Friday, July 18, 2008

Chakra According to Western Beliefs

Chakra is a term literally meaning “circle” in the original Sanskrit language in which the concept was first established. Since then this term and its meaning has been interpreted in different fashions by a number of cultures. It may refer to a circle of people, a continuous flow of power or “Shakti” as it is referred to in the texts of the Hindu religion, or different nerve plexi within the body in accordance with western science and medicine.

The concept of chakra was brought to the attention of the western world through several translated and heavily interpreted documents in the late 1690s. The two most influential of these works are: Theosophia Practice by Johann Georg Gichtel, and Serpent Power by Sir John Woodroffe. These books brought concepts primarily from the Hindustani (Modern Day India) understanding of chakra, coloring the western world’s perspective on the subject ever since. Diagrams in these works represented the chakra points as lotus flowers located at different points in the body, where each specific chakra was denoted by how many petals a lotus had.

They also had a significant influence on the creation of Theosophy, which is a system of religious and philosophical doctrine that states there is a specific way in which mankind may advance closer to perfection. The radical part about Theosophy states that each religion in the world holds a portion of the answer, and only by embracing, analyzing, and understanding all these religions will we ever find the whole answer.

The understanding of the chakra in the western world mirrored that of the Hindu understanding until the very early 1900s. There are seven major chakra points in the body, though western belief never attributed them separate names. It was posited that each chakra corresponded to a specific organ in the body. Unlike Eastern beliefs, these were not all major organs, but specifically belonged to the endocrine system. Here the passage of spiritual energy through the chakra paralleled with the interaction of endocrinological glands.

The first chakra is symbolized as a lotus with a thousand petals. It equates to the pituitary gland and the thalamus, which are thought to have a key role in our consciousness and also secrete hormones to regulate the rest of the endocrine system.

The second chakra is the pineal gland in the brain, which is symbolized as a lotus with two petals. This gland reacts to the presence of light and secretes melatonin which regulates sleep and waking.

The third chakra is the thyroid gland in the throat, appearing as a lotus with sixteen petals. This gland produces thyroid hormone which regulates human maturation and growth.

The fourth gland is the thymus located in the chest, which produces T cells which are responsible for fending off bacterial and viral pathogens. It is denoted by a twelve petaled lotus.

The fifth gland is the pancreas near the solar plexus. This is symbolized by a lotus with ten petals and plays a very important role in digestion and converting food to chemical energy.

The sixth gland takes the form of the testicles or ovaries. They produce chemicals important to the reproductive cycle and can be the source of dramatic mood swings. They are denoted by a lotus with six petals.

The seventh and last gland is the adrenal medulla, also known as the adrenal glands which are located atop the kidneys. The adrenals release adrenaline and other chemicals associated with the fight-or-flight reflex. They are symbolized by a four petaled lotus

Oddly enough the endocrine system is involved entirely with the release and regulation of mood altering hormones. So the belief that our humanity and emotions comes from our chakra may not be as incorrect or outdated as many people think.

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