The Chakras


The ChakrasCorrelations between Medical Science and Clairvoyant Observation, Shafica Karagulla, with Dora van Gelder Kunz, Wheaton: Quest Books, 1989.

This is an extraordinary book. I do research on the bioenergy since two decades, but I have not encountered so much information about such esoteric a subject in one single book. But I must warn the non-scientific reader: this isn’t a book for enhancing your general knowledge about the aura, and the chakras, and it is by no means a practical book, guidebook, or anything of the kind.

You got two medical practitioners here, one of which is a clairvoyant. The author herself, Shafica Karagulla, is the kind of traditional physician who writes with a lot of ‘faculty terms’, so to speak, using medical terminology all over the place. Further down, I’ll quote some examples. So think twice if you want to buy this book. For me personally, it was indispensable for my research. There are some elucidations in this book that I found earlier in my research, but only after studying tedious manuals and old hermetic writings. 

One detail also is important somehow. Dora van Gelder died before this book was even in a draft, and therefore Karagulla was not always sure when she gave detailed accounts on Gelder’s paranormal perceptions. This is obviously a bad fate, as part of the theory rests on assumptions. On the other hand, from her memory, Karagulla could relate many an anecdote about the powerful personality of van Gelder and her lucid intelligence. One thing she relates to have been a constant in van Gelder’s sayings was:

There is nothing ‘supernatural’ in the universe; whatever phenomena appear so to us are the result of our ignorance of the laws that govern them./5

We are reminded of the German poet and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an initiate who said that all secrets of the universe could be known to the common man, if only he could free himself from school wisdom, which was the eternal parody of real knowledge. This being said, there truly is precious knowledge contained in this book. The following three sentences alone may suffice to convince you of the in-depth scientific research of these authors and their competence level regarding a field of research that is still unknown not only to most lay people but hardly known even to many scientists. It is also for me an important hint as to considering clairvoyant observations as ‘real’ research, which has the quality of scientific scrutiny:

From clairvoyants we learn that the personality includes three types of energy fields—he etheric or vital, the astral or emotional, and the mental—all of which surround and interpenetrate every cell of the physical body. The interplay among these three fields may be likened to what a musician calls the major chord, which is composed of three frequencies that in combination with four other notes form an octave of seven frequencies. It is said by some that every human being emits a unique tonal pattern which is created by his individual energy fields working in unison. This is sometimes referred to as the personality note./2

This elucidation is precious in the scientific debate about what the human energy field really is and especially the question if it is one single energy, or several energies. I mentioned in my review of Richard Gerber’s book A Practical Guide to Vibrational Medicine that I found it highly confusing that the author does not speak about one energy field, but several, and even sees ch’i and prana as different energies.

Shafica Karagulla
Shafica Karagulla

First, Karagulla speaks not of energies, but of energy fields. Second, the etheric, astral and mental fields have been recognized since times immemorial as different densities of the field, not different fields. The etheric field is the densest, the mental field the most transparent energy field. But we are speaking here by no means about different energies! However, shortly after this important elucidation, Karagulla falls in the same trap and assigns to electric and magnetic fields the character of ‘energies’:

This and other research points significantly to the fact / that in addition to the electrical and magnetic fields which surround all physical events there are other types of energies and frequencies that are as yet undetectable by any instrumentation so far developed. For this reason, the gifted human being is the only ‘instrument’ so far available or the kind of research which correlates clairvoyant perceptions with medical diagnoses./5-6

While my point of view is of course not authoritative, I am convinced that the electric and magnetic fields are manifestations of the primal cosmic energy, and not different energies.

The following quote may point to a similar interpretation. If we can admit a universal field, as it has recently been done, for example through the research of Lynne McTaggart, exposed in her brilliant study The Field, then we are back at the ground, and can affirm there is only one field or energy, and not a confusing mess of perhaps conflicting energies:

This growing perception of the interrelatedness of all living things has many implications. For our purposes, however, we focus on the fact that there is a continuous energy exchange between the individual and the environment which every living system (whether human, animal, vegetable, or even chemical) regulates in terms of its self-organization. This energy exchange is so constant and so indispensable for all living organisms that it can be regarded as a universal field effect./12

The notion of fields is introduced to every school child who is exposed to the experiment of proving that when electricity flows through a wire it establishes a magnetic field. Other physical field phenomena can also be easily demonstrated, although detection of the nuclear fields requires more sophisticated equipment. But when we posit a universal life or vital field (as we do in this book), this is much more difficult to demonstrate in a tangible way, for there are as yet no scientific instruments capable of detecting the presence of such a field. Yet life, if as yet undefined, is real, and the living (as open systems) have specific characteristics not shared by inorganic matter. The most important of these is the ability to replenish energy (what we call vitality) without an outside agency, which no machine can do./13

Another important detail in the research for the present book was the authors’ focus on energy patterns. I have seen in my own research on the bioenergy that we can establish as fact the observation that life is coded in energy patterns, and not in any form of ‘matter’ as a primary substance of creation.

At a more fundamental level of physical being, we are becoming accustomed to thinking of ourselves in terms of systems, processes, and patterns of energy, rather than of dense materiality./20

In the view being developed here, man is a system of interdependent force fields, within which energy patterns are not only appropriate to the particular field but are also ordered by special processes and mechanisms. Furthermore, these energy patterns are responsive to changes in consciousness, a fact which gives us a very different perspective upon many of the troubling problems of human life./26

Now, going in medias res of this book, knowing that all disease is a result of either lacking or misdirected bioenergetic flow, we have to ask the pertinent question how we can direct the bioenergy so as to bring about health? The authors conclude that it’s a particular field state:

We found that abnormalities observed in the major etheric chakras were an indication of a tendency to a disease process, and that the area in which this would occur could be predicted even years before the symptoms began to manifest. /6

Vitality per se is not recognized as a form of energy in the West, but in the East, where it is known as prana, it has always been perceived as a universal force in nature connected with breathing and breath. /28

Let me add a remark here. It’s not really true that energy fields were not recognized in the West. What is true is that all direct knowledge about life was considered a heresy for centuries, which is why this research, together with alchemy, herbal cures and even astrology had to remain in the underground. Paracelsus has discovered in plants exactly what the authors report here, a powerful energy field, and he has even found how to potentiate this energy field in plant concoctions through assemblage of specific plants he found were syncing their frequencies, as a matter of natural association. As a result, Paracelsus had to stand trial before the Inquisition for this discovery, and was fortunately able to disprove his involvement in sorcery.

But the fact that until very recently the cosmic energy field was a matter of controversy in modern science has its rationale in the fact that the Church ordained what was to be known, and what was not. In the East, such knowledge prohibition has never taken place which is why this knowledge could flourish so freely, and was even encouraged by the religions of the East, such as Hinduism or Buddhism, and even earlier on, Taoism.

Now let us go a step ahead and ask how is this energy being supplied and replenished in the organism? Do we as yet have all the information we need? The author honestly admits that not all is known here, but we can be sure that in matters of replenishment, the direction is from the subtle to the dense, from the ethereal to the material, from the higher energy level to the lower, and not vice versa:

The etheric body vitalizes the physical body, but exactly how this takes place is not yet known. Since the / etheric channels run parallel to the nervous system, however, there may be a process of induction. /28-29

As here only one energy is mentioned, prana, we have a further stone in the puzzle that speaks for these authors affirming that there is really only one cosmic energy field, and not several. Now, how does this energy body, this aura, look like? Karagulla describes it:

To the clairvoyant, the etheric body looks like a luminous web of fine bright lines of force which, in a healthy person, stand out at right angles to the surface of the skin. Its texture may be fine-grained or coarse, a characteristic which repeats itself in the physical body type. Each organ of the body has its etheric counterpart, through which the etheric energy circulates constantly./30

The color of the etheric body is a pale blue-gray or violet-gray, slightly luminous and shimmering, like heat waves above the earth on hot days. In the average person it extends from five to seven centimeters (two to three inches) beyond the periphery of the physical body, gradually fading away into the enveloping ocean of etheric energy. This ocean of energy is in constant rapid motion, and surrounds the body much as the atmosphere surrounds the earth./Id.

And how does chronic illness look like? What is the imprint it makes in the luminous body and how can these imprints be identified? Here again, a clear answer is provided in the book:

It should not be supposed, however, that the existence of this etheric web inhibits the normal interaction between the emotional and etheric fields. In a healthy individual, there is an ordered relationship and a rhythmic flow among all the energy fields. But when there are chronic disturbances on the emotional level, such as continuous hostility or anxiety, the energy discharge is disordered, and this can eventually damage the whole system. To take another example, fear and depression tend to cut down the normal flow of energy, so that organs like the kidneys become less able to function normally. Thus the emotions closely affect both the etheric and physical bodies./31

Now, more specifically, what is the role of the chakras? Usually, from selfhelp books we learn only about the seven ordinary chakras, but there is more to it, as there are also chakras in both the emotional and the mental bodies, so in total there are not 7 but 24 chakras. The authors explain:

The seven etheric chakras, which are so influential in the health of the physical and etheric bodies, have their counterparts on the astral and mental levels. Like the physical body, which is continually disintegrating and rebuilding itself, the etheric, emotional and mental fields are constantly changing, but at a much more rapid rate. The chakras are involved in this change./34

What the chakras do is basically to transmit and transform energy, and their mechanism ‘synchronizes the emotional, mental and etheric energies’ (41).

You may know from popular science books that paranormals see ‘colors’ in the aura. What does that mean? Can the colors be associated with certain characteristics? The authors provide stunning information here:

The colors, which vary from chakra to chakra, also glow in a way that contributes to their flower-like appearance. In a healthy person, the chakras’ forms are beautifully balanced, symmetrical and organic, with all the parts flowing together in a rhythmic pattern. Their motion is, in fact, harmonic or musical in character, with rhythms which vary according to individual, constitutional and temperamental differences. /35

The energy pours in through the core of the chakra, reaches the spine via its stalk, then flows along the tiny pathways of the etheric body which are connected with the physical nervous system. It finally returns to the chakras, moving outward in spirals through the periphery of the petals, in a constant intake and outflow./36

What is perhaps quite unexpected is that a simple clairvoyant regard on the chakras can reveal much about the spiritual evolution of the person, and their level of consciousness:

The chakras also reveal a person’s quality of consciousness and degree of personal development and abilities, through the variations of the etheric centers and their interconnections with those at other levels. In a simple, rather undeveloped person, the chakras will be small in size, slow in movement, dull in color and coarse in texture. In a more intelligent, responsive and sensitive person they will be brighter, of finer texture and with a more rapid movement, and in an awakened individual who makes full use of his powers, they become coruscating whirlpools of color and light./36

Another interesting parallel is that the chakra network in the organism bears a resemblance with the endocrine system:

Certainly the intricate relationships among these chakras, as well as those on other levels, bear a close resemblance to the functional interconnectedness of the endocrine system. In fact, the interaction of all the fields with the physical body is a beautifully integrated system which originates in and is sustained by the energy patterns of the chakras in the etheric, astral and mental vehicles./37

This following concise little summary of the main functions of the chakras is hardly to be found in any other book:

To sum up, the principal functions of the etheric chakras are to absorb and distribute prana or vital energy to the etheric body and, through it, to the physical body, and to maintain dynamic connections with the corresponding chakras in the emotional and mental bodies. One of the functions of the chakras is to coordinate the interaction among the various fields. The condition of the physical body is affected not only by the rate of etheric energy flow, but also by the degree of harmony in its rhythm, and any obstructions which deform the normal energy patterns result in loss of vitality and ill health./38

I leave out from this review what the authors write about each chakra, as this information would render this book review too extensive. Let me state here only that the heart chakra is of particular importance as it is exactly in the middle between the upper chakras and the lower chakras. Thus, it bears a particular importance for balancing the energies. The authors point out:

In meditation, the student is encouraged to focus on the heart center, in order to strengthen its connection with the core of the crown chakra. This brings about a state of true balance in the body, for the heart center is really the point of integration in the whole chakra system, and therefore has an important overall balancing effect./42

Back in the 1970s, I found in one of Wilhelm Reich’s books the surprising statement that emotions are energy. As I looked around, I saw that Reich, at his time, was quite the only medical doctor, scientist and psychiatrist who was saying this. I was intrigued and began a long research on emotions. But I could hardly find anything but the notorious assumption that emotions were ‘difficult to grasp by modern science’ and that their nature was little known, while in the esoteric literature it was always assumed that emotions were related to the vital energy. Now, this book gives conclusive evidence for the energy nature of emotions, and generally, the emotional field. To note in addition that emotions are by no means ‘in the brain’, but flow pretty much like electric currents in the emotional body, which is the second subtle body we carry around our physical body. Karagulla explains:

Thus the astral or emotional field is truly universal. It is a fluid world of fast-moving images, shimmering with color and full of symbols and images that move us with their beauty or fill us with fear and anxiety, since it can be responsive to false and negative ideas as well as to those which are noble and uplifting. But in every case the emotional field is an intrinsic component of human life which needs to be understood and appreciated for what it is. (…) The emotional field is permeated by energy, as are the physical fields, but in this case it is moving much more rapidly, and is therefore perceived as a higher octave of color and sound. The form of the individual emotional field (the astral body or aura) has certain structural / features which correspond to those of the etheric field and the physical body itself. To the clairvoyant, this structure appears as a multicolored aura extending thirty-nine to forty-five centimeters (fifteen to eighteen inches) beyond the physical body. It looks rather like an ovoid, luminous cloud surrounding the body, as though the individual were suspended inside a semitransparent bubble of changing colors and patterns./48-49

Now, after we know what emotions are, and where they are located, let us look at what they do. When we interact emotionally with others, there is energy flow involved in this communication:

The activity in the field of the emotional body can be compared to changing conditions in the atmosphere of the earth, when observations from weather satellites verify / the areas in which storms are raging. In much the same way, the clairvoyant can perceive the emotional storms which trouble an individual as they disturb the aura./50-51

In our immediate neighborhood, we people our space with our emotional images, whether positive, negative or neutral. /51

If we accept the idea that we are dynamic systems which are constantly receiving and radiating energy, we can understand the degree to which human beings affect one another’s emotional fields. This varies, of course, according to the inner stability and integration of the individual. When a person identifies himself with his emotions, he naturally responds readily to the emotions of others. He may be a warm and loving person, but he may also become the victim of other people’s emotional disturbances./51

There is a very interesting parallel with Reich’s analysis of what he called the emotional plague as a major pathological development in humanity that he thought was caused by mishandling our emotions because of compulsory morality. Now, what Karagulla says is basically the same:

Over the years, humanity has produced a great deal of smog or debris in the emotional atmosphere./51

The importance of emotions as they are seen and evaluated by van Gelder and Karagulla by far surpasses even the most avant-garde research on emotions, to name only Candace B. Pert’s bestselling book Molecules of Emotion. From what they say, we can conclude that our idea of a ‘rational mind’ is fictional, because our mind is constantly connected with our emotions:

Because the mental and emotional fields are so closely interconnected, the mind is colored by emotion, just as the feelings are conditioned by thought. This is a universal characteristic, but when it is unbalanced or out of control the condition may become pathological. However, if the mind is not hampered by emotional stresses, it is a fine and flexible instrument for integrating and assimilating all levels of personal experience: mental, emotional and physical. /59

From here, it’s but one step to bring forward a more general theory about the interaction between mind and brain, which is one of the most important topics of current neuroscientific and psychoimmunological research:

The view of the mind/brain relationship which emerges from our research is very different from that generated by most psychophysiological theorizing. Far from being a product of brain activity, the distillation of meaning and the interpretation of experience are seen to derive from a deeper level of the self. Such insight is then developed rationally by the mind and related to other knowledge, while the brain, which is the mind’s instrument or physical partner, registers the information. In other words, the mind is dependent upon the brain for physical expression, but it also transcends the brain mechanism and can to some extent compensate for its defects./60

To come back to our initial question: how can we identify the presence of pathological development through contemplating the energy patterns in the luminous energy field? According to the authors, it’s a matter of how the energy is organized:

When the energy pattern is closely knot, it is very resistant to invasion from the outside world, but when loose and porous it can be penetrated more easily, and therefore the subject is apt to take in whatever may be in the / surrounding environment. /92-93

Now, to come to an end of this rather extended book review, I would like to emphasize that the few quotes I have replicated here in this review are by no means representative for the whole book. In fact, they are rather the exception from the rule. The most part of this book is written in medical terminology and thus not easily accessible to the lay reader. Yet despite this limitation, which is not really a limitation, this book is a jewel in every new science library, and it probably will be discovered again and again, as it seems to me that so far, this book has not been given the scientific attention it deserves.

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