Empowerment in Christianity and Kashmir Shaivism: the interplay of Spirit and kuṇḍalinī
The role of the Spirit in the Christian tradition is at once powerful, dangerous, all pervading, enlivening, mysterious and comforting. How is this Spirit acquired, how is she experienced, what are the effects?
The function of kuṇḍalinī in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism is likewise enlivening and empowering, free and uncontrollable, exciting and wonderful.
How do these two principles relate, are they the same, how does one thrown light on another, in what ways are they the feminine aspect of reality, for kuṇḍalinī is seen as a goddess rising up the spine to join in loving union with the god at the crown of the head.
These various dimensions are explored in theory, in practice and in experience.
- The lectures
From 3rd to 8th October 1932 the Indologist Wilhelm Hauer presented six lectures in Zurich on the topic of Yoga with special reference to the cakras as described in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa and in a number of Upanishads.
The Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa is the 6th chapter of a larger work, the Śrī-tattva-cintāmani a Bengali text composed by Pūrṇānanda in CE 1577. It was first published in 1919 with an introduction and commentary by John Woodroffe under the title The Serpent Power of which Jung had a copy.
Following on Hauer’s lectures, Carl Jung presented four lectures on 12, 19, 26 October, and 2 November giving a psychological interpretation of kuṇḍalinī Yoga. Their cooperation did not last, however, for their opposing views on the religious and political situation in Germany led to a break between them.
- Comparative theology
While this presentation does refer to Jung, it is primarily concerned with the interplay of Spirit and kuṇḍalinī and does so in keeping with the method of comparative theology espoused by Francis X. Clooney who defines it as follows:
“Comparative theology … marks acts of faith seeking understanding which are rooted in a particular faith tradition but which, from that foundation, venture into learning from one or more other faith traditions.”
It is not a form of intellectual ‘cherry picking’, so to speak, appropriating the best ideas. Nor is it comparative religion, which examines how a particular teaching is like or unlike another. It is not a form of reductionism whereby one uniquely different point of view is made to conform to another. Rather, it is a process of light shedding light upon light, a process of being further enlightened about one’s own point of view.
Sonu Shamdasani notes that this is in fact what Carl Jung does in the field of psychoanalysis.
“[Jung] argued that the knowledge of [the symbolism set out in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa] enabled much that would otherwise be seen as the meaningless by-products of a disease process to be understood as meaningful symbolic processes, and explicated the often peculiar physical localization of symptoms.”
Jung himself says
“We are grateful to tantric yoga because it gives us the most differentiated forms and concepts by which we are able to express the chaotic experiences that we are actually undergoing.”
It is questioned, however, whether he does so successfully. According to Sonu Shamdasani, Jung’s attempt to
“translate the terms of Kundalini yoga into modern concepts” leads to a hybridization of terms which are neither ‘Eastern” nor “Western”.
Indeed Gopi Krishna states, with reference to those seminars.
“None of the scholars present, as evident from the views expressed by them, displayed the least knowledge about the real significance of the ancient document they were discussing at the time [namely the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa].”
This paper does not wish to make the same mistakes. Nor does it propose to present kuṇḍalinī from the point of view of the Bengali text of the 16th century, the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa, but in terms of a Kashmir Shaiva text of the 11th century, the Tantrāloka. It wishes to see, in keeping with Clooney’s comparative theology, how the Christian viewpoint can be enhanced in light of that text.
iii. Sir John Woodroffe
Through his ‘Tantrik Texts Series’, the first of which was published in January 1913 and the last, no. 21, in 1940 four years after his death, John Woodroffe, who used the pseudonym ‘Arthur Avalon’, initiated modern Western studies of the tantra.
Why the pseudonym? It seems Woodroffe used the name of an unfinished picture by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Burne Jones entitled ‘Arthur in Avalon’ to refer to the ‘symbiosis’ between himself who provided the “money and organizing drive” and his most important collaborators who provided “the textual scholarship”, Atal Behari Ghose in particular. While Woodroffe wrote introductions and commentaries and essays, he was well aware of his shortcomings in Sanskrit and of his dependence on others in the work of translating. In his preface to the first edition of S’akti and Sākta he explains that he uses the nom de plume in order to
“denote that [the previous books] have been written with the direct cooperation of others and in particular with the assistance of one of my friends who will not permit me to mention his name. I do not desire sole credit of what is as much their work as mine.”
PART I KUṆḌALINĪ
- THE TEACHING
A mirror, strictly speaking, is blank. Precisely because it without stain or flaw or distortion, it can bear any image on its surface, even the light of the most distant galaxies. Of its own it has no image; of itself it is capable of every image.
Similarly, supreme consciousness focuses on nothing in particular and simultaneously has infinite potential, which is called ‘kuṇḍalinī in all its fullness’ (pūrṇakuṇḍalinī).
- Śiva and Śakti
In the view of Kashmir Shaivism, the ultimate reality is supreme consciousness
(saṁvit) understood as masculine, the god Śiva. This consciousness is self
aware, and is expressed as ‘I am’ (aham). It is not an abstract impersonal state.
This self-awareness is understood as feminine, the goddess Śakti. It is the primordial mantra at the core of all mantras. She is the power of the mantra (mantravīrya). All realities are limited forms of her reality. All arise from her emanative energy (śakti) and likewise all are reabsorbed into it. She gives birth, endlessly, but she also draws time to a close. She is all-powerful. With her Śiva can do all; without her Śiva can do nothing.
The god and the goddess represent the inactive and active aspects of reality, one is not without the other; one is an aspect of the other. Thus male and the female constitute the Ultimate Reality, non-dually. This is expressed in the image of Śiva and Śakti united in an eternal embrace. All beings and all events are the outcome of their intercourse (maithuna).
There is no room, therefore, for the divisive concepts of pure and impure, licit and illicit. These are the mental constructs (vikalpa) fabricated by people who do not have the divine mind and do not understand that all things spring from the love-play (krīḍa) of Śiva and Śakti, and that therefore are all pure.
“Śiva who is conscious and free, whose essence is transparent, is constantly in vibration, and this supreme energy goes to the very tips of the sense organs. He is then nothing but enjoyment, and the whole universe, like him, is vibrating.”
“This eternal, incomparable heart is the motionless, vibrating centre of consciousness the universal receptacle from which all the universes emanate and into which all are reabsorbed.”
iii. Death and life
The word kuṇḍa refers to the sacred fire pit and, by extension, to the yoni. The word kuṇḍalī means a ring, and by extension kuṇḍalinī means a ‘coiled serpent’. These terms are interrelated. Therefore from the womb, which is the place of sacrifice and blessing, the serpent rises to reach to the heavens.
The Vedas speak of the serpent Ahirbudhnya who encircles the universe as well as containing it within himself. The Mahābhārata tells of Brahma asking the serpent Śesa, who had dedicated himself intensely to spiritual practice, to become the foundation of the earth with its mountains and streams, forests and cities. According to the Yājur Veda. V. 33, during the course of the Vedic ritual the celebrant is deemed to be seated on the serpent who is addressed as follows:
“You are an ocean that contains all, you are the unborn, with one foot only, you are the serpent of the oceanic depths.”
The word viṣa normally means ‘poison’. The serpent, the kuṇḍalinī, when it is fully awakened and upright, on one foot so to speak, can no longer strike and kill. The word viṣa then means entry (āveśa) into the transcendent sphere that provides the nectar of immortality. The source of death becomes the source of life.
- Emanation and reabsorption
Śakti, aka kuṇḍalinī in all her fullness, is always united with Śiva. Out of her own freedom (svātantrya) she gives birth to the universe. This is the moment of emission (visarga). She manifests duality in a downward flowing kuṇḍalinī (adhaḥ–kuṇḍalinī). and shows herself in the endless variety of creation. She lessens her vitality even to the point of becoming stone. Even in her most inert form at the lowest cakra, the mūlādhāra, she still remains whole and entire, whence the image of the serpent lying asleep at the base of the spine. This state is experienced as ignorance, doubt, depression and inertia. But there is a contrary motion. Again by her own volition, kuṇḍalinī begins to awaken.
This upward flowing kuṇḍalinī (ūrdhva–kuṇḍalinī) starts in the mūlādhāra cakra, and reaches the crown of the head.
When the final stage is reached, the yogi is bathed in bliss; indeed he is nothing but bliss; the world itself is bliss even in its perpetual play of emanation and reabsorption. It is a cosmic felicity (jagadānanda).  All is one.
These alternating movements of emanation and reabsorption, like the swing of the pendulum, are just two aspects of the same kuṇḍalinī who is feminine and free, energetic and uncontrollable, playful and dangerous, the divine source of all.
The Sanskrit term cakra has many meanings. It can refer to a wheel that is idle and then begins to turn; a discus that cuts the bonds that paralyze a person; a realm or domain where power is exercised; a vortex, into which all things are absorbed; or a radiance whence all things emerge. It can signify a centre of energies, indeed any sort of grouping.
Not all Hindu texts give the same number of them. Kashmir Shaivism lists five. The Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, a text no earlier than the 15th cent. lists six chakras as does the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa. There are many other elements as well, so that the diagram in such books as La Kuṇḍalinī, l’énergie des profondeurs becomes highly complex. There are, for example, the 72,000 channels that radiate from the navel or the heart; the left (iḍā) and right (piṅgalā) channels, and the central channel (suṣumnā); the subtle breaths: prāṇa, apāna, samāna, udāna and vyāna.
A chakra can also be called a ‘lotus’ (padma). Its roots are buried in the mud while its stem rises through the water. At the coming of the sun the flower on the surface opens its petals and reveals its beauty. So too when the attention of the practitioner is directed to a lotus, it becomes active.
The chakras are not physical organs but are related to the anatomy, a point clearly made by Jung who states, with regard to the third chakra.
“… there is a certain category of psychical events that take place in the stomach. Therefore one says, “Something weighs on my stomach.” And if one is very angry, one gets jaundice; if one is afraid, one has diarrhea… that shows what psychical localization means.”
Rather than go into the rich symbology of the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa it is easier to note the use of language.
The first chakra, the ‘root source’ (mūlādhara), is located at the seat, or more precisely between the anus and the genitals. In ordinary language we speak of a person being settled, from the Old English word setl, a ‘seat’. The monarch sits on his throne, the bishop on his cathedra, the judge on the bench. The mūlādhāra is the basis of power.
The second chakra is ‘the place of the self’ (svādhiṣṭhāna). It relates to self-identity, especially sexual identity. It is of paramount importance as shown by the profound psychological problems that arise when this cakra is repressed.
The third chakra is maṇipūra (‘jewel city’), in the region of the stomach. When people feel nervous they speak of ‘butterflies in the stomach’. A person ‘has guts’, or is ‘lily-livered’. It is the locus of courage and assertiveness.
The heart is the central cakra and is called anāhata (‘unstruck’). People are described variously as ‘cold hearted’, ‘warm hearted’, ‘good hearted’, ‘they have no heart’, ‘he is all heart’, ‘she is heartless’, he is ‘broken hearted’, etc. It is the place of relationships.
The fifth chakra is at the throat. It is here that you ‘get things off your chest’, and ‘speak openly’. This chakra is called viśuddha (‘cleansing’). A falsehood is called ‘a dirty lie’. A significant method of psychological healing is to enable people to give voice to what is troubling them.
The sixth chakra, located between the eyebrows, is called ājñā, (‘command’), the place of insight and authority, the ‘third eye’, where all the faculties and energies converge.
The sahasrāra, literally ‘the thousand rays’, is located on the crown of the head. The monarch’s crown symbolizes universal and even divine dominion. It is here that Śiva and Śakti are fully united.
The power of each chakra penetrates every other chakra. Those who are fully integrated will enjoy a sense of security and stability, will be fully erotic and actively enjoying life, will be confident and assured, great hearted and welcoming, transparent and authentic, authoritative and insightful, with a sense of universal bliss and divinity. They see all reality as the fruitfulness of their Śakti and are united with the whole world in the eternal play of love (krīḍa).
This state is produced by the rise of kuṇḍalinī. Its achievement is the highest empowerment (siddhi), greater than the eight traditional supernatural powers such as invisibility or possessing the magical shoes that can convey the wearers anywhere they wish etc.
The excessive prudery of the Victorian age is well known. Has this led to sexual repression? Has this in turn led to its opposite extreme and the misinterpretation and misuse of tantra?
This “Californian tantra,” as Georg Feuerstein calls it, is “based on a profound misunderstanding of the Tantric path. Their main error is to confuse Tantric bliss … with ordinary orgasmic pleasure””
At the same time, there is an intense need to redeem the sacredness of sexuality and to see how the erotic and the divine are one.
“Tantra provides the needed antidote to the life-denying, hyperintellectualised world of the … West.”
Hauer, on the other hand, is careful not to confuse tantra with sex. In his lecture of 8 October, 1932 he states
“… in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa, the subtle, sublime woman power is symbolized by Kundalini.”
and goes on to define woman power as
a certain power of knowledge, a force, which has nothing to do with the erotic and this has to be set freed and united with the knowledge force of man power at its highest point of development.”
For his part, Jung clearly states
“… the anima is the Kundalini”
which may have been suggested by the following sentence, which Jung marks heavily in his copy of Woodroffe’s The Serpent.
“She … is the ‘Inner Woman’, to whom reference was made when it was said: “What need have I of outer women? I have an Inner Woman within myself. (1st ed. 272).”
- Two practices
Kashmir Shaivism describes many practices and rituals whose focus can be arranged broadly speaking into four categories: focus on action, such as recitation, breath control, ritual, pilgrimage etc.; focus on knowledge and understanding; focus on the will, consisting simply in awareness of one’s essential motivation. Then there is the highest path, which is really no path at all, since it is pure grace.
One of the most remarkable texts of Kashmir Shaivism is the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, a short text of some 163 couplets. Only two of these couplets are explicitly concerned with sexual practice, which shows that tantra is not principally concerned with sexual experience.
The couplets are consist of four half lines, the first three of which describe the practice and the fourth gives the result, which comes as a surprise. Thus both effort and grace are involved. The rise of kuṇḍalinī can be prepared but finally she is free and her effects come as a surprise.
Here are two contrasting examples, vv. 35 and 132:
on the void
- “The central channel stands at the centre
- like the stem of a lotus.
- By meditating on this space within,
- the God shines forth, because of the Goddess.”
The practitioner focuses on the void, the essential emptiness of their being, compared with the space at the centre of a lotus stem which rises from the mud to reach the surface of the water and open to the air and the sun. The practitioner focuses is on the emptiness. Then suddenly the God (deva) becomes apparent, not as separate from the practitioner. On the contrary, the practitioner has become the god, by identity. All this is due to the action of the Goddess. The practitioner comes to fullness through emptying himself; his limited self has disappeared. It is an exhilarating moment.
- “Eternal, omnipresent, without any support,
- all pervading, Lord of all that is”
- – by constantly meditating on these words
- one becomes what they signify [namely Śiva].
The practitioner meditates on the Lord of all that is. As a result she becomes all that is, but not in her limited self. She realises that all is essentially Śiva. She is Śiva. She too is omnipresent, everlasting, and free.
PART II HOLY SPIRIT
Part I of this paper spoke of kuṇḍalinī. This second half does not say that kuṇḍalinī is like or unlike the Spirit. Rather it shows how the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism uncovers dimensions that are present in the Christian worldview. It does not engage in comparisons but is an example of comparative theology. What follows is an attempt to describe these dimensions.
Kuṇḍalinī manifests herself in countless ways, which can be gathered into three categories or levels: sthūla, sūkṣma and parā. Jung describes them as follows:
“The sthūla aspect is simply things as we see them. The sūkṣma aspect is what we guess about them, or the abstractions or philosophical conclusions we draw from observed facts”
He could speak of the first two levels, but not of the highest level.
“I do not speak of the parā aspect because that is what Professor Hauer calls the metaphysical. I must confess that there the mist begins for me – I do not risk myself there.”
I suggest it is precisely this level, the level beyond archetypes, that relates to the Holy Spirit.
In his lecture on 12 October 1932 Jung identifies “the grace of heaven” with “Kundalini”. However this identification is questioned. For example, Abhishiktananda (aka Henri Le Saux (1910-1973), a Benedictine monk who adopted Hindu spiritual practices and became aware of the power of Shakti recounts:
“I learned to hold myself straight with becoming stiff, and I could sometimes feel the energy circulate from the top to the bottom of my body”.
He did relate this force to the Holy Spirit but did not see them as identical.
- THE TEACHING
- The Spirit as feminine
Kuṇḍalinī is seen as the goddess rising up the spine to join with the god at the crown of the head. What does that say about the Spirit? Can the Spirit be presented in feminine terms? If so, it involves a significant shift in thinking.
King Josiah (7th cent BCE), in his reform of the Temple in Jerusalem, banished the feminine from the Godhead. In the view of Toni Wolff this “paucity of feminine symbolism” had a deleterious effect on women, especially in the Jewish and Protestant traditions.
“The exclusion of feminine elements in religious symbolism has the effect collectively of suppressing the feminine modes of understanding, of acting, of spirit, and of the heightened sense of the moment.”
However, this banishment is not viewed entirely negatively by Eric Neumann (1905-1960), a disciple of Jung, who argued that
For the sake of the development of human consciousness and the liberation of the human male, [YHVH] had to drive out the goddesses and assert his own independence as a masculine deity.”
The elimination of the feminine from the Godhead was softened by the definition in 1950 of the Assumption.
“Jung understands the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary as theological recognition of the feminine in the Godhead and as a change in the psychic experience of the Godhead.
This has been taken further in recent Christian theology, which has raised the possibility of understanding the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, in feminine terms. Anthony Kelly puts it very clearly:
“the feminine …. [is] a distinctive property of one of the divine persons, namely the Holy Spirit. Though Father and Son are obviously defined in masculine terms, the Spirit is most expressed in feminine and maternal symbolism: the Spirit broods over creation, nurtures to life, forms the Body of Christ in head and members, leads to the Father, is an all-encompassing, life-giving gift in the way a mother’s love is given.’”
However, Elizabeth Johnson sees a problem.
“The Spirit may be the feminine aspect of the divine, but the endemic difficulty of Spirit theology insures that she remains rather unclear and invisible. A deeper theology of the Holy Spirit, notes Walter Kasper in another connection, stands before the difficulty that unlike the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit is “faceless”.”
Is that a disadvantage or an advantage? The Spirit’s very indefinability emphasizes the point that the mystery of God cannot only be explored kataphatically, by means of words, but is also known apophatically, without words, in experience, in relationship, in meditation, art and symbol. The Spirit is ‘uncircumscribed’ and appears in fluid forms – breath, water, flight, fire …. The Spirit is not seen visibly, as is the Word but in ‘spiritual phenomena’, charisms, and above all agapê, in the communion of saints and the presence of one in the other.
This recent shift towards seeing the Spirit in feminine terms reverses a long-standing tradition in the Church. The declaration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “God-bearer” (τῆς θεοτόκου) at the Council of Ephesus (451 CE) meant that she received a status “just below the Godhead”. Indeed, Mary took over the Holy Spirit’s role as Intercessor and became the symbol of the Church. The maternal and feminine qualities of the Spirit that had been emphasised in early Syrian theology were transferred across to Mary and the Church. She so effectively took the place of the Spirit in devotional life that the Spirit could be called ‘Le Divin Méconnu’. Indeed, the typical manner of seeing the Spirit in feminine terms waned, as did any thinking about the Spirit at all.
This view of Mary became one-sided, however, and became a symbol for the subordinated Church, always at the disposition of her Lord even though the Scriptural text if examined more closely gives a fuller picture.
“The figure of Kali throws a new light on the Biblical text and shown that Mary is dangerous, perceptive, joyous, free, strong, demanding, commanding and successful. More truly than water, fire and wind – those irresistible elements – Mary is shown to be the icon of the Spirit.”
Through the enlightening effect of the teaching on kuṇḍalinī the Spirit is brought to centre stage.
- Word and Spirit
The relationship of Śiva and Śakti is an essential aspect of Kashmir Shaivism. In what ways does it open up aspects of the relationship between Word and Spirit?
The word ‘spirit’ (ruah) is found in the Old Testament. Its presence is life; its absence is death.
“When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth”. (Ps 104:29-30)
This is true in the general cycle of creation. It is true also in the regeneration of the Chosen People.
5“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath [spirit] to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put spirit in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ (Ez 37:5-6))
When the spirit possesses a person it can give great physical power and even a sense of violent anger, as in the story of Samson
“5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When he came to the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion roared at him. 6The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one might tear apart a kid.” (Jg 14:5-6,)
But the spirit also gives the power of the word,
“Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there; and he said to me, Rise up, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you. 23So I rose up and went out into the valley; and the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24The spirit entered into me, and set me on my feet; (Ez 3:22-24)
28Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; 29and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God. (Ez 39:28-29)
The word ‘spirit’ (pneuma) occurs with great frequency in the New Testament, some 500 times. The Holy Spirit is seen as personal, indeed one of the three Persons of the Trinity. The Spirit is not an impersonal psychological principle or an instrument. In fact, for Jules Monchanin, the predecessor of Abhishiktananda, the Trinity comes to completion in the Spirit. (“La Trinite s’achève en l’Esprit »)
According to the Gospel narrative, the Spirit is seen publicly for the first time when Jesus comes up out of the River Jordan, the heavens open, the Spirit descends suddenly and surprisingly like a bird, and the voice of God is heard proclaiming him to be the Beloved Son (Lk 3:22).
Many figures in the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah are called. Jesus, however, is not called; he is sent. He is the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14), not the flesh made Word. He does not acquire the Spirit as though she was not always his. He does show the power of the Spirit, but not in the berserk way of figures such as Samson, but calmly, as someone who is self-assured and confident. Thus he changes water into wine, heals the leper, calms the storm and raises the dead with no more than a brief command. Even though he is at one with the Spirit, the Spirit drives him into the desert (Mk 1:12) in prefigurement of his crucifixion. Thus the Spirit is dangerous. The Spirit is also consoling, for it is by her power that he will be raised from the dead (Rm 8:11). The same Spirit brings to death and brings to life.
However, even though Jesus is the place where the Spirit dwells, she is not fully communicated till Jesus has become the supreme paradox (Jn 7:39). He, who has the form of God, empties himself even to the point of being crucified (Ph 2:6-7); he knows good and evil, purity and impurity, joy and sorrow. He combines the uncombinable, turning death into life, evil into good, time into eternity. He holds the opposites in union. From this supreme paradox the Spirit flows into the world, not just partially and occasionally but permanently (Jn 14:16) and without measure (Jn 3:34).
Jesus has power. All things are created through him and for him. He takes away the sin of the world and gives his own flesh and blood as nourishment. He has the strength to offer himself in sacrifice. And he leads into the silence of the Divine Presence. From the start and to the end there is a sense of immersion into love.
The relationship of Word and Spirit is not to be understood in a gross or even subtle way but supremely. There is complementarity. The Spirit and the Word are part and counterpart. The Spirit inspires the Word; the Word acknowledges the Spirit. The Word is not Spirit, nor is the Spirit Word, but the Word is inspired and the Spirit is acknowledged. The one is not the other; the one is not without the other; the one is for the other. It is an intercourse. This occurs at the supreme level, within the Godhead itself. There is intense joy in this complementarity. It is expressed most fully in the relationship of male and female.
However, all these things remains just information until the Spirit shows their meaning and power. Indeed, the Spirit is intimately connected with empowerment.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 1:8)
As noted above “kuṇḍalinī is feminine and free, energetic and uncontrollable, playful and dangerous, the divine source of all.” In what way does she show that the Spirit too is free and surprising, unimaginable and indefinable, known but utterly mysterious, for the Spirit moves as she wills (Jn 3:8). She lives at the depths (I Cor 2:10-11) and enlightens humans at the very core of their being. She takes pleasure in enlightening or obscuring. She chooses those whom she wishes to inspire. She provides a heightened form of consciousness.
The teachings of Christianity may well be imparted and the ceremonies celebrated, but these remain just information until the Spirit brings to knowledge.
“no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Cor 12:3).
It is by the inspiration of the Spirit that a person experiences Jesus in his paradoxical fullness and is identified with him, becoming one body with him (1 Cor 12:27). It is a knowledge of things unseen (Heb 11:1). It is, therefore knowledge, but not just information. It is not limited to the faculties of sense and reason but a knowledge that is discovered by a faculty that the Spirit bestows. It is sui generis.
The Spirit comes as a surprise, and leads in directions that may disturb, out into the unknown, away from the security provided by the controlling mind. It is a journey into every dimension of one’s being, for the Spirit inspires every dimension. The whole body is filled with light and becomes light; all the faculties are enlightened and transfigured. Thus from chakra to chakra the Spirit moves, leading not to an impersonal consciousness, but into communion with all who have been inspired in the same way.
It is a totally transforming process, a process of being born “from above” (Jn 3:7). The human is divinised. The person who is enlivened by the Spirit becomes spirit (Jn 3:6); all the dimensions of their being, from the lowest to the highest, are transfigured. The Spirit is free and those who are made spirit are free (2 Cor 3:17) and not governed by Law (Gal 5:18). It is the freedom of the Spirit, which is disconcerting to those who wish to categorize and control. It is the freedom to recreate the world according to one’s good pleasure. It is not licentiousness but the freedom that looks to another’s freedom. It is freedom from the fear of death, that ‘elephant in the room’ which casts a shadow over passing happiness.
The Christian has been given ultimate authority. On the first Easter Sunday Jesus, who was dead and is now risen, stands before the disciples and breathes on them. By this dramatic gesture he imparts the Holy Spirit to them, and gives them the supreme spiritual power, to free people from their sin or to hold it against them (Jn 20:21-23).
They have received the Spirit. From their heart they will bestow the Spirit on others (Jn 7:38-39).
This is the real power, not political or economic or physical power, not magic, but that power, which enables a person to be free of whatever holds them down, and to reach the fullness of joy. The benefits are not in abundant harvests or sporting prowess, but the transfiguration of the world.
It is also the power to change the structure of the world,
“The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)
and authority to transform this world into a place of justice and peace (Isaiah 11:2-3).
Fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes upon them with the sound of a mighty wind. They begin to speak to people gathered in Jerusalem from all parts of the know world, the teaching that can bring all humanity together. It is the power of the word. But what was it in their manner of speaking that made people think they were drunk (Acts 2:1-13). The Spirit makes people behave in ways that defy normal human custom. They seem to be out of step, for they march to a different tune.
The Holy Spirit has a story, but this story is essentially unnarratable. The life that is inspired by the Spirit is beyond description. Only the spiritual can perceive the spiritual. Indeed only the spiritual can finally understand the totality of things. As St Paul says:
Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. (I Cor 2:15)
Not every impulse is the result of divine inspiration. St Paul contrasts the influences from a negative source with the fruits of the Spirit.
19Now the works of the [unenlightened character] are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing… 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.”( Gal 5:19-21, 22-23)
The rituals of the Church are seen as acts of power. The act of Baptism itself confers salvation and immortality. In Reconciliation the priest uses his power to forgive even the most heinous of sins. In the Eucharist, the priest by consecrating the bread and wine transforms their very substance, so that communion with the divine occurs through material objects. All these are done by the power of the words and the accompanying actions, with the authority of the Church and always by the inspiration of the Spirit.
- Two anecdotes
- It sometimes happens, in the course of meditation, that colours appear from within, red, green, blue, swirling and changing, that are more vivid than stained glass windows, more fresh and more glorious than the colours of a Van Gogh. The colours of artists or landscapes are from outside; these colours are from inside and have a beauty that is incomparable. Sometimes, surprisingly, the colour is black, an intense black not found in a darkened room, intensely beautiful, one could almost say luminous.
These effects occur spontaneously, in great peace, with a sense of energy, in the divine Presence.
Is the reason for this that the colour receptors in the eye, which normally respond to stimulus from outside, are being awakened not by material causes but by grace? Are they inspired colours, sourced from the depths of the soul and the realm of faith?
The possibilities suggested by these appearances of colour are mind-boggling. Are they a foretaste of the transfiguration when all the dormant capacities are brought into action? Is my meditation a beginning of transfiguration?
- There is immense satisfaction in the act of preaching, for it is a bond of unity when I speak the words of God to the People of God. It is an inspired moment when a heightened consciousness occurs in me and the words are inspired and relevant, I hope, and set out in orderly fashion, but above all flowing freely. I enter into a new space, which is reasonable, yet beyond mere reason, informative but beyond mere knowledge. It is an experience of empowerment. It does sometimes inspire others, and the hope is that they will be led beyond the words and the speaker to the One who is more than any tongue can tell. Thus we enter into communion at every level. The Spirit is essential to this act.
In a world where polarizations of every kind are to be found, especially in the religious sphere; where people fear to lose their individuality; where there is confusion about identity, whether it be cultural, racial, sexual or religious; where diversity seems to lead to conflict: in such a world the necessity of comparative theology is all the more evident. Rather than seeing others as a problem, their difference is a means of learning more about oneself.
In a world where people feel powerless because they are dispossessed, or unemployed, growing old or infirm, where they feel devalued and marginalized by ‘isms’ of every sort: in such a world there is a need to discover deeper forms of empowerment. The complementary forms of kuṇḍalinī and Spirit are a help in this regard, for the empowerment they give does not depend on external factors but arises from within.
This article is an attempt to show, in some small way, how the teaching on kuṇḍalinī is not a threat but on the contrary can, for the Christian, open up unexplored aspects of the Holy Spirit. In similar fashion, though this article has not broached the topic directly, Christian teaching on the Spirit can revel the true nature of kuṇḍalinī.
The lecture was given by PowerPoint at Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Canterbury Rd., Mont Albert, 9 December 2016.
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 Sonu Shamdasani (Ed.). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga; Notes of the Seminar given in 1932 by C. G. Jung. (1996). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 88.
 John Woodroffe. The Serpent Power. Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1989. p. ix.
 Woodroffe. The Serpent Power. p. xi.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 106, fn.23
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. ix.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. xli-xlii.
 Parkman Professor of Divinity, Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University.
 Francis X. Clooney, Comparative Theology; Deep Learning Across Religious Borders. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. p. 10.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xxvi.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 99.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xlvi.
 Kundalini for the New Age; Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna. Gene Kieffer (Ed.). New York: Bantam, 1988. p. 43. Quoted in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xlv.
 Kathleen Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: ‘an Indian Soul in a European body?’ Richmond: Curzon, 2001. p. 148.
 Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 236.
 Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 206.
 John Woodroffe. S’akti and Sākta. Madras: Ganesh & Company, 1987. p. xiii.
 Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 150.
 Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 150.
 Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 151.
 For the fullest account of the Kashmir Shaivism and its context, see Alexis Sanderson, ‘The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir’, in Mélanges Tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner, Tantric Studies in Memory of d’Hélène Brunner. Dominic Goodall & André Padoux (eds.) Pondichéry: Institut Français d’Extrême-Orient, 2007. pp. 231-442.
 Silburn, Lilian, La Kuṇḍalinī, l’énergie des profondeurs. Paris: Les Deux Océans, 1983. p. 21, no reference.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 31.
 Tara Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, Traité Sanskrit de Haṭha-yoga. Préface de Jean Filliozat. Paris: Fayard, 1974. p. 163.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 31, footnote 3.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 30.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 47.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 42.
 Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. p. 18.
 Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. pp. 73-74.
 Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. pp. 52-53 or p. 159
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 34.
 Hugh B. Urban. Tantra. Sex, Secrecy Politics and Power in the Study of Religions, Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. p. 171.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 89.
 Wilhelm Hauer. “Yoga, Especially the Meaning of the Cakras,” in Mary Foote (Ed.). The Kundalini Yoga: Notes on the Lecture Given by Prof. Dr. J. W. Hauer with Psychological Commentary by Dr. C. G. Jung. Zürich, 1932. p. 97, quoted in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 20, fn. 37,
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 22.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 22, fn. 41.
 madhyanāḍī madhyasaṁsthā bisasūtrābharūpayā |
dhyātāntarvyomayā devyā tayā devaḥ prakāśate || 35 ||
 nitya vibhur nirādhāro vyāpakaś cākhilādhipaḥ /
śabdān pratikṣanaṃ dhyāyan kṛtārtho ‘rthānurūpataḥ // 132
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 7.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. 6-7.
 The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. 20-21.
 Blée, Fabrice. The Third Desert; the story of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2011. p. 153.
 Fritz Volkmar. 1 & 2 Kings, A continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003, 406.
 Toni Wolff, “A Few Thoughts on the Individuation Process in Women,” in Spring. New York: The Analytical Psychology Club, 1941. p. 84, quoted in Ulanov, Ann Belford. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971. pp. 315-316.
 Ulanov, Ann Belford. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971. p. 317.
 Williams, Jay G. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’ in Theology Today 32 (1975) 234-242. p. 236.
 Ulanov. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. pp. 318-319.
 Anthony Kelly. The Trinity of Love, A Theology of the Christian God. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989. p. 252.
 Johnson, Elizabeth A. ‘The Incomprehensibility of God and the Image of God male and female’, Theological Studies 45 (1984) 441-465. p. 458.
 Jules Monchanin. ‘L’Inde et la contemplation’ in Dieu vivant 3 (1945) 15-49, pp. 23-24, quoted in Hennaux, Jean-Marie. ‘L’Esprit et le féminin: la mariologie de Leonardo Boff : à propos d’un livre récent. Nouvelle Revue Théologique I09 (1987) 884-895. p. 886, footnote 5.
 Williams. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’. p. 239
 Williams. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’. p. 239.
 Johnson, Elizabeth A. Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit. New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1993. p. 56.
 Williams, Jay G. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’, p. 239.
 J. R. Maurice Landrieux. Le Divin Méconnu. Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne, 1921.
 Johnson. ‘The Incomprehensibility of God’. p. 457
 John Dupuche. ‘The Goddess Kali and the Virgin Mary’, in Australian Electronic Journal of
Theology 19.1. pp. 43-57.
 Monchanin. ‘L’lnde et la contemplation’, in Dieu vivant, 3 (1945) 15-49, p. 27 quoted in Hennaux, ‘L’Esprit et le féminin’, p. 886, footnote 5.