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