The path to inner cleansing and self-knowledge is in turn connected with the kundalini power: ‘Through the kundalini fire, as it is known, a person can observe themselves from vvithin.’ Just as we only see objects in the physical sense world by virtue of reflected sunlight, the awakening of kundalini fire and kundalini light makes it possible to perceive soul qualities: ‘The moment we are able to illumine the soul with the aid of kundalini light, it becomes visible like an object upon which the sun shines its light.’24 In the further course of schooling, kundalini becomes a light organ that also enables us to have vision of the world of spirit, ‘illumining the things of the higher world just as the outer sun illumines sensory things and creatures’.’
A third stage follows ‘at which the “true I” awakens, the world-encompassing self-awareness which is able to receive the key to true knowledge’. This relates at the same time both to an aspect of earlier mystery schoolings and to esoteric research practice. ‘Old accounts [of human nature] were gained when pupils became visible to themselves through meditation, through inner enlightenment.’26 A major aspect of these schoolings was the transformation of the sensual forces of sexuality into powers of love. The Dionysian mysteries are a well- documented example of European initiation connected with kundalini power.
A further, subtle aspect of the kundalini fire is mentioned on only one occasion by Steiner, in a lecture he gave on 29 December 1903. He considers here what connects the astral body with the physical body and its organs when, during sleep, these two entities are detached from each other and the astral body is dwelling in the world of spirit. His answer runs as follows:
There is a kind of bond, a connection, which is a transitional matter between physical and astral matter. And this is called the kundalini fire. If you look at a sleeping person, you can always trace the motion of the astral body in the astral: you have a luminous streak leading to where the astral body is. You can always locate this place. As the astral body moves farther away, the kundalini fire becomes correspondingly thinner, forming an ever more tenuous trail and increasingly coming to resemble a fine mist. If you observe this kundalini fire very carefully, you will see it is not uniform. Some places within it are more luminous and dense, and these are the points that lead the astral back to the physical. Thus the optic nerve is connected to an astral nerve by a denser pan of the kundalini fire.”
These comments by Steiner accord in turn with the description of the ‘sutratma’ in the Upanishads, where this luminous streak is also called a ‘silver thread’.” The awakening of the kundalini fire is for Steiner predicated upon further progress on the path of schooling founded, as he repeatedly reiterates, on necessary pre-conditions. He describes how we with our western consciousness can achieve awakening of the kundalini—after first properly developing the lotus flowers—in the chapter of Knowledge of the Higher Worlds entitled ‘Changes in Dream Life’, and also in notebook entries.” But it should be noted that he only publicly communicates a part of this process of awakening, concealing other aspects or presenting them only in the context of his work as an esoteric teacher. Thus, in the original version of the text on awakening the kundalini fire he explicitly states ‘Nothing of this is publicly communicated.’ The same is we of the account of the lotus flowers he gives in connection with kundalini.
Thus he says in relation to higher knowledge: The first stage … is connected with the development of the ‘lotus flowers’ as they are called, the sacred wheels or, in Indian terminology, the chakras, which are situated at very specific points in the body. Seven such astral organs are distinguished: the first, the two-petalled lotus flower, is close to the root of the nose; the second, the sixteen-petalled, lies at the level of the larynx; the third, the twelve-petalled, at the level of the heart; the fourth, the eight- to ten-petalled, close to the navel; the fifth, the six-petalled, somewhat lower down; the sixth, the four-petalled, the swastika, is connected with all fertilization; the seventh cannot be spoken of without deeper elaboration. These six organs have the same significance for the soul world as the physical senses have for our perception of the sense world.
In a note from 1906,37 Steiner describes how the idea of the `higher self’ as life stream should be guided along the spine and connected with the kundalini power. The currents along the spinal column there described are referred to as occult arteries (mat) in Indian Hatha Yoga.38 Three of these are of particular importance for our understanding of kundalini: ida (bluish in colour, to the left of the spine), pingala (reddish in colour, to the right of the spine) and the life stream sus-humna (in the centre)—the latter only developing during schooling. Ida and pingala intersect repeatedly, giving rise in relation to the central stream to the picture of the staff of Mercury, the caduceus.
The Christian principle in the central one (sushumna). This ‘path of the centre’ is therefore also to some degree pursued in eastern traditions. Pursuing the path from above downward, starting with thinking and the realm of cognition, and passing from there to the life centre, we can connect this with the biblical image of the Tree of Knowledge.
The opposite path, from below upward, is by contrast connected with the Tree of Life. Kundalini initiation alters and completes the initiate’s con-figuration of supersensible bodies by reintegrating the qualities of the Tree of Life that were lost at the Fall 41 In contrast to most yoga traditions which cultivate the life energy rising from the lower life centre, the western, Chris-tian schooling path embodied by Steiner starts in our upper centre of consciousness, in thinking and the I. From there, the heart centre is then first developed.
What is called the ‘etherization of the blood’ underlies this path. From the heart, light-filled, etherized blood rises to the head region. There, in connection with the pineal and pituitary glands, it becomes an active energy by means of which, according to Steiner, we can redirect our thoughts into the lower, living realm of metabolism. The etherized blood here helps to free our thoughts from egoism and dependency on the physical organs so that they become capable of perceiving reality:
Just as in the region of the human heart a continual transformation of the blood into etheric substance takes place, so a similar process occurs in the macrocosm. We can understand this if we direct our gaze to the Mystery of Golgotha, and to that moment when the blood of Christ Jesus flowed from his wounds.
In accounts from the Indian tradition, a description is usually given of how the life stream (kundalini) is guided from the lower organs (the four-petalled lotus flower or kundalini snake) along the ‘elemental spine’ to the kundalini chakra; and from there runs independently of the elemental spine to the twelve-petalled lows in free, spiralling coils. In Hatha Yoga the life streams continue further, beyond the two-petalled lotus, and unite in the ‘thousand-petalled lotus’ at the roof of the skull through which the soul of the yogi then departs from the physical body:”
The fact that Steiner says practically nothing about the `four-petalled lotus’ (root chakra)” likewise indicates that the Western, Christian path he embodied starts from the pole of consciousness, the realm of thinking and the two-petalled lotus. From there the centre of experience is shifted down-ward from the head to the heart. After development of the new heart centre as he describes it, forces can be guided consciously and, through specific exercises, the ‘kundalini snake’ can be fully awoken. In the process, the etheric heart organ assumes a mediating role as organ of perception between our upper and lower poles, forming a single con-figuration with the pole of consciousness and the chakras belonging to it.
The Egyptian image for an initiate who has awoken the serpent power and is able to master it fully and consciously, is the pharaoh with the cobra head over his head. In Greek sculptures, too, the engagement of outstanding or heroic figures with the snake and its forces is depicted in numerous images. In his book The Serpent Power, Avalon mentions that there was also a school of yoga in India in which development of the kundalini started above, with the two-petalled lotus:” But we must remember that in early yoga schools—and also still very often today in the modern ‘esoteric scene’—awakening of the energy centres was, and is, focused chiefly on the human organism in order to develop certain (old) forms of clairvoyance or in order to use these forces to sustain the development and health of body and soul.