Semple’s (The Backward-Flowing Method, 2009) latest work is a clear, well-written examination of the ancient practice of Kundalini yoga, which is influenced by Hinduism. Throughout the book, the author attempts to clarify exactly what Kundalini is—and is not. He writes that he’s aware of the scorn that “biological materialists and nouveau atheists” have heaped on Kundalini, so he stresses that “Kundalini takes no position on God; it’s pure energy, agnostic and ecumenical.” You can’t be converted to Kundalini, he asserts, “any more than you can be converted to a heart attack or an orgasm,” and practitioners who let their religious fervor carry them away, he says, are doing more harm than good to the public’s understanding of the phenomenon. Kundalini, Semple says, has “gained a strip-mall notoriety” that’s largely based on such misunderstandings, and the bulk of his book tries to counterbalance a mystical view of “the wanton nature of a Kundalini eruption, its intensity and variety,” even going so far as to argue that the practice, when properly managed and understood, can have actual evolutionary impacts. (Semple claims that “Kundalini creates favorable genetic mutations and incorporates them into DNA that is then passed along to future generations.”) The author fleshes out the book with a dramatic section devoted to case studies of different types of Kundalini encounters, showing the different ways that practitioners “awaken” energies inside themselves, as well as how Kundalini helps people tackle personal challenges. These studies give the work an instantly relatable, human dimension that’s often missing from books of this kind and underscores Semple’s approachable, ordinary-guy tone throughout. New readers approaching this complicated subject will feel immediately at ease, and longtime Kundalini practitioners will no doubt find details that remind them of their own experiences. Skeptics may still take issue with the author’s declaration that “biology is an expression of consciousness,” but even they will find much food for thought in these pages.
A challenging but accessible demystification of the Kundalini worldview.