...for in Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:28

Question: Is there anything like kundalini, chakras, astral bodies, and auras in Christian spiritual experience?

First, let’s define these terms.

An astral body is the psycho-spiritual body in Hindu literature. It mediates between the material body and what is known as the causal body or pure spirit. It has its own energetic physiology, which roughly parallels the systems of the material body. It might be conceived as an aura or field of energy surrounding the physical body.

Chakras (Sanskrit for “circle”) are the energy centers in the astral body, roughly corresponding to the spinal plexi—relay terminals along the spine at which the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and their nerves) communicates with the autonomic nervous system which modulates the activities of the glands, organs, and other involuntary processes. Most texts speak of seven chakras, five of which are located along the spine. The sixth is located in the center of the forehead, and the seventh atop the head.

In Hindu literature, kundalini is described as a very powerful form of psycho-spiritual energy that is coiled at the base of the spine. According to yogic understanding, when awakened through the disciplines of yoga this energy uncoils and moves up through the spinal canal, piercing the ascending energy centers (chakras) and eventually entering the brain. Great energy, insight, and bliss are said to accompany the experience of kundalini when it reaches the crowning energy center in the brain.

This process is poorly documented among Christian contemplatives and saints. They were not working with the same categories of interpretation that grew out of the Hindu culture and spiritual experience, and their own categories may not have been as serviceable. Philip St. Romain, author of Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (New York: Crossroad, 1991), writes:

There is nothing in Christian teaching comparable to the Hindu notions of chakras, astral body, and kundalini energy. Neither will one find in Christianity anything like the spiritualities associated with the yoga system, which are designed to lead one up through the various centers of the experience of union. Nevertheless, the chakras, the astral body, and the awakening of kundalini are experiences that can be identified in the experiences of many, many Christian mystics.

Some Christian mystics have manifested bodily transformations that correspond to the release of intense energy, similar to the phenomena reported for kundalini manifestations. Some examples: St. Macarius, St. Peter Alcantara, and St. Rose of Lima went for long periods without sleep. St. Philip Neri, St. Francis de Sales, St. Charles Borromeo and St. John Vianney had experiences of inner light or mystical aureoles (auras of light) around their bodies which were sometimes visible to other people. St. Therese of Lisieux experienced spontaneous bodily contortions, and St. Teresa of Avila the temporary paralysis of limbs.

The list could go on . . . St. Veronica Giuliani and St. Pio of Pietrelcina had stigmata and intense ecstasies. St. John of the Cross mentions bodily heat phenomena, bone dislocations, sexual arousal--all in the context of how to deal with these concerns in the course of the spiritual journey to transformative union. St. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi describes a flame-like experience that follows the sequence of events of Christ's passion, transforming her body over a period of time (her body is still incorrupt).

The fact that such phenomena actually exist and can be described would tend to support the traditional yogic claims that kundalini is a real energy, and that its awakening must be done in the context of guided spiritual practice.

The philosophical categories for understanding it in Christian terms are provided by the soul’s relation to the body in Christian understanding. Jim Arraj, a life-long participant of interfaith dialogue, puts it like this:

We tend to think of our bodies and souls as two separate things, with our soul somehow in our body. The brilliant medieval philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas took a very different approach. When, for example, the spiritual soul is created by God and infused in the human embryo it is not somehow just “in” the body, but it becomes the very principle of life by which the whole human being lives. The animal soul of the embryo is rooted in the spiritual soul and receives its existence from it, and the other lower levels of being, as well. This unlocks the mystery of kundalini from a philosophical point of view, for it allows us to see that the spiritual soul is present to every level of our being, and its own full activation in enlightenment demands the activation of all these levels of being.

In this context, kundalini is seen as soul energy, for it is the soul that gives life to the body in all its dimensions. The awakening of kundalini signals the awakening of the powers of the soul in the body. Whether this is for good or evil is another question all together. Kundalini awakening may or may not bring about a deeper union with God, for union with God is effected through love and surrender and not simply through increased consciousness or awareness. The awakening experience can help one to bring greater energies into the service of love, but free will continues, and with it the possibility of misusing the considerable powers released for selfish motives.

Kundalini is, then, a kind of primal human energy of the body-soul union simultaneously impacting the physiological, psychological, and spiritual levels of human existence. It seems to be a natural phenomenon that can awaken as a powerful energy in the body/subtle body interaction. The awakening can happen spontaneously, or as a result of yogic practice and/or the use of mantras. As with any natural phenomenon, it is a question of interpretation.

Inasmuch as the chakras and kundalini energy itself can be seen as natural phenomena, then we can postulate that these realities exist within Christians. They certainly pop up even spontaneously in Christians today, and took place in the Christian world in the past which, however, had no way of articulating what was going on.

The deeper question lies elsewhere: On a practical level, should Christians cultivate a desire to awaken kundalini? There are very real dangers that can accompany this kind of awakening. Spontaneous kundalini awakenings, or premature awakenings done by imprudent use of mantras or breathing techniques can be extremely damaging to mental and physical health. The violent awakening of kundalini is often considered to be the result of unhealthy physical and psychological conditions.

In the normal course of spiritual practice in any tradition, a person will gradually notice the awakening of energy phenomena in the body. It is only logical that the experience of growing intimacy with God, who is a real Being emanating real energies, is going to impact you physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually. Relating to this energy requires a strong container developed through mental focus, self discipline, regularity of practice, and a healthy life style. Ultimately and even before it manifests, the energy must be consecrated to a spiritual objective; otherwise it can cause harm.

If you undertake this practice or any other advanced practice from any tradition, it is wise to do so under the eye and care of a well-trained teacher or guide.

For a more in-depth discussion of kundalini within the context of Christian spirituality, see Philip St. Romain’s discussion forum at:

- http://shalomplace.com

For further development of questions relating to chakras and auras, see St. Romain’s online series at

- http://shalomplace.com/inetmin/chakras/

Fr. Tom Ryan

 
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