The mystery of the night sky. The vastness of space. Pure vibration and the music of the spheres…
Welcome to the world of vishuddha chakra!
Located at the throat, the fifth chakra is the point in the chakra system where things start to get a little trippy. It is the first of the upper chakras, representing a level of consciousness beyond the ordinary reality of personal limitations. This can make it a little more difficult to understand and relate with than the lower chakras, but an absolutely fascinating domain to explore.
What is the ether element?
“Akasha tattva,” the Sanskrit name for the element associated with vishuddha chakra, is usually translated as the “ether element”. This can cause some confusion since most modern English speakers are not so clear on what exactly “ether” is!
In Western alchemy and early science, ether (also spelled “aether”) referred to a mysterious fifth element that existed mostly in the regions of space above the terrestrial sphere (the atmosphere, we might now say). Thought to hold together the celestial spheres, like an early concept of gravity, ether was considered the medium through which light moved through the void.
The Indian element “akasha” also is connected to luminosity. The word derives from the Sanskrit root “kas” which means “to shine,” and “akasha” is that which shines in all directions (“samantat kasate”).
In the Eastern esoteric tradition, akasha refers more specifically to open space or vacuity, which radiates in all directions, all-pervading in the universe. It has the quality of transmitting sound.
You might think that space is only what’s between two solid objects. In fact, just as all objects exist within space, space exists within all objects. It is an element that is one order above the other, material elements, a kind of background out of which the lower elements take form, like an interface between the manifest and the unmanifest.
(As is vishuddha in the chakra system, standing as the gateway from the personal domain of the lower chakras into the transcendent, transpersonal realm.)
Even in Western science, you’ll find now the assertion that all seemingly solid objects—including your body—are actually made mostly of empty space. The distance between the nucleus of an atom and its ring of electrons is proportionally as vast as the distance between the Earth and the Sun!
The closer scientists look at matter, the less matter they find. Just open space and vibrating energy fields.
Space and time (and this is also confirmed by physics of the last century) are intimately connected, and from a yogic perspective, they exist merely as two dimensions of akasha as the background matrix of all manifestation. Going into vishuddha is to go beyond time and space, to a point where past, present and future exist simultaneously, and an infinite array of potentials—all possible pasts and futures—exist superimposed on each other within the singularity of any given moment.
In case this is getting a little esoteric (no pun intended), let’s move on to how this energy actually manifests in people you might see around you, or in yourself.
What does a vishuddha person look like?
As the central resonating point of the ether element within the human being, a person with vishuddha activation will often show the following tendencies:
- Purity of being—difficult to define but easily recognizable, like a person who seems almost too pure and ethereal for this world
- Love of silence and solitude
- Strong spiritual intuition
- Natural subtle perception and openness to subtle planes of consciousness
- Strong, refined aesthetic sense
- Talent for poetry, music and speech, again at a very refined level
- Clear understanding and transmission of spiritual teachings
People with strong vishuddha tend to gravitate towards monasteries or strong spiritual environments, so it’s not a character you’ll encounter too often in normal society. Still, this level of consciousness represents an extremely important energy in any person’s spiritual life.
Music, language, math: the speech of the Universe
Modern neuroscience has found that music, language and mathematics are governed by the same circuits in the brain, explaining why often people who are gifted in one will have talents in all three fields.
This discovery is fascinating but should come as no great surprise to a yogi, since these are all related to a level of consciousness at vishuddha chakra. It is at this level where the universe expresses itself in harmony and abstraction, a kind of deeper communication that forms the basis of the entire manifestation.
On this level the universe itself is a song, a poem, a work of art—Logos, the divine Word.
“In the beginning, there was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” So begins the Gospel of John, the most mystical and gnostic-inspired of the four canonical gospels. This “Word” is the primordial vibration, formless yet containing all forms, the impulse of expression at the root of all manifestation.
Language, music and math all represent the human capacity for abstract thought and communication in its most refined form, which can be presented as the feature that distinguishes us from other forms of animal life. There is some mystery there, in which the capacity for speech both sets us apart from the flow of nature and allows for self-reflection. By this crystallization of consciousness, we can lose ourselves in a world of words and concepts, or we can become clear mirrors in which Consciousness can perceive itself.
What does it mean to speak? To speak the truth?
Plato banished all artists from his Republic because he believed that all art was lies—and it is. All speech, all expression, is a lie because Reality by nature is beyond words or any representation. “The Dao that can be described is not the true Dao.”
And yet sometimes this lying is the best way to tell the truth. Music, art, poetry, the sublime beauty of a balanced mathematical equation, these can all point to Reality more truthfully than any discourse.
The Supreme Word
So the Universe speaks to itself, through itself, which is to say through us. God reflects Himself in us so He can see Himself. And the entire manifestation is just this song, without meaning outside of itself, only pointing to itself.
Every moment is completely meaningless outside of itself, which means that it is infinitely meaningful within itself.
Why does anything exist? For the purpose of existing? Why are things the way they are? So they can be as they are.
In the language of God, existence is a snake eating its own tail in eternal perfection.
Cultivating vishuddha chakra
It’s probably clear by now that the frequency of vishuddha chakra is not one so encouraged by life in normal society. For some people it will feel quite remote, like visiting another planet!
Yet for others, if you naturally have some opening on vishuddha, this chakra brings a wonderfully familiar feeling, like reconnecting with a part of yourself that was long kept down.
- Hatha yoga. Although there aren’t so many asanas for vishuddha, a practice of asana, pranayama and even mantra for the chakra can bring a strong activation.
- Vishuddha is related to speech, but actually one of the best ways to connect with it is through silence! Periods of “mauna,” consciously refraining from speech or any communication, lead to profound interiorization and purification at this level. When you are established in an inner silence, then when you do talk, instead of getting lost in the chatter, you speak what comes from the center of your being.
- An activation of vishuddha naturally brings an impulse towards solitude, a love of silence and withdrawal from the activity of the world. And in turn, spending more time in solitude will naturally draw you into the flow of vishuddha.
- One could say that the essence of music resides in vishuddha, though of course not all music is resonated primarily with that chakra. Still, music is an amazing way to connect to vishuddha. In AumTantraYoga, we frequently practice music meditation using tracks specifically chosen to resonate at vishuddha.
- Immersion in vishuddha topics. If you’re more the studious type but you want to catch the vishuddha flavor, dip your toe in some fields that point to vishuddha. Astrology, astronomy, mathematics, music theory, linguistics… don’t forget, in classical India the study of Sanskrit grammar was considered a spiritual path!
- When in doubt, just go stare up into the vastness of space for a few hours.