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An Interview with Dr.

Jonn Mumford
by: Donald Kraig for the Llewellyn Journal Posted On: 2002-04-12
in this wide-ranging interview, internationally known author and
lecturer, Dr. Jonn Mumford, reveals some secrets of Tantra. He also
dispels many current myths on this topic.)

1) Dr. Mumford, your initiated name is Swami Anandakapila

Saraswati. Your first book, Psychosomatic Yoga, was published in
1962. At that time there was very little interest in the spirituality of
the East, although it exploded during that decade. Why do you think
the popularity of Eastern spirituality has grown over the past 40

The 1960s represented a tremendous opening of the Western mind

to concepts of Yoga, particularly through the popularisation of
Maharishi and his popular TM movement.
It is interesting to realize that the soil in America had already been
richly fertilized by Swami Vivekananda visiting at the turn of the 19th
The popular belief is that no-one, outside India, attempted to
practice or integrate Tantra? However in 1906 the "Tantrik Order In
America" was publishing the "International Journal Tantrik Order",
Vira Sadhana, American Edition, Supply Depots, Chicago, Seattle,
New Orleans; Tantrik Press, New York. This is a lush 200 page
journal, with a cover in rich red, gold and black, full of translations
of Tantric texts and articles eulogizing love. I first encountered
this book researching in Carl Llewellyn Weschkes private research
library at his home - and it filled me with awe. The history of this
now defunct order has in the last few years been the topic of several
The founder of the Tantric Order In America was a remarkable
individual who galvanized the American landscape with his exotic

Tantric teaching Oom the Omnipotent and you can find a

detailed history of this seminal figure in American Tantra at a fascinating
history by Hugh B. Urban, Ohio State University.
The amazing work of Pierre Arnold Bernard ("Oom the Omnipotent")
in the 1900s is such that he could correctly be called The Father of
American Yoga and Tantra. Dr Bernard, as he was also was called,
published by 1906 the International Journal of the Tantrik Order. He
truly is a hitherto unacknowledged Father of Yoga and Tantra in
His magnetism drew the intellectually elite and aristocratic from the
Eastern Seaboard of America to him including a collection of
celebrities and the wealthy Vanderbilt family.

This is a photograph appearing in Bernards Tantric Journal (1906)

in which the good Dr. is giving a demonstration of death trance
(Kali Mudra) with his pulse and heart stopped before a panel of

M.D.s. . Such demonstrations were unheard of outside India and

Bernard had purportedly travelled to India in the late 1800s. Not
until the late 1930s were reports published popularly of such
exploits. Paul Bruntons In Search of Secret Egypt reported the
Sufi, Mohammed Bey, performing equivalent exotic feats.
The Omnipotent Oom, with the patronage of the Vanderbilt family,
established the highly successful Clarkstown Country Club in 1918
which included many of the most famous and prestigious names in
America. Overseas visitors included Sir Paul Dukes, and indeed Sir
Paul was listed on the board of Directors in the early years.

A photo of a Bust residing at the very famous Clarkstown Country

Club and taken from Life at The Clarkstown Country Club,

Copyrighted 1935 by the Clarkstown Country Club (which went out

of business in the late 1940's).
This and other images are also used on the Vanderbilt University
website. (Information and Pictures
courtesy of Umeshanand and Veenanand, Kailash Center for
Personal Development, NY, New York.)
The opening statement on Vanderbilt University website devoted to
discussing Bernard sums it all up and you can discover, amongst
other things, that Bernard built a library of 7000 personal books at
the Clarkstown Country Club.
The argument that Bernard was really the Father of Tantra and
Yoga in America really gains credibility when his influence lead to
the emergence of Americas greatest Indologist.
This outstanding man was Pierre
Bernards nephew, Theos Bernard
Ph.D., an Indologist with a grasp of
practical Yoga technology exceeded by
none since or before. The bulk of Theos
Bernards work was done in the late
1930s early 1940s.
Unfortunately he was murdered in
India 1947 and thus became the
greatest loss in the tradition of
American Indologists and perhaps the
Dr. Theos Bernard M.A.,
most tragic loss to the world of Indology.
Ph.D., LL.B
Given the seeding of America into Eastern spirituality by Bernard
and his nephew
The key to the present awakening and search for meaning through
Yoga probably started in the 1970s with a growing awareness that
materialism and consumerism represented little solace.
Consider the following to statements!
Both statements are true - depending on the context.

Our Western attitude, at a superficial level, favours "nothing

matters" - except the pursuit of wealth and power; consumerism has
become almost the sole object and goal of life. Our way of living
reinforced by relentless media bombardment, moulds us as
voracious, bipedal eaters of "goods and chattels". We all are also
"sellers", of either goods or services, so we can maintain our role as
I admit this is a generalization and, in moderation, capitalism is not
necessarily such a bad thing; the problem is we have become so
extreme in the pursuit of materialism-and this is by no means a 21st
century observation!
"Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be
worshipped." -- Calvin Coolidge, speech, Boston, 11 June 1928
In Hinduism, the achievement of physical security (Artha) is but
one of four responsibilities, or "Chatars" enjoined upon each Hindu;
the other three are Dharma, Kama and Moksha. These are
respectively; duty to ancestors, parents, children and society
(Dharma); the pursuit of emotional satisfaction (Kama);
contemplative meditation leading to self-realisation (Moksha).
At first consideration you may think these four aims are not very
special; indeed, if you considered America a primarily Christian
society, you may believe that this is just what Western Christian
countries are about. The difficulty is, as we have modernized, we
are using the pursuit of physical security (Artha) as a tool for
achieving the other three aims - and this just doesn't work!
Poverty is evident in India but not impoverishment of the being nor is to be poor in India synonymous with destitution and
decadence. The Pujas, (rituals of Hinduism) sustain each individual's
dignity and ensure a meaningful existence within the whole - good
"old fashioned values" that we have lost in a sea of technology and
economic obsession. Do not misunderstand me as implying India
does not have problems - they certainly have, but they seem more
fixable than our present Western dilemma.

2) That first book has now been massively expanded as a new title:
A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook. There are lots of books out there
about chakras and Kundalini. How is this one different?
The success of A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook rests with much
original material, exercises, and techniques that have never been so
explicitly expressed.
The matrix from which the subject matter comes is based upon a
lifetime of my personal initiation by Indian teachers, classical
training and my affiliation with traditional Indian orders.
I have clearly stated that correlating the Chakras with physical
entities is really a clumsy Occidental tendency to find physical
explanations for abstractions about metaphysical realities.
The value of my book is that through working on the techniques and
exercises students come to clearly understand this difference and
that so-called location of the Chakras is really a switch- point to
the realm of the Chakra and not the Chakra itself.
I define a Chakra as possessing the same qualities as the Euclidian
point i.e. a chakra, like the point, has locus or location but not
dimensionality however working with this concept gives rise to
concrete materializations.
This is rather similar to the Architect whose plans exists in his head,
are translated to paper, beginning with the point or first stroke,
and ultimately crystallize into an objective three-dimensional
skyscraper or installation.
3) I note that there is information in your book which I have not
seen in other popular books on the subject. For example, on page
87, you show a diagram which includes two extra chakras, the Surya
Chakra and the Chandra Chakra. What is the purpose of these
chakras and how can the people reading this interview use them?

Surya (Solar) Chakra and Chandra (Lunar) Chakra are really psychic
representations of the Liver (the largest heat producing organ) and
the Spleen (the source of stored red blood cells and the origin of
some complex immune responses in the early years of our life).
Before I explain this it is best to understand that the most
traditional form of Tantra conceptualises seven primary chakras,
based on the seven classical Grahas or planets of Ancient India.
Some systems are designed around nine psychic centers by including
the non-physical nodes of the moon, Rahu and Ketu, which are
recognized entities in Jyotish.
The enclosed photograph of a rare painting is from the late Dr.
Swami Gitanandas wall paintings at his first Ashram, which is now a
Madam or graveyard for Tamil saints.

The Seven classical Chakras of Tantra

are depicted here and we can learn much from this encapsulation.
The serpents on either side represent the Ida and Pingala psychic
flows that are simultaneously coiled and straight channels
something I demonstrate in my courses to students.

Looking at the left hand seven-headed serpent reveals the secret

that the main contact points for all the chakras is really subsumed in
Sahasrara or the seventh chakra.
The pyramidal formation represents the ascent of Shakti from the
base to a fine point of concentration at the top. This is the original
Pyramid Power secret for the Sadhaka engaged in Om-Kara kriyaa
TM forms a pyramid with his body thus moving energy from below to
Individual systems developed that enumerate many more Chakras
which are really minor (in some cases not so minor!) or sub
My first Guru, the late Dr. Swami Maharishi Gitananda Giri, taught a
system of twelve chakras and these are based on the traditional
twelve signs (Lagnas or ascendant signs) and houses (Bhavas) of
Jyotish or Vedic Astrology.

Dr. Swami Maharishi Gitananda Giri Mahasamadhi 1993

When we examine the photograph of another rare picture taken
from Swamijiis Ashram wall showing the five head Chakras in his
system we can gain an understanding of meaning within meaning!
This painting exists in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, close to his burial or
Samadhi site. As you may well guess the symbology of this beautiful
painting is extremely complex.

At Bihar school of Yoga we utilize a scheme of eleven chakras based

on the dynamic Kriya Yoga taught there.
We should realise when talking about Chakras that the Tantric
concepts are intrinsically intertwined with Ayurvedic (Indian system
of Medicine) and Indian Astronomical or Jyotish schools.
Indeed even the most popular depictions of the yantras or
geometrical shapes allocated to the Padmas are based on
astronomical observations BCE by the ancient Hindu sages. Such
observations also formed the basis for the number of Dalas or petals
allocated to each Chakra.

The practical application of the Chakra mapping is exemplified by the

further enumeration of 108 (South India) Marmas or vital points
utilized by Indian Martial Artists (Kalarippayattu is the tradition
which is said to be the origin of all martial arts) and practitioners of
Indian acupressure and acupuncture (Bhedana Karma)
When discussing Chakras it is also important to understand that any
given chakra has multiple names and often Chakras exist in
combination with sub chakras.
For example the Manipura Chakra with its location between the
navel and the tip of the breast bone is also called the Nabhi
(navel) Chakra and Surya Chakra on the right along with the twin
Chandra Chakra on the left are really extensions or ramifications of
the force field represented by Manipura Chakra.
So at a therapeutic level the locations of Surya Chakra and Chandra
Chakra represent key marmas or vital points which if massaged can
benefit respectively liver and splenic malfunctions. This is
something that is best left to Ayurvedic and Yogic specialists who
give such treatments.
However those that peruse Chapter 14 in A Chakra & Kundalini
Workbook will quickly discover a Tantric secret regarding what we
might term psychic acupuncture: i.e. Bhedana is a mental
piercing of the focused consciousness, as well as a physical piercing,
and thus an etheric Rose can be used to penetrate Surya Chakra
and Chandra Chakra to balance out disorders associated with these
Marma points.
As a passing comment it might be noted that Chandra Chakra
became the Spleen Chakra of the Theosophists under the direction
of Bishop Leadbeater.

4) On page 175 you discuss the four brainwave states, alpha through
delta, which relate to levels of consciousness. As you know, there

are machines, which flash lights into your eyes and sounds into your
ears in an effort to help you reach these levels, especially the deeper
levels. These machines cost hundreds of dollars. Yet your book
claims that the same thing can be done through the practice of Yoga
Nidra. The book has instructions for this practice, but can you give
us the theory behind Yoga Nidra and how it works?
Yoga Nidra is the most stunning practice because it moves the
attention so rapidly through the body that you do not have time to
get bored or restless thus the brain wave patterns spontaneously
change from active, agitated Beta Wave to creative, nurturing Alpha
and Theta Wave oscillations.
Understanding the implications of Yoga Nidra, can best be
understood from the following research paper reproduced with the
kind permission of Bihar School of Yoga, Monghyr, Bihar South-East
India. This is early research done by the University branch of Bihar

. Brain Electrical Mapping During Yoga Nidra

Prof. Stoami Mangaltheertham (A. K Ghosh), Ph.D. Head of
Department of Applied Sciences, Bihar Yoga Bharati, Alfungff, India.
Yoga Nidra is a yogic practice developed by Paramahamsa
Satyananda and promoted by the Bihar School of Yoga. It is a
systematic method of inducing deep mental, emotional and physical
relaxation. Yoga Nidra is usually performed in the yoga pose
Shavasana (supine with the arms to the sides and palms upwards),
but it is often performed with the subject seated.
The first characteristic feature of yoga Nidra is the systematic
rotation of awareness through the different parts of the body. This
originated from the tantric practice of Nyasa, in which a seated yogi
would, in ritual fashion, place or feel specific mantras (sound
vibrations) at different parts of the body.
The second feature of the practice is a period of visualization,
usually of symbols or scenes selected by the yoga teacher from a

standard series set out in the Bihar School of Yoga publication Yoga
Nidra. Instructions are normally given by a yoga teacher or a tape
recording. With experience the subject can give instruction mentally
to him or herself.
During the normal decent from wakefulness to deep sleep the brain
wave frequency changes from fast beta waves of more than 14
cycles per second, to alpha waves of 7-14 cps, then to theta of 4-7
cps and lastly to delta of 0-4 cps.
The difference between sleep and yoga Nidra is claimed to be that in
yoga Nidra an intermediate platform of alpha wave predominance
associated with relaxation, is created between the beta wave
patterns of the wakeful state and the slow delta rhythm of deep
sleep. The result of this is said to be profound relaxation of mental,
emotional and muscular tension.
It was our intention to verify whether these changes did take place,
reasoning that if they did, then a corresponding alteration of EEG
should be detected.
The study took place in January 1988 at the Charing Cross Medical
School in London, UK. 34 female subjects, all right-handed, were
divided into three groups:
Group I consisted of experienced yoga practitioners selected from a
pool of volunteers associated with Swami Pragyamurti of the
Satyananda Yoga Center in London. Group 2 subjects consisted of
Charing Cross medical students, with no previous experience of
meditation or yoga; randomly selected.
Group 3 was a 'control' group of medical students drawn from the
same pool as group 2.
All subjects were studied while seated in a sound attenuated, light
controlled neurophysiologic chamber (Faraday cage). Data was
taken by means of a Brain Electrical Activity Mapping (BEAM)
instrument, manufactured by Neuroscience Pty Ltd, USA. This
instrument transforms brain electrical activity from the three

dimensional curved surface of the scalp and cortex, to a two

dimensional color image on a computer screen, with an outline of
the physical head at the center. Input was derived from 26
electrodes on the scalp.
At the commencement of each session subjects were asked to sit
quietly for five minutes with their eyes open whilst basal data was
recorded on computer disc. Subjects were then asked to gaze at a
target and suppress their eye blinking until one minute of artefactfree recording was established. verbal communication ceased and
the lighting was dimmed.
Group I (experienced yogis) and group 2 (inexperienced) then
listened to a tape recording of a yoga Nidra practice with the eyes
closed. The practice had four sections: progressive awareness of the
parts of the right side of the body from the fingers, through the arm,
to the legs and toes; followed by awareness of the left side (100
seconds duration each side); then awareness of the face, chest,
back, abdomen and thighs (155 seconds duration); and finally a
visualization process which included images of walking through the
mountains, on a beach, and returning to home (255 seconds
Group 3 listened to a 'control' tape by the same speaker, using the
same tone and rate of speech. The subject matter concerned the
physiology of meditation.
After listening to the tape, subjects were again asked to sit quietly
while basal data was recorded. Subjects who had listened to the
yoga Nidra tape were questioned as to the nature of the
visualizations in order to determine whether the subjects had fallen
While practicing yoga Nidra both group I and group 2 subjects
showed a normal increase in the alpha activity in the eyes closed
state; their, at the beginning of the rotation of consciousness, there
was an increase in the alpha activity on both sides of the brain; by
the time the subjects entered the visualization, this alpha activity
had spread further. At this stage, delta acti,,itN, appeared in the

right hemisphere of the brain. Gradually this delta activity became

more conspicuous in both hemispheres, representing a very calm
state by the end of the visualization and yoga Nidra.
The emergence of slow-rhythm delta waves during visualization
showed the brain passed into a state electrically equivalent to deep
sleep. However, most of the subjects with yoga experience (group
1) remained perfectly aware throughout the entire experimental
period, as shown by the fact that they had a good recall of the
scenes from the period of visualization. The study also revealed that
yoga a-a brings simultaneous activation and relaxation in both
hemispheres of the brain, which tinder normal circumstances seldom
operate with such balance.
By the end of the visualization a synchronized, very slow and low
activity of the brain in both hemispheres was clearly recorded. This
suggests that yoga Nidra is a 'sleepless sleep' because we enter the
state equivalent to sleep while maintaining clear awareness.
c Saraswati Swami Satyananda, Yoga Nidra, Bihar School of Yoga,
Munger, India 1984.
c Anon B.K. et al. 'Some aspects of EEG studies on yogis', EEG and
Clin. Neurophysiol. 1961; 13; 452-456.
5) Perhaps the best-known association of colors with the chakras,
moving from root to crown, is red, orange, yellow, green, blue,
indigo, violet. However, on page 194, you give the colors yellow,
silver, red, blue, black, white, and red. Why the differences?
Because the traditional chakras are not colored according to the
ascending color spectrum that is really a Western insertion not
without some merit, as the chakras represent an ascending
hierarchy of vibration mirrored by infrared to ultraviolet.
The traditional colors seen on the inner plane are according to the
elements dominating each chakra: e.g. Yellow is the element Earth
and is foundational for the growth of Muladhara.

8) Dr. Mumford, you are probably most famous for your book,
Ecstasy through Tantra, one of the most popular books on the
subject today. You are certainly an initiated Tantric. For most
people, Tantra equates with extended and spiritualized sexuality.
However, in this book the focus is on personal development,
spirituality, healing, etc. Would you call this book Tantric?
Yes, A Chakra & Kundalini Workbook is really a bridge between
Eastern and Western Systems.
The front cover is a depiction of this blend as it shows
the basic Chakra map of Tantra superimposed over
the Tree of Life glyph of Kabala. This is the mystery
of turning 7 into 10 and 10 back to 7. Close
observation shows that the first two Chakras,
governed by Earth and Water, have parallels with the
two lower Sephira: Malkoot and Yesode.
By pushing the Sephirot together, on each side pillar,
into the central pillar
you will see how the 7 Chakras emerge.
This demonstrates a geometrical and conceptual
equivalence between Western Magic and Eastern
Tantra in regard to psychic mapping of human.
This diagram, is extracted from a prototype painted
for me in 1977 at the Gnostica Festival, St Paul, by
Margery Yeow. Margerys original creation was used
for many years by Llewellyn publishers as a front
cover gracing Israel Regardiess A Garden of
A generalization that might be made about the
similarities concerns the remarkable recognition in
both systems of psychic centers or key energy
spheres within the subtle structure of humans.