2018 Lecture series: The History of the Chakras
Thursday 29 March: The origins of the chakras in Saiva Tantra
The Chakras have become a key element in contemporary forms of western occultism. Whilst it is usually acknowledged that chakras originated in the Indian religious traditions generally referred to as Tantra, there have been few attempts to look closely at how the chakras are treated in those traditions and how they developed into the system we know in the west today. In this lecture I will examine how the chakras appear within the Tantric and later Yoga Traditions outlines some of the practices associated with them and highlights some of the key differences between how chakras were conceptualized within these traditions and how we think of them today.
Thursday 19 April: Chakras in early Western Esotericism
The first English-language treatments of chakras appeared in Theosophical Literature in the early part of the nineteenth century. In this lecture I will examine early attempts by Theosophists and other esotericists to accommodate the Chakras into Western Occultism – including the “Apocalyptic Chakras” of James M Pryse, incorporation of Chakras into the magic of Aleister Crowley, how Chakras came to be associated with nerves and glands, and the presentations of influential Theosophists such as Madame Blavatsky.
Thurs 17 May: The Secret Tantric and the Bishop
The two most influential books in shaping western ideas about chakras are Sir John Woodroffe’s 1919 The Serpent Power and Charles Webster Leadbeater’s 1927 book The Chakras. The Serpent Power – a translation of a 16th-century Indian work “The System of Six Chakras” was the first readily-available work from an Indian source on Chakras; whilst Leadbeater’s work claimed to show the first psychically-inspired representation of Chakras. In this lecture, I will examine these two texts, and how these two texts became the major sources for representations of chakras in western occultism.
Thurs 14 June: Psychologising the Chakras – Jung and his heirs
In 1932, Carl Gustav Jung and Jakob Wilhelm Hauer presented a series of seminars on the psychology of Kundalini Yoga and the Chakras – the first comprehensive attempt to interpret chakras within the framework of analytical psychology. In this lecture, I will review Jung’s ideas about the chakras, examines some of the critiques of his work, and assesses his influence on later attempts to integrate the chakras with psychology and building the chakra associations known in the West today.
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