Monday, October 20, 2014

The Self

We all feel, sometimes obscurely, sometimes urgently, that if we could only escape from ourselves — from our ego, egotism, self-centerdness, selfishness, whatever word we use — we'd emerge into a limitless field of freedom. We attempt to break out with drugs, alcohol, sex, prayer, gambling, altruism; thrills, escapes, addictions, and diversions of all sorts — none of these work. The instant we glimpse the reality beyond our own center something snatches us back. The reason is fairly obvious: selfhood isn't a chimera of the mind that can be shaken off with a bit of positive thinking or by getting plastered. Selfhood is physical. It's in our DNA. Every cell of my body is me. Selfhood, in fact, is as much a product of evolution as our ability to grasp with our thumbs or think logically. It should be cherished. In our efforts to free ourselves of selfishness, self-centeredness, etc, we're in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Kundalini Rising
The Energetic Revival
Alchemical texts speak of the grain of gold hidden at the bottom of the mine, under the earth. The mine, the earth, is the body, and the grain of gold is the embodied self. It's funny that the shaft dug down into the earth has the same name as the possessive form of "me" (mine).

Down in the depths of the mine lies the lead that's to be turned back into gold. This is the real, or pure, self that is to be purged of its dross. What is the dross? The dross is conditioning, our false idea of what, and who, we are. At the moment of conception we are pure gold. The conditioning that drags us away from that primal state is deep and powerful: our sense memories...everything we hear, taste, feel, touch, and see; the impact of our basic instincts...cold, heat, hunger, fight and flight; as well as our social constructs...pride, anger, greed, fear, and loneliness. The conditioning that we undergo from the moment of conception onwards isn't just a mental attitude; it's physical. Conditioning works its way into our bodies, into the way we speak, walk, breathe, and make love. Only a powerful energetic revival can overcome it. This energy is Kundalini.

Kundalini lies coiled asleep at the base of the spine. What wakes Her? What is the trigger? I think it's the awareness that there is a real self somewhere, up there, in the brain — or above and beyond the brain.

At first, we don't really know because this real self is also, paradoxically, everywhere. It's down in the mine, as well. It's under the earth. It's the Siva Lingam at the base of the spine, round which the sleeping Kundalini lies coiled. This is why Kundalini feeds on sexual energy, because the Siva Lingam at the base of the spine is the "self-subsisting state" in an erotic form, the erotic force that creates physical life and puts each one of us into separate bodies. And, the fact that we end up in separate bodies drives us to love, and couple with, other separate bodies. Kundalini feeds on sexual energy, yet takes us into the "self-subsisting state."

The Tantric texts have many interesting things to say about selfhood. That the Tantric reality is complex is merely a true reflection of the complexity of selfhood. It has to do with the chakras. The Muladhara Chakra, at the base of the spine, is the place where selfhood is purely physical, a fact of blood, bone, nerve tissue, and DNA. Sexuality is said to originate in this chakra, where our physical separateness is most strongly felt, and not in the Svaddhisthana Chakra at the genitals, where the first upwards movement towards another person occurs.

When Kundalini opens the Manipura Chakra, in the belly, the experience is often traumatic, because this is where selfhood is felt as opposition to, and struggles against, other people. The Belly Chakra is where we burn with competitive striving, and with the dread of failure. When we find our true self, the same energy that made us afraid, now makes us fearless and strong. The Heart Chakra, or Anahata, is central. It is where the real self, in its cosmic form, resides. That is why this chakra is hard to open, even when Kundalini is coursing up through the body. Again, it has to do with our relationship to others and with the world outside us. In some weird way, the world outside us disappears; other people are taken away from us, and then, by a miraculous act of grace, other people, and the physical world, return to us, as part of us, in a paroxysm of love. The Visshuda Chakra, at the throat, is sometimes called "The Threshold Of Enlightenment."

Vissudha means purity. When Kundalini opens this chakra, the self is no longer felt to be a separate thing. The identity of all things with the self is directly seen. "I" am the bird on the shed roof. In fact, I'm the shed, too. I'm even the lawnmower hanging on its hook inside.

In the Ajna Chakra, in the brain, the self is experienced as wholly other. The self is seen to be something coming from another dimension. The Tantras say that the Ajna Chakra is the place of the third Siva Lingam (the other two are at the base of the spine and in the heart), the Itara Lingam, and of the mantra "AUM," and of the Ahamkara, or "I-maker." Itara means "crossing over from beyond." AUM combines the male sound "A" and the female sound "U" in the central channel "M." And Ahamkara, the I-maker, is where the blueprint of our perfect body comes out of the void.


  1. Because it dovetails nicely with your statement on loneliness, I copied this from The Huffington Post

    "Marriage doesn't take away our loneliness. To be alive is to be lonely. It's the human condition. Marriage doesn't change the human condition. It can't make us completely unlonely. And when it doesn't, we blame our partner for doing something wrong, or we go searching for companionship elsewhere. Marriage is intended to be a place where two humans share the experience of loneliness and, in the sharing, create moments in which the loneliness dissipates. For a little while."

    1. This quote strikes a chord with me. Due to work and visa issues, I have fairly long (six month) periods of separation from my wife. I wrote a blog a while back about long-distance love, and how a sense of union can grow in isolation. I agree whole-heartedly that marriage is a sharing of the experience of loneliness. Perhaps union is a different thing from unloneliness.

  2. Another text that reverberates with your article. Gopi Krishna speaking in New York, 1978.

    "Neither mind nor consciousness have a location. We say that a soul transmigrates, that soul leaves the body and goes somewhere else. But we are not correct because neither the soul, nor mind, nor the body are material in the sense in which we know it. They have no known location. Since they are expressed, they are not a product of the brain, but they are expressed through the brain just as electromagnetic waves are expressed through a television. We don't see the waves, we only see how they act in the television. Similarly, our consciousness, our awareness, our mind does not come from the brain, but it is here, all around us and in every cell, in every atom of our body.

    "The consciousness is present. This eternal life is present. We cannot see it because we have no senses to perceive it. The aim of Yoga and its spiritual disciplines is to produce, to create, one more channel so that now we are able now to look through it also."

    1. Location is part of the process of manifestation, just as smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing are. I think Gopi Krishna, with his profound Kundalini awakening, understood the power of consciousness. Mind isn't a pallid spectator chained to dynamic physicality. In truth, consciousness is more powerful than matter, which is difficult to take on board standing on the platform with the other commuters of a morning watching an express train hurtle past. The primacy and energy of consciousness is difficult to accept, but it's true. I think William Blake expresses it very vividly it in his prophetic books, where he writes about the heart forming in the void from a globe of blood, and optic nerves growing out of emptiness. These are just poetic images, but to Blake they were very real. He saw them with a sort of second sight. That's why he celebrates the 'Human Form Divine', from which the individual body condenses.

  3. The body, since it lacks a material basis is not locative? No one observes this to be the actual case, though.

    1. I suppose it's a matter of what faculty one is observing with. That's what Gopi Krishna is saying--there are other faculties besides the 'actual' ones. These other faculties can be opened by Kundalini awakening. There is a risk of one's being, or being called, a mere fantasist, but there are two answers to this charge: firstly, one can be passionate and honest enough not to lie to oneself; and secondly, kundalini is such a powerful and lucid force, so outside one's pre-kundalini mind-set, that it's unthinkable that it should be a mere invention or fantasy.

  4. The faculties, Paul Lyons, are those human ones opened to the entire range of epistemic value judgements possible to us. And, as naturally-evolved faculties, are therefore not value contingent upon claims based on 'Appeals To ( a bronze-age,caste-ridden) Religious Authority,' esp. when this kind of appeal hinges on ascribing non-locative and immaterial characteristics to whatever we can more rationally agree to, whenever determining some truth-status upon some entity that which either party may table for examination. Thanks for responding.