The chakra system as we know it here in the west has been heavily influenced and "white washed" by the western world and its influence on yoga culture.
The misinterpretations of original Sanskrit texts was likely due to the inability to read Sanskrit, the western occultist’s comprehension, and cherry picking of the concepts of energy centres within the body.
In an effort to keep this blog post concise, I will touch on the Hindu chakra system, the truths and mistruths from my own understanding, and I'll introduce you to other chakra systems from all over the world.
What you do with this info is purely up to you <3
The modern concept of chakras is based off Tantrik (Tantric) Yoga.
The original texts when correctly interpreted by Sanskrit scholars state the chakras aren’t meant to be aligned, and that they’re actually figurative places meant to be used as placeholders for deities and Gods and therefore they were able to be “customisable” with a personal prescription for whatever it was you needed help or assistance using mudras, mantras or invoking the deities into that space.
They are focal points for meditation within the human body, visualised as structures resembling spinning discs or flower petals at those points where a number of nadis (channels or meridians) intersect.
The chakras as psychological energy centres as we know it (eg root chakra for security and self esteem, sacral chakra for intuition and emotions etc) began with Carl Jung who viewed chakras as symbols of part of the highly complex psyche.
When studying my metaphysical practitioners course, all students were given a generic print out of each chakra, the correspondences, traits and characteristics.
I saw a footnote which referenced a book called Wheels of Life by Anodea Judith. I purchased the book and it was so thorough and in depth - I thought it was fantastic. My skepticism began to grow when I delved into Chinese Medicine, and learnt about the elements from an eastern point of view. The more I read about the elements, the more I questioned the validity of the teachings I had been taught because there were inconsistencies that began to add up.
Each chakra has a sound associated with it as follows
- Muladhara - Root - Sound - Lam (Element - Earth)
- Svadisthana - Sacral - Sound - Vam (Element- Water)
- Manipura - Solar Plexus - Sound - Ram (Element - Fire)
- Anahata - Heart - Sound - Yam (Element - Air)
- Vishuddha - Throat - Sound - Ham (Element - Ether/Space)
- Ajna - Third eye - Sound - Aum (Element - Light)
- Sahasrara. Crown - Sound - Silence (Element - Thought)
I realised the sounds didn't relate to the chakra, but they related to the energy of the element - and these elements can (and should) be variable depending on the situation.
Eg If you are going through a grievance or loss - aka issues of the Heart - wouldn't it make more sense to invoke the element of water which would support your emotions, rather than the governing Air element which is related to thought and intellect. Could invoking Air inadvertently cause you to overthink which brings more distress?
Anyways after i had a minor conniption about this, my real research began.
The validity of the westernised chakra system DEFINITELY still has value, however I just wanted to make it very clear that we are not embodying ancient knowledge by following the 7, 9 or 12 point chakra system - it's simply an adaptation and evolved system that fits within different constructs of belief systems.
Chakra Systems Of The World
Across the board, there are similarities with systems from all over the world - Most include lower belly energy center, heart energy center, and third eye energy center.
There are 3 dantians (sometimes called hara) that are multipurpose subtle energy mechanisms from Taoist and Buddhist teachings. Dantian loosely translates to "elixir field" or "sea of chi". There is a lower dantian (life force), middle dantian (breath and energy) and upper dantian (spirit).
There are also four Taoist forces - an original or prenatal force we are born with but lose as we grow up. This can however be recharged by accessing the other three forces - heavenly, cosmic and earth.
In Ayurvedic teachings, they speak of marmani (or marma) which are vital energy points located on the surface of the body resonating with the 5 elements Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.
Kundalini is a feminine energy that lays dormant at the base of your spine that's meant to awaken and join its male counterpart at the crown chakra to enable full access to spirit and enlightenment. Hindu scripture teaches that there are three Granthis or locks. As kundalini rises, it must pass through special energetic locks which present challenges to the upward climb of kundalini. These granthis are called Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra.
Tibetan Buddhists believe in 4 main wheels - or vital chakras but have up to 10 channel wheels. The 4 main wheels are Mahasukha or Svabhavika Wheel (Great Bliss) located at your head, Sambhoga Wheel (enjoyment) located at your throat, Dharma Wheel (dharma) located at your heart and Nirmana Wheel (transformation or manifestation) located at your lower abdomen.
Ancient Egyptians had the Kemetic Tree of Life which many believe may possibly be the oldest teachings on energy systems. Egyptian energy systems were described as having seven vortexes of energy in the spine sometimes called the Seven Souls of Ra.
Zulu people had traditional healers called sangomas in sacred healing huts where they called upon their ancestors to guide and assist the living via the use of the energy bodies. Their understanding of energy also fell into 7 categories - the physical body, etheric, lower mind, animal mind, human mind, spiritual mind and the ray of universal spirit.
The Yoruban chakra system originating in Africa also had a 7 chakra system that uses orishas (deities) that each person internalised to a specific area of the body.
First Chakra - Obatala Orisha
Second Chakra - Elegba Orisha
Third Chakra - Ogun Orisha
Fourth Chakra - Yemoja Orisha
Fifth Chakra - Oshun Orisha
Sixth Chakra - Shango Orisha
Seventh Chakra - Oya Orisha
Scandinavian or Viking mythology speaks of a world tree called Yggdrasil. This tree holds nine worlds that can be organised into three levels of the soul - the unconscious, conscious and higher conscience.
Greek history is steeped in wisdom and teachings that are very much foundational in today's day and age. Plato spoke of three parts of the soul called Epithymia (desire), Thymos (righteous anger) and Nous (mind).
Analysis of Greek explanations of consciousness hints strongly that they too had a 7 chakra system similar to the east.
First Chakra - Heiron Osteon - Basic Life
Second Chakra - Gonades - Procreation
Third Chakra - Gaster - Appetite
Fourth Chakra - Phrenes - Affection
Fifth Chakra - Trachelos - Purification
Sixth Chakra - Enkephalos - Intellect
Seventh Chakra - Koruphe - Illumination
Middle Eastern philosophies had Zoroastrianism which spoke of six emanations that was based on a moral dualism - a progressive (Spenta Mainyu) and regressive mentality (Angra Mainyu). We are to choose very carefully because whatever we do leads us further in one direction or another.
First Chakra - Asha - Spirit of truth
Second Chakra - Vohu Mano - Spirit of good mind
Third Chakra - Khshatra - Spirit of holy sovereignty
Fourth Chakra - spenta Armaiti - Spirit of benevolent devotion and love
Fifth Chakra - Haurvatat - Spirit of perfection
Sixth Chakra - Ameratat - Spirit of timelessness
Sufism recognises chakras as latifa (or Lata'f) and their system of understanding energy related to cosmology - more specifically the macrocosm where humans contain essences of the universe within them. There are six major lata'f called nafs, qalb, ruh, sirr, khafti and akhfa.
Qabalah/Kabbalah have the Tree of Life with the 10 Sephiroth - I will be writing more on this at a later date as it's in itself a lifetime's worth of work and understanding.
Native Americans have the Seven Stones of the Sioux, and shamanic teachings of South America speak of the Laika (ancient teachers) transmitting energy and power through the three luminous energy fields in our naval, heart and third eye - or power, love and wisdom (associated with our solar plexus, heart and third eye chakras). There are also three accessible worlds within this one here on Earth. The upper, middle and lower world.
Incan's had a five system based chakra system using corresponding elements.
They also believed in energy belts called chumpi wrapping around the physical body that are cleansed and activated.
Siqi - Impulse - Water - Yana Wara Chumpi
Qosqo - Passion - Earth - Puka Chumpi
Sonqo - Love - Fire - Qori Chumpi
Kunkan - Knowledge - Air - Qolque Chumpi
Uma - Intuition - Ether - Kulli Chumpi
There's another Incan energy system called Pukios meaning 'light wells' containing 9 chakras in total, and 7 of those residing within the physical body.
Bringing esoteric teachings back to the West, there's a Rosicrucian legend of chakras being a 'lamp' to guide psychic activity using the 7 planetary angels (also known as the seven planetary spirits) as access points to Divinity.
Freemasons and ceremonial magicians also utilise the power of the 7 planetary spirits.
Lastly, there's geographical chakras of the Earth
First Chakra - Mount Shasta
Second Chakra - Lake Titicaca
Third Chakra - Uluru
Fourth Chakra - Stonehenge
Fifth Chakra - Great Pyramid of Giza
Sixth Chakra - No fixed location
Seventh Chakra - Mount Kailash
Deep Dive Here (Resources)