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(Sk. cakra). Pronounced “chakra” and in popular works so spelt. It primarily means “wheel” probably from Sanskrit car, to move; hence, spinning wheel.

The Chakras (From C. W. Leadbeater, The Chakras
The Chakras
(From C. W. Leadbeater, The Chakras

In the plural, the word in its technical sense refers to the psycho-energetic vortices of force that span the levels of our being from the mental to the astral to the etheric, finally manifesting physically as the major ductless glands of the physical body. These glands that secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream are the physical precipitations of the activity of the chakras. The chakras are not visible physically, but their physical correspondences are found in the glands. Thus:

Head Chakra (Sahasrara)...................Pineal Gland. Brow Chakra (Ajña)............................Pituitary Body. Throat Chakra (Visuddha)....................Thyroid Gland Heart Chakra (Anahata).......................Thymus Gland. Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)........Pancreas. Sacral Centre Chakra (Svadhisthana)...Gonads. Base of Spine Chakra (Muladhara).......Adrenals.

The endocrine system is the final expression of those whirlpools of force or chakras that swirl into activity the matter of the etheric, astral and mental planes, thereby acting as centers for interchange of energy. As this energy finally concretizes into and affects the ductless glands, it may be seen what a closely woven unit of forces the human being is, and how what happens to us at the mental or emotional level directly influences us physically, even in our blood stream, and through the latter links all parts of the physical body. The soul can affect both the physiology and the psychology of the personality through the chakras, but in as much as the matter of these may still be coarse, so will the soul’s influence be deflected and limited.

Furthermore, seven types of ray energy, which are the seven differentiations of the Logoic Second Ray, usually called the SEVEN RAYS, energize each of the seven main chakras and thereby relate man to the cosmos through the seven rays. These, issuing from the SOLAR LOGOS, pass through the seven sacred planets before they reach our own planet and ourselves through the chakras. Thus are we recipients of the cosmic forces from every side. Helena P. BLAVATSKY gives a hint of this in her question: “Why do the seven nervous plexuses of the body radiate seven rays?” (SD II:92).

The subtle counterpart to the physical body, called etheric or model body, is made of a multitude of lines of force called nadis, i.e., subtle flows of vital energy or prana which underlie the nervous system but are not the nerves. The nadis (derived from Sk. nada denoting a hollow stalk to tube) are resonating flows of prana, each having its own frequency, the word nada coming from the verbal root nad, to vibrate, to sound. These subtle channels crisscross each other to form a complete network of swirling pranic force. Where these cross each other seven times or fourteen times, they form a minor vortex of less or greater magnitude. Where they cross twenty-one times a major chakra appears. The whole of the model body is made of chakras, some of which, such as those in the legs, are no longer active (Alice Bailey, Esoteric Psychology, vol. 2, pp. 591-3). Seven chakras are usually mentioned as the major ones because they are connected with the three major nadis of kundaliniidapingala, and susumna, thereby forming a special energy circuit up the spine. But other chakras are also important, such as the spleen chakra and the alta major between the shoulder blades.

It is through the Hindu TANTRAS that the subject of the chakras first became known to the West, and Arthur Avalon, in his translation of various tantric texts, was a pioneer scholar in this field, thereby opening the door to a completely new and deeper understanding of the subtler aspect of the human constitution, as envisaged by the great teachers of yoga.

The Hindu system presents the chakras as lotuses, with each an appropriate symbol by way of a YANTRA, or geometrical pattern, an animal, a particular location, color, MANTRA and range of experience and powers (SIDDHI) attributed to it. Each chakra opens the consciousness to a particular level of being, represented by each of the five elements, the two higher chakras being beyond the elements. Carl G. JUNG views the series of chakras in the Hindu system as:

. . . a climbing up from gross matter to psychical reality, the subtle matter of the mind, the sublimation of man. . . . One can see the whole thing as a sort of transformation of the elements with an increase in volatility. (The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga)

Indeed the chakras with their respective elements represent an ascent, blue-printed in the being of Man, from dense matter or the earth element (root chakra); to the water or more fluid element (sacral); to the fire (of assimilation and purification), the solar plexus, seat of passions, instincts and lower energies; to the air or heart chakra, seat of the energy of love, of the higher values and of global consciousness; to the ether, or throat chakra where the transmuted drive to procreation becomes the creative energy, and the human being sounds his inner “note;” to beyond the elements, the brow chakra, seat of the integrated personality and center where inner guidance is received; to the crown chakra, the ultimate, or thousand-petalled lotus. Each chakra links three planes of human experience, physico-etheric, astral and mental and so is esoterically described as having three tiers of petals which swirl around a central nucleus acting as a control center for each level.

The chakras have first to be purified, i.e., the human being must purify himself or herself in daily life, in thought, word, deed, motive and emotional reaction, before the chakras can be safely activated through concentration and attuned to a higher frequency so that kuŠalin… can pass through without hindrances.

Charles W. LEADBEATER’s monograph on the chakras and so titled, published in 1927, has remained in print and is considered the standard text in the Theosophical Society (TS). After an overview of the subject the work deals successively with the forces involved, the absorption of vitality, the development of the chakras (including the arousal of kundalini and casual clairvoyance), and concludes with a discussion on Laya Yoga.


Blavatsky, H. P. The Secret Doctrine. TPH Madras. Bailey, Alice. Esoteric Psychology. Lucis Pub. Co. New York, vol. II. J. Woodroffe. The Serpent Power. Ganesh & Co., Madras.