Report of a talk given by Rev. Michaël Merle - by Robyn de Klerk
The word chakra comes from Sanskrit and means wheel. The chakras are also often referred to as lotus flowers. Both of these pictures suggest a dynamic relationship between the midpoint of a circle and its circumference - the middle of the flower striving first upwards and then opening outwards, and the inner and outer aspects of the wheel joined together by the essential in-between connectors known as the spokes. This ancient concept of the connection between the centre and the periphery is found in both Buddhism and Hinduism and the image of the wheel (a 24 spoked chakra wheel) can still be seen on the flag of India today.
The original body of Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas comes from an ancient oral tradition involving the telling of stories which were handed down from generation to generation before they were wisely written down. Knowledge of the chakras and their evolution would have been handed on in this way. Through the spoken word the proclaimed wisdom was written into the souls and lives of the people in such a way that it could bear fruit. As the direct connection to the Spirit began to lessen it became necessary to write it all down and this body of knowledge is what we know as the Vedas.
This ancient Vedic picture spoke of three energy bodies. At first only the physical body was separated out from the surrounding world with the other bodies still remaining outside. While they were very aware of and connected to these very real energy bodies, they were not yet incorporated separately. In Anthroposophy the second Vedic body contains the two bodies which are now incorporated separately (yet connected, of course) called the Etheric and Astral bodies. In the Ancient Persian epoch the etheric body (also known as the life energy) was separated and incorporated into the human experience of “in-body life”. In the Egypto-Chaldean epoch the astral body was separated out and incorporated into the human being on earth. Then in the Graeco-Roman epoch the "I" or ego body was incorporated – that part which is a connection to our on-going spirit. We still have more bodies to incorporate through the activity of the “I” on our lower bodies. Through this central body of the Ego (“I”) we are to transform the astral, etheric and physical into Spirit-self, Life-spirit (Buddhi) and Spirit-human.
The ancient Vedic path of development consisted of a living picture of seven energy centres in the body of human being. Our evolutionary path required these to be developed and set-in motion one after another and in ascending order. Through this upward path only half of the petals or spokes of each chakra are activated. Each chakra has a specific location in the body and is connected with particular spiritual developmental and physiological processes.
1 - The first chakra has four petals and is known as Muladhara or the root chakra. It is situated at the base of the spine or coccyx and associated with the colour red. It is where we begin, our root and foundation. It is dependent on the animating life force – also known as prana/chi/qi – without which our physical body would disintegrate.
2 - The second chakra has six petals and is known as Svadisthana or sweetness. It is located in our sacral area and associated with the colour orange. It is our emotional centre and associated with the kidneys and genitals.
3 - The third chakra has ten petals and is called Manipura or lustrous gem. It is located in the solar plexus and is associated with the colour yellow. It is our sense of ourselves in the centre of ourselves, and resides above the navel. This self-centredness (which can be both positive or negative) is closely related to the astral body.
4 - The fourth chakra has twelve petals and is known as Anahata or unstruck (pure). It is situated in our heart area and associated with the colour green.
5 - The fifth chakra has sixteen petals and is known as Vishudha or purification. It is situated in our throat area and associated with the colour blue. It is connected to speech and the larynx – that which sets us apart from animals: the ability to create meaning and variation out of sounds.
6 - The sixth chakra has two petals and is known as Ajna meaning "to perceive". It is situated in the forehead or third eye area and is associated with the colour purple. It is connected with our ability to see beyond the physical and is the last chakra to lie within the bodily organization.
7 - The seventh chakra has a thousand petals (infinite petals) and is known as Sahasrara, literally meaning thousandfold, or the crown chakra. It is situated in the area above our head and associated with the colour magenta. This shining crown upon our heads is something we are connected to but it does not lie within our energy body.
While developing each of these in turn, as a general rule we can only develop as far as others on the earth. It is, however, possible to be a kind of forerunner, proceeding towards a new chakra which then opens up the possibility for the further evolution of others. Energising lower chakras would become easier with successive lives as they would already have been developed in the past. Once all chakras were energised, set in motion, and spinning, a rising flow of energy would be felt known as the Kundalini serpent. We see the serpent on the staff of Moses and the staff of Mercury, and connected with healing in medical symbolism. In South American and African mythology the serpent represents the potential of development and possibility. We see the “sss-serpent” in the Garden of Eden, the whispering (from the ancient understanding of the significance of the hissing sound of a serpent) prognosticator, that little voice that says, 'There's something more', 'take a step to go beyond, to grow further’. This upward flow is an expression of movement and expansion, a rising of energy to open up and take in more. The purpose of this ascending path is to achieve a sense of universality, a realisation that through this crown chakra all is one, we are connected, and at the same time we become aware of our individuality.
The Buddha was a prince well versed in the Vedas but who also came to feel that it was time to take another step, to move on to a new phase of development. Through meditation he attained to this sense of universality, the sense of being one with everything, the opening up of the thousand-petalled lotus. While all the other chakras spin when energised, the crown chakra opens up and becomes a skull cap, a dome-like shape covering and surrounding the upper part of the head. Through the Buddha this ascending path was completed and the realisation of universality perfectly attained.
Steiner tells us that through this opening up and turning over of the petals, what this thousand petalled lotus contains is something of vital importance: An Etheric Heart – a pulsating red glow – essential for human beings to move forwards and continue evolving. However, the etheric heart does not just stay there, it begins to descend. We can think of the flames of Whitsun coming down upon the heads of the apostles – this ignited fire symbol of the Christ "I", the Holy Spirit now being taken in.
We can see how the development of crowns in Europe symbolise this upward striving. At first they were simple bands of gold with spikes going up. Then we see the possibility of linking with something above represented by the orb, cross and jewels. Then into the crown is placed stuffed red velvet, later becoming royal purple.
In the Miracle of Fatima when three young shepherd children saw visions of a luminous lady, believed to be the Virgin Mary, they spoke of a pulsing red crown above her head. Could it be that what they could perceive clairvoyantly was an etheric heart?
From this place of the crown chakra, and from the time of the Buddha, we are now on the descending path, taking this realised connection and permeating it into ourselves to a greater and greater extent. As we move towards the forehead, we have the one lotus petal still to develop. This is connected to our thinking. In our age we are beset with a lot of information triggering our sympathetic or antipathetic reactions – but how much of any of this is real? To make our way through this veritable quagmire we need to develop our ability to consider, evaluate and judge correctly. It is a single-track path strengthening our ability to find the Truth. How do we discern what is good and whole?
The Graeco-Roman epoch had already started working on the descending path in their development of the Mind Soul - a capacity to think clearly which we see in Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Euclid, etc. We are inheritors of this ability thanks to these great philosophers.
Moving down to the throat chakra we have eight petals still to develop and these are energised through the Christian spiritual eightfold path. This path first identified by the Buddha is now a spiritual path that is infused by the teaching and the being of Christ.
Then coming to the heart chakra where we have six petals still to develop. We find ourselves in our own time. In 2021 we are in the age (which started around the beginning of the fifteenth century) of working on our heart chakra. The upward path being one of universality and the downward path one of individuality; what is happening now? We have to know where we have come from in order to form an idea of where we are going. This downwards individual path is one of a certain aloneness, but in a good way. The experiences of "I am alone", "no one understands me", and also coming to terms with the fact that "no one can know me the way I know me" may be hard to face and endure, but at the same time it is leading us onwards to a new understanding and development. At the heart of our individuality is the Christ connection. This is the place from which we can build future community. The idea that we are "All One", can only be properly realised and honoured when we see and find one another through our individual connection to the Christ.
The descending Chakra path reconnects with the chakras of the ascending path. Now that the Crown Chakra is no longer, a new chakra appears at the naval (an eight petalled lotus flower) and this chakra is connected to the heart chakra on which we are currently working.
A joyous discovery of Michaël's:
This new path can be seen on the Western facade of Chartres Cathedral, Notre Dame (meaning Our Lady). At the top we have the Virgin and Child with an angel on either side representing the two petals of the third eye chakra. Beneath them is a bridge between two spires and on this bridge are sixteen knights representing the larynx or throat chakra. Beneath this is the large twelve-petalled rose window representing the chakra of the heart. In the twelve circles surrounding this window we find smaller rose windows with eight petals each, these representing the new naval chakra. Below, the windows, arches and door carry the numerology of the three lower chakras.
While the path for today is the descending path, the upward path is still recapitulated in our development from birth to the age of twenty one. We can align each of the first six chakra developments with two of Anthroposophy's twelve senses while allocating three years to each phase. With our first (root) chakra, up to the age of three, we develop the senses of touch and life. With our second (sacral) chakra, up to the age of six, we develop movement and balance. With our third (solar plexus) chakra, up to the age of nine, we develop our senses of taste and smell. These are strongly connected to our ability to respond to what we do and don't like; our ability to discern and make decisions. With our fourth (heart) chakra, up to the age of twelve, we develop the senses of sight and warmth and with this the ability to understand the world around us through perception, insight and warm enthusiasm. With our fifth (larynx) chakra, up to the age of fifteen, we develop the senses of speech and hearing. With our sixth chakra up to the age of eighteen we develop our thinking and our concept of the "I" in the other. Then when we come to the seventh (crown) chakra, at the age of twenty-one, we encounter our “I” and the development of ourselves as adults which require us to work on the descending path. Here we realise that we are one with everything and at the same time feel our individuality. Through this new and connected place our ego begins to descend and permeate into the depths of our being.
Thus, the ascending path is recapitulated as we grow "up". However, this is not the path of the adult human being. Our task now is to consciously permeate and evolve in order to discover and create, with reverence for both ourselves and all that is around us.
In the Gospel we read of Mary Magdalene having seven devils cast out of her. The original word is "daemon" (daimon) which did not necessarily mean evil or devil but could refer simply to a guardian spirit. We can imagine then that these seven daemons were the guardians of her chakra systems who were overstaying their welcome. If a guardian spirit protects beyond the appropriate time of its allocated task, then its presence becomes inappropriate and destructive. By staying too long they were preventing her from developing and opening up. It was time for them to leave and so they were cast out by Christ in order that her evolution could continue.
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