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Unifying the Microcosm with the Macrocosm: the Implications of the Spinal Cord in the Development of Religions

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Unifying the Microcosm with the Macrocosm: The implications of the Spinal Cord in the development of Religions.

PJ Spann

Florida Southern College

REL 2219 003 World Religions and Philosophies

April 11, 2014

Professor Smith



        Evolution, among other processes, has distorted the appearance of the connection between life greatly. Without understanding the processes through which these connections are distorted, the ancients of Eastern religion understood oneness and were able to develop such innovative, insightful concepts and religions, all without the luxury of modern science. Their concepts might have been based on a great number things, whether it be observations or imagination. Yet, there are similarities found in many ancient religions that can be attributed to a use of the same model for thought that is as mysterious as the concepts that come from it. This model is universal to all cultures, all religions, and all people of the earth. This early model for religion and conceptive thinking is the human body. As mysterious as the human body is, so is the fact that modern science’s discoveries regarding the human anatomy shed light on the similarities that the ancient’s concepts share with science’s evidence and how they correlate, especially those early concepts of Hinduism (Palmer).

        Hinduism is very much preoccupied with duality, the fact that everything on the physical level is representative of that which is on the subtle level or spiritual level and that these two planes are separate. This, along with much of Hinduism, is based on the model of the human body. Ancient Hinduism believed that one could gain insight about the universe and the cosmos from seeing the human body as a microcosm or small world in and of itself. The ancient Hindus came to believe that human processes were relatable to nature, physics, the planets, and the gods. In other terms, insight to the macrocosm, universe, was attainable through understanding the microcosm of the human body. Their model of what they believed to be the controlling factor of the human body is the same as that which they believe to control the universe, the consciousness. Along with consciousness, it was believed that the whole of human existence and thought could be credited to the energy of the consciousness, which dwells primarily in an energy channel correlating to where one would find the cerebrospinal column (Johari).

        This duality of the physical and spiritual is connected only by prana or vital life energy. It is believed by the Hindus that prana is the energy that creates life, matter, and mind. The life energy is drawn in by humans through our nostrils as we breathe, but dynamic prana belongs to the subtle level of existence. It is believed by the Hindus that “psychophysical energy is electrochemical in nature and it works with the help of prana. During yogic processes and exercises that grant one the ability to expend the least possible physiochemical energy for mentation and to maintain the body’s vitality, one can divert the physiochemical energy that runs the physical processes of the human body into pranic energy at the base of the spine, which is distributed through the body by the Nadis (Johari).

        The ancient yogis of Hinduism, attempting to understand the subtle level of the body and how it works, developed a system called the Nadis that they believe to be a transportation system of energy channels in the body. The prime channel of energy in the system is the sushanna, an energy channel running along the spine. This energy channel lies at the base of all yoga and perhaps their whole religion. In Hinduism, it is this energy channel that when viewing the human body as a microcosm representative of the macrocosm, is everything. In the scriptures of Shiva Samhita, as read in Johari’s book Chakras, Shiva states “As it is in the macrocosm, so it is in the microcosm.” He goes on to state:

“An aspirant of Yoga should see in his own spine the seven islands, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, the guardians of the eight directions, the seers, the sages, the stars and planets and all the constellations, all holy places, the special power places and their divinites, the sun and moon, and the prime source of creation, preservation, and destruction. He should in the microcosm of his own body the five basic elements (akasha, air, fire, water, and earth) and whatever else exists in the three worlds of the macrocosm. All these are supported by the spine and exist in the spine” (Johari 85).

The spine, according to his words, seems is at the essence of life. Hinduism centers most of its theories of consciousness and enlightenment around the previously introduced channel of energy, Sushumma. This channel of energy begins in the base of the spine and ends at the crown of the head. Along this spinal channel is the spiritual journey that one must take to reach alignment, called kshata chakra bhedana or “piercing of the six chakras” (Johari 4).

        The concept of the chakras does not solely belong to Hinduism but is articulated in most religions of the world. There are many interpretations of what the chakras are but perhaps the best way to understand them is to describe them as psychic energy centers of the body that are concentrated “swirling locus[es] of light radiating along the spine” (Gable) that are capable of “transform[ing] psychophysical energy into spiritual energy and enable one to move towards an enlightened state of being” (Johari 1). All seven of the chakras are found along the Sushumma channel, the spine, the first beginning at the base of the spine and the last found at the crown of the skull. Each chakra is representative of many things. Go to Appendix 1.1 for a list of the chakras and their representations. John Nelson says this regarding the representations of the chakras:

Each chakra level reflects a more advanced stage of development in terms of personal relationships, ethics, religious attitudes, and illnesses related to these situations.  Furthermore, the chakras can be easily be viewed in psychological terms, as Jung did when he called them "intuitions about the psyche as a whole, about its various conditions and possibilities”” (Waldman).

Each chakra acts as a “chief center of consciousness,” a phrase coined by Johari (Johari 7). The spiritual journey of the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist is to pass through these increasing states of consciousness until one’s self-consciousness becomes united with the cosmic consciousness, achieved after reaching the seventh chakra.


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