This article was first published at the Sutra Journal
A visionary thinker and writer whose life spanned most of the 20th Century, Gopi Krishna championed Consciousness Studies long before this field was validated in Neurology and Consciousness Studies. Widely published and a compelling speaker, he advocated an understanding of Kundalini, which he posited as “a biological force driving human evolution.
“The Kundalini hypothesis holds that there is a biological transformation effected through a rejuvenating activity of the reproductive system which then refines the nervous system and ultimately the brain. This differs from Darwinian theory that genes are transmuted through external environmental selection. Except for the organic changes occurring in the subtle levels of the neuronic structures, science, as it exists today, can have no direct knowledge of the subjective nature of this experience. It is only individual experience which can lead to confirmation and validation of the awakened man and lay the foundation of a new and yet eternal science.”
Rakesh Kaul, Gopi Krishna’s grandson
This interview was conducted in New Delhi in the mid-1970s by a reporter for a UNESCO publication in India. The reporter’s name is unknown.
For more than a decade now, you have been writing books on consciousness and evolution and about mystical experience. Could you restate your position inclear-cut terms and point out some of the reasons that might have stood in the way of their acceptance by scientists so far?
The main reason is that there is still a great deal of confusion about the phenomenon known as mystical ecstasy. The general impression is that it is just an altered state of awareness, comparable to the states brought about by intoxicants, mind-altering drugs, hypnosis, biofeedback, auto-suggestive conditions and the like. Even an authority like William James has been in error in the comparison he has made between mystical ecstasy and the states induced by wine and nitrous oxide.
What is the reason for this?
The reason is simple. The transcendental and trans-human nature of mystical experience is a still an uncharted province for scholars. There is a wide gulf between scholarship and mystical vision. The staggering nature of the vision and the revolution it brings about in the life, and thinking of one who is blessed with it, and the light it throws on the problems of existence are all beyond the power of the intellect to grasp.
Can you explain this further?
Intellectual study is like the data gathered by the dreamer of a dream world in which he dwells for a while. The mystical vision is like the awareness gained by one when awake. I must make this clear, with all the emphasis at my command and in full conformity to what has been as emphatically stated by mystics of the past that the objective world disappears, like a phantom, in the illuminating blaze of mystical consciousness. The Reality which is unveiled in the duration of the experience is beyond the grasp of the intellect and the power of language to describe.
Since it is impossible to describe, how can you hope to convince scientists that there is still something beyond their comprehension?
It is the same as though the intellectual prodigies of the past, such as Shakespeare and Bacon, were expected to know of the awful force of the atom. Most of the present day intellectuals believe that they are almost at the frontiers of knowledge, but they have no inkling that the quest of man has yet to begin. All the knowledge and experience they have gained, all the discoveries they have made and all the inventions wrought, so far, have been a preparation for the next step in his progress, which is the exploration of his own mind to answer the Riddle of his being.
It seems to me that what you are saying points to a new direction for human effort and thought.
Exactly. It is entirely beyond the imagination of our contemporaries. Hence, it is but natural that many of them should consider what I say as incredible and fantastic. We cannot expect a more favorable response from the learned, because they are no more informed about the phenomenon, on which I dwell, than the ordinary class of human beings. The intellect, proud of her knowledge, is seldom ready to believe that there are worlds and regions beyond her reach.
What about present-day research on consciousness? Isn’t some progress being made in this area of science?
As it is being carried out today, research on consciousness can easily be compared to the investigation done by a dreamer of the mental condition of the personalities in his dream. For one who lacks the least awareness about himself, however erudite he might be, the issue will always arise―and on what? How can one who is ignorant of his own mind stalk forth to study the mind of another who is as ignorant of himself as he?
Is that why the Upanishads say that the effort of the unenlightened, however scholarly they might be, are like the blind leading the blind when it comes to guiding others in the knowledge of the Self?
Yes. According to the Indian Masters who have contributed most to the study of the mind, Turiya or the fourth state of consciousness, experienced in the mystical trance, is the real state of human awareness and the other three below it-namely deep sleep, dream and the normal .wakeful state- are delusive. The normal state lends substance to a false appearance which hides the true Reality.
The research on consciousness should mean study of one’s Self?
In truth, this is what the ancient sages and seers proceeded to do in their search for enlightenment. It is for this reason that during recent times there has been hardly any new addition to the brilliant galaxy of enlightened prophets and sages of the past. This is also the reason why there has been no fresh accumulation of knowledge on the mystical state of consciousness. When our study of the outer world, during the same period has yielded such a rich harvest in transforming the life of human beings why do we find the doors tightly shut in our exploration of inner realm?
This is the crux of the problem, I’m sure. What is your explanation?
As one who has been granted a brief glimpse into this profound Mystery, I can say with confidence, that no amount of objective study of consciousness, undertaken over the next hundreds of years, with the methods employed at present, would lead the learned any nearer the solution of the enigma. On the contrary, except for the hundreds of volumes of confusing data that would result, the investigation would make it even more bewildering than before.
But what is the reason for this?
Research on consciousness demands a new approach because it marks a new phase in the career of humanity. Evolving man must now shift his attention from the outer to the inner world, make his own body the laboratory and reverently approach the Spirit within to instruct him in the rudiments of this science.
Many people are eagerly waiting for this. There seems to be an instinctive longing to return to nature, for instance, to break away from the highly complex, hectic life of today. Isn’t all this an indication of a coming revolution in thinking?
The stage is being set for this radical change in the direction of human effort from the outer to the inner world. The learned are not able to read the signs, as the future is entirely shut from their view, and they have no idea of the coming revolution in the life of humanity as a complement to the evolutionary change that has occurred within.
Can you describe this evolutionary change that you believe has occurred within?
It will take some time, but it has to do with the existence of a potential in the brain that can transform human life and bestow undreamed of intellectual, supersensory and artistic gifts to individuals in a manner beyond imagination at present.
But as you have already said, most intellectuals have no grounding in mysticism, so they continue to apply the same methods of analysis and criticism to which they are accustomed in other branches of knowledge .
It is a sad commentary on the academic life of our time that a subject treated with respectful attention and reverential regard by the greatest intellectuals of the past, including such giants as Plato and Newton, should appear so trivial and unimportant to them that they deem it beyond their dignity to study it with the care and attention which it needs.
You are considered to be a rebel to many of the popular ideologies of our time. Perhaps if you were to put your ideas in the language of the intellectuals, they would be more acceptable to the readers in the United States.
I have made no secret in my books of the fact that my education has been poor and that all I am writing is from inspiration, which needs a dive into the depths of my own being to receive it. I have never made any claims of infallibility and have repeatedly said that every word I am writing should be weighed and put to rigid test before it is accepted. It is for this reason that I am so keen to lay the foundation of an Experimental Center, to validate my views about the evolutionary mechanism in the human frame.
Your ideas need to be expressed by scholars who are trained in the language of academics. Without such credentials, if might be impossible to make any real headway in the West.
Either that or else what we need are the resources to broadcast our views far and wide. I am putting my ideas in the language of the common man and woman rather than in that of the intellectuals for the simple reason that in the first place, I am not capable of writing in the discursive style peculiar to scholars. Secondly, I wish my sage to be easily intelligible to all those who read it.
Do you believe it is possible to communicate your ideas the language of modern psychology?
Perhaps not. Modern psychology is bristling with internal conflicts and controversies, and also the pulls and pressures from individual authorities, each contradicting the other. How can a study based on a mistaken conception of mind, with excessive emphasis on the beast and chilling silence over the god in man, provide a suitable vehicle for explaining the profundities of consciousness or its triumphant march from the sub-human to the super-human plane?
Then what is the solution?
The moment it is demonstrated that the human brain is still in a state of organic evolution in a pre-planned direction, not only the current theory of evolution but also psychological systems, based primarily on the animal origin of mind and not on its infinitely intelligent cosmic character, will come toppling to the earth. How can we reconcile the divine nature of consciousness with some of the revolting explanations offered by psychologists?
The universe is a vast amphitheater and the dramas enacted by consciousness, on this stage from one end to the other, infinitely varied in plot and action, are yet closely interwoven and interconnected in a manner far beyond the grasp of the puny human intellect. Mankind will have to rise to dizzy heights of evolution before she can begin to comprehend the bewildering play of Life.
From Euclidean space we have come to the curved space of Relativity. But there are already indications to show that this is not the end. Who knows what new surprises are in store for astrophysicists in the years to come? It is a fallacy to suppose that we have come to the end of the knowledge of the mind.
You claim to be in possession of extraordinary knowledge, is that not true?
I have never laid any claim to a higher position than the one I possess. In fact, I have emphatically tried my utmost to make it clear that mystical experience does not represent a vision of God but only a passage into a new dimension of consciousness in which it wears an aspect of glory and sovereignty which is not present on the human plane. I have also repeatedly asserted that in all other aspects I belong to the class of normal human beings with the frailties and vanities common to human nature. Nowhere in my writings have I made any claim to sainthood nearness to God or to a superhuman stature, as is often done by godmen to point out the gulf that exists between them and the normal run of human beings.
But you do claim to reside in the transcendental state of consciousness, do you not?
Yes, but it has always been my endeavor to make it clear that the transcendental state of consciousness, experienced in the form of ecstasy by prophets and mystics throughout the past, does not signify a special favor from the Deity. It is only a more extended dimension of the perceptual faculty towards which mankind is evolving irresistibly through the operation of an evolutionary mechanism in the body, designated as Kundalini by the Indian sages of the past.
As far as I know, this is the first time that mystical consciousness, or the organic mechanism leading to it, have been defined in this way, in the language of reason, divested of the supernatural and mythical.
That is my view, exactly. I have, at the same time made no secret of the fact that knowledge of Kundalini represents a monumental discovery of the illuminate of India, and that I am only presenting this knowledge in the language of modern science. I have also said that the interpretations I am placing on it would be beyond my capacity but for a strange dispensation of fate, beyond comprehension, by which I became the participant in an experience that unfolded the secret to me.
Secret? Can you expand on this a bit?
What I am trying to emphasize in all my work is that we have our existence in two worlds, the world of matter and the world of mind. As the result of an inquiry that has persisted through a prodigious span of time—ever since the dawn of reason-we have come in possession of an amount of knowledge of the material world, which is able for study by anyone. But the study of the world of spirit needs entry into a new plane of consciousness and a super-sensory channel of cognition, which are slowly coming into the possession of man.
The secret, then, is that mankind is slowly coming into possession of a super-sensory channel of cognition, is that correct?
Yes, through evolution. This is the purpose of the mystical trance or the trans human states of consciousness exhibited by the prophets and mystics of the world. They sung praises to the glory of God because the plane of being where they arrived is a plane of splendor, beauty and transport, surpassing anything conceivable by a normal mind.
But even so, if I understand you correctly, it is a plane of being just a little higher than that of normal human beings.
You are perfectly correct. Those men and women who arrogate to themselves a trans human stature or position of authority—as incarnations of, or surrogates for the Divine―must have a poor opinion about the staggering dimensions of the universe or the inconceivable proportions of its Almighty Creator.
Because it is simply an evolutionary advance of the normal state of consciousness?
Yes. This attitude could be justified in the prophets, sages and seers of the past, when the earth alone bounded the vision of man and he had no idea of what gigantic worlds lie beyond, and what a countless host of colossal suns and planets dwells in space. But from a godman of today, the statements of the kind which are made in the Scriptures of the past should be an affront to the intelligence of anyone who has even a passing idea about the extent of the universe or possibility of other, far superior, forms of life residing in it. There are some, even among the learned, who believe in such self-concocted tales, but they scoff at the rational explanations which I offer.
What about the future of humankind?
From my point of view, the future luminaries of the race, adorned with trans human consciousness, would still be occupied with the exploration of the Mystery of Creation in the higher, to us, imperceptible planes of being, in the same way as we are now occupied with the exploration of the material universe. The present-day concepts about mind, its behavior, urges and appetites, are mere capricious intellectual excursions into a territory which needs another channel of cognition to explore.
I would like to know more about this other channel of cognition.
You said yourself that it was a plane of being that is a little higher than that of normal human beings, and that is perfectly correct. But it is nothing to merit comparison or equality with the infinite majesty and splendor of the Lord. It is a variation of almost the same kind as we observe when we rise in the scale of life from the lower species to the higher ones.
It amuses me to find that people in general, including scholars, sometimes, raise mystics and enlightened saints to the stature of gods who cease to be humans, belonging to a world of superhuman dimensions and possibilities, where they can defy the laws of nature, change the fate of common men and women or do whatever they please.
This is a serious error which stands as an impediment in the understanding of the mystical trance and in placing this extraordinary state of mind on a rational footing. It is simply the addition of another channel of perception, designed by Nature for every human being.
But you still insist that it is necessary for science to undertake research on consciousness?
There will soon be a time when the evolution of consciousness will be taken up by scholars in all its different aspects, spiritual, psychological, sociological and biological. When once the experiment I propose is confirmed, there will be no subject, I am sure, which will receive as much sustained attention from scholars of every shade and color, and the rank and file of science, as this. But the most colossal task in front of the erudite would be to explain the evolution of mind in terms of the organic evolution of the brain. As far as I can see, it shall take long spans of time to cover each single step in the territory of consciousness.
Then you do welcome the efforts of scholars and psychologists to write on consciousness, to the best of their knowledge and skill.
Of course, I welcome it most certainly. But in fairness to all, I must point out that except in the case of those who have experienced the transformation, no attempt made by a scholar, merely with the exercise of his intellect, however versatile and learned he might be, can fathom the mystery. How does Eternal Consciousness come to be embodied and then rise, step by step, through eonian spans of time, to the realization of its own sovereignty? This is a riddle so profound that it is hard even to gauge its proportions. I must also add that present-day ideas about psychology, which emanated from Freud and others, offer only short-range explanations. These explanations will be subject to radical change from time to time as more and more knowledge is gained by the illuminate of the future about the nature and working of the mind and the organ of its expression, the brain.
Your opinion of modern psychology is rather unflattering.
I have written extensively on this subject, but we can compare the present views of psychologists to the ideas of alchemists before the modern science of chemistry came into existence. The human intellect, not unoften, takes delight in providing explanations even for those phenomena which are beyond its probe, as for example, the existence of God and the origin of the universe, the nature of the soul and life after death. These eternal riddles have strongly drawn the human mind from the dawn of reason to this day without ever finding the right answer that could solve them once and for all. This is also the case with the riddle of the mind.
You believe that the experiment you propose will furnish solution?
It is my endeavor to divest mystical ecstasy of ancient superstition and modern intellectual confusion both by drawing attention to the biological factors responsible for it. Because this objectification of the phenomenon has never been attempted before, the academic world is still unaware or incredulous of it. That shows the entirely unsuspected nature of the disclosures made.
From my point of view, mystical ecstasy is a human experience, the outcome of an organic process at work the brain—which signifies the first beginning of trans human capacities in man. Except for the organic changes occurring in the subtle levels of the neuronal structures, science, as it exists today, can have no direct knowledge of the subjective nature of this experience.
If that is the case, then no intellectual formulations about it are possible at this time.
That is correct.
Your writings are, to summarize briefly, primarily confined the evolution of the mind. Isn’t this what others have said?
I do not say that the human mind is evolving towards an undefined summit as, for instance, Teilhard de Chardin and others have said. What I firmly assert is that human consciousness is evolving towards a predetermined target, which I have experienced, and that this target is the mystical or illuminated state attained by thousands of mystics and enlightened human beings in the past and that the religious scriptures of mankind are a harvest of the revelations received from a Higher Intelligence in this state of exalted being. What I further affirm is that the human brain is evolving towards this state of trans human perception, through the activity of an organic mechanism, named Kundalini by the ancients, whose existence can be demonstrated with the methods known to science
This is a monumental assertion. Science has been attempting to discover this organic mechanism for decades, without, insofar as I know, any success whatsoever.
From all this, it follows that I am trying to place the whole domain of religion and mystical ecstasy on the footing of a regular science, demonstrable with empirical methods of which the laboratory has to be the human body itself.
Has any thinker, scientist or religious teacher, present or past, thrown a challenge of this kind?
I frankly know of none. There is no need for me to use dubious intellectual methods to carry my point. One successful experiment is sufficient to clear the confusion and confirm what I say.
Your writings include a good deal about other mental phenomena in addition to mystical ecstasy, could you elaborate on this?
My whole philosophy can be summed up in a few words. Therefore, it is not necessary that my books should be read and reread to arrive at the conclusions I have drawn from my experience. I also aver that the commonly known abnormal and paranormal states of mind―such as retardation, neurosis or insanity, on the one hand, and exceptional talent or paranormal gifts on the other―all proceed from the working of the evolutionary mechanism; and that with advanced knowledge of this lever the aforesaid evils, resulting from its malfunctioning, can be cured or obviated and the latter highly precious attributes cultivated at will
This is a new and original contribution to the knowledge of man, I believe.
To the best of my belief no other philosopher or mystic in the past has given the same interpretation to mystical experience and put a cut-and-dried formula before human kind. I am not putting forward an intellectual dissertation based on mere erudition and logic, I am submitting a concrete proposal based on personal study of the phenomenon for experiment, to validate the conclusions drawn by me, which are of colossal importance for the race.
If this is the case, and I have no reason to doubt what you say, why haven’t these disclosures been greeted with acclaim?
The reason is because the ideas expressed by me are new and original, which therefore need time to take root in the common mind, and, secondly, because they strongly militate against some of the current conceptions or misconceptions of both orthodox science and religion. How can the erudite, on either side, readily swallow the utterances of one who proclaims loud that matter is a mirage, Darwin was wrong, Freud mistaken, consciousness is All; that humanity is on her way to this awareness in the beatific state, that the great illuminate were not and could not be the favorites of the Almighty and that mystical experience does not represent an encounter with God but only a vision of the divinity in man?
Then what is needed, urgently, as far as I can see, is something like a New Manhattan Project to try to scientifically validate your theory.
It is only by a deep study of my thesis that it can dawn on an unbiased intellect that there can be- no other interpretation which can synthesize the diversity of religious experience and outlook, serve as a connecting link between religion and science and bring science back from a lop- sided, entirely materialistic view of the universe, towards a more rational and more comprehensive philosophy of Creation. This philosophy is one in which matter and mind figure as the two aspects of one incomprehensible Reality dimly perceptible in another dimension of consciousness of which religion is the still growing child.
It must be extremely frustrating to you to spend year after year, writing your views down in books, only to see decades pass without any signs of recognition on the part of the scientific community?
I have been watching the whole drama of my life without a tinge of regret for the coldness I have received for the knowledge given out by me while living virtually in the jaws of death. I am a frail human being myself, and I know the frailties of my other follow human beings. Had the secrets disclosed by me come from the lips of a distinguished personality in science, the discovery would have resounded throughout the world. Or were a leading personality, like the President of the United States, to affirm publicly the importance of the disclosure, all the newspapers of the earth would open their columns to the message and the learned fall over each other in expressing their high appreciation of it. It was only through the conversion of Asoka the Great in India, and Emperor Constantine in Rome, that Buddhism and Christianity became dominant faiths in the East or West.
Apparently the support of temporal authority was always needed to push forward a spiritual creed.
That is entirely correct. Left at the mercy of the populace, including the learned, without the enthusiastic support of ardent protagonists, no new idea or line of thought, diametrically opposite to prevailing conceptions, can find wide acceptance. At best, it would only serve as a topic for perfunctory discussion here and there. Even the media, which are supposed to keep track of all new developments, would give a wide berth to it for its uncommon nature and touch it only if it is mentioned by one in authority, not because they have become enamored of it but because it suits their purpose to give publicity to the utterances of a great personage.
Such is the opacity of the human intellect when face-to-face with a new revelation, showing the way out of a con- fusing labyrinth of thought. Ours is not a message that can be thoroughly grasped or made universal in the course of a few years, but it must roll across long spans of time to gather the momentum necessary for it to become a universally recognized philosophy and science.
What if you had your wish, what would it be?
With all my heart, I wish that in the exploration of consciousness mystical tradition―not the methods of traditional psychology―were to be followed to bring a correct awareness of its evolution to the world. Intellectual dissertations, beyond a certain limit, would only lead to confusion and chaos in a province where first-hand experience is necessary to know the truth. Like the exploration of the sky, intellectual exercise can carry us only a short distance. After that, the use of the telescope becomes absolutely necessary for correct knowledge of the position. In the same way, for the study of the inner firmament, a dive into the depths of one’s being is essential to know the reality.
Music and poetry provide a better language for expressing the profundities of consciousness than logic. This is the reason why prayers are sung. The state of mind produced under the spell of a beautifully sung prayer is more expressive of the indefinable world of consciousness than volumes of reasoned prose. The problem is that it is hard to make an intellectual accept the position that his territory ends at the very beginning of the mystical trance.
It is characteristic of the intellect that she is seldom prepared to accept defeat and is often over-confident of her ability to know all that can be known. It is only when face-to-face with the unbelievable splendor of the Mystical Vision that, hushed into silence at the awesome majesty of the Reality unfolded, the tittle-tattle of this irrepressible gossip, that always talks of this sublime experience from a distance, comes to an end and her propensity, in the words of Pascal, of putting two and two together and make it five, is lost.
Perhaps science will be forced to take up the research project just as it was forced to experiment on the atom bomb some 40 years ago, when the threat of its falling into the hands of an enemy was urgent.
Time will prove the correctness of our stand. I am not the last of the line that has already appeared to beseech their contemporaries to look within. Others will rise to repeat what has already been said and win confirmation for the disclosures made, if lacking still. No power on earth can prevent truth from spreading when time for it has come, just as no power can stop the sun from bathing the earth in light when the night is over.
The verdict on what I have revealed does not rest in the hands of a few scholars in a particular country, living now or who may rise in the future. The secret we have disclosed, not by choice but at the decree of fate, is not limited by time and place but covers the whole earth and is of everlasting value for the race.
It doesn’t disturb you, then, that still more time is needed for a better grasp of your message?
Not at all. I know what I am up against in the claim I make and the truth I reveal. The day will come when those whose intuition was right in accepting this disclosure are vindicated.