Posted by: lecubiste | June 11, 2012

Nirvikalpa and the Unseen World

Samadhi Buddha in Sri Lanka

Personal accounts of Nirvikalpa

In the chronicles of religious experience, one would like to see some kind of commonality of experiences so that one could identify a pattern that could be traced to physical and/or psychological processes and structures. Thus one could create a scientific approach to cataloguing religious experience. Unfortunately there is not much that repeats from one individual to another.

Visions of all kinds are reported. Differing experiences of differing durations and aftereffects are reported. Interpretations traverse the New Age communities in as many variations as there are subjects.

Thus I was amazed when, after my own religious experience in 1973, I found references to similar experiences. I found two that alluded to my personal experience and one that was identical. In Castaneda’s Tales of Power, in Baba Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, and in Gopi Krishna’s Living With Kundalini.

In Tales of Power, Castaneda recounts his experience of transcendence after being trained in the use of psychotropic plants in Mexico. In Be Here Now, Ram Dass in his graphical section describes aspects of an experience he called “The Crisp Trip”. In Krishna’s autobiography is provided a description that exactly matched my own.

Krishna described an experience he had in 1937 that he calls Nirvikalpa, based on his research into the ancient works of India, the Vedas and Upanishads. This school of thought maintains that the kundalini, an ordinarily dormant organ at the base of the human spine, when activated either through practices or circumstances, produces a transcendent experience and a permanently expanded awareness. This experience is also sometimes called Nirvikalpa – Samadhi, a form of Samadhi, the experience of merging into oneness with the world.

The sequence of events that are common in Krishna’s nirvikalpa experience and my own were as follows:

  1. While in a deep meditative state, a sensation is felt at the base of the spine. The sensation is very unusual and feels like some form of energy activation.
  2. The loss of corporeal sense, and immersion into internal experience
  3. The ecstatic sensation of energy rising from the base of the spine
  4. The shift of that ecstatic sensation to that of outward expansion
  5. When the expansion gets to a maximum point, the ecstatic flow shifts up the spine to another level, and continues to expand
  6. The ecstatic outward and then upward sensation is all the mind perceives
  7. After each upward shift of the rushing energy, the sensation changes to a higher pitch of pleasure
  8. The cycle of expansion to a maximum degree and then shifting upwards happens around 5 times.
  9. At the highest level of outward expansion, the next shift is different. This time one slips out into the cosmos, a clusters of stars where there is no distinction between the stars and one’s own mind i.e. the perceiver and the perceived are one. Thus subject and object disappear and one feels that one is bathing in a pool of ecstatic unity. The rush and expansion are no longer part of the experience.
  10. This state lasts for an unknown length of time, perhaps a minute or two. One’s sense of personal experience does not disappear, i.e. one is not asleep or dreaming. Quite the contrary, one is acutely aware of all that is transpiring
  11. Following the state of unity, one feels a sense of descending as one falls down and back into one’s body. The pressures of life feel reapplied to one’s body, almost as if returning from a zero gravity environment into a gravitational field.
  12. Back in one’s body, one returns to routine consciousness, opens one’s eyes, and looks around, recognizing that one is back in one’s room where nothing has changed.

This was my personal experience and I recognized  the identical experience in Krishna’s autobiography. Both he and I were in meditative states when the experience began. There were also common aftereffects that I experienced and recognized in Krishna’s account:

  • One observes a flow of energy that seems to bounce from one point in the body to another, in a mysterious and continuous process. Particularly while in bed at night, one can observe this movement from foot to head to arm to abdomen and on.
  • There is a sense of intellectual intoxication. There is a creative mental energy as new insights are achieved. This continuous and enjoyable process, coupled with the physical process mentioned above, gives one a sense of being not quite in control of one’s mind, a sometimes frightening aspect.
  • A poetic sense develops in which poetry spontaneously occurs in the mind. This comes after moments of contemplation. Words are included that the subject may not know, in a foreign language at times. The poetry seems prewritten including layers of metaphor and metered rhyme.
  • One’s sense of social morality increases, and can become quite influential in one’s working life.
  • There is a pronounced increase in one’s vitality and virility
  • A psychic awareness develops

Hypotheses on the Physiology of Nirvikalpa

All these major changes in one’s life did I observe in Krishna’s account. All of them occurred to me as well, and what I describe above is from my own experience. I would like to offer a set of hypotheses as to what was occurring, which I believe corresponds to the traditional Vedic writings researched by Krishna:

  1. There is a physiological event that occurs at the base of the spine.
  2. The “event” causes a flow up through the nervous system to the brain. This flow seems to be a serum of some kind that passes up the spinal canal or along the spinal cord, and flows out to all the peripheral nerves.
  3. The sense of outward expansion seems to correspond to the feeling along the nerves of this endorphin-like substance as it rises up through the nerve plexii and throughout the peripheral nervous system
  4. The shift upwards occurs by spinal plexus, rising up to the brain
  5. The brain is the final destination and the experience of unity occurs when the serum gets to the brain, having risen up through the entire body.
  6. The increasing pitch of the sensation occurs because the nervous wavelength gets shorter as the sensation of the pleasure get closer to the brain, increasing the frequency.

Krishna researched the Indian literature on the subject and drew some conclusions of his own that correspond to the ideas above. These informed some of his books including The Biological Basis of Religion and Genius. He articulated these ideas well but today they remain largely untested by science.

As far as the after effects are concerned, they seem to be the result of the newly present and constant flow of kundalini serum, or prana. One hypothesis advanced by Krishna is that the serum flow into the brain causes organic changes in the brain’s function. One possibility is that the serum causes an inter-cortical flow of nerve impulses through the creation of interconnections between the different centers of the brain.

This causes intellectual intoxication because the interconnections lead to new insights based on knowledge already present in the different parts of the brain. Some other mechanism must cause the movement of nerve impulses around the body. But Krishna theorized another startling idea.

Nirvikalpa and the Sixth Sense

 Krishna posited that kundalini’s organic function at the base of the spine is activating a dormant cranial center that opens up a new channel of perception, a sixth sense. This sixth sense explains all the mystical experiences, psychic gifts, and other extra-sensory perceptions reported by many. I would take that idea a bit further.

Every sense is related to a part of nature. Sight and warmth sense electromagnetic radiation. Hearing senses sound waves in the air.

Touch senses the electric integrity of matter. Taste and smell sense chemicals in the environment and in our food and drink. Balance senses gravity.

What part of nature does this new center sense? Here’s where it gets interesting. Krishna said that we are surrounded by and indeed living in an ocean of consciousness.

Some would call it the collective unconscious while others would call it God. It is not detected by science yet, but physicists have acknowledged what is called “dark energy” and “dark matter”. These are parts of the Universe that are implied by measurements and calculations at a very large scale, but which cannot be detected, hence the term “dark”.

If the dark energy and dark matter of science are the medium of the psychic sense, then a lot is explained. The startling question is: Are dark matter and dark energy this Ocean of Consciousness, the Tao, the Buddha Nature, Allah, etc? Since the darkness refers only to the lack of perceptibility, then does the mystic see the Universe as it really is?

Does this make the most outrageous claims about God as omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent possibly true? Since we can’t perceive this medium, we don’t know what may be present there. Beings, perhaps what we call angels and spirits, may inhabit this medium the way fish inhabit the ocean.

This is speculation of course, from the standpoint of science. But the religious believe the equivalent. Mystics, prophets, and psychics have been saying this from time immemorial.

Modern skepticism is fed by the power of science, which yet limits itself to what it acknowledges; and by the frauds that exploit the faith of the masses for monetary gain. Yet the testimonials of the prophets are immemorialized in the holy books of the religions. They still carry weight in the cultures of the world.

Implications of the Unseen World as the World of Light 

If as is posited by modern physicists, the world acknowledged but not detected by ordinary means exists and is a majority of both the material and the energy of the Universe, then the implications are profound and far-reaching. That this unseen world exists shakes the conventional view that science knows everything that is to be known about Nature. It also allows for the possibility that a biological sense may exist in some organisms that may be able to detect this unseen medium.

This would not be unique or mysterious. There are many examples of animals that can sense aspects of nature beyond our human perception. It makes perfect sense that animals would adapt to the environment and if the unseen world is as pervasive as implied by physics, then why wouldn’t some animals develop sensory apparatus for it.

Bees can see ultraviolet light. Bats can sense infrared. Dogs and cats seem to have a sixth sense, as do horses.

Thus Krishna’s idea that the sixth sense is an evolutionary development catalyzed by an activated kundalini is not implausible. Seen in this light, we have great evidence that such a medium exists, and is the ordinary part of some belief systems that Western science does not pretend to understand and for the most part denies. The Chinese idea of Chi is the same as the Indian idea of Prana and the Greek idea of Spirit.

All three come from the word for breath, an excellent analogy for an unseen world. Breath cannot be seen but it is the proof of life in a body. The ancients saw the existence of the unseen medium as like breath, but it is not the same as breath.

Chinese Medicine uses Chi as the basis for many prescriptions. Ayurvedic medicine uses the idea of prana as the life force. There are many ancient traditions of “Spiritual Healing” in the West.

So how do we tie together these two different ideas: nirvikalpa as the sign of an activated kundalini, and the sixth sense as a new human evolutionary adaptation? Krishna argues that all the mystic and religious accounts have as their source an active kundalini. Variations in these accounts can be explained by the differences between individuals with different degrees of activation in different cultural contexts.

Assuming that there is truth to the activated kundalini giving rise to the sixth sense, and assuming that the sixth sense is sensing the unseen world previously mentioned, then the history of the activated kundalini in the human race is the history of the increased perception of the world of Nature and of the knowledge learned from that perception. All the different accounts of this hidden part of Nature can then be considered in light of this understanding. All the accounts of the mystics, psychics and prophets can be interpreted as glimpses of this unseen world.

Closing Thoughts

 While various forms of kundalini arousal may be partial or gradual, the Nirvikalpa experience catapults the subject into the full experience with an extraordinary and permanent change in neurological function that becomes a dominant aspect of the subject’s personal world. It creates not only the sixth sense capability but also sharpens mental acuity and the power of reason . It validates the famous quote from Hamlet that “There are far more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

This understanding of an unseen world provides an explanation for many things:

  • A medium for Jung’s concept of synchronicity
  • A medium for the phenomena of telepathy and other forms of Extra-Sensory Perception
  • A justification for the existence of the Tao
  • A basis to validate or at least explain religious experience
  • A world in which the practices of all ancient mystical orders can be understood
  • A reconciliation of science and mysticism that contradicts neither
  • The possibility of an unseen world in which phenomena and even conscious beings including angels, spirits, and other beings exist
  • A validation for the belief in God, Allah, Jehovah, Krishna, the Great Spirit, etc..

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I can personally attest to the experience of Nirvikalpa. This allows me to verify and validate the experience of Gopi Krishna explained in his work,  Living With Kundalini. These two identical experiential data points occurred in different times and cultures: India in 1934 and California in 1973.

From my standpoint there is no doubt about these experiences as far as their occurrence and the descriptions of their effects. Correlating them to the ancient works of India and extrapolating to other cultures and times provides an explanation for all the otherwise unexplained accounts of prophets, psychics, and mystics down through the ages. That in turn informs our view of the world we live in, the possibilities of human life, and what the future may hold for the human race.

Krishna believed in a coming New Age, one of harmony, cooperation, and peace. He also believed that the world must undergo a transition to this New Age that includes great difficulties and challenges. As we see our world undergoing change today, we can take some hope in this vision of our future.

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