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The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga

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Who is Kundalini, the Serpent Power? Mythologically, she is an aspect of the Shakti (power or energy) and consort of Shiva. Philosophically, she is the creative energy that eventually forms mind and matter, and comes to rest in the lowest form of matter. She is consciousness: the power of matter to know itself. In terms of Tantric practice, she is the mysterious power that resides in the human body and can be awakened through suitable techniques: special meditations and yogic practices of a particularly powerful nature. She is The Goddess, the ultimate heart of many areas of Eastern religion, not only of Hinduism.
This volume, by the foremost student of Shaktic and Tantric thought, "Arthur Avalon," is the prime document for the study and application of Kundalini yoga. The author covers the philosophical and mythological nature of Kundalini; the esoteric anatomy associated with it; the study of matrass — the chakras, or psychic centers in the human body and their progressive awakening; and the yoga associated with this. This introduction, some 300 pages of unique material, is followed by translations (with long analytical commentary) of two important Tantric documents: The Description of the Six Chakras and the briefer Five-fold Footstool. By working through these documents the reader can acquire the essence of Kundalini yoga.
For centuries this material was a closely guarded secret in India; even native scholars were not allowed access to it. In fact, it was so restricted that many Indologists refused to recognize its existence. It took half a lifetime of searching by Sir John Woodroffe to locate the key documents and further years to find a master able and willing to evoke from the cryptic texts a modus for study and application. The result of Woodroffe's work, however, was one of the most important developments in Indian thought, a key to many areas of art and religion that had hitherto been locked. It is also a work that has great interest to Westerners who wish to acquire for themselves the validity of the ultimate experience.

545 pages, Paperback

Published June 1, 1974

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Arthur Avalon

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Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews
Profile Image for Halliday.
23 reviews5 followers
September 6, 2008
In the tangled history of lies and counter-factualizations and blasphemies that is the "Western" creation of the "Eastern" creation of "Tantra," Sir John Woodroffe aka "Arthur Avalon" turns out to be, oddly, one of the most sincere and sympathetic figures, neither attempting to read Indian religion as sex-mad decadence nor as mystical hoodwinking, nor allowing himself to be shocked by his own thoughts. Would that we all could be so gentle.
Profile Image for George.
189 reviews20 followers
March 30, 2009
Sir John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon) has written several incredible volumes on yoga. Considered a "masterwork" even by Indians, these books offer an incredible wealth of information. The Serpent Power is a classic of Kundalini Yoga.
11 reviews10 followers
February 21, 2009
This sounds like it ought to be one of Llewellyn's dodgier offerings, but is actually a serious translation by an Edwardian gentleman scholar (legal name Sir John Woodroffe) of two Sanskrit yoga texts and associated commentary, both describing chakras and associated concepts. Avalon's introductory chapters are longer than the works themselves, and I would advise readers to skip them or read the texts first and then return to them, as I found them considerably harder to follow than the texts themselves. These chapters contain some mild Orientalism, but nothing too egregious, and some ambiguity as to whether or not Avalon and/or his informants think chakras, nadis and the like are to be understood as existing in the physical body, in a subtle one (in Western occultism usually known as the astral body) or as visualisations projected onto the body by the practitioner in order to better appreciate Vedanta philosophy. The book wasn't quite what I had expected - it was on a list of further reading in one of my Sivananda books, and I'd expected it to be in similar vein, i.e. presenting an introduction to the subject in terms suitable for a beginner. It's actually quite a tricky philosophical text, or possibly anatomy text, depending on which view you take of the aforementioned ambiguity. I found it comparable in difficulty to some of the books on Aquinas I've read lately, particularly Avalon's own sections.
Profile Image for IAO131.
Author 8 books63 followers
December 3, 2014
For how old this book is, Woodroffe (a.k.a. Arthur Avalon) does a really good job at being informative and well-researched, citing sources often and yet also elucidating concepts in fairly clear language. Recommended for those who want a more 'traditional' understanding of Hindu tantra and kundalini which draws from Upanishads & tantras (rather than the typical modern teacher who appears to be making up everything as they go along).
Profile Image for Vipin Goyal.
Author 11 books121 followers
December 24, 2013
Sir John Woodroffe or Arthur Avalon was a scholar and he translated complicated Sanskrit texts into English with a commentary. This book is a milestone in the western attempt to understand Indian mysticism. It explains fundamentals of Kundalini Yoga.
1 review1 follower
Currently reading
January 10, 2019
I am really sorry to say but I could not even open the book and you say I have read.
Please make the site more user friendly for old people like me , I am 76 yrs old.
Thanks anyway,
Profile Image for theresatya.
4 reviews
Want to read
December 16, 2008
This book is very dense and a slow read, however, based on other readers' reviews, extremely valuable and worth working through. I have put it down and will pick it up after I read The Origins and History of Consciousness.
Profile Image for Sonal Goel.
5 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2020
This book is like a lecture series, only more difficult.
each chapter is like a standalone thesis, which is exactly what i enjoy.
beautiful book, but its a slow burn.
1 review1 follower
August 28, 2015
A extensive thesis on the subject of kundalini tantra. The book covers the subject in more of a theoretical approach and offers a lot of references from ancient Indian writings. One of the oldest but live description of the journey and experiences of the author.
Only i felt that more illustrations could have been added. This book is for serious readers, novice may get easily distracted reading it.
Profile Image for Erin.
23 reviews5 followers
Want to read
July 23, 2007
I have this book and was supposed to read it for a class, but never did. Maybe I should pick it up.
188 reviews4 followers
January 24, 2021
This book I think I read in some article and started reading it. Initially before starting, I was wondering how a english author could write our core spirituality (So called Vedam secrets) well. After I started reading the book, I felt really easy and lucid to know the concepts. For me too, these concepts are not very familiar ones, so for me kinda this generation, this book completely gave a great insight since the author focussed completely on logical and reasoning practices which really makes sense completely for this generation mindset. The author lived in India considerable amount of years and he was also a judge. His analysis, trying to relate from various upinishads and samhitais were outstanding and also used appropriate sanskrit terms and verses wherever it is significantly needed..

I really loved this book as a spiritual aspirant and would recommend for any spiritual aspirant who is at the gate of the paradise.

Great work author avalon (woodroffe). Kudos!!!
2 reviews
November 2, 2022
Thankfully, this is not processed through a western lense and is a proper translation of the the text Sat Chakra Nirupana. I wish that there were the Sanskrit lines along for reference but I'm happy that such a tough one has been translated for the common folk. It's definitely not an easy read, it's heavy and it's like I'm back in school, studying :) not complaining, I'm enjoying it.
Profile Image for Daniela Pandozi.
Author 3 books6 followers
March 9, 2017
Un saggio che non può certo mancare nella nostra libreria.
Fondamentale per chi si occupa di yoga o vuole conoscere il pensiero indiano. E, parlando dei Chakra dei quali tutti ormai parlano ma nessuno sa di fatto cosa sono, qui c'è il testo originale.
Profile Image for Jessica.
80 reviews10 followers
August 1, 2007
this book translates two important tantric texts. in addition to the primary source material, the author provides long analytical commentary about mantras, chakras and other elements of kundalini yoga.

she is the aspect of creative energy that eventually forms mind and form, and comes to rest in the lowest form of matter. she is consciousness: the power of matter to know itself. she is the goddess.

it seems silly that as a woman, that i have avoided truly studying this topic for so long.

Profile Image for Richard.
693 reviews21 followers
June 13, 2020
Another reread in the age of Covid. I cant believe that i last read this over 20 years ago.
Profile Image for Sujin Balakumaran.
16 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2016
Beautifully narrated by Sir Woodrofe
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
December 28, 2022
Unreadable… And no I'm not a beginner in this genre, long practitioner of Yoga and i have studied Buddhism & Yoga for a long time.

This book is just a jibber jabbish of Yogic terms.
Profile Image for Mario.
4 reviews2 followers
August 21, 2017
An essay of extraordinary depth and precision on tantric scriptures and symbolism. Not an easy reading but definitely recommended to those who want to achieve an in depth knowledge on such fashionable subjects as Kundalini and Chackras.
Displaying 1 - 20 of 20 reviews

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