Wednesday, July 1, 2015

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

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