Meditation on Ash: image of mourning

Śiva as Bhairava with two dogs, unknown author, circa 1820. US Public Domain

It’s a strange day
No colors or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am

When I’m with you
There’s no reason
There’s no sense

I’m not supposed to feel
I forget who I am

(Goldfrapp – Utopia)

There are moments in life when we lose ourselves completely. These moments occur spontaneously in states of love and joy, as well as pain and hardship. When we fall in love we forget ourselves: there’s no reason. And at the loss of love, we again forget ourselves: there’s no sense. These movements of love and loss are at the ends of the spectrum, the outer circumference of being human, marking an aspect of the Self that the mind simply cannot grasp.

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Mahavidyas: working with the ambivalent aspect of the mother archetype

An image of Durga (Shakti) under an arch displaying the Mahavidyas, with Shiva at the apex; 1930’s. US Public Domain via Wikimedia

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.

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Kali Yantra: mandala

Guhyakali (Secret Kali) Yantra ,Madhubani Painting By Dhirendera Jha and Vidya Devi- 2008, Image from Exotic Indian Art with permission.

The yantra above is the Secret Kālī Yantra. Kālī is a Hindu goddess. Kali is the force of time. She holds the power of creation and destruction.  In the Mahanirvana-tantra, Kāli in the form of sakti is praised by Shiva. The tantra says:

“At the dissolution of things, it is Kāla [Time] Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahākāla [an epithet of Lord Shiva], and since Thou devourest Mahākāla Himself, it is Thou who art the Supreme Primordial Kālika. Because Thou devourest Kāla, Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.”

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individual self & Supreme Self

Chidambaram Shiva dances the ananda tandava, the eternal dance of creation and destruction-1820. US Public Domain via wikimedia.
Chidambaram Shiva dances the ananda tandava, the eternal dance of creation and destruction-1820. US Public Domain via wikimedia.

There is a deeper subjectivity within the individual, a subjectivity which lies beyond the bounds of the ego. Carl Jung speaks of this subjectivity in terms of the Self and Self-realization. The Self is the nature of one’s own subjectivity, as well as that which lies beyond individual subjectivity. Woven within the writings of Carl Jung is the idea that the archetype of the Self blends with and merges with the God image. In Aion Jung says:

The spontaneous symbols of the self, or of wholeness, cannot in practice be distinguished from a God-image. (CW 9ii)

We see this realization presented in the ancient texts of Vedanta and Tantra. For instance, in the Tantra Sara, Abhinavagupa says:

“The individual self is the Supreme Self or God Him- self, but with the only difference of being enwrapped with the veil of ignorance resulting from Mala That the individual self should realize himself as the Supreme Self, the All-powerful Lord”.


Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung