Carl Jung tells us that “the mother archetype may connote anything secret, hidden…” . In the Hindu tradition, the goddess is often associated with that which is secret and hidden. Shakti is the secret power or energy behind manifestation. All Goddess images in some way or another represent the secret and hidden aspects of being, and most specifically of the Self.
As a dialectic, the goddess represents both the unknown and that which is to be known. She is the secret teaching of and on the Self. In the Tantric tradition, it is the Goddess who reveals the nature of the Self. The idea of the ‘hidden’ is central to the Tantric Mahavidyas (the Great Wisdom). The Mahavidya are the ten aspects of the devi (Shakti). The Mahavidyas reveal the hidden truth of the Self, as cosmic Self.
In the image above, we see the Goddess Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas. The mahavidyas express various forms of the Devi. Mahavidya is a Sanskrit word that speaks to the revelatory power of the mother goddess. Maha means ‘great’ and Vidya means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’.
Sitting on top of the arch, we find Shiva. Shiva is an image of the cosmic Self (Brahman). The mother goddesses express the form and power of the cosmic Self. As such, she emerges as ‘great wisdoms’, offering esoteric knowledge of the Cosmic Self. Arthur Avalon speaks to the relation of Shiva and Shakti:
“Mind and Matter are ultimately one, the two latter being the twin aspects of the Fundamental Substance or Brahman [or Shiva] and Its Power or Shakti. Spirit is the substance of mind-matter, the Reality (in the sense of the lasting changelessness) out of which, by Its Power, all Appearance is fashioned not by the individual mind and senses but by the cosmic mind and senses of which they are but a part. What It creates It perceives.”
Shiva and Shakti form two aspects or poles of the cosmic Self (Brahman). All of reality emerges as such: cosmic mind and cosmic body. For the yogi, this eternal truth is revealed within both the macrocosm (cosmic body) and the microcosm (individual body). By working to realize these poles of being, we come to know the nature of the Self.