Since Kundalini can set off such a wide spectrum of symptoms, it may be medically misdiagnosed as epilepsy (or seizure disorder), incipient MS (multiple sclerosis), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a lower back problem, a heart attack or pelvic inflammatory syndrome. Psychiatric illnesses may also be falsely diagnosed: somatization disorder (bodily symptoms caused by psychological problems), bipolar disorder (manic/depression), schizoaffective disorder, psychotic disorder, panic attacks, anxiety or depression.
There are curious parallels between Kundalini illness and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). About 10% of the people who contact us for information about Kundalini mention that they have been diagnosed with (or have previously been sick with) CFS, fibromylasia, postviral fatigue, etc. Because so many Kundalini symptoms closely match the symptoms from these diseases, I wonder if:
(1) Some CFS diagnoses are in fact cases of Kundalini sickness
(2) Some people who suspect they are experiencing Kundalini may in truth be suffering from CFS
(3) Catastrophic illnesses, such as CFS, can in some instances trigger the release of Kundalini.
This may not be such a far fetched idea, since Kundalini can be stimulated by other stressful experiences such as childbirth, extreme physical or emotional trauma, a near-death experience, the death of a loved one, or other life crises.
CFS can produce a host of symptoms, chief of which are crushing fatigue, violent headaches, muscle weakness, widespread musculoskeletal pain, mental confusion, severe depression, memory loss, inability to concentrate and sometimes a notable drop in I.Q. Severely afflicted CFS sufferers may spend months or years bedridden, too exhausted and weak to perform the most simple tasks. CFS is also called CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune deficiency syndrome), CEBV (chronic Epstein-Barr virus syndrome), postviral fatigue, myalgic encephalomyelitis, chronic mononucleosis and most likely, atypical polio, atypical MS and HIV-negative AIDS.
Because fibromylagia causes similar symptoms (but generally less mental impairment), some specialists believe it may also be the same disease as CFS. Other CFS symptoms can include: numbness in the limbs, chest pain, nausea, rashes, ringing in the ears, eye pain and extreme sensitivity to light. (Because Lyme disease causes some of these same symptoms, some cases of CFS are mistaken for Lyme disease, but only true Lyme disease responds to antibiotic treatments.)
CFS and Kundalini both affect the neurological system, which may account for the similarity in many of the symptoms. Using currently employed hospital technology, Kundalini's physical effect cannot be detected, so there is no hard evidence of any damage to the system. On the other hand, CFS inflicts definite damage to the immune system and brain which is clinically verifiable. Multiple brain lesions (visible in MRI scans) and cerebral swelling (discernible from spinal taps) are characteristic of severe CFS. In her outstanding book, Osler's Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic, Hillary Johnson cites mysterious epidemic disease outbreaks throughout the world since the 1930's "whose sufferers described symptoms bearing more than passing resemblance to the complaints of [CFS] patients." In the 1956 south Florida outbreak of what was then called "Punta Gorda fever," victims complained of sharp pains in the muscles of the back and neck, severe headache, disturbances of coordination, tension, anxiety and depression.
Donald Henderson, one of the government scientists who investigated the Punta Gorda episode, was led to coin the name "epidemic neuromyasthenia" for the disease. Said Henderson: "It was a hybrid of the terms "neurasthenia" and "myasthenia," implying brain and muscle involvement." According to Henderson, the symptoms of the disease were so bizarre and impossible to scientifically measure that investigators began to wonder if the patients were all crazy: "Depression. Terrifying dreams. Crying without provocation. Nausea and headache and diarrhea. Back and neck pains. Imaginary fever. Problems of memory and mentation. Vertigo. Hyperventilation. Menstrual irregularities. Difficulty in swallowing. Fatigue. Fast heart. Imaginary swellings. Transient numbness and tingling. Extreme muscle weakness."
While it seems unlikely that Kundalini could have been involved, every one of these Punta Gorda fever symptoms is known in Kundalini sickness. I am especially curious about what the researchers are calling "imaginary fever." Could this be the same kind of intense inner heat typical of the risen Kundalini? And what about the "imaginary swellings?" Kundalini produces sensations of great pressures in various parts of the body and sometimes swellings that rapidly vanish.
The outbreak at Punta Gorda may have been, as the investigators speculated but were never able to confirm, the result of a contagious virus that infected the community. Such a virus is strongly suspected to cause CFS. This virus may ravage the same areas of the brain that are agitated by Kundalini energies, thus producing a similar array of symptoms.
The neurologist Marshall Handleman used the sophisticated brain electrical activity mapping (BEAM) scan to reveal gross dysfunction in the brains of CFS patients. Unlike many medical professionals, he knew that head trauma can cause both mental and emotional dysfunction, which would account for these problems in CFS victims. For instance, damage to the right frontal lobe can cause crying jags; damage to the right temporal lobe brings on panic attacks. Left temporal lobe affliction diminishes powers of concentration. Disturbances to the bifrontal and right temporal lobes cause depression. We are not talking here of so-called chemical imbalances, but severe malfunction of the brain. It is highly likely that much of the mental and emotional distress typical to the awakening process occurs when these and other parts of the brain are being worked over by Kundalini energy. Paul Cheeney, one of the pioneering doctors dedicated to unlocking the mystery of CFS, made the astounding observation that 25 - 50% of his CFS patients were missing their fingerprints: the skin on the fingertips became absolutely smooth. I have never heard anyone mention this as a Kundalini manifestation, though just about anything is possible with Kundalini. But other CFS peculiarities closely resemble Kundalini patterns. The California internist Carol Jessop has noted that more than half of her CFS patients go on to develop allergies to a variety of animals, foods and chemicals. Similar sensitivities can occur with risen Kundalini. Nowhere in Johnson's book do the CFS patients speak of feeling energy movements, or having kriyas, mudras, psychic or mystical experiences, or other classical Kundalini phenomena. This doesn't exclude the possibility that some of them had these sorts of experiences also. Osler's Web is written in documentary style and sticks with the accounts given by doctors, technicians, investigators, researchers and medical bureaucrats rather than disclosures from patients.
Furthermore, from early on, due to the enigmatic nature of the disease and the political stonewalling by officials from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and NIH (National Institute of Health), word was viciously spread that CFS victims -- and the few doctors who believed them -- were all mentally ill. This campaign to discredit CFS as a legitimate disease was so effective that even today, in the face of insurmountable scientific evidence to the contrary, there are many doctors who do not believe CFS is real. In a climate of overriding skepticism and hostility toward their illness, I doubt many patients would dare mention the most weird of their symptoms if, indeed, they were experiencing Kundalini's stranger features. One of the striking patterns in Johnson's book (and echoed in polls elsewhere) is the medical world's disdain for the patient's experiences. Clinical test results are the only "story" most doctors want to hear, and if the diagnostic tests they order come up negative, even grievously ill patients are illogically informed that nothing is wrong with them. Worse, they are written off as hypochondriacs, hysterics, shirkers or nut cases. Because the garden variety battery of medical tests did not look in the right places to observe cellular destruction in CFS patients, for over a decade, these devastatingly sick people have been told they have no organic illness. The mentality of believe-only-the-standard-test-results made the medical establishment woefully blind to the facts while the count of CFS victims rose into the tens of thousands. For many of its victims, CFS placed them in as much social jeopardy as the accusation that one was a Communist did to people in the McCarthy era. From every corner, their lives were torn apart. CFS victims not only lost their ability to function; they lost their jobs, their credibility, their homes, their savings, and often their friends and families who could not take the stress. (Not a few people with severe Kundalini illness have suffered similar fates.)
Compounding the horror, in many areas, anyone with a CFS diagnosis suddenly had their medical insurance cancelled and were permanently excluded from future coverage due to a pre-existing condition the medical establishment scornfully refused to recognize. But insurers were quick to see what doctors were steadfastly refuting: that CFS patients, with their damaged immune systems, were prime candidates for all sorts of further health complications down the line, and somebody would have to foot the bill. If this kind of boneheaded denial could overtake medical policy makers' response to so critical a disease as CFS -- which does not come close to pushing the envelope of cultural beliefs the way Kundalini does -- don't hold your breath waiting for mainstream medicine to acknowledge the reality of physical Kundalini illness in our lifetimes.
I'm not saying that it can't happen. Kundalini, after all, is the realm of the miraculous. But the Old Paradigm
priests will not abandon their religion of dogmatic skepticism without a battle, and as their jaded response to
the CFS epidemic demonstrates, anyone who doesn't neatly fit the mold will be branded a liar or a lunatic, no matter
how convincing or overwhelming the evidence that they just might be telling the truth.
-- El Collie
Osler's Web: Inside the Labyrinth of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Epidemic, by Hillary Johnson, Crown Publishers, Inc., 1996. ISBN: 0-517-70353-X
Awakening Kundalini (60-minute audiotape), Chris Kilham, Destiny Audio Editions, ISBN 0-89281- 602-3 Although this audiotape seems primarily directed at people who have not yet experienced Kundalini, it packs in a lot of relevant information and gives a good overview of the process. Drawing on twenty-five years of personal yoga experience, Kilham gives a clear and accurate description of Kundalini and the Chakras, managing to translate the esoteric, complex Sanskrit terminology of yoga into easily understood ideas.
Kilham teaches meditation as a means to awaken the slumbering serpent-power and includes four sample meditations
for this purpose. All forms of meditations, he tells us, will activate and/or increase the flow of Kundalini in
the system. While Kilham warns that the risen Kundalini will dislodge a lot of psychological/karmic blocks, causing
some emotional distress, he makes little mention of the often intense physiological aspects of the process and
gives the impression that Kundalini always improves one's health. Ultimately, this may be the case (let's hope
so!), but as many of us know, the road can get pretty rocky before reaching the destination. (Maybe in the enlightened
future, books and tapes promoting Kundalini awakening will carry a Surgeon General's warning: "Risen Kundalini
can be hazardous to your health.") Aside from this oversight, this is one of the better cassette presentations
on the relationship between meditation and Kundalini that I have come across. I recommend it especially to those
who are new to the Kundalini process and struggling to make sense of the ornate yogic philosophy.
— El Collie
© El Collie 1995