Rohit Arya on Error and Danger with Unfamilar Gods

“It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of a living God”

I originally wrote this as a response to a strange picture of Kali I saw on posted in somebody’s news-stream. The actual picture seems to have been a personal possession, something I was unaware of as it had come into the public domain called Facebook. I have therefore blurred out all distinguishing and unique features retaining only the outline for the purposes of the spiritual points I am making.

This picture of Kali is beautiful. It is also chilling in that everything that could possibly go wrong, be wrong and is wrong is depicted therein! This picture is a salutary lesson in the perils of engaging with a foreign belief system with only fervours and a specific perspective to colour what you think you are dealing with. The actual energy, here a living deity for six millennia, has its own agenda, its own authenticity and integrity and the unwary enthusiast will soon realize the terrible truth of the warning by Carl Gustav Jung quoted at the beginning. I understand, and even approve, that we are entering into a new phase of human societies where all cultures are the inheritance of all beings. That is good. We are the country that articulated, five thousand years ago, this glorious sentiment –

Ayam nijo paro veti ganana laghucetasam

Udaracharitanam tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam

{Only base minds reckon whether one be kin or stranger

Men of noble conduct take the whole world for their home.}

It is one thing to draw from the best of cultures worldwide. It is quite another to engage with a power like Kali, depict it in such manners and hope to get away unscathed!

I am not one of those Hindus who are constantly looking to be offended. I quite believe the person who made this picture and the person who displayed this as their Facebook backdrop are sincere and even devout. Kali is very attractive and as an emblem of female power she is irresistible. But a living goddess is a very different thing from a revived one. It is one matter to depict Epona, Bellona, Brigit, Isis, Ishtar and so on. The traditions are being revived and the energy forms and coalesces in mostly benign manners though I would not always be sure of that. But when an ancient archetype, a veritable Force in the Universe, is to be dealt with, one needs caution. There are protocols to approach such powers, and rules to follow in their depiction. In the esoteric and occult realm alas, as in the everyday world, ignorance of the law is no excuse. I am a Yogi and I have been a Tantric in many lives too. I do not seek to convince anybody about this or what I will now say. I merely state my experience. The gods, the devas and devis, are living energies, possible to be actually experienced and interacted with, and they do not take kindly to trifling with them. This picture, alas, will fall into that category.

The creation of a divine form to meditate upon and worship, called correctly a Murthi’ and incorrectly an idol, is a specific science in the Yoga system. Texts called the Agama Shastras lay out the parameters very clearly. What material the picture or murthi is to be constructed of, the colours, the number of limbs, the ritual implements they carry, their postures, everything is delineated to an incredible degree. God is formless; every Indian child knows that. The form is a specific degree or band of qualities of the divine that you wish to internalize and transform yourself with. The meditation upon the murthi is to facilitate the creation and dissolution of such qualities as symbolically represented by that divine form. Once you attain your purpose, you can give up that particular worship. These are not matters widely known, but they are the core of the Yogic outlook. Kali is a very speedy and turbulent process of spiritual evolution. She is an archetype of course, and the essence of all archetypes is that they always remain beyond your comprehension, no matter the deepening of wisdom and catalytic transformation of life they provide. The belief that devotion and good intentions will protect you is an optimistic one. The gods are as above the human as the human is above the ant. Accidents will happen; it is for humans to be careful.

The depiction of Kali has certain invariant parameters. This picture violates all the rules, which are actually safety procedures for the worshipper. How does one begin to enumerate the goof-ups? Why is she shown wearing what seems to be a red carpet gown? The essence of Kali is nudity!!! You can cover it up with skulls and garlands and limbs but Kali is nude, symbolizing the complete freedom from all conditionings and artificially created persona. Kali is the Authentic Self, the Face you had before you were born. That she should be nude is axiomatic. {It has caused a lot of problems in India too, when the disapproval of the Semitic faiths at such blood-curdling authenticity could not be shrugged away by a politically powerless Hindus society.}  But she is nude. Always. Then the colour of the skin is all wrong. Kali means “black as night”, she represents the primal power, the chthonic and even more ancient archetypes and that is always the Dark. This looks like a vampire heroine from chick lit.

Since she is the Dark, that blood moon behind her is completely wrong. Kali is beyond all categories, including time. Shiva, auspicious consciousness regulates Time, hence he is depicted with a crescent moon. Shiva is usually represented in most pictures of Kali. It is not compulsory but it is a good idea. Kali standing on Shiva is the yin-yang, Purusha-Prakriti, uncontrollable power can be channelled for the benefit of the world only when it is grounded in Consciousness. There is an upright fire triangle behind her – that is a symbol of Shiva. The downward pointing triangle represents Kali – it represents the shape of the yoni. To have a Shiva symbol, {technically called a Yantra, an energy form that symbolically depicts all the attributes of the devata or god,} without depicting Shiva as a figure, to not have the Kali yantra depicted, these are blunders of a magnitude that would cause hysterical laughter in a yogi for their blood would freeze at the risks being taken. When you have a yantra in your work, no matter your knowledge or intention, it activates and the consequences are all your own. Kali is also the wife of Shiva, and she is feminine enough to resent an affront to her husband. Trust me on this.

You cannot meddle with archetypes. The Nazis took the Swastika, painted it in Tantric colours of creation, red white and black, flipped the swastika horizontally and tilted it in a crowning act of idiocy. Every Yogi in India at the time said their doom was sealed. The initial success of the Third Reich may have made the Yogis look foolish but they understood that this was a process of destruction and in the end Germany was literally reduced to rubble. Jung was of the opinion that the occult meddling and perpetual ritual showboating of the Nazis had awakened Wotan{Odin} and they had no idea what was emerging. That was when he made his famous statement about falling into the hands of a living god. He said this in 1936 – when Hitler was riding high, but Jung knew that an unfettered and incomprehensible archetype that was Odin would work out its authenticity to the bitter end and that was Gotterdammerung. If a North God who had lain dormant for a thousand years could spread such havoc imagine what a Primal power like Kali will do in an individual’s life. Kali worship is recommended only for those who are fed up with life and wish to attain liberation. For she will burn your karma to make that possible and the best method is to mess your life up!

The flames depicted in this picture are one of the few things the artist has got right. Kali loves to haunt cremation grounds. But think of the symbology, what it implies… is that what you want currently in your life? Blood streams out of her mouth, that would imply she is Chinnamasta shown here. Again this business of drinking blood is spiritually symbolic. I will not reveal what it means, that knowledge is to be given only to those doing a specific practice. To have blood trickling down like this on the face… words fail! Normally Kali uses her left hand when wielding the sword, it is the instinctive severance of ego and limitations. The right hand implies rational control. Two swords are depicted here both of them Khadag Jawala – the flame swords. Now two swords are never used in one murthi, the energy can cut away or protect in certain specific qualities or situations. Two swords complete negate the idea of the sword itself. Then she is shown holding a chakra, the solar disc in her left hand. Ouch! The chakra is a light weapon, logical mind, right side and never ever associated with Kali. The trident is actually a Durga weapon, there is a Durga-Kali amalgam called Chamunda. So which enrgy is supposed to flow thru the picture into you and transform you? Durga, Kali, Chamunda? Such confused communication, such muddled worship is worse than any attempt at all and should be avoided.

Kali is also normally shown with a protruding tongue, signifying Vak Tapasya, austerity of speech and victory over rasa – the desire for flavours, taste, stimulation, which are the core drivers for desire in general. That is completely missing here. The empty bowl looking like an athletic trophy is redundant and the blood spilling out of the bowl is a blunder. Again I will not get into the symbolism of it, but that is not the hand in which the bowl should be held and the blood should not be spilled like this. The artist has no clue what sort of calamitous circumstances may be activated by such a rendering. The girdle of severed arms is correct but rendered useless by the gown. The arms depict the end of Grasping, of covetousness, of accumulation and collection, again not the best scenario if you wish to live in the world. But the hugest mistake is that there is no depiction of Abhaya mudra or Varadhana mudra.

The Abhaya mudra is the granting of fearlessless, depicted by an upraised right arm, palm facing the viewer. The Varadhana mudra is the granting of boons, lower right arm, palm facing viewer, fingers pointed downward. Without these two symbolic imperatives a Kali depiction is a singular failure, indeed it is doubtful if it is anything but a badly tortured archetype! One requires tremendous hardihood to make such blunders, or tremendous ignorance even if it is innocent. The whole point of engaging with a murthi is that it has to be done under the guidance of an experienced guru. An ancient power like Kali is ever vigilant, the slightest attention is enough to activate it. The transforming energy will seek to flow into the life, but the parameters depicted in the picture or murthi will dictate the quality and nature of the energy flow. In this case there is no granting of fearlessness or boons but two swords, a trident, blood promiscuously spilling all over the place, a Kali swathed in clothes, and even a galaxy like chakra!! What will manifest, what can possibly manifest, through such a tortured mistaken filter should make life very, very interesting indeed. Jung never tired of advising Westerners not to get involved with Eastern methods they imperfectly understood , for the psychic danger of engaging   with such an alien power was too great. It is still good advice. It remains unheeded.

Rohit Arya is an Author, Yogi and Polymath. He has written the first book on Vaastu to be published in the West, {translated into five languages} the first book on tarot to be published in India, co-authored a book on fire sacrifice, and is the creator of The Sacred India Tarot {82 card deck and book}. He has also written A Gathering of Gods. He is the Editor of The Leadership Review, a corporate trainer, as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

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