I wrote previously about the seven chakra system, but there are several variations possible. I currently work with an expanded system of nine chakras which includes additional chakras above and below the original seven.
The seven-chakra system is the most common one, and as I understand it, also the most common one in the Hindu roots, but there are many, many different expansions and contractions and other variations. This is complicated by the fact that in Hindu views chakras as energy centers existed in other parts of the body, like major joints (think hips, shoulders, knees) and the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Some systems of explaining or understanding the chakras include some or all of these.
Many of the variations on the chakra system want to adjust the number of chakras in order to match some other important or sacred number besides seven, especially nine or ten. At least a couple of different ways to attribute or associate the chakras with the Kabbalistic system of sephiroth exist, for example. (Creating coherence between two fundamentally different symbol systems from two fundamentally different cultures is a common problem of syncretic or multi-source spiritual and religious work – but I’ll save that conversation for another time.)
Unlike additional chakras found within various locations in the body, the addition of a “transpersonal” chakra (described as floating above the head) is, as far as I know, wholly Western.
Over time I have found it more productive to work with a nine chakra system which I was introduced to by Ivo Dominguez Jr in his book Spirit Speak. This system includes an ancestral chakra below the feet and a transpersonal chakra above the head. (Please note that the descriptions below are my own, and not Ivo’s, though I give thanks for his teaching.)
The Ancestral Chakra
The ancestral chakra, below the root chakra, is lower than the body by about 8 to 12 inches, and thus is anchored firmly in the physical world which supports us. In my experience, this chakra is a place of connection to the immanent spirit, or spirit made manifest in the physical world. This is the location of connection to the land base, to the spirits of place, and to our sources of stability and grounding.
As the name implies, this chakra also has a connection with the past as that which anchors and grounds us in time as well as place. This is a connection to the ancestors, meaning both our direct ancestors, known and unknown, but also the deep unconscious which extends beyond ourselves.
This chakra is associated with the color black, and it is important to understand that nearly all of the work that goes on here will be highly symbolic and instinctive; this is a space that responds well to rhythm and imagery, but doesn’t really make sense of language.
The Transpersonal Chakra
The transpersonal chakra is similarly located outside the body, floating about 8 to 12 inches above the head. I would almost rather describe this chakra as the transcendent, because in counterpoint to the ancestral chakra’s connection to immanent spirit, this uppermost chakra is connected to spirit as it transcends and exists outside of space, time, and matter.
The name transpersonal reflects the fact that since all beings are connected to spirit in this transcendent sense, working with spirit in this way strengthens the connection between oneself and other beings. But as I mentioned above, the ancestral or immanent chakra is also “transpersonal,” meaning that it connects us to others. The big difference is whether we are working with our connections to others as immanent, inside the physical, material world, or outside, in the transcendent sense. I think both are equally important but different ways of working with our connections to spirit and to each other.
This transcendent connection is the realm of the Higher Self or Deep Self, if you work with the Three Selves image. (More on that at another time!) This is the area of the superego, the wisdom that takes into account the individual but also seeks to take into account many individuals, and more than one time and place, in finding what is good or right or best. This is where we usually think of gods and goddesses residing, as opposed to the land spirits or cthonic and immanent manifestations of spirit.
This chakra is associated with clear or white light and can be a source of tremendously energizing feelings.
Personally, I like the way this nine chakra system extends outside my physical body and includes explicit connections with the immanent and the transcendent world around me. It reminds me to check how my grounding and my connection to the upper Powers are functioning when I’m assessing my internal state, and gives me additional tools in working with my metaphysical understanding of well-being and healing.
One particular benefit is that a nine chakra system divides neatly into three groups of three. This particularly makes sense with the idea of a tripartite self – the lowest three chakras represent the Younger Self, the middle three chakras are the Talking Self, and the upper three chakras are the Higher Self or Deep Self, to use Starhawk’s terminology. Even if you don’t use that image of the self, the three groups do seem to fall together and it can be helpful to examine how each group of three interacts and balances itself.
Ultimately, whether you want to characterize these connections above and below as additional specific chakras or not, they are natural extensions of the seven chakra system which can help us pay attention to our grounding and centering, to our connection with the divine, and other parts of our metaphysical makeup. Spending time trying out these ideas and deciding whether to incorporate them into your own practice can be very rewarding.