Muhn Moreover, the kundalini energy appears to diffuse, so that it may be operating on several levels at once, removing several different stress points simultaneously. And both are destined to be surpassed by superior forms of existence. Uroboros The uroboros —the serpent swallowing its own tail—is an ancient symbol. In physiological terms, most of these models have little relevance. I advised her to discontinue her self-styled meditation and take up some established meditative practice.

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Jeffrey Mishlove. It represents a coiled energy located at the base of the spine, considered like a coiled serpent or the serpent power, and through yogic practice or other circumstances this coiled energy rises through the body, activating various psychic and nervous energy centers.

In yoga this is thought of as an auspicious sign of spiritual attainment. However, from the point of view of Western psychology and psychiatry, these same symptoms might be viewed as psychotic. With me today in the studio is Dr. Sannella is the founder of the Kundalini Clinic, and is an expert in dealing with individuals, both Eastern and Western, who are experiencing these symptoms of kundalini rising.

Welcome, Lee. In Western medicine we have the symbol of the caduceus, with the snakes twisted up the staff of Hermes. One is a popularization of the other.

It was known to the ancient Western Greek physicians, as well as to the yogic practitioners. The coil to me means potential. And the crossing of the snakes has more probably to do with the nadis, or the other accessory energy centers, aside from that which is supposed to be in the spinal canal. These are concepts that have been articulated very cogently and in quite a lot of detail in yogic philosophy, and I gather that these are concepts that you take seriously as a medical doctor.

I take seriously the new event in the brain -- a new, as you said, psychophysiological event in the brain, which is what the kundalini is to me. The peripheral signs and symptoms, and the descriptions which refer to the spinal cord and the accessory systems, whatever they are -- acupuncture or nadis -- are all derivative from the central event in the brain, which is a change itself, which represents psychophysiological change in the whole organism.

This change then gives the person who has spiritual inclinations the equipment with which to more adequately join with the divine, which as you said is the original meaning of yoga. People would be happy. A person would be getting a lot of positive attention and support to go through the experience and let it unfold.

In our own culture, the response might be quite the opposite. And there are lots of other openings, in the sense that this is not the only one. Probably we should call it the master opening in the psychophysiology of the human being, but there are lots of preliminary and other states, psychic states, that correspond to the yoga siddhis or powers -- like out-of-the-body states, for instance, or bilocation states, or whatever the states are, and all of them are in a sense real. They are clearly defined in yoga, and people experience them, and if anyone wants to take the time and effort to search them out, they still exist all over the world.

It keeps me awake at night. These experiences seem to be breaks with reality. People are hearing voices, seeing visions, having physical ailments for which there is no organic cause. These are all typical symptoms of psychosis. Do you view all psychosis as a spiritual opening?

Psychosis may accompany spiritual opening of this kind, either in part or almost continuously, and the two can be distinguished and should be, because the psychosis is something to be understood, but not supported in the same way that you would support a spiritual opening, which is a normal sort of process that man is heir to.

It is aberration without understanding of that aberration as being aberrated. I mean, they might start off on a total tangent, or show absolutely no emotional responsiveness to some things and a super-responsiveness to others, inappropriate affect, and so forth.

MISHLOVE: In developing the procedures in the Kundalini Clinic, you have spent a lot of time with people who are having genuine spiritual openings that would appear to be psychotic, and who need support within our Western context to get through that.

And that part which is universal to man also, which is his aberrated state. It could, certainly, if that is something that comes natural to the therapist. Some of us are talented in that way, and some of us are talented in other ways. Some of us like to massage, manipulate, and so forth.

MISHLOVE: I would think a big problem that a person would have, experiencing a kundalini experience or a spiritual opening, would be how it would affect their relationships with their family, with their spouse or loved ones, with their children.

Do they get better after a while? How long does it typically take? I have a few people like this. Other people get very tired of it after ten or twelve years. It depends on what they are doing with it, and whether they have a practice in which it can be incorporated naturally and gracefully, and so forth.

It has a way of its own. MISHLOVE: Do you find that after a period of time, if a person has this opening, and then they learn how to adjust, to resolve things, to establish a higher equilibrium, that then their life begins to function, you might say, at a higher level? They may be in and out of that state. Those are the avatars who we see in Jesus and Buddha and so forth. You practice in the psychiatric area. You deal with people who are having religious experiences, or spiritual experiences.

Can you talk a little bit about the role in which a mental health professional would be working with a spiritual community in dealing with situations, cases of this kind? They are lesser states of intense prana, perhaps; prana is an energy that precedes, usually, the kundalini, or that simmers down to it.

I mean, often we think we are going beyond the ego, and are deluding ourselves. But in general, what you say is correct. MISHLOVE: Earlier, when I asked you do you subscribe to or accept the theory of the chakras and the nadis, you said not quite; you said there are physiological events going on in the brain that have been interpreted this way by these cultures.

To what extent do you think the people who are having these experiences that might lead them to a higher level of functioning, are being misled by the supermarket of Oriental spiritual traditions that are available? I just think they are sort of cast in concrete. And so the Kung people, for instance, and the Bushmen in South Africa, have a very similar experience, from their verbal descriptions, but it lacks a lot of the very elaborate descriptions that you read about in the classical kundalini.

The Taoists, on the other hand, have sort of in between, because they have a model which is closer to our neurophysiological model than either the Kung or the classical yoga models. Lee, how do you think that this kundalini phenomenon reflects on our understanding of medicine in general, our understanding of the potentials of the human being? What can Western science really learn from all of this? How much does Western science know about this change?

But we have a certain amount of laboratory evidence that it really does exist, and we certainly have all the clinical evidence in the world, in every psychic area, to know that they are real.

They also can be faked. So I went out and searched until I found these things and could confirm them for myself. MISHLOVE: Many years ago a Hindu writer named Gopi Krishna wrote a book on kundalini, in which he suggested that this was the force that underlies great genius, and that by practicing yoga, having a kundalini experience, one could awaken great intellectual powers or great musical powers, the abilities of great genius. But I would not necessarily agree with that.

MISHLOVE: Basically you might say that if individuals were really interested in reaching out and finding out what are these higher levels of brain functioning, higher levels of mental functioning, that the practice of spiritual disciplines, apart from the dogmatic philosophies associated with them, would be a valuable pursuit.

What kind of practices do you engage in, in this regard? SANNELLA: Well, you see we are very reactive creatures, and even from the event of birth we have developed certain kinds of defenses and certain kinds of constrictions that push us into this ceaseless searching. Inner need, yes. SANNELLA: Well, spiritual practice is difficult at best -- in other words, when you have all the advantages, let us say with a very intuitive and sensitive organism, and one that easily enters into the various psychic realms and that has energies available, like the kundalini energy, for instance.

There are others. The resistance comes just from being born. How does one get through that resistance? How does one experience the more natural state?

The words are just different labels. MISHLOVE: Is there some sense in which we could maybe appreciate our resistance, even to the extent of kind of respecting it, nurturing the resistance itself as being a part of our divine nature?

And somehow, those unfoldings have to be speeded up a bit, because the world needs open, free, expressive, connected people to turn it about from its present course of craziness. Thank you very much for being with me.


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