Meh

EDIT: Many thanks to reader Andrew (see comments, below) for pointing out that Chrism, a teacher in this movie, is actually a sexually exploitative sack of shit guru! Ain’t life grand! If interested in gory details, see this site. The Amazon review is adjusted and docked a star for not spotting this when interviewing the guy.

Ah, beloved Kundalini, the crap committed in thy name! William Irwin Thompson says he has seen Kundalini cause ‘a strange kind of endarkenment’ — it’s about impeccability, but as Andrew points out, and as you see in the review, this is the guy in the movie supposedly hottest on ethics. Sheesh.

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Kundalini (movie)

It’s a shame this. I’m going to post the review below on Amazon shortly. I’m trying to be generous and will give three stars, but for readers of this blog, stay away because it’s crap. I hope I’ve made that clear to the savants. This is my last encounter with this kind of pop spirituality.

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Click to see the trailer if you can be bothered

I wanted to love it, as a Kundalini experiencer and investigator of the lore, but this movie is not that good. It does manage to present something of what Kundalini is, a little of its history, and a vague case for its cross-cultural nature… the basic concept is there — uninitiated viewers will make enough connection between different descriptions to get a vague idea of what the energy is doing, and may find it interesting — but it’s dilatory and new age for anyone wanting real substance.

Two experiencers of spontaneous kundalini and its life challenges open the movie with brief interviews: Scott Perkins is in deep difficulty with his awakening whilst Barbara Harris has been through that upheaval and left it behind. They illustrate how accidental awakening can occur in interestingly different ways — spinal injury in his case, Near Death Experience in hers — and also a particular challenge it throws up, the souring of familiar relationships because of newfound spirituality not being shared. But the commentary never really picks up on what they are saying, creating the impression of a film not listening to itself and failing to empathise with its subjects, who are actually absent through most of what follows.

Instead we go to some expert Kundalini veteran talking heads: Lawrence Edwards, Paul Pond, Chrism and Lee Lawrence, who give views on… well a lot. It gets very wide ranging and what they often give isn’t really info on “Kundalini in general”, sometimes only tangentially addressing it at all.

Pond and Edwards are the quieter ones, and I like for example the latter’s thoughts about an increasing pattern of spontaneous Kundalini in upcoming years, interesting if true although rather difficult to track. Chrism, who does run a site of very nice free Kundalini teaching pages BTW, has the aura of a preacher which may put you off, but his stress on high ethical values is a relief — that’s something the new age hasn’t always been very strong on. Lawrence is something of a wild card.

The latter 70% of the film takes on almost the hue of a Louis Theroux “Weird Weekend” — strange views and eccentric characters flying about. It randomly accesses the line “sensible”{————–}”whoah!” along which you might get anything from encouraging more funding for Kundalini research by focusing on health benefits (Edwards, “sensible”), to predictions that in 25 years the world will follow laws out of love rather than fear (Lawrence, “whoah!”).

There’s a strong attempt to position Kundalini for the New Age seminar circuit (one section is labelled “2012 and beyond”, blehhhhh) but the actual connection of the nervous system to the transpersonal, the phenomenology, the history of Kundalini are all pretty largely ignored. The questions must have ranged all over the shop and the answers contradict one another. Chrism, for example, denies Lee Lawrence’s future by pointing out (correctly) that the human world will always be at various “developmental stages”… but in the next breath is happy to state that Kundalini energy can cure AIDS, which is total facepalm time — you just don’t say that with no evidential backup, the subject is too serious. And lots more weird juxtapositions like that.

Unfortunately the film’s production tends to let it down. It needed more love and craft, although at certain points I’d have settled for good spelling (“My partner and I am spliting”, says a caption for Scott) or grammar (“We may experience much phenomena unfamiliar to us”… =sheesh!= ^_^) . The graphics purporting to show Kundalini are lacklustre, the music to my ear insipid, and there are schoolkid errors in the voiceover like not being able to pronounce ‘Caduceus’ or know the difference between it and the Rod of Asclepius… couldn’t someone have =checked=? This is the cable channel style often used to present “new age” treatments and is not suitable for subject matter of this scope.

Gopi Krishna — worth the read.

One thing you do notice, and that is, when Gopi Krishna comes onscreen the discourse elevates. His is old footage from a time when seriousness was allowed, and the hell if you couldn’t sell it, as we expected sages not marketers. We owe a massive debt to Krishna as cross-cultural Kundalini really begins with him. With no guru other than patience he had an independent experience, interpreting it in an independent way, and making that independence and consequent exploration a key feature of Kundalini life, even at the cost of pain and difficulty. Plus of course, encouraging scientific study as the film makes clear.

Many great teachers since (including the guy who got me into this, Glenn Morris) have found themselves on the end of the Kundalini energetic and transpersonal changes in unexpected and relatively unguided contexts, so who knows, perhaps we are seeing a new doorway opening to this phenomenon now.

But the film isn’t really hip to much of that cultural context. The dots are never really joined and the depths of Kundalini experience are never addressed. Nothing more is given of the history prior to Krishna than the old “Teresa of Avila experienced the same as him, and BTW did you know Newton was an alchemist” stuff, which is pretty disappointing for those of us who like detail and spiritual nuance. Yogic contexts are barely explored apart from a few sentences from Lawrence Edwards himself, and there is next to nothing on the biology of Kundalini, or its symbols. Personally I think a film centring on the depth of this stuff rather than new age preaching would have been way more fascinating even for beginners.

It’s is not a disaster, this, but it’s mediocre. The subject matter has enough in it to blow any mind and open any heart but the filmmaker(s) did not investigate deeply. Kundalini theory and practice, experience and investigation, as history/fate have dropped them into our laps, represent an extraordinary cultural opportunity that deserves a big effort to place on film. Unfortunately it has not received that kind of thorough and imaginative treatment here… I could imagine worse, but still I hoped (and hope) for way better.

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Unfortunately I note that the 5-star reviews on this page are all from people who have written no other Amazon reviews. One of them knows the director (although at least is honest enough to say so!) Amazon grognards will draw conclusions.

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Apart from that, just some egregious stuff I noted on the cover itself — take the strapline, “Evolution is coiled within you.” Notice how evolution has completely replaced god now. Of course Krishna made that link but equally it came from Aurobindo and the “Integral” brigade first.

So much more — “it is self-evident that all men are created equal” — oh yes? This is a force that “everyone is entitled to” — oh yes? Consumerist demagoguery like this is trotted out without thought. I see a straight line between that attitude and Andrew Cohen. There’s a lot more… I can’t be bothered! :) :) :)

It’s such confused stuff, riding the back of the NDE cult etc. and I would resent any idea that it represents me as an experiencer of this phenomenon. This belongs in a category with Kundalini Yoga for Hotel Guests or Kundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress (???? How about ‘encounters with Kali to improve your skin’ or ‘Shamanic Death and Rebirth ulcer treatments’???? grrrrr).

I’m in no mood… feel very divorced from this commercial world, going strongly in another direction now. Will try not to waste your time with such shiznit in future.

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8 responses to “Meh

  • Robert

    Blimey, I think I’ll avoid this. Hi Jason, recently came across your blog – very nice.
    Have you ever come across Francis Lefebure (now deceased) and his Phospenism teaching. It’s seems to have escaped people’s notice possibly because the practioners are located in France and give the impression of just ‘getting on with it’.
    The reason I mention it is his development of a kundalini ‘machine’ which can induce a genuine kundalini experience/initiation ,apparently. I’m not really qualified to comment whether it is or not but I get a really good feel from the guy’s writings and enjoy his scientific, honest and gallic, old school approach.
    There’s stuff appearing on the internet about him these days if you have a relaxed approach to copyright law. The actual sight of the guy continuing his legacy is http://www.phosphenism.com, excellent for an intro but the products are a bit pricey.
    This ‘hosts’ a selection of his works – http://archive.org/details/Phosphenism

    I hope you don’t mind the links. I have a slight disability with writing and typing so I wouldn’t be able to do him justice in my own words or describe his work accurately. Even typing this has been a bit difficult.

    Hope you get something out of it and hope to read more of your excellent blog posts. Cheers Robert

    • Jason Wingate

      Hi Robert!

      Nah, links are absolutely fine, more the merrier.

      As for these particular links… um… whoah. I will pass thanks. Also don’t see any reference to Kundalini.

      • Robert

        at the archive.org site, very bottom of the page, kundalini vol 1 pdf. I didn’t think you were reading at the moment but I thought I’d post anyway.

  • Jason Wingate

    No prob I can still read a bit! This ain’t for me but good luck if you pursue it.

  • Andrew

    HA. SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: On the subject of “new age crud”, it’s hilarious that Chrism should discuss ethics in this film, because upon simple Google searching, you will find handfuls of horror stories written by his former students! He’s yet another one of those guru creeps who talks about “surrender.” …to WHAT, exactly? Muktananda etc. all over again. What’s up with this shit? The holy man-rapist archetype seems so ubiquitous. Something about the superiority/inferiority + sexual repressive psychology. From priests to Indian yogis to American “gurus”…

    • Jason Wingate

      First Andrew, my apologies for not putting your message through earlier, for some reason I never got notified about it.

      As for this Chrism stuff… Wow. Did not know that. I perceive I’ve been extremely lucky with my teachers… I may have to modify the Amazon review. The stuff I see on him is pretty egregious.

      “What’s up with this shit? The holy man-rapist archetype seems so ubiquitous.”

      For me, Kundalini is the sex energy, in large part. If you don’t know how to sublimate and relax, what happens in guys particularly is that the hormones go strongly into action and the anima is hyped up. It’s just male dick power, wanting something anonymous, and it may forget its manners… or its ethics… funny how those who preach loudest can be least able isn’t it? :)

      In the way I was taught no-one is a guru, but in India often there is a serious guru-itis thing and there’s great difficulty stopping it. Actually Muktananda was not the worst, the worst I’ve heard about is Adi Da. I didn’t like Chrism’s vibe anyway. I’m still learning to spot this in people… many thanks for pointing it out, and sorry again for the tardiness with the comment.

      EDIT: I’ve just altered the Amazon review but it may take them a while to let it through.

      • Andrew

        I was actually experiencing an error at the time of posting my comment, so that probably had something to do with you not being notified. But yeah, not a problem – great that you got the message out clearly, here and on Amazon.

        And yeah, unsublimated sexual energy explains it in major part. What an avenue to decide to let that loose! Crazy how far he took the scheming and manipulation, with his “devotions.”

        The “strange kind of endarkenment” comment by Thompson is too true. And I thought I had it bad…

        Before my kundalini was active, I first met a friend (the only one I know in person with active K) and felt SUCH a dark, gloomy vibe. Little did I know.

        I’ve found some of my most magnificent moments in the dark, but things can sure get confusing and go awry. I’d like to find further enlightened material on shadow.

        Reminds me of this article:
        http://biologyofkundalini.com/article.php?story=ShadowSabotageandSacrifice

        which I should finish reading.

        • Jason Wingate

          What an avenue to decide to let that loose!

          Yes — although actually quite common. I mean in some parts it is almost expected that the guru have a harem or whatever. It’s not too smart, it’s totally inflatory. There’s a cool story in Wade’s Transcendent Sex, I think it is, where a guy remembers being that kind of guru in a former life whilst in a relationship in this one and has to deal with some consequences… kind of fun.

          Humans being what they are, one can expect a certain number of any tradition to disqualify themselves on the grounds that they are pathetic losers with no regard for what really matters… it is just normal! :)

          Before my kundalini was active, I first met a friend (the only one I know in person with active K) and felt SUCH a dark, gloomy vibe. Little did I know.

          Yeah… this is why I think proper preparation and Glenn’s Secret Smile, for example, make such a difference. I know not everyone has the opportunity to prepare that way. The way I do things now there is really not much possibility of getting stuck in that, luckily.

          I personally find stuff like Dixon’s essay tends to make everything harder, more complicated, and more dramatic than it need be… the strategies left by Glenn are pretty much hedonistic in the Epicurean sense — peaceful pleasure if you like. I find that if I work to open all the meridians, use the chakras as archetypes, and reduce “needs” via that philosophical approach, I can gradually encompass and open without too much fear of the shadow. Ultimately this perhaps has to do with acceptance of death — tomorrow’s post has some stuff in about that. I take a lot of my approach from Maslow at the moment too.

          I think the “endarkenment” of Thompson refers not to dealing with issues, but to not dealing with them — being overconfident because of the power levels, trying to surf that, and then getting flipped. It seems to me that impeccable intent is the most important thing. I’ve noticed a lot of people seem to find shadow “fascinating” in itself, but I have never found this. Just my 2 obols…

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