“In so-called ‘occult’ literature you have probably met with the expression ‘Kundalini,’ ‘the fire of Kundalini,’ or the ‘serpent of Kundalini.’ This expression is often used to designate some kind of strange force which is present in man and which can be awakened. But none of the known theories gives the right explanation of the force of Kundalini. Sometimes it is connected with sex, with sex energy, that is with the idea of the possibility of using sex energy for other purposes. This latter is entirely wrong because Kundalini can be in anything.
And above all, Kundalini is not anything desirable or useful for man’s development. It is very curious how these occultists have got hold of the word from somewhere but have completely altered its meaning and from a very dangerous and terrible thing have made something to be hoped for and to be awaited as some blessing.”
— Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous
Humans have always sought paranormal or otherworldly states in the pursuit of whatever takes them away from the prison of their self-consciousness and claustrophobic minds. They have been achieving it through drugs, alcohol, dancing, and other ‘spiritual’ techniques. For instance, in Shamanism they take ayahuasca, peyote, or other hallucinogenic substances to initiate paranormal experiences. Nowadays, many young people in the West meet to hold ayahuasca ceremonies, imagining that this helps them to evolve spiritually. However, the truth is that no one can evolve through the use of drugs, and the abuse of them often results in degeneration of the psyche and irreversible damage to the brain. The main potential relative benefit of such drugs is that they may help unconscious people open to their soul’s intuitive wisdom, waking them up to the fact that their lives thus far have really been no more than delusions and dreams. It is a case of one form of delusion (a drug) helping one to realize the truth of another delusion (the unconscious life one has been living). It is absolutely essential to understand that drugs should not be used repeatedly or as a substitute for a true spiritual path.
In the past, Shiva devotees were said to drink ‘soma’, a mysterious hallucinogenic concoction. Nowadays, sadhus in India smoke hashish in the name of Shiva, which is actually a deep insult to his divine presence. There is nothing particularly wrong with experimenting with altered states of consciousness, but other than making one question one’s usual perception of the world, it will never result in any spiritual evolution of any consequence. Those who take drugs for ‘spiritual’ reasons often report awakening experiences, but they only say this because their usual subconscious self-enjoyed a brief interlude out of its usual prison, rather than it having been any genuine evolution into their true self. Compared with the realization of our pure nature, any drug-related ‘expansions’ – or alterations – of consciousness are simply no more than other forms of suffering.
The bad news is that the pursuit of altered states became part of the culture of spiritual seeking and often masquerades as a legitimate form of looking for enlightenment. Seekers who are already ungrounded and spaced-out become even more ungrounded and further disconnected from reality through following unsound and foolish practices. Mystical paths particularly appeal to people with escapist leanings who refuse to inquire into truth. They hope that playing with energies will allow them to avoid, or even transcend, their misery. Instead of using their intelligence and evolving their understanding, they diminish their quality and level of intelligence by following such practices of mystical illusion, and end up even more unbalanced and confused.
India, of course, is a ‘lunar playground’ for such mystical paths, and these can be found there in every form and color. The most common manifestation of it is the perennial and widespread fervent devotion that has nothing do with an open heart, but is more a symptom of religious fanaticism and ignorance. In addition there are all of the various guru cults centered on individuals who call themselves avatars, shri shris, ammas, or bhagavans. These are the Indian saviors of their spaced-out followers. Another common expression of this misdirected devotion is the flocking of devotees to places of spiritual power and light, such as Arunachala, Varanasi, and Rishikesh. These places also attract a great number of Western seekers, who visit them in the hope of receiving a scrap of grace or a miracle, under the delusion that being there will help them transform spiritually. The problem with such places is that they attract very imbalanced individuals who feed emotionally on the psychedelic energy of unintelligent mysticism and religious fanaticism. Even if they were originally connected to the divine in a special way, they have gradually become corrupted by the insincerity of the people who have invaded them. It is very important to know that while these powerful places are connected to the light, they are also vortexes of darkness, and this energy of darkness gradually comes to dominate. If one makes a pilgrimage to such a place as an act of devotion, one must be very conscious and centered; otherwise, one can fall prey to various negative psychic influences.
In addition to devotional practices in India, there are countless yogas which promise enlightenment through concentrating on chakras or on raising kundalini. The path of kundalini is called ‘the path of energy’ because it has no intelligence and its effects are entirely unknown. A devotee is supposed to receive kundalini initiation (‘shaktipat’) from his guru and then wait for something – such as an energy awakening or raising – to happen at some unspecified future time. Perhaps one in a million actually achieves this kind of awakening through following the kundalini path, but even then, they would not understand what has happened since their conscious intelligence has not also been changed through any similar or parallel transformation. An awakening without intelligence cannot be a true awakening, but only an energetic opening which one is unable to embody because one still does not know who one is. Furthermore, many of those who have so-called kundalini awakenings suffer damage to their nervous systems and often end up handicapped, either physically or mentally. All of the talk of benefits of raising kundalini energy is highly questionable.
Many seekers also try to open their crown chakra to realize the divine. But what possible benefit can they imagine obtaining from doing this? The crown chakra is not a portal to reality, but one to universal subconsciousness, the astral dumping ground for every kind of psychic detritus imaginable. People just believe and try, without even the most basic discrimination, what they read in old so-called ‘spiritual teachings’.
The crown chakra, or ‘sahasrara’, is also called ‘Brahma-Randhra’ or ‘doorway to Brahma’. In Hindu mythology Brahma is the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destroyer. Brahma is linked to the crown chakra because this is the center through which the soul enters into the body from the plane of the universal subconsciousness. That is why this spot on the top of the head is so sensitive and soft in babies. It is not a portal of liberation, but rather the portal through which we enter the prison of the lower consciousness. Trying to transcend through the crown chakra is like wanting to go back to our mother’s womb – but there is no going back. Bringing kundalini energy up with the ludicrous idea of ‘ascending’ through the crown chakra is actually taking us in exactly the opposite direction to both our soul and the source of existence. This is not evolution but ‘involution’, regression to some kind of prenatal state of ignorance. After our birth into the physical body, the crown chakra is intentionally sealed so our evolution into individuality and transcendence can begin. It is revealing that Brahma is no longer worshipped in India: it indicates the presence of a certain subconscious collective wisdom, which intuited the need to evolve out of rather than back into the subconscious realm.
In Tibetan Buddhism there is a practice of conscious dying called ‘phowa’. Through various visualization techniques one is supposed to make a hole in the crown chakra so that the soul can leave from there at the time of death. The whole concept is rather bizarre, because only as yet undeveloped souls ‘leave’ the body through crown chakra to return to the matrix of the universal subconscious before taking another body. In reality, the concept of such ‘souls in potential’ ‘leaving’ the body at death is questionable. The soul does have to ‘enter’ the body in terms of associating with the physical form which becomes the vehicle for her evolution. However, regarding death, rather than saying the soul actually leaves the body, it is more that the body ceases to serve as her physical point of self-reference. And in the case of one who has realized his pure nature and unity with the universal subjectivity, he already lives beyond his body anyway, even during his physical existence. In this case, the soul needing to depart through some center in the body does not apply. It could be said that, in the sense of “leaving the body,” such an awakened soul ‘departs’ through the same portal through which she has already reached samadhi in the universal I am.
Many New Age people imagine they can channel higher beings through the crown chakra. If such beings are channeled, they are not higher ones, but confused presences brought in from the subconscious realm. Naive people live in the delusion that if a being is disembodied, it possesses higher wisdom than we do. In most cases, the truth of the matter is just the opposite. Most such channeled ‘entities’ would be better off helping themselves before interfering with humans in the name of ‘higher wisdom’. In reality, it is quite rare that higher evolved beings allow themselves to be channeled into this dimension of forgetfulness. They have better things to do than to become entangled in such a low plane of consciousness and intelligence. If and when they do occasionally connect to this reality, it is not through the portal of the crown chakra, but through the portal of universal subjectivity, the doorway between the beyond and the individual soul. The main portal to universal subjectivity (and the entrance to the absolute) is tan t’ien . The absolute is both the foundation of absence of all existence and the container of the universal I am. Although tan t’ien has a physical point of reference in the lower belly, this portal is not actually in the body.
Mystical states are not states of reality, but modified and altered conditions at the level of subconscious me. Because such states are external to normal thinking, seekers who lack discernment, sensitivity, and knowledge mistake them for higher consciousness. In reality, these states represent lower consciousness, consciousness which is in fact often inferior to the ordinary mind. It is better not to be on any path whatsoever than to fall into the traps of mystical paths, for they take us further away from reality and block the very possibility of constructive evolution. Because of their alluring qualities, their deceptiveness and the harm they can do are often not apparent. It is no wonder that most seekers who follow such unbalanced approaches not only fail on their spiritual paths, but also end up worse off than they were at the beginning. It is much better not to start something we do not understand and can never complete, especially when it can be so very damaging.
It is common for meditators to be drawn to mystical or altered states in their meditations. They yearn for the extraordinary because of the poor quality of the relationship they have with themselves. They love falling into trances, or similar states, and being thrilled or ‘elevated’ while their normal state of me is suspended. As one example, meditating to the sound of ‘Om’ is popular in India and elsewhere. Whoever first invented this practice did not have even a basic idea of what true meditation is. The sound ‘Om’ is nothing more than the static noise of consciousness. There is nothing spiritual or meditative about it. It can help someone who is very distracted to concentrate, but at the cost of inducing a hypnotic and artificial state of mind.
We must seek reality, not spiritual entertainment. We must seek clarity of understanding and realization, and the integration of our spiritual life with our everyday life. Any state that is not solid, clear, and natural will only take us further from both creation and our true self. We must also identify our true subjectivity, a state which is without any object whatsoever. A mystical state can emulate subjectivity, but it is really still objective because it can never be properly embodied as I am. Not only is there no true me in a mystical state, but there is also no I am either. Belief that spacing out into mystical states has anything to do with self-realization or any true evolution into our higher self is a complete misunderstanding. Those who lure their followers into mystical experiences and states of suspensions are charlatans, no better than drug dealers selling low quality opium to the unconscious masses.
Seekers are impressed when their spiritual teacher has this otherworldly mystical expression in his eyes, as if he is connecting with them from some distant and higher dimension. What they do not realize is that such a look is an indication of the lack of integration between consciousness and manifested reality. It usually indicates an absence of conscious me, and it causes one’s energy to be unbalanced and excessively introverted. It is only when conscious me is integrated with our fundamental consciousness that we can experience true oneness with creation. A teacher, or any other being that is whole, is natural and his eyes are deeply ordinary. He also has natural depth in consciousness, but is free from any mysticality. For him, the inner and outer are experienced as one.
Our soul is not mystical. She is simple and profoundly ordinary, and even though she awakens in unity with the universal reality, she is also very much grounded in the physical body. The mystical paths are not the paths of the human soul; their origins are from the subconscious realms, which go against our higher spiritual purpose and destiny. Our pure nature is very natural. In Zen, it is what is called ‘nothing special’. When we try to make our state ‘special’ through the influences of mystical deviations, psychological imbalances, or wrong perceptions, it loses its purity and becomes distorted, exaggerated, and false. If a seeker cannot appreciate what is universally ordinary and natural and chases after extraordinary experiences, he is walking the path for the wrong reason and is not ready to meet his essential self. Any path of self-realization that does not have the goal of actualizing our pure nature promotes ignorance and is a corruption of spiritual truth and purpose. One of the most important roles of a teacher is to activate the seeker’s higher intention, so that he can walk the path from the soul to actualize his pure nature, meet himself, and appreciate who he truly is in the utter simplicity of his silent unadorned self.
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