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Memorandum for Kundalini Research
Institute for Consciousness Research
Markdale, Ontario, Canada
Today, a substantial portion of humanity lives in a world benefited by the intellectual and technological ascent of humankind. Computers, instant satellite communications, medical innovations and disease control would seem like miracles to even the most profound thinkers of the past. The pre-depression promise of 'a chicken in every pot' has long since been replaced by the desire for a 'Blackberry (or i-phone) in every hand'. The e-revolution has no doubt brought us closer together in terms of speed of communication and access to information.
But as this is written, we are witness to ever growing, world-wide unrest and demonstrations over the need for more responsive socio-political systems as well as the need for a more egalitarian division of wealth, food and natural resources. Even with all the technological advancements and comforts at hand, there is still an individual yearning to know ourselves, to discover the answers to the questions of our existence and the varied states of consciousness peculiar to human beings.
The technological revolution of the 20th and 21st centuries has provided science with the tools to penetrate the very subtle levels, as well as the cosmological aspects of the universe. Answering the age-old question of how the universe (or we) began is still uppermost in the scientific and in the religious mind. Institutional religion has had to face the fact that the simple concept of an anthropomorphic God not only offends the human mind at this stage of our intellectual development, but also often contradicts the discoveries of science.
It is prudent to remember that it was not that long ago that the earth was considered the center of the solar system, the medical profession practiced phlebotomies, and the human soul was believed to reside in the heart. Until the end of the 20th century it was held that the human brain was unchanging – that is until improved technology exposed the brain’s neuro-plasticity little more than a decade ago.
During the first decade of this century brain research has produced some concrete evidence that meditative practice can change the brain, allowing the practitioner to achieve different levels of awareness. Historically, this is something that many esoteric traditions not only maintained but kept record of. Previously such 'transformed' mental states were considered to be excluded from possible objective measurement. Researcher, neuroscientist Richard Davidson has stated that their findings demonstrate that the brain is capable of being physically modified in ways that are hard to imagine. This should serve as a reminder that science and religion too need to remain open-minded, and not become overly dogmatic in the course of their respective investigations.
With every advancement in our methods of observation, it seems that a warp occurs in the universe for which we need a fresh exercise of the intellect and a new formulation of ideas to explain and understand it. In the later part of the last century, some experiments yielded results that were inexplicable only in terms of the four currently recognized forces of nature—electromagnetic, gravitational, strong and weak nuclear. The energies associated with these anomalous phenomena were dubbed 'subtle energies'.
Historically, various esoteric traditions have talked about subtle bodies or sheaths that overlay and influence our physical body. For example, in addition to energies originating in the environment, it has been documented that humans are capable of generating (filtering) and to some degree controlling, what have also been labeled, 'subtle energies' that seem to influence both physiological and physical mechanisms. Some confusion has arisen due to the duel usage of the term subtle energy. For our purpose, we will simply use the term to mean an energy (force) that is inexplicable only in terms of the empirically recognized four forces.
Current confusion aside, the concept of subtle energy has been described by a variety of names since ancient times and forms the basis of many religious and esoteric traditions and health care systems throughout the world. It should be kept in mind that precise meaning of these names are not necessarily equivalent. In the West its names include life-energy, universal life force, bio-energy and bio-plasma for example. In Asian traditions, it has long been known as Chi or Ki and is the underlying principle of martial arts systems (Tai Chi, Kung Fu) and health care treatments such as acupuncture and shiatsu. In the East Indian tradition it is believed to be the basis of all existence, and to manifest variously as Prana, Shakti, and Kundalini-Shakti. As such, it forms the foundation for all systems of yoga and other disciplines that lead to exceptional states of consciousness.
In what follows, we outline research that was proposed to us more than four decades ago. It calls for an empirically oriented investigation into a theory based on the existence of the energy/mechanism known as Kundalini that may establish a biological basis for the many ordinary and extraordinary states of mind. With the intellectual evolvement of humankind an accepted reality, we feel that there is an implied parallel evolution going on in the brain itself. To this end, the theory posits that the psychosomatic energy/mechanism in human beings, called Kundalini by the ancients, is responsible for this evolution. The idea that there is a “guiding” power that underlies the evolutionary process is not new and apparently was not unacceptable to Darwin himself. In his book Talks with Great Composers, Arthur Abell recounts the following conversation between Darwin and Tennyson:
Then you admit Professor Darwin that there is a higher power behind evolution? “Certainly, I admit it; I am compelled to do so, because evolution has always gone onward and upward, from lower to higher forms of life. That could not be chance; it is unscientific to postulate such a hypothesis, because chance never moves in one direction.”
The Kundalini hypothesis suggests that this energy/mechanism is responsible for creativity, genius, mystical experience, psychic phenomena and certain classes of mental illness. The current and persisting upheaval across the globe is an indication that our successful healthy evolution requires a better understanding of and conscious participation in the process. The suggested research would involve the collection, analysis and documentation of both psychological and biological data relative to the common characteristics that appear to be the result of an awakened Kundalini.
The suppositions behind this theory, we admit, may contradict some of the currently accepted ideas about the nature of mind, consciousness, and evolution. But our picture of the inner world—and the brain—is far from complete. It has been by making similar radical leaps in conjecture that science made its great discoveries often totally changing our conception of the nature of reality. We believe it is time for change once again!
A PROPOSAL FOR KUNDALINI RESEARCH
Within a framework of remarkably similar characteristics, the mystic, the genius, the psychic and some of the mentally ill exhibit extraordinary states of consciousness. We propose to investigate whether one psycho-physiological process (Kundalini) is responsible for these phenomena.
Research has been proposed to investigate the hypothesis that there is a specific psycho-physiological mechanism, referred to as Kundalini in esoteric scriptures, in human beings. The Kundalini hypothesis suggests that human evolution has proceeded by the action of this mechanism in the human body and brain. Traditionally, Kundalini is held to be responsible for creativity, inspiration, genius, mystical experience, psychic phenomena and, in its morbid form, certain classes of mental illness. The proposed research would involve the collection, analysis, and documentation of both psychological and biological data relative to the common characteristics which appear to be the result of an awakened Kundalini. We believe that these objectives can be accomplished via the following avenues of investigation:
- Literary research into the lives and writings of great mystics and geniuses and the written and oral traditions of ancient esoteric teachings.
- The acquisition of statistical data from persons experiencing the symptoms of a Kundalini awakening.
- The validation of the Kundalini hypothesis through a successful “awakening” in selected subjects within a scientifically monitored environment.
A body of literature on the Kundalini phenomenon has developed from ancient times. The centuries old esoteric treatises of India, the Tantras, Shakti-Shastras and Puranas, are filled with direct references to and explanations of the Kundalini process. Other ancient writings such as the Vedas and Upanishads refer indirectly to Kundalini. The spiritual traditions of many other cultures such as the Taoists, Alchemists, and Gnostics also contain direct or indirect references to this phenomenon.
Arthur Avalon in The Serpent Power, offers an explanation of the phenomenon of Kundalini and its affect on consciousness. This work was the result of half a lifetime of research into the ancient texts of India. (By deciphering the knowledge contained in the ancient texts, he presents a modern textbook for the study and application of Kundalini Yoga.) Avalon discusses the transcendent and immanent aspects of consciousness, the role of Prana in the creation and sustaining of life and consciousness, the effect of mantra and yoga on consciousness, the theoretical basis of Kundalini science, and the role of Kundalini in evolution.
Drawing upon the work of Avalon and on the ancient writings themselves, Gopi Krishna has written many texts on the science of Kundalini. His personal experience of the phenomenon guided his exploration of the subject and allowed him to present us with the most current knowledge on Kundalini. Gopi Krishna has called for the testing of the ideas contained in traditional Kundalini science using modern scientific research. His explanation of the role of Kundalini in consciousness and evolution is the basis of this proposal.
Another hallmark in the research on the relationship between consciousness and evolution is Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D. His study of the evolution of the human brain and the resulting development of Higher Consciousness in the human race is supportive of the proposed research.
The work of both Bucke and Gopi Krishna indicate that the true mystic and genius are at the forefront of human evolution as it relates to consciousness. Their work and the summary presented by Dean in 'Metapsychiatry: The Confluence of Psychiatry and Mysticism' indicate that a number of similar characteristics are exhibited by the mystic and genius. An outline of these characteristics is as follows:
- Sense of inner light and sound
- Unity or oneness with creation
- Cosmic Expansion
- Religious impulse/Belief in God
- Personal magnetism
- Highly developed moral nature/compassion
- Development of psychic gifts – visionary ideas, gift of prophecy, healing powers
- Loss of fear of death/sense of immortality
- Mental disturbances
- Significant sexual expression
- Capacity for work
- Chronological experiences with special attention to activity in the mid-30’s
In addition to the above specific characteristics, the subject’s heredity and lifestyle and the effect they have on the mental condition and behavior patterns should be considered.
According to the traditional Yoga philosophies, the term Kundalini refers to both a ‘mechanism’ and an ‘energy’ in the human body. This energy, termed Prana* which is unlike any of the known physical energies; is held to be the medium by which thought activity is carried on in the brain and is involved with the transference of impulses and sensations in the nervous system. It is thought that the activation of the mechanism causes an increased amount of pranic energy to be stored in the cells and tissues of the body and to be transmitted to the brain via the nerves in and around the spinal column, leading to alterations in the state of consciousness of the individual. Gopi Krishna explains it in this way:
The mechanism of Kundalini can be understood in the following way. Upon activation, two different activities start in the body. First, the whole network of nerves begins to manufacture a more potent form of subtle energy (prana) and to pour it into the brain through the spinal duct. This altered form of prana is most distinguished by its appearance as a luminous cloud in the brain. Operating in average men and women the energy does not have this property. It is for this reason that the visionary experience of mystics is almost always bathed in light. This is the first important point to which any investigation of Kundalini must pay attention and is why Kundalini is always likened to sun, moon, lightning or fire. Further, the flashes of light or other forms of luminosity experienced by many people during the course of meditation are often due to a sudden, brief upsurge of the more potent prana into the brain.
*Although the traditional definition of prana is not necessarily the same as the current concept of ‘bio-energy or bio-plasma’, for the purpose of this memorandum, the terms prana, bio-energy and bio-plasma will be used interchangeably.
Second, another activity starts in the genital region. Upon the awakening [of Kundalini] the reproductive fluid is drawn up in a now unknown way and poured into the spinal canal. Exactly how this suction is applied will have to be determined by research. This stream rising through the spine represents the ‘nectar’ or ‘ambrosia’ repeatedly mentioned in the treatises on Kundalini. Its entry into the spinal cord and then into the brain is marked by exquisitely pleasurable sensations—even exceeding those of orgasm. During the course of its ascent into the brain, this stream is ramified into smaller streams which irrigate the visceral organs through the nerve plexuses or the Chakras. The streams can be distinctly felt moving into the various organs, stomach, liver, intestines, heart, lungs, and the like. A new channel for toning up the organs to meet additional needs now comes into operation. The body and the brain are thus prepared for a higher manifestation of consciousness. The flow of a more potent prana and this stream of fluidic secretions into nerve centers and the brain is what is implied by the phrase ‘penetration of Kundalini’.
Our research into writings on the subject and data gathered from recent case histories seem to indicate that some of the critical factors involved in this activity are 1) the body’s ability to produce the required level of pranic energy needed by the brain, 2) the purity of the prana which is produced and 3) the ability of the brain and nervous system to adjust to this altered activity in the system. This altered activity may take the form of genius, inspiration, psychic abilities and enhanced perceptive faculties. But, it also appears that once the brain has started to function at an enhanced level, any reduction in the required amount of pranic energy or in the purity of that energy may lead to serious mental problems, including extreme psychosis.
The functioning of the Kundalini mechanism seems to be determined by many diverse factors, such as physiology, health, diet, heredity, occupation, environment and possibly even mental attitude. The primary difficulty in verifying these assumptions is that the prana involved, if it exists, must be of an extremely subtle nature and modern medical science may not have yet developed the technology to detect and quantitatively measure it.
Yoga theory also holds that prana is absorbed into the body from the surrounding air via the respiratory system and is transmitted to the cells and tissues of the body, possibly by the blood, where it is stored. Since the primary active element in both air and water is oxygen and, since this element is probably the most crucial to the functioning of life that we know of, it may be possible, as Gopi Krishna has theorized, that prana uses oxygen as the major vehicle for its activity in the body. This relationship between oxygen and prana was documented by Ostrander and Schroeder in their report on the discoveries of Soviet scientists V. Inyushin and colleagues in 1968. “Breathing, it seems, charges the entire bioplasma body and renews our reserves of vital energy and helps to equalize disturbed energy patterns. Of course, the Indian philosophy of Yoga has always maintained that breathing charges the whole body with ‘Vital Force’ or prana and Yoga prescribes specific breathing exercises for good health.”
In The Dawn of a New Science, Gopi Krishna uses several examples from the research and writings of others to support the hypothesis that prana exists. He cites the work of W. Reich in The Function of the Orgasm. Reich states that neuroses are due to "fundamental disturbances of the economy of the bio-electrical energy." Reich’s ideas concerning bio-electrical energy, which he calls Orgone, are close to the concept of prana. Gopi Krishna also notes that Dr. Wilder Penfield supports the view of the existence of an unknown form of energy. In The Mystery of the Mind Penfield states "The mind is peculiar.. It has energy. The form of that energy is different from known electrochemical energies."
Elsewhere in The Dawn of a New Science, Gopi Krishna refers to the investigations of Evelyn Underhill, N. W. Conn, Sir Alistair Hardy and R.C. Zaehner to support the concept that there is a psycho-physiological change in the body when a state of mystical consciousness is present, that consciousness is the principle behind the evolution of matter and that there is a link between mysticism and mental illness.
Empirical Science and Quantum Mechanics
In the early nineteenth century, the Marquis de Laplace was led to suggest that the universe was completely deterministic. That is, there should be a set of scientific laws that would allow us to predict the state of the universe at any moment given a known set of initial conditions. As well, it was assumed that the only limit on our observations was the level of the observational equipment itself. This view was generally accepted scientifically until the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, when Heisenberg formulated the uncertainty principle. Using Planck’s quantum hypothesis (the energy of electromagnetic radiation is confined to indivisible packets or quanta), Heisenberg was able to show that the uncertainty in the position of a particle multiplied by the uncertainty in its momentum (its velocity times its mass) can never be smaller than a fixed quantity known as Planck’s constant. This principle is valid independent of the type of particle and the way in which the position and velocity are measured. The uncertainty principle is a fundamental property of the physical universe and not a statement about the observational ability of the current technology and as such ties the observer to the observed.
The Uncertainty Principle brought an end to the completely deterministic view of scientific theory of Laplace. This in turn led to a reformulation of mechanics by Heisenberg, Dirac and Schroedinger into ‘quantum’ mechanics. In this theory particles have a quantum state, a combination of position and velocity, and not well-defined positions and velocities. Quantum mechanics predicts the likelihood of a number of different possible outcomes, but does not predict a single definite result for an observation. So although the predictions and descriptions of quantum mechanics agree with experiment, this theory brings along with it an element of unpredictability or randomness. In a way then we have a science that cannot measure events as accurately as it pleases and can only predict the probable occurrence of an event. A far cry from a completely deterministic theory of science.
The accuracy of the statistical predictions of quantum mechanics along with a 1964 mathematical proof by J. S. Bell lead to another result that went beyond the existing general scientific paradigm. Bell’s theorem, as it is now known, reveals an unexplained 'connectedness' of quantum phenomena (Zukav, 282). This theorem shows that if the statistical predictions of quantum theory are correct, then our commonsense ideas about the world are inadequate. One such idea is the so-called 'principle of local causes'—that what takes place in one area is independent of what an experimenter does in a place distant and space-like (cannot be connected by a signal) from the other area. Thus, empirical science itself has limited the conclusions we can draw by observing everyday events. This suggests that to understand macroscopic events we must observe phenomena at more subtle, quantum levels.
To summarize, empirical science has led to an understanding of energies and phenomena that are ever more subtle— from the macroscopic to the microscopic to the subatomic. In the process of examining these more subtle levels, science has found that the phenomena involved often behave in amazing ways; ways that could not necessarily be deduced from everyday experience. Further the 'quantized' behaviour of physical phenomena along with Bell’s theorem has lead to the conclusion that there is a subtle connectedness underlying the structure of the universe. What this underlying connectedness—or field—is, no one can say for sure at this time. Is it a type of electromagnetic phenomena, an organic field, a super-material force, something akin to what we call consciousness or intelligence, or something totally unknown to us at present?
During the last five decades the interest in exploring the relationship between scientific theory and religious/ esoteric doctrine has continued to increase. In the West, this was due in part to experimental results coupled with the theory of quantum mechanics, along with a growing appreciation for Eastern religious/esoteric concepts and practices including meditation and Yoga. For example, books have been published that focus on the conceptual similarities of some of these Eastern doctrines and the modern quantum based physics (Capra; Zukav). Other recent works include The Field - The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynne McTaggart and The God Theory by Bernard Haisch.
'The Field' that McTaggart refers to is the so-called Zero Point Field (ZPF). She writes that “what quantum calculations show is that we and our universe live and breathe in what amounts to a sea of motion—a quantum sea of light”. Haisch refers to this field metaphorically as “an invisible, uniform sea of light underlying the Universe”. ZPF is a term used to mean the vacuum state—the quantum state with the lowest possible energy—of an individual quantized field. In the case of electromagnetism, for example, the energy value of the ZPF is greater than zero. In other words, there is always energy even in the lowest possible state—the ground state.
Along with great interest, there is some controversy in the applications and interpretations of The Field. For the present, we will focus on the suggestion of (McTaggart, 24) that the “idea of The Field might just offer an explanation for many metaphysical notions…”. This interest is generated in part by the view that The Field is an ever-present field of light that has the capacity to hold information without regard to time. As noted in the work of Bucke above, two of the hallmarks of illuminated experience have long been held to be light and new knowledge.
Eastern religious/esoteric lore suggests the existence of a subtle 'life' energy such as Chi (or qi) in the Chinese tradition or Prana, also known as Prana-Shakti in the Indian tradition. For example, Prana is held to be an extremely subtle immaterial substance which forms the basis of all matter and organic phenomena. “Prana is present in atoms and their constituents. It is behind the energy fields into which matter is resolved at the end. It is the agent responsible for the ungraspable complex chemical reactions in living bodies and also in the incredibly intricate mechanisms at the back of all the complex movements of the organs and the activity of the brain.” (Kieffer, 217) The life energies like Chi or Prana are also associated with light. (Avalon; Kieffer,143)
Present day scientists have also recognized the workings of an intelligence in Nature. George Wald has presented a convincing argument that our universe is one that is permeated with life based upon the fact that 'ice floats'.(Wald, 12) Fred Hoyle builds a case for an 'intelligent information rich universe'. (Hoyle, 158) Some physicists like E. H. Walker have suggested that “Consciousness may be associated with all quantum mechanical processes...”. (Zukav, 63) Haisch favors the concept of an “infinite conscious intelligence…who has infinite potential, whose ideas become the laws of physics…”. Others, like Carl von Weizsaecker, have postulated “that the concept of Prana is not necessarily incompatible” with modern physics and links it to the probability amplitude of quantum theory. (Krishna 1971, 42)
The point here is not to claim the existence of a subtle energy like Prana or equate it with any scientifically accepted concept—the research findings will determine that. Nor are we suggesting that The Field represents Prana or Chi. Rather the point is to underscore that through their own methods of investigation, both science and the religious/esoteric traditions have lead to the idea that a subtle essence (or stuff) pervades the universe and that this 'stuff' has a component of or is interwoven with intelligence or consciousness and light. Whether or not each side is able to agree on the concept of what this 'stuff' entails will no doubt depend on the advances made in both technology and in the understanding of consciousness.
However by examining the extant religious lore, particularly that of the Eastern traditions, we may discover how the concept of a universally connected intelligent 'stuff' was modeled and what insights were gained into its characteristics. It may well be that the mystics of the ancient esoteric traditions through introspection and using only the tool of their own consciousness perhaps have arrived at a description of our universe that science—with the full weight of modern technology behind it—is only now beginning to discover.
The concept of Kundalini brings with it a time tested structure that current technology should be able to examine. This was certainly not the case centuries or even a few decades ago. This point is amplified by recent scientific discoveries of how the brain functions. In the US, the last decade of the 20th century was designated as the 'Decade of the Brain'. During this period neuroscience made significant discoveries in the areas of genetics, brain plasticity and development, imaging technologies, cell death and molecular neuro-pharmacology. The work on brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity- the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life) has changed the scientific view that the connections among brain nerve cells were determined in early life and did not change once adulthood was reached. In fact some neuroscientists believe they have produced evidence that mental discipline and meditative practice can change the workings of the brain allowing the individual to achieve different levels of awareness (Davidson). This speaks directly to the possibilities for human evolution and how the concept of Kundalini would contribute to its understanding. In addition, the body of knowledge encapsulated by the Kundalini hypothesis provides us with a model that conforms to the generally accepted empirical standards. It is testable, has explanatory and predictive powers and adheres to the principle of parsimony—Occam's Razor.
In his proposal for Kundalini research Gopi Krishna sums up its value thus:
The study of the individuals with an awakened Kundalini should be easy to conduct once the underlying principles are determined. There must be definite biological differences in the blood, the cerebro-spinal fluid and the composition of the subtle layer of the brain. The startling discoveries of new particles in the composition of the atom should warn us not to be too narrow minded in limiting the composition of the organic cell. There is a whole world of subtle energies hidden within every living organism. These energies subsist on equally subtle biological fuels which the organism produces and stores in every tissue and cell. This fuel is used by the cosmic life-energy (or Prana Shakti) to manufacture the individual prana or bio-energy. Neurons play an active part in this manufacture.
A scientific study of Prana can be of incalculable value to humankind. Careful study of persons with an active Kundalini would furnish clues to enable us to distinguish between the micro-biology of an average person and any other person in this category, say a mystic or genius. There can be no denying the fact that some difference must exist between the brain of an Einstein and the brain of a person of ordinary intelligence. That this difference has not been found so far does not negate its existence.
Methods and Materials
Three avenues of research are being proposed for the investigation of the Kundalini hypothesis. The first involves literary research into the lives and writings of great mystics and geniuses coupled with a study of ancient esoteric teachings through their oral and written traditions. The results of literary research will lay the foundation for the second area of investigation which is the acquisition of statistical data from the study of persons experiencing the symptoms of Kundalini awakening. The third approach is the establishment of an experimental project to validate the Kundalini hypothesis through a successful awakening in selected participants.
There is a vast storehouse of information on Kundalini available in the oral and written traditions of esoteric teachings throughout the world. The ancient esoteric treatises of India including the Tantras, Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas, in themselves would provide sufficient information to formulate a study of Kundalini. In addition to these, further valuable and corroborative information is available in the writings of Sufis, Taoists, Tibetan Yogis and Western Mystics. In fact the religious lore of mankind the world over, with its myths and fables, is a priceless source of information on the mechanism of Kundalini. Although more difficult to document, the oral traditions of the various religions and faiths of the world are also of great significance. In India, knowledge of Kundalini is verbally transmitted between teacher and aspirant and this information needs to be gathered to fully document the Kundalini phenomenon.
The lives and writings of great mystics and geniuses can be documented to correlate the psychological and physiological factors related to their Kundalini awakening and to provide evidence of the activity of this psycho-physiological mechanism.
The key figure for investigation of historical awakenings of Kundalini is the true mystic. Purged of some of the superstitions and false beliefs that have been attached to their person, the mystic provides the still imperfect model of the future human being. The expansion of consciousness which is apparent in the foremost members of the mystic group is an excellent example of the evolutionary aspect of Kundalini. The study should examine examples of harmonies of sound, magnificent visions, extraordinary insights, new depths of knowledge, halos of internal light and spiritual exaltation during the state of mystical ecstasy. Also, of importance, an increase in creative activity, eloquence and literary or artistic talent often occurs when the mental attitude of the subject is properly disposed.
The genius exhibits an extraordinary intelligence or aptitude which is at the vanguard of human creativity and evolution. As the great mystics of the past were in the forefront of spiritual knowledge, so the great geniuses set the standard in their various fields of endeavor. The study of their writings and the positive and negative aspects of their lives can offer further clues to the importance of consciously leading a lifestyle in concert with the evolutionary process.
The knowledge gained from the ancient texts along with the information from the lives and writings of mystics and geniuses would, in turn, help scientists to discover the important factors for a healthy awakening of Kundalini. Given the current state of technology, it may be possible to put computers on the job to 'data mine' important clues about the awakening of Kundalini from these important documents.
The Institute for Consciousness Research (ICR) is currently engaged in literary research. The lives and writings of individuals such as Walt Whitman, Victor Hugo, St. John of the Cross, Thomas Jefferson, Jiddu Krishnamurti and others are being investigated. This is a vast undertaking requiring the energies of many investigators. It is hoped this proposal will encourage others to become involved through their own independent means and abilities. In addition, ICR has established a Publication Honorarium as an incentive to others to become involved in the research. This study can lay a foundation for the investigation and understanding of contemporary instances of Kundalini awakening.
To acquire as much statistical data as possible relating to the awakening of Kundalini, studies of persons experiencing the symptoms of this awakening must be undertaken. Three methods of investigation are proposed:
- Analysis of existing, first-hand case studies of persons suffering from mental disturbances including neuroses and psychoses such as schizophrenia and manic-depression.
- Interviews with physicians, psychiatrists and social workers involved in the care and treatment of the mentally disturbed.
- Worldwide advertising outlining the classic symptoms of Kundalini awakening and calling upon people who have experienced or are experiencing the stated symptoms to come forward and take part in the scientific study of the phenomenon. Data will be acquired through questionnaires, interviews and direct case studies.
The emphasis on study of the mentally disturbed is due to the fact that at the present time these individuals are the most accessible to research and provide a fertile field for this investigation. The human system is shaken to its very roots by the process of Kundalini awakening. If the nervous system has not reached a sufficient degree of readiness for the new activity, a morbid transformation of consciousness may take place due to the flow of impure pranic radiation into the brain. Instead of harmonies of sound, magnificent visions, extraordinary insights, new depths of knowledge, spiritual exaltation, heightened creativity, eloquence or literary or artistic talent, the awakening results in distracting noises and shrieks, nightmares, crazy whims, grandiose delusions of rank and power, frenzied behavior, ranting and raving or insane compositions or bizarre art.
The detachment from the world experienced by the mystic undergoing a positive awakening may occur as a withdrawal from the world for the individual experiencing a morbid awakening. The schizophrenic lives alienated from the world completely engrossed in an inner experience which determines their external behavior, an experience of disordered imagination, erratic and absurd thought and act, fear, anxiety and horror. In the manic-depressive, the Kundalini hypothesis suggests that the radiation pouring into the brain is not soothing and enrapturing but toxic and virulent causing excitement or depression, intense melancholy or insane laughter and the other characteristics peculiar to their psychosis. The old personality is eclipsed and a distorted one emerges lost to the norms of behavior and sense. The disoriented pranic spectrum now reflects a disfigured being completely or partially out of touch with the world.
If the individuals in the case studies prove willing to be observed and examined, it would provide important statistical data with which researchers could compare the similarities to mystics and geniuses. Volunteers would undergo physiological testing involving the circulatory and nervous systems, brain, metabolism, body temperature and the cerebrospinal fluid. There is an on-going need for more advanced methods of studying bio-energetic changes to be developed. High-tech brain imaging equipment including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron-emission tomography (PET) and electroencephalography (EEG) is now in use by various research groups and has produced interesting results. A rudimentary study of changes in an individual’s bio-energetic performance could be undertaken using technologies like the above and possibly along with Kirlian photographic techniques. The analysis of statistical data would demonstrate the degree to which the Kundalini phenomenon prevails and could lead to the discovery of new avenues for research.
The objective of the experimental project is to firmly establish the validity of the “Kundalini Hypothesis” through the successful awakening of the mechanism within the physical frame of the participants. This project can be accomplished within a scientifically monitored environment, where the biological functions of the subjects will be painstakingly monitored, recorded and studied using the latest technologies available.
As the phenomenon is rare, at least one hundred well-selected candidates would be needed to show some results. These volunteers must be in excellent physical and mental health in order to minimize the chance of any physiological or psychological distress. A center for the project, located in a temperate region, would be needed to provide a healthy and productive environment for the participants. The general scientific approach to all aspects of the research should be open-minded and without dogma. Inter-disciplinary co-operation will also be of the utmost importance.
A team of Yoga specialists will be needed to assist each volunteer in the purification of the nervous system. According to the Kundalini hypothesis it is this system which transforms organic substances in the body into bio-energy or prana. If the nervous system, especially the cerebrospinal system, is not healthy, then the bio-energy will be impure and may produce results associated with a morbid awakening. The means of purifying the nervous system will involve both physical and mental discipline. Physical discipline will involve pranayama, exercise, proper nutrition, and a consistent lifestyle. Mental discipline will include prayer, meditation, cultivation of the will and self-control.
A team of scientific specialists will be needed to monitor and record the physiological and psychological development of the subjects. Biological functions involving metabolism, heart rate, blood, cerebrospinal fluid, breathing, brain activity, the nervous system and the like will be observed and noted. These observations will be checked against statistical data developed during earlier case studies and will be added to the data base.
A clinic must be established to monitor and provide guidance and assistance to those people throughout the world who suffer from the purgatorial symptoms of Kundalini awakening. Information from the data base will be used in this endeavor. Where data concerning people who contact the clinic for advice can be verified, it can be added to the data base.
The Kundalini experimental project is a colossal undertaking requiring substantial funding. An administrative unit of Yoga specialists and competent scientists will be needed to ensure the smooth and continuous operation of the project. A financial, operational and personnel commitment of at least five years will be required to sustain the project.
The Scope of the Project
Research into the Kundalini process will be the largest project ever undertaken by humanity. We are embarking on a journey of exploration into an entirely new, unimaginably vast and complex aspect of creation.
Although the research will begin with the physiological aspects of the Kundalini process, it will eventually expand into an exploration of consciousness that will dwarf all of our accomplishments in the physical realm. The scope of this exploration will likely extend to many decades, if not hundreds of years, and proceed into areas of discovery that we cannot even imagine at present.
The challenges facing us in doing this research will be formidable. It will necessitate a wholesale change in the orientation of science from the investigation of purely physical phenomena to far more subtle aspects of creation, such as prana-Shakti.
Although some aspects of this investigation can be carried out with the technology we currently possess, or develop in the near future, there is a limit to which this type of inquiry can proceed. Eventually, the exploration of non-physical aspects of reality will have to be undertaken via the consciousness of the investigators themselves.
The proposed literary research into the lives of mystics and geniuses serves several very useful purposes. The first is to furnish enough indirect evidence for the existence of a psycho-physiological mechanism to justify the commitment of the resources necessary to undertake a more involved method such as the experimental project. It has the advantages of being relatively inexpensive and there is a vast body of material that is readily available for examination both in the East and West.
Another major benefit of this type of research would be the acquisition of much of the knowledge that has already been learned concerning the arousal and operation of this mechanism by those who have experienced its functioning in the past. This would not be a simple or easy task as much of the relevant information is in allegorical form, or encoded in a cryptic terminology which would have to be painstakingly deciphered and validated. In many cultures the knowledge of Kundalini was highly restricted and references to it were often veiled or indirect so that the secret knowledge could not be easily understood by the uninitiated. But there is without doubt a tremendous amount of information which would influence the way in which an experimental project would be conducted.
A third purpose which such research would serve is as an educational tool for those who are highly trained in such modern disciplines as physiology, neurology or biology but are not so familiar with concepts and ideas which relate to consciousness or mental transformation. The theory of Kundalini is based on many concepts that are often quite foreign to the physically oriented outlook of modern scientific methodology and unless one has a firm grounding in both viewpoints, the ability to make progress in more concrete forms of research will be limited.
Another critical need for information contained in the literary and oral traditions of Yoga stems from the fact that the arousal of the energies involved sometimes may seem to have detrimental effects on the mental and physical well-being of those in whom they are active. The ability to deal with such contingencies in those who have volunteered to participate in the Experimental Project is of primary importance for their health and safety. The proposed research into the literary and oral traditions would almost certainly provide much data which would be relevant in dealing with these situations.
The studies done on active case histories would also have a number of advantages. They would first of all serve to furnish more concrete evidence for the existence of the theorized mechanism than does literary research. They would also provide a source of physiological data on the operation of the mechanism which would be of use in the actual Experimental Project itself. As was stated above, the risk to those who are participating in the actual experiments must be minimized as much as possible and familiarity with the possible adverse effects of the energy, prior to the commencement of such experiments, is absolutely essential.
Another related benefit of such research would be the eventual development of methods to minimize the adverse effects of arousal in those to whom it has happened spontaneously. The number of cases of people in this category seems to be growing steadily and there is little provision in traditional medicine or psychology for dealing effectively with the problems unique to the arousal of these energies. It is encouraging to note that in their latest diagnostic handbook, the DSM-IV, the American Psychiatric Association includes code ‘V62.89’ for religious or spiritual problem. Although having a ‘spiritual experience or spontaneous arousal’ is certainly not a disease, the inclusion of V62.89 suggests that the health care community is beginning to differentiate between ‘spiritual experiences’ and mental illness.
Information gathered from the case histories could alleviate much of the fear and distress in those affected by this spontaneous arousal. The stigma of being ‘schizophrenic’, or ‘abnormal’ often attached to these unfortunate people would disappear completely if a natural biological mechanism responsible for these conditions were demonstrated.
The Experimental Project
The first short-term goal of this project would be to locate subjects in whom the energy is active enough to be readily detectable. One of the major problems with the verification of the theorized mechanism is that it seems to work in stages and the marked physiological changes which could be detected with the technologies currently available often last only for limited periods of time. After this, there is usually a much longer period in which the body tries to adjust to the changes already brought about and at this time the physiological effects are much less evident.
The lack of incidences of full awakening in the general population in the last century would tend to indicate that the number of cases in which the transformations are at a highly advanced stage is quite limited. The degree of success would thus depend to a great extent on the selection of the subjects. Many diverse factors, such as heredity, physical health, psychological makeup and attitude would have to be considered and it would necessitate a very large base of potential candidates from which to make the selections.
Even with the most rigorous selection criteria, it may be reasonable to assume that only a very low percentage of those subjects initially selected would achieve any degree of success in activating the mechanism and achieving a substantial degree of mental transformation. The critical role that heredity has seemed to play in determining the limits of mental transformation may mean that several generations of favorable heredity are necessary to produce a complete success.
One of the primary goals of the experimental project will be to develop technologies which will enable the suspected energies involved to be measured quantitatively. This would serve as the basis for further research as the effects and the effectiveness of the various methods used for stimulating the mechanism into activity could then be quantitatively measured, as also the degree of success attained in an awakening.
The techniques for the detection of the theorized mechanism and the energies involved in its operation are certainly at a rudimentary stage at present but the existence of high-tech brain imaging equipment involving such processes as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI and fMRI) and [particle] emission tomography (PET and SPECT) indicate that we probably may not have too far to go before limited success could be achieved.
The next stage of the research would be primarily concerned with the development of safe and effective methods for the arousal of the mechanism and also to establish which methods work best for an individual given his or her particular psychological and physiological makeup. The wide range of techniques developed in the past for awakening the mechanism tend to indicate that such inherent differences are a major factor in the probability of success of any given method.
In addition to the physiological data gained, there is also a wealth of psychological data to be recorded, correlated and evaluated. The differences in the experience described by various individuals in the past may be a consequence of physiological factors and establishing the correspondences between the two will be a major undertaking.
The ramifications of the discovery of a psycho-physiological mechanism affecting consciousness are enormous. One key area in which such research would have tremendous significance is in the understanding and treatment of mental illness. The incidences of this problem have been increasing at an alarming rate in the last few decades and have not been strictly limited to any particular country or society. The discovery of methods and techniques which could vastly increase our capability for preventing and treating this fast-growing problem is of enormous importance.
The exploration of the modes of consciousness experienced by those candidates who are successful in awakening the theorized mechanism is another aspect of the research entirely. Recognition of consciousness as having a reality on a par with physical matter is slowly developing in the minds of more advanced thinkers. The success of the proposed project would do much to establish it as a valid realm for study and exploration.
Acceptance of consciousness as a valid object for empirical study would have a tremendous effect on modern science. It would mean that the modern scientific method would need to be re-evaluated and expanded in its scope.
Beyond this, there is also the possibility that there will be a final limit to which the physical methods of modern science will be effective in exploring these new realms. The ultimate investigation of consciousness may only be possible through the agency of individual inner exploration. The extent to which the empirical nature of the scientific method can be transferred to this type of exploration remains to be determined.
- A. Avalon, The Serpent Power, Dover Publications, New York,1974
- R. M. Bucke, Cosmic Consciousness, E. P. Button, New York,1969
- S. Dean, ‘Metapsychiatry: The Confluence of Psychiatry and Mysticism’: from Psychiatry and Mysticism; edited by S. Dean, Nelson-Hall Co., Chicago,1975
Institute for Consciousness Research, various articles:
Patrick Hayne, ‘Jiddu Krishnamurti - Twentieth Century Philosopher and Mystic’; Kundalini, Vol. VIII, No.1,1988
E. Holland, ‘Thomas Jefferson’, unpublished,1987
E. Holland, D. Pond, P. Pond, A. Walker, ‘Walt Whitman: Poet, Prophet, Paragon’,Kundalini, Vol. VIII, No.1,1988
- Y. Kason, T. Degler, A Farther Shore, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, Toronto, 1994.
- M. Kaufman, 'Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds', Washington Post, January 3, 2005.
- R. Karanjia, Kundalini Yoga, Kundalini Research Foundation, New York,1977.
- G. Krishna, ‘The Scientific Investigation’, (from “Science and Kundalini”, The Dawn of a New Science, Vol. 2, unpublished and in Kundalini for the New Age, G. Kieffer (ed),Bantam Books, New York,1988
- G. Krishna, The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius, Harper and Row, New York,1971
- G. Krishna, The Dawn of a New Science, ICR,1999
- G. Krishna, Kundalini, The Evolutionary Energy in Man, Shambhala Publications, Inc.,Boulder,Col.,1967
- S. Ostrander and L. Schroeder, Psychic Discoveries Behind The Iron Curtain, BantamBooks, New York,1971
- J.Silverman, ‘On the Sensory Bases of Transcendental States of Consciousness’, fromPsychiatry and Mysticism, ed. S. Dean, Nelson-Hall Co., Chicago,1975
- Research Approach
- Memorandum for Kundalini Research
- Literary Research
- Kundalini and Consciousness
- Kundalini and the Evolutionary Process