Monday, August 9, 2010

Jung and the West, Regarding Kundalini*

"If some great idea takes hold of us from outside, we must understand that it takes hold of us only because something in us responds to it, and goes out to meet it." --C.S. Jung
In 1932 renowned psychologist Carl Jung, former student of Sigmund Freud, delivered a scholarly paper, now collected into a book, Visions, at a psychoanalysis conference in which he discussed the practice and symbolism of Kundalini Yoga. He also revealed to his listeners a startling correlation in the West between the practice of this type of Yoga, and the experience of a sudden, and perhaps not easily reversible sudden break with the realized world in some individuals. He describes this break as a psychosis, in which the individual believes himself unable to contact with, or function in the everyday world. He is then, psychotic by Western standards, Jung states.

On 16 November 1932 at the same conference, from the transcripts which survive, C.S. Jung says, " the child has grown into a peculiar sort of tree which is human above and snake below... the Kundalini. And below the diaphragm it is all snake... And what is worm below is divine above..." "In the Chakras, the Kundalini was always separate...We must never forget that the Kundalini system is a specifically Indian production, and we have to deal here with Western material... You know that Kundalini changes on her way up to Ajna, the lower part, the part of darkness where the Purusha does not appear, is the black snake; there one is absolutely swallowed up in nature, in emotion, and everything beyond emotion is not perceived because it is not perceptible....Jung continues, "So, to a primitive, a man who thinks is most uncanny, a very bad man, a sorcerer full of hatred who will surely poison you... When you have that point of view, you are inside of the monster. When you come through the diaphragm, you are outside of the monster, and then you can see what really held you was that divine being which appeared to you, when looked at from the inside, as a big snake.

That is the reason why this being is monstrous...."There is an intuitive philosophy taken over from Proclus, the Neo-Platonist, who extolled, "Where there is time, there is creation. Thus time and creation are the same... " Jung further discusses in this same lecture the evolution of Gnosis in the Greek world and the development of Christianity. He notes that Saint Paul first was a gnostic before his conversion; the prevailing ideas of both gnosis and the phrenes of Homer. "In those days Christ ranked with Bacchus or Dionysus. In the case of the phrenes, when the hero is killed, the phrenes leave him by the mouth, or by above, but that which goes to the lower regions is the psyche... It is exactly the same in Chinese philosophy where the shen is the masculine soul that goes [rises] up to the gods; the kuei soul is female; It sinks down to the darkness... you see, the Chinese understood man as consisting of two parts...Now this kuei soul according to Eastern and Greek tradition is not immortal...it slowly loses its form and vanishes into the lights of the Heavens... The little flame from my breast rushed forth and sought to merge with this figure.

What has happened here? Well, a sort of mystic union. The ego attempts to merge, or unite with the universal Self. The ego-self shows vivid desire; flame is always vivid desire to merge-- and where would that lead? To a seeming death--or to something new. Jung concludes, to the Western mind, the overly close parallels of opposite, of black and white, of hot and cold, of far and near, etc. creates a complete state of unconsciousness, a collapse of clarity. In its place, complete confusion, a state much like insanity comes to reign. Opposing factors coming too close together would render many people in a state of complete disorientation. They lose their values, their sense of rightness and have no idea what is wrong with themselves. They just feel that they simply don't care. In the mind of Kundalini, is the snake darkness? Is it light? Is it male or female? Perhaps it is both. How so? With new consciousness, what then am I? Is my 'self' enlightened, or a self, dis-integrated? However, the self may be righted again, says Jung, by dropping deeper into the Chakras system, into the water to quench the fire.

* This article, a reader favorite appeared her previously April 9, 2009

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