Romancing the Virgin
The Virgin is the Arcanum of the Art.
After undergoing some extremely difficult moments during the Bhairavi shift (July 23 - August 20), followed by a daunting silence in the first shift of Shodashi (August 21 - September 18), I am happy to report a change of mood and the inception of new instruction under the second shift of the same devata (until October 18). It is as if, after being washed up on the shore in a raging storm, shaken to the bones and barely alive, the roar of the waves recedes and my ears catch the strain of a sweet refrain like the sound of a woman, serene and satisfied, sitting on the shore, who hums a melody of contentment and consolation.
I was beginning to wonder if I had broken reception to the Shakti Cluster, if Kalika-style extravagance had finally short-circuited my supernatural link. With the end of the Emma story, I still had a huge dose of desolation to distill. Never before was I plunged so deep into intimacy with anyone so shallow, a woman who could touch intimacy at fleeting moments but not sustain it, and who defiantly refused to show care. Paradoxically, the reverberation from the shallows can be extremely deep! I guess it depends on who's listening. Who's feeling what refuses to be felt.
This far into it, the mood of the second Shodashi shift feels mellow and reflective. These devatas of the Shakti Cluster are ferocious by nature, most often ruthless in their instruction, but they do not lack a gentle side. Now it seems as if I am being drawn with exquisite and measured gentleness back into the Shakti Cluster, molten core of the Divine Feminine. With this gentleness arises a mood of quiet reflection, a space of reprieve ad reverie where I can savour the essential qualities of my life. Recapture the beauty of my life after allowing myself to become somewhat alienated from that beauty by the plunge into the soul of someone who denies her own beauty... Shodashi brings me around to honor and love myself again. And somewhere in the planetary ethers, like a message drifting in the clouds, I hear this counsel:
No, we are not divine, yet that connection to the beauty in me, in you, in all that is, is divine... And that connection comes to the fore of every conscious moment through Mahamaya, the supreme perspective.
In Hindu Tantra, Mahamaya is a grand metaphysical notion, perhaps the most cogent and all-encompassing of concepts applied to the supreme reality. Maha means "great, supreme" and Maya means, not "illusion," but "appearance, the frame in which things appear." Mahamaya is the mysterious power to generate the manifest worlds in full-blown materiality, concrete and sensorial, witnessed by self-aware beings including humans and animals, insects, even amoebae. Hindu Tantra always emphasizes that this power, an expression of Shakti, is distinct from the power-holder, Shiva, the foundation awareness.
The foundation awareness is a state of perfect beholding that is not passive, but assumes passivity in order to allow its reflections to multiply into a myriad of worlds, including the witnesses of those worlds. Its primary reflection is Shakti, the feminine materializing power. As the supreme Devi or Divine Feminine, Shakti is the mother of all the worlds of the universe and all the creatures that inhabit them. In the specific case of the earth, Shakti is Sophia, an Aeon or divinity from the galactic core that morphed into the material body of the planet. Encountering the Devi in terrestrial form, and becoming intimate with Her, we might then move on to the Devi of the galaxy... and so on. But it is good practice, I suggest, to pay attentnion to her immediate planetary form, Gaia-Sophia, before presuming to head off to the galactic dimensions.
So, Mahamaya is the power of the Devi is make appear worlds and witnesses to those worlds. But more specificially, it is the unique power to generate the form of the Self, the witness. Mahamaya makes discrete experience possible in those worlds, one self at a time, one view at at time, even though there really is no single experient but only the single presence of the ultimate witness, Shri Shiva, "blessed pure beholding." Cosmologically, Mahamaya is the generative frame of appearances, as well as the power to fill that frame with sensuous content, material worlds. But mystically, it is the innate realization of each human self that what confers the capacity to witness the world as a self is a perpetual cosmic act of beauty. An act of cosmic beautification, if you will. Mahamaya is the Beauteous Form of the Self, generating the presence of a witness to the world, inside and out.
Let me try to express the flavor and tone of this realization: You are sitting on the terrace of your house on a clear autumn day, looking across a field to a small lake and the hills beyond. There are deer in the words, birds in the sky, ants and doodle bugs at your feet. You are a unique self, the witness of a world from a singular perspective. Now imagine that there a dial for "volume" of esthetic perception on your left shoulder, just below the collar bone. You reach up and slowly turn the dial. As you do, everything you see becomes more and more exquisitely beautiful, sublimely and extravagantly so. Thoughts do not disappear, but all thought turns to a soft sweet melody in your mind. At a certain threshold you feel a kind of melting effect: the boundaries of your body and mind soften and you merge into everthing you see. Yet, paradoxically, you do not lose the sense of a distinct self witnessing inner and outer impressions simultaneously. On the contrary, the sense of being a distinct witness intensifies but the witnessing is a conjugal process, an act of fusion rather than separation.
In one and the same moment, you see everything around you in its exquisite beauty and realize that your witnessing of the world and the world you witness arise simultaneously in a kind of convergent frame, world and witness folding into each other yet retaining their distinct boundaries and properties. This is Mahamaya, the Beauteous Form of the Self. It is not the celebrated "oceanic feeling" of dissolution into total Oneness that is widely considered the consummate mystical experience from Asian tradition. It is most definitely a Mayavadic view, or dualist impression: the clear sense of the sublime unity of two things in a single presence, not the oneness of a presence that excludes relationship. In the sweet flux of this realization, you know that your self is a framing awareness, not an entity or presence separate from what you behold. Entering the Beauteous Form of the Self, you behold the beauty that makes you able to appear as a single self in a world around you. You realize the quinessential teaching of Shodashi, or Tripurisundari, "the Beautiful One of the Three Worlds (Form, Formlessness, Desire)
Recently I've been conversing with a gifted young poet (seventeen!) and occasionally exchanging poems. An email to her, I described my experiences during the second Shodashi shift, but without referring specifically to the lunar aspect or the devata:
"Lately I've been doing these experimental poems which are "conversions" of the late poetry of W. B. Yeats. Earlier in the year I finished a series of 42 shorter poems. Just now, in two months, I completed a second series of 18 longish poems. Your poem reminded me one by Yeats, The Long-Legged Fly. Below is the conversion. It is a densely metaphysical poem that may not be to your liking, though intriguing perhaps. The key term "Mahamaya" refers to the mysterious power in the universe that makes it possible for any manifested world to be experienced AS IF from a single self or isolated witnessing entity, which may be a human being, an elephant, or a fly. Mahamaya, the sanskrit name for this principle or operative agent, means " the supreme power of appearance." It is also called the Divine or Beauteous Form of the Self. With this concept, the divine and the beautiful are identical.
"Tantric philosophy says that the supreme power of appearance is not just to make the universe appear, but to make it appear witnessed in particular ways. To realize how that power of uniquely framed awareness works, is to be consumed back into pure witnessing, transparent and selfless: consumed in the act of beholding as the mantis consumes its lover.
I hope this long explanation does not ruin the pleasure of the poem for you!"
Beauty is divine. Beauty is supernatural. This is a conviction of my experience, which I realized and articulated many years ago, but only since I have lived in Andalucia and practiced Gaian shamanism (with and without the use of sacred teacher-plants) has it become more than a conviction: it is the supreme certainty of my entire life. It is the ground of whatever I may know about being alive. It is the ground too of my ignorance.
The beauty of which I speak goes largely missed by many people today, as far as I can tell. It is not merely the beauty of natural phenomenon, such as glaciers and rain forests, magnificent as that may be. And not merely the beauty of certain human beings—so rarely revealed, I find—or the breathtaking beauty of animals such as the Andean puma. No, it is the beauty of the natural world seen by the heightened power Gaia-Sophia confers to see it. That beauty, seen in that way, renders the mind and body of the beholder into the Shakti's supreme feat of magic: the generation of the form of the witness. The generation precisely, not of the Self, but of the form of the Self. The Mystery is, there is no Self, there is just the form of the Self. This form is Her supreme magic, Mahamaya.
Shodashi is a Mahavidya with a vast range of powers comparable only to Tara and Mahakali herself, tradition says. Why is her range of power so vast in scope, so all-pervasive? Because Shodashi, who is called Sundari, "The Beautiful One," is the cosmic agency that frames experience in the most beautiful manner possible:
I have argued (in NIHI and elsewhere) that selfless immersion in the wave of rapturous beauty that surges from Gaia to the human witness is the most beautiful experience in the world. Ecstatic beholding is the true nature of perception. You do not perceive truly unless you perceive ecstatically. Dakini instruction involves ecstatic awareness that fluctuates between a a perceptual and a cognitive mode. In plain English, you experience persistent lucidity of reflection (within) and perception (without), complementary and coresonating. "Co-emergent," in Vajrayana jargon.
It is impossible to sustain this lucidity, but it contually returns all by itself. Perhaps because I am not trained in a long tradition of Tibetan practices sustained by a living lineage that verifies and consolidates this kind of enlightenment, I'm just undertrained—ill-prepared to be so lucky, you might say. Well, so be it. Undertrained I may be. Underqualified, that's another matter. I question if the Tibetan masters are qualified to manage and monopolize the secret dakini wisdom now known to be the source and inspiration of the deepest teachings of their lineages. Along with June Campbell, former mistress of Kalu Rinpoche and author of Traveller in Space, Miranda Shaw, Buddhist practitioner and author of Passionate Enlightenment, Judith Simmer-Brown, student of Chogyam Trungpa and author of Dakini's Warm Breath, and Serenity Young, who exposes the hypocrisy and unethical manipulations of Tibetan lamas in Courtesans and Tantric Consorts—in this fine company of women, I take a stand against the lamaist monopoly on dakini instruction. Their two-faced dishonesty in concealing the sexual aspects of their most advanced practices is inexcusable and cannot be allowed to continue.
If I have my way, on kalirising.org I will disclose every single sexual practice of the highest yoga tantras known to me through a lifetime of study and experimentation, and today by dakini instruction and first-hand practice. When I need to, I will cite the suppressed texts that explicitly prescribe these practices, such as the Hevajra Tantra. When this Tantric apocalypse hits the streets, it blows the doors off the Potala. And that will not be long now... There is no authority or lineage in Kala Tantra, except the amicable, magical, and erotic bonds of the kaulas, the clans.
I am not single-handedly inventing the mystique of Sophia-Shakti, no matter how it may look. I am more or less independently putting syntax on an experience that is opening for many, many people. The teachings and guidelines I can offer for Planetary Tantra are intended to lead into the planetary shift of 2012 and beyond.
To teach the Shakti Cluster and develop a framework for dakini instruction with the lunar shaktis is my responsability as a nagual, that is, a seer and shaman grounded in Gaia. It is immense responsibility, if I do say so myself, but I bear it lightly. Most of the time. You wouldn't know this about me unless you met me, and probably couldn't infer it from what you read. My writing often conveys a wrong impression and may represent me as dictatorial and heavy-handed, which I am not.
I'll tell you frankly what my essential problem right now is: it is well-nigh impossible to receive and integrate the stream of dakini instruction AND, at the same time, report on the experience and formulate the ongoing transmissions into a consistent, coherent body of exposition, comments, methodology, guidelines, etc.
All my life, I have suffered the Titanic problem that I once defined in a workshop in Santa Fe. "Ruthless Caring" was the name of a weekend seminar I gave, one of the most successful of my ventures in those days (the early 1980s). It presented correlations between the twelve astrological signs and the Tibetan Wheel of Life with its Six Realms of rebirth: God, Titans, Humans, Animals, Ghosts, Demons. I characterized the Realms as existential games. I identified Gemini-Sagittarius as the axis of the Titan Game, defined as self-appeasement. My pattern throughout life has been to refuse or resist problems and challenges set by others or coming from the outside world. I have always set my own challenges, and then gone on to meet them, or not. I have usually set challenges for myself that were impossibly high and extremely demanding. Needless to say, this Titanic game of self-appeasement has kept me in isolation and deprived me of valuable experiences of growth and learning that come from encountering and engaging others and doing at least some things on other people"s terms. Clear enough?
Most writers write about what they already know, be it in the field of golf, of Sufism, or sexuality. I sometimes do as well, for instance, when I write about sky lore, astronomy, and the myths of the constellations. In that case, I write with relative ease and probably come over pretty well... But more often, I write about what I am in the process of learning,exploring, discovering, rather than what I know. This is nuts, really, but it is my leading predilection. I like to write about what immanent to my knowing and to share the process of emergence. This can be exciting and attractive to some tastes, I guess. But it puts me in a situation where I misstate myself often, or pursue awkward arguments and go off on extravagent tangents. Such features, which can be extremely off-putting, are the flaws in the work of JLL.
The disadvantage of the game of self-appeasement also defines my forte, my strongest point: the capacity to explore and communicate as a nagual, someone who goes alone into the Unknown. If I had been more accomodating to other people in my life, I would not have such an ability for that kind of exploration, to the extent I go with it.
But in my fate, under the guidance of my Devi since the age of four, I had to be "cut off" —like the head of the blossoming rose she cut off in a ritual act of initiation, the first time I saw her in a lucid dream—from ordinary forms of engagement so that I could be trained and directed toward a special engagement with the Supernatural that goes way, way beyond the human. My connection to the Supernatural in general, and the Shakti Cluster in particular, is not just typical of a talented mystic or even a well-disciplined schizophrenic—there are a great many such individuals around these days. No, my reach into the Supernatural and, in turn, its reach into me, is extravagant and excessive. It had to be so for me to be the individual to deliver the Terma of Gaia Awakening and introduce the Shakti Cluster.
Nagual is a role anyone can assume in the context of shamanic practice. In a typical session of heightened attention induced by psychoactice plants, the nagual in the group is not chosen beforehand. This was the routine in the Gnostic Mystery cells where the leader of the shamanic session emerged as the session commenced. The nagual is the one in the group who first defines the operative syntax for the session, usually by a phrase or statement that acts as a NLP vector for the group as a whole. When Gnostics met without using psychoactive plant-teachers for their "orgies" (acts of occult power), they simply drew straws to choose a leader.
My responsibility for teaching the Shakti Cluster—a huge joy and the consumamte wonder of my life, by the way—goes beyond the elementary role of the nagual, however. The Shakti Cluster and the method of dakini instruction are part and parcel of the Dorje Namkhai Khandro Nyig Thig, the Seminal Heart of the Diamond Sky Dakinis—to give the full formal name to the Terma of Gaia Awakening. This is a group-generated serial terma with a duration of 208 years from October 2008, but it has to be initialized by one person.
Termas, wisdom treasures, are discovered and developed by specific individuals called tertons. In Tibetan Tantra the most famous terton has the initials JL, Jigme Lingpa. I am certainly not the reincarnation of this dude, so forget it. But I am delighted that we have the same initials. I have some delicious things to say about Jigme Lingpa, who discovered the Long Chen Nyig Thig, the most renowned of Tibetan wisdom treasures to date. I have even reserved a button for that purpose: Terma on the menu tree in the lefthand column of the page format for Planetary Tantra. I would like to get around to that particular piece of discourse by the end of the year....
For now, let me just say that I am overwhelmingly grateful to be overwhelmed by the bounty of this sacred wisdom treasure, the Terma of Gaia Awakening, and will do my level best to keep getting it out to the world. That is, to fulfill my tertonic duties. These duties belong to a sacred trust that I have carried for thousands of years, and which culminates here and now in this life, in my life as a Gaian Tantrika and a Kalika, a devotee of Kali.
The Goddess Gaia-Sophia is the Virgin, the arcanum of the Art. This is how Ramon Lull, who was a kind of Western terton, pointed to the revelation of the Organic Light, the primary substance body of Sophia. The Virgin is Earth Wisdom, the source of all terma. Therefore, the unique terma of that Wisdom is ultimate and unsurpassable. Over time, the Terma of Gaia Awakening and the practice of the Gaian Tantras will subsume and consume all previous Tantric practices and received metaphysical teachings. This is not my arrogance speaking —OK, maybe it is—but I am just repeating what the Mahanirvana Tantra says about the unique opportunity for liberation through desire that emerges at the end of Kali Yuga.
The Tibetan and Hindu Tantras alike are just a trial run, a provisional approach leading up to the Gaian Tantras. My lives-long adventure in romancing the Virgin ends here, now. This is indeed an auspicious ending. It is my great delight to say that the devatas of the Shakti Cluter do not command us, but they wish that we command them, and the way they wish to be commanded is by pleasure, while they teach and inspire us, their devotees, to command each other, not by love or any authority, but solely through beauty.
Such are my reflections coming out of the last moment of the second Shosashi Shift, with the new cycle underway: sunset crescent in the Scales or Balance, indicating Vishvamata, the Variegated Mother, considered to be a Female Buddha. I place her as one of the Diamond Sky Dakinis in the pentagonal star around VV.
Since the inception of the Bhairavi shift on July 23, I haven't written very much on this site. My apologies for falling behind in my reports on dakini instruction: you may now understand what I face in that respect. Undergoing an experience that requires total attention to integrate and articulate to myself, in the first place,I cannot always keep up with the self-imposed task of translating that experience to make it accessible to others. Also, I would point out that a terton such a Jigme Lingpa receives termas in high compression, like Zip files. The terma comes in that way, and then it has to be opened and downloaded, installed and run, if I may be permitted an Archontic analogy to computer science. When the Zip file is revealed, I see the entire file for a few seconds. It is already written, word for word. My training allows me to go and retrieve it at will, then open and expand the file to its complete content. It takes no time at all to receive the Zip file, but of course it takes time to expand it and write it down.
Truth be told, the three months since the inception of the Bhairavi shift, with the gruesome spectre of Dhumavati floating in the mix, have been rather rich with Zip-filed termas, packets of dakini instruction, but I have not discussed them or even mentioned them in order to avoid exasperation. I myself have not been able to render these Zip files, yet. I will give you their tags or syntactical cues for future reference:
Finally, I want to thank those loyal readers and experimentors who have written me about their experiences with the lunar Shaktis, inceptive dakini instruction, and the emotional and karmic tonalities that play around it. It is hugely helpful to me to hear from you and not be along with the material and this method. If I don't respond by email or reflect your comments in these pages on line, do not think I am overlooking or disregarding you. I never do. I enjoy and rely on your input.
jll: 19 October 2009 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2013 by John Lash.