Jung and Kundalini Yoga

Carl Gustav Jung in his lectures on The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga, back in 1932, stated that Yoga is an ancient spiritual discipline “a practical means of attaining salvation, oneness and the liberation of purusha”, that is, a systematised ascetic technique; a method of meditation.

Yoga had two central notions traditional to Indian philosophy and religion (1) reincarnation and (2) emancipation from the cycle of birth, death, rebirth. So moving from Samsara (the endless cycle) to Moksha (end of the cycle through overcoming ignorance and desires).

Isn’t it fascinating then that yoga and meditation are so highly valued within tantric circles, when we consider that Tantra was perceived to be anti-ascetic. However, Agehananda Bharati is quoted as saying “What distinguishes tantric from other Hindu and Buddhist teachings is its systematic emphasis on the identity of the absolute (paramartha) and the phenomenal (vyavahara) world when filtered through the experience of worship (sadhana)”, so through personal knowledge, anti-speculative.

Tantra therefore stood outside the accepted mainstream of the time. It was transgressive, counter-cultural.

Scientific materialism meanwhile tells us that consciousness is observable and subject to scientific methods, and further, declares that the physical world is the only thing that exists and so there is nothing supernatural. This stands at odds with a knowledge of the spiritual, or higher consciousness, in the sense of Universal Power; the primordial energy that lies sleeping or dormant in the lowest chakra, to take the analogy of Kundalini Yoga as an example.

And yet …

Tantra is anti-speculative.

For Jung though, Kundalini Yoga through the tantric tradition is not so much a spiritual practice as a psychological discipline and a method of psychic hygiene. It is a form of introversion that allows for the conditions and the developmental phases to bring a connection between the non-ego and the conscious ego. For Jung this is about the process of individuation, where he equates Eastern Yoga with Western Alchemy.

I would have to question, is that really the purpose of Yoga with its primary notion of gaining emancipation from the cycle of birth, death, rebirth; of overcoming ignorance and desires? Surely a stepping stone and not the purpose!

Does Jung not give us some clues through his ideas around universal symbolism and culturally specific methods; a bringing together of the universal and the particular; the spiritual and the material? Yoga and meditation as a method of introversion (introspection) to bring balance to our lives; between the spiritual in our here and now material setting; between our values and opinions and consensus based facts of the moment; between us as individuals and as part of a collective (a perennial issue for any minority group).

How can any of this be easy?

But one of the first things we need to recognise is the inherent difficulty of bringing people to a consensus (if this does not confirm pre-existent beliefs or held opinions) when we do little more than preach. There surely has to be a more mature approach than that? And indeed, possibly one based on the individuation process (for is this not a movement equivalent to that of dependence to separation to interdependence?)

Combating bias (and not just confirmation bias) in all its myriad forms must surely be one strand. As is a refresh on our education system and a shift of focus away from historically outdated subjects to a better understanding of our inner processes, introspection, and mental, emotional, sense based and spiritual overlaps (and wouldn’t Yoga be useful here?)

And in the here and now, more immediately, we need to recognise the difference between fact and opinion, between consensus held facts and minority opposing facts (both of which could be based on different or the same sets of data). Indeed, we need to recognise the difference between raw data and the interpretations of the data, especially when placed alongside political and power drivers. And off course our own complicity in either accepting or aggressively denying or defending one position or the other. We would do well to keep in mind the well-known saying, all beliefs should be held lightly.

Bringing it all together

Yoga brings balance, acting as a stepping stone for introspection, towards enabling a connection between the non-ego and the conscious ego, and so ending the cycle of Samsara through overcoming our tightly held ignorance and desires.

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And for those who enjoy historical fiction, stories of underrepresented life’s, see my first novel Fermented Spirits published through Austin Macauley Publishers, 2022. ISBN-13: ‎978-1398437159