Thursday, October 02, 2008


Indian yogis claim that a latent force, spirit, being, etc. known as the Kundalini dwells within humans in a type of sleeping state.

Through yogic meditative practices, the Kundalini can be aroused causing the practitioner to enter a state of entasy or meditative absorption and unity with the divine. The Kundalini is often portrayed as a serpent or serpent-like creature that dwells in the sacral region until awakened in a fiery conflagration when it ascends upward toward the head.

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is thought of as a spirit that descends from Heaven and dwells within believers causing a state of ecstasy. The Holy Spirit is also a type of spirit guide that leads people to speak in tongues, prophesy, etc. This spirit is portrayed generally as bird, specifically a dove. In the New Testament, when Jesus is baptized at the Jordan, he is also anointed by the Holy Spirit from above in the form of a dove.

In Christian art and literature, the Holy Spirit is usually depicted as a dove hovering above, flying toward or around, or actually standing on a person's head. The New Testament also depicts the Holy Spirit as flames on the heads of the disciples.

The symbolism of bird and serpent would of course be familiar to those who have followed this blog, which is partly named after these creatures. The cosmic tree has been discussed here that is commonly depicted with a serpent at its roots and a bird resting in the topmost branches. Interestingly, in the yoga of Kundalini, the spinal column is also viewed as a type of cosmic tree in microcosm.

When aroused, the Kundalini serpent ascends the spine toward the top of the head. Like the Holy Spirit, the Kundalini is seen also as a form of the Divine, in this case of the female principle or Goddess known as Sakti. About its fiery awakening, it ascends to unite with male divine principle located at the top of the head bringing the subject into a state of divine union or entasy.

The Holy Spirit, instead descends from Heaven in dove form, as a part of the Trinity it is also one with Divine and communes with the subject by entering or resting upon the head causing here a state of ecstasy and union.

The Kundalini took the form of a coiled serpent.


In medieval Southeast Asia, the Devaraja royal cult made the king into a form of the Divinity. Not so much as an avatar though, but as a host for the Deity.

For example, an avatar is usually seen as god that incarnates at birth as a human. But in the Devaraja system, it is only the installed King who is identified with the god. Thus, the Crown Prince is not also seen in the same divine light as the King.

In the scholarly literature, the spirit of the Deity is known as the "royal ego." In Java and Cambodia, the royal ego was permanently located in a linga, a phallic symbol, placed atop the king's royal ziggurat.

When the king was installed, the royal ego, or part of it, descends upon the king giving him divine status. When the king dies, the royal ego returns to the linga. When the crown prince succeeds his father in ritual ceremonies, the royal ego then descends once more from the linga to commune with the new kingly host.

Again, readers of this blog will recognize the pyramidical temple of the king as a form of the holy mountain or volcano. The linga itself can be seen as the cosmic tree that usually is depicted as resting atop the sacred mount, a form of the fiery pillar associated with a volcanic eruption. It doesn't take much to see the royal ego as a bird perched in the branches of the cosmic tree that descends to anoint the new king. In the same sense, the linga has serpent or dragon connotations in this belief system.

In relation to this, we can note also the widespread concept in Insular Southeast Asia of the bird-double or bird-spirit. This is apparently a symbiotic form of the self that can leave the body on flights of spiritual exploration. In the primal Austronesian sphere, especially in those areas characterized by hydraulic engineering, the domains were centered around mountains, and the domain leaders were invariably linked with these central mountains.

While the Kundalini, Holy Spirit and Royal Ego are forms of symbionts that dwell within the body of the host, there are other forms of symbiosis that involve spirits that dwell instead in objects like amulets, fetishes, talimans and icons. The stories of the Holy Grail serve as one example.

Holy Grail

Grail scholars have long argued as to whether the spirit associated with the Holy Grail was in fact the Holy Spirit.

Robert de Boron, in his early Grail romance, claimed that the voice of the Grail was that of the Holy Ghost. Wolfram von Eschenbach states that every Good Friday, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Grail to renew its powers. The main objection to this among Christian apologists is that the Grail was said to be sent away to some island or to Heaven in the romantic literature.

However, this problem did not dissuade all later authors. Certain literature like The Count and the Quest, Didot-Modena Perceval, Perlesvaus and Titurel indeed claim that the Holy Ghost was carried away to some distant place.

What the Grail authors agree upon is that the Grail acts as a guide to the Grail Knights, Maidens and King, all of whom it personally chooses.

Far away to the East, the concept of objects invested with guiding spirits is linked in the study of the Austronesian world with the related terms anitu, anito, nitu, etc. The anitu is the spirit or soul that can be associated with any type of object from a rice plant to a volcanic mountain. In this blog, the anitus of the sacred jars, the pusaka heirlooms, and the anting-anting amulets have been examined in particular.

In the case of the sacred jar or the lusung rice mortar, we have seen these objects as forms or symbols of the sacred volcano of the Nusantao. Anitu are often related with deified ancestral spirits and in the belief systems around Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Arayat, the Earth together with the Sky or Sun are the ultimate ancestors. The "tibuan" is the earth that acts as mother to all things, being derived from the root "tubo" as in Pina-tubo, the sacred volcano.

Therefore, the sacred jar is in a sense a form of the cosmos, the cosmic mountain, in microcosm. The "voice" from the sacred jar is linked with anitu, which in this case can be associated with the Divine or with Nature as the ultimate principle. In a similar sense, the Grail becomes a type of vessel or home for the Holy Spirit according to one interpretation.

In the Philippine region, the ancient idea of communion with the divine was rooted in concepts related to time. The pantheistic or monistic Deity is often identified with Sacred Time. The related sets of words niu, nio, nu, nuan and nunu; and calma, karma, karkarma are connected to these concepts of universality. These word sets use the same root source to convey the meanings of ancestors, especially deified or beatified ancestors; the soul of the individual; and one's destiny or fortune.

From the view of cyclical time, the ancestors represent the past; the soul stands for the present; and one's destiny or fortune is the future.

Cyclic Symbiosis

Buddhist and Indian religious texts outline the belief of a cyclic ruler known as the Cakkavatti or Chakravartin, who like the Buddha, appears rarely at the downside end of cyclic periods.

When the dharma or law has decaded to its lowest state, the Cakkavatti is born and there eventually arise certain treasures that are said to aid this new king in washing out the old and bringing in a new golden age.

The most important treasure is the Cakkaratana, an animated discus or wheel-like "being," that descends out of its place in Heaven known as the Cakkadaha. It has the appearance of three concentric wheels moving at once. Like the Grail, the Cakkaratana seems to have a spirit of its own. It travels to the Cakkavatti King, who then anoints it with water and talks to the Cakkaratana asking it to help him conquer the world.

When the Cakkavatti is about to die, the Cakkaratana knows this and eventually disappears only returning after his successor has lived righteously for seven days.

I have discussed previously how the treasures of the Cakkavatti resemble those that arose during the Churning of the Milky Ocean episode found in Hindu texts. This geologic event I interpreted as alluding to a volcanic eruption.

Now, volcanic eruptions in this blog are explained as occurring during the meeting of Heaven and Earth, or specifically the Sun and the Sacred Volcano. The fiery conflagration during this encounter produces the "milk" i.e. the volcanic ash that creates the Ocean of Milk. And from this ocean, arise the treasures of the New Age.

Kundalini yoga also envisions the Kundalini as a serpent creature dwelling in the sacrum covered with sulfur, one of the substances closely linked with natural volcanoes. Indeed, the fiery awakening of the Kundalini has been likened with both a volcanic eruption and the mythic Churning of the Milky Ocean. The arousal is even specifically described as "churning" in certain traditional texts. Rising up the spinal column the female Kundalini unites with the male principle at the top of the head, the Crown Chakra.

Interestingly, the Holy Spirit also has fiery association and is depicted as flames rising from the heads of the Apostles.

In the cyclic interpretation of symbiosis, there arises periodically a new spirit or anitu, a product of Heaven and Earth that unites with the destiny of humanity acting as a guide in the process of renewal.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Malalasekera, G. P. Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: Pali-English, Asian Educational Services, 2003, 1343-4.

Sharan, Mahesh Kumar and Mahesh Kumar Sharan Abhinav. Studies in Sanskrit Inscriptions of Ancient Cambodia, Abhinav Publications, 2003, 259-9.

Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Grail: The Galahad Quest in Arthurian Literature, Kessinger Publishing, 1993.