The Traverse From A Genital- To A Post-Genital Developmental Psychology
Wilhelm Reich came close to the Yogic perception of an energetic, psychophysical developmentalism in declaring that:
[T]he act of desiring had to be grasped in a much deeper way than analytic psychology was capable of doing. Everything pointed to a deep biological process, of which the “unconscious” desire could only be an expression.
(Reich, The Function of the Orgasm, 1973, p. 66)
But as Foucault was the first to point out in his groundbreaking The History of Sexuality, Reich could not think beyond the “deployment of sexuality” of his times and equated “desire” with sex-desire, as his title denotes. Lacking information regarding the vibrant energetics of Kundalini Yoga, he, as did Freud, misconstrued and pathologized Yoga as a “killing of the instincts.”
One may…hope to be freed from a part of one’s sufferings by influencing the instinctual impulses….The extreme form of this is brought about by killing off the instincts, as is prescribed [sic] by the worldly wisdom of the East and practiced by Yoga. If it succeeds, then the subject has, it is true, given up all other activities as well–he has sacrificed his life; and, by another path, he has once more only achieved the happiness of quietness.
(Freud, 1961 , p. 26)
Through its pathologizing concepts of “self-stimulation,” “somatic cocooning,” and “auto-hypnotic states,” psychoanalysis continues to obscure its view of Yogic phenomena. Even Winnicott’s “self-soothing” misses the spiritual depths from where this “internal mothering” emerges and what further nurturance it is fully capable of providing. As well, the more bodily-oriented therapies of Reichian orgonomy and bioenergetics focused its therapies exclusively on orgasm-like emotional “releases” or catharses to increase energetic flow. Characterized as a mere “bio-electrical energy,” the motherly force lost more of her nurturing powers. As Reich’s innovator, Alexander Lowen asserts with confident authority:
When growth has reached its natural limits, some other use must be made of the excess [sic] energy that is being produced….In the higher animals, the excess energy is discharged in the sexual function, as Wilhelm Reich showed. Maturity means that the energy that was formerly needed for the growth process is now available for discharge.
(Lowen, 1967, p. 57)
Repeatedly, conventional developmental theory is delimited by its unfamiliarity with any postgenital maturational stages–stages that require the very energy that is otherwise construed as having no other purpose than its availability for discharge, perhaps lovingly, perhaps not. Anyone who differs with this view was to be seen as naive, repressed, and perhaps even insane, as was Freud’s pronouncement while ostracizing Jung for asserting that the life-force was a “psychic” and not a sexual energy. And Western religions’ garbled understanding of the postgenital puberties often depicted genital puberty as a sinful, barely tolerable state. Its severe guidances on how to continue the maturational traverse has soured the whole affair for most all Westerners for centuries. Thus, the Church and its suffering Saviour were an easy mark for the too-confident, psychoanalytically-based ideologies of “sexual liberation.”
Yet, in this postmodern era, Foucault grasped the historicity and narrowness of what he called the medico- psychoanalytic “deployment of sexuality.” For, in this near- allegorical history, psychoanalytic sexology wrote itself in as delivering a final and complete “erotic liberation” from the age- old grip of centuries of religious/cultural “repressions” and “unnatural sublimations.” Foucault noted that although many social gains have occurred, a mandated and specifically formulaic and inherently limited sexuality, a scientia sexualis, had been deployed.
One limitation was guaranteed by the rebellious thrust of this scientia sexualis, a rebellion against spirituality that defined the new “science.” Yet, Foucault went on to differentiate this conflict-forged, bio-medical scientia sexualis of Western sexological science and psychoanalyis from the radically different ars erotica developed by various Indo-Arabic cultures under very different circumstances:
In the erotic art, truth is drawn from pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience; pleasure is not considered in relation to an absolute law of the permitted and the forbidden, nor by reference to a criterion of utility, but first and foremost in relation to itself, it is experienced as pleasure, evaluated in terms of its intensity, its specific quality, its duration, its reverberations in the body and the soul. Moreover, this knowledge must be deflected back into the sexual practice itself, in order to shape it as though from within and amplify its effects. In this way, there is formed a knowledge that must remain secret, not because of an element of infamy that might attach to its object, but because of the need to hold it in the greatest reserve, since according to the tradition, it would lose its effectiveness and its virtue by being divulged.… The effects of this masterful art, which are considerably more generous than the spareness of its prescriptions would lead one to imagine, are said to transfigure the one fortunate enough to receive its privileges: an absolute mastery of the body, a singular bliss, obliviousness to time and limits, yhe elixir of life, the exile of death and its threats.
(Foucault, 1984, pp. 57-58)
The several thousand year old Eastern somatic spirituality of Kundalini Yoga and its expansive developmental path belong to this Foucauldian ars erotica where spirituality and philosophical pursuit–along with the body’s vast capacities to move and to feel–cohere together as a unitary whole. As Marcuse noted in his critique of psychoanalysis, Eros and Civilization, “the instincts are to be understood spiritually.”
Indeed, that these ars erotica ways yielded “an absolute mastery of the body, a singular bliss, obliviousness to time and limits, the elixir of life, the exile of death and its threats” has an additional purport: We must wonder whether the extent to which eros can liberate us has been dramatically underestimated by the deployers of the scientia sexualis. As Ken Wilber quipped, “God-consciousness is not sublimated sexuality, sexuality is repressed God-consciousness,” and Patanjali: Bodily asana “becomes perfect…when [the mind] makes the idea of its infinity its own content [anantasamapattibhyam]” (Eliade, 1958, p. 53.)
The obvious question would seem to be: How could maturational phenomena worthy of such a genetic characterization as I assert be so unknown and rare? Part of the answer lies in:
1. The psychoanalytic retrospective distortion depicting meditative states as autistic “regressions to the womb”; its pathologization or minimization of “sublimative” eros, what Marcuse called a “hyper-repressive desublimation” of human spiritual imports, and what Foucault noted as the “mass deployment of sexuality” which has anchored Western culture paradigmatically at the level of a conclusive and inherently gratifying genital puberty; as Foucault mused ironically,
[W]e need to consider the possibility that one day, perhaps, in a different economy of bodies and pleasures, people will no longer quite understand how the ruses of sexuality, and the power that sustains its organization, were able to subject us to that austere monarchy of sex….
(Foucault, 1980, p.159)
2. The limited exploration of the positive role of the body in spiritual development by various world religions and their missed appreciation of any continuity of genital puberty with “spiritual rebirth” and their consequently short-sighted and, thereby, often repressive moralities and dry monasticisms; the inherent richness of genital puberty and sex which can obscure the existence of any further bodily awakenings and any interest in cultivating them.
3. Centuries of Western biases against “animism,” “vitalisms,” and “heathen religions” and, more recently, in the developing third world against its own “superstitious backwardnesses”. (The cross-cultural sensitivities noted throughout the DSM-IV are a significant improvement, in this respect.)
4. Misinterpretations of Hindu relics and texts that result when researchers are deprived of the Yogic bodily referenced hermeneutic. For example, the “Ganges River” is to be understood homologously as the main flow channel for certain maturational radiances; references to “dancing in the sky (ethers)” or “cow worship” esoterically refer to the tongue (the “cow”) giving up its articulations of words in khecari (khe: “sky,” cari: “dance in”) mudra to stretch upward nonverbally into a vibrationally churned, subtler, “milky-buttery,” (the cowherd Krishna’s quintessential delight) sensational-endogenous medium of truth;
Natural elements (diamond body, mercury, gold, moon- or sunlight) as the phenomenal lustre of internally-sensed hormonal distillates; the “heaven-realms” as the eyes-closed cranial-vault space (replicated universally as cathedral domes) in which the flickering nonverbal truth-nectars of infinite time-light-sound- bliss flow; while the proverbial “mountainous ascent” describes what the spinal puberty of Mt. Meru, Mt. Olympus, Mt. Moriah, Mt. Kailash, or Mt. Carmel feels like and its glorified bodily locus.
5. The many gurus who came to the West and breached their spiritual vows and numerous exposed religious scandals and ensuing cultural cynicisms. War, bloody religious crusades, inquisitions, sect rivalries, and other social devastations that erode faith in the existence of any true saints or spiritual Absolutes.
6. The unfortunate association of Yogic Sanskrit terminology (chakras, Kundalini, mantras, etc.) with the superficiality of “new age” rhetoric; the highly circumscribed “exercise Yoga” taught widely in the West and in India and the obvious marketing problems in promoting “sublimative Yoga” in the West; thus, the widespread misfitting of tantric Yoga into a genital puberty context, instead of the reverse.
7. Yogic archival and cult tendencies to exaggerate, mythologize or conceal in metaphors the spiritual practices and attainments of Yogic saints; the formulization of Yogic phenomena into teachable, willful practices, as Patanjali devised in his Yoga-sutra and by many others that marginalize or miss the endogenous quality of sahaja (“spontaneous”) Yoga or kriya-vati: “spontaneous maturation-movements”;
The tendency of intensive spiritual lifestyles to become remote from mainstream culture, and thus “esotericized” while secularized lifestyles which dilute the teachings proliferate as exoteric “churches” or “religions”; the arising of misleading fanaticisms in esoteric groups and in mistaking licentious debauchery for the dionysian spontaneities and ecstasies resulting from careful cultivation.
8. Centuries of Yogic pedagogical secrecy and the often unassuming humility of many spiritually matured, inconspicuous yogis. The safety that reclusion promises for those with spiritual powers otherwise beseiged or even feared and not uncommonly harmed by others.
9. The slow progress in Western science to measure instrumentally subtle bodily phenomena such as “energy” and the lack of biofeedback research on the spine’s role in meditation.
10. Foreclosure on the possibility of reincarnation when the matter should be left as merely, if even highly, uncertain.
11. The glib use of such terms as “Realizing Your True Self,” “In one’s Beingness,” or “Core of Being,” in popular psychology that depict advanced stages of spiritual maturation as reachable in a few years, or during a few weekends. This includes popular and academic works in transpersonal psychology where Kundalini, being the only Yogic energy term known in those circles, is commonly misused in naming the vast expanse of precursor states (pranotthana), rendering the happy, democratically-appealing, but false sense that many people have “awakened” Kundalini.
Furthermore, Kundalini has become a catch-word at this early time in its entry in American culture (it first appears in the third edition of the American Heritage Dictionary in 1992: “Energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is activated, as by the practice of Yoga, and channeled upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection”) and attracts those with unspecified, chronic neurological/psychiatric complaints in search of an explanation for their symptoms; the use in the West of Gopi Krishna’s problematic Kundalini experiences as a standard giving the awakening a reputation as more dangerous than it is.
12. The popularization and simplicity of “straight-back” meditative paths which tend to marginalize or eliminate bodily movements, emotional utterances, etc., from the spiritual path.
13. The numerous hours per day in Yogic worship that development toward this physical-spiritual Absolute comes to consuming, as the fundamental purpose of life, time, and the body seems to be to enact the Yogic cultivations and then to contribute to one’s community; the developmental importance of initiating Yogic practices before the age of 35, in keeping with its bio-genetic basis; and even then, the inherent difficulties affecting appetite, sleep cycles, and the Promethean temptations of hubris which can short-circuit the completion of the path and generate false accounts of its requirements.
14. The time and energy demands–a kind of repressive back pressure or cultural inertia–of contemporary world structures that exist only if these stages do not unfold except perhaps rarely. In a vicious-circle fashion, this “wheel of worldly life” includes the dramatic and real need for extensive altruistic service to address the extreme deteriorations of society and the environment ironically resulting from missing these endogenous joys and then compensating by over-using the outer world. (I am reminded that in the 1970’s when Burmese farmers were taught modern ways to triple their crop yield for cash export purposes, many chose to work one-third as much and to instead increase their meditation time.)
With these conjectures noted, let us continue toward those little-known lands of the Yogic postgenital puberties.
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- Letters: Sri Nagendra to HAF
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