Rohit Arya_Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Devil card

The Devil as such does not exist as an active agent of evil in Indian culture. Karma provides a sufficient explanation for the existence of evil, there is no need to seek an external supernatural cause for it. But there are Powers that seek to further Evil, asuras, dananvas, rakshasas, The Anti-gods. The closest thing to a Devil we have is Mara, the Tempter the wicked one who tried to block the enlightenment of Buddha, correctly judging that it would be a huge evolution for Consciousness if the Buddha awakened.


CARD 15:  The Devil – Mara with his Three Daughters

Rohit’s Notes:

A very difficult card, as India does not have any such notion as the Devil.  It was a great struggle to resist using a Horned One equivalent, as the Celtic packs do, or a Pan equivalent.

However, Buddhist Mythology does have an Evil One – Mara.  Since the pack is an Indian mythology pack, and the Buddha is one of the greatest figures in the culture, I felt we can use this.  Mara plays the same role in the enlightenment of the Buddha, as Satan the Adversary does, when Jesus is in the desert, tempting and then trying to frighten him.

The illustration we will send of the blue demon, is a good place to start.  Please keep the skull headgear.  The costumes of the Balinese dancers are also a good way to depict him.  I am tired of the wild skins and hairy features of the standard packs.  “The Prince of Darkness is a gentleman.”  I forget who said that, but the suave, dangerous aspect of the Devil is what we need.  This card should not be overdone, as we are going to use this again in the suit of Pentacles.

What we need here, is the Devil holding his three daughters and a couple of men, in the standard manner, with chains around their necks, all the human figures to be nude, as is the typical custom in depicting the chains of the Devil.  He should be given a vicious looking sword to hold too, the other hand having a musical instrument of some sort.  The environment should not be depicted as forbidding and hopeless.  The power of the Devil is precisely his offer of a high standard of living and comfort.

Can you communicate a sort of serpentine fluidity to the man?  His figure should dominate the card, but it should not stand in the typical still and straight divine posture.  The Devil is polymorphous, too easily swayed by circumstances, too eager to seize immediate advantage to appreciate the long-term advantage of standing firm.  An air of instability will convey the essential hollow nature of his power.

The Devil is in Jungian terms, the challenge of the Shadow, and is in that sense an extremely useful and necessary part of the human imagination.


Jane’s Process Notes – 15 September 2002

These are quite lengthy extracts again from my workbook.  The “Devil” card  is “made for artists” because through  realizing what we project, we strip down the effigies of our bossy Saint.  We meet and are challenged here by the raw subconscious material, and we are as putty!   Through this Arcanum, as we learn to see it, gleams truth.   Rudra enters the picture again:


Arrived at Caroline’s to meet Sparkie in a happy and curious-about-it frame, after a large and excellent calzone-pizza with A and two glasses of wine;  and left there later, weary and depressed.  It is very tiring to have to sit through this kind of thing in a hot padded room, late in the evening.  My bitchings about Satsang givers are not quite on the mark, so I shall refrain.   I liked Sparkie’s earnest lady helpers and the Teutonic gang with the electronics and the camera – the electronics broke down half way through and nearly started a fire.   That was rather a relief, because the soporific new-age-zen background tinkling, though at first quite pleasant, was getting on my nerves.  Sparkie didn’t attempt any rev-ups with me, though he really pulled poor A out on the mat, for “the Advaita movement in England”, because there wasn’t really anyone else there to work with.  So in the end, I chipped in, to support Alan, and said there was a movement a few years ago, with everyone going to everybody, but now they’ve all found their teachers among themselves and got married. 

Which basically implied – you’re superfluous, mate.

My impression is that Sparkie, a blond and bearded trans-atlantic Englishman whose home is now Germany, is used to talking now in German to Germans, and had a hard job connecting to Londoners … who prefer something a little more tongue in cheek.  In his view, the Western “spiritual tradition” meeting the East, is modern psychology, and he “does not dismiss politics”.  The opinions are his, and himself-centered.  His German ladies adore him – this is natural: devotion on the spiritual path.

I should try to go to things un-comparitively, but for one schooled with the un-person-centered vitality of Kabbalah and the delicious honesty and humour of its teachers, this little gathering was a tomb.   There was a table there, covered with dazzling piles of tapes and books and gleaming photos of Papaji messengers, with among them, poor patient Ramana, and even Anandamayi Ma … presented as icons, swept into this personality cult.

These musings lead me usefully into my rather heavy work for the coming week – India Tarot Devil, Tower and Star, to be guinea-pigged through my subconscious into the light.   For instance, Key 15 the Devil is in the western Mysteries, the artist’s card par excellence.  It covers the whole field of projectile-prakriti into enclosure and includes my recent “Initiation”, drawing portraits of inner plane Masters:  “Ah Netr Ankh”, Hail to the Lord of Life.  The enclosure is a projection of the Infinite into small forms of separateness, definition, solidity.  It puts the illusion into glass and makes it hard to touch.  (What an interesting sentence!)

Serious and be-scattered insomnia last night … I became aware of a whitish, fiery and incomplete figure in my deeps, with none of its limbs defined or ‘finished’ – a kind of fury, but objectively seen.  A rapid visual association brought up my drawing of Wild Rudra – glimpsed yesterday when sorting out my old drawings.

This drawing has already been used in our Notes on SITA, the Creation of Rudra: The Fool.  Here he is again, now occupying my Shadow.  That’s what it is, inside!  That is the spike of nameless angry heat, which destroys my rest and equilibrium when slipping towards sleep into the fleece of an idea or outlined shape.  It is Rudra the Wild Hunter before the dawn of the Vedas, the one that roars, Rudra the Uncreate who with his bow and arrow shot into Bison Prajapati’s balls just as Prajapati was about to penetrate his own daughter Ushas the Dawn  (India Tarot’s Star).  The seed fell to the ground instead, and became the gap of space and time and separateness within the unity of the Uncreate.  (Stella Kramrisch, The Presence of Siva).  It became cattle, days and nights, destinies and Earth.   Yes!   The Devil – the raw-unconscious – reacts against my nameless, sharp, zig zag feeling –  the falsehood of any sort of boundary.

Boundaries there must be, in drawing;  in the Yetzirah/Assiyah relationship (formation and the material world) and in the monitoring of empathies;  but in truth, boundaries there are not, and the outline and the manufacture of boundaries arouses Rudra’s rage against the Devil’s comfort zone, and artist’s bane.   Try to distinguish the level, so that the higher doesn’t get mixed so drainingly into the lower.

Saw too, in this Presence of Rudra, the lightning-flash energy.  I was at ease when limbs, hands and feet were kept open and unfinished, and I was un-eased when they were enclosed and “made”.  Let it break open anew, and smile!  Recalled also (subconscious efficiently delivers) that Rudra in Rohit’s India Tarot is The Fool, the Innocent Before Creation, the wild fury in creation’s trap.   I understand now why they wanted another Rudra-Fool, more terrible and wild;  so I drew the spiky dark lightning colours in the skies around his wild dance, descending through it into earth and mountain through his toe.

The Fool in the Adytum (western Mysteries) emanates from Kether, the untrapped potential in the lightning flash before creation:  the flower in the bud.   How wonderful to bridge the traditions, their Light and Shadow as One.  How wonderful to be shown and to know, with my very being.

I held in focus this flickering and undefined presence – practicing a teaching of Francis Lucille’s: to include strange, unvoiced and unlined sensations, let them expand and inform … and at last fell heavily asleep because suddenly it was 7.45 and morning … and had my recurring nightmare of being “on Retreat” with my soul/spiritual group, and being alienated from it like a scapegoat.   I’m afraid my inner Rudra is always spoiling my security routines.  Never mind.  I’m glad to know my Rudra and be shown, like when Kali passed through here.

Yesterday afternoon, something lovely happened.  While tippexing the master copy of SE for the printers, I listened to the first four tapes of Lady Chatterley’s Lover … Lawrence portrays a certain discordant 1920s tedium, as read in Margaret Hilton’s schoolgirlie voice – and then at last Connie gets together with her gamekeeper in the wood on the second side of the fifth tape, and utter beauty against all hope, blossoms:  the full flood of erotic poetry unleashed.

It is a peculiar delight to be free from personal desire, and entranced by the pure beauty and primordial pulse of that erotic description;  to share in the event both male and female, with and as the subtle body.  Because I am free, it is “I AM”, without any buffers, as deep and strong as the sea.   In a pioneering spirit, Lawrence was the supreme and perhaps unique poet of the sexual act in our time:  its all-ecompassing nature and its fleetingness.  I listened and heard and was and smiled.  IT IS THE SAME AS MUSIC.

Fancy going along to Sparkie’s satsang after that!  It’s hardly fair.


16 September 2002

Slept much better, after restful day completing SE for the printers, listening to Lady C’s L, and managing to clean the kitchen … and had another Earthquake dream.  (See Notes on SITA: Death II – Kali).  This time, it was a two-storey house out in the west country somewhere.  I woke with the impression fast fading.  Again I wondered how neighbouring buildings had fared.  The ground reeled, and the house perhaps tipped a little, and dropped down at least its own height, into a gulf of silence;  yet no gulf of earth had opened and swallowed it.  The house was as before, with an outside and an inside.  I went to the bathroom downstairs, and there were no cracks in the walls,  and then I woke. 

It seems that oceanic waves pass through my marrow:  the vesica-piscean ripples, as the work of the soul ventures into … higher Yetzirah, or union.  It is also the alchemical Dragon (kundalini).   When I go out from my island into the sea, there are waves surrounding it, like a reef to surmount first.   I used to dream of seeing them.

… I have heard almost all of the 14 tapes of Lady C’s L.  Of course, the power and discovery of that first time, is unrepeatable.  It is the tragic and comic human paradox we have, that sex which touches infinity, creates its own destroyer, transforming to the weary weary linear story of man and woman and brat and do-you-love-me.  One knows – “tha’ knows” – already, and doesn’t want the story.  There is only ever the one time:  kiss it silent.

…  Thinking of DHL, and the great black blight of the collieries, iron and money upon old England, of which he wrote with such passion and anger; and in those days saw and felt the destruction of humanity – this felt so perennial, that I stopped on my bike and made a note:

The interface of humanity with history, has always been that brutalizing agony upon kind Earth.

The difference in our humanity nowadays, is that more of us are involved with history.

That is to say:  seeing history as a blind, mechanical, unsolving force.  And seeing humanity – real humanity – as that which, like within flowers, manages to remain uncrushed.  Would Lawrence nowadays, recognize us as human?  And is not the turning inward and the flourishing of the esoteric wisdom, but a counterpoising accompaniment to ugliness? 

The Catherine-wheel of Cruelty and ugliness was always so, maybe in olden times more intensely so, but in smaller localities.  The tread of the wheel is in these present times wider.  At the same time, a number of specific cruelties become obsolete.  And after WW1 and WW2, no young lad goes lightly to war;  but also there is child pornography, and there is the waste of soviet-regime excrement upon the poisoned lands of eastern Europe, etc.  I think deep down, that I am not involved with ‘history’.   ‘Involved’ is also “caught up in”.  But I see.


17 September 2002

I asked for the Spirit Guardian’s help, and was reminded to touch base inwardly – my own heart-swept chamber.  One simply must deal with uninvited pests here.  One can see beyond them into Siva, one can dissolve them in the inner truth, point the ankh at them to sizzle them, laugh at them.  What, you again?

Today I have to draw the devil for India Tarot.  At the “Table Round” (a meditation), I saw clearly how the shadow side of this Key alienates and separates me:  how it becomes cut-out boring thoughts which are not mind, but mischievously say they are, and I feel outcast from sacred gatherings – exactly the dismissal from Eden into anatomy.

At the same time, the Grail shone bright, and practicing the Zodiacal colour spectrum around it, I returned to Capricorn, whose colour indigo, is the devil’s own, and whose sign I am – the creative Key of bind and loose;  creative usurpation, yet manifestation;  surfaces.  I went round to Key 15 and flipped his pentacle and pulled his beard.  His red popish eyes and pompous gesture of authority melted.  The chains fell off Adam and Eve.  Liberation always, is in my heart, and the old Goat is curiously the key to it.  He presents himself perversely, to be seen through.  He has no sense of humour at all.  He is also puritanical – behind my effort to keep all my thoughts pure of irrelevant genitalia or the gutter press, when in my citadel, and spank them if they are not.

Arcanum 15, from Jane’s Hermetic Tarot deck

18 September 2002

I began India Tarot’s No.15 – The Devil.  It is going quite well;  it is based on Mara who tempted Buddha, and should therefore suggest a Prince-of-Darkness imitation of the Buddha.  He is glamorous.  He waves a sword and a musical instrument with two of his arms, and with the other two, he holds like reins, the chains of his three daughters and two men, all in their separate MATTER cocoons. He is skilled in the arts and other business – his left upper hand is refined. He sits in lotus posture, has an enormous dark head and red eyes, and looks thoroughly unreliable.  I remembered he’s the father of lies, and the Alternative Guru – “God as he is conceived to be, by the ignorant”.  But also, he is the supreme Key for the artist, and as Rohit describes Jungianly, the indispensable Shadow of real creativity.


And now here is someone behind that, whom I drew at the same time.  He is called “Art the Gardener”, or maybe “Hiawatha”.

 “He issurrounded by young trees and leans on a stick or spade, looking at me;  and the branch-patterns formed a heart around his upper torso and head.  He wears a cloth around his middle, Egyptian worker style … he might have elven ears somewhere.  He is somebody in my “library” or “gallery”, and I am glad I have drawn a picture of him.  There is a lot of roughly hatched deep blue sky showing through the taut autumn-turning birch trees.  I used cruder oil pastel, so as not to get too anal over facial details, and the face is left interestingly suggestive and open.  He is very beautiful and strong, he stands in a relaxed and flowing way.  He’s a bit like Christ among the thorns.



19 – 21 September 2002

Interesting email from Vamadeva Frawley, in response to mine.  Ganapati Muni is up to it again.  I’m very pleased about this new correspondence, and hope it will go on.  Vamadeva has the highly-trained knack of reflecting or boiling down deep ideas into succinct sentences to ponder.  He sent me also Chapter One of his new and more poetic work on Agni, all in very short, simple and profound paragraphs… …  and in the post arrived a CD from my friend in Hungary, of an Italian/Mephistopheles opera she’s copied for me – perfect to finish drawing my India Tarot No.15 with!

… The Grail touches earth.  In Botticelli’s last painting, The Nativity, angels embrace humans down in the strata of the demons.

Correspondence:  Gautam and Rohit – 24 September 2002

“Dear Jane, we think the devil is the most handsome devil we have seen to date.  No change in him at all.  Should the bodies of the women be more defined in a voluptuous sense, or are they OK?  This card is looking fantastic.”

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  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga


Rohit Arya_Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Temperance card

This card was not very difficult to choose but Jane has many interesting observations to make about the process. “I now quote quite extensively from my writings during the creation of Sacred India Tarot Temperance,  because I discover in them, allusions to an interior Contact.  This is “phenomenally” relevant.  In the western School of Tarot and Kabbalah, Temperance is a path of probation, on which we learn to hear the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Guardian Angel” – the messengers of God.   Also there is a clarity about the cultural bridging work which went into the SITA deck.  Plainly, it was being orchestrated from the upper and inner worlds.”



Correspondence:  Gautam

Dear Jane – herewith a passable reference for Ganga, which has a kind of Oriental flavour.  Rohit thought it might just help.   Regards, Gautam

Correspondence: Jane – 3 September 2002

Stand by for Kali Mark Two – on her way to you in the next hour or two.  Ganga has begun, and proceeds temporarily.


Rohit’s Notes:

“The article I wrote will serve for references and context. Will send a picture too.  Please convey the fluid nature, the body that flows, of the goddess.  She travels on a crocodile.  The idea of Temperance is somewhat difficult to communicate in a Hindu mythical context, as everything is dramatic.  It may seem an unusual choice, but Ganga had to learn the lesson of temperance first, until she could be of use to the world.”

Correspondence:  Jane

”Am working on Ganga now, in the upper river, i.e.above Rishikesh – the elemental things, the balance.  I note her vehicle is a crocodile.  In Egypt these are considered very evil creatures.  Can you give me a quick view today, on how India sees crocs?  This one is quite small anyway, and a worthy agent for transmutation – she’s got to ride something.”



Correspondence:  Rohit to Gautam – 6 September 2002

“Let the problem with the crocodile be.  It is the equivalent of the dragon being bad in west and good in China, so we can go ahead with no problem.  Let the croc stay.  In any case, it is actually a makara, a primarily crocodile-like creature, Jane will understand if you forward this to her.”


Temperance, Arcanum 14 in Jane’s Hermetic deck


Rohit’s IndiaYogi article – Ganga, the River of Salvation

To understand the river Ganga is to understand a significant part of India.  It holds a place unique in all the mythologies, theologies and beliefs of the world.  In no other culture has a natural feature assumed so much religious and psychological significance.  Sacred sites are many, but an entire river providing salvation not in the other world, but right on this earth – that is rare.  The Ganga is so interwined with the Indian imagination, that even for people who never live near it, she will always be the supreme river.  In such circumstances, it is not surprising that the river Ganga is also one of the most popular goddesses in India.

So central is the Ganga to the Hindu imagination, that all sects have an origin story for her, that reflects well on their chosen god.  The great trinity of Hinduism is intimately associated with Ganga.  She is described as the daughter of Brahma, the wife of Siva, and the actual melted body of Vishnu.

This multiplicity of roles happens, because no worshipper wanted to feel left out from the saving grace of Ganga.  For Ganga’s supreme virtue is that she can save you from sin. One drop of her sacred waters is enough to wipe out all the sins accumulated over many lifetimes.  One single drop of Ganga water on the cremated remains of a sinner, is enough to wipe out all his sins and gain him heaven, as one popular story goes.  There is nobody who is so sinful that he or she cannot be saved by the waters of the Ganga.  The Ganga is thus the ultimate in merciful mother goddesses.

Psychologically, the mere fact that the Ganga exists, has been a comfort to people.  For hope is never lost, there is no trail of sin so dense and impenetrable that the saving waters of the Ganga cannot magically clear up, into the path of virtue and salvation.

Contrary to unsubtle and hasty thinking, this notion is not an incitement to wrong-doing.  It is not a question of sin as much as you want, and then in the nick of time have a sip of Ganga water.  There are many stories, which refute the too-easy-salvation objection, and it has never been a significant or core belief of the Indian mind.  Ganga salvation is serious business, not a trivial dip in flowing water.  Of such arguments we will deal with later.

A typical mythical origin myth, almost a representative one of the genre, runs as follows:

The divine sage Narada was a great traveler, and he loved to sing lustily as he went along his merry path.  One day he came upon a group of extraordinary beings in a forest, who were severely wounded and writhing in pain that seemed to come to them in continual jolts.  The aghast Rishi stopped to help these beings in torment – whereupon they seemed to suffer even greater extremities.

Enquiry revealed the mortifying truth;  these beings were in continual pain because of Narada’s non-stop warbling!  They were the souls of the ragas he blithely mangled with his inept rendition.  Because he was a divine Rishi, the torment caused, was actually physically torturing them.   Narada promised on the spot, to never again sing until he had mastered the correct procedures and – presumably – taken up some voice modulation.  However, the immediate objective was to restore these poor suffering ragas to health.

They told him there was only one way.  The Perfect Singer, Siva himself, must sing the ragas:  that divine rendition would cure them.  It would also teach Narada how these ragas were actually meant to be sung.  Siva had no objections, but since the numbers of ragas he was required to sing, were vast – (Narada being a prolific singer!) – he made a request of his own.  He could keep going for such a long stretch, only if he had the Perfect Listeners to enthuse him and create the ultimate aesthetic ambiance.  Only when the singer was perfectly sure that his audience understood each and every nuance that he was exploring, would a song be a true experience.  For this, he wanted Brahma and Vishnu to be his audience.  They readily agreed, as Siva is the master of all the fine arts; and a concert given by him is a treat even for the Gods.

The ragas began to heal rapidly, as the Great God sang.  His expectations of his listeners were not disappointed either.  No matter where he went with his song, they were in perfect harmony with him.

Brahma noticed something extraordinary was taking place.  Vishnu had identified with the soft, melting notes of the song to such an extent, that he was actually melting away from his feet!   Brahma quietly collected the liquid Vishnu in his water pot.

Brahma’s split attention has thus qualified him as not the equal in aesthetic sensibility.  However, from the liquid he had collected, he fashioned a divinely beautiful girl, who because of the unique circumstances of her birth, hallowed everything she touched.   This was Ganga, and she was nominally the daughter of Brahma, as he had given shape and form to her.

Ganga lived in heaven, where her privileged status and unique powers made her turbulent and uncontrollable.  She was a creature of whim, and none could thwart her, for who could oppose the power of Vishnu?   Only the mighty Himalaya, or Himavan, lord of the Mountains, was patient , and good-humouredly put up with her antics.  She became a sort of surrogate daughter to him, surging in and out of his peaks and crags.

Soon however, matters on Earth had reached a crisis.  Only the saving waters of Ganga could restore the balance that had been upset.  The entire ocean had been dried up, and this wreaked havoc on the eco-system.  This catastrophe was the unintentional result of a good deed done by the Rishi Agastya.  Mankind was being plagued by a species of demons that were hiding under the waters of the ocean.  This was an impregnable defense;  they raided and killed at will.  The great Sage however, drank up the waters of the ocean; and the gods and heroes slaughtered the demons on the dried up seabed.   Agastya however, had inadvertently digested the entire ocean – he being prone to perform miracles even unconsciously.  Filling up the ocean was one task the Earth needed Ganga for.

The other task was caused by the sheer determination of a King of the Ikshawaku dynasty called Bhagiratha.  Many generations ago, the thousand sons of his ancestor Sagara had angered a sage, and been burnt to death by his angry glare.  The souls of these unfortunates were cursed too.  There was no heaven for them, unless the waters of the Ganga could be brought down to Earth from Heaven, to wash over their ashes – the very definition of impossibility.

Since the performance of rituals for one’s ancestors is a prime duty of ancient Indian kings, it became a prestige issue of the Ikshawakus.  King after king attempted to get his ancestors’ salvation by the practice of tapasya, but all failed.  Bhagiratha however, was one of those wills before which the Universe changes direction.  His tapasya became so formidable that Brahma finally consented to allow Ganga to descend to earth.  He warned Bhagiratha that the force of the descent would be such, that the Earth would be shattered unless Siva consented to receive this divine deluge upon his head, and thus break up the impact to manageable levels.

Jane’s Notes – July 2012

This drawing (see below) does not actually belong to the Brahma-Vishnu-Ganga nexus, but to the Sivaic one;  but they share resonances, so it came to my mind and merges, as mythologies often do.   The drawing (done in 1999) is called “Parvati Pestered by Sages” and it depicts her tapas to win her dharma in Siva’s love;  the sages came around and tried to trick and undermine her Yogic practice, by telling her Siva was an old good-for-nothing.  She refused to listen to them, or accept their beguiling teachings.

The Ganga in this tale, falls from the Pleiades constellation (Krrtikas) through Siva’s Himalayan dreadlocks.  The pleroma of the world cracks open.  Indeed, Rohit in the book of SITA wrote: “She flows from the Himalayas, the most potent spiritual place on earth, to the plains of India, sanctifying an entire country.  The earth would have shattered with the impact of the Divine river without Siva’s intervention.  Yogis say, the guru performs the same function for the unwary disciple;  he controls the descent of transforming energy into portions that they can assimilate.”  That is true temperance.   Parvati, dark and comely, was the Daughter of the Himalayas.  Both tales therefore, blend the flow of the mighty River as it pours from the stars down the mountain passes, wild and untamed;  towards a stream of nourishment for all humanity.   Prof. Stella Kramrisch has described this with poetic magnificence in The Presence of Siva.

Parvati Pestered by Sages may also be titled, “Mother Ganga when she was a Wild Young Miss”.   It depicts the power and turmoil of divine forces as they reach our awareness, and before they become channeled into adequate expression.

The waters are unleashed from the glaciers where they were bound in stellar time cycles.

Ragas are wounded until they are properly sung.

I tend to view the Indian mythology as a whole, as this descent through the Himalayan watershed, to the fertile plains, the mudlands, and the sea, teeming with life.   Similarly my Hermetic Temperance above, depicts the Four Worlds of the descent, through Emanation, Creation, Formation and the Physical world.

Correspondence:  Jane –  9 September 2002

I sent you earlier a scan of Ganga which I hope receives ok.  It seemed to me on the screen to be a little fainter than the drawing itself, and to have lost some of the pinky browns in the background.  The drawing has no dark areas, and is more delicate than some of the others, but is in texture quite well ‘covered’.  If it doesn’t email well, I will will send by snailmail.

Correspondence: Gautam – 10 September 2002

Ganga well received – I really liked the no dark areas/light look … milky as a Way!  Today is Ganesh Chathurthi, the day Indians bring the god home to worship, let’s hope, being our trump card, it removes all obstacles in our way for the Tarot deck.  We were viewing all printouts of the cards close to actual size, and it looks very powerful.  Rohit had an idea of putting a Yantra on the reverse side, instead of the boring checquered print, what do you think about that?  Have a good weekend!

Correspondence: Rohit – 13 September 2002

“I love the look and feel of Ganga card, especially the little touch with the sage meditating, could be Ghagirahta, could be so many of the people associated with her.  The face is so wonderful, timeless, serene.  I just love it.  However, the fact that she is unornamented, makes her look like a widow in our cultural terms.  This card has to be “fixed” in that some jewellery upon her is imperative.  I did not think this needed stating, looking at the Saraswathi and Laxmi cards, but in all future cards unless specifically stated, we need jewellery upon the women.  Fortunately, this is merely adding to a drawing already existing, and not difficult to do;  there is no reworking needed.”

19 JULY 2012

I now quote quite extensively from my writings during the creation of Sacred India Tarot Temperance,  because I discover in them, allusions to an interior Contact.  This is “phenomenally” relevant.  In the western School of Tarot and Kabbalah, Temperance is a path of probation, on which we learn to hear the “Knowledge and Conversation of the Guardian Angel” – the messengers of God.   Also there is a clarity about the cultural bridging work which went into the SITA deck.  Plainly, it was being orchestrated from the upper and inner worlds.


Jane’s Notes: 8 September 2002

I saw another being in my sleep this morning.  She was quite severe, and dressed in heavy sky-blue robes.  Across her brow was bound a horizontal fold, over the vertical side-falls of her head-dress or veil.  To each side of her seated posture, and at her feet, were living symbols.  But what these were, quickly faded.  I think this may be related to the book about Anandamayi Ma.

Later, another being appeared briefly:  not humanoid, but a round golden sphere or aerial disk like the sun, with maybe a white corona line? – something definite around it, and more living geometric symbols of depth and simplicity, which also faded.  Such types may be angelic presences.

12 September 2002

The Anandamayi Ma book (“Death must Die”) is really valuable in its intelligent and deep understanding of a real guru-disciple medium – it goes from strength to strength, and I marked many passages.  It is not my path, and the author suffers enormous and very difficult waves of entry into Indian spiritual and social culture, but it has shown me something of the esoteric background to Brahminism for instance; how the rules of caste guarded and nurtured the Sanatana Dharma;  the honesty of the struggling devotee, and the wisdom and Oneness and great kindness of Anandamayi Herself, are beyond question.  The guru-disciple relation is alchemical, but it uses a Person as catalyst.  And as the transcending Person mirrors that in the disciple which aspires, like butterfly guides the caterpillar, similarly the disciple’s own Person is one unending ache and bother, thrown into high relief.

13 September 2002 – MUDRA

This Himalayan Ganges river scene is inspired by the falling waters of Abhishiktananda’s realization in this upper region. The water foams from the melting sources of the Self:  the glacier, the hermit – pure nourishment from the gods.  This Mother Ganga also derives some inspiration from Ananda Mayi Ma.  Her right breast was showing, but I was asked to veil it with her hair.  The vases from which she pours, are tributary streams from Himalayan valleys into the Great River.  Ananda Mayi said, “Remember everything is God, you breathe God in and out.”

An email came this morning from Rohit to Gautam, about my Ganga.  He loves it, and the meditating sage on the bank behind her, and her timeless face, but says she has to have a few ornaments, otherwise she is culturally a widow.

Now who, a few days ago, was talking about sons and widows in relation to Mother Ganga and Benares?  Or where did I read it, with the uplift of connectivity to the Masonic Sons of the Widow in the western Mystery?   I don’t know.  I looked through the Anandamayi book unsuccessfully, for a reference.  There was such a beautiful “rhyme”.   The Sons of the Widow are discussed in The Great Work (a book of lessons on alchemy).

But the other day, maybe last week, when I was drawing Ganga in the River, and listening to Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, the Rhyme came from someone, or some text bridging Indian and Western Mysteries, and is right now an un-named visual delight to me in the drawing itself, and the precision of the little meditating sage.   I copied the river and the sage on the bank straight out of this amazing photo (below)in the Maurice Herzog Himalayas book.  I knew the sage was somehow significant – Rohit confirms – as well as conveying pure Contemplation upstream near the glaciers – and in the nourishment of the whole Kali-Ramakrishna-Ganges context that bathes me now – the goodness that comes from India, without having to go there.  I can feel the song of it … the raga … but lost the words, or who they came from:   mountain ranges of mantra.

I think an Indian has taken a seat at my Table Round, to help me with that part of the world/dharma, because of the vigorous “pipelines” now ongoing with India Tarot and Self-enquiry magazine.  (A “pipeline” is antakharana, channeling a higher Inspiration.)

I remembered while in peaceful contemplation of Beauty at the Table Round (Kabbalah) that the ‘locks’ are also mudras, in the sense of gesture, or posture.  When you spiritually “lock” and become still – a frame – grace plays through you, grace is the picture unimpeded.  A specific stillness or asana is the portal to following the Inner Beings.  This is a beautiful understanding of the pipeline.  I first learnt about it in Dion Fortune’s Moon Magic.

Anyway, there’s been a requirement to draw Anandamayi Ma since the Ganga one last week, which she didn’t quite get into.  From Tifareth, I see her now with her shawl over her head, as in Douglas Harding’s story (it was she who started his paper bags), and with her hand forming a mudra in front of her chin, as in the cover photo of Death Must Die;  and so of course this morning must be drawn, and it can go in SE magazine, from my alchemy drawing-book.

Jane’s Notes – 14 September 2002

The thought that is leading me now is that in the Western esoteric tradition we have our gurus and teachers, and they work on our I-thought yesod-ego(person) just as they do in India, but they are on the inner plane, and we do not necessarily know who they are.   Like with the manifest ones in India, the relationship is subtle and exacting, and the path to it is a stripping down of obscurities.

The device that stills my mind at the moment, is the graded colours of the Sefiroth and of the Tattvas.  Concentration on these colour sequences brings the point into focus.  By now all the Sefiroth colours are alive, sparkly and fiery.  I am not yet a year into this work;  it takes years through the preliminaries – remember this, and be at rest.  The Teacher is there, and leading you with the golden cord in the heart.  Breathe with him and her, in peace and joy.  The Teacher is closer to you than breathing – the Teacher is that thing that goes “ping” in the heart, like a viol string gently plucked … like that within the centre of Hildegard of Bingen’s mandalas.  He moves within and as you, and is vastly beyond you.  Such certainty of Hermes!   Recognition of the Inner Teacher and the commitment, must imply an act of surrender.  I will be shown how.   Remembered the idea of the “lock” or position of stillness, openness, in that frame.

India has definitely taken a seat at my Table Round.  Yesterday morning I drew Anandamayi Ma from the photo where she is making a mystic mudra (the lock) with her hand, from her Daat Tattva.   It didn’t come through so easily – because of working from photo – but it has arrived shining soft, and is going also in SE mag.  Worked flat out all day yesterday on SE creative details – utterly exhausted in evening, listened to tape of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and to some Dylan Thomas, slept badly, too tired.  But the Dylan Thomas you can hear like passionate music, unknowing as yet the tumbling, dancing words, in wonder;  and it kindles the fire through the weary marrow, which sings and enables rest and sleep.  The book about Anandamayi gave and refreshed a deep understanding of India.  And then there arrived another email from Vamadeva Frawley.  He says, “Over the past few years I have been working with a great guru from Andra Pradesh, Sivananda Murty.  He is highly respected in India. Not only is he a master of Ramana’s teachings, but is a master of yoga and mantra with connections to Tryalinga Swami.  He is now in his seventies.  So such teachers remain, quite unlike the current western generation of pop advaitins.  Best wishes, Vamadeva.”

Mrs B and I call him “Binoculars” because of his single minded hill-man’s blue eyes and dismissal of any small talk.  This is the carrier of Ganapati Muni’s wisdom in the west;  the only recognized Vedic teacher or Shastri outside India.  I am very pleased to be corresponding with Binoculars, and must tailor myself to his Spartan economy of language.

The beauty of it is, that I don’t have to go to India, but the Indian connectivity is energized again – the rich cross-fertilization.  So this morning I see very clearly, how it works.  In India, as in the western mystery tradition, the real work is one to one – with a sage, whether celebrated or unknown.

Sense of relief that I am again interested in and nourished by the Indian antenna, because I really do work in the bridging of these cultures.  The antenna has been cleaned of advaita-pop tinsel, and I am aware again of the vast, refreshing secret tradition sustained, like I was in Ramanananda Swami’s little cottage at Arunachala … the fraternity.  That’s why, by hook or by crook I get so ferociously committed to each production of SE mag.  I feel each time, the Companions who oversee it, gathering together into it, and the new life and purity it develops.  I put in two very funny stories by the mountaineer Frank Smythe, a snipped-down child-Krishna/cow Bhakti sketch, and Douglas Harding’s story of how Anandamayi Ma started him off on the paper bag.

As the west is unaware of the power and purity (in small numbers) of its own esoteric tradition, so is India unaware of its own.  The Gurus who hit the public eye and draw large crowds and become famous (and some of them corrupt) float about on the surface, in the age old convention of the land, and temple circuits.  They are petitioned for miracles.  The real work is done in ashrams off the beaten track:  in sadhus on the banks of glacial Ganges;  in their inner-plane Teachers, invisible or materialized.  Most of India nowadays is caught in the thrall of materialization.  The ageless wisdom slipped through the fence, to be much misrepresented in the west, but here and there taking perennial root.  “Guru” means “dispeller of darkness”.  To find and see your Teacher, you must remove your own shades.

My irritated observation of advaitapops over the last two or three years since I stopped going to any of their satsangs, is that when you have “something” and you sit there as a mirror for all the punters’ highest expectations, wisdom starts to flow through you in response;  there is nothing like it.  Then they all go home and are hungry again.

… … Chat with Alan just now, about Sparkie’s darshan tonight at Caroline’s.  Sparkie is a disciple of “Gangaji”.  Alan doesn’t think there will be many customers, I’m going along with him after the Ramana meeting.  Alan thinks Sparkie is a missionary, but the truth is (I said) the London advaita crowd has settled down happily with its home grown Roger Lindens and Nathans and Tonys, they’re all doing it for each other as companions, we’re British, we don’t need anyone from abroad.  “We won the War!” said Alan.   Hurray!

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  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya-Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Alternative Death Card

Card number 13 in the Major Arcana has historically been a turbulent and slightly difficult one. The Archetype is  just too powerful. Add to that the choice of Mother Kali to represent it and we have a really interesting situation. Kali has been in continual worship for at least six thousand years in India… it makes the Power  quite unpredictable and surprising. Jane created an early version which scared the pants off everybody; we show it now for the first time. I was mainly responsible for that. I wrote a feature on Kali which emphasized the turbulence and power and Jane tapped into that. Her descriptions of the process of creating this card are most illuminating from  both an artistic and spiritual perspective. She has  also included David Frawley’s take on Kali which is superb.

Sacred India Tarot

Notes on its Creation:  Card 13, Death (2):


Rohit’s Notes:

As we agreed before, we will have two death cards.    The male one is Mrityu in the form of Yama;  the female one will be KALI.  Our attached articles and pictures will give you some idea as to how to proceed.

Kali as usual should be portrayed on the prone Siva in the crematorium, Siva white, Kali black.   The pictures we have are adequate visual reference.  The sword of Kali should be the curved cleaver of tradition, as shown here in the pic, as that is very ancient and also ties her into the goddess of death-in-life, like the Morrigan goddesses of the Irish tradition, who use a similarly shaped reaping hook that later became the scythe of Death.  The name for Kali’s sword is the Bhojali, and it is as old as the curved sword of Egypt, and still in use today by the oracles in the temples of Kali.

Rohit’s Article – Kali:  the Fierce Dark Goddess

No other form of divinity worshipped by the Hindu is so difficult of acceptance as Kali – the dark and terrible naked Mother, named after the night black complexion of her skin.  Not just for non-Hindus, many of whom visibly blanch, even in these days of political correctness, when they see a picture of Kali.  Many Hindus of impeccable pedigree have the same problem in coming to terms with her.  They include even so eminent a person as Tagore.

A goddess that arouses so much genuine emotion instead of tolerant curiosity is a living force indeed, and Kali is easily amongst the six most popular forms of God worshipped amongst Hindus today.  There is a concentration in Bengal, Assam and parts of South India however, for historical reasons.

Kali was never a goddess with great significance in the texts of the faith, though it would not be pushing speculation too far to say that she was always a popular deity amongst the little traditions.  Most scholarship is veering away from the (previously prejudiced) point of view, that she is a remnant of primitive beliefs, an appallingly bloodthirsty tribal totem of uncivilized peoples, who has unaccountably made her way into the modern world because of the Hindu tendency to never really render any belief system obsolete.  That is a colonial point of view, though it does have its adherents even today.

Kali is also not convenient shorthand for some local manifestation of the Weltmutter (the World Mother).  She was always an independent and powerful goddess in her own right, and the Official Canon had to come to terms with her.  They never succeeded in marginalizing her, or rendering her subservient to male authority, unlike the examples of Saraswathi, Lakshmi and sometimes Durga.  That is a pretty remarkable achievement in itself, and testifies to the sheer power of the Kali Archetype.

In the Vedas, there is a proto-Kali, a goddess of death, destruction, bad luck and grief.  Called Nirrti, this awesome power was black in complexion, wore black clothes and rather incongruously, had long golden hair – the only black skinned blonde goddess in all mythology, I think.  While she was not Kali, she shares this trait with her, in being unambiguously associated with, and causing death.  The presence of Nirrti in the Official Canon helped quite a lot, when Kali had to be engaged with by the guardians of the faith.  So similar are the two indeed, that Nirrti has vanished from the popular imagination, Kali being more than adequate to fulfill all her roles.

The first mention of her is in the Mahabharatha, and the accounts given vary widely.  She seems to be a minor personage in Heaven, or one of the two warrior goddesses, Kalika and Bhadakali, who accompanied Skanda – one of the foremost cultural heroes of India – into battle.  Yet a vital point about them is made here, which will become the norm in all future descriptions of Kali.  They live in trees, mountains and hills, crossroads, jungles, caves and cremation grounds.  The two goddesses speak many tongues, i.e. not the language of the elite like all other well behaved gods.

The parallels with the wild Innana-Ishtar of west Asia, and the congruence of ideas with Siva as to what constitutes ideal habitation, are remarkable.

Another theory sees Kali as being the only survivor of the Matrikas, that group of Yaksha female deities who are ambivalent in the extreme, being simultaneously malevolent persecutors and kindly protectors.  Specifically, she is associated with Naravahini, a naked, skeletal and terrifying figure who rides a man as her vehicle.  There is quite a lot to be said for this theory, as the average person when confronted with a group of Matrika figures, one of the great sculptural clichés in India, identifies only Kali (the Naravahini) within it, usually.

It is however, in the Devi-mahatmayam that Kali is finally brought into the ambit of the formal faith.  In this version, Kali is an emanation of the great Goddess Durga, or more significantly, she is a personification of emergent wrath on the part of the older goddess, when she goes to battle.  The external appearance that gives so much offence to the squeamish, is full blown here.  She is red eyed from quaffing wine as well as wrath, she has a garland of human heads, wears tiger skin clothes and has a lolling tongue, which she occasionally employs to emit frightful roars that fill up all the quarters.  Her preferred mode of demon destruction is to either chew them up or cut off their heads, as she does to Chanda and Munda.

Then comes the famous encounter with the demon Raktabija, Blood-seed.  This worthy has a peculiar power – if you wound him and his blood hits the ground, a clone springs up which is as powerful as himself, and having the same power.  To wound him is therefore totally counterproductive.  Kali solves the issue by opening wide her gigantic mouth and drinking all the blood that spurts from the demons before they hit the ground!  This episode gave her a taste for blood, which has still not been slaked, and Kali remains the only major Deity in actual worship in the twenty-first century to whom daily offerings of blood are made.


(Jane’s Notes, July 2012:  “This tale bears a mirror-image (i.e. reverse) resonance to the “Self-enquiry” Goddess Chhinnamasta, who holds her severed head in her hand to receive the fountain of sushumna – the joy-awareness through her ida and pingala streams.  Rohit sent me this picture of Chhinnamasta, among his visual references to Kali.  Cropped from it are the pair of lovers Chhinnamasta always stands upon.  She transforms and sublimates their yogic energy, or Tejas, releasing it to cosmic particles;  likewise, Kali stands on Lord Siva as his fountain Shakti-power.   Reflection on these images reveals Death as a transformative force through Life.  Our profound feelings, fears and terrors of Death ARE life, the awareness which transfigures.”)  


Kali – the Fierce Dark Goddess continued:

In her official debut as it were, into the Great tradition, Kali comes in her most uncompromising and horrific forms.  And the wonder is that she has found millions of worshippers who do not object to her stern demands.

As a practical spin off, and as an illustration of the power of mythology, comes the curious story of the Thugees (or thugs?), the famous strangler bandit tribe of India, who waxed fat until the British administrator Sleeman hunted down and hanged all of them in the 19th century.  The Thugees had their own version of the Raktabija story.  According to them, Kali realized that the key to defeating the demon was that no blood be spilt.  Therefore she and her helpers devised the deadly scarf garrote and attacked the demons from behind.  Being her devotees, the Thugees used to strangle their victims likewise, having a peculiar horror of shedding blood.  Such stories go a long way in explaining the bad reputation Kali usually had in urban centres.

David Frawley writes:  (extracts from Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses)  “The Sanskrit word Kali literally means Time.  Kali is the feminine of the word for Time which in the masculine is Kala…. In its essential nature, Time is eternity itself, perpetual changeless duration.  Everything changes but change itself …


“Time is life.  Life is our movement in time.  Through our own life-force or Prana, we experience time.  Kali as time is Prana or the life-force.  Kali or the Divine Mother is our life.  She is the secret power behind the working of our bodily systems and vital energy.  Only through her do we live … as the Life-force, she drinks the blood of all beings … Death is the ending of what has no real substance.  It eliminates the inessential to reveal the essential…   Life and death are the rhythms of time, the ebb and flow of the eternal sea.  To die daily is her daily worship…

“Kali is the love that exists at the heart of life, that endures through both life and death.  Maintaining the awareness of the eternal nature of life through the cycles of birth and death, is another one of her meditational approaches.


“Why should we look on time as a Goddess or a feminine form?  Time is not a mere abstract continuum in which things occur, it is a living field, a conscious energy, a matrix and a vortex.  Time is the great womb and hence has a feminine quality.

“Time is the working out of a cosmic Intelligence.  It is the very breath of the cosmic Spirit.  Time is not a mere mathematical concept but the very stuff of our experience, the rhythm of our lives.  What are we apart from time?  Time is our mother and origin, as well as our final abode.  Time is the mother who eats her own children, which is one of the terrible aspects of Kali.  Yet in devouring her own children, she is also returning them to her wholeness and delight.”

Our creation of Kali for The Sacred India Tarot underwent a similar evolution, from the raw, un-discipled fury of the Goddess, to her Yogic alliance with Siva.   Likewise, attitudes to death evolve through confronting the demon asuras of anger, violent loss and grief, to a re-cognition of All-consciousness.  In this cycle, Mother Kali seems at first to avenge her dead child.  As her archetype matures, she IS the child, and her creative awareness aligns the paradox of destruction with the seed, the newly born.

Correspondence:  Jane – August 2002

“Dear Gautam, thank you very much for the images of Kali and of Ganga, well received here.  They are most helpful.  I am feeling a bit better now, and I hope Rohit is too.  I am going away Monday thru Friday next week, I will try by the end of tomorrow (Sunday) to get enough of Yama done to give you some idea, and send.  Regards, Jane.”

Jane’s Notes – end of August 2002

… The day before going to the Summer School – i.e. last Sunday – I painted in four hours flat for India Tarot, the card for Death Mark Two, a really horrifying Kali stamping with utmost female cosmic rage upon a really beautiful Siva, and felt afterwards utterly shattered.

During the following days I was away at Hawkwood, I forgot about it, but it was alive in my subconscious, and gave me some bother, didn’t it – I had my Earthquake dream, the ground turned fluid;  there was no noise, it was silent;  and through the force-8 shock I staggered through the basement to a gramophone to take the stylus off the record (piano sound distortion, fogging out, feared electrical damage) – but there was another stylus still on it, from Upstairs.  Everything vertical went horizontal in my spine.

Am therefore aware of what it really feels like when the Beriah work on the creative plane hits the vast density and relative turbulence of Yetzirah – the psychological or formative world.  It is no longer theoretical.  Warning and self knowledge.

India Tarot Death Mark One was done the day before this Kali picture, and is the Wisdom god Yama, with young Nachiketas.  Yama is so far my favourite of all the cards.

Yet I feel rather proud of this depiction of the Dark Mother striking back through millennia of suppression, ignorance and abuse.  She is not ignored.  Siva looks as relaxed as ever.

Correspondence:  Gautam – 3 September 2002

“Dear Jane, the death cards are to die for.    Yama:  This is a brilliant card.  Only minor correction – the horns make it look more like a bull than a buffalo.  We are sending you a reference for the same.

“Kali:  The most powerful representation we have seen in a long time.  However, on showing it to a few people, they were visibly frightened, and we wondered if this would work against the deck.  Perhaps it would be a bit too strong for Westerners to digest?   A thought would be, to do a version of Kali more slender/less terrifying, or a Chhinnamasta Kali, a reference of which is attached.  Do let us have your thoughts.   We are sending you by mail, some references for the rest of the Major Arcana.  Notes for the same are attached, for your reference.  Warm regards, Gautam & Rohit.”

Correspondence:  Jane – 3 September 2002

“Dear Gautam and Rohit, thanks for yours and buffalo horns.  I would suggest that those cards which need small amendments get done at a later stage, so they can be discussed and sent all together, or a few at a time, and then some more later.  I would like first to get the bulk of the work done.

“Essentially I agree with you about Kali.  For the design I was picking up those elements in Rohit’s article about the dark and fierce Kali.  Also I remembered I didn’t make The Fool (Rudra) ‘frightening’ enough at my first attempt, so now I had better pull the stops out.  That day I had a very bad cold, and am still not quite better, and I did the picture very fast.

“I have a more rounded (philosophic) design/conception here, of Kali as the Goddess of Time, from David Frawley’s book about the Wisdom Goddesses.  So I shall do that, and send to you in the next couple days.  It is in the same gear, but is more refined.  I think it’ll do the trick.”

Drawing of Kali by Margo Gal

Jane’s Notes – ‘KALI – Destruction & Transformation’ – 4 September 2002

Taking a wider view, remember:  this work oscillates, it breathes in and out seasonally.  Within these movements, we often think we have lost our way.

Yesterday I had an email from Gautam in India – my Kali made people visibly frightened, and might work against the deck.  I felt absolutely horrible, having forgotten the cardinal rule with “sacred art”;  which is not to indulge one’s passing mood, but to respect a more comprehensive level of truthful expression.  I felt imperative to immediately replace the bestial fishwife, though much too tired to draw.  I consulted David Frawley’s book on the Wisdom Goddesses, and at once found a design and concept which is more yogic, and set to at once.

The eventual result, completed in the evening, is beautiful!   It contains Kali’s dark and disturbing power within a living interaction with the God of Light – Siva.  He is awake and serene, instead of asleep and catatonic, and her little feet are planted on his chest prana, and the whole thing breathes Transformation;  and Kali herself with her mane of black hair and garland of human skulls and cleaver and severed head in her hand, and tongue sticking out, is yet a wild, exuberant and mischievously mad little girl of the night.   She is that pure kundalini-sexual energy rising.  It is very important with Kali, to remember that Ramakrishna loved her, and why.

And if it hadn’t been for the earlier Kali, the purely destructive and heavy fleshy one – which I did literally from the pictures they sent, and the bloodthirsty descriptions in Rohit’s article (but knew it is NOT how I see death:  my bad cold disabled the higher imagination that day, and the disastrous week that followed) – this extraordinary True one would never have happened.   This Kali is the way I see things.  She is my truth, the other one wasn’t.

It’s the difference between spiritual awareness and “political” awareness.  The one is a world, the other is a local village.

The interesting thing to note is, that esoteric art follows its own laws.  All it needs is one brief “photon” (photo) in the imagination of the weary practitioner, and then it will do itself, regardless of inclination, headache, weakness or whatever.

I am encouraged.  Coming out of the woods, I’ve been through the valley of the shadow of my own Kali, and took through myself the penalty.  You only need to look at the two drawings to see why and how.  With them is the beautiful Yama painting, which they are pleased with in India – the only correction needed, to turn bulls horns into buffalo’s horns.  Next comes Temperance – the River Ganges.  I have awakened to this job.  The India Tarot becomes a series of initiations.

As to the Work, in the occult sense:  it is clear, my allocated task is to generate images (sacred or esoteric art) – knowing these become living beings on the astral plane:  the responsibility and self knowledge this entails.  I feel like a goat coming back onto the beach, onto land, from the depth of the fish’s tail, and having a good shake.

I also know that, formlessly and directly aligned so we have the same pair of footprints for the moment in the sand, my Inner Teacher advises, counsels and guides.  The storms are nothing.  The storms are in Siva’s smile, which is clear and sweet like the white dawn.

5 September – my anxious microcosm registers astrological movements in the ballet of the spheres.  Yesterday I read David Frawley’s chapter on Kali in full – it is so good, I shall put it in Self Enquiry.  In terms of transformation and “dying-to-death” and lightning bolts and also the paradox that the word Kali means Beauty, it is what just happened to me.  It is Yogic.  Characteristic of Kali is her suddenness, and to draw her was done, both times, in a few hours, a one-fire shot.

Began Temperance-Ganges yesterday – this will proceed more slowly.  The message in the mythology, according to Rohit, was that Ganga had to learn temperance before earthing as a river, so there she is, wild in the Himalayas.  Her raft is a crocodile.  I don’t know whether Indian crocs have as bad a reputation as Egyptian ones.


Correspondence: Jane

“Dear Gautam – Stand by for Kali Mark Two – on her way to you in the next hour or two.  Ganga has begun, and proceeds temperately.”


Correspondence:  Rohit to Gautam – 5 September 2002

Dear Gautam – it looks much kinder and nicer, this Mother Kali, and is less likely to offend firangs, but truth be told, the first one had an elemental power I will miss.  Nevertheless we have to use this one for reasons of acceptability. 

This Kali is really beautiful, and looks like Mary would have been if she was ever in a Kali mood.  Tell Jane we like it very much, and no more tweaking need to be done.   With regard, Rohit.”

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  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga

Rohit Arya_Sacred India Tarot#Creating the Death card

In creating the Death card, usually one of the most feared and misunderstood cards of the Major Arcana, we had the choice of going with Yama who is the designated figure in the mythological ethos or go with Kali – who is psychologically more accurate. In the end we kept both of them in, a masculine and feminine polarities choice, and I am glad we did. I also wish to say something about the Issues surrounding the Death card. Today the  norm all over seems to be to treat the card symbolically, as a transformation, a process of change and so on and so forth.  While not inaccurate, the Tarot was created in historical circumstances when life expectancy was only about 40 or 50 years and the Death card would have been literally true in a reading for a good long while. To pretend it was not so, and could still be so, is foolish.

Sacred India Tarot

Notes on its Creation:  Card 13, Death (1):

Lord Yama

In November 2001, Rohit wrote to Gautam:  “Urgently send Jane a message that I am in a bit of a fix as to the Death card.  Yama is right, but so is Kali.  Only problem is, Kali has bad odour outside, and weight of conditionings may be too much to overcome.  On the other hand, Kali provides balance;  Laxmi, Saraswathi, Kali – red, white and black gunas, just as the male deities Siva, Vishnu and Brahma are represented.  This needs some thought, what do you feel?  I am slightly prejudiced in favour of Yama, as it gives an opportunity to give a Vedic perspective.  Perhaps we should ask Jane?  Or even better idea, have two Death cards, for various levels of awareness, with text to justify both – a male Death and female Death.  I think no pack in the world has such a concept, it would be wonderful …”

The Sacred India Tarot has indeed, two cards for Death:  Lord Yama, and Mother Kali as the shakti power.   We now tell our story of the first one, Yama.

Here to begin with, is the western Tarot representation of Death:

Death – Key 13 of Jane’s Hermetic Tarot deck.   In the west, this Arcanum symbolizes “movement” – “the Imaginative Intelligence” of Nature, associated with the sign Scorpio and the reproductive force.

Here is a poem, first drafted by Alan Jacobs:

The reaper wields his scythe of dread

to harvest life, leaving chaff for dead.

All are re-born, in heaven or earth

with Nature’s labour, time since birth.

Most fear the Enigma’s spectral tread.

But some there be, who Death don’t rue.

Death distils an essential view.

The force enquires within the quest!

To look for real ‘I’ in the bones is best

to flower a Mystery, sure and new.

“The dead must bury their dead,” said the Preacher.

The moving image is our teacher.

(Alt. – Within an apple’s flesh, the core is best, For seed itself to find, a life fecund and new.

Or:  To seek within our flesh the bone is best …


Rohit’s Article:  Yama – Forerunner, First Man, God of Death

Yama in Hindu mythology is usually known as the god of Death.  He is also supposed to conduct a Last Tribunal where the good are rewarded, and the evil get their lumps.  This does not in any way increase his stature in the popular imagination, where he has frankly, no place at all.   At best it is resignedly accepted, it is better the process of death and punishment for sins be regulated.  His realm is supposed to be dank and gloomy, filled with assistants who are visual variants on his own form – colossal, green skinned, red-robed, and of terrible appearance, accentuated by the fact that he rides on a buffalo and carries a fearsome mace and the deadly noose with which the soul is snared and removed from the body.

None of this does any justice to Yama as he used to be – a great ethical examplar of the Vedic and Upanishadic times.  He was also the first great Hero amongst Men, ascending to divine status because he was not afraid to learn the riddle of death by dying.

All the Vedic gods have lost stature, but Yama is a really sad example of decline in a culture.  The name Yama means “The Restrainer”.  Further refining it, we get “The Restrained One.”   This is not surprising, considering his origin.  In a magnificent dramatic irony, Yama is supposed to be the son of Surya, the Sun god and giver of Life.  Life cannot proceed without intimate acquaintance with death.  Indeed, death clears the old out of the way of Life.  The Veda is clear that Yama’s great achievement on behalf of the race of men was to find the way home which cannot be taken away.  It is by dying that man achieves immortality, and Yama was the first to discover this secret.

Not without trouble, however!   For Yama and Yami were the first humans to be born, the Primordial Twins so beloved of mythic structure.  Yami was in no hurry to learn the Eternal Secret.  She would much rather Yama learnt with her what it was to be fruitful and multiply.  This was acceptable by the standards of myth and all Genesis tales:  the first couple usually populated the earth through incest.   Yama is having none of it, and rejects Yami’s specious argument that even in the womb, which they shared, they were designed to be man and wife.  She also urges upon him his duty to the world.  If they are all that live, they owe it to life to procreate and trust that posterity will be indulgent with the moral implications of what they had to do.  The verses where she urges him on in this expedient course of action, are some of the most blatantly erotic written in any human language:

“Desire for Yama overwhelms me Yami –

to lie with him in a common bed

as a woman to her husband I would yield my body.

Like chariot wheels let us surge to and fro!”


Yama’s answers are a standing monument to ethical imperatives, a blanket repudiation of expediency and comfort zones.  He simply refuses to lower his standards, no matter what the emergency.  Evil has no extenuating circumstances.  “Shall we do now what has been diligently spurned hitherto?  Shall we who speak truth, now countenance wrong?”

For him all actions are to be judged in the light of Ritha, Cosmic Law.  It is better the earth remain unpopulated than be filled with the fruits of sin.  He has greater, and more justified, confidence in the universe than Yami does, for life does not snuff out, contrary to her dire predictions.  This refusal to procreate sinfully, is Yama’s true victory over death, for Men reproduce hoping to cheat Death with every new generation.  For immortality is gained not in using one’s children to cheat death, but by experiencing Death itself as a door to immortality.

Yama does not begin as a god.  He earns that distinction.  He is merely a man to begin with, but he is not afraid to grow into his full potential.  He is not afraid to travel beyond the veil.  He is the first man to die, and the first man to learn about death without any fear of it.  That makes him the Lord of Death.  Indeed, so great is his power over death, that he is even called Mrityu, Death itself.  Since he was the first sinless man to cross over, he becomes Lord of that realm, and is also entrusted with a new responsibility, guarding the Dharma.  Hence his title Dharma Raja – Lord of Dharma.

It is a remarkable concept.  Death alone can reveal the true ethical and moral stature of a human life;  while that life is being lived, the issue always hangs in balance.  The judgement seat of Yama thus evolved in later myth, helped by his assistant Chitragupta, India’s Recording Angel who has every deed of a life stored away in his infinite ledgers.  This is the classic Weighing of the Scales, a great and momentous decision that only the first Man, the Forerunner, who showed the race of man the path to salvation, is entitled to take.   It dramatically represents Shaw’s famous phrase: “Life levels all men, but Death reveals the eminent.”

Yama’s death had another interesting consequence.  For Yami went into a great inconsolable gloom, that rapidly threatened the Universe.  The gods urged her to let it go, to forget the death of Yama and get on with living.  To all their remonstrance, she had only one answer – “Yama has died but today, and you want me to forget so soon?”

Since the First Days had been created without any nights, this was indeed an insurmountable difficulty!   To help put some distance between Yami’s distress and the event causing it, the gods invented Night.  Thus came into being the morrow, the passage of time and the dimming of memory, which assuages grief.  “Night and day together let sorrow be forgotten,” says the Veda about this.   Also, Yama seems to have traveled to the south to learn about the great transition of Death;  he has been deemed the guardian of the South quadrant, and it is also the direction of death.  To sleep with your feet pointed south is regarded as an invitation to travel on the long journey, and is avoided in Indian culture.

… … …

Yama has a great role left to play in the KATHA UPANISHAD, where the boy-Rishi Nachiketas travels to his realm, seeking instruction from the only god who really knows the secret and mystery of Death.  This text is one of the glories of Indian literature as well as philosophy, and it is worth perusing in its own right.  Yama tries to dissuade the boy from asking to learn about matters even the gods prefer to avoid in ignorant bliss, but seeing that his resolution would not be shaken, he fires from both barrels in a tremendous opening statement of truths.  “The Good is one thing.  The Pleasant is another.”  He then takes the boy through ever ascending realms of Awareness and ends up with a blunt statement of reality about the Path:

“Steep as the mountain slope, sharp as the razor’s edge is the Path.

Nevertheless – Arise!  Awake!  Stop not till the Goal is reached!”

In the Mahabharatha, Yama is the father of the ethical Hero Yudhistara.  He is also famous in the text for having a contest with the wise Savitri, who is determined not to let the Lord of Death and Righteousness have the soul of her husband Satyavan.  Yama holds out as long as he can, showering boons on the devoted girl in a vain attempt to distract her from her purpose, but she is in every way his intellectual equal, and her love is too strong for him to resist.  He is only too glad to admit defeat, and restore the Prince to life.

Sri Aurobindo used this myth to write the longest poem in the English language – Savitri.  It is also a text of ascending levels of awareness of the Spirit.  In the Mahabharatha, there is also another famous section, where Yama takes on the form of a Yaksha spirit, and questions his brilliant son on virtually everything.  These questions of the Yaksha are a compendium of aphoristic brilliance and wisdom.  The final question he asks, is perhaps the most apt:

“What is the greatest wonder of the world?  Every day thousands of men go to Yama’s abode, yet no man thinks of the implications of his death.”

Yama has many names, all of which indicate in some way or other, his role as Cosmic Judge and upholder of the Just.  He is Samana “the Settler”, Dandha-dhara the bearer of the Rod – symbol of authority and punitive powers – Pitri-Pati, or Lord of the Manes (ancestors).   Yama is also known as Kritana, the Finisher.  Everybody comes to him, sooner or later, and the myriad self-deceptions that everyone thinks make up life, are of no use any more.   Greater Life is possible only if we remove all tendencies to evil.  If we do not, Yama will find them out and judge us on them.

To know Yama, is to know that you live by what dies within you.



Nachiketas:   “When a man dies, this doubt arises;  some say ‘he is’ and some say ‘he is not’.  Teach me the truth.”

Death:   “Even the gods had this doubt in times of old;  for mysterious is the Law of life and death.  Ask for another boon.  Release me from this …”

Nachiketas:    “… All these pleasures pass away, O End of all!  They weaken the power of life.  And indeed how short is all life!  Keep thy horses and dancing and singing … I can only ask for the boon I have asked.”

Death:     “… There is the path of joy, and there is the path of pleasure.  Both attract the soul.  Who follows the first comes to good;  who follows pleasure reaches not the End….


Nachiketas:   “Tell me what you see beyond right and wrong, beyond what is done or not done, beyond past and future.”

Death:   “I will tell you the Word that all the Vedas glorify, all self-sacrifice expresses, all sacred studies and holy life seek.  That Word is OM.  That Word is the everlasting Brahman;  that Word is the highest End.  When that sacred Word is known, one is great in the heaven of Brahman.  Atman, the Spirit of vision, is never born and never dies.  Before him there was nothing, and he is ONE for ever more.  Neverborn and eternal, beyond times gone or to come, he does not die when the body dies.  If the slayer thinks that he kills, and if the slain thinks that he dies, neither knows the ways of truth.  The Eternal in man cannot kill;  the Eternal in man cannot die.

“Concealed in the heart of all beings is the Atman, the Spirit, the Self;  smaller than the smallest atom, greater than the vast spaces.  The man who surrenders his human will leaves sorrows behind, and beholds the glory of the Atman by the grace of the Creator.  Resting he wanders afar;  sleeping he goes everywhere.  Who else but my Self can know that God of joy and sorrows?

“When the wise realize the omnipresent Spirit, who rests invisible in the visible, and permanent in the impermanent, then they go beyond sorrow.”

Rohit’s Notes:

“Please do not portray Yama in any sort of hell like condition.  He is the great judge, as well as the first who went forth.   Yama was the first man to die, and he became the Lord of death and Judge of all men.  He is green in complexion, while his clothes are bright red in colour.  His eyes are red too, but they are somewhat reptilian in that they never blink.  He carries a golden mace and a fearsome noose in the right and left hands respectively.  We will send a picture, but the common perception of Yama is both distressing and mistaken.  His head should have a warrior’s helm, NOT the absurd buffalo horned Viking helmet so beloved of Indian art.  He rides a buffalo, but that is an optional extra for the illustration.

“Yama’s body should indicate great muscular development, and he should be a young man.  The popular images show him to be fiercely moustached and impossibly pot bellied.  None of that.  In the Vedas it is very clear that he was in the prime of his life, and so greatly handsome and virile that his own sister fell in love with him and tried to tempt him into an act of primal Incest.  He was the first Man, as well as first god, to pass over and learn the great Mystery of death – knowledge that makes him privy to wisdom denied to the other gods.  This is clear from the Katha Upanishad and the dialogue with Nachiketas therein.

“Yami his sister refused to stop mourning for him, and answered every remonstrance of the gods who felt this was overdoing grief, by saying ‘Yama has but died this day and you want me to stop grieving for him!’  In order to help her to heal, they invented the night, so that she could sleep, so that time might be counted off in days, and healing and acceptance begin.”

Correspondence:  Jane –  “Many thanks, the texts for Yama and Kali (for the creation of Kali, see next post) are most illuminating.  I had begun the Yama drawing, and it is along those lines already.   Rohit’s essay on Yama is so good … I have a bad cold today and unable to work.

An early impression/sketch for Yama, while reading Rohit’s notes.

Jane’s Notes/Journal:  23 August 2002

“Alchemy is either deteriorating or re-arranging my formerly rude physical health.  Quite poorly yesterday, with very sore fiery inside-linings, face, eyes and streaming.   Last night I at last got going on SE (Self Enquiry the Ramana Foundation Quarterly) as the current task, inspired by Rohit’s excellent article on Yama – who I began to draw for India Tarot the day before – which I follow up by typing in the whole of the Katha Upanishad, and will include some of Aurobindo’s Savitri with Yama as well.  It works as soon as I feel ‘led’ by the Companions in this task, and no longer a disgruntled editor …

“Mrs B rang to announce she’s off to Brockwood for the weekend, and I told her of my nightmare, and she reminded me of my “little friend” here dying last week (Alexander) and the kind of demands this couldn’t help making, and what it feels like to be them, and the ABYSS we both know, which is in its way, death, the terror of indefinition;  and how fascinating it all is…   Thus:  permit this hinterland, and let it, if it will, unknot.

24 August 2002

“SE will grind along alright now that Yama gave it a kick start;  the magazine becomes automatic and time-passing work, convinced that it is useful.  I copied out the whole of the Katha Upanishad, and exciting passages from Aurobindo’s Savitri…

25 August 2002

“Yesterday I went for a walk and a doze on the Heath, and when I came back I spent the whole evening on Yama, it is now a beautiful painting, my favourite of all the cards I have drawn so far.  It combines the boy Nachiketas with the version of Mrs Yama too – the erotic Yami – and includes under Lord Yama’s buffalo, those sprouting hands, feet, leaves and flower-buds in the dark, of the Western Tarot version as death’s harvest (scythe).  In the east, Yama does it with a noose.  Yama rides mildly through the shadowed forest, his mace is like a lamp, his noose a source of Light, his green skin complementary to his eyes and the fiery red cloth that swathes him.  The buffalo is white.  Young Nachiketas, who inquires into the depth of eternity, attracts his interest and attention.   But Yami his sister, dramatizes the traditional tokens of grief and death in a twilit region.  This region however, is one of abundant fertility and transformation.  She and Nachiketas seem to represent night and day.  Lord Yama presides over these states from a region beyond them, which includes them.

The green and red of Yama himself in this painting, against flowing greys and violets, enchants my inner eye.   Magic is in it.  He is the wisdom god Yama, with young Nachiketas;  it has a deep and subtle feeling. 

“Gautam sent from Bombay by email, colour images of Kali and of Ganga.”


In the secret, high place of the heart, there are two beings who drink the wine of life in the world of truth.  Those who know Brahman, those who keep the five sacred fires, and those who light the three-fold fire of Nachiketas, call them ‘light’ and ‘shade’.

May we light the sacred fire of Nachiketas, the bridge to cross to the other shore where there is no fear, the supreme, everlasting Spirit!

This by which we perceive colours and sounds, perfumes and kisses of love;  by which alone we attain knowledge;  by which verily we can be conscious of anything;  this in truth is That …  When he knows the Atman, the Self, the inner life, who enjoys like a bee the sweetness of the flowers of the senses, the Lord of what was and of what will be, then he goes beyond fear;  this in truth is That …

The goddess of Infinity who comes as Life-power and Nature; who was born from the elements, and rests, having entered the heart;  this in truth is That.  Agni, the all-knowing god of fire, hidden in the two friction fire-sticks of the holy sacrifice, as a seed of life in the womb of a mother, who receives the morning adoration of those who follow the path of Light or the path of work:  this in truth is That. Whence the rising sun does come, and into which it sets again; wherein all the gods have their birth, and beyond which no man can go ;

Who sees variety and not the unity, wanders on from death to death.

The soul dwells within us, a flame the size of a thumb, is the soul;  the Lord of the past and the future, the same both today and tomorrow:  this in truth is That.  As water raining on a mountain-ridge runs down the rocks on all sides, so the man who only sees variety of things, runs after them on all sides.  But as pure water raining on pure water becomes one and the same, so becomes, O Nachiketas, the soul of the sage who knows.


I will now speak to you of the mystery of the eternal Brahman; and of what happens to the soul after death.

The soul may go to the womb of a mother, and thus obtain a new body.  It may even go into trees or plants, according to its previous wisdom and work.  There is a Spirit who is awake in our sleep, and creates the wonder of dreams.  He is Brahman the Spirit of Light, who in truth is called the Immortal.  All the worlds rest on that Spirit, and beyond him no one can go.  This in truth is That.

As fire, though one, takes new forms in all things that burn, the Spirit, though one, takes new forms in all things that live.  He is within all, and is also outside.


The Tree of Eternity has its roots in heaven above and its branches reach down to earth.  It is Brahman, pure Spirit, who in truth is called the Immortal.  All the worlds rest on that Spirit, and beyond him no one can go.   This in truth is That.  The whole universe comes from him, and his life burns through the whole universe.  In his power is the majesty of thunder.  Those who know him, have found immortality.


When the five senses and the mind are still, and reason itself rests in silence, then begins the Path supreme.  This calm steadiness of the senses is called Yoga.  Then one should become watchful, because Yoga comes and goes.


One hundred and one subtle ways come from the heart.  One of them rises to the crown of the head.  This is the way that leads to immortality;  the others lead to different ends.

Always dwelling within all beings, is the Atman, the Purusha, the Self, a little flame in the heart.  Let one with steadiness withdraw him from the body, even as an inner stem is withdrawn from its sheath.  Know this pure immortal light;  know in truth this pure, immortal Light.

And Nachiketas learnt the supreme wisdom taught by the god of after-life, and he learnt the whole teaching of inner-union, of Yoga.  Then he reached Brahman, the Spirit Supreme, and became immortal and pure.  So in truth will anyone who knows his Atman, his higher Self.

Extracts from the Katha Upanishad, Juan Mascaro translation

Correspondence: Gautam and Rohit:   -3 September 2002

“The Death cards are to die for.  Yama:  This is a brilliant card … only minor correction, the horns make it look more like a bull than a buffalo.  We are sending you a reference for the same.   Kali (this painting was done again) – This is the most powerful representation we have seen in a long time.   However …”  

 (See next post, in this series.)

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  a corporate trainer, a mythologist and vibrant speaker as well as an arts critic and cultural commentator. Rohit is also a Lineage Master in the Eight Spiritual Breaths system of Yoga