Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kundalini – Then and Now

Forty years ago, when I activated kundalini, I was a blank slate in more ways than one.

For one, I was a lost soul, immature and self-destructive. Two, I had never heard the term Kundalini. To give you an idea of just how surprised I was to watch this alien energy take over my being, the book I was practicing kundalini meditation with, The Secret of the Golden Flower, does not even mention the term Kundalini once, even though it’s an ancient method for awakening it. Not one mention. Nada.


Instead, it uses the term “Primal Spirit” to denote Kundalini — in opposition to “Conscious Spirit,” which is a stand-in for the ego. So, the book outlines a meditation method — which I dutifully practiced for over a year. At the same time, it presents some venerable insights into human ontology, specifically insights on the battle between the Primal Spirit and Conscious Spirit and how, if you succeed in following the method correctly, you will awaken the Primal Spirit (kundalini) and it will dislodge the Conscious Spirit (the ego) and take its place as the ruler (the guiding instrument) of your being.

Basically, it states that under the thrall of the Conscious Spirit, you have been going about life all wrong. An idea common to many spiritual methods, i.e., Ouspensky's Fourth Way.

Activating the Primal Spirit (Kundalini) fixes this. Little did I know that these words would be prophetic, that over time, Kundalini (Primal Spirit) would do exactly that — completely overhaul my being. 

Of course, it’s not very meaningful until you’re actually living it.

Not that, once awakened, kundalini takes care of every aspect of your life. No, it’s a gradual process. I had to first surrender to it, before it changed me somatically, metabolically, anatomically, hormonally so that, as a result, I could watch these organic changes affect my psychic and emotional states, my mental capacities, and my spiritual nature, allowing me to see and perceive metaphysical activity and experience a conscious, energetic shift in being. In effect, the awakening experience resembles a nuclear reaction as matter in the form of sexual energy collides with consciousness in a kind of Quantum event.

Back then, 40 years ago, in the early 1970s, there were no kundalini support systems, no formulas for activating this energy, not that awakening kundalini or the Primal Spirit was my actual goal. For most of my practice, I considered the discussion about the Primal and Conscious Spirits to be so much allegorical babble. It was only when I started feeling sensations inside my body — the awakening of certain energy centers — that I began to take what I had been reading seriously. The allegorical, mystical contents began to make empirical sense.

When I started the practice, I was living in Paris. As the sensations I felt began to affect my body, my brain, and my sexual nature physically, I realized I would have to change my environment — which to me, meant either going to an ashram or, like my role model, Milarepa, find a place to work alone. Realizing that finding someone who understood my situation was problematic, I chose the latter course, becoming a solitary seeker/practitioner.

I found an old house in the south of France that I rented for about forty dollars a month and with my meager possessions — a few records and books — I moved into a house in Languedoc, about ten miles from Lodève, where I stayed for over a year until Kundalini finally awakened.

JJ Semple's retreat in the South of France
JJ Semple's Kundalini Awakening House in France
The details of this sojourn are set down in my book, Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time.


Today, the solitary retreat is out of fashion. And yet, there’s a lot to recommend it. It was the norm for thousands of years. Buddha, Jesus Christ, Lao Tse, Milarepa, St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart — all travelled the solitary path. All experienced the exhilaration, as well as the pain, doubt, loneliness, and despair that accompanies the mystical experience.

In the solitary context, you learn to figure things out  — without Twitter, Facebook, Google Hangouts, blogs, Meetups, chat rooms, or digital bulletin boards. And without disparaging any of these, I do believe the time-tested solitary path works well because it turns you into a spiritual detective, makes you self-reliant.

But, today, given the interconnected, interdependent paradigm we live in, it’s hardly practical. Today, my $40 a month fortress would cost four hundred to a thousand dollars a month.

Nevertheless, since those bygone days of 40 years ago, not only have the number of individual kundalini accounts increased exponentially, they have done so regardless of geography, culture, language, and religion. What’s more, these accounts share many of the same effects. People state that they experience the same effects or results over and over, time after time. Kundalini affects them in the same ways. What does this mean?

It means that kundalini is no longer dependent on any of the institutional orthodoxies of our day. Anyone can raise it. You don’t have to be trained in science, education, religion, business, or politics. You don’t have to be a cult follower. As a matter of fact, it’s probably better if you aren’t under the influence of any orthodoxy — religious or otherwise. Why? Because you can do it on your own.

Kundalini is a branch of biological science in search of validation and it should be approached as such.
Google NGRAM of science and religion
Around 1931 Science Overtook Religion as a Field of Interest
Somewhere around 1931, there occurred a major cultural and social milestone: science passed religion as a field of interest. As you can see from this Google NGram (above), which tracks mentions of words and terms in books and other publications, the two lines of interest crossed in 1931: there started to be more talk about science and less about religion. A major tectonic shift.

A second shift, a big surge of interest in spirituality occurred in the 1970s. As you can see in this second NGram, the gap between physics and spirituality narrowed.

Spirituality increases; religion decreases
The 1970s Saw Big Upsurge of Interest in Spirituality

As interest in spirituality increases, interest in religion decreases, and although the following chart shows us that the one is not going to overtake the other any time soon, it does show a narrowing and a clear picture of a movement or an impulse on the rise.

Interest in Spirituality Increases; Religion Decreases
Interest in Spirituality Increases as Religion Decreases

Gopi Krishna recognized this shift. It was reflected in his writings on sexual sublimation and the biological nature of kundalini, that Kundalini is:

  • A biological phenomenon with metaphysical overtones, but without a causal connection to any religion,
  • One of the predominant drivers behind this shift.

And there are two possible hypotheses for the increased interest in kundalini:

  1. The notion that an energy continuum some call consciousness is causing greater numbers of Quantum events that consist of the release of sexual energy in greater numbers of people which awakens kundalini with greater frequency. Kundalini is now being passed on and activated through genetic improvements at a greater rate, and, as such, we no longer have to strive to awaken it because nature is doing the job for us. In effect, we’re being pollinated by an evolutionary impulse. Or,
  2. Quite simply more people are practicing the mindful arts and meditation methods that lead to kundalini activation.

Examples of the first hypothesis are found in the rise in spontaneous kundalini events, caused, it seems, by any number of triggers — from drugs to sexual encounters, from doing nothing at all to eye-gazing. At present, we don’t know a lot about the reason for these events, but we are beginning to study them.

A case study that illustrates the second hypothesis is the work of Dr. Herbert Benson, the creator of the Relaxation Response, a movement which divorced meditation from its religious influences.

If you think about it, the popularity of pastimes like meditation has motivated the disassociation of religion and spirituality. As more people began to meditate to relieve stress, EKG and other stress-related tests showed us there was a science behind meditation; it effects could be measured.

And that’s why more and more people meditate. Because it’s become a secular pastime, which has removed the barrier for many individuals put off by having to adhere to some religion in order to participate. Meditation became an acceptable self-improvement activity, like aerobics.

Doctor Benson imported his method from the East, making sure it remained agnostic. Agnostic and relatively safe. By this, I’m referring to the fact that he only imported the first two steps of the venerable Eastern method — diaphragmatic deep breathing and control of heart rate. I wondered why he had left out the final step — the backward-flowing method, the step I discovered in The Secret of the Golden Flower and was finally able to master, the key to raising kundalini.

I figured he had left it out for one of two reasons: either he didn’t understand it, or he was afraid its implementation would be problematic for the average Western practitioner.

My analysis is echoed in Halfway Up the Mountain: The Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment, a book by Mariana Caplan.

“Unfortunately, but inevitably, in the mass importation of Eastern spiritual traditions onto Western soil what has been imported are the visible, tangible practices.”
In other words, formulas, but not the cultural matrix from which they arose. So while stress-relief meditation, or meditation-lite, has continued to make headway, kundalini meditation has no real substantive connection with the Eastern tradition from which it sprang. In the West, Kundalini activation methods are fragmented and frequently at odds with one another.

over time Mentions of kundalini
Interest in Kundalini Took Off In the 1960s-70s

The will is there, and so are the signs of progress — as evidenced by the growth in all types of kundalini awakenings. Kundalini has influenced the Global Shift of Consciousness.

However, as you can see by the following chart, there’s still a lot of ground to be gained. When kundalini is matched up against some of the major social preoccupations of our era, there is very little name recognition, much less understanding of its properties:

Kundalini vs alcohol and TV
Comparing Kundalini Against Major Social Preoccupations
Moreover, when you mention kundalini in the same breath as many of the sacred cows of the spiritual movement, kundalini has nowhere near the name recognition:

Comparing Kundalini with meditation and mindfulness
Comparing Kundalini Against Recognized Spiritual Trends
If it is to be positioned as a subject that scientists are eager to explore, it needs to achieve critical mass.

We cannot stand idly by; we must perfect safe and repeatable methods for awakening kundalini and we must document the various triggers and effects of the kundalini experience.

Fortunately, a passing of the baton from an older generation of explorers like myself, a generation that had first-hand contact with Gopi Krishna, the 20th century’s foremost writer and researcher on the subject, has begun. Younger individuals such as Michael and Linda Molina, Duncan Carroll, Vivek Govekar, Neven Paar, and others I have not yet met, have introduced new skill sets into the mix: software engineering, artificial intelligence, innovative website creation, documentary film and video production, scientific analysis, collection, collation and compiling of kundalini experiences.

We look to these young persons to spearhead the repositioning of kundalini as a subject that achieves the critical mass necessary to eliciting scientific interest and peer review.

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