Below is a link to this year’s conference on kundalini. Kundalini (the rise of serpent energy) has been linked to spiritual awakening and is seen as a natural progression of human development. It is personal, cosmic, and evolutionary. Anyone “on the path” should have some understanding of this phenomenon. Once, it was believed only those in ashrams and monasteries had these experiences, but now more and more people are reporting spontaneous kundalini occurrences. The speakers provide lots of insights, personal experiences, and resources. Especially interesting (to me) was the talk on current research into measuring subtle energy and developing those devices that may change medical treatments. This should be of interest to anyone practicing energy medicine/healing. Currently 1000 energy healers have undergone a variety of testing of their abilities which (eventually) will lead to certification standards. Dig in! Share your thoughts.
The Biology of Consciousness- Case Studies in Kundalini- JJ Semple
This book has been on my reading list for a while. Although I’ve read books in the Eastern tradition on energy and Kundalini, I’ve never picked up a practical guide, so to speak. My background on the subject frames the rise of Kundalini energy in esoteric or spiritual terms. JJ Semple wants to get away from the notion of the spiritual and talk in terms of biology and evolution.
For him, a Kundalini awakening is essentially a biological process where consciousness expresses as an evolutionary force whose purpose is to refine and upgrade itself in a single lifetime. But it’s more than that because Semple believes the raising of consciousness can cause significant evolutionary leaps that can be passed on to subsequent generations.
Some esoteric traditions teach there is only one way to raise the serpent coiled at the base of the spine. Others outline a favored approach. This is where Semple’s book can be helpful. He outlines some of the many ways Kundalini can be triggered either intentionally or accidentally (that’s right- you can be minding your own business one minute and then yikes – what the ??). In fact, many people have had just that experience! They didn’t go looking for it, they don’t have an interest in anything spiritual, and yet it happens. Remember, Semple’s theory doesn’t require spirituality. He is talking about fundamental biology. If you are human, the life force waits ready for its opportunity.
Some of the case studies presented involve the raising of Kundalini as a result of meditation, Shaktipat (where energy is transferred from one individual to another), emotional crisis, sexual encounter, or eye gazing. Semple himself has experienced his own biological awakening and has chosen cases illustrating some of the differences and some of the similarities of what people go through. There are no advanced spiritual masters here; these are everyday people going through a life changing process. The book is immediately easy to relate to. Along the way, the reader gets a sense of how the rise of the Kundalini can be lived with and accommodated.
The book spends some time on the God versus no God arguments within society. Although Semple is an atheist, he thinks the argument gets us nowhere. He would like us to view Kundalini in terms of an energy continuum. Religion gets in the way of having this biological process seriously studied by scientists. Real work needs to be done. Real people are awakening all the time and there is a need to be able to guide them through the process.
Semple’s book is an easy read even if you know nothing about Kundalini. I hope it begins to open a dialogue among a wider audience. Highly recommended!
A cautionary note: Many spiritual traditions regard the raising of Kundalini as a dangerous endeavor. It is not viewed as being for everyone. Many have levels of initiation and recognize master teachers.
I used to think hallucinations were associated with a particular kind of person- someone who would stand out in a crowd- someone who would need … medication. But that’s not wholly true. I suffer with migraines and, on occasion, I have aura in the classical fortification pattern (those zigzag lines). These are visual hallucinations. So on another level, I know hallucinations can affect many who wouldn’t stand out in a room or need medication.
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating book because it reveals the diversity found in the human experience. Forget what you thought “normal” meant. It won’t be useful anymore. Turns out, there are many perfectly happy, functional people who have hallucinations.
Photo: Erik Charlton
So what do we mean by a hallucination? Different definitions have been used throughout history. Even today there is confusion over exactly what a hallucination is, because the boundary between hallucinations, misperception, and illusion aren’t always clear. Sacks begins with the idea that a hallucination lacks external reality. (Keep in mind that for a Buddhist, we slipped into nebulous territory by assuming an external reality independent, discrete, and concrete.) Anyway, seeing or hearing (also tasting, feeling, or smelling) things that are not there will qualify as a hallucination for the book’s purposes. Hallucinations appear real to the one experiencing it because the perceptions are fully working to create that reality and project it into the world. This is different from a memory or the use of the imagination where, in the mind’s eye, both are experienced. Hallucinations are further characterized by being involuntary, uncontrollable, and often possessing color or detail beyond everyday average experience. Brain imaging now allows scientists the ability to monitor electrical and metabolic activity while someone is hallucinating.
Photo: Jens Maus
Sacks chose to avoid any analysis of dreams (although he does cover those hallucinations experienced upon falling asleep or waking up ) and the subject of schizophrenia. He does hint at the level of stigma associated with seeing (or hearing) things and how patients will not disclose this is occurring. Oftentimes, people will avoid using the term hallucinating and call it other things. Modern society equates hallucinations with insanity. Sacks cites a 1974 case published in Science where eight healthy pseudo-patients presented themselves at various hospitals complaining about hearing voices. Seven were immediately diagnosed as schizophrenic without any other symptoms. The other one was diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis.
The book takes up the breadth of human experience in which people have hallucinations due to medical conditions and drug use (both prescribed and recreational). There are many first person accounts given in the book. They are all candid and insightful, and open the opportunity to grow our compassion. Some of the medical conditions discussed are Charles Bonnet Syndrome (blindness), deafness, Parkinson’s, migraine, epilepsy, PTSD, and delirium. Various injuries, sensory deprivation, sleep disorders, and grief may also bring on hallucinations. Although the chapters on out-of-body, near-death-experience, and ghosts are interesting, I disagree that science has a full explanation to offer us. From Sacks’ point of view, all mystical experience probably would also count as a hallucination. Again, a limited view.
This is a very informative and enlightening book, sharing what in many cases individuals are afraid to share with the general public and their doctors (for good reason, apparently). It does much to decrease the stigma associated with hallucinations and enlarges our understanding of the range of what it means to have a human body with human perception.