Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna are three nerve currents flowing in and around the spinal cord of every human being. These Tibetan-Hindi terms are presented here to clarify western alchemical terms. Ida and Pingala currents are exact equivalents to the Hebrew, alchemical 'Lily of the Valley' and 'Rose of Sharon.' The spinal column itself is called the 'stick of Brahma,' symbolically represented in the Book of Tarot by the staff held in the left hand of the Hermit. All three currents are symbolized by the 'Caduceus of Mercury,' where two serpents entwine about a staff, crowned with a winged pine cone, the pineal gland. Modern medicine has adopted this symbol and distorted it, but it has long since lost its original meaning and true import in mainstream medicine. We cannot adequately describe any one of these terms without taking into consideration the other two. The paperback edition of The Chakras by C.W. Leadbeater contains a brief description from Madame Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine:
"The Trans-Himalayan school...locates Sushumna, the chief seat of these three Nadis, in the central tube of the spinal cord...Ida and Pingala are simply the sharps and flats of that Fa of human nature,...which, when struck in a proper way, awakens the sentries on either side, the spiritual Manas and the physical Kama, and subdues the lower through the higher. It is the pure Akasha that passes up Sushumna; its two aspects flow in Ida and Pingala. These are three vital airs, and are symbolized by the Brahmanical thread. They are ruled by the Will. Will and Desire are the higher and lower aspects of one and the same thing. Hence the importance of the purity of the canals...From these three a circulation is set up, and from the central canal passes into the whole body. Ida and Pingala play along the curved wall of the cord in which is Sushumna. They are semi-material, positive and negative, sun and moon, and start into action the free and spiritual current of Sushumna. They have distinct paths of their own, otherwise they would radiate all over the body."1
Note the caution of purity by Madame Blavatsky. Attempting to raise Kundalini prior to sufficient physical and moral health is inviting disaster; more accurately a form of insanity due to the polarization of energy through one or more of the immature force centers. Leadbeater's book first appeared in 1927. Secrecy was still the order of the day, so the color descriptions of these spiritual nerve currents were a deliberate blind to the uninformed of those times. In fact, the whole of that book is quite enlightening and instructive save for the blinds in all color attributions of the nerve currents and chakras. The alchemical tradition hints a more accurate intimation with attributions of the Lily and the Rose. The secret still remains secret, however, in spite of the color arrangements; for one cannot raise the Serpent Power save through enlightenment which comes from a source much higher and deeper within. The best alchemical books in the Hebrew language are in the Bible, and the creme de la creme of those is the Song of Songs or Canticles. The first chapter describes the lightning flash of illumination with: “Let Him kiss me with kisses from His Mouth.” From this comes the preparation work for raising Sushumna. The flash brings one into “The Father's House where the King sits at His table.” Enlightenment comes not at the end of our work, but at the beginning. When the internal and external stages are prepared by moral and physical health and reverence for the Almighty, the next phase of unfoldment may only be given by The Father Himself, through His Grace.
In the first verse of the second chapter He declares Himself to the aspirant: “I am a Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the Valleys.” Kundalini is raised. The rest of the book explains further the great mysteries of the Alchemical Process toward total union with The One that may only be fully understood after the raising of the Rose and Lily. Madame Blavatsky's quotation contains a phrase, “struck in the proper way,” which refers to breathing exercises. The indrawn breath is imagined circling downward about the column and 'striking' the lotus Saturn Chakra. The proper discipline for this procedure is explained in Swami Vivekananda’s Raja-Yoga. A better description of a safe and sane method for the stimulation of Ida and Pingala we could not find anywhere. In the network of the sympathetic nervous system, Ida refers to the left-hand nerve current, as Pingala corresponds to the right side. Below is a partial list of other expressions for these dualities.
Alch. Silver Alch. Gold
White Work Red Work
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1 Leadbeater, C. W., The Chakras. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 1974, pg. 31.