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The Soul and its Mechanism - The Seven Centers of Force
Chapter VI

Seven Centers of Force

In the previous chapter we have seen that, according to the Eastern teaching, the vital or etheric body is constituted of ether and acts as the conductor of prana which is the life principle and energizes matter and produces form. The vital body also embodies that sentient principle in nature called the soul, or rather the vital body is the expression and vehicle of the soul.

The main characteristic of the soul is consciousness. The soul as life is "seated in the heart," and as rational spiritual consciousness is "seated on the throne between the eyebrows." René Guénon expresses this as follows:

"Thus, what dwells in the vital center, from the physical point of view, is ether; from the psychic point of view, it is the 'living soul,' and so far we are not transcending the realm of individual possibilities; but also, and above all, from the metaphysical point of view, it is the principal and unconditioned 'Self.' It is, therefore, truly the 'Universal Spirit' (Atma), which is, in reality, Brahma Itself, the 'Supreme Ruler'; and thus the designation of this center as Brahma-pura is found to be fully justified. But Brahma, considered in this manner as within man (and one might consider it in like manner in relation to every state of being) is called Purusha, because It rests or dwells in the [110] individuality... as in a town (puri-shaya) for pura, in its proper and literal sense, signifies town."
- Guénon, René, Man and His Becoming, pp. 44, 45.

The life force has seven main points of contact with the physical body, called the seven centers. These seven force centers transmit the life force, and are the agents of the soul. They maintain bodily existence and produce its activity. The Dreamer in his book, says:

"What then are the centers of man? They are the reflections in the respective nuclei of the upadhi of the one Self. If we study the workings of the impregnation of matter by Divine Energy, sometimes spoken of as the life waves, we shall see how, from the projection of the Self into the limits of objectivity called matter, certain qualities are imparted to matter developing into what are called tattvas. Each tattva has got for its ensouled life a tanmatra, or a modification of the Divine consciousness. In each tattva, therefore, we have the Divine consciousness as the central life, while the idea of resistance forms the outer wall."

"We have seen that the Self, in virtue of its power of manifestation, reflects itself in the various upadhis, developing in them artificial centers which form, so to say, at one and the same time the nucleus of the upadhis as well as the representatives of the Self in the respective planes."
- Dreamer, The, Studies in the Bhagavad Gita, pp. 37, 40, 107.

The Indian name of a force center is "chakra." The location of the seven centers of force (with their complete Indian names) are as follows, from the head downwards: [111]

  1. Head center - sahasrara chakra
  2. Center between eyebrows - ajna chakra
  3. Throat center - vishuddha chakra
  4. Heart or cardiac center - anahata chakra
  5. Solar plexus center - manipura chakra
  6. Sacral or sexual center - svadhisthana chakra
  7. Center at base of spine - muladhara chakra

It will be noted that there are four centers above the diaphragm and three below. Much has been written and more could be said, about these force centers or chakras, but the following will serve as an introductory summary.

The force centers carry pranic energy for every part of the body and are in close relation to the nervous system in its three divisions, namely: the cerebro-spinal, sympathetic and peripheral. From the force centers the vital or pranic energy is distributed along subtle lines of direction. These lines are called "nadis" and are closely related to the nerves and at the same time to the arteries; they apparently underlie the corporeal nervous system. In Man and His Becoming we read:

"As regards the nadis or arteries of the subtle form, they must not be confounded with the corporeal arteries through which the circulation of the blood is effected, and, physiologically, they correspond rather to the ramifications of the nervous system, for they are [112] expressly described as luminous; but as fire is in some sort polarized into heat and light, the subtle state is linked to the corporeal state in two different and complementary ways, by the blood as to the caloric quality, and by the nervous system as to the luminous quality. However, it must be clearly understood that, between the nadis and the nerves, there is still only a simple correspondence and not an identification, since the former are not corporeal, and that we are dealing in reality with two different realms in the integral individuality. Similarly, when a relation is affirmed between the function of these nadis and respiration, because this is essential to the maintenance of life and corresponds truly with the principal vital activity, it must by no means be concluded on this account that they can be conceived as a kind of channel in which the air circulates; this would be to confuse the 'vital breath' (prana), which properly belongs to the subtle manifestation, with a corporeal element.

It is stated that the total number of nadis is seventy-two thousand; according to other texts, however, it should be seven hundred and twenty millions; but the difference here is more apparent than real, since, as always holds good in such cases, these numbers must be taken symbolically, not literally."
- Guénon, René, Man and His Becoming, pp. 136, 137.

Rama Prasad, who uses the Indian word lotus for chakra or force center, makes an interesting comment in this connection:

"The nervous plexuses of the modern anatomists coincide with these centers. From what has been said above it will appear that the centers are constituted by bloodvessels. But the only difference between the nerves and the bloodvessels is the difference between [113] the vehicles of the positive and negative Pranas. The nerves are the positive, the bloodvessels the negative system of the body. Wherever there are nerves there are corresponding bloodvessels. Both of them are indiscriminately called Nadis. One set has for its center the lotus of the Heart, the other the thousand-petalled lotus of the brain. The system of bloodvessels is an exact picture of the nervous system, is, in fact, only its shadow. Like the heart, the brain has its upper and lower divisions - the cerebrum and the cerebellum - and, as well, its right and left divisions."
- Prasad, Rama, Nature's Finer Forces, pp. 45-46.

The force centers are situated up the spinal column and in the head. Arthur Avalon says:

"A description of the Chakras involves, in the first place, an account of the Western anatomy and physiology of the central and sympathetic nervous systems; secondly, an account of the Tantrik nervous system and Chakras; and, lastly, the correlation, so far as that is possible, of the two systems on the anatomical and physiological side, for the rest is in general peculiar to Tantrik Occultism.

The Tantrik theory regarding the Chakras and Sahasrara is concerned on the physiological side... with the central spinal system, comprising the brain or encephalon, contained within the skull, and the spinal cord, contained within the vertebral column (Merudanda). It is to be noted that, just as there are five centers (Chakras) hereinafter described, the vertebral column itself is divided into five regions, which, commencing from the lowest, are the coccygeal, consisting of four imperfect vertebrae, often united together into one bone called the coccyx; the sacral region, consisting of five vertebrae united together to form a single [114] bone, the sacrum; the lumbar region, or region of the loins, consisting of five vertebrae; the dorsal region, or region of the back, consisting of twelve vertebrae; and the cervical region, or region of the neck, consisting of seven vertebrae. As exhibited by segments, the cord shows different characteristics in different regions. Roughly speaking these correspond to the regions which are assigned to the governing control of the Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, and Vishuddha centers, or Chakras. (These regions are the base of the spine, sacral center, solar plexus center, heart center and throat center.) The central system has relation with the periphery through the thirty-one spinal and twelve cranial nerves, which are both afferent and efferent or sensory and motor, arousing sensation or stimulating action. Of the cranial nerves, the last six arise from the spinal bulb (medulla), and the other six, except the olfactory and optic nerves, from the parts of the brain just in front of the bulb. Writers of the Yoga and Tantra schools use the term Nadi, by preference, for nerves. They also, it has been said, mean cranial nerves when they speak of Shiras, never using the latter for arteries, as is done in the medical literature. It must, however, be noted that the Yoga Nadis are not the ordinary material nerves, but subtler lines of direction along which the vital forces go. The spinal nerves, after their exit from the inter-vertebral foramina, enter into communication with the gangliated cords of the sympathetic nervous system which lie on each side of the vertebral column. The spinal cord extends in the case of man from the upper border of the atlas, below the cerebellum, passing into the medulla, and finally opening into the fourth ventricle of the brain, and descends to the second lumbar vertebrae, where it tapers to a point, called the filum terminale." [115]
- Avalon, Arthur, The Serpent Power, pp. 123-125.

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