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The Feminine as the Initiator

Goddess Tara, 16th Century Tibet

"Because the universe is placed within her womb, it has the form of Kuṇḍalini... When, out of her own freedom, she wishes to display the extent of duality, she... assuming the [limited] subjectivity of the body etc... irradiates in every direction by means of whatever is ‘blue’, ‘pleasant’ etc. Then again, intending to bring the universe to rest in the self alone, she brings pressure to bear on the ‘seed’ (bīja) in order to separate the oil (rasa) from the husk; i.e. by a process of reducing the subjectivity which derives from the body etc. she draws out the essence of supreme consciousness." - Sri Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta I have often spoken of the value and worth of the animus in the journey towards consciousness and awareness for a woman, and how the penetration of the animus principle, is fundamental in her movement upwards. It can be internal animus, but, he is usually, best triggered by an external man who embodies the higher expressions of the animus or masculine principle. The same dynamic can be seen in spiritual traditions in which a woman on the path, has a male teacher, and she ascends on the path, by her devotion to him and openness towards his influence.

Many traditions that may be described as "left-hand" traditions, in a sense that they defy many social conventions and religious orthodoxy, often emphasise the importance of the feminine principle on the path towards spiritual realisation. In many of such traditions, the initiation into the mystery, happens through the feminine, which, of course, is often, an actual, living woman, who embodies and has actualised the feminine principle of the Divine. This especially is significant in tantric traditions, especially those of Shaivite and Shakta lineages.


The Eternal Love

Nepalese figurine of Parvati

"Like the fat that keeps a lamp burning, I lubricate the senses of living beings with my own sap of consciousness." - Lakshmi Tantra

Contemplation on the letters, their form, inner meaning and significance, is a part of many traditions. Sufi doctrine Hurufism, is based entirely on the mysticism of the letters, Kabbalah knows a similar practice, and tantric traditions are no different.

According to Vedanta, the Ultimate Reality is "Tat Vam Asi" or "Thou art That", but, Kashmiri Shaivites, say, that the Reality is "Aham" or "I". This is because, "A" is the first phoneme of Sanskrit alphabet, and "Ha" is the final. The pratyahara rule claims that the first and the last, contain everything in between, so Aham represents the entire Reality. Aham is the heart, or the innermost Reality of Shiva. His inner Reality and his supreme mantra. This reality and mantra are identical to Shakti. Her highest expression in Trika tradition is as Kalasankarshini, who consumes the time within herself. She is often portrayed as simply a flame above the head of Guhyakali.

The letter A, which as is said, is the first phoneme, represents Shiva. The last of the sixteen vowels, visarga, in which the two dots appear in the orthography, represents the union of Shiva and Shakti. This moment of their union, is when the entire reality comes into existence. From the play of their love making (krida), the whole world came to be. They are not separate, the entire reality, is the result of their eternal union. So even using the word "union" here, may not be entirely accurate, because it implies a duality. The separation is the only illusion. Ibn Arabi says: Those who go astray say union (ittiḥād) (mā qāla bil ittiḥād illā ahlul ilḥād)".

When Ibn Arabi contemplates on lunar mansions, and Divine Names and letters associated with them, he assigns the first lunar mansion, Al - Sharatain, with the letter of Alef & Hamza. The Divine Attribution he assigns it, is The First Intellect, but the Attribute is The Divine Essence. In his cosmology, the Divine Essence is seen as the feminine principle, and Intellect as the masculine. Hamza is a glottal stop in Arabic alphabet, and Alef is a letter that stands upright. The glottal stop is the moment of silence, the breath in, before the breath out. If one is to look from Hamza, the vertical line or the Intellect is the projection of the Essence, but looking from the line, the point (Hamza), is the manifestation, or continuation of the Intellect. The message is, that they are never split. The Intellect is Essence, and Essence is Intellect. The breath in, is the breath out. This letter embodies all others. Just like the Shaivite Aham does.

This also reflects, a common Sufi metaphor of the "dance of atoms", or how at every moment, atoms engage in a dance, a love making, and that everything is an offspring of father atoms and mother atoms engaging in a loving play.

In the Tantric context mentioned here, every spiritual tradition is also, a part of that embrace. The non - dual and dual alike. Dual traditions are seen as good enough, but only the non - duality, offers the fullness of the spiritual bliss, and therefore, is considered the best path.


The Fluid of the Goddess

"The secret of all scriptures, the supreme secret of oral tradition is on the lips of yogini... The yogini is the womb from which the enlightened yogi is born, and her mouth, from which issues the tradition, is the sacred yoni. As the womb of creation is the lower mouth (adhovaktra) which is the essence of the kaula doctrine." - The Canon of Saivagama

Kaula is a doctrine in tantric Shaivism and Shaktism, deeply connected to the Shiva and Shakti. Tryambaka was a guru of the non - dualist Shaiva traditions. He had a daughter, Ardhatryambakā, and Kaula is considered to be her lineage. Since the lineage itself is founded by a woman, it gives special significance to the women in the practice itself.

The initiation ceremony, found in the text of Tantrāloka, describes an intricate ritual in which, the disciple is blindfolded, as he stands above a yantra on which various yoginis and their lineages (kaulas, or spiritual families) are represented. Once the disciple is called to do it, he drops the flower on the floor. The place on the yantra, on which the flower drops, is his spiritual family or lineage. By doing this, the disciple is "absorbed" inside a goddess. She takes him inside of herself to make him, her hero (vira), but, he also, absorbs the goddess, as she now, gives him all the power (shakti). The greatest power is the ananda, or bliss, which is the ultimate gift of the goddess.

It is the goddess who initiates a man. The goddess is said to be fierce and free, she is the dynamic aspect of Reality, and she cannot be forced to do anything. This, the tradition explains, is why sometimes the initiation fails. Guru may help, but it is the goddess who initiates and who brings him the spiritual power. A real, living woman, may embody the goddess and give it to him through their engagement. Her hero, or vira, is the one who transcends duality, and who sees the the Supreme Reality in everything. After his consciousness has been purified from duality, he gets his virabhojya, the hero's meal, in which he can consume wine and meat, which are normally forbidden. Finally, the sexual practice is also important for Kaula tradition. The initiation through the mouth of yogini, refers to the woman's sexual organ. "Because her central sacred space [that is, her vagina (yoni)] is spontaneously fully opening and closing, the śakti is superior to the [guru's] own body."- Sri Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta The bodily fluids take an important role here - as it is exactly them that can bring the disciple to higher consciousness. This fluid which arises spontaneously is the symbol of the goddess, because the goddess is constantly emanating, giving fluid, the whole reality is sustained and created by it. Sometimes, those practices may even suggest an intercourse during a woman's cycle, in order to realise the reality beyond the pure and the impure. The dual mind or the mind which is still separate may see it as impure and low, but for the vira, that is not the case.

Those engaged in the practices, of course, cannot be ordinary people. If there is no the state of consciousness that is non - dual, even if everything looks right, the achievement will not be the same. These practices were often hidden, and outside of the ritual, many tantrikas may even have respected the orthodoxy. The goal of Kaula practice, is not pleasure; pleasure may arise and it is not rejected, but the goal is, the realisation of the non - dual consciousness. The woman involved in the process should in no way be "anavicchanna", which means separate from him who possesses her. Shiva, in all traditions that center around Shakti and Shiva, is the immovable, pure consciousness, but without a manifestation. The woman, who embodies the Shakti in the ritual, must not be separate from the man involved with her. They must form a single consciousness. Without Bhairava consciousness, there is no ritual. The fluid of the Shakti, is the "I" or Aham that brings shava, the corpse, to become Shiva.


Back to Where it All Began

"When man loves woman, he desires to conjoin and unite with her, (...) As God is jealous for his servant, He orders him to perform a full ablution in order that he be cleansed of “other”, and return to observing Him in the one in whom he has been annihilated, i.e. in woman." - Ibn Arabi (X)

Masculine being between two feminines is another common expression of one aspect of the metaphysical dynamic (X). The feminine principle can be the pull downwards or the pull upwards. The confusing, or often, the scary part of it, is that the same means, the same form, which brings upwards, is also the one, that can bring downwards. So the instinctual reaction of the masculine is in a way, to resist, her influence, because he is aware, that she can pull him so deep down into womb and never allow him to come back. She will not allow him to become individualised. The paradox is that, even on the higher end, she also, seeks, to annihilate, the individuality. The jealousy that Ibn Arabi mentions, is also used for goddess Kali, who as an expression of Shakti, seeks to destroy anything that is not her. In Ibn Arabi's cosmology, God, will not allow, anyone else but God to exist. Everything shall perish and die, except God.

In the Indian cosmology of lunar mansions, the lunar mansion that is symbolised by a yoni, or female sexual organ, is Bharani, and yet, its deity is Yama, the deity of death. To many of us, to associate a womb with death, may be counterintuitive. Isn't the womb that which gives birth? She does. But in order to give birth, she must take in, or, consume and absorb into herself. Only then, does she have an output. The womb is also, where, as Ibn Arabi says in the quote presented, the self - consciousness can be annihilated. The Sufis call this state, Faana - the annihilation of the separate self identity into God.

Simply, the womb pulls energy inside of her. The yogini, or realised woman, uses the energy she absorbs to magnify it, and eventually, give her consort, his spiritual power. He is now reborn, but realised, and blissful. But, if she does not give the power, she can simply consume and drain, and that's why she can sometimes be frightening. One will allow the rebirth, the other will try to prevent it. Surely, everything seems to go back to the place it came from. As Muslims say when someone dies: "To God we belong and to God we return".


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Hugo Smith
Hugo Smith
May 17, 2021

The latter part of the essay illustrates why this path of initiation is so dangerous. After all, what does a woman do more often, eat or give birth? When you offer yourself to the Goddess how do you know you will be accepted as a lover and not simply as food? This may be an intimation of why the focus on the feminine aspect of the divine is so rare in the West. Even the Greeks preferred to focus on male gods.

Lionel Chan
Lionel Chan
Nov 28, 2021
Replying to

Peace Friends,

A key difference for East and West is sentiment, as Rene Guenon was wont to emphasise. The Dharma of the West therefore is to not touch left hand paths with a ten foot pole. If one has sentiment attachments still (and shameless immorality is but the dualist partner of puritanism, both caught in that web) then the Goddess will eat you, no matter who she is or what her original intentions.

To paraphrase a line in "Thor: Ragnarok" - are you a Jihadi, or are you food?

In that way we are all Western now. At least in public, such things are for objective curiosity only, lest the impurity (Tumah, referring in Hebrew to the simple fact tha…

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