THE FORCE - CENTRES
THE MEANING OF THE WORD
THE word Chakra is Sanskrit, and signifies a wheel. It is also used in various subsidiary, derivative and symbolical senses, just as is its English equivalent; as we might speak of the wheel of fate, so does the Buddhist speak of the wheel of life and death; and he describes that first great sermon in which the Lord Buddha propounded his doctrine as the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta (chakka being the Pali equivalent for the Sanskrit chakra) which Professor Rhys Davids poetically renders as “to set rolling the royal chariot-wheel of a universal empire of truth and righteousness”. That is exactly the spirit of the meaning which the expression conveys to the Buddhist devotee, though the literal translation of the bare words is “the turning of the wheel of the Law”. The special use of the word chakra with which we are at the moment concerned is its application to a series of wheel-like vortices which exist in the surface of the etheric double of man.
As this hook may probably fall into the hands of some who are not familiar with Theosophical terminology it may be well to insert here a few words of preliminary explanation.
In ordinary superficial conversation a man sometimes mentions his soul - implying that the body through which he speaks is the real man, and that this thing called the soul is a possession or appanage of that body - a sort of captive balloon floating over him, and in some vague sort of way attached to him. This is a loose, inaccurate and misleading statement; the exact opposite is the truth. Man is a soul and owns a body - several bodies in fact; for besides the visible vehicle by means of which he transacts his business with his lower world, he has others which are not visible to ordinary sight, by means of which he deals with the emotional and mental worlds. With those, however, we are not for the moment concerned.
In the course of the last century enormous advances have been made in our knowledge of the minute details of the physical body; students of medicine are now familiar with its bewildering complexities, and have at least a general idea of the way in which its amazingly intricate machinery works.
THE ETHERIC DOUBLE
Naturally, however, they have had to confine their attention to that part of the body which is dense enough to be visible to the eye, and most of them are probably unaware of the existence of that type of matter, still physical though invisible, to which in Theosophy we give the name of etheric.* This invisible part of the physical body is of great importance to us, for it is the vehicle through which flow the streams of vitality which keep the body alive, and without it as a bridge to convey undulations of thought and feeling from the astral to the
* Not to be confused with “aether” which some consider to be the medium for electro magnetic waves. (Ed.)
visible denser physical matter, the ego*- could make no use of the cells of his brain. It is clearly visible to the clairvoyant as a mass of faintly-luminous violet-grey mist, interpenetrating the denser part of the body, and extending very slightly beyond it.
The life of the physical body is one of perpetual change, and in order that it shall live it needs constantly to be supplied from three distinct sources. It must have food for its digestion, air for its breathing, and vitality in three forms for its absorption. This vitality is essentially a force, but when clothed with matter it appears to us as though it were a highly
refined chemical element. It exists upon all planes, but our business for the moment is to consider its manifestation in the physical world.
In order to understand that, we must know something of the constitution and arrangement of this etheric part of our bodies. I have written on this subject many years ago in various volumes, and Colonel A. E. Powell has recently gathered together all the information heretofore published and issued it in a convenient form in a book called The
The chakras or force-centres are points of connection at which energy flows from one vehicle or body of a man to another. Anyone who possesses a slight degree of clairvoyance may easily see them in the etheric double, where they show themselves as saucer-like depressions or vortices in its surface. When quite undeveloped they appear as small circles about two inches in diameter, glowing dully in the ordinary man; but when awakened and vivified they are seen as blazing, coruscating whirlpools, much increased in size, and resembling miniature suns. We sometimes speak of them as roughly corresponding to certain physical organs; in reality they show themselves at the surface of the etheric double, which projects slightly beyond the outline of the dense body. If we imagine ourselves to be looking straight down into the bell of a flower of the convolvulus type, we shall get some idea of the general appearance of a chakra. The stalk of the flower in each springs from a point in the spine, so another view might show the spine as a central stem (see Plate VIII), from which flowers shoot forth at intervals, showing the opening of their bells at the surface of the etheric
The seven centres with which we are at present concerned are indicated in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 1). Table I gives their English and Sanskrit names.
All these wheels are perpetually rotating, and into the hub or open mouth of each a force from the higher world is always flowing- a manifestation of the life-stream issuing from the Second Aspect of the Solar Logos - which we call the primary force. That force is sevenfold in its nature, and all its forms operate in each of these centres, although one of
them in each case usually predominates over the others. Without this inrush of energy the physical body could not exist. Therefore the centres are in operation in every one, although in the undeveloped person they are usually in comparatively sluggish motion, just forming the necessary vortex for the force, and no more. In a more evolved man they may be glowing and pulsating with living light, so that an enormously greater amount of energy passes through them, with the result that there are additional faculties and possibilities open to the man.
* Individuality, not to be confused with the use of the term in psychology. (Ed.)
THE FORM OF THE VORTICES
This divine energy which pours into each centre from without sets up at right angles to itself (that is to say, in the surface of the etheric double) secondary forces in undulatory circular motion, just as bar-magnet thrust into an induction coil produces a current of electricity which flows round the coil at right angles to the axis or direction of the magnet.
The primary force itself, having entered the vortex, radiates from it again at right angles, but in straight lines, as though the centre of the vortex were the hub of a wheel, and the radiations of the primary force its spokes. By means of these spokes the force seems to bind the astral and etheric bodies together as though with grappling-hooks. The number of these spokes differs in the different force-centres, and determines the number of waves or petals which each of them exhibits. Because of this these centres have often been poetically described in Oriental books as resembling flowers.
English Name Sanskrit Name Situation
Root or Basic Chakra Muladhara At the base of the spine
Spleen or Splenic Chakra Over the spleen
Navel or Umbilical Chakra Manipura At the navel, over the solar plexus
Heart or Cardiac Chakra Anahata Over the heart
Throat or Laryngeal Chakra Vishuddha At the front of the throat
Brow or frontal Chakra Ajna In the space between the eye brows
Crown or Coronal Chakra Sahasrara On the top of the head
Each of the secondary forces which sweep round the saucer-like depression has its own characteristic wave-length, just as has light of a certain colour; but instead of moving in a straight line as light does, it moves along relatively large undulations of various sizes, each of which is some multiple of the smaller wave-lengths within it. The number of undulations is determined by the number of spokes in the wheel, and the secondary force weaves itself under and over the radiating currents of the primary force, just as basket-work might be woven round the spokes of a carriage-wheel. The wave-lengths are infinitesimal, and probably thousands of them are included within one of the undulations. As the forces rush round in the vortex, these oscillations of different sizes, crossing one another in this basketwork fashion, produce the flower-like form to which I have referred. It is, perhaps, still more like the appearance of certain saucers or shallow vases of wavy iridescent glass, such as are made in Venice. All of these undulations or petals have that shimmering pavonine effect, like mother-of-pearl, yet each of them has usually its own predominant colour, as will be seen
The spleen chakra is not indicated in the Indian books; its place is taken by a centre called the Svadhishthana, situated in the neighbourhood of the generative organs, to which the same six petals are assigned. From our point of view the arousing of such a centre would be regarded as a misfortune, as there are serious dangers connected with it. In the Egyptian scheme of development elaborate precautions were taken to prevent any such awakening. (See The Hidden Life iii Freemasonry.) from our illustrations. This nacreous silvery aspect is likened in Sanskrit works to the gleam of moonlight on water.
These illustrations of ours show the chakras as seen by clairvoyant sight in a fairly evolved and intelligent person, who has already brought them to some extent into working order. Of course our colours are not sufficiently luminous - no earthly colours could be; but atleast the drawings will give some idea of the actual appearance of these wheels of light. It will be understood from what has already been said that the centres vary in size and in brightness in different people, and that even in the same person some of them may be much more developed than the rest. They are drawn about life-size, except for the Sahasrara or crown chakra, which we have found it necessary to magnify in order to show its amazing wealth of detail. In the case of a man who excels greatly in the qualities which express themselves through a certain centre, that centre will be not only much enlarged but also especially radiant, throwing out brilliant golden rays. An example of that may be seen in Madame Blavatsky’s precipitation of the aura of Mr. Stainton Moses, which is now kept in a cabinet in the archives of the Society at Adyar. It is reproduced, though very imperfectly, on page 364 of Volume I of Colonel Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves.
These chakras naturally divide into three groups, the lower, the middle and the higher; they might be called respectively the physiological, the personal and the spiritual.
The first and second chakras, having but few spokes or petals, are principally concerned with receiving into the body two forces which come into it at that physical level - one being the serpent-fire from the earth and the other the vitality from the sun. The centres of the middle group, numbered 3, 4 and 5, are engaged with the forces which reach man
through his personality - through the lower astral in the case of centre 3, the higher astral in centre 4, and from the lower mind in centre 5. All these centres seem to feed certain ganglia in the body. Centres 6 and 7 stand apart from the rest, being connected with the pituitary body and the pineal gland respectively, and coming into action only when a certain amount of spiritual development has taken place.
I have heard it suggested that each of the different petals of these force-centres represents a moral quality, and that the development of that quality brings the centre into activity. For example, in The Dhyana-bindu Upanishad the petals of the heart chakra are associated with devotion, laziness, anger, charity and similar qualities. I have not yet met with any facts which definitely confirm this, and it is not easy to see exactly how it can be, because the appearance is produced by certain readily recognizable forces, and the petals in any particular centre are either active or not active according as these forces have or have not been aroused, and their unfoldment seems to have no more direct connection with morality than has the enlargement of the biceps. I have certainly met with persons in whom some of
the centres were in full activity, though the moral advancement was by no means exceptionally high, whereas in other persons of high spirituality and the noblest possible morality the centres were scarcely yet vitalized at all; so that there does not seem to be any necessary connection between the two developments.
There are, however, certain facts observable which may be the basis of this rather curious idea. Although the likeness to petals is caused by the same forces flowing round and round the centre, alternately over and under the various spokes, those spokes differ in character, because the inrushing force is subdivided into its component parts or qualities, and therefore each spoke radiates a specialized influence of its own, even though the variations be slight. The secondary force, in passing each spoke, is to some extent modified by its influence, and therefore changes a little in its hue. Some of these shades of colour may indicate a form of the force which is helpful to the growth of some moral quality, and when that quality is strengthened its corresponding vibration will be more pronounced. Thus the deepening or weakening of the tint might be taken to betoken the possession of more or less of that attribute.
THE ROOT CHAKRA
The first centre, the basic (Plate I), at the base of the spine, has a primary force which radiates out in four spokes, and therefore arranges its undulations so as to give the effect of its being divided into quadrants, alternately red and orange in hue, with hollows between them.
This makes it seem as though marked with the sign of the cross, and for that reason the cross is often used to symbolize this centre, and sometimes a flaming cross is taken to indicate the serpent-fire which resides in it. When acting with any vigour this chakra is fiery orange-red in colour, corresponding closely with the type of vitality which is sent down to it from the splenic centre. Indeed, it will be noticed that in the case of every one of the chakras a similar correspondence with the colour of its vitality may be seen.
THE SPLEEN CHAKRA
The second centre, the splenic (Plate II), at the spleen, is devoted to the specialization, subdivision and dispersion of the vitality which comes to us from the sun. That vitality is poured out again from it in six horizontal streams, the seventh variety being drawn into the hub of the wheel. This centre therefore has six petals or undulations, all of different colours, and is specially radiant, glowing and sunlike. Each of the six divisions of the wheel shows predominantly the colour of one of the forms of the vital force -red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.
THE NAVEL CHAKRA
The third centre, the umbilical (Plate IV), at the navel or solar plexus, receives a primary force with ten radiations, so it vibrates in such a manner as to divide itself into ten undulations or petals. It is very closely associated with feelings and emotions of various kinds. Its predominant colour is a curious blending of several shades of red, though there is also a great deal of green in it. The divisions are alternately chiefly red and chiefly green.
THE HEART CHAKRA
The fourth centre, the cardiac (Plate V), at the heart, is of a glowing golden colour, and each of its quadrants is divided into three parts, which gives it twelve undulations, because its primary force makes for it twelve spokes.
THE THROAT CHAKRA
The fifth centre, the laryngeal (Plate VII), at the throat, has sixteen spokes, and therefore sixteen apparent divisions. There is a good deal of blue in it, but its general effect is silvery and gleaming, with a kind of suggestion as of moonlight upon rippling water. Blue and green predominate alternately in its sections.
THE BROW CHAKRA
The sixth centre, the frontal (Plate IX), between the eyebrows, has the appearance of being divided into halves, one chiefly rose-coloured, though with a great deal of yellow about it, and the other predominantly a kind of purplish-blue, again closely agreeing with the colours of the special types of vitality that vivify it. Perhaps it is for this reason that this
centre is mentioned in Indian books as having only two petals, though if we are to count undulations of the same character as those of the previous centres we shall find that each half is subdivided into forty-eight of these, making ninety-six in all, because its primary force has that number of radiations.
This sudden leap form 16 to 96 spokes, and again the even more startling variation from 96 to 972 between this and the next chakra, show us that we are now dealing with centres of an altogether different order from those which we have hitherto been considering.
We do not yet know all the factors which determine the number of spokes in a chakra, but it is already evident that they represent shades of variation in the primary force. Before we can say much more than this, hundreds of observations and comparisons must be made - made, repeated and verified over and over again. But meantime this much is clear - that while the need of the personality can be satisfied by a limited number of types of force, when we come to the higher and more permanent principles of man we encounter a complexity, a multiplicity, which demands for its expression a vastly greater selection of modifications of the energy.
THE CROWN CHAKRA
The seventh centre, the coronal (see frontispiece), at the top of the head, is when stirred into full activity the most resplendent of all, full of indescribable chromatic, effects and vibrating with almost inconceivable rapidity. It seems to contain all sorts of prismatic hues, but is on the whole predominantly violet. It is described in Indian books as thousand petalled, and really this is not very far from the truth, the number of the radiations of its primary force in the outer circle being nine hundred and sixty. Every line of this will be seen faithfully reproduced in our frontispiece, though it is hardly possible to give the effect of the separate petals. In addition to this it has a feature which is possessed by none of the other chakras - a sort of subsidiary central whirlpool of gleaming white flushed with gold in its heart - a minor activity which has twelve undulations of its own.
This chakra is usually the last to be awakened. In the beginning it is the same size as the others, but as the man progresses on the Path of spiritual advancement it increases steadily until it covers almost the whole top of the head. Another peculiarity attends its development. It is at first a depression in the etheric body, as are all the other, because through it, as through them, the divine force flows in from without; but when the man realizes his position as a king of the divine light, dispensing largesse to all around him, this chakra reverses itself, turning as it were inside out; it is no longer a channel of reception but of radiation, no longer a depression but a prominence, standing out from the head as a dome, a veritable crown of glory.
In Oriental pictures and statues of the deities or great men this prominence is often shown. In Fig. 2 it appears on the head of a statue of the Lord Buddha at Borobudur in Java.
This is the conventional method of representing it, and in this form it is to be found upon the heads of thousands of images of the Lord Buddha all over the Eastern world. In many cases it will be seen that the two tiers of the Sahasrara chakra are copied - the larger dome of 960 petals first, and then the smaller dome of 12 rising out of that in turn. The head on the right is that of Brahma from the Hokke-do of Todai-ji, at Nara in Japan (dating from A.D. 749); and it will be seen that the statue is wearing a head-dress fashioned to represent this chakra, though in a form somewhat different from the last, showing the coronet of flames shooting up from it.
It appears also in the Christian symbology, in the crowns worn by the four-and-twenty elders who are for ever casting them down before the throne of God. In the highly developed man this coronal chakra pours out splendour and glory which makes for him a veritable crown; and the meaning of that passage of Scripture is that all that he has gained, all the magnificent karma that he makes, all the wondrous spiritual force that he generates - all that he casts perpetually at the feet of the Locos to be used in his work. So, over and over again, can he continue to cast down his golden crown, because it continually re-forms as the force wells up from within him.
OTHER ACCOUNTS OF THE CENTRES
These seven force-centres are frequently described in Sanskrit literature, in some of the minor Upanishads, in the Puranas and in Tantric works. They are used today by many Indian yogis. A friend acquainted with the inner life of India assures me that he knows of one school in that country which makes free use of the chakras - a school which numbers as its pupils about sixteen thousand people scattered over a large area. There is much interesting information available on the subject from Hindu sources, which we will try to summarize with comments in a later chapter.
It appears also that certain European mystics were acquainted with the chakras.
Evidence of this occurs in a book entitled Theosophia Practica by the well-known German mystic Johann Georg Gichtel, a pupil of Jacob Boehme, who probably belonged to the secret society of the Rosicrucians. It is from this work of Gichtel’s that our Plate III is reproduced by the kind permission of the publishers. This book was originally issued in the year 1696, though in the edition of 1736 it is said that the pictures, of which the volume is mainly a description, were printed only some ten years after the death of the author, which took place in 1710. The book must be distinguished from a collection of Gichtel’s correspondence put forth under the same title Theosophia Practica; the present volume is not in the form of letters, but consists of six chapters dealing with the subject of that mystic regeneration which was such an important tenet of the Rosicrucians. The illustration which we give here has been photographed from the French translation of the Theosophia Practica, published in 1897 in the Bibliotheque Rosicrucienne (No. 4) by the Bibliotheque Chacornac, Paris. Gichtel, who was born in 1638, at Ratisbon in Bavaria, studied theology and law and practised as an advocate; but afterwards, becoming conscious of a spiritual world within, gave up all worldly interests and became the founder of a mystical Christian movement.
Being opposed to the ignorant orthodoxy of his time, he drew down upon himself the hatred of those whom he had attacked, and about 1670 he was consequently banished, and his property confiscated. He finally found refuge in Holland, where he lived for the remaining forty years of his life.
He evidently considered the figures printed in his Theosophia Practica as being of a secret nature; apparently they were kept within the small circle of his disciples for quite a number of years. They were, he says, the result of an inner illumination - presumably of what in our modern times we should call clairvoyant faculties. On the title-page of his book he says that it is, “A short exposition of the three principles of the three worlds in man, represented in clear pictures, showing how and where they have their respective Centres in the inner man; according to what the author has found in himself in divine contemplation, and what he has felt, tasted and perceived”.
Like most mystics of his day, however, Gichtel lacks the exactitude which should characterize true occultism and mysticism; in his description of the figures he allows himself lengthy, though oftentimes quite interesting digressions on the difficulties and problems of the spiritual life. As an exposition of his illustrations, however, his book is not a success.
Perhaps he did not dare to say too much; or he may have wished to induce his readers to learn to see for themselves that of which he was writing. It seems likely that by the truly spiritual life which he led he had developed sufficient clairvoyance to see these chakras, but that he was unaware of their true character and use, so that in his attempts to explain their meaning, he attached to them the current symbolism of the mystic school to which lie belonged.
He is here dealing, as will be seen, with the natural earthly man in a state of darkness, so he has perhaps some excuse for being a little pessimistic about his chakras. He lets the first and second pass without comment (possibly knowing that they are chiefly concerned with physiological processes), but labels the solar plexus as the home of anger - as indeed it is. He sees the heart-centre as filled with self-love, the throat with envy and avarice; and the higher centres of the head radiate nothing better than pride.
He also assigns planets to the chakras, giving the Moon to the basic, Mercury to the splenic, Venus to the umbilical, the Sun to the heart (though it will be noted that a snake is coiled round it), Mars to the laryngeal, Jupiter to the frontal, and Saturn to the coronal. He informs us further that fire resides in the heart, water in the liver, earth in the lungs, and air in the bladder.
It is noteworthy that he draws a spiral, starting from the snake round the heart and passing through all the centres in turn; but there seems no very definite reason for the order in which this line touches them. The symbolism of the running dog is not explained, so we are left at liberty to interpret it as we will.
THE ROOT CHAKRA
THE CHAKRAS ACCORDING TO GICHTEL
THE STREAMS OF VITALITY
The author gives us later an illustration of the man regenerated by the Christ, who has entirely crushed the serpent, but has replaced the Sun by the Sacred Heart, dripping gore most gruesomely.
The interest of the picture to us, however, is not in the author’s interpretations, but in the fact that it shows beyond the possibility of mistake that at least some of the mystics of the seventeenth century knew of the existence and position of the seven centres in the human body.
Further evidence of early knowledge about these force-centres exists in the rituals of Freemasonry, the salient points of which come down to us from time immemorial; the monuments show that these points were known and practised in ancient Egypt, and they have been handed down faithfully to the present day. Masons find them among their secrets, and by utilizing them actually stimulate certain of these centres for the occasion and the purpose of their work, though they generally know little or nothing of what is happening beyond the range of normal sight. Obviously explanations are impossible here, but I have mentioned as much of the matter as is permissible in The Hidden Life in Freemasonry.