Friday, February 21, 2014
In Bernini's great statue of St. Teresa of Avila (located in Rome), the angel is piercing her heart with a lance or dart, and she is clearly in a state of exaltation and ecstasy. For years, I have assumed that his is the correct interpretation of this moment of intense awakening, of her opening fully to divine presence.
Now I learn that it was indeed not her heart, but her womb that was pierced. Several writers have offered interpretations of her "raptures" (this being the most dramatic), from psychosomatic "imaginings" to actual physical (biological) symptoms. However, when we look at her experience from the perspective of Kundalini arousal, we discover yet another interpretation (this is not to detract from the undoubtedly spiritual aspect of her experience--Kundalini is, I think, one of the devices that the divine utilizes to bring the person in closer contact with "divine reality.")
Now, as we know, the energies of Kundalini are generally thought to reside quietly in the first chakra, located at the base of the spine, until they are aroused. When these energies are awakened, the result can be an extremely erotic response, one sometimes even resulting in spontaneous orgasm, for the two lower chakras are often highly stimulated in this process. Hence, it is not surprising that when Teresa feels that she is being visited and entered by god (by whatever name), she might indeed experience (or approach) full orgasm, since these chakras (base and sexual) are generally associated with ordinary sexual arousal and release.
However, to present her in this manner--as visited by an "angel" awakening her sexual centers--might have been seen as a form of blasphemy, an event too reminiscent of ordinary sexual arousal and physical pleasure.
Thus Bernini located the point of contact not in her genitalia but in her breast--and displays her in the full ecstasy of erotic arousal.
What may not be so widely known is that this very phenomenon--the "opening" of the heart chakra-- may itself emulate physical orgasm (though it is not an orgasm in the ordinary sense). It may bring waves of "rapture" equivalent to or even surpassing those
of ordinary sexual experience. This discovery can be quite surprising to the naive practitioner, who will be delighted and astonished by such unexpected response.
This "opening of the heart chakra," as a somatic phenomenon, thus is itself a mark of high spiritual development, for here, once again, the sensations are not merely physical, but rather are "spiritual" in the fullest sense. They do not arise as the result of some sort of sexual stimulation, nor do they issue as sexual release. They are a complete and overwhelming confirmation of the entry of the Beloved, coming as they do to mark the ultimate union of the two (human and beloved within). But, as with the union of all lovers, the experience carries a definite erotic tone, though it is spiritual energy, rather than sensual energy, that is involved. (And, in fact, each of the chakras can serve as a vehicle for such erotically tinged energy, though none compares with the heart chakra in the pleasure it brings.)
Yes, Teresa certainly experienced Kundalini awakening in its finest manifestation. Kundalini (to my way of thinking) is a means of achieving complete union with the invisible Beloved, the Divine Reality, for it is (as one observer put it) "God moving through your body." Sometimes something called "Kundalini Yoga" is offered in commercial studios as a method of physical exercise or improving one's bodily image, but divine union itself is the appropriate intent and goal.
True, Teresa clothed her experience in the metaphors of Christianity as these were presented in her time, but--strip away the symbology--and you have a compelling description of spontaneous Kundalini awakening, perhaps the most sacred of all experiences available to us at this level of human development.