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In the previous chapter we have seen that, according to the Eastern teaching, the vital or etheric body is constituted of ether and acts as the conductor of prana which is the life principle and energises matter and produces form. The vital body also embodies that sentient principle in nature called the soul, or rather the vital body is the expression and vehicle of the soul.

The main characteristic of the soul is consciousness. The soul as life is "seated in the heart," and as rational spiritual consciousness is "seated on the throne between the eyebrows." René Guénon expresses this as follows:

"Thus, what dwells in the vital centre, from the physical point of view, is ether; from the psychic point of view, it is the `living soul,' and so far we are not transcending the realm of individual possibilities; but also, and above all, from the metaphysical point of view, it is the principal and unconditioned `Self.' It is, therefore, truly the `Universal Spirit' (Atma), which is, in reality, Brahma Itself, the `Supreme Ruler'; and thus the designation of this centre as Brahma-pura is found to be fully justified. But Brahma, considered in this manner as within man (and one might consider it in like manner in relation to every state of being) is called Purusha, because It rests or dwells in the individuality [110] ... as in a town (puri-shaya) for pura, in its proper and literal sense, signifies town'." [xciv]1

The life force has seven main points of contact with the physical body, called the seven centres.

These seven force centres transmit the life force, and are the agents of the soul. They maintain bodily existence and produce its activity.

The Dreamer in his book, says:

"What then are the centres of man? They are the reflections in the respective nuclei of the upadhi of the one Self. If we study the workings of the impregnation of matter by Divine Energy, sometimes spoken of as the life waves, we shall see how, from the projection of the Self into the limits of objectivity called matter, certain qualities are imparted to matter developing into what are called tattvas. Each tattva has got for its ensouled life a tanmatra, or a modification of the Divine consciousness. In each tattva, therefore, we have the Divine consciousness as the central life, while the idea of resistance forms the outer wall."

"We have seen that the Self, in virtue of its power of manifestation, reflects itself in the various upadhis, developing in them artificial centres which form, so to say, at one and the same time the nucleus of the upadhis as well as the representatives of the Self in the respective planes." [xcv]2

The Indian name of a force centre is "chakra." The location of the seven centres of force (with their complete Indian names) are as follows, from the head downwards:


1. Head centre — sahasrara chakra

2. Centre between eyebrows — ajna chakra

3. Throat centre — vishuddha chakra

4. Heart or cardiac centre — anahata chakra

5. Solar plexus centre — manipura chakra

6. Sacral or sexual centre — svadhisthana chakra

7. Centre at base of spine — muladhara chakra

It will be noted that there are four centres above the diaphragm and three below.

Much has been written and more could be said, about these force centres or chakras, but the following will serve as an introductory summary.

The force centres carry pranic energy for every part of the body and are in close relation to the nervous system in its three divisions, namely: the cerebro-spinal, sympathetic and peripheral.

From the force centres the vital or pranic energy is distributed along subtle lines of direction. These lines are called "nadis" and are closely related to the nerves and at the same time to the arteries; they apparently underlie the corporeal nervous system. In Man and His Becoming we read:

"As regards the nadis or arteries of the subtle form, they must not be confounded with the corporeal arteries through which the circulation of the blood is effected, and, physiologically, they correspond rather to the ramifications of the nervous system, for they are [112] expressly described as luminous; but as fire is in some sort polarized into heat and light, the subtle state is linked to the corporeal state in two different and complementary ways, by the blood as to the caloric quality, and by the nervous system as to the luminous quality. However, it must be clearly understood that, between the nadis and the nerves, there is still only a simple correspondence and not an identification, since the former are not corporeal, and that we are dealing in reality with two different realms in the integral individuality. Similarly, when a relation is affirmed between the function of these nadis and respiration, because this is essential to the maintenance of life and corresponds truly with the principal vital activity, it must by no means be concluded on this account that they can be conceived as a kind of channel in which the air circulates; this would be to confuse the `vital breath' (prana), which properly belongs to the subtle manifestation, with a corporeal element.

It is stated that the total number of nadis is seventy-two thousand; according to other texts, however, it should be seven hundred and twenty millions; but the difference here is more apparent than real, since, as always holds good in such cases, these numbers must be taken symbolically, not literally." [xcvi]3

Rama Prasad, who uses the Indian word lotus for chakra or force centre, makes an interesting comment in this connection:

"The nervous plexuses of the modern anatomists coincide with these centres. From what has been said above it will appear that the centres are constituted by bloodvessels. But the only difference between the nerves and the bloodvessels is the difference between [113] the vehicles of the positive and negative Pranas. The nerves are the positive, the bloodvessels the negative system of the body. Wherever there are nerves there are corresponding bloodvessels. Both of them are indiscriminately called Nadis. One set has for its centre the lotus of the Heart, the other the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain. The system of bloodvessels is an exact picture of the nervous system, is, in fact, only its shadow. Like the heart, the brain has its upper and lower divisions—the cerebrum and the cerebellum—and, as well, its right and left divisions." [xcvii]4

The force centres are situated up the spinal column and in the head. Arthur Avalon says:

"A description of the Chakras involves, in the first place, an account of the Western anatomy and physiology of the central and sympathetic nervous systems; secondly, an account of the Tantrik nervous system and Chakras; and, lastly, the correlation, so far as that is possible, of the two systems on the anatomical and physiological side, for the rest is in general peculiar to Tantrik Occultism.

The Tantrik theory regarding the Chakras and Sahasrara is concerned on the physiological side ... with the central spinal system, comprising the brain or encephalon, contained within the skull, and the spinal cord, contained within the vertebral column (Merudanda). It is to be noted that, just as there are five centres (Chakras) hereinafter described, the vertebral column itself is divided into five regions, which, commencing from the lowest, are the coccygeal, consisting of four imperfect vertebrae, often united together into one bone called the coccyx; the sacral region, consisting of five vertebrae united together to form a single [114] bone, the sacrum; the lumbar region, or region of the loins, consisting of five vertebrae; the dorsal region, or region of the back, consisting of twelve vertebrae; and the cervical region, or region of the neck, consisting of seven vertebrae. As exhibited by segments, the cord shows different characteristics in different regions. Roughly speaking these correspond to the regions which are assigned to the governing control of the Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, and Vishuddha centres, or Chakras. [xcviii]5 The central system has relation with the periphery through the thirty-one spinal and twelve cranial nerves, which are both afferent and efferent or sensory and motor, arousing sensation or stimulating action. Of the cranial nerves, the last six arise from the spinal bulb (medulla), and the other six, except the olfactory and optic nerves, from the parts of the brain just in front of the bulb. Writers of the Yoga and Tantra schools use the term Nadi, by preference, for nerves. They also, it has been said, mean cranial nerves when they speak of Shiras, never using the latter for arteries, as is done in the medical literature. It must, however, be noted that the Yoga Nadis are not the ordinary material nerves, but subtler lines of direction along which the vital forces go. The spinal nerves, after their exit from the inter-vertebral foramina, enter into communication with the gangliated cords of the sympathetic nervous system which lie on each side of the vertebral column. The spinal cord extends in the case of man from the upper border of the atlas, below the cerebellum, passing into the medulla, and finally opening into the fourth ventricle of the brain, and descends to the second lumbar vertebra, where it tapers to a point, called the filum terminale." [xcix]6


As the foregoing quotation refers to the Tantrik system, it should be noted that reference is made to an Indian system of energy control safe only for those of the highest moral character and purity of life and thought. Certain degraded practices and schools, occurring both in the East and the West, teaching so-called Tantrik practices cannot be too severely condemned.

These force centres are not merely situated up the spinal column and in the head as we have just shown, but they are related to one another through the medium of the spinal column—a relationship too intricate to be detailed here.

Of the seven centres, two are in the head and five in the spinal column. The two centres in the head have a direct relation to the faculties of mind and motion. The sahasrara centre (head centre) called usually the thousand-petalled lotus, is the embodiment of spiritual energy, demonstrating as Will, as the abstract or spiritual mind, and as the intuition. The ajna centre, or the centre between the eyebrows, concerns the lower mind and psychic nature of that integrated organism we call man, the personality.

The five centres in the spinal column concern the varying activities of the organism as the man demonstrates his animal instinct, his emotional reactions and his life intention. They are largely directed by the force pouring into and issuing from the head centres.

In The Serpent Power it is stated that:


"The centres influence not only the muscular combinations concerned in volitional movements, but also the functions of vascular innervation, secretion, and the like, which have their proximate centres in the spinal cord. The cerebral centres are said, however, to control these functions only in relation with the manifestations of volition, feeling, and emotion; whereas the spinal centres with the subordinate sympathetic system are said to constitute the mechanism of unconscious adaptation, in accordance with the varying conditions of stimuli which are essential to the continued existence of the organism. The Medulla, again, is also both a path of communication between the higher centres and the periphery and an independent centre regulating functions of the greatest importance in the system. It is to be noted that the nerve fibres which carry motor impulses descending from the brain to the spinal cord cross over rather suddenly from one side to the other on their way through the spinal bulb (medulla), a fact which has been noted in the Tantras in the description of the Mukta Triveni. The latter is connected by numerous afferent and efferent tracts with the cerebellum and cerebral ganglia. Above the cerebellum is the cerebrum, the activity of which is ordinarily associated with conscious volition and ideation and the origination of voluntary movements. The notion of Consciousness, which is the introspective subject-matter of psychology, must not, however, be confused with that of physiological function. There is therefore no organ of consciousness, simply because `Consciousness' is not an organic conception, and has nothing to do with the physiological conception of energy, whose inner introspective side it presents. Consciousness in itself is the Atma. Both mind and body, of which latter the brain is a part, are imperfect or veiled expressions of Consciousness, which in the case of body is so veiled [117] that it has the appearance of unconsciousness. The living brain is constituted of gross sensible matter (Mahabhuta) infused by Prana. Its material has been worked up so as to constitute a suitable vehicle for the expression of consciousness in the form of mind (Antahkarana). As consciousness is not a property of the body, neither is it a mere function of the brain. The fact that mental consciousness is affected or disappears with disorder of the brain proves the necessity of the latter for the expression of such consciousness, and not that consciousness is inherent alone in brain or that it is the property of the same. On each side of the vertebral column there is a chain of ganglia connected with nerve fibre, called the sympathetic cord (Ida and Pingala), extending all the way from the base of the skull to the coccyx. This is in communication with the spinal cord. It is noteworthy that there is in the thoracic and lumbar regions a ganglion of each chain corresponding with great regularity to each spinal nerve, though in the cervical region many of them appear to be missing; and that extra large clusters of nervous structure are to be found in the region of the heart, stomach, and lungs, the regions governed by the Anahata, Manipura, and Vishuddha, respectively, the three upper of the five Chakras hereinafter described. From the sympathetic chain on each side nerve fibres pass to the viscera of the abdomen and thorax. From these, nerves are also given off which pass back into the spinal nerves, and others which pass into some of the cranial nerves; these are thus distributed to the blood vessels of the limbs, trunk, and other parts to which the spinal or cranial nerves go. The sympathetic nerves chiefly carry impulses which govern the muscular tissue of the viscera and the muscular coat of the small arteries of the various tissues. It is through the sympathetic that the tone of the [118] bloodvessels is kept up by the action of the vaso-motor centre in the spinal bulb. The sympathetic, however, derives the impulses which it distributes from the central nervous system; these do not arise in the sympathetic self. The impulses issue from the spinal cord by the anterior roots of the spinal nerves, and pass through short branches into the sympathetic chains. The work of the sympathetic systems controls and influences the circulation, digestion, and respiration.

The anatomical arrangement of the central nervous system is excessively intricate, and the events which take place in that tangle of fibre, cell and fibril, are, on the other hand, even now almost unknown. And so it has been admitted that in the description of the physiology of the central nervous system we can as yet do little more than trace the paths by which impulses may pass between one portion of the system and another, and from the anatomical connections deduce, with more or less probability, the nature of the physiological nexus which its parts form with each other and the rest of the body. In a general way, however, there may (it is said) be reasons to suppose that there are nervous centres in the central system related in a special way to special mechanisms, sensory, secretory, or motor, and that centres, such as the alleged genito-spinal centre, for a given physiological action exist in a definite portion of the spinal cord. It is the subtle aspect of such centres as expressions of consciousness (Chaitanya) embodied in various forms of Maya Shakti which is here called Chakra. These are related through intermediate conductors with the gross organs of generation, micturition, digestion, cardiac action, and respiration in ultimate relation with the Muladhara, Svadhishthana, Manipura, Anahata, and Vishuddha Chakras respectively, just as tracts have been assigned in special, even if not exclusive, relation with [119] various perceptive, volitional, and ideative processes." [c]7

These centres vary in activity according to the evolutionary status of the individual. In some people certain centres are "awake" and in others the same centres may be relatively quiescent. In certain types, the solar plexus centre will be active or dominant, in others the heart, in still others the throat. In very few as yet, is the head centre active. Speaking largely, in savage people and the little evolved, the three centres below the diaphragm—the centre at the base of the spine, the sacral centre and the solar plexus centre—are alive and dominant, but the centres above the diaphragm are "asleep." In average humanity the throat centre is beginning to make itself felt with the head and heart centres still asleep. In the highly evolved human being, the race leader, the intuitive philosopher and the scientist, and in the great saints, both the head and heart centres are making their vibrations felt, priority between head and heart being determined by type, and the quality of the emotional and mental consciousness.

According, then, to the development of the man these force centres become alive and dominant, and according to their aliveness various types of activity make their presence felt. The centres below the diaphragm govern the physical life of the material form and the animal psychic life, found both [120] in man and in the animal. Those above the diaphragm concern the intellectual and spiritual life and bring about those activities in which man demonstrates that his status is different to, and higher than that of the animal, and that he is climbing upward on the ladder of evolution.

Such in brief is the teaching of the East with regard to the seven centres of force or chakras.

When we compare the Eastern Doctrine of the seven centres with the Western doctrine of glands, we find first of all a striking fact with regard to locality. The seven centres of force are to be found in the same region where the glands are located, and each centre of force might well be (and according to Indian teaching is) the source of power and of life for the corresponding gland. The following comparative table shows this identity of location.




Head centre

Pineal gland

Centre between eyebrows

Pituitary body

Throat centre

Thyroid gland

Heart centre

Thymus gland

Solar plexus centre


Sacral centre

The gonads

Centre at base of spine

Adrenal glands


A second fact, even more striking than the first, is that the force centres which are awake conform to the glands whose functions are known and of [121] which most of the secretions or hormones, have been discovered. The centres that are asleep or awakening in advanced members of the race, conform to the glands whose functions are relatively unknown and whose secretions in the main have not been isolated. It will be noted for example that Dr. Berman states that the secretion of the pineal gland, one of the two in the pituitary body and the thymus gland, are listed as unknown, as is the secretion of the cortex adrenal gland. These conform to the sleeping or awakening heart centre, throat centre, centre in the head, and at the base of the spine.

Is this an interesting coincidence? Or are we faced with the fact that in each case these glands with the undiscovered hormones, are allied to a centre which is asleep, not yet awakened in average humanity?

I believe it will eventually be established that the glands have been brought into being through the energy of the centres, for those centres which, in average humanity, are awake and functioning seem to be related to glands, whose peculiar secretion has been isolated, and its action in relation to the bloodstream known, whilst those centres which are as yet asleep and undeveloped seem to be allied to glands whose secretion is only partially known or totally unknown. It is in any case worthy of consideration.

The Occidental psychologists are consequently right when they state that a man is what his glands [122] make him, and that we are no better or worse than our peculiar endocrine system. But the reason for this may lie in the correctness of the Oriental theory as to the force centres. The condition of the glands and their super-activity or sub-normality, and their right or wrong functioning may be determined by the state of those centres. The glands are only outer symbols, the visible, material aspect of a far greater and more intricate system. They are determined by the character of the soul life which plays through them, and the soul which controls and dominates all.

The state of the centres, then, is dependent upon the type and quality of soul force vibrating through them. In the undeveloped person it is simply the life force, prana, which is active and registers. This nurtures the animal life and brings the lower centres (the centre at the base of the spine and the sacral centre) into activity. Later, as man develops, the consciousness, soul-aspect, gradually makes its presence felt and brings the solar plexus centre into activity. This centre is the seat of the lower psychic sentient life both in man and in the animal, and is often referred to as the instinctual brain. Bhagavan Das teaches us that:

"It is worth noting that in Sanskrit literature the navel is often treated as more central and almost more essential to the organism than the heart. Indications of the importance of the heart are not wanting, it is true, ... but it is probable that physiologically the `navel' was the more vital organ in the earlier stages [123] of evolution, and is even at the present stage more essentially connected with desire proper than the heart which may perhaps be regarded as connected with the actional sub-division of desire." [ci]8

He quotes Mrs. Besant also in the following paragraph:

"The `navel' represents the solar plexus, perhaps the most important plexus of the sympathetic system; it controls the digestive tract, and sends its branches to liver, spleen, stomach, as well as to the alimentary canal and generative organs. Nor is it unconnected with the lungs and heart. It may he regarded as the brain of the sympathetic system, and responds with dangerous facility to thought; concentration on it, often rashly undertaken, is apt to result in a peculiarly intractable form of nervous disease. Emotions set up in it violent disturbances, and the feeling of a nausea, which often follows an emotional shock, is due to its excited action." [cii]9

Man functions today through the medium of these three centres for the most part. The forces of the body serve to feed and stimulate the sex life through the gonads, they create the urge to combat and to evolve through the adrenal glands, the glands of combat, and of struggle; they govern the psychic instinctual life through the solar plexus. Thus the personal man is mobilised and becomes a conscious sentient human being. As his evolution proceeds, the self or soul becomes more and more [124] active and dominant in man and in his corporeal existence, and little by little all parts of the etheric structure become vitally awake. Gradually the higher centres come into increased activity, and the emphasis of the force pouring through the body shifts to the centres above the diaphragm. The throat centre awakens and becomes the organ of creative work; the heart centre is vivified and the man becomes aware of his soul relationships, his group responsibilities and the inclusiveness of the life-soul. Finally the head centres awaken and another range of perceptions enters into his consciousness. He becomes aware of himself as a soul, integrated as a personality, and later still he becomes aware of the world of spirit, of divine life, of the unseen world of spirits, and of that "cloud of witnesses" who testify to the reality of the soul life.

One of the objectives of human evolution is to accomplish this. The centre at the base of the spine, the heart and head centres, must come into full functioning activity and thus, through a blending of the energy latent in matter itself and stored up in the centre at the base of the spine, of the energy of the soul, which has its seat in the heart, and of the energy of the spirit, centred in the head, bring the human being to the highest point of perfection. Through this fusion of energies he becomes an active expression of God—spirit, soul, body, blended and united so that the body is indeed the vehicle for the soul, and that soul is indeed the expression of the will and purpose of the spirit.


What did Christ say when on earth? "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John XIV: 9). He said also, "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father" (John XIV: 12). He was the Soul incarnate in the body, revealing the Father, the Spirit, and through the mechanism of the body, demonstrating the powers of the soul, which, the Hindus claim, follow upon the awakening of the centres, and which they list as follows:

1. Anima . . . the power to penetrate all bodies, and to bring the dead to life. Christ could pass unseen into rooms, and could raise the dead. (See Luke 24:36, Mark 16:14, John 20:19, John 11.)

2. Mahima . . . the power to include or make oneself large or to comprehend the universe. Christ knew all things. (Matt. 12:25, John 2:24, John 6:64.)

3. Laghima . . . the power to make oneself light so that one could float in the air or walk on the water. Christ walked on the water. (Matt. 14:25, 26, Mark 6:48.)

4. Garima . . . the power to make oneself heavy. There is no record in the Christian Scripture of Christ exercising this power.

5. Prapti . . . the predicting of events (Christ foretold his crucifixion Matt. 26:2, Luke 24:7) and of the power to cure diseases (Christ healed hundreds, Matt. 12:15, 14:15), and of clairvoyance [126] and clairaudience. (Christ was both clairvoyant, John 1:48, and clairaudient, John 12:29.)

6. Prakamega . . . the power to preserve the body. Christ reappeared to His disciples after death with the same body, apparently, that they knew. (John 20:20-27.)

7. Visitvan . . . the power of self control, the power to control animals, and people. All these Christ demonstrated, even to the control of the demon-possessed persons, and of the hogs who ran down a steep place into the sea. (Matt. 8, Mark 5, Mark 9.)

8. Ishatvan . . . the power of universal dominion. This is everywhere claimed for Christ, and is indicated by his being seated on the right hand of God.

And is the possession of these powers and the fulfilment of Christ's prophecy that we shall do these greater things, so contrary to what the West calls common sense? In the radio, we broadcast waves of sound and we time and amplify them, but after all we merely re-enforce the sound waves which in their original subtle form, are pouring in upon us. What more natural than this, that man, who has constructed mechanical re-enforcements, should himself become so sensitive as to pick up the sound waves unaided, and thus be termed clairaudient? And is not thought transference (which even the most sceptical must recognise) none other than a special kind of broadcasting? And so with other "miracles," is not the material world controlled [127] by subtler forces and powers, and may not man learn in time to operate in the subtler field and thereby acquire dominance over the merely physical and material?

Such is the age-long belief of India—that through the development of the soul and spirit, through the awakening of all the centres, man comes to his maturity and his glory.