The physiological process involved in the rising of the Kundalini (natural nervous or even supernatural psychic energy) in devoted and persevering yogis has never been explained any place where I could understand it; it is a mystery. If you have the patience to examine any of the citations on that wikipedia page, perhaps it will make more sense to you. To me the single best resource is The Serpent Power by Arthur Avalon. This book was first published in 1919 when neurology was still a comparatively primitive science. Although it is the single best resource, it is not a good resource. One might describe it as the least terrible resource.
I have used this analogy on my blog once before, but it is so central to my current investigations that I am going to repeat it here. My amateur opinion is that the human nervous system remains an undiscovered country. I believe that our current maps of the human nervous system are little better than the 16th century maps of North America which had major rivers running from Lake Michigan to San Francisco Bay. Perhaps the Kundalini has no more factual basis than the Seven Cities of Gold which a few of the Spanish Conquistadors died searching for. Bernard De Voto has a delightful passage in one of his books describing Coronodo's disappointment at finding nothing but adobe huts when arriving at his furthest destination in what is now New Mexico.
Instead of data, I offer anecdotes. My basic daily meditation regimen (described here) is a series of relaxation auto-suggestions focused upon my own anatomy. One of the most interesting effects of this meditation is seemingly spontaneous activation of reflex movements, such as the extensor digitorum reflex. Some hypnosis manuals consider the extensor digitorum refllex as the sine qua non of the state of hypnosis--a subject is considered hypnotized if and only if such an ideo motor response can be observed.
Many years ago I suffered a back injury playing tennis and was treated by doctors. It was confusing to me, and they were all more confident in the success of my treatment outcome than I was. I expressed some skepticism regarding the diagnosis and one of them said to me:
"Look. I have just given you a complete basic neurological examination. Your function is perfectly fine; in fact, considering your age, it is most excellent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your spine. Do you want some Prozac?"
In this complete basic neurological examination he did test my extensor digitorum reflex. My experience in doing years of my self-hypnosis meditation leads me to believe that their catalog of reflexes is woefully incomplete. In my neurology textbook the word hypnosis is missing from the index. My psychology textbook is little better. (I have the 5th edition from 2000 so maybe this has improved.) There are five or six references to hypnosis. Gleitman says it is not understood, and he (they) speculates that perhaps the brain is secreting endorphins or similar poorly understood neurotransmitters and this is responsible for the phenomena that we observe in hypnotized subjects. There are also a couple of vague references to the placebo effect. Placebo is another word which is missing from the index in the neurology textbook.
This probably sounds critical of Kandel et al, but I do not intend that. The book is 1414 pages long and endlessly rewarding. When medical students study neurology, that is one of the books that they use. The subject is so large that they have to leave things out. Evidence-based medicine leaves out hypnosis because it seems impossible to collect reliable evidence. I once had a neurologist tell me, "I know nothing about hypnosis". Perhaps that was a dishonest conversation stopper to avoid a conversation he wanted to avoid, but if his teachers followed the Kandel book they left hypnosis out. This also is a mystery.
I own Gray's Anatomy, and the Anatomy Coloring Book in addition to Kandel; they contain more accessible information on the human nervous system. The best single document for me is done by an artist, however, not a doctor. It is Sacred Mirrors by Alex Gray. His representation of the human nervous system seems to be at exactly the right level of detail for my purposes, and the beauty of his presentation permits me to really appreciate the wonders of human anatomy. Some of his pictures are physically inaccurate. He has a beautiful picture of the psychic energy centers in the body. There is no scientific evidence for any such thing.
- ▼ March (6)
- ► 2010 (60)
- Houston, Texas, United States
- I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.