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Scientific Models and Chakras

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I recently wrote a post about scientific models and the scientific method. In brief, a model is a story or hypothesis (not a theory) that a person makes up because it sounds like a plausible explanation for some phenomenon. The scientific method is a universally objective way of seeing if your story has any truth in it.

Today I want to look at the Indian models of the Chakras. I really like certain aspects of the chakra model.  The chakras are part of an ancient story involving “energy centers” that connect via “channels” which are found in the “non-physical aspect” of our bodies. This proposed non-physical aspect goes by many names, such as “subtle body” or “spirit.”

The story told about chakras varies by school of thought and individual teacher or practitioner. This is a red flag — if the scientific method has been applied successfully to validate the Chakra model, why are there so many variations of it? The answer is that once you introduce the “non-physical,” you cannot proceed with the scientific method, which requires designing repeatable experiments to 1) demonstrate the validity of your model, 2) try to prove it wrong, and 3) test predictions that come out of your model.

Remember that experimental validation requires that you indicate exactly what variables you modified and what resulted, so that every time anyone goes and modifies the same variables they get the same result.  How can you do that when your variables aren’t something you can physically identify? Supposing you think you can perform a “subtle body” experiment that always gives the same result (say, via Reiki).  How do you explain to someone else how you manipulate the non-physical to achieve a desired result, so that they can reliably repeat what you accomplished? (If you don’t always get the same result, there are unaccounted variables involved — probably physical ones.)

What I’m saying here is that the Chakra system is a made up story that cannot be scientifically validated and that’s why no one can agree on exactly what it entails. So why do I, as a scientist, feel so fond of this model? I like the Chakras because they were an early attempt to explain many of the things I also want to explain.  In this model, I find a beautifully symbolic precursor to the model of the Cognitive Functions.

When I ignore the non-physical claims and look at the generalities of the chakra system, I see that the ancients noticed the effect that our conscious Thinking (T) and unconscious Intuition (N) have on our emotional Feeling (F) and Sensing body (S).

There is a constant conversation taking place within us between our functions. We can observe this conversation when we become self-aware of it. Our body (S) manifests physically what we are feeling (F) emotionally. For example:

When you are too emotional to speak (Fe, extraverted Feeling, ie relating emotionally with the outside world), you get a lump in your throat (chakra center of communication).

When you can’t figure out a problem you are analyzing (Ti, introverted Thinking, ie logical analysis), you get a headache (chakra center of thought or wisdom).

When you feel an intuitive connection (Ni, introverted Intuition, ie, synthesis of unconscious information) with someone, you hold eye-contact with them (chakra center of intution via the “third eye). You “look” into their “soul,” understanding them on a deep level (ie, make intuitive leaps based on similar unconscious thinking patterns). (Best to double check that verbally to be sure you really are on the same page!)

You are heading into a performance where you doubt your ability to achieve success. You begin to feel a tightness around your solar plexus (chakra center of power) as you doubt your powerhouse of manifestation (Te, extraverted Thinking, ie organizing the external world to achieve determined results). Perhaps you get a bit nauseous (chakra center of creativity), as you doubt your creativity (Ne, extraverted Intuition, ie ability to improvise creatively with what happens around you).

This in fact is the origin of psycho-somatic illness.  For example, when you are afraid of taking a new metaphorical step forward in your life, you may actually hurt yourself in a way that impairs your physical ability to walk forward (twist an ankle, break a leg, wear out a hip joint). If you believe you can’t succeed, you unconsciously exude lack of confidence and consciously berate your ability with negative thoughts. In this state of feeling down on yourself, you are paying more attention to your internal misery than the world around you. So perhaps you stumble over a physical obstacle in your way that you might have easily stepped over were you confidently striding forward with your head held high, observing everything around you with a keen eye for opportunity.

As you can see, I have noticed a correlation between the archetypal symbolism of the major chakras and the Functions! So while I ignore portions of the chakra story as unverifiable, at it’s crux, it would seem that the ancients anticipated what Carl Jung would eventually formalize into psychological theory. Jungian psychology is another model, and we have not had the capability to test it until just recently. Scientifically, I think we are on the path to validating these connections between thought and feeling, as well as their consequence on the body.

In this light, I have great respect for the location and descriptions of the major 7 chakras. As a result, in my representative depictions of the functions, I maintain the color scheme of the chakras (with my own personal liberal adaptation). I’ve incorporated some of the beautiful, ancient symbolism of the chakra system in order to honor the progression of human fundamental understanding of our own psychic mechanisms throughout the ages.


Tune in next week for my explanation of how I honored the chakras in my Function depictions.

 

6 Comments

  1. Dear Julie,
    While I don’t agree that chakras are a story (as I have felt and experienced them and don’t require science to validate my experience), I understand why, as as a scientist, you are naming them as such.
    I deeply appreciate you being on the leading edge of bridging science with psychology. And I love what you’re bringing to the table with chakras and functions. I look forward to seeing your creations!!
    Rock on!
    Debbie

    • Thanks Debbie! I agree that the Chakras represent real experiences. The Chakra model is one explanation for those experiences, the Functions another story, neuroscience provides a 3rd model. (Explanation = story = model.) It’s an important distinction for me to make, that I’m not denying the human experience that you have felt and I have felt. What I look for is the most objectively verifiable explanation of the experience.

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