The Matter and the Feminine


"Bacchante", Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923), Spanish

"In earlier centuries, the hero (the courageous masculine spirit) exerted his strength to conquer his overwhelming instinctual drives. He was ashamed to surrender in war. He was afraid to surrender to loving arms, for fear of losing himself. Our civilization is the flower of his courage. Now, however, that masculine principle (in both men and women) which was once so necessary has become not healthy ego strength but ruthless will power which has little respect for man, beast or God, let alone the feminine." - "Addiction to Perfection", Marion Woodman


Taking a look at various spiritual traditions and lineages, it may not be hard to notice a pattern which points towards a specific set of attitudes towards the matter. Matter is at times rejected, at times seen a necessary evil and sometimes as the every manifestation of evil and the evil itself, devil's offspring. If you are a woman who's pursuing a spiritual path, the first spoon of the attitudes towards matter may be possible to swallow, but then comes the other spoonful - the disdain for matter transforms into disdain for the feminine, particularly, any sensual, active, sexual representation of the feminine. She becomes the cause for the fall, she becomes a distraction, a demoness ready to take the man away from his path. Even her most beautiful gifts - love and affection, progeny, are just further imprisonment within herself, within the matter. She is consuming and does not allow anything that is not attached to her breast to exist. Through her love and nourishment, she creates attachments and builds a prison. How then does woman, who is the very embodiment of the matter and vessel towards the embodied, material existence, find her spiritual path when the path often seems so strongly against the very thing she embodies?

Heat and Desire - Bhairavi and Sundari

Mahavidya Bhairavi

"Sundari and Bhairavi are the beautiful and the terrible separated and united by the power of tapas (efforts). They pervade the triads of manifestation, as denoted by the word "Tripura", and represent two sides of the same coin: Sundari has the magnetic allure of desire, which is why she is so lovely, while Bhairavi brings in the heat of hard work, which explains her fierce appearance. While Bhairavi lies towards the bottom of the spine, Sundari resides at the top. Bhairavi represents the fire and the heat of effort, while Sundari symbolizes the sweetness of divine grace." - "Shakti Rising", Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan When I began asking these questions on my own journey, the answers slowly began to show in different forms. Ibn Arabi's meditations on the feminine, Sophiology, Shekhinah, Shi'aa esotericism and the reverence for Hazrat Fatima and eventually both Buddhist and Hindu tantra. The term tantra itself has been profaned in the West where it has become connected exclusively with sex. Traditional tantra however, contains various traditions and schools that are defined as unconventional and highly esoteric. Hindu tantra for example is different from Vedic traditions. The main characteristic of most tantric paths is its monism and non-dual cosmology and phenomenology. One's awareness is transformed into non-dual, and therefore the physical reality itself becomes blissful as the physical reality and the non-physical reality are one and the same. It is perception that creates the illusion.


Shakta Tantra is probably the only living tradition that focuses on the worship of the Divine Feminine - Shakti in all her forms. She is the Parashakti, the primordial energy, eternal, never changed, the One. She is also the material manifestation in which she takes on multiple forms and has many faces. Her consort, Shiva, the consciousness, is "shava", corpse, until she comes and causes him to move. She becomes his mirror - he looks at himself and knows himself through her. Devi Mahatmyam says: "We bow to the first female (Narayani), the eternal energy who creates, sustains and destroys all the elements i.e. tatva and the one who is truly the supreme spirit (Nirgun) at the time who encapsulates all the attributes for Generation, Observation and Destruction." and "Devi Bhagwat" says: "Nothing is imperishable except Her."


In Shakta Tantra, special attention is given to Mahavidya which translates into "Great Wisdoms". They are ten aspects of the Shakti, each explaining how Divine comes into matter and how the "I - self" identity develops. With the creation of time and space, with containment of Divine consciousness within a form and its separation into multiple individual consciousnesses, she creates the illusion and hides her true nature behind the veil. Her true nature is, as Lalita Sahasranama says: "Devi is free from all attachments and is free from all impurities. She is eternal and without any form. She is never agitated. She is beyond the Gunas. She is the Partless Unitary Whole. She is ever serene and is free from desires and afflictions. Devi is indestructible." She is in every form yet she hides her true face. But as she is of boundless compassion, she destroys her own illusion, shatters it, and allows the one who seeks her to truly see her and finally to see his or her own nature, because they are her, as well.


Among Mahavidyas, two are "tripuras" - triple goddesses who embody every phase of existence and every mode of consciousness - Sundari and Bhairavi. Sundari is the third Mahavidya and embodies desire, Bhairavi is the fifth and embodies heated efforts. Through Sundari, Divine desires manifestation, and through Bhairavi and concentrated effort, the limitless Divine becomes concentrated into limited forms. Both of the aspects of the Goddess hide her true nature. Sundari is the very desire inside every being - desire for comfort, for meaning, for pleasure. We come to identify ourselves with the objects of our desires. Sundari makes everyone worship her simply by desiring things, as is she who is desired behind the desire for every object.


Bhairavi is fearsome, her breasts are coloured in blood that marks the death of cycles, she carries a sword and is ready to strike. She consumes knowledge, will and desire inside of herself and gives birth to a concrete form. Bhairavi is the heat of efforts we invest in order to meet our desires. She is also in our fears because desires, likes and dislikes, as well as separate consciousness, create fear of having our resources, our energy, our ambitions taken away.

"Shakti Tripura Sundari" Vrindavan Das

But just as Goddess creates many veils behind which she hides, in the very thing she hides behind, she offers transformation and liberation. Sundari's desire creates longing and desire for union and for the Divine, and Bhairavi, with her heat, offers self-oblivion in every moment that we are so engaged in something that we forget of ourselves.


Matisse upon being asked whether he believed in God, said: “Do I believe in God? Yes, when I am working. When I am submissive and modest, I feel myself to be greatly helped by someone who causes me to do things that exceed my capabilities.” When one is involved in a creative process, or in any kind of labour that demands focus and effort, they forget the distinction between themselves and the project/object. Only the experience exists. When I write, I often forget myself. I feel like a flute that plays the music but the breath is not mine, it is something else breathing through me, I simply give it form. In the heat of the concentrated and focused effort we forget about separation and like Matisse, we see our non - separate identity. Every time we are truly immersed in something, there is an opportunity to see our true, non-separate self.


"When a desire is fulfilled, Bhairavi's sword comes down to destroy further karma and gives us the opportunity to wake up. This is the momentary sense of calm we feel after we get what we want. It happens because the self - I is fueled by desire, and when it is fulfilled, it dies temporarily to reveal our true nature. Then, when a new desire starts up again, the next will-knowledge action cycle arises, and a bead of Bhairavi's mala moves to initiate it." - "Shakti Rising", Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan


The described here is also why anything related to sexuality, sexual images is so addictive. In this experience, Sundari (who is also considred the orgasmic energy of bindu) and Bhairavi interact. Sundari's desire and attachment to consume that which we desire is helped by Bhuvaneshwari's knowledge (Mahavidya between Sundari and Bhairavi), and finally Bhairavi's heat takes action. But after having our desire satisfied, after the orgasm, we experience the short moment of the "I desire nothing" state.


In this intricate play between concealing and showing, between creating maya/illusion and offering liberation is the essence of feminine. Similar theme appears in other traditions too. Eve was the first step towards separation and embodied existence. Through her, the world is brought into matter, but through Mary, God comes in flesh (matter) and she "corrects" what began with Eve. Beatrice is the one who guides Dante, Sophia is the one who transforms sins into virtues. Feminine here shows itself not just as a principle of embodiment, of creating and sustaining physical existence, but also as a principle of spiritual transformation.


She is the lotus that grows out of mud and purifies everything it takes in. Nothing is impure, because the essence of everything is her essence, unchangeable and holy. She purifies herself from herself. She transforms matter into source of beatific vision - this is where she shows up as Kamala, the last Mahavidya. The perception is so purified, so transformed, that everything echoes its true nature. Everything bears a scent of eden it came from, even if that scent is hidden beneath the heavy scents of corruption. She is the illusion and liberation from illusion. She is where duality between the two ceases to exist. There is nothing but blissful awareness: "She transcends both Dharma (justice) and Adharma (injustice)." - Lalita Sahasranama

Feminine and Masculine Journey

Female Figures with Tiger - Aleardo Villa, (1865 – 1906), Italian

Part of the masculine journey is in resisting the matter, the nature and the sensual. Only after not being at its mercy, can a man return, if so he wishes, and interact with the sensual without becoming its prisoner.


In Nadi yoga, there are two energies that go through a human body - ida and pingala. Ida is the lunar, feminine energy and its movement is upwards. Pingala, the masculine or the solar energy, moves downwards towards lower parts of the body associated with willpower, lust and other more instinctual modes of being (there is also the third nadi that combines the two). However, because of this, men may often have an instinctual or sexual nature that is not rooted in eros or the sensuality as women perceive it, rather, it is lustful and possessive. Pingala energy moves outwardly and if he just allows it to flow without restricting it, he easily becomes a brute, a rapist, a murderer, a barbarian incapable of any higher mode of consciousness. For this reason, many women, especially those with immature or negative animus, may feel threatened by masculine sexuality which so often carries a penetrative, lustful quality. A woman knows it can turn into a beast. If a woman is still psychologically a maiden, she cannot receive his energy inside of her because she fears it. She then restricts and builds walls.


Ida, the feminine energy like said, moves upwards, towards heart and feminine instincts take a more refined, beautified, Venusian form rather than the purely Martian one of the masculine. Ida is introverted and therefore takes within itself. It is accumulating and preserving energy. In Chinese spiritual traditions, there is a similar concept - yang, the masculine energy is extroverted and fast but it is also quickly exhausted, the yin energy is introverted and slow, but it consumes energy within itself. Many on the masculine journey will resist this consuming aspect of the feminine as she threatens to pull him even deeper into illusion before he had any time to even realise the true nature of things. Masculine path is often rigid and strict. By practicing self control and restricting, he becomes the hero. Then, if he wants, he can engage with the world as a sage, as a guru, as a lover, not as a brute or a slave to pleasure. However, if you are a woman on the same journey, you may have often felt that the rejection of matter, of sensuality, of instinct, of feeling may have not served you. Actually it could have possibly been the opposite - the restrictions, the logos - centered path has left you dry, not nourished, and at its worst, it has invited the negative animus into your psyche. The inner man begins to judge you, he assaults the woman, he becomes the demon lover (of which I shall write in one of the future articles) and with time you as a woman disappear, because he despises everything you represent - matter, feeling, earth, body, life, senses. He wants you sexless, without a womb, without pleasure. He doesn't want you to enjoy perfume and peaches, he wants the woman inside of you infertile and sexless, because your fertility itself creates the earth and life he hates so much. The only way to protect yourself as a woman from his assault is by genuine feeling. Not a passing affect, rather a genuine, true feeling, but he may kill your connection with it and it may take a whole journey to find it. Just as a ida goes within, so is it part of a woman's journey to go within. That is why I have named my page "inscendence" and not "transcendence". A woman finds enlightenment by going within, by connecting with her intuition, with genuine feeling, with her body and with what feels good in her body. Then, a woman awakens the virgin within, who while being virginal is also open for the world to come inside of her. This does not mean she has no boundaries or that she allows herself to be abused. Her virginal self, of which she is always aware of, will always give her center. The virgin will guide her by showing her what does not feel good and what betrays the virgin. By having an open mode of consciousness rather than a rigid and restrictive one, she allows life to go through her. She offers no resistance to life, and therefore experiences, including the painful ones, can be transformed. The world we live in is defined by constant tension and neuroticism. Everyone is as if in a constant contraction and simply a release of that tension can transform a soul. By being open and truly surrendering rather than trying to be in constant resistance, she comes to see that nothing that happens to her is so great that it changes who she is. The Hestian flame inside is intact. She knows that she is not her thoughts or emotions. She is the awareness and she allows affects, thoughts and emotions to pass through her, each becoming blissful awareness. Virginal does not mean that she is without desire or sex, but that she is not affected by every external pull. In every moment she knows what she is and how she feels. She is not affected by the spiritual path that emphasises going away from matter because she also recognises another kind of wisdom in it. If a masculine reaches towards her, she will not act on unhealthy ego that will make her want to consume him and kill him, but rather she will act from clear awareness and genuine feeling and that will allow him too, to connect to his heart and his feeling. This way, both heal and energise one another.

Links

"Shakti Rising", Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan

"Addiction to Perfection", Marion Woodman

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