Yoga and The Biology of Transcendence: Part Three

“ Then follows supreme mastery of the senses” Yoga Sutra of Patanjali #55

In yoga, the area of the brain located just behind the brow (the pre-frontal cortex) is called the third eye, or Ajna chakra. Ajna means command, and awakening this chakra through the ascension of Kundalini was believed to awaken cosmic consciousness and bestow Siddhi’s, or supernatural powers.

Kundalini has been variously described as our life force energy or consciousness. When we direct its serpentine energy to entwine up the spine, (journey up the tree of enlightenment) we engage wheels of energy, called chakras, along the way.

The first three chakras (like the older brains) are body based, concerned with survival, reproduction and power. The upper chakras (the neo-cortex and pre-frontal lobes) involve our highest capacities for love, self-expression, self-awareness and cosmic consciousness.

When Kundalini arrives to the Ajna chakra, self-realization or Samadhi is achieved “and all afflictions cease.” “Sutras 47 and 48 state “In the purity of nirvichara samadhi, the supreme Self Shines” and “This is ritambhara, or the absolute true consciousness”.

According to the Kundalini model, a fully awakened Ajna chakra allows a person to concentrate on external realities and at the same time exist in a state of union with the transcendent. By this, a yogi or yogini acquires Siddhis, (miraculous powers) to command matter, communicate telepathically and see the future.

Book Three of Patanjali’s Sutras, lists as some of the Siddhi’s accomplished through yoga practice, Prakkamya (to achieve all one desires) Isatva (ability to create anything) and Vasitva, (the ability to command and control everything.)

While these Siddhi’s are not yet documented by science, many yogis today have demonstrated in laboratories their ability to increase body heat, decrease heart rate, slow or stop autonomic functions. In Tibetan yoga traditions monks dry stacks of frozen water-soaked sheets through the exercise of Tumo, or production of body heat, while sitting stark naked on a frozen lake in temperatures of 30 below zero. (There is no question this requires our pre-frontal cortex to overcome the reactions of our lowest sensory-motor brain!)

Michael Murphy, is co-founder of the Esalen Institute and author of the book The Future of the Body: Metanormal Capacities and Bodily Transformation.  His book is a exhaustive cross-cultural documentation of super-normal capacities (healing, telepathy, clairvoyance and feats of superhuman hearing, seeing and strength) demonstrated by yogis, Tibetan monks, indigenous shamans and high-level athletes of today.

According to Murphy, we all possess the capacity for supernormal development through transformative practices such as yoga, meditation, visualization and prayer – all of which necessitate the use of the pre-frontal cortex.

Author Joseph Chilton Pearce, in his book The Biology of Transcendence, goes even further, and makes the astonishing assertion that our highest neural system evolved to transcend the previous limits of our biology, and grants us the ability to “function outside the cause-effect of ordinary reality”.

Sadly, Pearce states, for most of us, these transcendent abilities are unrealized. Their evolution is disrupted by “ a cantankerous trio – reptilian id, mammalian ego, and neurocortical superego” which “erupt in near constant scraps over which gets to play king of the mountain”.

Pearce warns this failure to ascend the tree of our earlier neural systems could bring disastrous consequences. Evolution has repeatedly shown that a failure to evolve can lead to the discontinuation of a species. Pearce believes that the continuing violence of modern culture, our societal obsession with money, consumption and pornography, all attest to a reptilian brain run rampant and constitute a failure to transcend into our higher brain, the pre-frontal cortex.

Stay tuned for Part Four, as we discover how activating the higher capacities that nature intends, is simply the next intelligent move we can make as a species.

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