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                  The Parts of the Soul
                 A Greek System of Chakras
                       (first draft)
                     by  John Opsopaus
 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
 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
 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 Crown of the head (Gk. koruphe, Lat. vertex).  Plato said the humans
 stand upright because of the connection between the Heavens and the Soul
 in their brains.  People with especially great power in their heads were
 represented with a nimbus, a halo of flames, around their head (attested
 as early as the 3rd cent. BCE in Greece).  This center corresponds to
  Chakra 7 (at the crown of the head), called Sahasrara, which means
  "thousand (-petaled)," an appropriate description of a nimbus.
 The Brain (Gk. enkephalos, Lat. cerebrum), which contains the psuche
 (Gk.) or genios (Lat.).  (I use the old Latin spelling "genios" to avoid
 confusion with the English "genius."  The genios is sometimes called the
 anima.)  In Homeric times the psuche was taken to be the "Vital Spirit"
 or Life Principal (the mind or consciousness was placed in IV, the
 chest), corresponding to Skt. asu. The later view, which is found in
 Plato and corresponds better to the Eastern system (cf. Skt. atman), is
 that the brain is the center of rational thought, the Intellectual
 center.  In both Homer and Plato the psuche is considered the immortal
 part of the Soul.  The physical substance corresponding to psuche was
 marrow (medulla), especially the cerebrospinal fluid of the brain and
 spine, but also in other parts of the body (see below).  For this reason
 departed souls were thought to appear as snakes, which are all brain and
 spine.  Scalp and facial hair were considered physical emanations of the
 psuche, and so the hair, scalp and chin were considered sacred (hence
 the dedication of locks and the touching of the chin or beard in
 supplication).  This center corresponds to Chakra 6 (at the brow),
 called Ajna, which means "authority or command," an appropriate name for
 the rational faculty, which Plato said "controls and restrains" the
 lower faculties; Onians calls it the Executive function.
 The Neck (Gk. trachelos, dere; Lat. collum), which Plato called the
 "isthmus or boundary" between the Superior, Divine or Immortal Soul and
 the Inferior or Mortal Soul.  He said that it allows communication
 between the two, but prevents the Lower Soul from "polluting" the
 Higher.  This center corresponds to Chakra 5 (in the throat), called
 Visuddha, which means "purgation or purity," that is, "the purging of
 the merely animal, physical system" (Campbell, 165).
 The Heart and Lungs (Gk. phrenes, Lat. cor), which contain the thumos
 (Grk.) or animus (Lat.), which is the Higher part of the Mortal Soul.
 In Homeric times the thumos was the Conscious Spirit, the vehicle of
 Thought and Feeling (cf. Skt. manas).  Later, it was restricted to
 feeling, emotion, passion and especially spirit, courage and anger - the
 Affective function.  This center corresponds to Chakra 4 (at the heart),
 called Anahata, which means "not hit" (referring to the mystical sound).
 This chakra is associated with prana (Skt.) - vital breath, vital spirit
 (Campbell, 164), as are the phrenes with pneuma  (Gk.) or spiritus
 (Lat.) - breath, spirit.  Campbell (164-5) says, "This is the
 aspiration, then, of spiritual striving," and "the birth of the
 spiritual as opposed to the merely physical life," and likewise the
 phrenes are associated with spirit, as opposed to the lower parts, which
 are associated with physical needs and desires.
 The "little foyer" (the Red Lotus of Eight Petals with the Kalpa Tree)
 below the Heart Chakra corresponds to the diaphragm, which Plato called
 the "midriff partition" separating the two parts of the Mortal Soul
 (associated with Spirit and Desire, respectively).
 The Belly (Gk. gaster, Lat. abdomen), between the diaphragm and navel,
 is the site of the Lower Part of the Mortal Soul, which is the
 Appetitive Soul, which we share with the lower animals and plants; its
 function is nutrition and it is the source of Desire (both Nutritional
 and, by most accounts, Sexual). This center corresponds to Chakra 3 (at
 the navel), called Manipura, which means "city of the shining jewel,"
 and its function is "aggressive:  to conquer, to consume, to turn
 everything into oneself" (Campbell, 159-60), which is a good description
 of the Appetitive Soul.
 The Gonads (Gk. gonades, Lat. genitalia), representing the Procreative
 function.  The "marrow," the stuff of which psuche or genios was made,
 was the Life Essence; Plato says that in it is made "the bonds of life
 which unite the Soul with the Body."  This marrow or sap is passed down
 the spine, concentrated in the gonads, and is the source of the life of
 the offspring. In particular, semen was considered a kind of
 cerebrospinal sap.  This center corresponds to Chakra 2, called
 Svadhisthana, which means "her favorite resort," an apt name for "the
 cakra of sexuality" (Campbell, 144).
 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
 Campbell, Joseph.  (1990).  Transformations of Myth Through Time.  New
 York: Harper & Row.
 Eliade, Mircea.  (1969).  Yoga:  Immortality and Freedom, tr. Willard R.
 Trask.  Bollingen Series LVI.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press.
 Mead, G. R. S.  (1967).  The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western
  Tradition. Theosophical Publishing House.
 Murphy, Michael.  (1992).  The Future of the Body:  Explorations Into
 the Further Evolution of Human Nature.  New York:  Jeremy
 Onians, Richard Broxton.  (1951).  The Origins of European Thought About
 the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate.  Cambridge:
 Cambridge University Press.
 Poortman, J. J.  (1978).  Vehicles of Consciousness:  The Concept of
 Hylic Pluralism.  Vols. 1-4.  Theosophical Publishing House.