Chakras and Such – The Anatomy of Consciousness

Written by Philip Walter on Dec 8 at 9:09 pm in holistic healing, iSPIRITself, meditation

The majority of people I know have a skewed concept of what the chakras are. To speak in most public circles about chakras is like going to the deer woods with a presentation on veganism. It’s like this – people in most public circles have heard of chakras, and they think they know enough about them to consider you at least a hair crazy for even mentioning them. Of course, unlike the poor vegan in the deer woods, you’re not likely to be shot, skinned, and skewered for it.

The point is, chakras and the ancient energy system in which they are the mainstay, are widely misunderstood in the West, and I’d like to do my part to set the record straight.

The great sages of ancient India posited that there are three primary sheaths (also called koshas; there are five total, counting the physical, the three subtle, and the bliss) covering the soul:

  1. the physical body – comprised of the various physical systems that allow us to interact with the world
  2. the subtle body – comprised of the intellectual body, the vital body, and the emotional body
  3. the bliss body – the final, most intimate covering over the soul

Though their understanding of the physical body was great, as evidenced by the Ayurvedic health care system, their understanding of the subtle body was even greater. In the modern world, we of course have a ridiculously complex understanding of the various systems of the physical body, but it is in the realm of Spirit that we have much to learn from these ancient geniuses.

Just as our physical bodies have a rich set of anatomical structures that allows us to get around and manipulate the physical world, our subtle bodies have their own anatomy, an anatomy of consciousness, that governs our intellectual and emotional awareness of the world. Prana is the essence, the blood, of this anatomical system. It literally means always flowing. This life force, this vital energy, flows throughout the subtle body inside channels called nadis, which could be considered the nervous system of the subtle body. The three main nadis are:

  1. Sushumna Nadi – moves straight up from the base of the spine to the top of the skull.
  2. Pingala Nadi – moves right from the base of the spine, spiraling around sushumna nadi until its termination at the right nostril. This nadi is associated with the sun (ha) and the yang principle.
  3. Ida Nadi – moves left from the base of the spine, spiraling around sushumna nadi until its termination at the left nostril. This nadi is associated with the moon (tha) and the yin principle.

Prana flows constantly through these channels, giving power and insight to our awareness. The spinal column of this network of some 72,000+ nadis is Sushumna Nadi. Kundalini, which is pure consciousness, unadulterated awareness, the most powerful of prana, rests at the based of Sushumna Nadi, coiled like a snake. To awaken pure consciousness is to awaken Kundalini, beginning an ecstatic ascent through the seven energy centers of the body known as chakras:

  1. Muladhara (root center) – located at the base of the spine, its color is red, its symbol the snake, its sense smell. This is the center of basal, instinctual awareness. Its function is survival.
  2. Swadisthana (sexual center) – located three fingers below the naval, its color is orange, its symbol water, its sense taste. This is the center of emotional, relational awareness. Its function is interaction.
  3. Manipura (power center) – located at the solar plexus, its color is yellow, its symbol the sun, its sense sight. This is the center of intellectual, personal awareness. Its function is self-control.
  4. Anahata (compassion center) – located at the heart, its color is green, its symbol the moon, its sense touch. This is the center of interpersonal, empathic awareness. Its function is loving-kindness.
  5. Vishuddha (speech center) – located at the throat, its color is blue, its symbol the songbird, its sense hearing. This is the center of interpersonal truth awareness. Its function is self-expression.
  6. Ajna (third-eye center) – located between the eyebrows, its color is indigo, its symbol is the all-seeing eye, its sense intuition. This is the center of personal, intuitive awareness. Its function is self-realization.
  7. Sahasrara (universal consciousness) – located at the crown of the head, its color is violet, its symbol is the thousand-petaled lotus, its sense the great I-AM. This is the center of divine awareness. Its function is Self-integration.

This sophisticated anatomy is often lumped together with numerous other esoteric systems and referred to as New Age. In truth, there is nothing new about it, and the reason it is so hard for the modern mind to understand is that it relates to the subtle body, to consciousness. Dating back to Descartes, anything worth understanding is understood on the basis of science. The problem with this is that a scientific understanding is not integral, it is incomplete. A strictly scientific understanding is based on physical It-language, and to try to explain the subtle body in these terms would be like trying to teach someone to play baseball with only the words found in the National Football League’s rulebook. When it comes to understanding the experience of consciousness and awareness, we must speak in terms befitting the subtle body. This is where the chakras come in, and this is where this article ends.


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  1. […] nadi to be expressed in whatever lusty fashion you most prefer.  I’ve kindly broken down kundalini and the chakra energy system in another article for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concepts, but if you’re […]

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