Friday, 27 February 2015

Kundalini Thinking

Some believe that there is an unconscious and instinctive, indeed libidinal, force that can be felt as a physical phenomenon. Others deny its existence. Those who say it exists win the argument for the simple reason that, if they feel it, then it is there as a reality for themselves. If it is a reality in the context of their own perception, then, unless they are outright liars, even if it cannot be measured scientifically, it exists - end of story.

A mental state does not require general social approval to exist. It merely has to be experienced as real. A delusion is a real mental state but it is a delusion in the context of social and not individual reality and so not a delusion about its own state of delusion-ness. We may go on to apply all sorts of metaphor to such a felt libidinal force. We may develop vitalist theories or call it a serpent power or a goddess or use lots of sanskrit gobbledygook. We may try to make it more than it is by giving it value and romance - but at the end of the day, it is simply what it is: a sense of experienced reality that is real to the person experiencing it and different from mundane 'normal' existence in the world.

This force may, of course, not be experienced identically in every person who experiences it (as we write there is a furore on the internet over whether a dress is blue and black or white and gold which is really a furore over human perception in the face of the variable outputs of our electronic world) but there are some common denominators in the descriptions of such forces (once we get past the spiritual guff) that suggest that people who have this sense, whether intrinsic to their nature or intermittently experienced, are all experiencing the same phenomenon.

There is no issue with saying that the experience might be bio-chemical nor that the experience has such meaning to a person that this meaning might force a person to engage in some sort of struggle with others, indeed with society, to be permitted to engage with his or her own experience as good and worthwhile. It might be this that forces us to have to face the 'reality' of Islamist gnosis. Experience of, and existence with, this force is a defining issue in human freedom because the spiritual guff may well be nothing more than a pragmatic attempt to 'justify' (when no justification should be necessary) something that is difficult to communicate and is not a universal phenomenon in a social context. The issue is not the normalisation of people but the harm done to others by abnormalised experience - which would brings us back to statue-smashing Islamists.

For historical and cultural reasons related to the pragmatic exercise of power and the discomfort and anxiety of the those who cannot comprehend this force, or perhaps to relieve the anxiety of those who experience this force but are not given a language for it that is positive, the force’s own existence and value may be denied but only as once it might have been denied that the earth could be round. It may be that the person who feels this force is faced with such resentment and incomprehension from those who do not feel it that they are obliged to create a mythology and religious or cultic context rather than be able simply to say what should be said - 'this is what I am and you just have to live with it'.

Perhaps organized religion was and is the revenge of those who feel this force on the uncomprehending only, in one of many paradoxes that will we see in this Note, to see this revenge appropriated by pragmatists who thereby exerted their revenge on the revengers in turn! The lack of a language of assertion in the modern world for those who feel this energy means that the force-full are always placed on the defensive. This defensiveness extends to their very natures, in the round, as people different to the pragmatic mainstream. They constantly have to justify their difference!

A barrier is equally set up for 'intermittent' experiencers who learn to experience their difference in shame or silence instead of discussing their moments of difference openly or being permitted to create some personal meaning out of it, while those who live in a permanent state of relationship with this force are obliged to become not merely silent but secretive - or cloak themselves in that cultic nonsense we have already noted.

Perhaps much of the essentialist nonsense surrounding spirit that seems to have led to the absurd institutions of organised religion come down to little more than this - that non-sense has been a necessary defensive weapon for those who feel this libidinous force in an uncomprehending society. They are obliged to re-cast that which is not permitted in order to be open and then turn it into something false but socially acceptable. Of two main strategies for coping, our culture may have chosen the wrong one in the past because of resource constraints and the need to maintain social order but our social order may now no longer require communitarian falsehoods.

There is the opportunity to replace a strategy of silences and displacements with a new strategy of assertiveness and for the stripping away of all those accretions that force those who have a sense of their internal biochemical power to give absurd meanings to a surprisingly simple phenomenon. Social authoritarians remain rather frightened of this force because it is creative and innovative but it is also centred on a gnostic relationship to itself as not only desire is but as all other forms of high emotion and constructed meaning are so centred. High emotion and intense meaning are frightening to many people. The co-existence of non-reason with reason causes anxiety.

For social authoritarians, an inner force that cannot be reasoned into ‘normality’ must be repressed and contained. In the worst case, it becomes redrafted as 'sin' or even into particular 'sins' such as Lust which may then be rationally contained in a numbering system (the '7 Deadly Sins', for example). Nor is this force to be assumed to be simply sexual (the sexual may have a higher or lower place in its expression in particular individuals). The force is a general force that is not easily explained in conventional language. It may also have very different expressions in different people - the 'desire' that exists within it is also a form of yearning or love that need not at all be focused on, say, orgasm at all.

The force may equally well be focused simply on a state of being, one that has had accreted to it terms like 'spiritual' but whose terms are far too limited by such language, language designed merely (as I suggested above) to contain, channel and socialise something infinitely more complex that, in itself, needs no myth of universal consciousness or divinity. The ancient Indians would have seen this force as sleeping, dormant, a potential in the human condition. I am not so sure. Their analysis is based on a determination to see human beings as operating within some universal type or essence of human nature.

It is far more likely that it is present or not present to different degrees of intensity, possibly even circumstantial in its form to environmental conditions, in different persons, often at different times of their lives. This lack of essence to the force is why it presents such a difficulty to men and women who demand fixed essences instead of accepting existence as Heraclitean flux. It is why it is not merely contentious but a subject of anxiety, horror, social control and re-invention.

Whatever this thing is, it presents two immediate problems – how do I describe it to myself in order to manage it and how do I explain it to the world? Both exercises require that it be expressed linguistically or in terms of some ritual which, in itself, starts to remove a person from the actual experience. The degree to which this ‘force’ is shared is the degree to which it becomes exponentially attenuated so that the intense connection between individual persons (‘love’ included) becomes revised into a weak spirituality that ultimately leads to the psychic onanism of universalism and the covering of the experience with cultural layers and language that bend the experience into tribal or, again, cultic paths.

To some extent, it might be useful to create a theory of the force – in the Indian tradition, there are introspective models that lead to concepts of energy channels (nadis), subtle energy (prana) and essential elements (bindu) within a subtle body. Something similar takes place in the Chinese Taoist and Western alchemical traditions. But it is important to see these descriptions as allegorical and not as necessary truths. They exist to manage, control and communicate but not to ‘live’. The practitioner who believes in these forms has taken a step away from the truth.

Hindu, Chinese and Western language of the force should really be seen not as truths in themselves but as different technologies of 'spiritual' exploitation to which many other technologies of the past and the future might be added – including, possibly, a monist materialist scientific one as the science of mind and body progresses. The descriptions of the schools all taken together are mistakenly read as referring to some ‘perennial philosophy’ where the underlying reality is assumed to be of some universal quality where consciousness is to be set against matter. This is absurd because it mistakes the effect for the cause.

Instead, we have to think of the sensation of 'spirit' as an intrinsic quality of some forms of matter, arising naturally under certain conditions of evolution, where ‘spiritual technologies’ merely represent pre-scientific methods of dealing (through experience) with something that scence should theoretically (though possibly never actually) resolve through its methods of investigating the material plane, the only plane that ‘matters’ for descriptive purposes. This presents us with another paradox because the language that best describes what is going on is a phenomenological language, a description of experience in which cultural and personal metaphor, even poetry or visual symbolism in the form of art, best describes what is to be scientifically explained.

A scientific explanation may thus lie not in the description of things in mathematical terms but in the refinement of shared artistic representations that accumulate to become a paradoxically 'scientific' description of the phenomenon, one that has to be ‘felt’ as true because the artistic description in its right context (looked at with apollonian detachment) becomes the intellectual ‘last man standing’ - based on ‘praxis’, the doing of things that elicit or make use of the force. There is an existent Hindu technology (not the only technology) of systematically raising, containing, directing and using the force that is sensed as a physical sensation of movement from base through spine and upwards. This is Kundalini yoga.

The point today, though, is that such techniques should be looked at afresh primarily as technologies and not permit obfuscation with strange Sanskrit words and unscientific explanations that require the experience to represent more reality than it can take. We have covered this at length in our Tantra series but both these technologies and drugs should be able to recreate high-level experiences of a delusory nature that have effects on persons that are highly fulfilling and life-changing without demanding belief in God, gods or universal consciousness.

A further paradox must be that the delusion of universality becomes an apparent reality, not the ostensible reality of the vision (the absurdities of universal consciousness or reincarnation), but the felt reality of dramatic changes in personality, mind and the relationship between mind and body and then between mind, body and social reality. Some Indian sages will be usefully clear that the energy of which we speak is just the natural energy of the self but they then go on to make the unproven and unprovable assertion that this self is somehow dissipated as universal and is to be found in every being at the same time. This may help us to love rocks, spiders and frogs but it is a distraction.

Instead of seeing our experience of the universal as an attribute of an integral self to be mastered and understood, the Hindu sage somewhat foolishly takes the attribute for the whole and then dissipates the self into all sorts of creative invention. The ultimate absurdity becomes planet-worship, where rock displaces mind. This is not merely the general-universal but universals that then become re-personalised as God or turned into a nothingness (Nirvana) that is supposed to be higher than Man and still have meaning as a No-Thing in which he is to be merged in the future rather than contended with as 'Le Neant' in the present.

Humanity is unlikely to be free of its own delusions until it can face the awful fact (to many of its number) that its experiences are entirely contingent on the material structures of the brain in the body. This is not cause for gloom but for joy because it states that the person, though destined (at this point in history) for death, is his own invention and is not merely the fluff on the back-side of eternity.

Above all, this is an opportunity to recapture the various mythologies about the inner force and make them work as technologies rather than as eternal belief systems. By yet another paradox, this may 'save' the religious impulse by permitting many systems to co-exist as technologies without going through knots trying to find some perennial common denominator at the philosophical level.

To believe for the purpose of transformation in, say, Freyja or Shakti, is a wholly legitimate method of personal transformation, so long as the practitioner fully understands that, existentially, he is engaged in a technology in which the goddess both exists (as means) and does not exist (as ultimate reality) at the same time. The end of the technology is very similar to that of the ancient sages – a ‘gnosis’ or self-realisation that has been falsely connected to the idea of God or to an external wisdom. To think that some 'divine' external force transforms us is to diminish the power of one's own intrinsic resources.

Wisdom is connected to a self-knowledge that need have no connection with the universal except that it is an illusory experience shared biologically with some others of one’s own species, without any necessary specific connection to what it appears to be. The genius of self-knowledge lies not in knowing the other (impossible) or knowing the universal (illusion) but in knowing that the knowing of the other or of the universal is an illusion but one that is embraced as transforming.

Again we are into a paradox because the transformation into a state of understanding that all universalisms and all other-knowing is illusory – which may cause a passage through the ‘dark night of the soul’ – is ultimately so liberating that this knowledge of our lack of knowledge permits a much healthier relationship with others and with society. It is this state that the sages will refer to as an ‘awakening of inner knowledge’ or ‘pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love’ but is here taken to the next stage existentially, one where one observes objectively the illusion of this knowledge so that it can become the 'highest' form of knowledge – the knowledge that the illusion lies not in the Self but in the projection of Self into the universal.

From this perspective, a key figure in our understanding (though the existentialist perspective in this paper is different) is Jung who linked the process of Kundalini yoga with individuation. Another such figure is Wilhelm Reich who identified the ‘drives’ involved with more perspicacity than he has been given credit for – a failure created by his many other errors of judgement. Jung put it succinctly (in relation to the Eastern exploration of these issues): “… the concept of Kundalini has for us, only one use, that is, to describe our own experiences with the unconscious”. We only differ from Jung in our view of that unconscious as being possibly far more materially based than perhaps he considered likely.

The issue raised here is thus only whether individuation must be illusion-full (essentialist) or illusion-less (existentialist). We are discomfited in the West by the value placed on being ‘without illusions’ in spiritual matters but a position that is filled with illusion (whether generated by meditation or Ayahuasca) is not, in value terms, any better or worse than one that is without illusions (existential) or perhaps is one of having the illusion that one is without illusions.

There is a point where we cannot know anything but merely are forced to make choices (even if less than conscious choices) of the level of illusion we find acceptable. It is merely the contention of this Posting that full individuation probably requires that we go beyond the comfort zone of the illusion of having gone beyond material illusion into high essentialism (the construction of pragmatic but false meaning) and re-engage with our materialism as 'no-meaning' other than the meaning we create out of our material being (existentialism).

There is, however, no obligation on us to do so and no moral superiority in moving beyond the ‘spiritual’ back into the material. It is simply a choice for full individuation – an individuation that might well be in danger of detaching oneself entirely from the social (as pre-eminent value system) and into a state that might almost be considered intellectually post-human. This would simply be, then, a matter of choice ... the embracing of Existence, including the felt forces of Existence, without illusions because Life is in itself sufficient to justify the ways of Man to Man.