Sympathy for the Devil
(or, First Chakra Activities and the Orobouros Principle)
by Michael Maciel
This is a discussion about the Muladhara (moo-lud-HAR-uh) chakra and its activities. It includes an explanation of the natural interaction between the Muladhara (first) and the Sahasrara (seventh) chakras, which is the completion of the circle represented by the snake (the worm Orobouros) with its tail in its mouth.
According to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, the Muladhara is the area of the mind where memory functions reside. It is the primary intelligence at work in the first seven years of a child’s life. It is the first of the three chakras located below the heart, which are used by the astral body. Dr. Carolyn Myss, author of The Anatomy of the Spirit, says that the first chakra or “root” is the seat of tribal consciousness. Issues of belonging, family life, tradition, and knowing one’s place in the social order are first chakra activities. It is located at the base of the spine. When asked where the first chakra is located in the body, she says, “You’re sitting on it.”
The chakras can be thought of as the “operating platforms” of awareness. They are the mechanisms in the spiritual body of man and woman that facilitate the expression of the seven modes of consciousness of universal mind on the physical plane of action. According to Subramuniya, they are always fully developed, “awakening” as awareness flows through them. In this sense, we can understand the chakras as being universally present, or as he says, “...vast areas of the [universal] mind”. They are reflected in the individual consciousness for its own use. As the Self uses these ever-present areas of the universal mind in its interaction with the physical world, pranic energies form patterns of reaction around the Self, and a soul is gradually built up.
The Self naturally uses all seven of the “vast areas of the mind”, but individual experiences cause some aspects to be developed more than others, resulting in the differentiation which we call “soul-personality”. The possible combinations of these aspects are infinite, which allows for individuality—the distinct or unique expression of Spirit through individual souls.
The vast area of universal mind, called Muladhara in Sanskrit, has its mechanism of expression in us in the first or “root” chakra. It has its corresponding anatomical location at the base of the trunk at the perineum—the area between the urethra and rectum. To understand the function of the Root chakra, we have to look at memory. Memory functions much like the directory or folder system used in the main memory or hard drive of a computer. In order to be useful, items placed in memory (either in a computer or in the brain) must be arranged hierarchically and categorized according to association. Items are sorted according to the way they were first introduced and in their order of importance as they relate to other items. A well structured directory tree will process information more rapidly and efficiently than one poorly organized .
Personality vs. individuality
While there is a generic plan for the placement of elements within the soul's hierarchy of memory, it is the meaning we ascribe to each experience that determines the quality of our personality overall. Meaning, at the level of the root chakra, is based on survival, or the ability to hang on to the physical plane (thus the term "root"). Meaning acts like the magnifying lens one uses to examine a photograph, the kind you have to place directly on the photograph and bend down to put your eye to it. The photograph itself does not change, but our perception of it changes dramatically. If our soul were laid out on a table like a photograph, the meaning we have ascribed to certain experiences would act like magnifying lenses of various sizes placed over them, distorting their actual "size" and therefore their importance in our lives. This is the difference between individuality and personality. Personality is the generic structure filled in with personal experiences. Individuality is that same structure highlighted by the enhanced meaning we have ascribed to only some of those experiences. Psychology calls these magnified distortions and their interrelations "complexes". Cynics play off of this and call romantic love a mere interaction between one person's neuroses with those of another. A Course in Miracles also endorses this as the "special relationship", two self-identities complementing each other's distorted view of themselves. Dr. Carolyn Myss humorously calls this "wound-ology", the relationship based on shared hurts, masquerading itself as "empathy".
As described above, the universal mind’s memory mode of consciousness, which finds its expression in us through the Muladhara chakra, shows up in everyday life as first chakra activities. Any time we organize, categorize, or storehouse things or ideas, we are using the energies of the Muladhara area of universal mind.
Let’s look at some of these activities.
The purpose of organization is simplification, which always involves elimination. It is impossible to organize a closet, a workbench, or your kitchen cupboards without also having a trash can near at hand. Although it’s nice to have duplicates of certain essential items, redundancies in the system can be inefficient. So, we decide which things are important and which are not, and we get rid of the latter.
This allows us to move freely in the rest of our activities. A well-organized kitchen, for example, lets us get down to the business of cooking. A well-organized closet, one from which all the unused or outdated clothing items have been eliminated, allows us to better see and manage our wardrobe. In the workshop, the right tools for the job that are close at hand and easy to find will save hours of frustrated searching.
The best image of organized, personal activity is the work station where an operator, whether an office worker or factory worker, sits in one spot where he or she can move and pivot to reach and implement the needed tools for the task. Remember when Carolyn Myss said that we are sitting on our first chakra? Whenever we “saddle up” to do a job, we are positioning ourselves for maximum productivity. This is power, power based on positioning that enables us to perform work quickly and efficiently. Our organization supports our activity, just as a chair supports our body. Organization is our “base of operations”.
It's interesting to note that the famous mythologist, Joseph Campbell, says that the person who functions predominantly through first chakra consciousness is called a "stuffed-shirt", an organization-man who can't see beyond the rules and who lacks all creativity. The organizational principle of Muladhara shows up everywhere. Anatomically, it is expressed conceptually any place you have a ball and socket structure, such as the hip and shoulder joints, which permit skeletal articulation. Again, conceptually (which means in terms of actual function) the pituitary or “master” gland of the body “sits” in a perfectly carved out niche almost exactly in the middle of the head, the place from which it organizes and regulates all the other glands.
Categorizing is sorting objects or ideas according to type. As an activity, it precedes organization, because things must first be separated into like categories before they can be organized. The key word here is “separate”. Any time you separate one thing from another, as in the elimination processes of the body, or children from their state of dependency (as in adolescent rites of passage), volumes of an encyclopedia, one social class from another, you are using first chakra energies. These are all “tribal” issues based in memory or tradition. An Alzheimer’s patient, the mother of a friend of mine, once said in a brief moment of clarity, “This is this, that is that, and that’s all!” This seems to me to capture the essence of the Muladhara intention.
Holding things in place is what the physical plane is all about, and the Muladhara chakra is the chakra of the “world”. This area of the mind not only separates and organizes, it also holds these things in memory, and at this level memory has substance. The obvious example of this is the literal storehouse, which if well managed will strictly control the locations of its inventory. A not so obvious example is Church canon law and the literary canon. Here ideas are fixed and stored in their own kind of inventory. Nothing can be changed without overwhelming consensus and lots of time.
The keyword is “hold”, as in “hold in place” or to control the relative position of things. Wherever this kind of activity can be found, the Muladhara intention predominates.
The Orobouros Principle
It is perhaps not so easy to see that controlling the relative position of things can have within it the action of elimination, but this is in fact the case, for anything that does not fit must be gotten rid of. The memory of the world, if we can call it that, is a matrix of energies resembling, in principle, a net. This net is designed to hold those “frequencies” that are like itself. It acts very much like a filter which eliminates everything that does not match its inherent criteria. It's this inherent criteria that makes up the foundation upon which the rest of the personality is built. The more information that it starts with, the more it can obtain. The ultimate quality of the personality will depend on the overall quality (which includes the proper sequencing) of that information.
The worm Orobouros, or the snake with its tail in its mouth, represents how the world maintains a static image of itself while at the same time participating in the endless cycle of change. The serpent is self-renewing—it sheds its old skin to make room for the new, which duplicates the characteristics of the old.
Present-day physicists and ancient seers alike tell us that the world “occurs” in a rapid series of blinks too small for our consciousness to perceive. This pulsating flow of reality is discontinuous—each blink is a separate entity, so to speak (language is almost useless in describing this) and yet each of these entities somehow passes on the image of itself, kind of like a serpent’s new skin looks just like the old.
The circular formation of the snake symbol tells us that the Ancients understood this fundamental law of the New Physics. Reality replicates itself in a series of cycles that appears seamless, but is in fact renewing itself in an incredibly fast barrage of pulsing packets of energy. One picture is worth a thousand words, and the image of Orobouros contains within itself millennia of philosophical and scientific thought.
Orobouros also describes the feedback loop, the self-learning principle of systems with memory. The serpent's tail is its “past”—where it’s been. It processes (eats) this information and uses it to inform the next cycle in its evolution. This tells us that the metaphysical concept of “substance” (Hindu akasha) operates in and through memory.
Substance is organized in two ways, sequential and holistic. Sequential or hierarchical organization is dependent upon order. Holistic organization depends upon completeness—all elements must be present in order for the system to function. The equilateral triangle, for example, is the primary symbol for holistic organization. It describes cause, medium, and effect, or as the Religious Science people put it, "The Thing Itself, how It works, and what It does." Traditional Christianity calls it the Holy Trinity. You cannot eliminate any one of the elements without negating the whole system. And while all of the aspects must be present in order for the system to work, the energy within the system must move in the right sequence. Cause cannot move immediately to effect without first going through medium. The spoken word cannot motivate action without first being heard.
Whenever we name the points of the triangle, and by so doing ascribe to them different attributes, we name the entire system. We are taking the general principle and applying it to a specific dynamic.
All systems work according to one basic law, the Law of the Triangle. But don't make the mistake of confusing the three-sided symbol with its principle. It's the principle that's real; the symbol is merely decsriptive, or at least that's what the mind would have us believe. In reality, and this is where the title "Beyond Metaphysics" comes in, the symbol has actual power - not power in the magical sense, which would imply a suspension of Law, but power in terms of pattern, the way a computer derives its power from patterns of circuitry. Patterns are the media through which power manifests. Power is "the ability to perform work" - the potential for work. The battery cables in your car are the pattern through which the electrical potential created by the chemicals in the battery can be brought into manifestation. But you can't simply hook the battery up directly to the starter motor without a circuit. This is the sequence aspect of the Law of the Triangle - battery, circuit, motor - and it cannot be violated.
All life depends upon the holism of its parts and the sequence in which they are hooked up - integrity, wholeness, holiness.
That Other Worm
Medieval Western mythology sometimes refers to dragons as “worms”. Orobouros is much older, so it’s likely that dragons are its updated version. Everything around the myth of the dragon seems to corroborate the principles of the Muladhara intention.
Joseph Campbell describes dragons as hoarders of the world’s riches, namely gold and virgins, but they don’t know what to do with either. Of course, the symbols are not to be taken literally. The dragon is the Orobouros Principle, the gold is vital energy (vitality), and the virgin represents the memory of the soul, the energy matrix that contains the data that will inform the next cycle. Nature, as sustainer of the world's patterns, is automatic, machine-like. It is the "machine world" of the movie The Matrix. It is the world of cause and effect, intelligence without the ability to transcend itself. Nature can only be nature.
The knight who conquers the dragon, freeing both gold and virgin, is the properly prepared conscious mind armed with the tools of Spirit. Typically, when a dragon is slain, it is dismembered. This is the “breaking open” of the cosmic storehouse of memory, the way the official seals on grain storehouses in ancient cultures would be broken in order to distribute their supplies. Or, in the hatching of an egg, where the containment aspect of the Muladhara is struck by the rod of spirit, and the contents of the new life are spilled out.
This idea of dismembering, or breaking apart, shows up recurrently in the mythologies of ancient agricultural societies, according to Campbell. In one Native American myth, the god commands the human to slay him, and then to dismember his body and plant the pieces in the ground. In the Spring, corn grows from the sacrificial body of the god. Myths like this describe the “life from death” motif inherent in the Muladhara dynamic. That which is kept in a holding pattern (the food) must be broken apart (digested) before it can be used to inform the new cycle of growth.
Similarly, muscle memory, the way disciplined, repetitive practice, as in learning to play a musical instrument, or training one’s body to react automatically in athletics, goes through a “dismemberment” process. The athlete goes through her moves over and over again, the pianist does his scales until he can’t stand to do them one more time. The practice starts to feel like a wall, a barrier, forming a kind of carapace in the mind, a husk or shell, which like any other gestational vessel resists up to the very last. When it finally gives way, a “breakthrough” occurs, and the seemingly endless cycle of stale, repetitous activity is transformed into an easy gracefulness. This is the Orobouros Principle. The past is eaten, broken up into its constituent parts, digested, and then incorporated into the new life wave. This is the conjunction of the first and seventh chakras, the endless cycle of the activity of the Spirit.
Let the sparks fly
The first and second chakras, the Sahasrara and the Muladhara, are like the two poles of a battery. When they touch each other, current flows and work is performed. The current is the universal Life Spirit; the work performed is the building of patterns on the soul.
Unless we "incorporate" (turn into a body) Spirit's influence on matter, it does not become a part of the earth, or our body (same thing). This is why it is so important to act in accordance with our best understanding. It also implies that we work with what we've got, and not wait until we're "perfect", because perfection can only come about by using what we have as it is given to us.
Personal, spiritual , and political freedoms are absolutely essential to this graduated unfolding, the never-ending dance between Heaven and Earth. Unless we are free to act upon our understanding as we understand it, true soul-growth is impossible. Anytime an individual or a society, whether in their personal or social life, is constrained to think and act according to a strict model artificially established by ohter people, a kind of spiritual voltage builds up, until a catastrophic discharge breaks out and demolishes the entire structure.
The consciousness of prohibition
In one of his letters, St. Paul says, "There was no sin before there was law." I believe he was speaking to this point. He goes on to explain that he's not advocating libertinism, but rather, as I am saying here, that excessive restraint makes sinners of us all. "Excessive" means the attempt to censor or control the thoughts of others, to make certain thoughts and beliefs illegal, instead of drawing the line at the threshold of the manifest world, that point where thoughts are acted out.
It does not matter, so to speak, what we think or believe, but it matters a lot what we do. Thoughts and beliefs must never be subjected to civil law, nor should they be grounds for social ostracization. It is in the fires of our conscience that our actions are forged. Unless those fires are allowed to burn hot, unless a person is allowed to think and believe as he or she chooses, and be free to take the risk of slowly but surely implementing those thoughts and beliefs on the material plane, no soul growth is possible.
Simply said, we must be free to make mistakes in order to discover for ourselves what works. The universe waits upon each of us to see what we will choose, and it unerringly provides feedback in the form of consequences. It is impersonal and precise, and it is infinitely supportive of our soul growth and development. This is the justice and the love of God respectively, and it is the only model for a bona fide legal system.
Freedom is the foundation of life, and is therefore the basis of the Muladhara intention. It is the grease that allows the wheel to spin. If we try to sit on Pandora's Box, it will eventually explode. If we throw it open willy-nilly, the tide of its contents will sweep us into the nearest looney bin. We cannot deny the expression of what is, nor can we lay down and let it roll over us. Instead, we have to "eat" it - we have to take bite-sized chunks of it and incorporate its energy into our daily lives. The tumultuous forces that surge and swim in the cauldron of the Muladhara constitute the fuel of our lives. Inner peace comes when we organize its expression in constructive and creative activity. All hell breaks loose anytime we deny that they exist.
"And when you meet me have some courtesyPostscript
Of course, our thoughts are important. If they weren't, the Law of Mind would be meaningless. But, unless thoughts are mixed with feeling, the Law will not work. There is a difference between reasoned discussion and trying to incite a riot, and our civil law makes this distinction. Similarly, it is the intention behind the thought, not the thought itself, that is the precursor to action and, therefore, the only part subject to judgement (this is what Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the unpardonable "sin against the spirit"). Besides, you can never tell what a person is thinking, but, with a little careful observation, you can almost always tell what his intentions are.
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