Evolution and Enlightenment
by Gopi Krishna
Mystical experience is said to be incommunicable, because it is almost impossible to explain to one who has not had the experience, in semantic symbology, what expansion of consciousness really means. I have received communications from hundreds of honest people narrating their experiences of Kundalini and expanded consciousness, but, save in extremely few cases, the narratives fail to draw a correct picture of the extraordinary state. Those who wish to confirm that their own experience of altered consciousness conforms to the accepted pattern should make a study of the accounts of a few known mystics, both of the East and the West.
The now widely used expression "expansion of consciousness" refers to the target of human evolution, and represents the most prominent symptom, experienced on the arousal of Kundalini. It is, therefore, necessary to make this mental condition a little more explicit before I proceed to describe the extraordinary way in which poetic compositions occur to me. It is the ecstatic state, often attended by trance, that has provided the main channel for all prophetic and revelatory utterances. The very physiological symptoms that attend an ecstasy or trance make it clear that, for the time being, a new influence is operative in the brain. A normal human being, turning his attention upon himself, after closing his eyes, disregarding the impressions coming through the senses, perceives an area of awareness primarily around his head. It extends to the whole periphery of his organic frame, when he brings his attention to bear on it. The same individual, when reflecting on an issue, with his eyes closed makes it the focus of his attention within the small area of his awareness or, in other words, in the inner recesses of his being or self. This narrow, body-dominated area of awareness is the private sanctuary of all human beings on the earth. It remains alive and alert from childhood to death. In it every- one of us lives, perceives, thinks, reflects, imagines, feels, fancies and dreams. This is the inner man of whom we only see the outer raiment of flesh, but whom we never glimpse intimately by any means whatsoever—an elusive element that no one has been able to grasp so far.
This inner, intimate sanctum of awareness is dominated by the ego. Every individual experiences himself as a unit of awareness, always conscious of his body and his own individuality, name, face, form, colour, parentage, home, country, race, occupation, faith, creed and the rest. Every individual is a type by himself, in some particular way differing from the rest, with his own quota of intelligence, humour, love, feeling, good and evil traits and all other characteristics that go to make up a human being. With all these differences the one thing in common to all normal people is this ever-present sense of "I-ness" and the area of awareness surrounding it. This area, in turn, surrounds the body and, except in states of deep absorption, whether on external objects or inner events, is intimately aware of the corporeal frame.
For the purpose of our discussion, it is not necessary to make any fine distinction between mind, consciousness or awareness, otherwise we will end in confusion. Every individual, with the perennial backdrop of ego or "I," wills, thinks, feels, reflects, imagines or experiences, in his own unit of consciousness or awareness or mind. When the subject of trans-human consciousness is more fully developed, new terms or phrases will have to be added to the existing languages, or a new language will have to emerge to portray what current semantic devices are not able to express correctly. The Sanskrit language is already more expressive in this respect, but a scientific terminology to cover all the different aspects and shades of this transformation is necessary. It is sure to come into existence in course of time.
With the arousal of Kundalini, this unit or circle or pool of awareness, consciousness or mind, starts to expand. What does this mean? It means that the individual ego, with its small periphery of awareness, always perceptive of its close link with the body, begins to grow wider and wider and the idea of the body dimmer and dimmer, until it seems that one is floating in space, unfettered by the mortal frame. It seems as if the body has melted away or receded to a distance, where it is almost lost to one's perception. Consciousness now dominates the whole scene, clearly perceptive of the transformation that has occurred. There is no interruption in the continuity of observation, as happens in sleep. The intellect functions even more clearly than before, observing the amazing metamorphosis with wonder and awe, uprooted from the position that it held before.
I distinctly felt myself expanding more and more until a limit was reached. What I perceived at the height of the experience was an ocean of consciousness, an infinitely extended area of awareness, which made me feel as if I was spread everywhere, and as if my body had been replaced by a bright ethereal mantle of light which accompanied me everywhere. I saw myself floating in a lustrous world of being in which the material world had lost its tangibility. Only pure consciousness persisted everywhere with an overwhelming sense of rapture impossible to describe.
The process of contraction was as distinct as that of expansion. The unbounded ocean of awareness began to shrink. The volume that my mind had attained began to diminish. I came nearer and nearer to my original self and the earth until I felt that I was myself again, clearly aware of my body and the impressions coming from the outside world. But the exquisite memory of the transformation that had taken place, wafting me to a ravishing state of existence I had never experienced before, has continued to be with me ever since. I knew I had been lifted up to another plane of being with all of my faculties alert, and then dropped back at the place where I was before the incredible flight.
This extraordinary experience of the first day was repeated only once before the onset of the long period of suffering and travail which continued for years. During all those years, I could never clearly understand the reason for it. All that I knew was that, for some unknown reasons, my system was behaving in an abnormal way. The state of my mind altered between periods of high elation and dark depression, and I continued to vacillate between hope on the one hand and despair on the other. It was not my own efforts that saved me from disaster or helped me through the grueling ordeal, day in and day out, for years. But my Saviour was a mysterious, higher self, a superior personality, a divine presence that I could dimly perceive many years later, but even then never clearly make out. It was most intimately connected with my own frail suffering ego-consciousness and yet above and beyond it, entirely unaffected by the grief that I bore, and the torment I endured.
It is only now that I am able to assign a reason for this unbalanced state of mind, that defied all my efforts to understand at that time. The awakening of Kundalini does not only mean the activation of a dormant force in the body, but also an altered activity of the entire nervous system and the opening of a normally silent centre in the brain. The repeated allusion to the central conduit and the outer channels, designated as sushumna, ida and pingala, to chakras or nerve plexuses, controlling the vital organs-lungs, heart, liver, kidney, digestive tract, etc.-and to particular areas in the brain, like the Brahmarendra, provides clear corroboration for what I say.
To explain my point, all I need to say here is that there is a tremendous unused potential in the human brain. In order to make use of this potential, close cooperation between the nervous system and all the vital organs is absolutely necessary. A person has to change to the roots of his being to possess a mind that can penetrate to the deeper layers of creation. In the case of some, as for instance born mediums, clairvoyants, seers and the illuminate, the organism is already conditioned that way from birth. In those who have to develop the faculty a transformation has to occur in the deepest levels of their mortal frame.
The explanation I am offering to account for all paranormal phenomena may well cause surprise and even incredulity. The parts of the body, namely the brain and the nervous system, or the force which operates through them, namely life-energy or Prana, are still fringe subjects. Science will slowly come to the same conclusions to which I have been irresistibly led by my experience. The indications are already there, but some more time is necessary for a closer accord.
What to say of the brain and the nervous system, even the body has not been completely explored and every now and then new facts about it come to light....
...For our purpose it is sufficient to note that the existing knowledge about the human body, which is considerable, is still far from complete. Therefore, a dogmatic attitude, resistant to new ideas and discoveries about the potential present in it is, on the face of it, irrational and unscientific. The practice of yoga and every other healthy form of religious discipline is designed to cause this altered activity of the cerebrospinal system. There is no other way to gain supersensory perception or a higher dimension of consciousness. It is this altered activity of the brain and the system that has been at the bottom of every case of illumination, seership and genius in the history of mankind.
For the purpose of this thesis, it is necessary to reiterate the view I have expressed in my previous works, that a slow process of evolution is at work in every member of the human race to effect this alteration, generation after generation. The aim is to reach a climax where a superior consciousness will bloom in the distant progeny. The process can be accelerated with certain psychosomatic exercises, making it possible to reach the climax in a single life. It is on this possibility that all healthy spiritual disciplines, including yoga, are based. There is also a possibility of a fortuitous combination of favourable heredity factors resulting in the birth of a more evolved specimen, with the characteristics peculiar to illumination or to seer-ship or to an intellectually gifted mind.
Science has still to account for the phenomenon of enlightenment that has been responsible for the greatest mental revolutions in history. It has also to solve the riddle of genius to which all the material and intellectual progress made by mankind is due. The wonder is that the modern world is still at a loss about the source from which all art, science, philosophy, ethics, religion and all other knowledge has been born. But what is even more surprising is that while the learned of our day assiduously devote all their time and energy to add to this already vast store of knowledge and art, they show but little interest in discovering the source from which it comes.
The activation of the cerebrospinal system until a higher dimension of consciousness is manifested can occur in several ways. There can be a slow process of arousal, so gradual and imperceptible, that the practitioner of a discipline is not able to notice any marked change in his normal awareness almost up to the last. What he might notice is a change in his thinking and behaviour, an urge to meditate or pray, a preference for solitude, a greater regard for principles, abatement of passion, ambition and desire, diminution of ego and pride, a growing love for fellow human beings and an impulse for self-introspection, with a growing sense of inner peace and detachment from the world.
An unmistakable sobriety in thought and serenity in behaviour in such a person soon becomes apparent even to a casual observer. He wins the confidence and respect of those who come in contact with him. Steady and self-reliant, one in whom the practice of a spiritual discipline proceeds in a healthy way, soon becomes independent in his opinion and judgment, and is not easily influenced or diverted from his course by the changing trends of the day.
The aim of the evolutionary process is to create a more noble, more sober, more far-seeing, more sensitive, more compassionate and more loving individual. Those who think that their practice of yoga or another spiritual discipline has come to fruition, or that their Kundalini has awakened, would do well to assess their progress by a critical examination of their own thought, act and behaviour to know how far their evolution conforms to the standards set in the Bhagavad Gita or other great religious scriptures of the world.
The first sure signs of success are a greater regard for truth, a greater measure of self-mastery, steadfastness, altruism, absence of envy, malice, hate, and a greater sense of empathy with all human beings. The climax of the practice, namely the Vision of God or Cosmic Consciousness, can be sublime and blissful only when the personality of the seeker evolves in the right direction as a result of the changes brought about in the organism. The reason why all great spiritual teachers, including the founders of major faiths, have laid greater emphasis on the cultivation of noble qualities than on meditational techniques, is obvious in the light of this fact.
A well-balanced, healthy, normal mind is far more preferable, from the point of view of survival, than an unbalanced or unhealthy paranormal one. Every step taken in the upward direction must be attended by a corresponding improvement in the thought and behaviour of the individual. This correspondence has a special relevance to the problems of our time. Mankind is in a critical state because a good many of the leading minds lack some of the essential qualities needed for balanced evolution. The thermonuclear devices and the present precarious condition of the world are the grim outcome of this disproportionately evolved personality.
There are countless people who, with the practice of yoga or other forms of meditation, experience luminous phenomena in their interior or even when looking out. They often ascribe them to a new psychic development in themselves. They see flashes of light or colours or bright halos round objects or lustrous figures or designs, and the like, attended by sensations in the spine as if some kind of energy is rising through it into the brain. I receive numerous letters from different parts of the world claiming experiences of this kind and seeking my opinion about them. In many cases the correspondents believe that they have aroused Kundalini and the lights they perceive or the sensations which they experience result from it.
There are many in whom these phenomena occur even without the practice of yoga or any other spiritual discipline. That in most cases of both these categories, the lights and the sensations result from Kundalini admits of no doubt. But whether or not the development is healthy and would lead to a harmonious state of expanded consciousness is often open to question. For those who have these experiences, the only correct way to evaluate them and to assess the possibility of their success is to measure how far their thinking and behaviour has changed for the better, and how far they have gained in inner strength and character than before. If the assessment is favourable one can be sure that one's evolution is proceeding on the right lines. If the assessment is not favourable, a reappraisal of the discipline undertaken and of one's own mode of life is called for.
We now come to the other type of activation where the practice of yoga or other forms of spiritual discipline lead to a sudden arousal of the Serpent Power as happened to me. In such cases, mental and physical disturbances often become unavoidable. The reason is a sudden change in the functioning of the brain. The activization of the normally dormant supersensory chamber creates a revolution in the entire organism. The brain now needs a more powerful psychic fuel to perform its new, highly enhanced functions. The organism works feverishly to bring about this adjustment. I suffered and, sometimes, blundered, because I had no inkling of the upheaval that had occurred in me.
The true proportion of the change which spiritual disciplines are aimed to cause in the brain is not generally understood. It is not that a good life has to be led and meditation to be practiced to propitiate a deity, in order to win a peaceful and happy mental state in tune with the Reality. But the actual position is that, with the practice of these disciplines, a still unsuspected mechanism in the brain springs to action causing a revolution that can act as a bolt from the blue on the mental world of the individual, especially when the onset is sudden and unexpected. This is particularly true of hazardous Hatha Yoga practices. The sudden onset of this activity, as the result of heredity or misdirected yoga practice, can become the cause of intractable forms of psychosis which defy all attempts at cure.
This fact too has a special relevance to the conditions existing today. That an abrupt activation of the evolutionary organ or its malfunctioning can lead to certain types of mental disorder, is an issue of paramount importance needing immediate attention on the part of the learned. The obvious inference is that the evolution of the mind does not occur only at the level of the psyche, as held by some scholars, like Sir Julian Huxley or Teilhard de Chardin, but it has its roots deep in the psychosomatic organism of man. In other words, the human brain is still in a process of organic evolution towards a target of which we have no awareness at present. The research on Kundalini I am proposing, is to confirm this fact.
The still persisting organic evolution of the brain raises issues that are of staggering importance. We show little concern about what is happening in our cortex because we are entirely unaware that it is still evolving towards a definite direction. We live unconcerned because we still do not know that nature is insistent that, more than wealth or possessions, we should leave, as our contribution towards human progress, a more enriched and healthy mental endowment for our progeny. We are unconcerned because we are ignorant of the fact that, in spite of our present enormous advance in knowledge, we are recklessly violating a most stern law of nature ruling our destiny, and that the present explosive condition of the world is the direct result of our wanton disregard of this almighty law.
I have no words to convey the magnitude of the error that lies behind our current thinking about mind. If mankind is growing in intelligence and this obvious growth results from an organic evolution of the brain, there must be a system in this upward drive, based on certain conditions, similar to those that govern the growth of all organic forms of life. It cannot be a random process, acting capriciously, carrying one brain in one direction and the other in another, or choosing some and discarding others at its own fickle will and choice. But it must be a uniform process operative in every member of the race under biological laws that shall become known one day.
All forms of life on earth are provided with survival mechanisms and, in the case of gregarious types, with group instincts which guide them in the habitat they choose, the food they eat, the shelters they build, the societies they form and the mode of life they lead to conform to the pattern ordained for them by nature. Generation after generation, these creatures follow the same instinctual behaviour, and have been doing so for hundreds of million years. The issue here arises: has man, because of his intelligence, been left absolutely free to choose his habitation and to live in any manner that suits his pleasure or need, or has nature imposed certain conditions about which we have no accurate knowledge at present? If there are no conditions attached, it means he is even free to destroy himself. The fears of a total nuclear disaster are grounded on this supposition. If he is free to destroy himself, and actually effects his own destruction, it means there is no Almighty Power governing the behaviour of intelligent forms of life in the Universe.
This raises important ontological issues. If man destroys himself, it would mean that the whole aeonian drama of his evolution, enacted for millions of years, has been in vain, that he is just as waste a product as dinosaurs. The inference would then be clear that either terrestrial life is the result of an accident or the creation of insentient forces that has no plan and no design. Or, if there is an Intelligent Creator of the universe, He is totally unconcerned with what happens in it. In either case, the conclusion would be the same: that there is no Almighty Power to take cognizance of man's behaviour and to override his decisions, when they are in sharp conflict with the Laws ruling his destiny.
It, however, does not stand to reason that the creation of an infinitely Intelligent and Omnipotent Creator can be without design or that, out of the existing countless forms of life, man alone is exempt from conforming to the ordinances of nature. This does not stand to reason even if we hold that life is the outcome of an accident, as there is no creature in the Organic Kingdom whose behaviour is not governed by strict biological laws. It can be we are ignorant of our own profundity. It is only now that we have begun to learn more facts about the inexplicably mysterious senses in some lower forms of life, as for instance bees, bats, ants, migratory birds, etc., and this has made the mystery even deeper than before. Can it not be that there are even more profound depths in the human psyche of which we are unaware at present? This unawareness, in turn, could be the reason for the behaviour that has brought us to the brink of disaster at this time.
Coming now back to the issue of evolution, it is obvious that if the human brain is still in the process of organic growth to reach a predetermined target, it means that there is purpose in human existence and that the evolution is planned. If evolution is planned it follows that there is Intelligence behind the whole phenomenon of life on earth. In that case there cannot be uncharted freedom for man alone out of all other creatures on the earth. There must be curbs and controls that do not allow him to interfere in his own evolution. There must be impulses and instincts that come into play when he attempts to break away from those natural curbs on his behaviour.
It would be puerile to suppose that the All-knowing Intelligence, which has planned this evolution, would not be prescient of the fact that, at a certain stage of his intellectual progress, man would be in possession of forces capable of destroying the entire species, and even the whole kingdom of life on earth. This technological leap to almost unlimited power of destruction, it is obvious, must have been foreseen and provided for. The possibility of Divine intervention in the affairs of man, at times of acute crisis, to prevent him from doing irremediable harm to himself or causing his own destruction, has, therefore, to be always kept in mind. I say this firmly as the time for the demonstration of spiritual law has come.
*This article is from the text section of The Shape of Events to Come, Chapter 1,1979 edition which is currently out of print.