Kundalini is one of the most misunderstood concepts (and experiences) in yoga and Tantra. Now I am sure that you have read a lot on this topic. It can’t really be avoided, what with so many New-Age authors copying rubbish from each other. Even among the best informed researchers there are only a scant few who have ever had any practical experience of the subject. Instead, there have been loads of phoney guru figures selling all sorts of body-therapy techniques as ‘Kundalini yoga’ to the innocent and the result-hungry. Not that such techniques are necessarily bad. Some of them involve jumping around, fast panting, and shouting. Good fun, great feelings of release, lots of oxygen, but just what has it got to do with Kundalini? As the topic has been so thoroughly abused, I find it difficult to add my own estimates, let alone experiences. What follows is given in the understanding that when we deal with Kundalini, we are dealing with highly subjective experiences. Some of my experiences may be similar to yours, some may differ considerably. Every person who wakes the Fire Snake creates a very unique and personal experience for her or himself. Do not take my comments as rules, they are more like guidelines. If you disagree, feel welcome.

Kundalini is such a perplexing topic that many opinions are essential.

On the simplest possible level, people think that Kundalini is a serpent, often called the fire serpent, which lies coiled in a variety of places, such as the perineum, the base of the spine, the prostate gland, or the genitals. This serpent is woken by a number of techniques: yoga exercises, mantra, breathing, visualisation, ritual, until it rises along subtle equivalent of the spine. In the process it passes through a number of cakras until it arrives at the top, where, hey, bingo! enlightenment is waiting for you. Some even entertain the belief that a skilled guru can do the job for them. All of this is a technical and materialistic way of thinking. It is a mechanical metaphor, instead of a spiritual one, where you have mechanisms within yourself that can be made to function in a specific way. It sounds as if you simply need a guru who installs the proper tubes and turbines and pulls the switch to make enlightenment surge through your system. Just what gives people the idea that somebody else could do the spiritual housework for them?

Kundalini is a metaphor. Metaphor means literally ‘to carry over’, and Kundalini is exactly this: a vehicle of consciousness/energy. And it is not the only one. This metaphor appears in many guises. Most people think that Kundalini is a serpent. It can appear as a serpent, but this is just one form of manifestation. It can also be a pillar of energy, a vast tree of awareness, a ladder reaching to the stars. It can be a flame, it can be a flash of lightning, it can be the rising of sound-vibration within your hidden core. It can be the personal deity of the worshipper. Imagine your personal deity within your body. Not just in your heart but extending all the way. If you are standing or walking, the inner deity extends all the way through your body from your feet to the head. If you are sitting, the inner deity has her/his feet at your perineum and genitals extends upward. Here is the inner meaning behind the worship of the feet of the deity. Several arcane texts use the metaphor ‘feet of the Goddess’ to hint at the power zones of perineum and genitals. The Saundaryalahari offers several examples, such as verse 2 stating that by gathering a tiny speck of dust from the feet of Lalita Tripura, the gods fulfill their functions of creating, maintaining, and destroying. All the other gods grant boons by their hands. To protect from fear and grant fruits more than desired, in all the worlds, Oh! Refuge, Your feet alone are competent. The Hymn to Mahsamardini (a late addition to the KCT, 7, 22-35), verse 29, trans. Finn, offers the following: May the lustre (of your feet) which is like the antimony blackness of a rain cloud about to burst, be ever in our heart. From the sparkling, blazing womb of these feet (issue) the three gods who are of the nature of pure consciousness and bliss. With this interpretation, it makes little difference whether Käli is sitting or standing on Siva, they still remain in congress.

What is it like with your deity standing within you? Perhaps your head and the head of the inner deity coincide, perhaps the head of the inner deity extends above your physical head. All of these are representations of a truth that cannot be adequately expressed in language, form, and feeling. Like all representations, these are totally artificial. They are not real, they are convenient. We are not dealing with things here, the things are just the keys to get you going. If you think that Kundalini is really a serpent, an energy, a pillar of light, or a deity standing in your spine, you will miss the fact that Kundalini is basically consciousness, attention, i.e. YOU.

Kundalini asleep in the mülädhära cakra is a metaphor for everyday awareness: as your ego plods about, doing the various routines, tasks, and chores essential for your survival, Kundalini is deep asleep. This is the state of most of humanity most of the time. It is a state where we start from and to which we return, unless we will to give up the body/mind/personality and join the absolute. Some yogis did this. They went into the rapture to such an extent that they had to be called back.

One good example is Rämakrsna, who frequently lost himself in rapture. Some ascetics are said to have ended their incarnation this way: they went out of their physical shell and never returned.

There are, however, a lot of states where Kundalini is active without being so extreme. Every time something really exalting, shaking, or shocking happened to you, Kundalini moved. Some people get into samadhi by prayer, fasting, obsession, or loving dedication. Their Kundalini moves, no matter that they never bother to visualise serpents rushing up and down their spine. Others get into states of extreme exaltation through extended shaking trances, or by designing an enlightened consciousness (practical introductions to these approaches can be found in Seidways). When I developed the Taliesin Trance and wrote of the effects, Kenneth Grant told me that few practitioners would be able to hold their Kundalini up for such extended periods. This amazed me, I had not done any thing remotely resembling Kundalini yoga. All I had done was asked my deep mind to produce a highly specific consciousness for a few hours. It certainly changed my awareness and drew a lot of energy to the top of my head, but all of this happened spontaneously without any of the fireworks one tends to associate with fire-snake activity. Others get into such states by consuming psychedelic drugs. As you will notice, some of these approaches are spontaneous and happen naturally. This is an important point in Tantra: enlightenment can be approached in many ways. The natural approach is called Sahaja, meaning spontaneous and consisting of the syllable sa and ha, you know them as the one and only natural mantra (inhalation and exhalation). The technical approach is called Kundalini. This, as you will be sure to know, is not one technique but quite a few of them. Some yogis wake and move the fire snake physical practices. It takes years of rigorous physical training before the yogi learns to direct the pranä and apäna through postures, locks, contraction, breathing, and imagination.

Kundalini yoga is not a single technique but a body of different approaches, techniques and visualisations that vary from school to school. What is valid is any specific technique but your results. With Kundalini we are in the realm of the totally subjective: the true method is simply the method that works for you. We have several choices in exploring Kundalini, and some of them are traditional.

One way is to build up the cakras by visualisation. It’s a slow process as each cakra corresponds to an understanding of the world and yourself, and constitutes, in a certain sense, the creation of a set of reality/identities. Your root-cakra, for example, is not just a spot at the perineum. It is also the totality of your experience of the manifest world. To wake Kundalini in the roott cakra is to wake up from the sleep that people call reality. It also means that you find your position and function in the world, that you purify and cultivate your physical universe, your body, your means of livelihood, that you assume responsibility for the life you live, and the world you be-live in. This is anything but escapism.

Your journey to enlightenment begins and ends in the material world, and unless you learn to handle this cakra, you won’t get far in the ‘higher realms’.Refining the sexual cakra involves not only an appreciation of the whole world as erotic play (As Austin Spare had it: All things cohabit all of the time) but also the creation of an erotic personality for oneself Sexuality and lust are brought under will, dry a sacred and wholesome part of your experience. Here we are miles away from ordinary lust, a force that makes fools out of most people. Coming to terms with this cakra may bc simple for some and difficult for others; it depends on how many hang-ups and neurotic impulses you have. Cakra refining takes more than just imagining a lotus, some colours, geometrical shapes, and a few sounds. Nor will simple visualisation ofthat cakra in symbolic form be enough. The real refinement of this cakra is the development of a healthy, joyous, and inspiring sexuality that augments your spiritual evolution. The same goes for all the cakras; each of them is a complete reality and a personality that can handle it.

Building up the cakras and learning to experience awareness of the higher ones is a process of gradual refinement that takes years. It is, essentially, not much different from the approach of western Qabalistic Magick, which has the practitioner ascend the Tree of Life, sphere by sphere, gradually refining and perfecting each energy/consciousness. Just as good training in Magick takes years, so does Kupqalini yoga. It’s no use simply to excite Kundalini and get her to rise unless you can copc with the experiences that result. There are people who had shifts of cakra awareness by chance or extreme exhaustion, disease, near-death experience, or drugs. Most of them did not become significantly happier by experiences they could not handle, and quite a few damaged their health or sanity in the process. If you think that Kundalini is simply something to turn on and enjoy, you should better spend a few more years refining yourself. This, incidentally, is what most of Kundalini yoga consists of. The technique is easy, but the preparation takes time. If you were so extremely lucky to find a genuine guru, it would still take at least a decade to explore Kundalini. A decade sounds too much if you think that Kundalini yoga is simply a technique. It is not much if you consider that Kundalini is specifically You and more than you (or less, depending on how you see this), and that the technique is just a tiny part of the whole alchemy. Spending ten years to learn Magick isn’t much, Druidry took twenty years if we can trust Caesar, hell, even a simple university degree (for what it’s worth) can take ages. Thus, we have the approach ‘one cakra after another’, which takes years but has the advantage that what you achieve has a sound structure and a certain stability. Tantra and Magick are not just ways of mucking around with weird experiences; they are ways of life demanding total dedication.

The establishment and purification of the cakras may be an early form of Kundalini yoga. You find it dcscribcd in several early Tantras which do not even bother to mention Kundalini. What we consider Kundalini today is a conglomerate of experiences, metaphors, and myths that has been evolved over several centuries of Tantric practice. Not all schools made use of this method, nor did they have to. Kundalini is just one approach to enlightenment and liberation (the way up), and to magickal changes and siddhis (the way down). There are many, many others.

Kundalini is not a must and it is not for everyone. People have different needs and desires, they also have different aims in life and different personalities. It is a pretty modem delusion, supported by tons of ill-informed books, that Kundalini is the main thing in Tantra. There waslot of Tantra before Kundalini was even invented.

But what is Kundalini precisely? Here you’ll have to find your own explanation. In a sense Kundalini is energy and sentience. In a sense it is the motion of all your power and consciousness at once. It is a coming together of your whole being, it is your personal deity, and of course yourself way beyond your ego. Some authors claim that Kundalini is sexual energy, which is supposed to be sublimated and refined until it is ready to blow your mind. Of course Kundalini is sexual energy, but it is also all other energies in this wide and wonderful multiverse. Everything you can experience is Kundalini, and Kundalini is what produces every experience. The point is that Kundalini is more than a little something in your bum. There is no serpent sleeping between your anus and genitals.

If you want pets, seek them elsewhere. Strictly speaking, Kundalini is the whole world and your experience of yourself. Kundalini in the perineum creates, maintains, and destroys the material world, the ‘real’ world as some would have it, and its perception in your physicalbody/mind/personality. Everything you can see, hear, feel, smell, taste and sense is Kundalini manifesting the world glamour. When Kundalini is active in your sexual centre, she is the force and awareness of your desire, lust, and sexuality (käma). Mind you, it is Kundalini and not your sexual centre that does the job; the very existence of a sexual centre is already an activity of Kundalini. When Kundalini manifests in your belly her expression is prana, Qi, Ki, Pneuma, life-force, or whatever you may chose to call it. What you experience as vitality, power, and life energy in this consciousness is an activity of Kundalini. And so it goes. In each cakra, Kundalini creates an entire world of experience. She also creates a you who can experience these phenomena. All of this may sound complicated, but it isn’t when you consider that Kundalini is the YOU who weaves the world glamour on all levels. This is more than your ego, more than jiva and incarnate self. It is also less, in that what people think themselves to be is mainly a lot of misconceptions and delusions cluttering a pristine purity of pure experience. From a certain point of view, you do not exist. This is the true self, not a thing as such but sheer pre-conceptual formless consciousness. You shouldn’t take my word for this. Words get in the way of experience, real learning, and bliss.

Kundalini is the supreme Sakti, Kundalini is the inner deity, Kundalini is the you beyond all definitions. Kundalini is a mystique transcending the limits of your thinking. Kundalini goes a long way beyond a scaly reptile snaking up and down your spine.