VIRGIN: Shodashi, "16" (First Shift)
Those intrepid few who follow my efforts to plot and—imagine this—transcribe dakini instruction timed to the lunar cycles will notice that I have not written anything so far on the Mahavidya Shodashi whose shift kicked off on August 21. My last report came in the Bhairavi shift (July 22 - August 20), during which I underwent a total moral, emotional, and spiritual meltdown. Others reported similar devastation with Bhairavi, the "Terrible One." Who certainly lives up to her name if getting on her wavelength implies undergoing a terrible time in facing up to one's personal reality. At the end of her shift I felt like a man who just climbed out of a train wreck.
As it happened, the penultimate day of the Bhairavi shift, July 21, was the anniversary of the Ronda Moment. On that day I saw the fabled Emma for the last time, on my specific request that it would be a final meeting. Emma came back to me, you see. She contacted me again after an absence of eleven months, and even invited me into her arms. Eurydice returned to the land of the living and reunited with her hero, just as the rewritten myth tells it: "Orpheus feels a nudge at his ribs awaken him and finds himself bedded in a patch of flowers with Eurydice in his arms, warm and alive, gazing blissfully and gratefully into his eyes." How wonderful is that.
But the myth is truly daimonic and cannot be predicted or controlled, even if it can be revised. The human reality of that return is something other. When some event in life imitates myth, it's outcome cannot always be assumed. Where living myth applies, it can never be assumed.
Genuine, intentionally lived myth can be tremendously subtle. Orpheus gets Eurydice back, but he does not have her back for good. Suffice it to say, this is not a case of the reunited couple living "happily ever after." I am currently writing the second part of the received myth, The Death of Orpheus, describing events that transpire upon her revival and return.
After seeing her on and off for three months, I told Emma that I had to have done with her, get her out of my life for good. There was to be no enduring intimacy or even friendship between us, for I just couldn't stand her act any more. We met in the Plaza Mondragon in Ronda to exchange some words of farewell, although there was little to say, either way. Emma rarely expresses what she thinks or feels. Her emotive flow is a trickle. Her prevailing strategy is to hold back the little she has to offer, thus creating a vaccuum into which she sucks people. Withholding gives her strength and confidence: by not revealing herself, she remains out-of-reach and invulnerable—the way she likes to be. She is typical of those shut-down, frightened people who "try to hide what they don't know to begin with," to cite on old Dylan lyric. But she is rather untypical in the clever manner in which she has turned her fear into a shield of nonchalance and her stilted, shut-down pose into a convincing stance of confidence. Bravo, Emma. And good riddance to your shabby, desolating act, dhaarling.
The story of my passion for this shallow, uncaring, and ultimately venal woman, can now be concluded. What a relief! It has been a hard and gruesome lesson, but a most fruitful one as well. Essentially, I was in a full-blown manic obsession, punctuated by steep plunges in and out of altered states, non-stop for about sixteen months from the moment Emma informed me, "I can't lay my heart on the line for you any more." As if she ever did. It took me all that time and anguish to realize the bittersweet truth: Emma is a taker and a faker who only play-acted at loving me, trying out a novel sensation to see if she might go for it. She never really loved me but acted as if she did to see where it would get her. She pretended so well at moments that she almost convinced herself! Bu when the moment came to pull out of rehearsal, it cost her no emotional price. Like an actress finishing an audition, Emma abruptly dropped the role. This explains how she was able to cut off the love and passionate devotion she expressed to me so abruptly, in such a callous and casual manner.
I had driven myself almost insane trying to understand the blasé style of her behavior, tossing me aside like an half-empty bag of chips. The key insight about rehearsing an experience, autitioning for life, and pretending or acting as if, finally released me from the spell I cast, using Emma as the voodoo doll of my self-inflicted torment. This key insight carries a tremendous lesson of the Bhairavi shift, which I have yet to articulate. I will do so in Release from Pretending —The End of the Emma Story, to be posted soon on KaliRising. That material is too lurid and intimate for metahistory.org, but the lesson about pretending that goes with it reveals yet again the brutal yet compassionate impact of dakini instruction.
What came out of those sixteen months of my life has been immense: Planetary Tantra including the secret dakini name for Gaia, the Invocation of Gaia-Sophia, the Gaian Tantric Vow, the Terma of Gaia Awakening; the creation of KaliRising.org; the Tantric Conversion and the Shakti Cluster, comprising two complete books on site; Kala Tantra with its entire program for sexual and transmutational magic (yet to be disclosed: this will go on KaliRising); the "Yeats conversions," series one (forty-two poems plus one) plus the second series now underway (eighteen longer poems plus one); about 600 emails exchanged with my Shakti, comprising the vivid record of a spectacularly inspired high-voltage romance based on our common immersion in Hindu and Tibetan lore of the Goddess, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, and Romanticism; the pattern of dakini instruction signalled by lunar cycles in the Zodiac; the revision of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, parts one and two.
And last but not least, the 350-page MS of "a pornographic novel of love" titled Farewell, Eurydice, describing my erotic and mystical experiences with Emma. This rough draft stands alongside 200 or so pages of other writings to Emma which, in a rare act of restraint, I spared her from seeing. I wrote through the madness to hang on to my sanity. I had to turn around every emotion that came up because I never play-acted anything I felt for Emma, love or revulsion. Our romance for me was not an audition for a later stage performance, as it proved to be for her. I was not rehearsing for one second.
In retrospect, I drew two enduring insights from the Bhairavi shift: the nature of pretending, just noted, and the call to heroic honesty. Bhairavi is the Mahavidya who, apart from Kali herself, expresses in the most extreme form the warrior aspect of the Dark Goddess. Hindu myth presents an exact parallel to Egyptian lore: Kali dancing on the cremation ground, drunk on the blood of massacre, recalls the lion-headed goddess Sekmet who gets wildly drunk and almost destroys the entire human race. Read this myth as you like. It may refer to some kind of natural disaster in the remote past, a geological or biological catastrophe demonstrating to human imagination the wrath of the Goddess....
But in view of my current experience, I would attest to the destruction of my sense of humanity rather than literal decimation of the human race. My sense of humanity depends on connection, recognition, reciprocity—it would be fair to say this is true for everyone, I believe. With Emma, even at the most intimate moments, connection, recognition, and reciprocity were continually withheld, for this is a woman uncapable of giving of herself, and perhaps having little to give in the first place. Contact with that sort of behavior is lethal to an open, forthcoming person like myself. Allowing Emma's game of withholding to massacre my soul brought me close to what it feels like to have my humanity destroyed. Quite a sensation, there. Stunning, really. This is not an abstract loss of humanity, a philosophical conceit of disillusionment or misanthropy or solipsism, but a deep, gut-felt, heart-shattering desolation. I will be forever grateful to her for providing the opportunity for this harrowing exercise in heroic excess.
Last year when I initially began to pick up on the lunar shaktis, I noted that Bhairavi can be equated with Simhamukha, the ferocious lion-headed dakini who instructed Padma Sambhava, or is considered to be the secret form of the guru himself, according to the charming origin legend of Tibetan Tantra. My Shakti, a long-time practitioner of Tibetan Tantra and Dzogchen, came into my life during the Bhairavi shift last year. Noting the allusion, we imagined that Simhamukha directed her toward me and gave her the courage to get on a plane and travel 5000 miles to meet a total stranger. That is to say, we imagined that the powers in her human soul were supernaturally enhanced and amplified by this Dakini.
Feature it as you like: Simhamukha and other demonic representations of the Divine Feminine are intrapsychic projections of the human soul, genuine but purely subjective phantoms of imagination, or they are autonomous supernatural entities existing in the virtual reality of another dimension or hidden zone of the psyche. Whatever their ontological status, these entities (to be pictured in many guises, and in no way exclusively Tibetan) can be known by their effect: to enhance and amplify our innate capacities for feeling, perception, intuition, passion, rage, delight, love and hate, and so on. Kala Tantra is a path of extremity. In 2008 the woman who was my Shakti took extreme risk to come and meet me. This year I took the extreme risk of exposing myself once again to the desolation of loving an unloving woman. In her lion-headed epiphany as Simhamukha, Bhairavi manifested her powers in my emotions and imagination. She brought me to the cremation ground and danced triumphantly on the rotting corpse of my humanity.
Honor Unto Death
Throughout the Bhairavi shift, I found myself reflecting a lot on the nature of honesty and its related term, honor. Years ago, immersed in the study of Romanticism and the Arthurian tradition, I discovered that the words honor and honest come from the same root: Latin honorem, which originally meant "a woman's chastity"! But this usage around 1350 is deviant, spun by Christian notions of purity and medieval sexual abstinence. The original significance would derive, I believe, from an earlier concept of honor/honesty reflecting high regard for the Divine Feminine, the Goddess. To honor someone is to recognize in that person, be it man or woman, the power of Woman, the Goddess. Tantra is "woman worship" in the sense of honoring the Divine Feminine in all expressions. Honor unto death is the heroic commitment to embody that same sacred feminine power in all situations, with everyone, at any cost.
Honor is the key heroic trait or Pagan virtue, contrasted to obligation (due to guilt or shame) which is the key Christian virtue. Pagan ethics was an honor system, not a set of rules imposed to enforce obligations: do good unto others, be charitable, etc. In its essence, honor is that aspect of self-respect that comes from choosing actions based on internal responses rather than imposed regulations of conduct. The honorable thing to do is whatever is instinctively right—but this simple rule does not apply for the person whose instincts have been corrupted and undermined by guilt and shame, usually due to religious indoctrination. Or the person, like Emma, whose instincts get distorted by posturings of defense, withholding, bravado, and passive-aggressive manipulation. Such a person, wracked with contradictions, cannot act honorably in any situation.
The honorable act is also the free and strong thing to do, the courageous response of fair force, or calculated restraint of force, contrasted to the salvationist ethic of turn the other cheek, do good to those who harm you, etc. Strength expressed in recognition of the Goddess, that is, of life and the source of life, is the mark of heroic character in both women and men.
Honesty is what it takes to maintain honor, to live faithfully from one's innermost strength or passion or vision. To live to the extremity of what you see and feel, in honor unto death. This extremity includes the vision of loving another person with a total commitment to devotion and adoration, regardless of the character and intention of that person. Regardless of any resistence and refusal to love and be loved. And even without contact with her or him. As to why you would love someone like that at all, as I loved Emma, rather than a better candidate who accepts love and returns it—this is still a deep mystery to my closest friends! Emma herself has no idea why I loved her as I did! She really hasn't a clue. In Release from Pretending on KaliRising, I will try to show how I resolve that mystery, which is closely related to the theme of love and the supernatural in Planetary Tantra. I wonder who among you out there will find the resolution as astounding as I do.
Honesty underpins the sense of right and wrong connected with the use of passion and personal power. During the Bhairavi shift, I had the perception that human nature is so corrupted by guilt and shame, our passions are so clouded by deceit and dissimulation, that it takes heroic effort to be honest with ourselves. Beyond that, honesty with others can be a futile exercise at best. I have long observed that people around me ask for the truth but when they get it, they can't handle it. It's a terrible dilemma because I don't want to not tell the truth, or hold it back, but telling it will often wreak havoc in relationships and drive people away.
I think it's helpful to distinguish the truth of feelings from the truth of facts. Telling the truth of facts is a matter of measured disclosure, because some facts do not need to be stated in full detail. All the factual and circumstantial elements of a situation do not have to be brought out in detail for the truth to be known. But the truth of feelings can be, and has to be, fully and openly stated if people are to develop real connections with each other, free of deceit, defiance, and withholding. During the Bhairavi shift I was devastated by the realization that I was never going to get the truth of feelings from Emma. Talk about squeezing blood from a stone. And my own expression of the truth of feelings toward her was futile, without reciprocity or even acknowledgement. I went through some awful moments on that account. For me, there is no despair more profound and desolating than the one that comes in a relationship where the truth of feelings is not expressed, or its expression is not honored, or even allowed. Yet this frequently happens in human intimacy and friendship. More and more frequently, as far as I can tell. What an odd turn of events this is.
Welcome to Kali Yuga, folks. Just take a place in line and a Dakini will be with you shortly to cut out your heart.
To me, heroic honesty is brutal honesty. The saving power of clean, ruthless honesty is that it elicits true choice. The right choices to make in human relations come to light through the highest standard of honesty, not a full disclosure of facts (unless that is appropriate), but a complete and fearless expression of feelings, passions, emotions, be they kind or cruel, stupid or enlightened. But brutal honesty has to be tempered by compassion for oneself and others, and there is an art to finding that balance. I think the secret to this balance may lie in humor, especially black humor. Graveyard humor for the Dark Age of Kali.
I staggered from the Bhairavi shift into the Shodashi shift (August 21) like a man mangled and stunned in a train wreck, the proverbial "walking wounded." For most of this shift, which concluded friday, September 18, I thought I had really lost the thread. I was unable to pick up any kind of subliminal instruction through this entire previous month. Discussions with a few close allies who also follow the lunar shaktis produced no trigger insights, no signal language or distinctive syntax. What is the sound or key tonality of Shodashi instruction? Throughout the entire month, I got nothing to tell me what it might be.
Then, a day or so before the conclusion of the shift, I happened to go back through some of the 600 emails I exchanged with my Shakti beginning in July 2008 ad continuing into spring 2009. It came to light in our exchange that Shodashi stands out among the other Mahavidyas in her association with a consort, a male counterpart. I have emphasized how the Shakti Cluster as a whole and the ten Mahavidyas in particular are extreme, one-sided expressions of the Divine Feminine. This bias occurs because the planet-wide resurgence of Shakti, due to Gaia awakening in her lucid dream, must compensate for millennia of suppression and deviation into paternalism and male dominance. The turbulent surge of the Shakti Cluster imparts a huge corrective whack to the human psyche, inducing an overwhelming swerve back to Shakti, the Divine Feminine.
This being so, the Mahavidyas and the Diamond Sky Dakinis of the Shakti Cluster stand entirely independent of male counterparts. This trend is already evident in Tibetan Tantra from some centuries ago, as Elizabeth English explains in her superb study of Vajrayogini. Specialists on the Mahavidyas such as David Kinsley have also stressed their lack of male counterparts. But Shodashi is an exception, it seems. In her case there is a man lurking in the wings. Her shy consort is a form of Shiva called Dakshinamurti, "south-facing." He is a youthful version of Shiva known for a peculiar attribute: he teaches through silence. In this respect, he can be compared to a nagual, a sorcerer or shaman who embodies and transmits "the power of silence" (title of a later work by Castaneda, one of his best offerings).
I was immediately struck by this association of silent instruction with Shodashi because it fits my distinct impression of a resounding silence during this lunar cycle! I wonder if in some manner this Mahavidya concedes to her consort, allowing some form of "silent teaching" to unfold on her shift? If this is so, it would be helpful to understand how the inclusion of Shiva Dakshinamurti (left) complements the nature of Shodashi and accords with the profile of her powers and her instruction.
Traditionally, Shodashi is the most beautiful or physically perfect of the Mahavidyas. Her other name, Sundari, means "beautiful" in Sanskrit. Sundari itself is a beautiful word, I find. I notice that recently this word has been adopted as the trade name for a boutique franchise found in the business class zone of airports. Business as usual in Kali Yuga.
Shodashi is one of the earliest known Mahavidyas, attested in Dravidian lore from the 8th century where she is associated with the cosmic force of kama, desire; hence the same, Kameshvari, Mistress of Desire. She is one of the three supreme Mahavidyas, along with Tara and Kali herself, usually listed as the third in the sequence of ten. Frawley says that her perfect beauty is not an impossible ideal of cosmetic glamor but an allusion to "the beauty of pure perception," that is, beauty in the act of perceiving rather than of the object perceived:
Consider this difference: beauty is in a look, in a way of looking, rather than in the way someone looks facially, physically. Not everyone can have beauty of looks, which is almost exclusively an arbitrary cultural convention. But everyone can have beauty in looking. The beauty in the look, brought to its extreme, is Sundari's virtual impact, her enhancement or boost of our capacity to see beauty, and see beautifully. Or to see anything at all, as it truly is.
Throughout the entire absurd ordeal with Emma, I kept proposing to her "Let's end in beauty what began in beauty." I did not resist the end of our relationship. In fact, I anticipated it and spoke often to her about it. I saw it coming all the way along. What massacred me was the style and attitude she used to end it. Nothing I could do to coach or coax her, no request or gentle persuasion, no argument or interrogation, was sufficient to dissuade her from taking the course that is comfortable to her, the shallow way, so I had to cut her loose. Like many women who count on their looks and bargain with their beauty, Emma faces an inner struggle to see life in a beautiful way. I called the merge of her inner and outer beauty "the Emmatude," and encouraged her in every possible way to claim it, be integral in her beauty, be for real with it, but to no avail. When the split came, I so needed her to acknowledge my beauty, however she found it in me, and honor the beauty of all that we shared, one final time, but she never did.
Rite of Departure
Readers will recall from my account of the Ronda Moment how my guardian dakini DMD told me that my intimate encounter with Emma was actually a course of Tantric instruction to be carried out after the relationship ended in May 2008. This is exactly how it has played out. I made many mistakes with Emma, largely due to the difference of age (she is 28 years younger than me) and culture (she is British), not to mention the issue of depth, but these mistakes had a transcendent aspect: they were necessary errors that I would later correct and convert into principles and guidelines for Kala Tantra.
Now, in a rather belated manner, I want to state the first principle of Kala Tantra that I learned from mistakes made in the terrific torque of that sexual-romantic obsession. Early on, I understood this principle to be the first thing I should communicate about Kala Tantra, so you may wonder why I have waited so long to do so. The main reason is, Kala Tantra as such goes beyond the framework of Planetary Tantra on this site. PT is for everyone, but KT is not. PT makes interactivity with Gaia possible by using her secret dakini name and the Vow, that's all. KT is a more arcane, ritualized practice involving sexual magic and the dynamics of carnal intimacy, but grounded in the Gaia connection. At first, the distinction between the two was not clear to me. As it became so, I realized that the first thing I should try to impart from my experience with Emma belongs to Kala Tantra and not Planetary Tantra. Since I am still hesitant to put out teachings on KT, except what I have leaked on KaliRising, I have held off with this proposition—but now is the moment to deliver it.
The first principle of Kala Tantra is eminently simple:
When Emma announced the end of sexual intimacy with me, she acted unilaterally, as women often do—cutting the bloke's balls off for the sheer pleasure of it, and doing it with a schoolgirl smirk. In Kala Tantra, this is totally unacceptable. Neither partner can say, "It's over between us. The last time we had sex was the last time we will ever have it." If one tantrika decides unilaterally to end sexual intimacy, he or she must say, "Let's be together one last time in tenderness and surrender, to end in beauty what began in beauty." Failure or refusal to do this causes enormous pain that runs through the generations and keeps the genders plunged in confusion, delusion, and destructive conflict. The Rite of Departure is a fail-safe measure against untold harm.
In effect, Emma used sex, or more precisely, the withholding of sex, for a self-indulgent power-play. This is the cardinal sin against Tantra. And this is cruel, stupid, and unforgivable behavior, purely on human terms, Tantra or no Tantra! It is absolutely imperative in genuine Tantric relationships to observe the Rite of Departure. This rite is the guarantee that the end of sexual intimacy will not produce the grief, anguish, anger, and estrangement that marks the age-old gender conflict and keeps women and men at odds with each other, caught in games of bargaining and control, in denial of the beauty they can engender in each other, in ignorance of the freedom that breathes through love.
Of course, Emma is not a tantrika. Never was, never will be. We did not practice Tantra together. It is not her fault that she did not follow this rule, of which she knew nothing. She cannot be held accountible to the principles of Kala Tantra for she knows nothing of about it—and if she did, she couldn't care less for such extravagance. Still, on purely human terms, she is responsible for treating me as she did. She flatly refuses to accept that responsibility so, finally, so I had to put her permanently out of my life. It is one thing to dump someone, however, and quite another to be released from an intimate connection with someone.There is no true release without compassion.
I myself did not know the rule for the Rite of Departure at the moment I met Emma. It came to me at the last moment, in the sudden cold-fire blast of abandonment. When she slammed me with the no-sex proclamation—coming out of nowhere and totally inconsistent with some impassioned expressions of her wish to make a life with me—I realized what might be done and proposed it. But it was too late: I ought to have made it clear when we met, at the very moment we entered into intimacy, that a Tantric relationship always requires a front-end agreement to end in beauty what began in beauty. This did not happen because we did not in reality have a Tantric relationship. We only had the prelude to one. I became intimate with Emma without a clear idea of how it could be directed, Tantrically. Kala Tantra came from what I made of this experience, going into it innocent and blind; it did not direct the experience as she and I lived through it.
The Rite of Departure has to be established at the outset as an exit strategy. Tantrikas need an exit strategy because the commitment to explore and share sexual passion in magic and supernatural practice is so extreme, novel and uncharted, and may be so dangerous, only a ritual of disengagement that honors beauty and celebrates tenderness can insure that both partners will emerge from the experiment safe and sane, without having to go through something like I did.
This means that from the first moment of sexual attraction, they both admit and allow that an end to that attraction will come. This is not a contrivance or a game, but a real and inescapable fact of human experience: any deep carnal passion will end when its time runs out, on one side of the other, or it will end with the death of one partner or the other, or both partners, simultaneously. In other words, the bond of Tantric sexual intimacy, leading into an experiment with magic and supernatural rapport, will either die of natural causes, as all passions eventually do, or end in the physical death of the tantrikas. (The directive myth for this experience is the story of Tristan and Isolde. Along with the legend of Parzival and the Grail Quest, this is the most potent directive myth of the modern world.) The point is, acceptance of the end has to be established at the start.
I wonder if this particular proposition in Kala Tantra may not reflect the instruction of Shodashi and her consort, Dakshinamurti Shiva. What do you make of his "silent teaching," alongside her instruction about how to look at life in a beautiful way? I sense there is a deep intuitive truth at play here. Once Tantrikas agree on the Rite of Departure, looking toward a beautiful end to what they are just beginning, they cannot be obsessed or preoccupied with that end. They must relegate their commitment to end in beauty what began in beauty to silence, letting it sink away until the moment when it must be recalled. The Rite becomes like a subliminal teaching that guides them to the moment when it must be enacted. Is this the instruction of the youthful, silent Shiva, looking south?
Imagine looking at someone you love all the time, constantly thinking that they will be gone or you will be gone at some moment in the future. It would be unbearable to do this all the time, and it would easily turn morbid. But to carry in your look, in a subtle way, just the glint of knowing that what you behold and so love to behold will pass away, and you, who beholds it, as well—that is a transcendent view of life, a way to keep beauty in your sights. Look beautifully right to the end, to the departure and loss of what you see. That is the silent observation of mortality and transience celebrated by the Orphic poet, Rilke:
jll: 19 September 2009 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2013 by John Lash.