Form, Matter and Memory * Appendices

Joao Leao


A little "New Age" introduction to my FootNoteOnTheOtherFoot Project:


The MetaYogi

sits pretty in his deep meditative state breathing deep into...
The ground The gulp The others The other The thing The mind

...the MetaChakras, visualized here as Platonic "Archetopes"

My Yogi and most of my knowledge on the subject is stolen from Harish Johari whose lavish and yet naive illustrations do much to propagate the charm and the silliness of his subject.

Interpretative matrix:

Esoteric traditions often enforce "cosmosomic" doctrines where the body is offered as a model for the Universe. Typically these analogic conceptions also enforce mythical anatomies and corresponding theories which equate health with cosmic balance of vital forces. Not infrequently there are obvious parallels discernable between these symbolic proposals and the physiological and physical phenomena they pruport to explain. The tantric tradition, which has been particularly embraced and bastardized in the west in recent years, offers perhaps the best aknowledged of these "cosmosomic" systems. It describes the body not so subtly prevaded by the influence of "energy" centers or chakras (literaly `wheels') which channel the principles which both animate the body and interface it with the external world somehow beyond sensible qualities. They are not really conceived so much as subtle organs passive to external influences but are instead offered as "stations" for the practice of yogic disciplines centered around ritual chanting, breathing, posturing and meditation. Chakras lie along the body axis (alternatively, the spine, or Shushuma) and are crossed by the flows of the two driving principles of yogic energy (Kundalini) called Ida and Pingala (drawn as meridians in the above figure).

Tantric texts tend to describe chakras in flowery terms stressing their yantric (focal) and mantric (vocal) semiotics but also portray them as sites or "chambers" (locales) inhabited by divine entities from the hindu pantheon usually paired up as consorts (Shakta and Shakini). So each wheel is also a colored flower being blown by the yogi's breath or vibrating sympathetically with his chanting while the godheads presumably encapsulate the results of the disciplinary exercises. The elemental associations of the chakras seem to be quite ancient and reproduce to some extent those prevailing in the West. The distinct feature is the concept of "akasha" which only remotely recalls the "quintessence" of the greeks and their medieval followers but more often is interpreted more purely as sound or space.

The number of chakras assigned and described in the literature also varies considerably between 5 and 10 depending on the source and the tantric tradition, but six or seven is the most common find. The table below lists the more frequently recognized chakras and their associations. The links are to detailed architectures for each of the chakras as discussed by someone in the esoterics site.

Table I: The Chakras
ChakraLiteral TranslationBody Centerbija mantra"Element"Petals
Sahasrara"thousand-spoked wheel"Crown'!''Spirit'1000
Ajna"command wheel"Third-eyeOMManas(?)2
Vishuddha"pure wheel"ThroatHAM"Akasha"16
Anahata"wheel of the unstruck sound"HeartYAMAir12
Manipura"wheel of the jeweled city"Solar-plexusRAMFire10
Svadhisthana"wheel of the self-base"NavelVAMWater6
Muladhara"root-foundation wheel"BaseLAMEarth4

It is quite tempting and suggestive to interpret the chakra somatic doctrine, following the cartesian fashion, as a symbolic antecipation (a cartoon) of the endocrine system. Each chakra is fairly well mapped to one of the glandular bodies which controls human phisiology through the hormones it drops in the blood stream. This suggestion is powerful enough to have influenced the modern presentations of the endocrine system itself in spite of the questionable localization of some of the chakra-glands. Under this perspective the yogic techniques are aimed at attaining conscious somatic control of the unconscious regulative processes associated with hormonal signaling.

Table II: The Chakras and Endocrine Glands
SahasraraCrownHypothalamus/PituitaryControl hormones:
AnahantaChestThymusGrowth Hormone, Thymosines,
MuladharaBase of Spine?Adrenal GlandsAdrenaline,Epinephrine

Note that there are also colors assigned to the chakras in various ways with westerners favoring some sort of spectral continuum along the somatic axis but the ones I use above and below are merely labels meant to illustrate my extension of the elemental analogy.

The assimilation of the chakra system with Platonist conceptions is not new, though it seems somewhat far-fetched. Plato had indeed expressed belief in the organicity of human behavioural expressions and the ascendancy of the access to the forms which passed through the upper levels of the human body. The analogy I introduce here focus however on another correspondence which, to my knowledge, has not been explored before: that obtaining between elemental archetypes and bodily centers. My "archetopes" are not exactly the 5 regular polyhedra identified by Plato as "archeonts" (elemental atoms) but their six euclidean four-dimensional counterparts (in their awkward greek names) which I identify as mnemonics for the fundamental physical interactions.

My main associations are expressed here as:

Table III: The MetaChakras
LabelArchetopeCellsCell shapeFaces

The associations in the last column are purely allegoric and are to be decrypted as reflections of the form of organization encoded in each of these metachakras. They result from my proclivity to try and envision each archetope as a "prism" through which the others may be gazed. Now each of these perspectives is clearly distinct but likewise interesting. The more intrincate task of associating the archetopes with the physical interactions is taken up in my Omnium or the Book of Everything.

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content by Joao Leao
page uploaded 26 June 2001, last modified 28 July 2004