I would like to first explain my background. I am a psychology post-graduate and am looking towards doing a PhD in the next two years or so, meditation/mindfulness has been a fervent interest of mine in an academic sense but I also, up until fairly recently, practiced Vipassana meditation for about five years, which is drawn from the Buddhist tradition. 6 months ago, I had unmistakable experience of Kundalini awakening and this has changed a great deal of things in my life in an external sense, but most evidently in an internal way.
I bought this book as a way to understand different perspectives on the Kundalini phenomenon as historically it has been presented in mythical, metaphorical or mysterious language, and normally carries with it many pre-modern metaphysical assumptions, which at first seem counter to the scientific tests and proofs many of us are used to. Even though I had been meditating for five years quite solidly (normally around an hour a day) , my awakening actually occurred one night after a party with a few friends, and I had smoked a small amount of hashish. After the party, I went to lay down on my bed and I begun to try out my mindfulness practices of just watching the energy inside which seems to always radiate in the places described by the hindu/tantric `chakra' systems. I felt so peaceful, and this peace grew and grew, until I felt like I was letting go of every tension inside me. With every letting go, there was a greater feeling of ecstasy; intense joy flowing around inside. This is what I recorded in my journal the day after:
"This power grew until I had the strange sense which is hard to describe, that I was standing in blissful motionlessness, but in the path of a runaway train! At that point, completely naturally, without any forcing or manipulation, my breath stopped. This curious event, which has happened to me a couple of times before, is normally accompanied with an enormous rush of overwhelming ecstasy. And this time was not different, but in another sense, very different. As the ecstasy overwhelmed me there was a feeling of an explosion, like something burst within me, I felt a hot and powerful force be released all through the core of me, it burst in my root (perineum) and flowed all the way though my body up into my head which was flooded with bliss currents. This feeling of something being blown up inside me, or something being released violently within was very distinct."
Since that night 6 months ago, things have been importantly different. I feel like a tap was turned on and since then, strong currents of blissful energy radiate all throughout my body. I have actually dropped my meditation practice because strangely enough, I feel like I am meditating all the time, although curiously I have known deep existential doubt and uncertainty at times as well. There are many long-term changes that I have not the space to document here but suffice to say, my experience is that kundalini is real, that it is life-changing and it is worthy of greater academic and popular interest.
I realise that I have said nothing of the book so far but I thought it was important to make potential readers aware of my situation. The book itself is quite a disparate collection of thoughts on kundalini. The first section is about personal experiences of kundalini awakening. These reports range from those that are similar to my own, to those that are wildly dramatic (well mine is a bit dramatic I suppose!), detailing astral voyages, meetings with light beings and so forth. Now, even though these experiences seem unbelievable, I was able to bracket them. Perhaps they are true, perhaps they are fanciful? Who knows? However, I do realise that I thought kundalini was possibly a fanciful idea before it happened to me. The first hand reports do paint a detailed, and interesting phenomenological tapestry indeed, although I think the far reaching conclusions that some of the contributors advance, normally presenting kundalini as an evolutionary force capable of leading mankind out of suffering, seem to me a bit premature. Do we really know yet? It certainly looks as though people experiencing kundalini have reported it to be developmental and positive, but I feel it prudent to remain agnostic as to what the implications are. We still know very little.
Section 2 is the `scientific' part of kundalini research, although as psychologist Olga Louchakova helpfully points out, less we remain in any doubt, "It is necessary to keep in mind that no scientific research has yet been conducted to evaluate the stages of the extremely complex process of spiritual awakening, to prove the existence of kundalini itself, or to suggest the measurable validity of her [its] connections with particular diseases" The chapter instead focuses mostly on the scientific study of kundalini yoga, which has many emotional, cognitive and health benefits which have been observed in randomized control trials. Whilst experimental environments may be the arena of kundalini future validation, as Gopi Krishna believed, at the moment the only evidence supporting the intuitive and personal experiences of kundalini is clinical practice, in which mental health practitioners are able to observe and record the experiences of those apparently urdergoing kundalini awakening. However, if the reader is looking for scientific validation, they are bound to be disappointed.
Section 3 is devoted to contextualising kundalini within broader cultural, historical and philosophical contexts ranging from the aforementioned Gopi Krishna, who believed kundalini is a latent evolutionary energy in humans, responsible for inspiration and genius, to a somewhat psychoanalytical take on the idea of the chakras by the most widely read writer from the transpersonal (and now integral) movement, Ken Wilber. There are some very insightful ideas and theories advanced here, despite more `grand visions' of the type mentioned above.
Section 4 ends with a collection of `musings from yogis': traditional (and not so traditional) teachers who might be thought of the only Kundalini experts we really have on the planet, having as they do thousands of years of collected experience and wisdom on the phenomenon. Whilst these teachers resonate with a clarity and lucidity that is lacking from many peoples' more DIY approach to the experience, it does remain to be seen how much traditional practices carry with them pre-modern cultural baggage which is not relevant or useful for people who do not practice in those particular spiritual traditions.
To sum up, I think this book is as good as it can be right now, given our lack of scientific knowledge on the subject. After having the experience myself, I am very excited as to what Kundalini really means, what its role might be in human development, and how and why the experience happens in the first place. These are all questions that, despite the range of theories advanced here, remain unanswered. I do feel though that until scientific approaches are able to verify kundalini, the internal laboratory of first-hand experience will be the main source of insight. Actually, many people say that kundalini marks a dawning of a new intuition, or inner guru or guide. So far, I'm not exactly sure, but I think I have detected a new clarity in me, as if there is a knowing deep within that imbues an amazing sense of everything being somehow holy and profoundly beautiful. Doing nothing special, like breathing, or even typing feels incredible.
Last thing to say is that if your intellectual curiosity is aroused by this book, or anything else you read on kundalini, teachers in the past have indicated that you are probably more `ready' to experience it than most. So go read Swami Satyananda Saraswati's "Kundalini Tantra" book, which is probably the most concise and clear handbook to the process- or find a kundalini teacher, although beware, there are many `new age' types that are peddling `kundalini yoga' which, although possibly related, might not be the real thing at all.
Enjoy finding out!