Animals of the Chakras


You know that the series of animals begins in muladhara with the elephant that supports the earth, meaning that tremendous urge which supports human consciousness, the power that forces us to build such a conscious world.  To the Hindu the elephant functions as the symbol of the domesticated libido, parallel to the image of the horse with us.  It means the force of consciousness, the power of will, the ability to do what one wants to do. 


In the next center is the makara, the leviathan.  So in crossing from muladhara to svadhisthana, the power that has nourished you hitherto shows now an entirely different quality: what is the elephant on the surface of the world is the leviathan in the depths.  The elephant is the biggest, strongest, animal upon the surface of the earth, and the leviathan is the biggest and most terrible animal down in the waters.  But it is one and the same animal: the power that forces you into consciousness and that sustains you in your conscious world proves to be the worse enemy when you come to the next center.  For there you are really going out of this world, and everything that makes you cling to it is your worst enemy.  The greatest blessing in this world is the greatest curse in the unconscious.  So the makara is just the reverse: the water elephant, the whale dragon that devours you, is the thing that has nourished and supported you hitherto – just as the benevolent mother that swallows you again.  If you cannot give her up she becomes an absolutely negative factor – she supports the life of your childhood and youth, but to become adult you must leave all that, and then the mother force is against you.  So anyone attempting to leave this world for another kind of consciousness, the water world or the unconscious, has the elephant against him; then the elephant becomes the monster of the underworld. 


   In manipura the ram is the symbolic animal, and the ram is the sacred animal of Agni, the god of fire.  That is astrological.  The ram, Aries, is the domicilium of Mars, the fiery planet of passions, impulsiveness, rashness, violence, and so on.  Agni is an apt symbol.  It is again the elephant, but in a new form.  And it is no longer an insurmountable power – the sacred power of the elephant.  It is now a sacrificial animal, and it is a relatively small sacrifice – not the great sacrifice of the bull but the smaller sacrifice of the passions.  That is, to sacrifice the passions is not so terribly expensive.  The small black animal that is against you is no longer like the leviathan of the depths in the cakra before; the danger has already diminished.  Your own passions are really less a danger than to be drowned in unconsciousness; to be unconscious of one’s passion is much worse than to suffer from passion.  And that is expressed by Aries, the ram; it is a small sacrificial animal of which you don’t need to be afraid, for it is no longer equipped with the strength of the elephant or the leviathan.  You have overcome the worse danger when you are aware of your fundamental desires or passions. 


     The next animal is the gazelle, again a transformation of the original force.  The gazelle or antelope is not unlike the ram, living upon the surface of the earth – the difference being that it is not a domesticated animal like the male sheep, nor is it a sacrificial animal.  It is not at all offensive; it is exceedingly shy and elusive, on the contrary, and very fleet of foot – it vanishes in no time.  When you come upon a herd of gazelles, you are always amazed at the way they disappear.  They just fly into space with great leaps.  There are antelopes in Africa that take leaps of six to ten meters – something amazing; it is as if they had wings.  And they are also graceful and tender, and have exceedingly slender legs and feet.  They hardly touch the ground, and the least stirring of the air is sufficient to make them fly away, like birds.  So there is a birdlike quality in the gazelle.  It is as light as air; it touches the earth only here and there.  It has already lost a part of the heaviness of the earth.  Also, it denotes that in anahata the psychical thing is an elusive factor, hardly to be caught.  It has exactly the quality that we doctors would mean when we say that it is exceedingly difficult to discover the psychogenic factor in a disease. 


Now you remember the elephant appears in visuddha again.  So here we encounter the full power, the insurmountable sacred strength of the animal as it was in muladhara.  That is, we meet there all the power which led us into life, into this conscious reality.  But here it is not supporting muladhara, this earth.  It is supporting those things which we assume to be the most airy, the most unreal, and the most volatile, namely, human thoughts.  It is as if the elephant were no making realities out of concepts.  We admit that our concepts are nothing but our imagination, products of our feeling or of our intellect – abstractions or analogies, sustained by no physical phenomenon. 

We always have the impression that such philosophical or scientific concepts as energy – call them theories or hypotheses – are perfectly futile things that change tomorrow, like a breath of air that has no existence whatever.  Yet these are apparently the things sustained and pushed by the elephant, as if the elephant were making a reality of such concepts which are really the mere products of our mind.  That is our prejudice – to think that those products are not also realities. 

But here is the hitch in the whole thing, this is not so simple.  Your speculations lead to abstractions, and these abstractions you very clearly feel to be merely your conclusions.  They are artificial; you are never sure that they do exist in reality.  But if perchance you should experience in reality what you have concluded, then you say, “Now this is real, insofar as my thought is real.” 

(Something) similar happens in visuddha.  The power of the elephant is lent to psychic realities, which our reason would like to consider as mere abstractions.  But the power of the elephant is never lent to products or mere intellect because they are never convincing; they always need physical evidence.  And for purely psychical things, there is no possibility of anything like physical evidence.  For instance, you know that it is impossible in physical fact ever to make a concept of God, because it is not a physical concept.  It has nothing to do with an experience in space and time. 

It simply has no connection with space and time, and therefore you cannot expect any such subsequent effect.  But if you have the psychical experience, if the psychical fact forces itself upon you, then you understand it, and you can then make a concept of it.  The abstraction, or the concept of God, has come out of experience.  It is not your intellectual concept, though it can be intellectual too.  But the main thing in such an experience is that it is a psychical fact.  And psychical facts are the reality in visuddha.  Therefore the insurmountable force of reality is sustaining no longer the data of this earth but psychical data. 

For example, you know that you would like to do something very much, but you feel it is simply not to be, as if there were an absolute interdiction.  Or you feel very strongly that you don’t want to do a certain thing, yet the psychical factor demands it, and you know there is no defense – you must go that way; there is no hesitation about it.  That is the power of the elephant, which you feel perhaps even in what you would call absurdities.  Those are the experiences of the reality of visuddha as expressed by the symbolism.