Between 1500 & 500 B.C. the first mention of the Chakra systems is in the Indus Valley Civilizations. They had a figure with three faces & wearing horned headgear that was in a yogic trance & surrounded by various animals such as elephants, lions, & the like… yoga at the time was practiced under Guru’s direction & the spiritual guidance was of utmost importance. Yoga exercises were built into the Upsana meditation techniques. Chakra is a term that is used to describe how “energy keeps moving” throughout the body. Yoga is often times used to direct or balance the energy centers through poses & meditation. They are believed to be spinning sources of energy or wheels for areas of the body and around the fields of energy surrounding the body.
Whether or not they have always been or if it’s a modernized tradition, the main seven Chakra centers are believed to also correlate to skills, expressions, kinds of health, nerve centers, & internal organs among other things spiritual, and physical, mental, and emotional states. The subtle (“energy”) body is made up of approximately 72,000 nadis that the subtle energy flows through. When several of the nadis cross it makes up an energy center. With so many nadis, depending on the system there can be up to 144 Chakras, but within each system of chakras, the main seven are the ones most people are referring to. So the Chakra is an energy center. Chakras are spinning to stay open & aligned while running along the spine keeping the flow of energy even & balanced. Chakra is a Sanskrit word that translates to “wheel” or “spinning wheel”
As psychic centers of awareness, along with the 600 B.C. Yoga Upanishads are also referred to in Pat Anjali’s Yoga Sutras in 200 B.C. The Yoga Upanishads are a collection of The Cudamini Upanishads, the Yoga Shikka Upanishad, The Shri Jabala Darshana Upanishad, & the Shandilya Upanishad. They all mention chakras, but they are spelled cakra. The systems were passed down through oral traditions by Indo-European people. Historically, they became an Eastern Concept until New Age writers connected with the concept & then by building on earlier beliefs and writings made the information more accessible and then written very well.
The Vedas are the oldest yoga scriptures also written around the same time in India between 1500 & 500 B.C. In Indian academics, it is thought that the chakra systems are much older due to oral traditions before recorded scriptures & long before Indo-Europeans arrived. As such even today information & skills are passed through teachers & students through examples or oral history of the chakra systems. The history of Sri Amit Ray extends beyond 114 Chakras also.
The primary source of chakras making their way west is the translation by Arthur Avalon in his book The Serpent Power which was published in 1919. The Sat Cakra Nirupana was published in 1577 by Swami Purnananda, & the Padaka Pancaka both written in the 10th century & they both include descriptions & associations of the centers. The Gorakshashatakam has directions for meditation on the chakras. Today’s knowledge of Kundalini yoga, energy, and chakra theory is based on those writings. In the West, these writings are the main source of information on the chakras.
It is believed that the oral traditions being passed down, actually began 12,000 to 1000 BCE & then translated when the Avestan speaking peoples & those that have descended from the Indo-European & the Russian civilizations. The ideas were mixed with each other’s cultures & intertwined within the Indigenous cultures of the Indus Valley. Historians are of the belief that the Vedic texts actually reflect both philosophies, which also include information from more ancient cultures such as the Indians or the Dravidians.
Many cultures & countries around the world have different interpretations of the Chakras. The West tends to relate the chakras to bodily organs & the physical body… however they aren’t a static reality, they are a fluid reality with a flowing energy type of nature to them.
The psychological states that are now associated with the chakras in the West are actually an innovation that was from Carl Jung’s archetypal theories & isn’t usually found in the Sanskrit texts.
- Example: The Solar Plexus Chakra
- Associated with power & purpose in the modern Chakra systems but in the ancient context, it would associate with each lotus petal of the Chakra with a distinct emotional state.
The cross-cultural takeaway is that Chakras “can be used as general tools to heal & balance the energetic, physical, spiritual, & emotional bodies.” However, across the world, this varies a bit when you compare the systems with each other.
The Hermetic Texts of Egypt, India, & Persia almost all embrace the belief in intangible energy.
In Africa, the Kemetic Tree of Life came with the Egyptians who practiced magic & mystery teachings daily. Their focus was an energy body referred to as ka & worked with the Kemetic Tree of Life as a pathway from Earth to the Heavens.
Jewish mystics adopted the Kabbalah under the Egyptian influence of the time back to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Early Egyptian energy contains concepts similar to the chakras & subtle energy bodies such as sekhem and “life force energy”. The ba is the soul that represents nonphysical energy.
The Yoruba tribe of Africa practiced magic & they had orishas or Spirits that dwell within the body, which happened to correlate to Hindu Chakra concepts.
“The Dogon tribe worked with sacred geometry & information received directly from their home star, Sirius, to help control living conditions & heal tribal members. The information they received from the stars was extremely mathematically accurate, far surpassing their technological abilities. Some say that these ancient cultures were always connected to galactic gateways, which allowed this transfer of universal knowledge.” (Complete Guide to Chakras)
In Hinduism energy of the ka body is considered to be prana (breath, life-giving force) or kundalini (energy that is coiled up at the base of the spine). In the Hindu text, Bhagavata-purana there are six Chakra centers indicated & two for other spiritual centers weren’t added until later for the higher spiritual practices.
Buddhist philosophy & the continuation of Tantric & yogic ideas, the Chakras are considered to be wheels that help to achieve emptiness or enlightenment. Sometimes there are fewer or more wheels (4, 5, 7, or 10) they all rely on tummo (Kundalini) for the ultimate awakening & integration of the full Chakra system.
The Middle East is loaded with different variations of the Chakra system. The Zoroastrians who are the authors of the scripture Avesta had the holy system Amesha Spentas or Divine Emanations which closely translated a six Chakra system.
The Sufis & the Jewish are rich in mystical cosmology also, and both have discussions around their vital energy bodies in sacred texts and teachings that relate the metaphysical realms to eternal creation lies within each one of us.
In North, South, & Meso America the Mayans, Incans, Andeans of Peru, the Huicholes, and other native cultures throughout time worked with the elements and physical locations of the Chakras on the body. Shamanic teachings and temple iconography show extensive knowledge of energy bodies and spirits from the land and sky.
In North America, the Cherokee had mystical connections to Pleiades & highlight body & Earth matrices, meridians, & interconnecting points on the body in their cosmology.
Over in Europe, the Vikings had an understanding of the Chakra systems that are symbolized by a tree with nine Norse Worlds. The Yggrdasil Tree connects the humans to Asgard, home of the Gods.
The Celts of Neolithic Britain had myths and lore of Gods & Goddesses with the contained concept of argano-rota (“silver wheel”)
It is said that in Avalon (a sacred Chakra of the Earth) the chakras were formed as the seven points of consciousness the top point being the Crown, housing the rest of the Chakras & not actually a Chakra itself.
Chakra work isn’t a replacement for medical care, it can be used as a complement to any therapy that may be necessary for your treatments or other therapies
Gorst, Pam. “A Brief History of the Chakra Origin - Chakra Color Origin Myth.” Tantric Academy , 14 Apr. 2022, https://tantricacademy.com/history-of-the-chakras/.
Jackson, Charles. “Origin of the Chakra System: The History and the Legends.” Good and Great , 30 Apr. 2021, Origin of the Chakra System: Good and Great
Pfender, April, and Enya Todd. The Complete Guide to Chakras: Activating the 12-Chakra Energy System for Balance and Healing , Rockridge Press, Emeryville, CA, 2020, pp. 5–8.
I will be looking into qi/chi through Chinese practices to see how they intertwine with other beliefs & systems of the time. Once I add the information, I will add to the post with the new information