Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 7): The Crown Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 7 of 7)

Sahasrara (The Crown Chakra)

If ajna is the consummating union of opposites, the marriage of heaven and earth, what could possibly lie higher? Well, in ajna Shiva and Shakti are still distinct; I am still a subject beholding an object, even if my unitive vision allows me to incarnate the far in the near-at-hand. In sahasrara, however, even such oppositions reveal themselves as contingent on a higher unity. Those with a casual knowledge of Hinduism will know of its idea of Brahman as a non-dual Self, one which acts as the fundamental be-ing of all things, living or non-living. To put it simply, sahasrara is the abode of Brahman. Here is the metaphysical basis of the scriptural “Great I Am,” [1] perhaps the way in which Christ could claim that “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.”[2] Despite the paradoxical nature of this passage, it makes sense when one considers that space necessarily involves duality—a here and a there—while in sahasrara there is no two but only one. This is the Keter of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, [3] “the One” of Neoplatonism, or perhaps even Heidegger’s “Being.” In all these cases, we are dealing with something beyond duality, beyond even the possibility of conception. For conceivability, like perception, requires the duality of a perceiving subject and a perceived object, but sahasrara transcends even that.

Let’s imagine, then, that this unified Being found itself lacking. Though it contained in itself all the possibilities of being, all the ways one can “be,” no one was there to experience it—not even itself. Like the Islamic hadith which says, as if from this Being, 
“I was a hidden treasure / And I longed to be known, / So I created the creation  / So that I may be known,” 
we can thus see this Being as fundamentally lonely—one that brought creation into being because it wanted to be seen, to be loved. May we thus imagine all creation? Could we see entire spectrum of Gods, worlds, and souls as a series of mirrors by which that Being multiplies itself from within itself, to introduce multiplicity into unity? Any God would then create a world simply to express the fullness of his or her being, to fully reflect back his or her latent potential in further actuality.

And thus we come full circle. For what is muladhara but such a mirror? We may then see the earthy mother of which we have spoken the way certain adherents of esoteric Islam speak of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib—as an “externalization” of the internal parts of an originally androgynous whole. Perhaps the Mother Herself wasn’t cut off from the Father, but instead She gave Herself to their perfect union as an external vision of that which is most internal, most essential. For what is more internal than woman? The earth is not the dead “husk” of a divine center, but rather a mirror in which that center can view itself. Woman would then not be an appendage to a male divinity, but His very heart of hearts! The world would thus be a way for the Father, whose image remained above, to contemplate and love the image of His beloved. Perhaps we don’t speak of the Mother because She lies too close to see—not as a divine being-there in our hearts (as with the Holy Ghost)—but as the marrow of our bones, our rushing blood and our wrinkled faces. She is immanent to us, or perhaps better, we are immanent to Her. Though their perfect union is never separated as such, let’s imagine this world as a way for Him and Her to withdraw from each other just enough to demonstrate their love—a kind of dance. We are a divine woman—the daughter of Zion, the bride of the Lamb—withdrawn just enough from Her divine lover to receive His gift, to germinate it long enough for their inherent beings to spring forth into the embodied forms of all their internal possibilities. For that is the true purpose of this earth—a mirror in which the perfect union of a divine couple can separate itself, so that its members can more perfectly behold each other.

[1] D&C 29:1, 38:1, and 39:1
[2] D&C 88:41
[3] Keter is also associated with a crown.

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 6): The Third Eye Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 6 of 7)

Ajna (The Third Eye Chakra)

If anahata is spirit seen from the perspective of matter and if visuddha leaves the physical behind to see spirit as a kind of matter in itself, [1] ajna shows that spirit and matter are ultimately not different, even that they are two sides of the same coin. It is here that Kundalini/Shakti reunites with Shiva. The divinity in earth has risen high enough to meet her partner above, effectively “[bringing] down Zion from above [and bringing] up Zion from beneath.” [2] This is the state Mahayana Buddhists refer to as a perception of advaya or nonduality—in which differences reveal themselves as ultimately interdependent and correspondent—and which is the goal of Zen meditation. This is perhaps also what a poem by Lisel Muller entitled “Monet Refuses the Operation” alludes to when it says:
"I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other, as if islands were not the lost children of one great continent. The world is flux, and light becomes what it touches, becomes water, lilies on water, above and below water, becomes lilac and mauve and yellow and white and cerulean lamps, small fists passing sunlight so quickly to one another that it would take long, streaming hair inside my brush to catch it. To paint the speed of light! Our weighted shapes, these verticals, burn to mix with air and change our bones, skin, clothes to gasses. Doctor, if only you could see how heaven pulls earth into its arms and how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end.” [3]
Perhaps the cataracts that Monet refused to have cured were not a defect but were actually a superior way of seeing. Maybe ajna’s “third eye” is likewise not some mystically penetrative vision, but rather a sight that blurs together the two-eyed differences of heaven and earth, mind and matter, and eternity and time until the single world behind their dualities appears. When Joseph Smith said that “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest,” perhaps he meant something along those lines—that only an “eye single to the glory of God” [4] can look past the duplicity of opposites to their common underlying reality.

In ajna, the living are also dead and the dead are also alive. Such a reading of our ordinances for the dead would conclude that, as “we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect,” [5] the work we do for our ancestors effectively blurs the lines between life and death, letting us “fall upon their necks”[6] as the dead manifest themselves in the translucent matter of living flesh. For ajna’s revelation is that heaven and earth are not different—resurrection happens when the dividing line between the two (visuddha’s bridge) collapses, leaving only the unified celestial world. Then the word “apocalypse” shows itself in its original Greek meaning: literally, an “unveiling.” The seas need not boil and the stars need not fall from heaven for the earth to become purified; what stains her is the obfuscation of our idolatry, that which forcefully interposes idols between us and the divine backdrop to all things, so that all which needs to be “destroyed” is our idolatrous attitude toward objects and people. In other words, the veil needs to be ripped asunder; the earth must become glass.

Then we can join figures like Joseph Smith, Emanuel Swedenborg, St. Teresa of Avila, and Hildegard Von Bingen—those who could see heaven in earth, with their opened monocular “third eye”—in enjoying visions of celestial glory while still alive on this seemingly soiled planet. Joseph writes of “the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind,” [7] implying that he had a continual witness of things as they are celestially, and Swedenborg tells of his ability to switch between his spiritual and physical sights at will. Even Jesus says in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, when asked “when will the new world come?” that: “What you are looking for has come, but for your part you do not know it.”[8] When ajna manifests itself in our world, when our very eyes become a kind of Urim and Thummim, the celestial world will be unveiled, and we will all realize that heaven never was far away, for it has always lain close around us.

Today, though, however closely we may bring the “not-here” to the “here” through our digital and transportation infrastructure, none of this effort to satisfy our desires for “what lies yonder” will work. In the world of veils and opacity, “there” will always be “there”—there will always be some new gadget, another exciting dating prospect, some even more titillating pornography. This is the way of the world—what Adam S. Miller refers to when he defines sin as “a refusal of givenness.” [9] When we sin, we refuse to see that the grace of the yonder is already given in the “here,” and we also refuse to accept that grace as we blindly chase after the end of some ever-receding rainbow. To accept grace and to be purified from sin is to trust that the not-here for which we search is already incarnate in the here. I thus stop fretting—no longer do I have to seek for the pleasures of illicit sex, the intoxication of alcohol, or the unstable security of pride—everything I could ever ask for is already given to me, for one whose eye is single to God’s glory already “comprehendeth all things.” [10] The divinity I blindly sought after in physical idols then transforms those idols into translucent icons, as matter now becomes less an obstacle to the divine than a window to it. Shakti reunites with Shiva, and all things are “[gathered] together in one.”[11] Love triumphs over disunity as all things reveal themselves as faces of all else.

In this ultimate consummation of Christ’s “at-one-ment,” all sense of inadequacy or futility ceases. It’s all here—thou art that—and I don’t need to seek after it anywhere else. If I undergo action, I now do it not from lack but from excess—I do works to glorify God, as a kind of dance to celebrate His majesty, a performance to further show the world the grace of the yonder as it is given in the here. I then perfectly understand the closing lines of Adam S. Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon:
"What are eternal lives like? They’re just like this. They’re like disagreeing with your wife. They’re like doing the dishes with your husband. They’re like reading to your kids. They’re like going to work or mowing the lawn. They’re like sitting in a chair. They’re like sleeping through the night or getting up before dawn. They’re like visiting your mother. They’re like eating a cookie. They’re like being born and getting old. They’re like dying. What are eternal lives like? They…are like you." [12]
With ajna’s unitive vision, all things bleed into each other, so that the whole chain of gods collapses into my book, my sister, my Sunday school class. “See a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower,” says William Blake, and I would also urge the reader to see the far-off majesty of distant worlds as they reveal themselves in this world’s technicolor, to “hie to Kolob” on a Frontrunner train. So doing, my body becomes a world, and the world becomes my body. Nothing is foreign; it’s still there, but it’s here all the same.

[1] D&C 131:7-8
[2] D&C 84:100
[3] Mueller, Lisel. Second Language: Poems. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1986.
[4] D&C 4:5
[5] D&C 128:18
[6] Moses 7:63
[7] Teachings of the Presidents: Joseph Smith, chapter 45
[8] Gospel of Thomas, 51
[9] Miller, Adam S. Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012.
[10] D&C 88:67
[11] D&C 27:13
[12] Miller, Adam S., Letters to a Young Mormon.

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 5): The Throat Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 5 of 7)

Visuddha (The Throat Chakra)

If anahata corresponds to the heart and to the air that surrounds it in the lungs, visuddha moves even further up in the body to the throat. Thus, visuddha resonates with everything relating to the voice, speech, and words. Felice Austen writes that it “represents the power to speak and create,” and that “it is the power of placing something at the beginning of creation.” [1] Moreover, James Hillman refers to its association with the element of “ether” and to the elephant when he writes that “Here air becomes essence (ether). It takes on weight, and words can carry armies on their backs.” [2] In visuddha we are no longer the vaporous “spirit [moving] upon the face of the waters,” [3] but rather the voice that speaks and ushers forth light and life into the void. Visuddha is the solidity of speech, what constitutes our words and our thoughts with as much density as the elephant that also represents the dirt and dust of muladhara. When positivists say that words are just relative referents for the things in this world, they couldn’t be more wrong—words can be tough, stout, and as metallic as an iron rod that leads not merely into other places in the world, but out of it altogether.

As the guiding “Word of God,” the image now arises of visuddha as a liminal principle, one that issues intelligence to and fro “between” worlds, an isthmoid “narrow neck of land” [4] that lets free intercourse take place between heaven and earth, God and His children, and the chakras of the head and the heart. We might compare this to Emanuel Swedenborg’s notion that the neck is a spiritual correspondence of “influx and communication” between spiritual worlds, [5] or to the esoteric Islamic idea of a barzakh or “interworld,” a metaphysical place that constitutes the interval between realms of being, forming a bridge between matter and spirit, time and eternity, history and myth. [6] In any case, we can now perhaps better understand what Nephi means when he writes next in our verse that “then can ye speak with the tongue of angels….” [7] Nephi shortly afterward clarifies that this “tongue of angels” is capable of speaking “the words of Christ,” which will “tell you all things what ye should do,” [8] giving us the notion of words that, though they issue from our mouths, traverse the bridge from heaven to earth to get there. This bridge is visuddha—that which spiritualizes the physical and physicalizes the spiritual. This is nebulous inspiration corporealized into concrete words—vague intimations and shadows of higher things become flesh. Who hasn’t heard the stories of speakers in a sacrament meeting suddenly carried beyond themselves to speak things of which they had no previous inkling? In these and other instances in which we “speak from the throat,” we begin to “trust the security of psychical existence,” [9] giving weight to our hunches and intuitions, looking to the words that unsuspectingly charge out of our mouths to carry us through the day.

Implicit in trusting these sudden torrents of inspiration is the idea that thoughts, intuitions and hunches are trustworthy enough to give charge of my well-being, that—in other words—the substance of thought isn’t just wisp and fluff but is as real as the ground we walk on. Just as the throat chakra re-introduces the root chakra’s elephant as its animal symbol, in visuddha we encounter another earth, which, though invisible to our fleshly eyes, is nevertheless just as solidly reliable as a terra firma. Moreover, one can live and freely participate in this world of thought just as much as in the world of matter. Jung expands on this point when he writes in his Red Book that:
"…the spiritual world is also an outer world. Just as you are also not alone in the visible world, but are surrounded by objects that belong to you and obey only you, you also have thoughts that belong to you and obey only you. But just as you are surrounded in the visible world by things and beings that neither belong to you nor obey you, you are also surrounded in the spiritual world by thoughts and beings of thought that neither obey you nor belong to you." [10]

In visuddha, thoughts, emotions, and even fantasies have both substance and life. When stepping onto the throat chakra’s “invisible earth,” I realize that my thoughts are autonomous beings with hopes and aspirations of their own, that even feelings have feelings. From a perspective in visuddha, the mind is therefore not a tiny “homunculus” operating a control panel in my head, but more of a grand stage onto and from which figures can enter and leave.

Who are these figures? When contemplating one’s fantasies (positive or negative), certain “recurring roles” will inevitably start to emerge. One could pick out, say, “the girl next door,” “the intimidating feminist,” “the mentor,” or “the absurdly confident jokester” as examples of figures that recur not only in fantasies, but also in one’s perception of the physical world. They are characters of a sort, theatrical roles traipsing around the stage-like interval between heaven and earth that is visuddha. But though a person I encounter can “don” one of these roles, no one perfectly incarnates any such stereotype. Instead, imagine that these roles have been “etched” into one’s life from eternity, and that, as a part of one’s spiritual telos or destiny, they too must “grow down” into the physical world of muladhara. To do this, they appear in our desires and our fears, revealing themselves in the way we unconsciously try to embody them.  Think of having a crush, then, less as a “love at first sight” than as a kind of mirror in which a relevant inner character can make herself known—matter not as an outer covering for spirit, but as a glass in which that spirit can contemplate itself and present itself to me.

In visuddha, however, I learn that these figures don’t exist the physical world per se. Though they may descend past the throat to the root chakra in their quest to make themselves known, with the requisite consciousness I can discover them not in the soiled earth of muladhara but in the etheric earth of visuddha. Then fantasy gets set free; no longer do I have to chase after love, lust, or greed to encounter these inner figures, but they instead become known in the way I was always meant to encounter them: as inner companions, figures that—though they only transiently project themselves into the physical—I know on a deeper level than mere perception. I then free myself from the curse of having to live out my fantasies in actuality, for in visuddha they can get my attention not with the compulsions of matter, but with the permeable “subtle body” of visuddha’s higher earth.

Practically speaking, this means that in visuddha I no longer regard the connection between my desire and the objects of my desire as absolute. Jung elaborates on this topic when he says that:
"In anahata thought and feeling are identical with objects. For a man, feeling is identical with a certain woman, for instance, and for a woman with that particular man….And so feeling is identical with certain people or things….Therefore our emotions, our values, our thoughts, our convictions are interdependent with facts, what we call objects….But to cross from anahata to visuddha one should unlearn all that. One should even admit that all one’s psychical facts have nothing to do with material facts….in visuddha, the whole game of the world becomes your subjective experience. The world itself becomes a reflection of the psyche." [11]
When I enter the state Jung describes, I realize that I don’t need to live out my desire to satisfy it. I can instead treat the figures in my fantasies—both desirous and paranoid—as real beings to whom I give the dignity of my respect and concern. Indeed, I might dare to suggest that no desire can be fully satisfied by fulfilling it in a literal, physical way, for then the desire itself remains unacknowledged, concealed beneath its object. Far better to, as Jung suggests in his Red Book, “find [my] soul in desire itself but not in the objects of desire.” [12] If I am confronted with a desire that is either sinful, unfulfillable, or both, I thus need not recoil in fear—instead, I dispassionately observe the fantasy acted out before me, carefully noting the plot, the themes and motifs, the dramatis personae. By doing so I can perhaps learn enough to disentangle the figures from their potentially sinful arrangement. This might require an projective encounter with these figures in some kind of creative medium—a painting, a sculpture, dances, and dialogic writing all work[13]—in order to find out what they want and thus skip the difficulties of literalizing them into actual people or things. For then these archetypal figures do gain a kind body in muladhara, one of ink and paper instead of flesh and blood, yes, but still one that satisfies every spirit’s desire to “grow down” into the world of physical matter.

We might also read the seemingly prescriptive nature of roles and responsibilities in the Church along these lines. When I am told that—as a man—I am delegated certain responsibilities different from those of women, let us think of these roles less as indications of a sort of gendered essentialism and more as a ritual or sacrament meant to incarnate spiritual archetypes and the patterns they personify. Men perhaps hold the priesthood because the archetypal image of “man”—etched in the very flesh of male bodies—incarnates itself through that delegation of authority. So too with women and their divine role as nurturers and child bearers. One need not have any literal feminine “superpower” to fulfill the divine role of mother; perhaps women are called to that caregiving role not because of any innate predisposition, but instead as a way for her physicality to “act out” an eternal archetypal pattern, one for which her body serves as a witness. It doesn’t take long to disprove the notion that every man is “masculine” or that every woman is “feminine;” I thus suggest that gender is not our nature but our (eternal) role, one in which we serve as means for some of heaven’s most basic patterns to portray themselves on life’s stage.

In any case, it is essential to realize that desires—whether mine or those of these archetypal patterns—do not literally equate with physical realities. To assume the contrary and thus confuse muladhara and visuddha is idolatry, plain and simple. I will never find satisfaction in in the opacity of dirt and stone; my desire calls me higher, to the place where words have flesh, where thoughts and feelings live, play, and have their being.

[1] Austen, Felice. Op. Cit., 44
[2] Hillman, James. Alchemical Psychology. Putnam, Conn.: Spring Publications, 2010., 149
[3] Genesis 1:2
[4] Ether 10:20 (See Alma 22:32)
[5] Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia, 3603.
[6] Corbin, Henry. Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shiʻite Iran. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977., 73-84
[7] 2 Nephi 31:33
[8] 2 Nephi 32:3
[9] Jung, C. G. The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar given in 1932 by C.G. Jung. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999., 56
[10]Jung, C. G. The Red Book: A Reader's Edition. Edited by Sonu Shamdasani., 288
[11]Jung, C. G. The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga: Notes of the Seminar given in 1932 by C.G. Jung. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999., 48-50
[12] Jung, C. G. The Red Book: A Reader's Edition. Edited by Sonu Shamdasani., 129
[13] Consult literature on Jung’s technique of “active imagination” to find out more about this process.

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 4): The Heart Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 4 of 7)

Anahata (The Heart Chakra)

With the anahata chakra, associated with the element of air, we come into an association with our verse as it continues: “then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.” [1] The name “Holy Ghost” was originally a translation of the Greek pneuma hagion, in which one can translate the word pneuma as not only “spirit,” but also more literally as “breath,” “wind,” or “air” (think of the word “pneumatic”). [2] With the notion of the Holy Ghost, then, comes associations not only with “spirit” but also the influx of divine breath in “inspiration,” the exchange between inner and outer we call “respiration,” the way we pant with desire after our “aspirations,” or even the blood-soaked “perspiration” of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. [3]

What can this tell us about the Holy Ghost and His baptism? Apart from the facts that 1) He is a personage without a body of flesh and bones, 2) He is a separate being from the Father and the Son, and 3) unlike Them, He can dwell in us, [4] we know surprisingly little about Him. For instance, there is the still unresolved controversy as to whether or not He is a “spirit son” of Heavenly Father, and the question as to whether He will ever “get a body” remains unanswered. But what can we gather about His nature from the symbolic and etymological observations listed just above? It’s clear that if the Holy Spirit is thought rather as the Holy or Sacred Breath, several consequences emerge. Namely, when we receive “inspiration” from God we are actually “breathing together” or “conspiring” with Him, a mutual exchange of breath in which the divine imparts spirit to us and we return spirit to the divine. The Holy Ghost would thus be the “breath of God,” that gust of inspiration He bestows to His children and expects to receive back. Knowing this connection, we can now perhaps understand why Parley P. Pratt called the Holy Spirit
" …the great, positive, controlling element of all other elements. It is omnipresent by reason of its infinitude, and it pervades all things. It is the agent or executive, by which God organizes and puts in motion all worlds, and which, by the mandate of the Almighty, or of any of His commissioned servants performs all the mighty wonders, signs and miracles ever manifested in the name of the Lord, the dividing of the sea, the removing of a mountain, the raising of the dead, or the healing of the sick." [5]

Like air, the Holy Spirit would thus be quick-moving and flexible enough to pervade everything, wiggling into the smallest keyhole and permeating the tiniest pore. Also like air, it is too “fine or pure” to be able to see with physical eyes,[6] but is nevertheless something we desperately need in order to live.

Let’s then imagine that a “baptism of the Holy Ghost” would involve participating in this divine “co-inspiration” with God, in which I become purified enough to receive God’s breath—His life, so to speak—into my heart and let it begin to animate [7] me from within. So doing, I not only have access to the Light of Christ (that is, the light that reveals things’ spiritual nature, just as physical light reveals things’ physical nature), but also to the “mind of God,” as the Lectures on Faith refer to the Holy Ghost.[8] More psychologically speaking, we might rephrase this by saying that a baptism of spirit involves an initial perception of the world from a more transcendent perspective. Says Carl Jung

"[In Anahata,] you begin to reason, to think, to reflect about things, and so it is the beginning of a sort of contraction of withdrawal from the mere emotional function. Instead of following your impulses wildly, you begin to invent a certain ceremony that allows you to disidentify yourself from your emotions, or to overcome your emotions actually. You stop yourself in your wild mood and suddenly ask, ‘Why am I behaving like this?’”[9]

With the perspective of the Holy Spirit, I no longer identify with any of my feelings. I gain the quickness and mobility of wind, able to evade the “fiery darts of the adversary”[10] with ease and finesse. Moreover, the “ceremony” mentioned in the above passage could very well apply to our weekly sacrament meetings, for in them we receive a symbol of Christ’s blood, another symbol of His life.

If the Spirit of God is the “breath of God,” let us further imagine this breath as an exhalation, a projection (of sorts) of God’s inner life into His creation. This would mean that the Holy Ghost is less a “spirit son” of heavenly parents than the medium through which “spirit sonship” (or “daughtership”) can take place at all. After all, when the angel tells Mary in the Gospel of Luke that “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” [11] is he not implicitly saying that the Holy Ghost is the medium, the “bridge” through which the Father can connect with and incarnate His divinity in the Son? The Holy Ghost, then, is the figure which unites the Father and the Son, the function which the Lectures on Faith refers to when it says that the Holy Ghost is their shared mind. [12] Nor does this conception of the Holy Spirit rule out His personal nature. Precisely this relationship of bridge between father and son existed in the Egyptian religious function of Ka-Mutef (an epithet for Amun), who—as the “ka” or life-spirit of the divine—transfers that divinity from the Pharaoh to his son through the womb of the royal mother. Though this “ka” is the “procreative power of the deity,”[13] he remains a personal being, one who was personified and worshipped as separate from the Pharaoh, Osiris, Horus, Isis, or whatever deity one can pick. Like any “ka,” we can thus imagine that the Holy Ghost could be the “double” of incarnated divinity, Who can leave the body as easily as a breath, to do the business of He who sent Him. [14]

What this observation consequently means is that when Christ tells His disciples that “If I depart, I will send him [the Comforter] unto you,” [15] we can think of the Comforter given to us as the same divinity that was born in Christ making itself known in our bodies. The Holy Ghost—as the “being-there” of God—would therefore exist in so many bodies at once, taking up residence in whatsoever heart will take Him. This at the very least makes sense of the Holy Ghost’s association with the Telestial Kingdom in D&C 76, [16] corresponding not to the single lights of the sun or the moon but to the infinitely manifold lights of the stars. Perhaps we can even use that to explain why there are no pictorial representations of the Holy Ghost as such—like any ghost, He is transparent to what lies about Him, showing Himself only through the memories, conversations, books, or coincidences which lie in His vicinity. In any case, with the baptism of the Holy Ghost we for the first time become part of the Godhead’s shared breathing, entering the respiratory relationship of inspiration and consecration in which the Comforter reveals Himself.

[1] 2 Nephi 31:13
[2] See John 3 for a kind of poetic double-entendre between its different meanings as “wind” and “spirit.”
[3] Like pneuma, the Latin spirare, which means “to breathe,” has found its way into our vocabulary (as in each of these words).
[4] D&C 130: 22-23
[5] Pratt, Parley P.. Key to the Science of Theology, 44
[6] D&C 131: 7-8
[7] “Animate” comes from the Latin word “anima,” which can also be translated to mean “spirit.”
[8] The Lectures on Faith: Lecture Fifth
[9]  Jung, C.G.. Op. Cit., 38-39
[10] 1 Nephi 15:24
[11] Luke 1:35
[12] Lectures on Faith: Lecture Fifth
[13] Jung, C. G. Psychology and Religion: West and East. 2d ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969
[14] I have read that exactly such a picture of the Holy Spirit (as a “double” of Christ as an embodied God) occurs in the apocryphal Coptic version of the Pistis Sophia.
[15] John 16:7
[16] D&C 76:86

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 3): The Solar Plexus Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 3 of 7)

Manipura (The Solar Plexus Chakra)

When our Book of Mormon verse proceeds by saying “then cometh the baptism of fire…,” [1] it corresponds nicely to the third chakra, given the name manipura. This chakra resides in the solar plexus, and it is traditionally associated not only with fire but also with “willpower” and “a sense of self.” [2] But if the baptism of water or of svadisthana refers to an encounter with unrestrainable desires, what does the baptism of fire or of manipura involve? Well, Carl Jung suggests that it, first of all, involves an encounter with divinity [3]—the sun rises, and I encounter the blazing glory of God (perhaps as a “burning in the bosom”). This is then the first encounter of something supra-personal, of something “which is both in us and more than us.” [4]

However, Jung suggests that the encounter with manipura has another, less pleasant, aspect. When I pass into the third chakra, he says,
"Desire, passions, the whole emotional world breaks loose. Sex, power, and every devil in our nature gets loose when we become acquainted with the unconscious….So it is just that—you get into the world of fire, where things become red-hot. After baptism you get right into hell—that is the enantiodromia [a sort of tension between opposing principles].[5]
Think of that! Lust, greed, and envy not as a sign of distance from God, but as a sign that you are approaching Him! Though it sounds foreign, such a thought is not without precedent even in scripture. Says Paul in his Epistle to the Romans:
"…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me." [6]

The law stokes the fire of lust. If no one told me to, say, not watch pornography, or at least if it weren’t taboo, I wouldn’t be nearly as tempted to look at it as I would be with that restriction. The tabooed nature of sin makes it seem dangerous and exciting, and so doing it inflames our desire for what lies outside the realm of virtue. Nevertheless, the law is right and good—it inflames the fire of lust so that it can get a person to be refined in that fire. Without such a tug-of-war of opposition between righteousness and sin, no development would ever come.

But how does one rightly relate to manipura’s flame? Though it gives advice specific only to potential difficulties with chastity, a paragraph in Adam S. Miller’s Letters to a Young Mormon seems especially pertinent here:
"When you are alone and feel, as you often will, a growing hunger for sex, don’t always run away. Don’t automatically distract yourself from it or automatically lose yourself in it. Rather, try doing the one thing we’re often most afraid to do: pay direct attention to the hunger itself. Just watch. Acknowledge the hunger’s weight, autonomy, and reality. Notice that there is a difference between the images, fears, and fantasies that fuel the hunger and the physical sensations proper to the hunger itself. Then, instead of paying attention to the fantasies that stoke it, pay attention to the physical sensations that compose it. Become friends with them and watch patiently as their grip loosens. Don’t pour fuel on the fire by entertaining your fantasies, but don’t try to put out the fire either. Just watch the flames as they burn, on their own, back down to coals. Practicing chastity means caring for these coals. Practicing chastity means learning how to offer this hunger back to God as a prayer.[7]

Miller here advises the titular “young Mormon” to avoid identifying with the flame of lust. Recede from it, he effectively says, draw back from it enough that you can clearly see it as something that has its own life, as something that is distinct from you (perhaps as Kundalini herself?). And it is precisely this emotional maneuver that lets one develop out of manipura’s flame to the next chakra: anahata’s air or spirit. Indeed, one might even think of the whole endeavor of this fire as an attempt to “burn up” our literal attachments enough to release the air/spirit hidden in them and get it to ascend.

But before I get to a discussion of that chakra itself, I’d like to point out one more very important thing about the flame of manipura: that its manifestation as lust is inherently no less spiritual than the “burning in the bosom.” Says Carl Jung in his lectures: “There is the source of fire, there is the fullness of energy. A man who is not on fire is nothing: he is ridiculous, he is two-dimensional. He must be on fire even if he does make a fool of himself. A flame must burn somewhere, otherwise no light shines; there is no warmth, nothing.”[8] And that is the great secret: the fire we experience in lust is really the birth of spirit, spirit in its latent form. Indeed, if anything, an unmanageable sense of lust, greed, or envy might not be a sign that one is on the wrong track, but on precisely the right one! Maybe such a person is so “full of spirit” that it “spills out” unwillingly and before she can catch it. The Post-Jungian psychologist James Hillman implicitly argues this point when he says:

"We can understand why chastity and continence and other sexual mysti-tiques…belong archetypally to the discipline of the ‘holy man.’ It is not that he has less sexuality than others but more….The ‘holy man’ as ‘greater personality’ implies the endowment of greater sexuality; therefore, the transformation of it raises all sorts of problems, answers to which have been formulated in various esoteric techniques and disciplines, West and East…." [9]

The fire of lust is merely the fire of spirit in its un-contained form. The answer to any problems with chastity or pornography--currently very relevant to the LDS Church--is thus not to put out the fire but to contain it. So doing, one alchemically transmutes the unbearable fire of lust into “the everlasting burnings of God.”[10]

[1] 2 Nephi 31:13
[2] Austen, Felice. Awake as in Ancient Days. Madison and West Publishing 2014,  43.
[3] Jung, C.G.. Op. Cit., 30-31.
[4] Miller, Adam S. Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013. 147
[5]Jung, C.G.. Op. Cit., 33-34
[6] Romans 7:7-11
[7] Miller, Adam S., Letters to a Young Mormon.
[8] Jung, C.G.. Op. Cit., 34
[9] Hillman, James. Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Berkeley, Calif.: Shambhala, 1971.
[10] Smith, Joseph, The King Follett Discourse

A Paper on Mormon Doctrine and Kundalini Yoga (Part 2): The Sacral Chakra

The Baptisms and the Chakras: A Comparison of 2 Nephi 31:13 and Kundalini Yoga (Part 2 of 7)

Svadisthana (The Sacral Chakra)

With the second chakra—located in the genital region and associated with sexuality, desire, and, most relevantly, water—we finally come to the verse with which this paper is concerned. Jung explicitly associates the svadisthana chakra with the Christian ritual of baptism in his lectures on Kundalini Yoga when he says:
"The way out of our muladhara existence leads into the water...Therefore, the very first demand of a mystery cult always has been to go into water, into the baptismal font. The way into any higher development leads through water, with the danger of being swallowed by the monster…So one would call the second cakra the cakra or mandala of baptism, or of rebirth, or of destruction—whatever the consequences of baptism may be."[1]

In Jungian terminology, with the Sacral Chakra we first enter into the waters of what is termed “the unconscious.” And so when our Book of Mormon verse says that we should “[follow our] Lord and [our] Savior down into the water,”[2] perhaps it means more than a simple exhortation to fulfill the literal ordinance of baptism. Not to say that this ordinance isn’t important, of course, but rather to suggest that, like any ordinance, the physical act of submersion corresponds to and symbolizes an event with repercussions in spiritual reality. Specifically, we could suppose that baptism as a spiritual event refers to a descent into the chaos and unformed-ness of water—in other words, our first encounter with a part of our existence that is fluid enough to escape our grasp and evade our control.

To progress from muladhara to svadisthana, then, involves a recognition that not everything is fixed, that some things do not fit my vision of the world as hospitable to my desires. I can hold a rock in my hand, yes; however, I cannot easily do the same with water. Likewise, though I can trust in the security of muladhara existence, the svadisthana phenomena of (maybe sexual) desire, (perhaps unrequited) love, and (occasionally insatiable) hunger catch me off guard; like a rushing river, they “sweep me off my feet” and risk drowning me. A baptism of water, then, causes me to purposefully submerge myself beneath the water of my unconscious, of the intangibility of my feelings. So doing, I move past the risk of drowning by willingly undergoing a symbolic drowning, one in which I escape alive. Baptism is thus not only a “similitude of the grave,”[3] but also a similitude of Jonah’s whale, Peter’s lack of faith on the Sea of Galilee, or even Noah’s flood, in which one escapes from oceanic disaster by a hairsbreadth but nevertheless emerge as a new person.

Moreover, as with any ascension from one chakra to another, it constitutes a motion on the part of Kundalini from lower to higher. In this case, she begins to “step out from the shadows” of the literal things in the (Muladhara) world—perhaps making me want something I can’t easily afford, have a crush on someone out of my league, or lust after an action that is sinful at present. Though these experiences are extremely frustrating, perhaps we can read them more positively as the initial impetus of my inner divinity to have me recognize my idolatry of the things in the world and begin to see divinity for what it is, and not to lust endlessly after it in worldly things that can never satisfy my desires.

[1] Jung, C.G.. Op. Cit., 16-17
[2] 2 Nephi 31:13
[3] D&C 128:13