions and my childhood traumas -  I see this inner work as a way of clearing the  lower Chakras, so that the Kundalini energy can move through me without any blockages. My life has become richer and it is as if I have a sixth sense - I can feel and see beyond my 'eyes' - I can sense things so deeply and connect to others in a way which just amazes me. I also have to be careful because I need to keep a protection (all my defenses destroyed through the bodywork!!) so that I don't tap into other people's 'shadow' and then take it on my shoulders. I am still taking the tablets (lowest dosage) although I would like to stop in the future. I think I'll know inside when to do that.

Another thing before I finish - I paint my visions and dreams and do other creative work. I do Feldenkreis and Yoga which have helped me so much!! I hope to go back to Australia next year. I want to become involved in helping Mother Earth through an environmental movement and also to find a community of  people with whom I can share my ideas and life with. I also have a deep desire to be of service to others and the world around me - but I'm not quite sure how these ideas will develop. I want to live my life beyond 'ME'.

 

A Response from Jeff

At the beginning stages of my conversion to Christianity I had a profound experience. I  was spending a weekend at a Trappist monastery. A friend and I entered the church for the first time, We suddenly and simultaneously each had a marked spiritual experience. We stared at each other in shock and surprise. It was  the presence of the Holy Spirit, fiery and enlivening. It lasted but a moment. What shocked me most was not the mere fact of experiencing “spirit” (I was used to that in my new age and eastern religious exposure) it was that it simply wasn’t the same spirit as I had encountered in those arenas. I had been taught the cardinal principle that God or Spirit or the Absolute in every religion, despite different approaches and words, was the same in essence. I could no longer think that, based on my experience and what I was reading in the Bible. I was undone. Unless I reinterpreted and redefined the words of the Bible in the light of systems alien to the Bible – making it say things it doesn’t. - I could no longer blend Christ and Hinduism/Buddhism. I still had a way to go but eventually I left eastern and new age thought behind and became a Trinitarian/Nicene creed believer as that understanding had the best fit to scripture and my own experience of the Three Persons of the Godhead. Jeff jeffrey555@sbcglobal.net

 

 

Now it is your turn to contribute to this discussion. Send us your questions and comments: arraj@innerexplorations.com

 


 

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