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An Authoritative Edition of the Groundbreaking Classic
By C. W. Leadbeater
Theosophical Publishing House Copyright © 2013 Kurt Leland
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The Force Centers
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 book 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 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 Etheric Double.
The chakras or force centers 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 8), from which flowers shoot forth at intervals, showing the opening of their bells at the surface of the etheric body.
The seven centers with which we are at present concerned are indicated in the accompanying illustration (fig. 1.1). Table 1 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 centers, 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 centers are in operation in everyone, 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.
The Form of the Vortices
This divine energy which pours into each center 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 a 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 center 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 centers and determines the number of waves or petals which each of them exhibits. Because of this, these centers have often been poetically described in Oriental books as resembling flowers.
Each of the secondary forces which sweep round the saucerlike depression has its own characteristic wavelength, just as has light of a certain color; 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 wavelengths 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 basketwork might be woven round the spokes of a carriage wheel. The wavelengths 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 color, as will be seen 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 colors are not sufficiently luminous—no earthly colors could be; but at least 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 centers 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 in plates 2 through 6. In the case of a man who excels greatly in the qualities which express themselves through a certain center, that center 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, in 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 centers 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 center 3, the higher astral in center 4, and the lower mind in center 5. All these centers seem to feed certain ganglia in the body. Centers 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 centers represents a moral quality, and that the development of that quality brings the center into activity. For example, in the Dhyanabindu Upanishad, the petals of the heart chakra are associated with devotion, laziness, anger, charity, and similar qualities. [TMU 208–209] 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 center 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 centers 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 centers 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 center, 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 color 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 center, the basic (plate 1), 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 center, and sometimes a flaming cross is taken to indicate the serpent fire which resides in it. When acting with any vigor this chakra is fiery orange-red in color, corresponding closely with the type of vitality which is sent down to it from the splenic center. Indeed, it will be noticed that in the case of every one of the chakras a similar correspondence with the color of its vitality may be seen.
The Spleen Chakra
The second center, the splenic (plate 1), 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 center therefore has six petals or undulations, all of different colors, and is specially radiant, glowing and sun-like. Each of the six divisions of the wheel shows predominantly the color of one of the forms of the vital force—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
The Navel Chakra
The third center, the umbilical (plate 2), 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 color 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 center, the cardiac (plate 3), at the heart, is of a glowing golden color, 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 center, the laryngeal (plate 4), 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 center, the frontal (plate 5), between the eyebrows, has the appearance of being divided into halves, one chiefly rose-colored, though with a great deal of yellow about it, and the other predominantly a kind of purplish-blue, again closely agreeing with the colors of the special types of vitality that vivify it. Perhaps it is for this reason that this center 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 centers, 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 from 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 centers 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 center, the coronal (plate 6), 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.
Excerpted from The Chakras by C. W. Leadbeater. Copyright © 2013 Kurt Leland. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
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