Of course, the physical organ that we call the heart, that ball of muscles responsible for circulating blood around the body, and which thereby keeps all the organism’s vital functions going, has no mystical significance. The positioning of the energy center does have significance, and when it is activated, it seems, from the senses, to occupy almost all the space within the chest cavity. At least, this is how we experience it, though this is only a projection of the physical body, and does not reflect all of the possibilities that are opened up by this center.
We will begin with what is almost common knowledge. Kundalini yoga identifies seven energy centers we may and must work on. Other systems (including Sufism) name a different number than seven centers or deny their existence altogether. This is not hugely important, actually, as the heart center is the most important thing in mystical work anyway.
In the works of poets, the heart is the main source of love, and they are always trying to make it a gift of their love. This has caused people to specifically associate the heart with all of their sensory experiences, and above all love. So-called spiritual sickness is also felt in the chest, rather than in the head. As far as these experiences are concerned, the mind is actively involved in their creation, but the actual energy of the feeling manifests itself in the chest—sometimes literally in the projection of the physical heart, but most often this happens via the center in the chest cavity.
Generally, adherents of theory of Kundalini Rising, whereby this powerful and mysterious energy passes through all seven centers from the lowest to the highest, make a lot of claims about the whole process of man’s spiritual transformation being largely mechanical. They say that once the Kundalini has risen to the next chakra and the chakra has been ignited, this guarantees irreversible spiritual changes in the person. That is to say, the main thing is to build up enough pressure in the Sushumna (the energy channel located in the projection of the spinal column), so that the Kundalini goes up as quickly as possible, and that is all there is to it. Of course adherents of this form of yoga must also cleanse that channel, and perform all kinds of practices that promote cleansing and ascension, but this does not change the essence of the theory. What we can say on the essence of this particular question is that energy centers exist objectively in and of themselves. These centers are connections between the different bodies of a person; furthermore, they perform the function of transformers of energy across the various planes. The contention that each chakra is linked to a corresponding body number is not entirely convincing—it is far more complex than this. Besides transforming energy, some centers also have the function of connection, and for mystical work by far the most important is the heart center. In a mysterious sense, this center is also the most important to the life of any human being. It should be said at this point that all centers are to some degree active in most people. They perform the function of transforming energy, though in most cases they perform it poorly because they are almost entirely blocked by the suppressed energy of desires and emotions. And, for example, liberating oneself from suppressed emotions by acknowledging and expressing them actively encourages the centers to return to their normal working condition.
What is important is that with the aid of specialized exercises and by creating the right conditions, the centers can be ignited quite quickly; and their susceptibility to the energy that flows through them becomes many times higher. On its own, though this “ignition” creates great opportunities for inner work, it cannot be an end in itself and does not signify that a person has reached some higher level. This achievement involves the technical aspects and possibilities of work, but is not an indicator of any kind of spiritual breakthrough. It is not all as simple as many would like it to be.
Sufis have always worked primarily on the fourth center, called the Anahata in Hinduism. For this, they changed the lataif—the practice of concentrating on the heart center and its “petals”, again, according to the commonly accepted Hindu description of the chakras. And this is what happens as a result—as soon as the heart center becomes active, when it begins to ignite, all the other centers are ignited by it. This effect is achieved over a period of time, but it happens to almost everyone who performs the practices with sincere devotion. And the order in which the centers are activated is not particularly important, considering that the heart is still the main center. At least, to begin with. Strange to say, among contemporary people, the first and second centers are the slowest to be switched on, which speaks to how mixed up we are now in our heads—or rather, our minds—and how much suppressed fear we now have. But this is not the most important thing either.
The possibilities of the centers are not limited to only one transformation of energy, after all any energy only ever exists in motion. Without motion it becomes matter, as we know. Therefore energy flows through all the centers, that is clear, but in addition they may receive energy from outside and also give off energy outwardly. It is clear that each of the centers works with different types of energy—different both in terms of the frequency of their vibrations and their “substance”.
The second center—svadhisthana—works, for example, with sexual energy and those energies that are directly or obliquely connected with human sexuality. This is where you get your fear, your sense of shame... That same deep-seated, suppressed fear that blocks the normal flow of energy in the second center, and the ability to reach orgasm (or gain gratification from sex) is lost, in both men and women. As I have written before, due to their inability to flow freely, suppressed emotional energies settle and crystallize in the physical body, causing the development of disorders and various different diseases.
The heart center is blocked most of all by sorrow, but the desires connected to it also have an impact on its sensitivity. In a mystical sense, the Heart thereby performs another vital function—the function of a connective channel. An activated heart center and an open Heart are far from the same thing. With activation comes a more intensive flow of energy in the center, it reignites, as it were, and increases its productivity. With the opening of the Heart, a conscious connection is established with the Higher Levels of Being, but this is a different situation altogether.
Strictly speaking, the connection of the Heart between God and man always exists. It is only that man is not normally aware of it, and this is why there is the illusion of the absence of any such connection, which comes with the illusion of one’s separation from existence. However, man is always receiving impulses of knowledge and will, in spite of his unconscious state in relation to them. Impulses of knowledge in a person’s ordinary state come in the form of intuitive insights, when they know exactly how they should act, yet there is no logical explanation for it. Impulses of will include both desires and the sudden incitement to action which also has no logical basis in terms of a person’s normal motivations.
Were the Heart of a person not so badly blocked, and were there not so much hideous confusion in the mind and in the senses, then these impulses would be perceived that much more easily and more often. As it is, they come so indiscriminately that they are of almost no use to the person. But we shall speak about this in a little more detail below.
Essentially, an open Heart is a doorway to another mode of being, and to a life in which there is no longer the illusion of separation. Thanks to the Heart, a person may constantly sense a connection with all other people—with almost all humanity. This is felt more closely than the connection with the Creator, for example. It is rather difficult to describe, but an analogy might look something like this—at the energy level, all people are connected in one huge net, every thread of which ends at the heart center of a separate person. With an open Heart, sensing, and subsequently the seeing this human Level of Being makes it an objective reality, while in the ordinary state this level, along with many others indeed, is inaccessible to people’s perception, and this allows them to live inside an illusion. Many people unconsciously feel that they are connected to others, but a confused feeling is worth little in comparison to certain knowledge. Because of this connection, large numbers of people can for brief periods become consumed by the same desires and feelings (for example, indignation), it just wouldn’t be proper to speak of it aloud.
Moreover, the true seeker must go much further in realizing the openness of his Heart. And that is where infinity opens up. There is no other way to put this: At some point, entering the Heart through concentration, a person may find their way to the infinite space. That is how it is perceived, and although it is impossible to travel through it, it is possible to immerse yourself into that feeling of infinity and stay to there for as long as the soul desires. Along with the feeling of infinity comes the feeling of freshness and peace, which form the permanent “setting” that is present in the open Heart.
And finally, at a certain point one experiences in the Heart the Presence and a connection to the Source. For the mystic, this connection is absolutely explicit and absolutely real. Indeed, its reality is confirmed all the time by the experience that comes through the process of communication with God. As soon as one becomes conscious of this connection, complete Surrender and the conscious submission of one’s life and one’s will to God become possible. And after this, the existence of the mystic becomes so mysterious that it is hard enough to talk about it, and without any kind of personal mystical experience simply impossible to believe.