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A Critique of Barbara Brennan's thesis and the New Age paradigm in general

Arvan Harvat

As I see it, Barbara Brennan made numerous unsubstantiated and confusing claims ( higher intellect, lower emotions,..), bizarre ad hoc suppositions ( "template body" etc.) .  Without going into much detail, one can pretty safely conclude:

1. Various parts of the body, when concentrared on or meditated upon, can induce/produce transformations of consciousness.  In some traditions ( Hindu ), they consider these parts or centres as self-subsistent or, "real" vortices of esoteric physiology.  Other traditions, while working with them, are in an equivocal position: their medicine is based on "reality" of them, while spiritual practice admits they're imaginary and just meditative props along the way of consciousness transmutation ( Tibetans, Taoists ).  In the majority of "high doctrines" ( Tibetan Tantra, Zen, Vedanta, probably Kashmir Shaivism ), the supreme enlightenment ( nirodh, nirvikalpa samadhi, satori ) occurs in the heart.  One can dissect further, but, the polarity remains: for one school, centers are real self-subsistent ( probably dormant, at least some of them ) parts of "spiritual" physiology; for the others, chakras/centers are just convenient props for meditative practice. 

All other dubieties ( psychology, physiology,..) are of secondary interest.

2. Also, it seems pretty much obvious that nadis, or lines with centres in bioplasmatic/etheric body are connected with the health, well being etc.  These things are susceptible to electrophysiological and voltage difference measurments, high voltage photography, and probably, in near future, various scans.

As for New Age mishmash with lotuses on the front/back side of the body ( etheric "flowers" etc.  ), there is no single strong evidence, be it spiritual-traditional, medical or independently clairvoyant that such things exist at all.  The New Age healing is a complex phenomenon, with many psychological, subjective, unconscious, technological etc.  factors involved ( and no sci research ) that no "pulsing sensations" or "heat....(wherever)..." can be taken seriously.

So, to conclude:

1. I am open to further investigation of these masters like Narayanananda who postulate the objectivity of the existence of chakras ( the Taoist system needs more attention ), although I'm more and more convinced in "imaginary" nature of these meditation symbols.

2. I'd say that acupuncture centers and channels are real, and worthy of further investigation.  As for centers-physiology-psychology-pneumatology-cosmology correspondences, I think it's a New Age fad, beginning lege artis with Theosophists and developing along the way with Brennan, Colton, etc.

There is a noble unifying trait in this effort ( characteristic of the Western world ), hued with proto-scientific ( or proto-rationalist ) flavor, but I think it's doomed from the outset.  To put it bluntly- the planetary human spiritual experience, from Kabbalists and Sufis to Vajrayana Buddhists, Taoists, Hindu Tantrics and Aurobindo and Sant Mat, confirms the singular truth: intense absorption in a visual/auditory symbol, wherever placed, may induce/produce radical transformations of consciousness/being/body-soul.  Places, colors, symbols, sounds, graphical structure, meditative form- all are completely different.  Also- psychospiritual experiences, visions, auditory revelations or temptations are impossible to compare: one cannot set up even rough skeleton of psycho-spiritual "anatomy", let alone corresponding cosmography.  Brennan is asking from me to believe all the minutiae of her clairvoyant escapades revealing some unintelligible things ( higher etheric, lower intellectual,..).  She's just more deeply read into Theosophy and has a partial clairvoyance.  Too scarce for such an etheric/astral/mental/...  edifice.

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content by Arvan Harvat (email dated Sun, 14 May 2000), page created 12 June 2000, format upgraded 16 January 2009