Carl Jung gave a series of lectures in 1932 where he explored the
symbolism of the Chakra system of Kundalini Yoga, and compared it to
stages of psychological/spiritual development. I think the parallels are
very compelling, and consistent with advaita at a higher level.
Here are some excerpts from a book, “The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga”,
edited by Sonu Shamdasani, that documents these lectures.
“You know, it is sometimes an ideal not to have any kind of convictions
or feelings that are not based upon reality. One must even educate
people, when they have to cross from manipura to anahata, that their
emotions ought to have a real basis, that they cannot swear hell and
damnation at somebody on a mere assumption, and that there are absolute
reasons why they are not justified in doing such a thing. They really
have to learn that their feelings should be based on facts.
But to cross from anahata to visuddha one should unlearn all that. One
should even admit that all one’s psychical facts have nothing to do with
material facts. For instance, the anger which you feel for somebody or
something, no matter how justified it is, is not caused by those
external things. It is a phenomenon all by itself. That is what we call
taking a thing on its subjective level[…]
If you have reached that level, you begin to leave anahata, because you
have succeeded in dissolving the absolute union of material external
facts with internal or psychical facts. You begin to consider the game
of the world as your game, the people that appear outside as exponents
of your psychical condition. Whatever befalls you, whatever experience
or adventure you have in the external world, is your own experience.
For example, an analysis does not depend on who the analyst is. It is
your own experience[…]When he really begins to see it as his own
experience, then he realizes that Dr. Jung, the partner in the game,
is only relative. He is what the patient thinks of him. He is simply a
hook on which you are hanging your garment; he is not so substantial as
he seems to be. He is also your subjective experience.
If you can see that, you are on your way to visuddha, because in
visuddha the whole game of the world becomes your subjective experience.
The world itself becomes a reflection of the psyche. For instance, when
I say that the world consists of psychical images only–that whatever
you touch, whatever you experience, is imagined because you cannot
perceive anything else; that if you touch this table, you might think it
substantial, but what you really experience is a peculiar message from
the tactile nerves to your brain[…] and your brain even is also only
an image up here–when I say such a heretical thing I am on the way to
visuddha. If I should succeed–and I hope I shall not–in taking all of
you up to visuddha, you would certainly complain; you would stifle, you
would not be able to breathe any longer, because there is nothing you
could possibly breathe. It is ether.
That is only the fifth chakra, and we are already out of breath–literally
so–we are beyond the air we breathe; we are reaching, say, into the
remote future of mankind, or of ourselves. […] Therefore it is rather
bold to speak of the sixth cakra, which is naturally completely beyond
our reach, because we have not even arrived at visuddha. But since we
have that symbolism we can at least construct something theoretical
The ajna center, you remember, looks like a winged seed, and it contains
no animal. That means there is no psychical factor, nothing against us
whose power we might feel. The original symbol, the linga, is here
repeated in a new form, the white state. Instead of the dark germinating
condition, it is now in the full blazing white light, fully conscious.
In other words, the God that has been dormant in muladhara is here fully
awake, the only reality; and therefore this center has been called the
condition in which one unites with Siva. One could say it was the center
of the unio mystica with the power of God, meaning that absolute reality
where one is nothing but psychic reality, yet confronted with the psychic
reality that one is not. And that is God. God is the eternal psychical
object. God is simply a word for the non-ego. In visuddha psychical
reality was still opposed to physical reality. Therefore one still used
the support of the white elephant to sustain the reality of the psyche.
Psychical facts still took place within us, although they had a life of
But in the ajna center the psyche gets wings–here you know you are
nothing but psyche. And yet there is another psyche, a counterpart to
your psychical reality, the non-ego reality, the thing that is not even
to be called self, and you know that you are going to disappear into it.
The ego disappears completely; the psychical is no longer a content in
us, but we become contents of it. You see that this condition in which
the white elephant has disappeared into the self is almost unimaginable.
He is no longer perceptible even in his strength because he is no longer
against you. You are absolutely identical with him. You are not even
dreaming of doing anything other than what the force is demanding, and
the force is not demanding it since you are already doing it–since you
are the force. And the force returns to the origin, God.
To speak about the lotus of the thousand petals above, the sahasrara
center, is quite superfluous because that is merely a philosophical
concept with no substance to us whatsoever; it is beyond any possible
experience. In ajna there is still the experience of the self that is
apparently different from the object, God. But in sahasrara one
understands that it is not different, and so the next conclusion would
be that there is no object, no God, nothing but brahman. There is no
experience because it is one, it is without a second. It is dormant,
it is not, and therefore it is nirvana. This is an entirely
philosophical concept, a mere logical conclusion from the premises
above. It is without practical value for us.
Question: Do you think the idea is to experience those cakras, which
one has gone through, simultaneously?
Dr. Jung: Certainly. As I told you, in our actual historical
psychological development we have reached anahata and from there we
can experience muladhara, and all the subsequent centers of the past,
by knowledge of records, and tradition, and also through our
unconscious. Suppose somebody reached the ajna center, the state of
complete consciousness, not only self-consciousness. That would be
an exceedingly extended consciousness which includes everything–energy
itself–a consciousness which knows not only “That is Thou” but more
than that–every tree, every stone, every breath of air, every rat’s
tail–all that is yourself; there is nothing that is not yourself.
In such an extended consciousness all the cakras would be
simultaneously experienced, because it is the highest state of
consciousness, and it would not be the highest if it did not include
all the former experiences.”