Shakti and Shakta

by John Woodroffe | 1929 | 243,591 words

A collection of papers and essays addressing the Śakti aspect of the Śākta school of Hindu philosophy by John Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon....

Chapter XX - The Indian Magna Matter

[From Vol. 2, No. 2, “Indian Arts and Letters,” reporting a lecture given to the India Society, London, Nov. 18, 1926.]



ON the last occasion that I had the honour to address you, I dealt with the subject of the psychology of Hindu religious ritual from the particular standpoint of the religious community called Śāktas, or Worshippers of the Supreme Mother. To-day I speak of the Supreme Mother Herself as conceived and worshipped by them.

The worship of the Great Mother as the Grand Multiplier is one of the oldest in the world. As I have elsewhere said (“Śakti and Śākta,” second ed., 65), when we throw our minds back upon the history of this worship, we discern even in the most remote and fading past the Figure, most ancient, of the mighty Mother of Nature. I suspect that in the beginning the Goddess everywhere antedated, or at least was predominant over, the God. It has been affirmed (Glotz: “Ægean Civilization,” 243) that in all countries from the Euphrates to the Adriatick, the Chief Divinity was at first in woman form. Looking to the east of the Euphrates we see the Dusk Divinity of India, the Ādyā-Śakti and Mahā-Śakti, or Supreme Power of many names—as Jagadambā, Mother of the World, which is the Play or Her who is named Lalitā, Māyā, Mahātripurasundarī and Mahākuṇḍalinī, as Mahā-Vaiṣṇavī, the Sapphire Devī who supports the World, as Mahākālī who dissolves it, as Guhyamahābhairavī. and all the rest.

This Supreme Mother is worshipped by Her devotees from the Himālayas, the “Abode of Snow,” the northern home of Śiva, to Cape Comorin in the uttermost south— for the word Comorin is a corruption of Kūmārī Devī or the Mother. Goddesses are spoken of in the Vedas as in the later Scriptures. Of these latter, the Śākta Tantras are the particular repository of Mother-worship.

To the Śākta, God is his Supreme Mother. In innumerable births he has had countless mothers and fathers, and he may in future have many, many more. The human, and indeed any, mother is sacred as the giver (under God) of life, but it is the Divine Mother of All (Śrīmātā), the “Treasure-House of Compassion,” who alone is both the Giver of life in the world and of its joys, and who (as Tārīnī) is the Saviouress from its miseries, and who again is, for all who unite with Her, the Life of all lives—that unalloyed bliss named Liberation. She is the Great Queen (Mahārājñī) of Heaven and of yet higher worlds, of Earth, and of the Underworlds. To Her both Devas, Devīs, and Men give worship. Her Feet are adored by even Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra.

The Śākta system, in its origin possibly Non-Vaidik, is in several respects an original presentment, both as regards doctrine and practice, of the great Vedāntic Theme concerning the One and the Many. As an organic and dynamic system it interprets all in terms of Power, from the atom of Matter, said by modern science to be a reservoir of tremendous energy, to the Almighty, which is the commonest name in all Religions for God. It is the cult of Power both as the Partial and as the Whole, as the worshipper may desire. God is here regarded under twin aapects: as Power-Holder or the “male” Śiva, and as Power or Śākti, the Divine Spouse and Mother.

The symbolism of the Śāktas’ “Jewelled Tree of Tantra” is brilliant, and meets the demand of Nietzsche that the abstract should be made attractive to the senses. It is largely of the so-called “erotic” type which is to be found to some and varying degree in Hinduism as a whole.

The symbols employed are either geometric—that is, Yantric—or pictorial. A Yantra is a diagrammatic presentation of Divinity, as Mantra ia its sound-expression. The former is the body of the latter. The higher worship is done with Yantra.

Pictorial symbolism is of higher and lower types. The former is popular, and the latter may be described by the French term peuple.

I will now show you a Yantra and the greatest of Yantras, namely the Śrīyantra, figured on the truth of the “Tāntrik Texts.” We have no longer to deal with pictures of persons and their surroundings, but with lines, curves, circles, triangles, and the Point.

The great symbol of the Mother is the Śrīyantra, from the centre of which She arises like the solar orb at morn, but in a blaze of light excelling the brilliance of countless midday suns and the coolness of innumerable moons. The centre is the Point, or Bindu—that is, the Mother as Concentrated Power ready to create. Around Her is the Universe, together with its Divinities or Directing Intelligences. From the Point the World issues. Into it on dissolution it enters. The extended Universe then collapses into an unextended Point, which itself then subsides like a bubble on the surface of the Causal Waters, which are the Immense.


I.—The Divine Mother

The Real as Śiva-Śakti may be regarded from three aspects—namely, as Universe, as God, and as Godhead. The Real is the World, but the Real is more than the World. The Real is God. The Real is God, but it is also more than what we understand by the word God. The Real is, as it were, beyond God as Godhead. This does not mean, as some have supposed, that God is a “fiction,” but that the Real as it is in its own Alogical being is not adequately described in terms of its relation to the world as God. I will deal, then, first with its aspect as Godhead, then as the Supreme Self, or Person, or God, and thirdly, with ŚivaŚakti as the manifest and limited Universe,

Pervading and transcending the Existent is the “Spiritual Ether,” also caIled the “Immense,” in which is the Measurable, which Immense is also called the “Fact” (Sat), in which are the Fact-Sections (Kalā), which Fact is also called the alogical Experience-Whole (Pūrna), in which are all Experience-Modes (Vṛtti) of the limited Selves.

The ultimate that is Irreducible Real is, in this system, not mere undetermined Being, but Power which is the source of all Determinations. This Power is both to Be, to self-conserve, and to resist change, as also to be the efficient cause of change, and as material cause to Become and suffer change. Relatively to the World, Immutable Being is as Divinity called Śiva the Power-Holder, and His Power is Śakti or the Mother Śivā, but in the supreme alogical state, Power to Be and Being-Power-Holder are merged in one another.

What is the nature of this Alogical Experience? In the Yoginīhṛdaya Tantra it is asked, “Who knows the heart of a woman? Only Śiva knows the heart of Yoginī” —that is, the Divine Mother so called, as being one with, that is in the form of, all that exists, and as being in Herself the One in which they are.

Since the Irreducible Real is the Whole, it cannot be conceived or described. It is neither Father nor Mother, for it is beyond Fatherhood and Motherhood and all other attributes. It is alogical.

Though it cannot be conceived or put into words, some concepts are held to be more appropriate to it than others. And thus it is approximately said to be infinite undetermined Being, mindless Experiencing, and Supreme Bliss unalloyed with pain and sorrow. As Being and Power are merged in this alogical state, Power, in its form as Power to Be (Cidrūpinī), is also Being-Consciousness and Bliss. Śiva-Śakti, the “two in one”; are here the Nameless One.

The experience of this alogical state is not, however, that of an “I” (Ahaṃ) and “This” (Idaṃ). The next or causal aspect of the Real is a Supreme Self. Its third and effectual aspeot is the limited selves or Universe.

The physical Ether is a synlbol of this alogical state, in which the twofold Śiva-Śakti are the One in the unitary state, which is called the “Ether of Consciousness” (Cidākāśa).

Physical Ether is the all-extending, homogeneous, relative Plenum in which the Universe of particulars exists. The “Spiritual Ether,” or “Ether of Consciousness,” is the undetermined, all-diffusive, though inextended, absolute Plenum (Pūrna), in which both these particulars and the physical Ether itself exists. Ether is the physical counterpart of Consciousness, just as the Notion of Space is its psychical counterpart. These are such counterparts because Consciousness becomes through its Power as material cause both Matter and Mind. Each is a manifested form of Spirit in Time and Space. The shoreless Ocean of Nectar or Deathlessness is another symbol of the alogical Whole.

We now pass to a consideration of the same Real in its aspect as related to the Universe, which is the appearance of the Immense as the Measurable or Form. The Real is here related to the Universe as its Cause, Maintainer, and Directing Consciousness. Form is Māyā, which, however, in this system (whatever be its meaning in Māyāvāda) does not mean “Illusion.” All is power. All is real.

The alogical One is here of dual aspect as Śiva and Śakti. The two concepts of Being and Power are treated as two Persons. Śiva is the Power-Holder, who is BeingConsciousness-Bliss, and Śakti is Power and the Becoming. She, in the alogical state, is also Being-Consciousness-Bliss. Without ceasing to be in Herself what She ever was, is, and will be, She is now the Power of Śiva as efficient and material cause of the Universe and the Universe itself. Whilst Śiva represents the Consciousness aspect of the Real, She is its aspect as Mind, Life, and Matter. He is the Liberation (Mokṣa) aspect of the Real. She is in the form of the Universe or Saṃsāra. As Śiva-Śakti are in themselves one, so Mokṣa and Saṃsāra are at root one.

Śiva, in the Kulārṇava Tantra, says that His doctrine is neither non-dualist nor dualist, but beyond both. We have here a non-dualistic system as regards its teaching concerning the Alogical Whole, in which Śiva-Śakti are fused in one. We have again a kind of Duo-Monotheism. It is Monotheistic becawe, Śiva and Śakti are two aspects of one and the same Reality. It is dual because, these two aspects are worshipped as two Persons, from whose union as Being and Power the Universe evolves.

The experience of this state, relative to the Alogical Whole, is a disruption of unitary alogical experience. I say “relative” because the Whole is always the Whole. Such disruption is the work of Power. She, as it were, disengages Herself as Power, from the embrace in which Power-Holder and Power are fused in one, and then represents Herself to Him. On this representation, Consciousness-Power assumes certain postures (Mudrā) preparatory to the going forth as Universe, and then, when Power is fully concentrated, manifests as the World.

The term Consciousness, which is inadequate to describe the alogical state, is here approximately appropriate, for the experience of this state is that of an “I” and “This.” But it is to be distinguished from man’s Consciousness. For the experiencer as man is a limited (and not, as here, a Supreme Self), and the object is experienced as separate from, and outside, the Self (and not, as in the case of the Lord and Mother, as one with the experiencing Self). The experience of Śiva as the Supreme Self viewing the Universe is, “All this I am.”

As contrasted with the alogical, all-diffusive, Spiritual Ether, the symbol of the second aspect of Śiva-Śakti, as the Supreme Self and Cause of the Universe is the metaphysical Point (Bindu) or Power as a Point. What, then, is the meaning of the latter term? In Being-power about to evolve there is a stressing of Power which gathers itself together to expand again as Universe. When it has become concentrated and condensed (Ghanībhūtā Śakti) it is ready to evolve. Bindu, or the Point, is, therefore, Power in that Concentrated state in which it is ready and about to evolve the Universe. Though infinitely small, as the Absolute Little, when compared with the Absolute Great or Spiritual Ether, it is yet a source of infinite energy as (to borrow an example from modern science) the relatively Little or Atom, or other unit of matter, existing in the relatively Great or the physical Ether, is said to be a source of tremendous energy. Just as, again, the relative point or atom is as a fast in the relative Ether, so the Absolute Point is conceived to be in the Absolute Ether. I say “conceived,” because, as both Spiritual Point and Spiritual Ether are each absolute, it is only figuratively that the one can be said to be “within” the other. The “Isle of Gems” (Manidvīpa) in the “Ocean of Nectar” (Amṛtārṇava) is another symbol of this state.

The painting now shown exhibits both the Alogical Immense and the Point of Power or Bindu “in” it. The former is here symbolized by the shoreless “Ocean of Nectar” (Amṛtārṇava)—that is, Immortality. This symbol of all-diffusive Consciousness is similar to that of the. allspreading Ether. In the blue, tranquil Waters of Eternal Life (Amṛtārṇava) is set the Isle of Gems (Manidvīpa). This Island is the Bindu or metaphysical Point of Power. The Island is shown as a golden circular figure. The shores of the Island are made of powdered gems. It is forested with blooming and fragrant trees—Nipa, Mālati, Champaka, Pārijāta, and Kadamba. There, too, is the Kalpa tree laden with flower and fruit. In its leaves the black bees hum, and the Koel birds make love. Its four branches are the four Vedas. In the centre there is a house made of Cintāmani stone which grants all desires. In it is a jewelled Mandapa or awning. Under it and on a gemmed and golden throne there is the Mother Mahātripuresundarī as the Deity of the Bindu, which, as shown later, becomes the three Bindus or Puras. Hence Her name “Three Puras” or Tripurā. She is red, for red is the active colour, and She is here creative as Vimarśa Śakti, or, the “This” of the Supreme Experiencer, which through Māyā becomes the Universe. What man calls Matter is first experienced by mindless Consciousness as a “This,” which is yet though the “Other” one with the Self. Then, by the operation of Māyā the “This” is experienced by mind as separate and different from and outside the Self, as complete “otherness.” She holds in Her four hands, bows and arrows, noose and goad, which are explained later. She sits on two inert male figures which lie on a six-sided throne. The upper figure is Śiva (Sakala), who is awake, because, he is associated with his Power as efficient and material cause. On His head is the crescent Digit of the Moon, called Nāda, the name for a state of stressing Power, His Śakti being now creative. He lies inert, for He is Immutable Being. He is white because he is Consciousness and Illumination (Prakāśa). Consciousness illuminates and makes manifest the forms evolved by its Power, which in its turn by supplying the form (as object unconscious) helps Śiva to display Himself as the Universe which is both Being and Becoming. Under him is another male figure, darker in colour, to represent colourlessness (vivarna), with closed eyes. This mysterious figure (Niṣkala Śiva) is called Śava or the Corpse. It illustrates the doctrine that Śiva without his Power or Śakti can do and is, so far as the manifested is concerned, nothing. There is profundity in the doctrine of which this Corpse is a symbol. To those who have understood it a real insight is given into the Kaula Śakta system.

This representation of Śiva and Śakti as of the same size, but the former lying inert, is perhaps peculiar to the Kaula Śāktas, and is the antithesis of the well-known “Dancing Shiva.”

I will here note some other symbolism, pictorial and geometric or Yantric.

Pictorially, Śakti is shown either as the equal of Her Spouse—that is, as an Androgyne figure in which the right half is male and the left female—or as two figures, male and female, of equal size, as in the last picture. Inequality is indicated where the Śakti is smaller than the male Divinity. The meaning of this difference in dimension of the figures of Shkti lies in a difference of theological and philosophical concepts which may yet be reconciled. In the Śākta view, the Power-Holder and His Power as She is in Herself, that is, otherwise than as the manifested form, are one and equal. But He is recumbent. This picture (shown) is the Mother as the Warrior Leader or Promachos with Śiva under Her feet. Where the figures are unequal it is meant to assert (a fact which is not denied) that Supreme Power as manifested is infinitely less than Power unmanifest. That Power is in no wise exhausted in the manifestation of the Worlds which are said to be as it were but dust on the feet of the Mother.

Passing to Yantric symbols, the Male Power-Holder Śiva is represented by s triangle standing on its base. A triangle is selected as being the only geometric figure which represents Trinity in Unity—the many Triads such as Willing, Knowing, and Acting in which the one Consciousness (Cit) displays itself. Power or the feminine principle or Śakti is necessarily represented by the same figure, for Power and Power-Holder are one. The Triangle, however, is shown reversed—that is standing on its apex (Plate IV). Students of ancient symbolism are aware of the physical significance of this symbol. To such reversal, however, philosophic meaning may also be given, since all is reversed when reflected in the Waters of Māyā. Why, it may now be asked, does the Śākta lay stress on the Power or Mother aspect of Reality? Like all other Hindus, he believes in a Static Real as Immutable Being-Consciousness, which is the ground of and serves to maintain that which, in this system, is the Dynamic Real. He will point out, however, that the Mother is also in one of Her aspects of the same nature as Śiva, who is such Static Real. But it is She who does work. She alone also moves as material cause. He as Immutable Being does and can do nothing without Her as His Power. Hence the Kaula Śākta symbolism shows Śiva as lying inert and to be, if deprived of His Power, but a corpse (Śava).

Even when associated with his Shakti as efficient cause, Śiva does not move. A not uncommon picture, counted obscene, is merely the pictorial symbol of the fact that Being, even when associated with its active Power, is Immutable. It is she as Power who takes the active and changeful part in generation, as also in conceiving, bearing, and giving birth to the World-Child. All this is the function of the divine, as it is of the human, mother. In such work the male is but a helper (Sahakārī) only. In other systems it is the Mother who is the Helper of Śiva. It is thus to the Mother that man owes the World of Form or Universe. Without Her as material cause, Being cannot display itself. It is but a corpse (Śava). Both Śiva and Śakti give that supreme beyond-world Joy which is Liberation (Mukti, Paramānanda). They are each Supreme Consciousness and Bliss. The Mother is Ānandalaharī or Wave of Bliss. To attain to that is to be liberated. But Śakti the Mother is alone the Giver of World-Joy (Bhukti, Bhaumānanda), since it is She who becomes the Universe. As such She is the Wave, of Beauty (Saundaryalaharī). Further, it is through her Form as World that She, as also Śiva, are in their Formless Self attained. If, however, union is sought directly with Reality in its non-world aspect, it must necessarily be by renunciation. Liberation may, however, be attained by acceptanoe of, and through the World, the other aspect of the Real. In the Śākta method, it is not by denial of the World, but, by and through the World, when known as the Mother, that Liberation is attained. World enjoyment is made the means and instrument of Liberation (Mokṣāyate Saṃsāra). The Śākta has both (Bhukti, Mukti). This essential unity of the World and Beyond World, and passage through and by means of the former to the latter is one of the most profound doctrines of the Śākta, and is none-the-less so because their application, of these principles has been limited to man’s gross physical functions, and such application has sometinies led to abuse. For these and other reasons primacy is given to the Mother, and it is said: “What care I for the Father if I but be on the lap of the Mother?”

I note here in connection with the primacy of the Mother-God that in the Mediterranean (Ægean) Civilization the Male God is said to have been of a standing inferior to the Mother, and present only to make plain Her character as the fruitful womb whence all that exists springs (Glotz, 243 et seq.).

Such, then, is the great Mother of India in Her aspect as She is in Herself as the alogical world-transcending Whole (Pūrna), and secondly, as She is as the Creatrix of the World. It remains now but to say a word of Her as She exists in the form of the universe.

The psycho-physical universe is Māyā. The devotee Kamalākānta lucidly defines Māyā as the Form (Ākāra) the Void (Śūnya) or Forniless (not Nothingness). Is it Real? It is real, because Māyā, considered as a Power, is Devī Śakti,and She is real. The effect of the transformation of that Power must also be real. Some make a contrast between Reality and Appearance. But why, it is asked (apart from persistence), should appearance be unreal, and that of which it is such appearance alone be real? Moreover, in a system such as this, in which Power transforms itself, no contrast between Reality and Appearance in the sense of unreality emerges. The distinction is between the Real as it is in its formless Self and the same Real as it appears in Form. Moreover, the World is experienced by the Lord and Mother, and their experience is never unreal. We are here on a healthy level above the miasma of Illusion. The experience of man (to take him as the highest type of all other selves) is not the Experience-Whole. He knows the world as other than Himself, just because Power has made him man—that is, a limited Experiencer or centre in the Whole. That is a fact, and no Illusion or Deceit. When He realizes Himself as “All this I am”—that is, as an “I” which knows all form as Itself—then Consoiousness as man expands into the Experience-Whole which is the Fact (Sat).

Man is Śakti, or the Mother, in so far as he is Mind, Life in Form, end Matter. He is Śiva, in so far as his essenoe is Consciousness as It is in Itself, which is also the nature of the Mother in Her own alogical Self.

This union is achieved by rousing the sleeping Power in the lowest centre of solid matter and leading it upwards to the cerebrum as the centre of Consciousness.

I now pass to the second part of my paper, which deals with the cosmic evolution of Power—that is, the “going forth” of the Supreme Self upon its union with its Power in manifestation. As the result of such evolution we have Śiva-Śakti as the limited selves. Śiva-Śakti are not terms limited to God only, but the forms into which Power evolves are also Śiva-Śakti. God as the Mother-Father is supreme Śiva-Śakti. The Limited Selves are ŚivaŚakti appearing as Form in Time and Space. The Measurable or World (Saṃsāra) and the Immense Experience-Whole (Mokṣa) are at root one. This is fundamental doctrine in the community to whose beliefs reference is now made.



Śiva and Śakti as the Causal Head (Śiva-Śakti Tattvas) of the world-evolution are called Kāmeśvara and Kāmeśvari. Kāma is Desire. Here it is the Divine Desire, or (to use a Western term) the Libido, which in the Veda is expressed as the wish of the One, “May I be many.” So also the Veda says: “Desire first arose in it the primal germ.” The form of this wish tells us what Libido, in its Indian sense, means. In its primary sense, it does not mean sensuous desire, but the will to, and affirmance of, “otherness” and differentiation, of which sensuous desire is a later and gross form in the evolutionary series. Procreation is the individual counterpart of Cosmic Creation.

Why were the worlds (for there are many) evolved? The answer given is because it is the nature (Svabhāva) of almighty formless Being-Power, whilst remaining what it is, to become Form—that is, to exist. The Svabhāva, or nature of Being-Power, is Līlā or Play, a term which means free spontaneous activity. Hence Lalitā, or “Player,” is a name of the Mother as She who Plays and whose Play is World-Play. She is both Joy (Ānanda-mayī) and Play (Līlāmayī). The action of man and of other selves is, in so far as they are the psycho-physical, determined by their Karma. The Mother’s play is not idle or meaningless so far as man is concerned, for the world is the field on and means by which he attains all his worths, the greatest of which is Union with the Mother as She is in Herself as Highest Being. The Player is Power. How does it work?

The Whole (Pūrna), which means here, the Absolut Spiritual Whole, and not the relative Whole or paychophysical universe, cannot as the Whole change. It is Immutable. Change can then take place only in It. This is the work of Power which becomes limited centres in the Whole, which centres, in relation to, and compared with, the Whole, are a contraction of it.

Power works by negation, contraction, and finitization. This subtle doctrine is explained profoundly and in detail in the scheme of the thirty-six Tattvas accepted by both non-dualists, Śaivas and Śāktas, and is also dealt with in the Mantra portion of their Scriptures. A Tattva is a Posture (Mudrā) of Power—that is, Reality—Power defined in a particular way, and, therefore, the alogical aspect is that which is beyond all Tattvas (Tattvātīta). A Tattva is then a stage in the evolutionary process. Mantra is a most important subject in the Tantra Scriptures which treat of Sound and Movement, for the one implies the other. Sound as lettered speech is the vehicle of thought, and Mind is a vehicle of Consciousness for world-experience. The picture of Shiva riding a bull is a popular presentation of that fact. Bull in Sanskrit is “Go,” and that word also means “sound.” Nāda as inchoate stressing sound is shown in the form of a crescent-moon on His head. The cult of the Bull is an ancient one, and it may be that originally the animal had no significance as Sound, but subsequently, owing to the sameness of the Sanskrit term for Bull and Sound, the animal became a symbol for sound. Sometimes, however, a more lofty conception is degraded to a lower one. It is here noteworthy that the crescent-moon worn by Diana and used in the worship of other Goddesses is said to be the Ark or vessel of boat-like shape, symbol of fertility or the Container of the Gem of all life.

I can only in the most summary manner deal with the subject of the Evolution of Power, illustrating it by Yantric symbolism.

The Śiva and Śakti triangles are ever united. To represent the alogical state, we may place one triangle without reversal upon the other, thus making one triangular figure. This will give some idea of the state in which the two triangles as “I” and “This” are fused in one as Being-Consciousness-Bliss.

Here, however, we are concerned with the causal state which is the Supreme Self in Whose experience there is an “I” and a “This,” though the latter is experienced as the Self. There is, therefore, a double triangular figure; Śiva and Śakti are in union, but now not as the alogical Whole, but as the Supreme Self experiencing His object or Śakti as one with Himself. The marriage of the Divine couple, Kāmeśvara and Kāmeśvarī—that is, Being and Power to Become—is the archetype of all generative embraces.

To represent this aspect, the triangles are placed across one another, so as to produce a Hexagon, in which one triangle represents the “I,” or Śiva, and the other the “This,” or object, as Power and its transformations—that is, Śakti.

As the result of this union, Power assumes certain Postures (Mūdrā) in its stressing to manifest as Universe. The first of such produced stresses is, from the Tattva aspect, Sadāśiva, and, from the Mantra aspect, inchoate sound or movement called Nāda. This state is shown by the Hexagon with a crescent-moon, the symbol of Nāda, in its centre. This Nāda is not manifested sound or movement, but an inchoate state of both.

In the next Mantric stage (corresponding to the Tattvas, Īśvara and Śuddhavidyā) the crescent-moon enlarges into the full moonlike Bindu. This also is stressing Power as inchoate sound and movement, but is now such Power ready to evolve into manifested sound and movement. The word Bindu also means seed, for it is the seed of the universe as the result of the union of its ultimate principles as Śiva and Śakti. The Point, or Bindu, is shown as a circle, so as to display its content. In the diagram, a line divides the Point, one half representing the “I,” and the other, the “This” aspect of experience. They are shown in one circle to denote that the “This,” or object, is not yet outside the self as non-self. The Bindu is compared in the Tantras to a grain of gram (Canaka), which contains two seeds (Ahaṃ and Idaṃ) so close to one another within their common sheath as to seem to be one seed.

At the stage when Consciousness lays equal emphasis on the “I” and “This” of experience, Māyā-Śakti and its derivative powers called sheaths (Kancuka) and contractions (Saṃkoca) operate to disrupt the Bindu, which comes apart in two. Now the “I” and “This” are separated, the latter being experienced as outside the self or as non-self. The former becomes limited as a “Little Knower” and “Little Doer.” This is the work of Māyā-Śakti. Power again (as Prakṛti-Śakti) evolves the psycho-physical organs of this limited Self, as Mind, Senses, and Body.

I have spoken of two Bindus standing for Śiva and Śakti. Their inter-relation and its product is another form of Nāda. These then make three Bindus, which are a grosser form of the Kāmakalā. The Divinity of the three Bindus is the Mother as Mahātripurasundarī, “the Beauteous One in whom are the three Puras,” or Bindus.

The Mantra equivalent of the state in which the Bindu divides and becomes threefold is the first manifested sound, which is the Great Mantra Oṃ. As the Supreme Bindu bursts there is a massive, homogeneous, vibratory movement, as it were a cosmic thrill (sāmanya spandana) in psycho-physical Substance the sound of which to man’s gross ears is Oṃ. The original sound of Oṃ is that which was heard by th.e Absolute Ears of Him and Her who caused that movement. Oṃ is the ground-sound and ground movement of Nature. The Mundakopaniṣad says that the Sun travels the universe chanting the mantra Oṃ. From Oṃ are derived all special (viśeṣa spandana) movements, sounds, and Mantras. It is itself threefold, since it is constituted by the union of the letters A, U, M. The Divinities of these three letters are Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, and their Śaktis. These, together with Sadāśiva and Īśa, are the Five Śivas to whom reference is made in the ritual, and who are pictured in the Śakta symbolism as the Five who are Dead (Preta).

Power, after involing itself in solid matter, technically called “Earth,” then rests in this last-named element.

The evolution of the Tattva is not a temporal process. Time only comes in with sun and moon, on the completion of the evolution of the Tattva as constituent elements of the universe. The Tattvas are given as the results of an analysis of experience, in which the Prius is logical not temporal. For these reasons a Causal Tattva does not cease to be what it is as Cause when it is transformed into its effect, which is not the case in the manifested world wherein, as the Lakṣmī-Tantra says, “Milk when it becomes curd ceases to be milk.” Reality does not cease to be the Alogical Whole because it is from the Causal aspect a Supreme Self. It does not cease to be the Cosmic Cause because it evolves as the Universe its effect. Nor in such evolution does any Tattva cease to be what it is as cause because it is transformed into its effect.

I am now in the position to explain the great Yantra or diagram already shown you, which is used in the worship of the Mother and which is called the Śrī Yantra, a symbol of both the Universe and its Cause.

I have not the time to describe it at length, but its meaning may be generally stated.

It is composed of two sets of Triangles. One set is composed of four male or Shiva triangles called Śrīkanthas, denoting four aspects (Tattva) of evolved or limited Consciousness-Power, and the five female or Śakti triangles (Śivayuvatīs) denote the five vital functions, the five senses of knowledge, the five senses of action, and the five subtle and the five gross foms of matter. The place of the psychic element as Mind and the Psycho-physical Substance of both Mind and Matter, I will indicate later when we have fully formed the Yantra.

These two sets of triangles are superimposed to show the union of Śiva and Śakti. As so united they make the figure within the eight lotua petals in the full Yantra now shown you. Outside these eight lotuses there are sixteen other lotuses. There are then some lines, and a surround with four gates or doors, which surround is found in all Yantras, and is called Bhūpura. It serves the purpose of what in Magic is called a Fence.

This Yantra has nine Cakras, or cornpartments, formed by the intersection of the Triangles.

There is first a red central point or Bindu, the Cakra of Bliss. The central point or Bindu is Supreme Divinity— the Mother as the Grand Potential whence all the rest which this diagram signifies proceed. It is red, for that is the active colour, and thus the colour of Vimarśa Śakti, or Evolving Power.

The second Cakra is the white inverted Triangle, or “Cakra of All Accomplishment.” In the corners of this white Triangle are the Divinities of the general Psychophysical Substance and its first two evolutes as Cosmic Mind. Outside the Cakra is Kāma, the Divinity of Desire, with His Bow of Sugar-Cane, which is the Mind as director of the senses; with its Five Arrows, which are the five forms of subtle matter, which in their gross form are perceived. by these senses; with his Noose, which is Attraction, and his Goad, which is Repulsion. Another version (taking the Bow and Arrow as one symbol) makes the three implements, the Powers of Will, Knowledge, and Action.

The third Cakra is eight red Triangles, and is called “Destroyer of all Disease,” a term which means lack of that Wholeness (Apūrnam-manyatā) which is Spiritual Health.

The fourth Cakra is ten blue Triangles. The fifth is ten red Triangles. The sixth is fourteen blue Triangles. The seventh is eight red petals. The eighth is sixteen blue petals, and the ninth is the yellow surround. Each of these Cakras has its own name. In them there are a number of lesser Divinities presiding over forms of Mind, Life, and Body, and their special functions.

Those who hear the Devas spoken of as “Gods” are puzzled by their multitude. This is due to the ill-rendering of the terms Devas and Devīs as Gods and Goddesses. God is the Supreme Mother and Father, the “Two in One,” who are alone the Supreme Self, and as such receive supreme worship. All forms—whether of Devas, or men, or other creatures—in so far as they are the psycho-physical form, subtle or gross, are manifestations of the Power of their Immanent Essence, which is Spirit or Infinite Consciousness. That Essence is in itself one and changeless, but as related to a particular psycho-physical form as its cause and Director of its functions it is its Presiding Consciousness. Mind and Matter are not, as such, self-guiding. They are evolved and directed by Consciousness. The presiding consciousness of the Form and its functions is its presiding Devatā. A Deva is thus the consciousness aspect of the psycho-physical form. So the Deva Agni is the one Consciousness in its aspect as the Lord of Fire. A Devatā may also mean an aspect of the Causal consciousness itself. And so Mahātripurasundarīis the nsme given to the creative aspect of such Consciousness-Power, as Mahākālīis that aspect of the same Consciousness-Power which dissolves all worlds.

The object of the worship of the Yantra is to attain unity with the Mother of the Universe in Her forms as Mind, Life, and Matter and their Devatās, as preparatory to Yoga union with Her as She is in herself as Pure Consciousness. The world is divinized in the consciousness of the Worshipper, or Sādhakah. The Yantra is thus transformed in his consciousness from a material object of lines and curves into a mental state of union with the Universe, its Divinities and Supreme Deity. This leads to auto-realization as Mindless Consciousness. The ŚrīYantra is thus the Universe and its one Causal Power of various aspects. The worshipper, too, is a Śri Yantra, and realizes himself as such.



I have dealt with the nature of Śiva-Śakti and the evolution of power as the Universe, and now will say a word as to the relative ending of the world on its withdrawal to reappear again, and as to the absolute ending for the individual who is liberated.

In Hindu belief, this Universe had a beginning, and will have an end. But it is only one of an infite series in which there is no absolutely first Universe. These Universes come and go with the beating of the Pulse of Power now actively going forth, now returning to rest. For the World has its life period, which, reckoning up to the Great Dissolution, is the duration of an outgoing “Breath of Time.” In due course another Universe will appear, and so on to all eternity. This series of Worlds of Birth, Death, and Reincarnation is called by the Hindus the Saṃsāra, and was named by the Greeks the Cycle of the Becoming (kuklos tōn genesōn). All selves which are withdrawn at the end of a world-period continue to reappear in the new worlds to be until they are liberated therefrom.

The picture now shown depicts the Mother-Power which dissolves—that, is, withdraws the World into Herself. This is another aspect of one and the same Mother. As such She is Mahākālī, dark blue like a rain cloud. Nāda is in Her head-dress. She is encircled by serpents, as is Śiva. She holds in Her hands, besides the Lotus and two weapons, a skull with blood in it. She wears a garland of human heads which are exoterically the heads of conquered Demons, but are esoterically the letters of the alphabet which, as well as the Universe of which they are the seed-mantras, are dissolved by Her. She stands on the white, inert Śiva, for it is not He but His power who withdraws the Universe to Herself. He lies on a funeral pyre, in the burning-ground, where jackals—favourite animsls of Kālī—and carrion birds are gnawing and pecking at human flesh and bone. The Cremation ground is a symbol of cosmic dissolution.

In a similar picture, we see the Mother standing on two figures, the Śiva, and Śava previously explained. On the Corpse the hair has grown. The Devas, or “Gods,” as they are commonly called, are shown making obeisance to Her on the left, for She is their Mother as well as being the Mother of men. There are some variations in the imagery. Thus Kālī, who is commonly represented naked—that is, free of her own Māyā—is here (if this be here) shown clad in skins. Her function here shown is commonly called Destruction, but as the Sanskrit saying goes, “the Deva does not Destroy.” The Supreme Self withdraws the Universe into Itself. Nothing is destroyed. Things appear and disappear to reappear.

To pass beyond the Worlds of Birth and Death is to be Liberated. Human selves alone can attain liberation. Hence the supreme worth of human life. But few men understand and desire Liberation, which is the Experience-Whole. They have not reached the stage in which it is sought as the Supreme Worth. The majority are content to seek the Partial in the satisfaction of their individual interests. But as an unknown Sage cited by the Commentators on the Yoginīhṛdaya and Nityashodasika Tantras has profoundly said, “Identification of the Self with the Non-Whole or Partial (Apūrnammanyatā) is Disease and the sole source of every misery.” Hence one of the Cakras of the Śri Yantra which I have shown you is called “Destroyer of all Disease.” Eternal Health is Wholeness, which is the Highest Worth as the Experience-Whole. The “Disease of the World” refers not to the World in itself, which is the Mother in form, but to that darkness of vision which does not see that it is Her. As Upaniṣad said, “He alone fears who sees Duality.” This recognition of the unity of the World and the Mother has its degrees. That Whole is of varying kinds. It is thus physical or bodily health as the physical Whole which is sought in Haṭhayoga. Man, as he develops, lives more and more in that Current of Energy, which, having immersed itself in Mind and Matter for the purpose of World-Experience, returns to itself as the Perfect Experience, which is Transcendent Being-Power. With the transformation of man’s nature his values become higher. At length he discerns that his Self is rooted in and is a flowering of Supreme Being-Power. His cramped experience, loosened of its limitations, expands into fulness. For, it must be ever remembered, that Consciousness as it is itself never evolves. It is the Immutable Essence, and Śakti the “Wave of Bliss” as they each are in themselves. Evolution is thus a gradual release from the limitations of Form created by Being-Power. Interest in the Partial and Relative Wholeness gives way to a striving towards the Mother as the Absolute Whole (Pūrna), which She is in Her own spaceless, and timeless, nature.

This complete Liberation is the Perfect Experience in which the Self, cramped in Mind and Body, overcomes its māyik bonds and expands into the Consciousness-Whole. The practical question is therefore the conversion of Imperfect (Apūrna) into Perfect (Pūrna) Experience. This last is not the “standing aloof” (Kaivalya) “here” from some discarded universe “over there,” upon the discovery that it is without reality and worth. For the World is the Mother in Form. It is one and the same Mother-Power which really appears as the psycho-physical universe, and which in itself is Perfect Consciousness. Liberation is, according to this system, the expansion of the empirical consciousness in and through and by means of the world into that Perfect Consciousness which is the Experience-Whole. This can only be by the grace of the Mother, for who otherwise can loosen, the knot of Māyā which She Herself has tied?

The state of Liberation can only he approximately described. Even those who have returned from ecstasy cannot find words for that which they have in fact experienced. “A full vessel,” it is said, “makes no eound.” It is not in this system an experience of mere empty " being,” for this is, an abstract concept of the intellect produced by the power of Consciousness. It is a ooncrete Experience-Whole of infinitely rich “content.” The Mother is both the Whole and, as Samvid Kalā, is the Cause and archetype of all Partials (Kalā). She is Herself the Supreme Partial as She is also the Whole. So, She is the Supreme Word (Paravāk), Supreme Sound and Movement (Paraśabda, Paranāda), Supreme Space (Parayoma), Supreme or Transcendental Time (Parakāla), the infinite “limit” of that which man knows on the rising of Sun and Moon. She is again the Life of all lives (prāṇa-prāṇasya). She thus contains within Herself in their “limit” all the realities and values of worldly life which is Her expression in Time and Space. But over and beyond this, She is also the alogical Experience-Whole. This Experience neither supersedes nor is superseded by experience as the Supreme Self. This Alogical Experience is only approximately spoken of as Infinite Being, Consciousness and Joy which is the seamless (akhaṇḍa) Experience-Whole (Pūrna). Relative to the Supreme Self the Perfect Experiencer, She as His Power is the Perfect Universe. In the alogical transcendent state in which Śiva and Śakti are mingled as the One, She is the Massive Bliss (Ānanda-ghana) which is their union, of which it has been said: Niratiśaya premāspadatvam ānandatvam, which may be translated: “Love in its limit or uttermost love is Joy.” This is the love of the Self for its Power and for the Universe as which much Power manifests. She is called the Heart of the Supreme Lord (Hṛdayam Parameśituh), with whom the Śākta unites himself as he says Sā’ham—“She I am.”

If we analyse this description we find that it can be summed up in the single Sanskrit term Ānandaghana, or Mass of Bliss. The essence of the Universe is, to the Śākta, nothing but that. Mystical states in all religions are experiences of joy. As I have elsewhere said, the creative and world-sustaining Mother, as seen in Śākta worship (Hādimata), is a Joyous Figure crowned with ruddy flashing gems, clad in red raiment (Lauhityane etasya sarvasya vimarśah) more effulgent than millions of red rising suns, with one hand granting all blessings (varamudrā), and with the other dispelling all fears (abhayamudrā). It is true that She seems fearful to the uninitiate in Her form as Kālī, but the worshippers of this Form (Kādimata) know Her as the Wielder of the Sword of Knowledge which, severing man from ignorance—that is, partial knowledge—gives him Perfect Experience. To such worshipper the burning ground —with its corpses, its apparitions, and haunting malignant spirits—is no terror. These forms, too, are Hers.

Hinduism has with deep insight seen that Fear is an essential mark of the animal, and of man in so far as he is an animal (paśu). The Śākta unites himself with this joyous and liberating Mother, saying Sā’ham—“She I am.” As he realizes this he is the fearless Hero, or Vīra. For he who sees Duality, he alone fears. To see Duality means not merely to see otherncss, but to see that other as alien non-self. The fearless win all worldly enterprises, and fearlessness is also the mark of the Illuminate Knower. Such an one is also in his degree independent of all outward power, and Mṛtyujaya, or Master of Death. Such an one is not troubled for himself by the thought of Death. In the apt words of a French author (“L’Ame Paienne,” 83), he no more fears than do the leaves of the trees, yellowing to their fall in the mists of autumn. An imperishable instinct tells him that if he, like the leaves, is about to fall, he is also the tree on which they will come out again, as also the Earth in which both grow, and yet again (as the Śākta would say) he is also, in his Body of Bliss, the Essence which as the Mother-Power sustains them all. As that Essence is imperishable, so in the deepest sense is its form as Nature. For whatever exists can never altogether cease to be. Either man’s consciousness expands into that Lordliness which sees all as Itself, or he and all lower beings are withdrawn into the Womb of Power, in which they are conserved to reappear in that Sphurana or Blossoming which is the Springtide of some new World.

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