What Is Kundalini?

The concept of kundalini has been described in many books. Most books try to sell it as a wonderful magical force that will cure all of  your illnesses and give you super powers to boot. But the truth is that almost none of the authors that praise it as a cure-all actually had any first-hand experiences with it. (If they had a first hand-experience with anything that was a cure-all they wouldn’t be fat and sickly, like most new agers who talk about this are. But I digress.)

The most common definition of kundalini energy is this :

There’s an “energy” coiled (like a snake) in your tail bone and when you do enough yoga or meditation it moves up and pierces energy centers called chakras and then moves out from the top of your head making you enlightened.

But if you think about this definition for a while there  are many, many empty spots in it.   This article and the one after it will deal with a more detailed and true description of the kundalini energy

The first thing you need to know before you even begin to understand the concept of kundalini

The concept of kundalini energy comes from a vitalistic model of the world. Let me quickly explain to you what is vitalism and how it influenced eastern and western thought.

Vitalism is essentially a view of the world which claims that living things have an energy that fundamentally differentiates them from non-living matter. One can note that this energy is not the kind of energy we talk about in physics but just a metaphor for a principle that fundamentally differentiates living things from dead things. One has to understand that this is not an ancient way of thinking.  This was actually the dominant perspective of science up until the twentieth century, and I’ll talk more about it in future articles.

The viewpoint opposed to it is mechanism, and it essentially claims that dead things and living things are composed of the same components and that it is theoretically possible to create life from synthetic components, and that everything is subjected to the same laws of cause-and effect.  This was actually a very controversial perspective back in the day, and most scientists fought hard to refute it, because it conflicted with their basic beliefs about life, the universe, and everything. Just like creationists fought hard to refute the theory of evolution.

Vitalism fell out of favor when scientists have discovered that it’s possible to create organic chemical compounds from non-organic chemical compounds, and this pretty much was a paradigm shift which caused the current dominance of mechanism.

If you think about it the concept of a latent vital force that awakens and transforms your very being makes total sense in the vitalistic perspective. In that model of the world it simply makes sense that there’s a latent energy that might increase onces potential and ‘help one reach an ultimate goal’. But the problem is that this doesn’t really make sense in the mechanistic perspective. 

Additionally because the vitalistic perspective by definition relies on subjective experience many authors created their own definitions of what kundalini is.   I’ll now show you a few of them

One Term Different Definitions

This, like any other question in a subjective field is hard to answer. Especially since almost every author defines kundalini differently.

In the tantric tradition it denotes the latent power that is made manifest through meditation It’s also a sanskrit term for the energies that interconnect the chakras, according to the hindu tradition mental and physical health influences the flow of that energy. This makes a bit of sense, since this energy is probably just an expression of our nervous system.  This is why you so very often feel it in yoga – you exercise the spine there, and the spines has the spinal cord, which is one of the biggest collections of nerves in your body.

Kundalini yoga in the ancient tantric tradition was a way to salvation through the unification of the two channels on the right and left side of the body. Nowadays it’s mostly understood as ‘enlightenment through the energy system’. U.G. Krishnamurti is an example of a person who achieved enlightenment through this, so is Gopi Krishna.

The word’ Kundalini’ also means ‘kundalini-sakti’, which is another name of a manifestation of the goddess Shakti in the human body, and is aroused by the practice of yoga. It’s very often symbolized as a serpent coiled up at the bottom region of the spine.

To understand how this works one has to remember that the concept of kundalini is very much tied to hindu mythology, to the point that some religious experts wonder weather someone who is not a hindu can even talk about kundalini.

Let me give you a quick excerpt from the book “The Serpent Power” that describes kundalini-shakti:

“…that which is coiled. Her form is that of a coiled and sleeping serpent on the lowest chakra at the base of the spinal column. In arising she pierces the six chakras and the Sahasrara-Padma, the thousand-petal Lotus. Since the arousing of the goddess in tantra involves intensely sexual practices, her worship is difficult, fraught with dangers both psychic and physical, and should not be entered upon without supervsion of atrained guru. Kundalini is also associated with Kali. Some sufi brotherhoods (among them the Nagshbandi) have adapted Kundalini to their own forms of meditation”

So in short kundalini is a coiled up ‘energy’ on the  base of a spine that when awakened pierces all of your chakra and leads to self-realization.

I will now give you some traditional definitions. One from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

As one opens the door with a key, so the yogi should open the gate to liberation… with the kundalini. The great goddess (kundalini) sleeps, closing with her mouth the opening through which one can ascend to the brahmarandhra … to that place where there is neither pain nor suffering. The kundalini sleeps above the kanda… She gives liberation to the yogi and bondage to the fool. He who knows kundalini knows yoga. The kundalini it is said, is coiled like a  serpent. He who can induce her to move [upward] is liberated

Swami Vivikananda (the first yogi in the west)  said this about the kundalini

When by the power of long internal meditation the vast mass of energy stored up travels along the sushumna and strikes the chakras, the reaction is immensely more intense than the reaction of sense-perception. Wherever there was any manifestation of what is ordinarily called supernatural power or wisdom there a little current of kundalini must have found its way into the sushumna. Only, in the vast majority of cases, people had ignorantly stumbled on some practice which set free a minute portion of the coiled-up kundalini. All worship, consciously or unconsciously, leads to this end. The man who thinks that he is receiving response to his prayers does not know that the fulfillment comes from his own nature, that he has succeeded by the mental attitude of prayer in waking up a bit of this infinite power which is coiled up within himself. What, thus, man ignorantly worships under various names… the yogi declares to the world to be the real power coiled up in every being, the mother of eternal happiness, if we but know how to approach her. And yoga is the science of religion, the rationale of all worship, all prayers, forms, ceremonies and miracles. 

Kundalini is very often understood as the next step towards human evolution, because many new age philosophers treat ‘self-realization’ as the ultimate goal of our life on earth.   Most conventionals dismiss this hypothesis as it’s essentially teleology, a statement that final goals/causes exist in nature. I for one believe in a phenomena similar to kundalini awakening but without the associated teleology, I don’t even think that it’s something that is desired by most people.

Here is Yogi Bhajan’s definition of the kundalini:

What is Kundalini? The energy of the glandular system combines with the nervous system to become more sensitive so that the totality of the brain perceives signals and interprets them, so that th4e effect of the sequence of the cause becomes very clear to the man. In other words man becomes totally, wholesomely aware. That is why we call it the yoga of awareness. And as the rivers end up in the same ocean, all yoga ends up by raising the kundalini in the man. What is kundalini? The creative potential of man” 


Kundalini In Other Cultures.

The interesting thing is that something similar to the kundalini exists in almost every culture out there that meditated a lot.  For example, the Kung and the Kia cultures in the African Kalahari Desert claim that there’s a phenomena of ‘fire moving up the body’ which is very similar to that of kundalini awakening. 

Additionally, Chinese medicine has a whole system of internal alchemy in which there’s a thing called the microcosmic orbit. Experts on it such as Mantak Chia claim that the energy doesn’t have to only go up, but also has to go down. According to him, the energy goes up the spine, as in the hindu version of the kundalini, and then goes back down the stomach so that it creates an ‘orbit’ around the body.  Therefore  kundalini is not only a hindu phenomena.

Incidentally, many people have also claimed that they have experienced severe health issues after trying to awaken their microcosmic orbit too quickly – health issues which are very similar to those of kundalini syndrome.There is a definitive connection between kundalini awakening and the microcosmic orbit. I’m actually writing a book called “Kundalini awakening & psychosis” which will be the definitive book on the potential negative effects of both the microcosmic orbit and kundalini awakening. If you’re interested in it. Please subscribe.

But is this quantum energy or just a natural expression of the nervous system?

Kundalini and Subtle Energy

One has to remember that the old sanskrit texts were primarily written in metaphor – what else did ancient people  have? Even as far back as 100 years ago, most of psychology was explored through metaphor (The ego, superego, id – all metaphors!) What do you expect from someone who lived a thousand years ago? They didn’t have the technology we have now! If anything, their understanding of the energy system which they gained through trial and error is impressive, and it should enrich the subjective exploration that every practitioner of yoga or qigong undertakes.

According to ancient sanskrit texts, there are over 72,000 channels (or nerves) in the body (The ancients weren’t too keen about ‘simplification,’ to be honest – the meridians have now been simplified into 20). Sushumna was the main channel, located at the center of the body (think-spinal cord), and ida and pingala on the left and right (indicating the peripheral nervous system). 

Modern theorists have tried to expand this ancient description of the energy system to align it with quantum theories. This makes sense, since culturally, we have always tried to align the ancient descriptions of energies with modern research into physics. But what one needs to remember is that all the philosophies linking subtle energies to quantum physics are not based on empirical evidence; they are just philosophical speculations, no different from those proposed by Freud when he tried to explain our psyche in terms of libidinality.Libido was a metaphor Freud invented in order to explain the workings of the psyche. According to him the primitive parts of our brain created drives which propelled our every action. They were the ‘energetic currency of our mind’ of which we had a limited amount. This energy was called libido.

Kundalini And Biophotons

It might be that the whole ‘energy system’ proposed by the ancients is nothing more but a metaphor for our nervous system, and kundalini energy is nothing more but natural brain phenomena caused by long-term meditation, yoga, and natural susceptibility. (I personally believe this, but I acknowledge that my belief might not be true). Biophotons are a possible explanation.

Biophotons are a form of very weak light emitted by a cell which are a very likely candidate for the yet unexplored form of cellular communication that might be at the basis of kundalini awakening, psi, and meridian energy.

A photon is a single particle of light. A biophoton is a photon emitted by a cell. Plants, animals and humans generate up to 100 photons per second per 1 square centimeter of surface area.
Biophotons were first discovered by Fritz Albert-Pop and in turn numerous research studies conducted by him and his associates have shown that they might be a yet unexplored form of cellular communication, and in turn an explanation for the biological phenomena of subtle energies.

Among other things Fritz Albert-Pop also claims that light is constantly being absorbed and remitted by DNA molecules within each cell’s nucleus. These biophotons create a dynamic, coherent web of light. This web of light could be responsible for numerous yet unexplained properties of our bodies. One of the main attributes of biophotons is that they  create a very coherent field which allows them hypothetically to transmit information.   This is why many authors link it directly to the concept of subtle energies, claiming that subtle energies are nothing more than manifestations of the activity of biophotons 

Here I would like to add that many liars (there’s no other way to call them) claim that they can use machines to diagnose illnesses using biophotons and heal them. This is simply untrue. The human nervous system is much too complicated for anyone to create a simple machine that could do anything with something so complex – even with the use of biophotons.

Ultimately, biophotons are only a potential form of neuronal communication that may account for the subtle energy system. Nothing more, nothing less. And even this claim is only a hypothesis, and is  yet unproven. There is no convincing proof that biophotons are linked to cancer or to any other disease, and even if they are, their influence is probably so small that it doesn’t matter in real life. I’m actually writing a book called “Kundalini Awakening & Psychosis” which will describe this in greater detail. So please subscribe to be notified when it’s finished

In the next post in this series you’ll learn more about the legendary kundalini awakening.


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About the Author ()

Hello I’m Matt Pepliński, the lies in alternative medicine have literary given me psychosis and as such I created this site to take the pseudo out of pseudoscience to make it actually useful in your life.