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A chakra (from the Sanskrit word चक्र meaning "wheel, circle") is an energy node in the human body. The seven main chakras are described as being aligned in an ascending column from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Each chakra is associated with a certain color, multiple specific functions, an aspect of consciousness, a classical element, and other distinguishing characteristics.
The chakras are thought to vitalise the physical body and to be associated with interactions of both a physical and mental nature. They are considered loci of life energy, or prana, which is thought to flow among them along pathways called nadis.
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Hindu Origins and Development
The earliest known mention of chakras is found in the later Upanishads, including specifically the Brahma Upanishad and the Yogatattva Upanishad. These vedic models were adapted in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajrayana theory, and in the Tantric Shakta theory of chakras.
It is the shakta theory of 7 main chakras that most people in the West adhere to, either knowingly or unknowingly, largely thanks to a translation of two indian texts, the Sat-Cakra-Nirupana, and the Padaka-Pancaka, by Sir John Woodroffe, alias Arthur Avalon, in a book entitled the Serpent Power.
This book is extremely detailed and complex, and later the ideas were developed into what is predominant western view of the Chakras by the Theosophists, and largely the controversial ( in theosophical circles ) C.W.Leadbeater in his book The Chakras, which are in large part his own meditations and insights on the matter.
That said, many present-day Indian gurus that incorporate chakras within their systems of philosophy do not seem to radically disagree with the western view of chakras, at least on the key points, and both these eastern and western views have developed from the Shakta tantra school.
There are various other models of chakras in other traditions, notably in Chinese medicine, and also in Tibetan buddhism. Even in Jewish kabbalah, the different Sephiroth are sometimes associated with parts of the body. Attempts are made to try and reconcile the systems with each other, and notably there are some successes, even between such diverged traditions as Shakta tantra and Kabbalism, where Chakras and Sephiroth can seemingly represent the same archetypal spiritual concepts.
The Chakras and Thelema
In his book Magick: Book 4, Aleister Crowley referred to the chakras as "Lotuses." In the chapter called "The Cup", Crowley describes the seven central chakras:
There is the lotus of three petals in the Sacrum, in which the Kundalini lies asleep. This lotus is the receptacle of reproductive force.
There is also the six-petalled lotus opposite the navel—which receives the forces which nourish the body.
There is also a lotus in the Solar plexus which receives the nervous forces.
The six-petalled lotus in the heart corresponds to Tiphereth, and receives those vital forces which are connected with the blood.
The sixteen-petalled lotus opposite the larynx receives the nourishment needed by the breath.
The two-petalled lotus of the pineal gland receives the nourishment needed by thought, while above the junction of the cranial structures is that sublime lotus, of a thousand and one petals, which receives the influence from on high; and in which, in the Adept, the awakened Kundalini takes her pleasure with the Lord of All.
These Lotuses are all situated in the spinal column, which has three channels, Sushumna in the middle, Ida and Pingala on either side ("cf." the Tree of Life). The central channel is compressed at the base by Kundalini, the magical power, a sleeping serpent. Awake her: she darts up the spine, and the Prana flows through the Sushumna.
- Introduction to Chakras (http://www.kheper.net/topics/chakras/)
- Cleansing and development of chakras and meridians (http://www.religiousbook.net/Books/Online_books/Ec/Ecology_35.html)
- The Brofman Foundation for the Advancement of Healing - Uses the chakras as a map for consciousness and physical illnesses (http://www.healer.ch)
- The difficulty of a unified chakra science (http://www.kheper.net/topics/chakras/no_unanimity.html)
- Early chakrologies (http://www.kheper.net/topics/chakras/chakras-earlydoctrines.htm)
- The Hesychastic centres of prayer (http://www.kheper.net/topics/christianmysticism/Hesych-centres.htm)
- Human Subtle System (http://www.adishakti.org/subtle_system.htm)
- Wikipedia. (2005). Chakra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chakra). Retrieved on 02/25/2005.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1997). Magick: Book 4. 2nd ed. York Beach, Me. : S. Weiser.