The mystic fire of Teresa of Avila: A comparative study of mysticism and the Kundalini phenomenon.

Title: The mystic fire of Teresa of Avila: A comparative study of mysticism and the Kundalini phenomenon.
Authors: South, Margaret.
Date: 2001
Abstract: The sanskrit term Kundalini refers in traditional yogic texts to both a mechanism and a transformative energy in the human body which can be activated spontaneously, or through spiritual disciplines and practices. The awakening of Kundalini is described in the esoteric treatises of India such as the Tantras, as the activation of a spiritual or cosmic energy at the base of the spine which moves upward through the chakras to the head where the union of Siva and Sakti takes place. The objective of this study is to find parallels to the Kundalini experience in a Christian mystical context. Unlike most Western Christian mystical traditions, the Kundalini model acknowledges the psycho-physiological phenomena associated with mystical experience. This dissertation argues that if there is a biological basis for the yogi's transformative experience, Teresa of Avila and other Christian mystics may well have undergone a similar psycho-physiological process. Part I is a cross-cultural study of Kundalini-like phenomena, and includes personal accounts of spiritually awakening experiences. Part I also includes the findings of a questionnaire study conducted by the author in Ottawa, Canada, during 1997--98. Fifty questionnaires were distributed and 70 percent were returned. Twenty-four self-reports of mystical and Kundalini-like experiences are presented in Chapter 6 of this thesis. The findings indicate that mystical experiences are often associated with Kundalini-type experiences, and that Kundalini phenomena is relatively common among people who are engaged in spiritual disciplines and practices. These research findings are important as an increasing number of people in Western society are experiencing Kundalini rising, and its associated phenomena. Part II focuses on the mystical experiences of Teresa of Avila (1515--1582), a Spanish mystic and saint of the Roman Catholic Church. The Kundalini model is used to analyze St. Teresa's writings to investigate whether there is evidence that the activation of a Kundalini-like mechanism may have been involved in some of her mystical experiences. Two types of experiences were selected for analysis: "the flight of the spirit," and the "rapture" experience. The primary sources for this analysis were the following four works: Life, Spiritual Relations, Way of Perfection, and the Interior Castle, all found in The Complete Works of St. Teresa of Jesus, translated by E. Allison Peers. This comparative study of mysticism leads to a reinterpretation, according to the Kundalini yoga model, of some of the unusual phenomena experienced by St. Teresa, such as fire and heat, wounding sensations, and sensations and noises in the head, as well as physical and health problems. The Kundalini model links mystical experience with the sublimation of sexual energy, therefore, the role of sexual energy, and the relationship between sexual orgasm and mystical experience is examined. The findings of this study confirm that Kundalini is a mechanism experienced within diverse cultures and spiritual traditions. Furthermore, there is enough textual evidence in the works of Teresa of Avila to conclude that some of her experiences were associated with the awakening of Kundalini. The conclusions of this study suggest that if the Kundalini model can be applied in analyzing this saint's experiences, then it can also be used to analyze the experiences of other Christian saints and mystics.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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