The Parts of the Soul - A Greek System of ChakrasThis essay resulted from an attempt to find a Greek system of "energy centers" corresponding to the chakras of Eastern philosophy. Such a correspondence would help illuminate Greek mysticism and reveal some of the foundations of the Western Magical Tradition. This goal might seem to be a shallow exercise in analogies, but there are reasons to expect a substantial correspondence. First, the Eastern and Greek systems evolved out of a common Indo-European culture, so one would expect genetic correspondences; these connections were likely maintained over the millennia, since we know the Middle East mediated continual cultural transfer with both the West and East. Second, there is a certain degree of objectivity in the system of chakras, as reflected in the physical body, which would lead to correspondences even in the absence of cultural contact. The consequence of these two factors is a significant uniformity in ideas about the Spirit and its connection to the Body across the Eurasian continent, and even beyond, as documented, for example, in Onians's Origins of European Thought.
How would we know a Greek system of chakras if we saw it? The standard I have used is that (1) they should be approximately seven energy centers; (2) they should be approximately located where the chakras are located; (3) they should have approximately the same "functions" as the chakras.
It's worth keeping in mind that the chakra system best known in the West, with seven chakras, is not the only system; some have more than fourteen (Eliade, 243-5; Murphy, 156). Therefore, we should not expect an exact correspondence of number, since certain energy centers might or might not be counted depending on their strength or the "kind" of energy they concentrate. Furthermore, different systems differ in their exact placement of the chakras, so likewise we should not expect an exact correspondence in a Greek system. Nevertheless, it will be apparent that the Greek system corresponds closely to the system of seven chakras.
My principal source has been Onians, especially Part I and Part II (chh. 1-7), but the overall structure is described in Plato's account of the "Parts of the Soul" in the Timaeus (69c-73d), which probably embodies Pythagorean doctrine. In the following I've numbered the energy centers from the top down with Roman numerals, since this accords better with Platonic doctrine; however, the chakras are conventionally numbered from the bottom up, for which I've (appropriately) used Hindu numbers (so-called Arabic numbers).
The "little foyer" (the Red Lotus of Eight Petals with the Kalpa Tree) below the Heart Chakra corresponds to the diaphragm, which Plato called the "midriff partition" separating the two parts of the Mortal Soul (associated with Spirit and Desire, respectively).
Similarly, the Spine was called the Holy Tube (hiera surinx), which recalls the Sushumna (Spine), which is likewise considered a channel (nadi). Likewise the Egyptian Ded Pillar, which represents the spine, was a symbol of Life. I have not, however, found Greeks correspondents to the Ida and Pingala nadis.
- Campbell, Joseph. (1990). Transformations of Myth Through Time. New York: Harper & Row.
- Eliade, Mircea. (1969). Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, tr. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Series LVI. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Mead, G. R. S. (1967). The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition. Theosophical Publishing House.
- Murphy, Michael. (1992). The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. New York: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam.
- Onians, Richard Broxton. (1951). The Origins of European Thought About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Poortman, J. J. (1978). Vehicles of Consciousness: The Concept of Hylic Pluralism. Vols. 1-4. Theosophical Publishing House.