Sunday, June 7, 2015

This week's blog discusses some aspects of Kundalini and the sangoma

One of the key factors during a sangoma's initiation is mobilization of the Yoga concept of a feminine, Shakti, snake like, Kundalini energy. The Zulus call this energy Umbilini. In Southern Africa this is done with drumming and dancing. All tribal South Africans acknowledge a feminine force which resides in the lower belly and is key to spiritual power and fertility. Sangomas going into trance can be seen to be having a Kundalini experience. Their bodies shiver and shake prior to the entry and channeling by the spirit guide. 

Depiction of the Yoga system of Chakras.
The Kundalini is coiled around the lower spine like a serpent.

Anyone undergoing the "calling" or Thwasa sickness may exhibit physical symptoms that are a manifestation of similar dramatic energy shifts in and around the body’s energy system as a result of being, in a sense, "possessed" by spirit guides. The symptoms may take many forms but often come as severe headaches, neck aches, migraines or pains in different parts of the body. At times the adept, may hear voices, see white light, have strange dreams and even feel there is a serpent at the bottom of his spine. The sensations can be disabling and make the initiate feel she is going insane. 
A Westerner undergoing these sudden explosions of energy would consult a psychiatrist and be given medication which would eradicate the whole experience and impair any spiritual awakening.  The Yogi or Buddhist might seek out a guru to help direct the energy in a positive way. The guru would understand that the powerful energy moving in the disciple was part of the enlightenment process. 
An traditional Bantu (this collective word embraces all South African tribes) would seek out a sangoma who would diagnose the “ancestor illness” and recommend Thwasa. 
One might question if the sangoma, because of a cultural bias, has mistaken “possession” by the ancestors for what is simply a Kundalini phenomenon or possibly even psychosis. On the other hand are the Yogis and Buddhists disregarding the importance of an ancestral realm and how best to access it? Are they ignoring it or are they spiritually fearful of this possible vital source of guidance coming from the Astral rather than from the higher Causal realms? 
The Bantu have a greater appreciation of the ancestors and therefore open up to them with the help of the Kundalini. They guide their people by accessing valuable non local information. 
The Yogi enters Samadhi and the Field for the purpose of enlightenment and self-realization. Both groups use the same mechanism, but each has a different focus. The sangomas cannot afford the luxury of prolonged ecstatic states and navigating higher realms for the purpose of enlightenment. However, in their own way they may have realized Self. Above all they have an obligation to work for their people as visionaries and healers. They still have to chop wood, carry water, take care of the children, cook the meals and attend to homestead tasks. They live very much in the workaday world of Africa. 

Depiction of Bushmen rock art showing the energy they call Num (Kundalini or Umbilini) vibrating up the spine. The healer is going into trance.

The common principle remains—the Kundalini is the gateway to the cosmic mystery and the miraculous in whatever way the individual nurtures it.  Kundalini awakening is a normal manifestation of spiritual growth, as is the calling from the ancestors to heal. We must be careful not to label these manifestations in traditional healers as psychopathology. Hearing voices and seeing visions can also be regarded as auditory and visual hallucinations and may be labeled psychotic. Sangomas are anything but psychotic. They are highly charismatic and influential people who are the cornerstones of their communities.

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