Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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.

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