In 1932, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung gave a series of lectures attempting to bridge the gap between Jungian psychoanalysis and the Indian philosophical practice of Kundalini Yoga. While Jung seemed unsure of a practical application for Kundalini yoga in the West, he nevertheless expressed a sincere belief in its efficacy as a means of “psychic hygiene” (Shamdasani, 1996). This essay will draw parallels between Jung’s analytic theories and Kundalini yoga with a particular emphasis on the idea of individuation – the telos of analytic therapy through which one’s true personality is realized.

Of contributions to the field of analytic psychology, perhaps none is more influential than Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious (Shamdasani, 1996). Jung explains that,

“…there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms…which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents.” (Campbell, p.60, 1971).

These pre-existent forms, known as archetypes, are universal, and can be found in the arts, dreams and religious expressions of all people, throughout human history (Campbell, 1971; Jung, 1959). Analogous to Plato’s eidos or forms and Noam Chomsky’s nativist account of a language acquisition device, both archetypes and the collective unconscious are rooted in a nativistic world-view because they are considered innate mental constructs (Campbell, 1971).

It is important to note how the collective unconscious differs from a personal unconscious. While the collective unconscious can be described as a universally shared psychic resource, a personal unconscious is unique to each individual, and, in Jung’s view, superficial (Jung, 1959). It is this superficiality that distinguishes Jungian psychology from Freudian analysis, and ultimately what makes Jungian psychology more congruent with the philosophy of Kundalini yoga.

When Sigmund Freud developed his theory of psychoanalysis, he conceived of a mental constitution in which the personal unconscious played a most central role (Jung, 1959). It was in this personal unconscious that Freud believed an individual’s most significant personal traumas lay hidden and seething, causing dysfunction and pathology in the person (Jung, 1959). In contrast, Jung saw this personal unconscious as irrelevant to the therapeutic process. Rather, he suggested that the impersonal states and experiences of the collective unconscious had the most impact on the process of individuation (Jung 1959, Shamdasani, 1996).

Jung argued that connecting the patient to the symbols of his or her dreams and visions is more useful than focusing on the patient’s personal unconscious. In many of Jung’s lectures he refers to a particular patient’s visions relative to the symbolism in Kundalini Yoga. In this patient’s visions, she sees herself “entangled in the roots of a tree, and then above she was stretching up toward the light” (Shamdasani, 1996). Jung argues that both symbolically and literally, the patient is stuck in the muladhara chakra (Shamdasani, 1996). A chakra is an energy center in the body, and in Kundalini yoga there are seven such energy centers (Sharma, 1993; Shamdasani, 1996). Imbalance in these centers can create physical distress to the body resulting in disease and discomfort (Sharma, 1993; Srivastava, 1995). Muladhara translates as root support and is the first chakra in the yogic system (Sharma, 1993; Shamdasani, 1996). If a person is too involved in the muladhara chakra, or conversely, too far removed from it, pathologies and neuroses manifest (Sharma, 1993; Srivastava, 1995; Shamdasani, 1996).

In his analysis of the patient who envisioned herself entangled in the roots of a tree Jung suggested that the patient was literally entangled in the roots of her personal life (Shamdasani, 1996). Jung’s analysis of the muladhara chakra as a “symbol of our conscious earthly experience” makes the transference from the symbolism of Kundalini Yoga to his patient’s visions a logical parallel (Shamdasani, 1996). Through the use of Jungian analysis, the patient is able to move her attention upwards, out of the muladhara chakra and towards the next energy center, which is away from her personal concerns. In this respect, Freudian analysis appears contradictory to the process of individuation because Freud’s emphasis on the personal unconscious would no doubt further entangle the patient in the roots of her personal experience.

Conversely, if a person becomes too disconnected from the world, a different kind of imbalance will manifest in the muladhara chakra. In this sense a person having an impersonal experience, may mistakenly identify with that experience, causing an inflation of the personality (Shamdasani, 1996). As Jung describes, “it is as if the Kundalini in its movement upward were pulling us up with it” (Shamdasani, 1996). Metaphorically speaking, one must extend their roots deep into the soil of life, to keep from being swept away in the process of individuation.

Kundalini yoga as a philosophical as well as practical method for realizing one’s self is based on a centuries old system of introspection (Shamdasani, 1996). Within every human being, regardless of ethnicity, caste, or creed, there exists a healing feminine primordial power called the Kundalini. This feminine energy lies dormant and coiled up in the sacrum bone at birth. By employing the methods of introspection to purify the intellect, the Kundalini can uncoil and rise up through the central nervous system, nourishing each energy center along the way (Shamdasani, 1996; Srivastava, 1995). When the Kundalini reaches the top of the skull it pierces through the fontanel bone, connecting the practitioner with the collective unconscious, pouring ecstasy over him or her like a fountain of joy (Srivastava, 1995). In Latin sacrum translates as sacred while the root word for fontanel is the Latin word fontanus meaning little spring or fountain (Agnes, 2001).

Despite the traditional emphasis placed on the philosophical, religious or anatomical aspects of Kundalini Yoga, Jung’s definition of yoga was purely psychological (Shamdasani, 1996). Jung argued that in awakening the Kundalini from the sleepy state of muladhara existence, the patient would gain access to a higher state of awareness. This awareness, described as the suprapersonal, or non-ego, is the “totality of the psyche through which alone we can attain the higher chakras in a cosmic or metaphysical sense” (Shamdasani, 1996). The process of individuation as both Jung and Kundalini Yoga describe, is thus a reintegration of the self and the spirit (Shamdasani, 1996). Through the transference of one’s personality from ego to non-ego, that is, from the personal to the impersonal, we are reconnected to the divine (Shamdasani, 1996).

Jung’s influence in contemporary analysis is remarkably vast. The new age movement of the 1960’s found Jung of particular importance for his interest in Eastern philosophy and religion (Shamdasani, 1996). His understanding of the universality of cultural forms, as evident in his magnum opus, "Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious", make him exceptionally well disposed to write on the methods of Kundalini yoga. The fantastic analyses Jung generated in his lectures on the symbolism of Kundalini yoga, give us a deeper understanding of the archetypal symbols and forms, and how they might help add poetry to the process of individuation. Despite Jung’s recognition that his interpretations strayed from traditional Indian views he courageously took pains to give the symbols of Kundalini yoga a practical application for the Western analyst. Though there has been little interest in Jung’s work by Western psychologists rooted in more empirical methods of research, it appears that outside of the Western disciplines of applied and academic psychology, some empirical research is being provided in support of the methods of some types of Yoga (Sharma, 1993). Whatever those results may be, Jung’s ideas continue to inspire us to aim towards our higher sense of self and the fulfillment of our individuation.

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Campbell, J. (Ed.). (1971). The portable Jung. Kingsport, TN: Viking Press.
Jung, C. G. (1959). Archetypes and the collective unconscious. New York, NY:
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Shamdasani, S. (Ed.). (1996). The psychology of Kundalini yoga. Princeton, NJ:
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Sharma, H. S., (1993). Sahaja yoga: The divine path for physical, mental and spiritual
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Srivastava Devi, N. (1995). Meta Modern Era. New Delhi, India: Ritana Books.

Author's Bio: 

Chad Danyluck is a student of social psychology with an interest in health psychology, addiction and the social determinants of health. Chad also practices and teaches Sahaja Yoga meditation, free of charge throughout Canada and the lower mainland of British Columbia. Please visit Chad's personal website, featuring modern artwork aligned with the Spirit and support his artistic vision by purchasing a print or original artwork at