Excerpts from The Second Coming of Christ by Paramahansa Yogananda
"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life"
This passage is very important, and little understood. Taken literally, the words "lifted up the serpent" are at best a classic scriptural ambiguity. Every symbol has a hidden meaning that must be rightly interpreted.
The word "serpent" here refers metaphorically to man's consciousness and life force in the subtle coiled passageway at the base of the spine, the matterward flow of which is to be reversed for man to reascend from body attachment to superconscious freedom.
As souls we were all originally in God's bosom. Spirit projects the desire to create an individualized expression of Itself. The soul becomes manifest and projects the idea of the body in causal form. The idea becomes energy, or the lifetronic astral body. The astral body becomes condensed into the physical body. Through the integrated spinal passageway of these three instrumental media, the soul descends into identification with the material body and gross matter. (…)
Jesus' words in this passage make clear that all souls who are promoted back to heaven had originally descended from heaven and become entrapped in earthbound desires by the spurious realism of the cosmic drama, but were able to reascend by conquering every delusive attachment to material allurements. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus emphasizes that what he attained, all may attain. His next remark to Nicodemus shows how.
"Lifting up the serpent" — Kundalini Force
Jesus said that each son of man, each bodily consciousness, must be lifted from the plane of the senses to the astral kingdom by reversing the matterbent outflowing of the life force to ascension through the serpent-like coiled passage at the base of the spine—the son of man is lifted up when this serpentine force is uplifted, "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness."*
* A similar analogy exists in the scriptures of India, citing the serpentine life force at the base of the spine, as described in this Discourse, and the spine itself referred to as meru-danda. Mt. Meru is the loftiest of mythological mountains; and danda, "a rod, a staff," is representative of the spine with its spiritual centers, the crest of which is referred to as the holy Meru, the highest center of divine consciousness. Many yogis honor this symbology by keeping among their sparse ascetic accoutrements a danda, staff, in recognition of the spine as the symbolic scepter of the soul's sovereign power over the kingdom of the body.
We must reascend, just as Moses, in the spiritual wilderness of silence in which all his desires were no more, lifted his soul from body consciousness into God-consciousness through the same path by which it had descended. Man's physical, astral, and causal bodies are tied together and work as one by a knotting of life force and consciousness in the seven cerebrospinal centers. In descending order, the final tie is a coiled knot at the base of the spine, preventing the ascension of consciousness into the heavenly astral kingdom. Unless one knows how to open this knot of astral and physical power, the life and consciousness remain attracted to the mortal realm, emanating outward into the body and sensory consciousness.
Most energy moves through space in a spiral form—a ubiquitous motif in the macrocosmic and microscopic architecture of the universe. Beginning with galactic nebulae—the cosmic birth-cradle of all matter—energy flows in coiled or circular or vortex-like patterns. The theme is repeated in the orbital dance of electrons around their atomic nucleus, and (as cited in Hindu scriptures of ancient origin) of planets and suns and stellar systems spinning through space around a grand center of the universe. Many galaxies are spiral-shaped; and countless other phenomena in nature—plants, animals, the winds and storms—similarly evidence the invisible whorls of energy underlying their shape and structure.
Kundalini and Chakras
Such is the "serpent force" (kundalini) in the microcosm of the human body: the coiled current at the base of the spine, a tremendous dynamo of life that when directed outward sustains the physical body and its sensory consciousness; and when consciously directed upward, opens the wonders of the astral cerebrospinal centers. When the soul, in its subtle sheaths of causal and astral bodies, enters physical incarnation at the time of conception, the entire body grows from the seed cell formed from the united sperm and ovum, beginning with the first vestiges of the medulla oblongata, brain, and spinal cord.
From its original seat in the medulla, the intelligent life energy of the astral body flows downward—activating the specialized powers in the astral cerebrospinal chakras that create and give life to the physical spine, nervous system, and all other bodily organs. When the work of the primal life force in creating the body is complete, it comes to rest in a coiled passage in the lowest, or coccygeal, center. The coiled configuration in this astral center gives to the life energy therein the terminology of kundalini or serpent force (from Sanskrit kundala, "coiled"). Its creative work completed, the concentration of life force in this center is said to be "sleeping" kundalini, for as it emanates outward into the body, continuously enlivening the physical region of the senses—of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, and of the earthbound physical creative force of sex—it causes the consciousness to become strongly identified with the delusive dreams of the senses and their domain of activity and desires.
Moses, Jesus, the Hindu yogis, all knew the secret of scientific spiritual life. They unanimously demonstrated that every person who is yet physically minded must master the art of lifting up the serpent force from sensory body consciousness in order to accomplish the first retracing of the inward steps toward Spirit.
Any saint of any religion who has attained God-consciousness has, in effect, withdrawn his consciousness and life force from the sense regions up through the spinal passage and plexuses to the center of God –consciousness in the brain, and thence into omnipresent Spirit. When one is sitting quietly and calmly, he has partially stilled the life force flowing out into the nerves, releasing it from the muscles; for the moment his body is relaxed. But his peace is easily disturbed by any noise or other sensation that reaches him, because the life energy that continues to flow outward through the coiled path keeps the senses operative. (p.269-265)