This 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 Sacrum or Holy Bone (Gk. hieron osteon, Lat. os sacrum), that is, the base
of the spine. Because this was a center of concentration of the Life Force,
Middle Eastern people believed that the entire body could be regenerated from
this bone, and Onians (p. 208) conjectures that its potency may account for
"kiss of shame" (osculum infame) of the Witches and Templars (and perhaps the
Cathars and Waldenses). This center corresponds to Chakra 1, called
Muladhara, which means "root base," which Campbell (p. 144) associates with
"hanging on to life" and a "reactive psyche," so in both cases we have the
grossest form of the Life Force.
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.
The above are the "central" energy concentrations of Greek philosophy, and it
is apparent that they correspond closely to the familiar seven chakras. The
Greeks also recognized "peripheral" energy concentrations in the hands, thighs
and knees (which have a large concentration of "marrow"). This explains the
sacrifice of thigh bones, the use of the hand (especially the right hand) to
exercise executive power, and clasping the knees when beseeching. (The knee -
Gk. gonu, Lat. genu - was especially associated with the Life Force - genios -
and with procreation or "generation"; cf. genital, genetic, gonad, etc.) So
far as I know, corresponding chakras are not recognized in Eastern thought.
As a general rule of thumb, Spirit, of one sort or another, is most
concentrated where the flesh is thinnest (Timaeus 75a), thus, in the head,
chest, sacrum, knees and hands.
No. English Greek Latin Function Chakra No.
I Crown Koruphe Vertex Illumination Sahasrara 7
II Brain Enkephalos Cerebrum Intellection Ajna 6
III Neck Trachelos Collum Purification Visuddha 5
IV Heart/Lungs Phrenes Cor Affection Anahata 4
V Belly Gaster Abdomen Appetition Manipura 3
VI Gonads Gonades Genitalia Procreation Svadhisthana 2
VII Sacrum Hieron Osteon Os Sacrum Basic Life Muladhara 1