Friday, September 17, 2010
THE CREATION OF CREATION;
(PRIMORDIAL GODDESS, DARK ENERGY, COSMIC TRICKSTER)
The Goddess (Devi) is the great Shakti. She is Maya, for of Her the maya which produces the sangsara is. As Lord of Maya She is Mahamaya. Devi is a-vidya (nescience) because She binds and vidya (knowledge) because She liberates and destroys the sangsara. She is Prakriti, and as existing before creation is the Adya (premordial) Shakti.
Aadi in Sanskrit is defined as an adjective; “First, primary, primative.” “Aadishakti” is defined as, “the female power or maya or illusion, or another name for Durga.” In History of the Shakta Religion, N.N Bhattacharyya defines aadishakti as, “Primordial energy conceived as a goddess.” In the book Devi, Goddesses of India, aadishakti is defined as; “The Goddess conceived generically; the single, transcendent primeval power or energy extolled in the Devi Mahatmya.” .
“Primordial”, “creation”, “primal energy”, and “original” form, these are terms used to describe this female principle. It is said in many of the Puranas that Aadya Shakti, or primal energy, created Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva from her own body, and as a result life and the universe came together. The term is often likened to “Para Brahman” the form of Brahman beyond all forms. She is both the creatrix of everything, and beyond the dissolution of all that She has created; the mahaprayala (great dissolution).
The goddess of Tantra is primarily Mahakali who resides in the heart of Mahakala (Eternal Time), and again Who destroys Mahakala at the time of mahaprayala, (complete dissolution of the universe). So She is called Kali. After the mahaprayala She is worshipped as Aadya (Primal Energy), because She is the beginning of all…
Separate from the entomological definition of the Sanskrit term, is the symbolic form of the female principle. The form is of goddess, the creatrix, or progeneratrix of the universe.
The first part of this paper is dedicated to defining and understanding aadishakti as female principle. Where did She come from? Is she with or without form? What historical significance does she have on Hindu and specifically, Shakta culture?
This second part is in essence, a foray into the creation of creation, an exploration into the cosmology of a universe, inspired by the feminine principle aadyashakti. As humankind advances scientifically into greater understandings of cosmogony, so does the and concept of the primordial creatrix. This is the place where contemporary science meets a philosophy almost two thousand years old. She is the trickster that pushes the universe beyond limits.
This paper is an attempt to understand, and to illuminate the darkness of the modern day perspective, what humanity is now beginning to understand about the creation of the universe. Aadishakti: the force which preceded the “big bang” that is propelling both consciousness and matter through space time. Forms of this female principle have existed since humankind began asking the question of their coming to be. The concept of Aadishakti has existed embedded in cultures from Egypt to India, Nepal to modern day United States, unceasingly, returning to human consciousness again and again. Now, quantum physics is slowly beginning to catch up to ancient philosophies of thousands of years ago, and written about in Hindu Sutras, Puranas, and Tantric texts. Could there be a bridge between current empirical scientific myth, and what was known in these ancient times?
In an attempt to further understand where we came from, I begin at the concept of the word Shakti, and its historical use in early Hindu literature. In essence, by exploring the cosmogony of Shakti, we find within, the cosmology of the universe begins to unfold.
According to Apte, shaktih is defined as; “f. 1 Power, ability, capacity, strength, energy, prowess.” In the book Devi, Goddesses of India; shakti is defined as; “Energy, power, especially the creative energy that generates and continues to activate the universe. [ ]” Clearly, at some point we see a divergence from defining words for “power”, “ability”, “strength”, to then become “a creative energy” or an embodiment of “power” as a female force.
The concept of Shakti is found as early as Vedic literature. According to Frank Morales in his article, The Concept of Shakti: Hinduism as a Liberating Force for Women, the “word Shakti appears in the Rig-Veda twelve times.” He goes on to explain that, “Part of the Rig-Veda is called the Devi Sukta, and is certainly recognition of Shakti as a cosmic principle.” However, in the Rig-Veda the term is not used to describe a goddess, but a force. According to author Pundit Rajmani Tigunait, in the Rig-Veda, the word Shakti is “occurs in the sense of ‘capacity’, as ‘vajra’ the thunderbolt; karma, the power to act; and as the proper name of a type of weapon.” It is not until the Saraswati Shukta, in the Yajurveda, that there is reference to the worship of Shakti as a female principle.
Although marginalized, Shakti in terms of the female goddess later becomes integrated into the orthodox Brahminical Hindu tradition, as the consort to the various gods. Its not until the fifth or sixth century C.E. that we see Shakti as her own empowered Goddess, and as her own embodiment of the female principle. As author Tracy Pinchtman writes;
Toward the end of the classical period and in the post-classical and medieval periods (ca. Fifth/sixth century C.E.-sixteenth century C.E.) different conceptual and mythological threads are woven together in the Puranas, and there emerges a notion of a Great Goddess, Devi (Goddess) or Mahadevi (Great Goddess), who is consistently identified as prakriti, Shakti, and Maya.”
She later elaborates on this concept; “It is only through the synthesis of philosophical and mythological cosmogonic categories and structures that diverse notions of female divinity becomes combined and the notion of a single Great Goddess emerges.”
In his book The Shakti Pithas, Sircar differentiates the two terms; “Shakti (force) and Aadyashakti (the primeval force) indicate the power underlying creation and the controlling energy responsible for the universal order, the first name being often applied to the energizing power of the different gods.” Woodroffe agrees with this statement in his book, Shakti and Shakta; “Shakti comes from the root, ‘shak,’ ‘to be able,’ ‘to have power’. It may be applied to any form of activity. The power to see is visual Shakti; the power to burn is Shakti of fire, and so forth.” He makes the distinction between Shakti, and Aadyashakti, similarly as Sircar. Woodroffe continues;
These are all forms of activity which are ultimately reducible to the Primordial Shakti (Aadya Shakti) whence every other form of Power proceeds. It is this Original Power which is known in worship as the Devi, or Mother of Many Names. Those who worship the Mother, worship nothing ‘illusory’ or unconscious, but a Supreme Consciousness, whose body is all forms of consciousness-unconsciousness produced by Her as Shiva’s power.”
It is here that Woodroffe makes the argument that there is no difference between power and consciousness; therefore, Shakti is also Brahman, or pure consciousness. So in essence, Shakti is made up of Aadya Shakti, and Aadyashakti, the primordial Shakti, persists everywhere, from which all energy proceeds.
HISTORY IN THE TEXTS
Although the feminine principle as Shakti, existed throughout early texts, (from the latter Vedas), the concept of Aadishakti didn’t become popular until Puranas and Tantras became incorporated into the Hindu pantheon of belief systems. With the birth of the Tantras, the concept of the feminine principle becomes the central view, rather than the consort role. With the advent of Shakta worship, the concept of the autonomous goddess, primordial progenatrix, as supreme to other gods is openly expressed. The female archetype becomes the primary deity of many of the Hindu Shakta Tantra texts.
Tantra begins to flourish in India as a branch of Hinduism around ninth century C.E., (although some sources referring to the Agamas date Tantric literature back to fifth century C.E.). Simultaneously, elements of Tantra were also developed in Buddhism and Jain traditions. According to Tigunait; “… the relative antiquity of Tantrism can be postulated from the fact that Hindu, Jaina, and Buddhist Tantrism could not have developed separately. All of these divisions of Tantrism must have had some common source from which they derived their Tantric elements, modifying them in accordance with their specific religious orientations.” Thus elements of Tantric concepts from different faiths influenced each other.
The Tantra Shastras are complex encrypted sadhana or practices for the spiritual aspirant, often handed down in a story form, in what is called “Smriti,” or direct transmission from the Gods. In this way, the Shakta Tantras are even more revolutionary because they give detailed accounts of how to worship the goddess to attain siddhis or special knowledge of how to attain certain magic or knowledge.” According to the Mahanrivana Tantra, She, (Aadishakti) is the great progenitor of all objects and beings in the universe.”
At this stage the sadhaka is Shakta, and qualified for the worship of the threefold Shakti of Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshvara. He is fully initiated in the Gayatri-mantra, and worships the Devi Gayatri, the Dakshina Kalika, or Aadya Shakti – the union of the three Shakti. This is the stage of individualistic Brahmana-tattva, and its aim is the union of faith, devotion, and determination, with a knowledge of the threefold energies. After this a change of great importance occurs, marking, as it does, the entry upon the path of return (nivritti).
Tantra rituals can be traced back to tribal, and indigenous peoples, mostly agricultural based from various different parts of India. There is no doubt according to anthropologists, and sociologists that the mother cult of India contribution was due to in part, if not all by pre-Aryan cultures. According to author Vidyadhar Sharma Guleri in Female Deities in Vedic and Epic Literature; “They [anthropologists] hold that the major portion of what is known today as the Shakti cult or the Mother cult of India was developed when the social, cultural, and religious admixture among the Aryans and the aboriginal non-Aryans was almost complete through a long process in invoking contact, conflict and compromise. The prominence of male gods over female gods is mainly due to the then prevailing patriarchal system in the Indo-Aryan society.” Much of the absorption of tribal beliefs into Hinduism and Buddhism was in effort to create more popularity within the faiths. In some case in Hinduism, tribal leaders were able to convert to become Brahmin priests to secure support by local tribes.
Many local goddesses were transformed to those whom are ubiquitous, (Durga, Paravati, Laxmi). This point cannot be emphasized enough. Many scholars write about local goddesses becoming absorbed into the general goddess pantheon. Texts such as the Devi Bhagavata clearly contain sentiments that, “all goddesses have the same cosmic source, representing the power of creation or ‘Primal Nature’. The village Deities are also the parts of Prakriti and all the female sexes, everywhere in the Universe all come from the parts of Prakriti. So to insult any woman is to insult the Prakriti.
One could argue that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of Brahmins who held religious power, and handed down this smriti in the form of the Shakta texts, that absorbed local goddesses into one in order to maintain and create more authority or power. As Cynthia Humes writes about Vindhyachala Devi, the famous goddess of the Vindhya mountains;
At Vindhyachal, there has thus been a shift away from understanding Vihdhyavasini as an immediate, site specific form of Mahadevi. Instead, priests promote her identity as the generic Aadishakti – the single, transcendent primeval power extolled in the Devi Mahatmya. Contaminant with this development, many religious officiates now insist on a theology that forbids or radically deemphasizes incarnations, mythologies, and rituals that are now viewed as inappropriately “regional” or “heretical”, or sadly “misunderstood” – although these used to be readily accepted as appropriate to Vindhyavasini’s cult when she was still understood in a mythological and sectarian fashion.
Nowhere is the concept of Shakti more celebrated than in the Devi Mahatmya, (600CE), as part of the Markendeya Purana. As Rita Dasgupta Sherma writes in ‘Sa Ham- I Am She’: Woman as Goddess; the Devi Mahatmya is a departure from the concept of Shakti as being a part of the male supreme, and she becomes the primordial material substance from which all things derive; “formless, and yet the matrix of all forms.”
An important development in this text is its departure from the normative understanding of Shakti as an aspect of a make supreme divinity; here, the feminine principle has self-agency and complete autonomy. She is not merely the power of the Absolute, She is the Absolute. While the entire cosmos is the material form of the Goddess, she is specifically identified with women.
Aadyashakti is written throughout the Devi Bhagavatam, and is said to be the source of all goddesses, either explicitly, or by using the words ‘primordial’, ‘eternal’, or ‘Brahma’. In the book, The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition, the author Tracy Pinchman thoroughly discusses this point. “The Devi-Bhagavata Purana follows in the tradition of the Devi-Mahatmya in identifying the Goddess as the ultimate overlord of creation.” She is described as; “..the highest, primordial, (Aadya) Shakti, the mother of all the worlds, eternal and omnipresent, the ultimate support of all that exists.” She goes on to explain that; “ ..the Devi Bhagavata identifies the highest divinity and ultimate reality not as Vishnu, or Shiva, but as the Great Goddess. She is identified as Brahman, both without qualities (nirguna) and with qualities (saguna), but she is also consistently described as Shakti, maya, and prakriti.”
Again in the Devi-Bhagavata, Bhattachaarya explains the significance of the Shakta standpoint in reference to Aadyashakti.
In the Devibhagavata, the Shakta goddess is conceived as the Aadyashakti, or primordial energy, that resides in Brahma as the creative principle, in Vishnu as the sustaining principle, and in Shiva as the destructive principle. This Aadyashakti pervades all space and animates everything of this phenomenal world.
The Devi-Bhagavata was written approximately ca. 1000-1200 C.E. as a Shakta Purana, and appears later in history. It is known for its rhetorical style of promoting Aadishakti as an independent force.
Thus, arguing again and again in one's mind, everyone should come to know that the Highest Âdya S’aktî by Her mere will creates and preserves this Universe and She it is who destroys again in time the whole Brahmânda, moving and non-moving; no one is capable to do his respective work be he Brahmâ, Visnu, Mahes'var, Indra, Fire, Sun, Varuna or any other person whatsoever; verily all the Devas perform the respective actions by the use of this Âdya S’aktî. That She alone is present in cause and effect and is doing every action, witnessed vividly.
By elevating aadyashakti to the level of the highest Brahman, She becomes equal to the other gods, of the Vedic-Brahmanical traditions, practitioners of their sadhanas. In doing so she is also elevated above any male aspect of Godhead. The male gods are not only giving oblations to the creatrix, but they are also thanking Shakti for their creation! This is opposed to the Devi Mahatmya where she was created by the Trinity of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma.
Shri Sadashiva said: Thou art the Adya Parama Shakti, Thou art all Power. It is by Thy power that We (the Trinity) are powerful in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction. Endless and of varied color and form are Thy appearances, and various are the strenuous efforts whereby the worshippers may realize them. Who can describe them? (1-2). In the Kula Tantras and Agamas I have, by the aid of but a small part of Thy mercies and with all My powers, described the Sadhana and Archana of Thy appearances; yet nowhere else is this very secret Sadhana revealed. It is by the grace of this (Sadhana), O Blessed One! that Thy mercy in Me is so great (3-4). Questioned by Thee I am no longer able to conceal it.
Aadishakti encompasses all dualities, including gender. As the Absolute, she transcends gender. She moves from the prakritic substance of the universe, (found in Samkyan philosophy) to Absolute Consciousness, and unifies the two principles. Yet as being a part from all dualities, she is, as Beane writes, beyond all opposites; “ of phenomenal existence the goddess proclaims that, ‘when everything melts away, i.e., there comes the Pralaya or general dissolution, then I am not female, I am not male, nor (am I) hermaphrodite.’ “. Aadishakti, according to the Devibhagavata Purana, she exists at the time of creation, before creation, she is Eternal.
THE TANTRIC BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE; AADI-BUDDHA, AADI-PRAJNA AND SHUNYA
Even in the Buddhist texts there is the concept of the “primordial”, or “first” called Aadi-Buddha. Whether the Adi-Buddha was a concept to express the universality of existance, or the one cosmic mind, is uncertain. In a Mahayana (“great vehicle” one form of Buddhism) perspective, the primordial Buddha God which everything came from, is too monotheistic. Perhaps the concept came about in order to contend with Muslims, or compete with Brahmins. Either way, the concept of Adi-Buddha exists throughout the various schools, is more prominent in some more than others.
There are many related texts which align with the concept of aadishakti, as relating to this female principle. Author N.N. Bhattacharya explains in The Indian Mother Goddess:
The gods and goddesses are the symbols of the Buddhist conceptions of four elements and five constituents of being. Earth is represented by the goddess Locanaa, water by Maamakii, fire by Paandaravaasini, and air by Taaraa while the five constituents of a being are represented by the five Dhaanii Buddhas. Creation is due to the Shakti or female energy of the Aadi- Buddha, and as such the adepts should realize that the female sex is the source of all.
According to author Kanai Lal Hazra;
The term seems to have come to use in an early period of Buddhist history, but the belief in such a concept probably arose only later, when esoteric Buddhism came into contact with the mysticism of Indian Tantrism, resulting in their mutual influence. The esoterically aspect of Buddhism made their appearance prior to those of Hinduism, but when the latter came into being they influenced esoteric Buddhism, and gradually the system and the form of both movements became almost identical because of interchange.
According to Hazra the first systematic Aadi-Buddha theistic school, (the Aishvarika school) was in Nepal. The Svayambhuu Puraana is the first story to account of the manifestation of the Aadi-Buddha, which appeared as a flame which came out of a lake. As the story goes, the great saint Manjushri who lived on mount Panchashirsa and had lots of followers, (including the king of the country Dharmakara), received a divine “intimation” that “the self-born Lord Aadi-Buddha has manifested himself as a flame of fire on a lotus on the waters of Lake Kalihrada.” When he arrived at the lake, he realized how inaccessible it was to get to the middle of the lake, to offer obeisance. He then circled the lake and on the Southern side lifted his sword, and split the hillside in two. Water rushed through the opening, which later became the Baaghmati river. Svayambhuu meaning “self-created one”. Interestingly to note that this Aadi-Buddha was “birthed” out of a body of water, which in the vedas (ap) is the female term, and is a medium from which creation is derived. Hazra infers;
What is this water? It is, according to some of the Tantras, Shakti, who pervading the whole universe in the form of water. This belief influenced the Nepalese Buddhists also, who have often conceived of Aadi-Prajna in the form of primordial water. This Aadi-Buddha and Aadi-Prajna or Aadi-Devi (Aadi-Shakti,) [sic] are the original mother and father or the world. In the Svayambhuu-Purana Prajna is described as the Shakti or Shiva, as the mother of the Buddhas—the mother of all the gods.
He concludes this thread with; “The Aadi-Prajna or the Aadi-Shakti is also spoken of as the triangular form (tir-kneakara, which is the symbol of the productive power) as she is described in the Hindu Tantras also.
Nowhere else is the female principle more prevalent in Buddhist literature terms then when referring to Shunya, or emptiness, the void which is beyond nihilism, and full. The concept of Shunyata is defined as: “The Buddhist idea of vacuity conceived in terms of the Female Principle. It is also known as Prajna and symbolized in the forms of different goddesses.” Shunya is an adjective meaning; void, empty, vacant. Shunyanyam in Sanskrit means; a vacuum, void, the sky, space, atmosphere. That female principle from which the world is birthed in the form of Prajnaparamita, who through her wisdom also produced “all the Buddha’s as their mothers and instructress.” In Vajrayana, prajna, (wisdom), is considered the passive, the quiescent the void. Prajnaparamita is described in Tibetan Buddhism as; the mystic partner and mother of the Aadi-Buddha.” The Prajnaparamita Sutra (2nd century, C.E.) became the “middle path”, (Madhyamika), the text that formed the schools for Mahayana. Oleson goes on to write,
For She (The Perfection of Wisdom) is their mother and begetter, she showed them the all-knowledge, she instructed them in ways of the world. From her have the Tathagatas come forth. For she had begotten and shown that cognition of the all-knowing, she has shown them the world for what it really is.
Along these same lines, N.N. Bhattacharyya writes;
The concept of primitive Mother Goddess of the agricultural societies contributed to the growth of that Prakrti as the embodiment of all the reproductive forces of nature, and subsequently to that of Shakti is Devi, .. ..and in Buddhism it is conceived of in the forms of different goddesses associated with the Buddhas and the Boddhisattvas and at the philosophical level it has been conceived of as Prajna or Shunyataa.
Interesting to note, that Shunya, according to Mahayana Buddhism, is also a part of everything that exists or is “matter”.
As Sir John Woodroffe writes in Shakti and Shakta;
The full is not merely the collectivity (Samasti) of all which exists, for it is both immanent in and transcends the universe. It is a commonplace that it is unknowable except to Itself.[ ] For this reason the Buddhist Tantric schools call it Shunya or the Void. This is not ‘nothing’ but nothing known to mind and senses. Both Shaktas and some Vaisnavas use the term Shunya, and no one suspects them of being ‘Nihilists’.
Again we see a repetitive theme of this empty void being full and that which not separate from it. That which simultaneously exists in everything and is the origin from which everything is born.
Nirguna Vs. Saguna
The Devi, as Para-Brahman, is beyond all form and guna. The forms of the Mother of the Universe are threefold. There is first the Supreme (para) form, of which, as the Vishnu-yamala says, "none know." There is next her subtle (sukshma) form, which consists of mantra. But as the mind cannot easily settle itself upon that which is formless, She appears as the subject of contemplation in Her third, or gross (sthula), or physical form, with hands and feet and the like as celebrated in the Devi-stotra of the Puranas and Tantras. Devi, who as Prakriti is the source of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh-vara, has both male and female forms. But it is in Her female forms that She is chiefly contemplated. For though existing in all things, in a peculiar sense female beings are parts of Her. The Great Mother, who exists in the form of all Tantras and all Yantras, is, as the Lalita says, the "unsullied treasure-house of beauty" ; the Sapphire Devi, whose slender waist, bending beneath the burden of the ripe fruit of her breasts, swells into jeweled hips heavy with the promise of infinite maternities.
If indeed She, (the feminine principle, aadishakti) is to be understood as Para-Brahman, why is she depicted in so many forms? In the above quote, Sir John Woodroffe contemplates one of the oldest questions posited, is the Devi with or without form? How is it that she is she to be worshipped or even understood? In her Para-Brahman form she is the supreme. Brahman is both nirguna (without qualities) and saguna, (with qualities). As David Kinsley describes in Hindu Goddesses;
As nirguna, Brahman transcends all attempts to describe it. It is beyond all name and form (nama-rupa). As the ground of all things, as the fundamental principle of existence, however, Brahman is also spoken of as having qualities indeed, as manifesting itself in a multiplicity of deities, universes, and beings. As saguna, Brahman, reveals itself especially as the various deities of the Hindu pantheon. The main philosophical point asserted in the idea of saguna Brahman is that underlying all the different gods is a unifying essence, namely, Brahman. Each individual deity is understood to be a partial manifestation of Brahman, which ultimately is beyond all specifying attributes, functions, and qualities.
As saguna Brahman Kinsly writes; “..the Devi is portrayed as a great cosmic queen enthroned in the highest heaven, with a multitude of deities as the agents through which she governs the infinite universes.”
Pinchtman however takes this concept to another level. By defining the goddess according to the Devi-Bhagavata Purana, and other Shakta Puranas, She becomes the highest divinity, over all gods including the triumvirate of Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu.
Pintchman “schematizes” that the goddess as “Parabrahman, primordial, or Nirguna Shakti” is “beyond creation”, and that “the goddess as Saguna brahman, the possessor of creative powers that she activates, or the possessor of a single creative inherent creative power called maya.” She is “the initial impulse toward creation that is represented by the activation of the goddess’s creative shaktis.”
Aadishakti is therefore both nirguna and saguna. In her nirguna state, she has a form beyond the three gunas; as supreme reality itself. To the practitioner, She can be worshipped and retain both qualities;
Because Thou devourest Kala, Thou art Kali, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya Kali (32). Resuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable (33). 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 (34). Hence it is, 0 Gentle One! that whatsoever fruit is attained by initiation in the Brahma-Mantra, the same may be had by the worship of Thee.
However, to her devotees, She remains both formless, and “unknowable”; “..this Incomprehensible Reality, means the last endeavor of her devotees to extol her theologico-metaphysical greatness and grandeur beyond all contemptible divine forms (devas, Ishvaras).” Those, (implies Beane) whom live in the Sacred world, have an understanding about, “Para-Shakti, the goddess is the Power beyond ‘powers’; she thus constitutes the Abyss of Power as Transcendental Form.” Yet as all opposites are true especially in Tantric philosophies, she both appears as the ultimate form, (formless) and an intimate form. Iconic, and an iconic forms which are accessible to all. In order to understand the formless, the devotee must worship the form, and transcend this reality through their diligent practice. In the perspective of the devotee, the existence of the world is the expression of the sacred. It is the sacred’s creation, and simultaneously the template of that creation. The cosmos existence is proof of life of the gods, and how the gods “show themselves to men.” So it is in this way, the worship of the saguna, guides the devotee to the culture where they consider themselves both as a microcosm of the creation, and reverent to creation itself.
DARK ENERGY AS UNIVERSAL TRICKSTER
“Your work, projected into the future, is pulled back to earth by dark energy, the glue which binds the cosmos together..[ ]”
Trick – A device or action designed to achieve an end by deceptive or fraudulent means: stratagem; ruse. 2. A mischievous action; practical joke; prank.
Trickster- One who tricks; a cheater.
The word “trick” is derived from the Latin tricari, “to start difficulties, delay” but what really is a trickster? How do we know one when we see one, and who are they? The archetype of trickster exists throughout many cultures throughout history. In his book Trickster and the Paranormal, the author George P. Hansen states that;
The trickster is a character type that appears worldwide in folklore and mythology. The term was probably first introduced in this context in 1885 by Daniel G. Brinton. Virtually all cultures have tricksters, and there are innumerable examples; a few include: coyote of North American Indians, Hermes of the Greeks, Eshu-Elegba of West Africa, and Loki of the Norse. There is considerable diversity among them. At one end are primitive buffoons, at the other gods.
It is my assertion that although the idea of “trickster” is very obvious and integral to many cultures, it is often absent or misunderstood in our current 20th century United States. As a result of this the “trickster” often goes ignored or undervalued as a force that also instigates and creates new paradigms within as a quality that it embodies. Again George Hansen writes;
In some societies, trickster tales are sacred; restrictions and prohibitions surround them. Not just anybody is allowed to tell the stories because they have power of their own. This assertion seems decidedly irrational in Western thought, but this is the crux of the matter. The trickster shows some fundamental limitations of the Western conceits of logic, objectivity, and rationality.
Tricksters can either be intentionally or unwittingly tricky, in either case they always act as a catalyst for change. Trickster is the desire for nature to reveal itself. It is the universe desire to expand beyond its boundaries. Tricksters remind us of our “edges” the places where there is room for growth. If there is any “truth” to the expression that “nature abhors a vacuum”, then unconsciously our mind’s desire is to fill space with thoughts and definitions of whom we are as “identity”. Ironically this is also what narrows possibility of expansion. In the trickster story, the trickster is the perpetrator who often initiates an emotional response. Emotional reactivity is an intelligent method of maintaining hope or fear in our lives. Hopes and fears maintain the status quo in the universe. Aversion and attachment, repulsion and attraction, all of these are the same forces which drive evolution forward. The trickster interrupts the cycle of hope and fear, and shifts thought into the realm of reversals. Trickster can also embody the converse of this by changing the flow of the moment bringing the practitioner into a state of hope and fear. Basically the trickster holds this role of spontaneous engagement at any moment, especially when one is sure that they understand, and are in a place of clarity, this is where the trickster enjoys themselves the best. Tricksters can often change shapes and forms, leading one to believe it is formless. The instigator never reveals itself until after the trick, and the trick always comes when least expected. Hence the old expression; “change is constant”, or the converse; “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These are expressions that comfort the trickster bite, which sometimes worse than its bark.
The origin of the greatest force of repulsion happened about 13.7 billion years ago as the cosmos as we know it is said to have exploded itself with tremendous force.
In physical cosmology, the Big Bang is the scientific theory that the universe emerged from a tremendously dense and hot state about 13.7 billion years ago. The theory is based on the observations indicating the expansion of space (in accord with the Robertson-Walker model of general relativity) as indicated by the Hubble red shift of distant galaxies taken together with the cosmological principle.
As the current scientific myth has it, after the dense contraction of the early universe there was a repulsion, and explosion of force and matter that under incredible heat which continues to this day. The cooling and spreading on the universe continues to grow, and what plays maybe the most prominent role in this story today is what we call “dark energy.”
The universe today appears to be dominated by a mysterious form of energy known as dark energy. Approximately 70% of the total energy density of today's universe is in this form. This dark energy causes the expansion of the universe to deviate from a linear velocity-distance relationship, observed as a faster than expected expansion at very large distances. Dark energy in its simplest formulation takes the form of a cosmological constant term in Einstein's field equations of general relativity, but its composition is unknown and, more generally, the details of its equation of state and relationship with the standard model of particle physics continue to be investigated both observationally and theoretically.
Could this “dark energy” be the greatest trickster of them all? Humanity is only just beginning to discover and on the whole understand very little about what consumes us the most. Humans are composed from the same “stuff”, as Shakespeare would have it, “it is interred in our bones.” We are walking talking billion year old embodied matter of the universe. As my favorite songwriter Joni Mitchell would say, “We are stardust, made from billion year old carbon, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” In this case, the garden is the “void”, the embodiment of “aversion” to which we currently have no explanation. Is this force the embodiment of the cosmic trickster?
In the Science section of the November 17th 2006th , edition of The New York Times, two scientists have made important discoveries on the topic of “dark energy”.
We see it doing its thing, starting to fight against ordinary gravity,’ Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute said about the antigravity force, known as dark energy. He is the leader of a team of "dark energy prospectors," as he calls them, who peered, back nine billion years with the Hubble and were able to discern the nascent effects of antigravity. The group reported their observations at a news conference yesterday and in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
Dark energy is the force in which continues to separate and expand the universe at what is called the “cosmological constant”.
The data suggest that, in fact, dark energy has changed little, if at all, over the course of cosmic history. Though hardly conclusive, that finding lends more support to what has become the conventional theory, that the source of cosmic antigravity is the cosmological constant, a sort of fudge factor that Einstein inserted into his cosmological equations in 1917 to represent a cosmic repulsion embedded in space.
Dark energy was there at the creation of the universe, at the big bang, and will continue until “it overwhelms everything”.
In the scientific myth which we are telling in our shared consciousness, we are transparently telling the story which has been told by cultures who never even dreamed of the telescope. We come from darkness, from the void, and that dark presence, or energy is what is pushing us beyond our limitations and edges to this day.
Black is the void. Black is space devoid of vibration, the ‘black hole’, the womb, infinite possibility. Black as the inside of a deep cavern, and is the beginning from where anything is possible. Black is every color, and therefore gives birth to light. To know ourselves, to know history, we journey back to the farthest reaches of our consciousness, beyond time and space to the void in search of our own creation. In this search we uncover myths, statues, idols, folklore, and scripture that leads us further down the ‘worm-hole’ of time. Through our excavation we uncover our past and in doing so making transparent the dark from which we all came.
DARK MOTHER; FEMININE PRINCIPLE, AS AADI-SHAKTI
By looking to the past, we uncover the future. In her book, The First Book of the Black Goddess, author Matoma Alesha begins with the eternal, the goddess called ‘Nut’, who also represents the cosmos. Blue and black of the sky which covers the earth, which the early Khemites described as “higher than the stars and the planets.” From Nut, the empty universe, she delves into the stars, Sun, planets as goddess in form the earth to the moon. All are considered goddess. The dark moon considered the time of renewal and regeneration, calm and serene. Nut gives birth to the entire universe.
Matoma Alesha brings us back to the root of humankind, the root of our matrilineal line. She begins and ends in the same place with the blackness from which everything came, the blackness that is African. She brings forward this concept of; “from the darkness, light was born” by recreating the evolution of ‘herstory,’ and the lineage of the dark mother, throughout time and technology. There is no separation between the concept of ‘blackness’ and the creation of humankind. “The color black is a very important element of growth, development and spiritual cultivation.” “The black goddess is all these things. She is possible and powerful in many forms and all forms. This is important though know when one approaches this archetype.”
I equate this theory with the passage from the book, Principle of Shakti: “To the Shaktas, Shakti is divine; it is Pure Consciousness, Supreme power, that lies inside and out, regulates the world-mechanism and makes itself felt every moment through all efforts-physical and mental.”
Sri Ramakrishna who had an intimate relationship with the form of this ‘energy’ called Kali; a trickster in her own right. He is quoted to say;
The Primordial Power is forever at play. She is creating, preserving, and destroying in play as it were. This Power is called Kali. Kali is verily Brahman, and Brahman is verily Kali. It is one and same Reality. When we think of it as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call it Brahman. But when it engages in these activities, then we call it Kali or Shakti. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form.
This force is beyond good or bad. She yields the power to create and to take away. She illuminates the duality of existence by taking away the suffering, with her fire, for her name is derived from the word Kala, time. Overall she is the Great Mother, from which all life is born. In fact if we look at the root form, “Kala” (time) in the scriptures the sages regard as an attribute of “eternal cosmic energy.” As Shyam Ghosh writes about in The Hindu Concept of Life and Death;
‘Kala was the kinetic quality of the self existing supreme force which manifested in several modes, including consciousness in all living beings. As Yama (temporal time) kala regulated the term of manifested existence: it yoked and collected back the same to its unmanifested form.’
Thus Kali not only is the mistress of time, but also the creatrix given that she is pure potential and consciousness in all-living beings. The same female principle is also Aad-kali, outside of time, and yet commanding it. “She is pre-dynamically the Unmanifest, the Primeval, and the Supreme Prakriti. She is the ultimate trans-theistic symbol of Timelessness – the Not-Time, whose unmanifest and primordial supranature merit her the name Aadyakali.” I have heard it said by my teacher that, Maya or Moha (desire) that brings the atma (soul) back into prakriti; the soul into form. Kali because of her pure potentiality has the ability to tare through these veils that keep one in the eternal samskara; the reliving of the same patterns of negative behavior again and again.
The Devi Upanishad explains;
‘I am essentially Brahman. From me has proceeded the world comprising of Prakriti and Purusha, the void and the Plenum. I am bliss and non-bliss. Knowledge and ignorance are Myself.
I am the five elements and also what is different from them, the panchabhutas ( gross elements) and tanmatras (five subtle elements).
I am the entire world.
I am the Veda as well as what is different from it.
I am unknown.
Below and above and around am I.’
It is said that through propitiating her all the gods and goddesses are propitiated. According to Woodroffe’s translation of the Yoginihdraya Tantra, “She is one who is pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss, as Power, who exists in the form of Time and Space and all that is therein, and who is the radiant Illumination in all beings.”
She is the creatrix of the universe to fulfill her lila of creation, preservation, and destruction. She creates the goddesses and destroys them at the time of Universal dissolution or Mahaparayala. According to the Kalika Upanishad she is the bestower of all possessions of life, and also gives oneness with Brahman, and in this case Brahman is everything, including the void, which everything is birthed. Her creative creation or veiling and reveiling the universe through dissolution and creation is integral to Her creativity. Therefore, time becomes an aspect of a created eternal continuum. Through her ability to create chronicles of time, (i.e. yugas) She is then able to create Herself in mulitforms such as heavenly realms, humans, organisms, and all forms of life. Time then is interconnected with Consciousness. As Woodroffe writes; “The Mother Energy is the Source of all mind, life, and matter and their energies which are all modes of Her as Substance-Energy. The Power which evolves the world is both Consciousness (Cit-Shakti) and Maya or initiating power (Maya-Shakti) which manifests as mind and matter..”
Nothing can arise from Nothing. Asat, nothingness, is a creation of our mind; where it cannot see or conceive, where its object is something beyond its grasp, too much beyond to give even the sense of a vague intangibility, then it cries out, "Here there is nothing." Out of its own incapacity it has created the conception of a zero. But what in truth is this zero? It is an incalculable Infinite... Our sense by its incapacity has invented darkness. In truth there is nothing but Light, only it is a power of light either above or below our poor human vision's limited range." Sri Aurobindo, The Web of Yoga, , http://www.sriaurobindoashram.info (accessed Jan. 20, 2008) p.48
In conclusion, well, there can be no conclusion. Our current reality shifts from on theory to another, as science “discovers” or reveals more to this cosmological equation that we call “the universe”. She plays with us again and again. The trickster is forever at play. Call Her what you will, as China Galland describes in her book, Into the Darkness; “Thus emptiness can be said to be dark or black to us. This is the womb of enlighten. This is Wisdom. (Shunyata, or Aadi- Prajna) [sic] This is the mother of All the Buddhas…[ ]”
On his website, Wilkenson elaborates on this idea of Brahman and cosmological play;
In its native state, the Absolute is unbound, undifferentiated and eternal; One without a second. In order for the Incomprehensible to become intelligible to itself, it becomes dense, first becoming audible and then visible. It does this through a process of contraction which slows down the vibrations of the infinite consciousness, gradually congealing it into a spatial field containing material forms. It manifests first as Cosmic and Planetary harmonies before reaching a highly specific individuation in the human domain. Through this alchemical process, the Absolute is reduced from its original state of undifferentiated Unity into Form and Multiplicity.
In this way, I think Einstein has it correct when he said “God does not play dice with the universe.” The universe is an overall complex system which is inspired by some evolutionary design, and evolving through a series of events that happen by chance, increasing and expanding complexity within the system. Nobel Prize winner, George Smoot, (2006) writes;
It seems that the more we learn, the more we see how it all fits together – how there is an underlying unity to the sea of matter and stars and galaxies that surround us. Likewise, as we study the universe as a whole, we realize that the “microcosm” and the “macrocosm” are, increasingly, the same subject. By unifying them, we are learning that nature is as it is not because it is the chance consequence of a random series of meaningless events; quite the opposite. More and more, the universe appears to be as it is because it must be that way; its evolution was written in its beginnings-in its cosmic DNA, if you will.
Humanity has marveled at the question of our origin for thousands of years. The mythoi of Goddess and Gods have captured details of this wonder, and encapsulate theories in their stories. I have not doubt that as science and quantum theory further develop we will see what seems like parallels merging more and more toward the event horizon of our collective consciousness. As the universe continues to expand beyond edges and pushing us forward in space/time, our limited awareness and consciousness is also expanding. Within the womb of her inherent nature Aadishakti pushes the cosmos towards a greater understanding of herself; infinite, and ineffable.
Alesha, Matoma. The First Book of the Black Goddess. Tucson Arizona: Matam Press, 1977.
Apte, Vaman Shirvram. The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.
Beane, Charles Wendell. Myth, Cult and Symbols in Shakta Hinduism. Delhi: Monoharlal Publishing, 2001.
Bendyapadhyay, Pranab. The Goddess of Tantra. Kolkata, India: Puthi Pushtak., 2002. p. 2
Bhattacharyya, N.N. History of the Tantric Religion, New Delhi: Manohar, 1982, 2005.
-------------The Indian Mother Goddess. New Delhi, India: Manohar Publishers and Distributers, 1999.(3rd ed.)
Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane. New York: Harcourt Inc. 1959
Galland, China. Longing for Darkness, Tara and the Black Madonna. New York: Penguin Books. 1990.
Gosh, Shyam. Hindu Concept of Life and Death. Delhi:Manushriram Manoharlal. 2002
Guleri, Dr. Vidyaahdar Sharma. Female Deities In Vedic And Epic Literature. Delhi, India:Nag Publishers. 1990.
Hansen, George P. The Trickster and the Paranormal. Xlibris Corporation; 2001. pp.35-36
Hazra, Kanai Lal Aadi-Buddha, Delhi; B.R. Publishing Corporation. 1986.
Hawley, John Stratton, and Wulff, Donna Marie. Devi, The Goddess of India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass., 1998. p. 315
----------Humes, Cynthia Ann. Local Goddess, but Great Goddess.
Jordan, Donna. “A Post-Orientalist History of the Fierce Shakti of the Subaltern Domain” Dissertation, CIIS, Nov. 1999
Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses, Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass. 1987
Kumar, Pushpendra. The Principle of Shakti. Delhi:Eastern Book Linkers. 1986.
Mookergjee, Agit. Kali, The Feminine Force, London:Thames and Hudson Ltd. 1988. p.88
Nelson, Marilyn. The Cachoeira Tales And Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press 2005), p. 26
Oleson, Eleanore. “The Buddhist Female Deities”, The Goddess Re-Awakining:The Feminine Principle., Wheaton, Illinois:Quest Books, 1989. p. 80
Ovrebye, Dennis. “9 Billion Old Dark Energy Reported”New York Times, November 17th 2006.
Pinchman, Tracy. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. Albany:State University of New York Press. 1994
Sherma, Rita Dasgupta ‘Sa Ham- I Am She’: Woman as Goddess. Appears in Is the Goddess a Feminist?Edited by, Alf Hiltebeitel, and Kathleen M. Erndl. Delhi: India Oxford University Press. 2000.
Shyam Gosh. Hindu Concept of Life and Death. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1973.
Sircar, D.C. The Shakta Pithas, Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass. ,1973, 1988.
Smoot, George. Wrinkles in Time, Witness to the Birth of the Universe. New York: Harper, 2007.
Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani Ph.D. Shakti, The Power In Tantra, (a scholarly approach) (Himalayan Institute Press: Honesdale, Pennsylvania), 1998
Vijñanananda, Swami. The S'rîmad Devî Bhâgawatam 1921-22 http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/db/ (Accessed Jan. 15, 2008)
Wilkenson, Robert. (1988) (http://www.spiritweb.org/Spirit/quantum-brahman-wilkinson). (Accessed, Jan, 22, 2008)
Woodroffe, John. Mahanirvana Tantra, Sacredtexts.com http://www.sacredtexts.com/tantra/maha/maha04.htm (Accessed Jan, 12, 2008)
---------------- Shakti and Shakta, Delhi:India, Ganesh & Co. 2001.
--------------- Introduction to Tantra Shastra. Madras: Ganesh & Co. 1913, 1952.
--------------World as Power: Power as Consciousness. Madras:Ganesh & Co. 1964.
See John Woodroff, Mahanirvana Tantra, Sacredtexts.com http://www.sacredtexts.com/tantra/maha/maha04.htm p. 12 (Jan, 12, 2008)
Apte, Vaman Shirvram. The Student’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary, (Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass 2005), 79
Ibid., p. 80
N.N. Bhattacharya. History of the Tantric Religion, (New Delhi:Munishram Manoharalal 2005), 370
John Stratton Hawley, and Donna Marie Wulff, Devi (Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass 1998), 315
Premal Bandyapadhyay, The Goddess of Tantra, (Kolkata, India: Puthi Pushtak, 2002), p. 2
Apte, p. 544
Hawley and Wulff, p. 324
Morales, Frank. “The Concept of Shakti: Hinduism as a Liberating Force for Women.” http://www.dharmacentral.com. (Accessed Jan., 14, 2008), p.7
Ibid., p. 9
Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani Ph.D. Shakti, The Power In Tantra, (a scholarly approach) (Himalayan Institute Press, Honesdale: Pennsylvania), 1998 p. 5
Guleri, Dr. Vidyaahdar Sharma. Female Deities In Vedic And Epic Literature. (Delhi, India:Nag Publishers. 1990) p. 154
Tracy Pintchman, The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. (Albany:State University of New York Press.), p. 5
Ibid., p. 17
Sircar notes this fact as a note to explain the tem Devi. D.C. Sircar, The Shakta Pitahs (Delhi:Motilal Banarsidass) p. 3n
Woodroff, Sir John. Shakti and Shakta, (Delhi:India, Ganesh & Co. 2001), p. 227
Ibid., p. 228
Ibid., “For Power (Shakti) and the possessor of the Power (Shaktiman) are one and the same. In the Tantras, Siva constantly says to Devi, ‘There is not difference between Thee and Me.’ We say that the fire burns, but burning is fire. Fire is not one thing and burning another.” P. 228
Pinchman, Tracy. The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition. (Albany:State University of New York Press. 1994), p.109
Tiguanit, in Shakti, the Power in Tantra; “If tantra includes Pancharatra Agama and Shiva Agama, then the existance of Tantric liturature can be traced to the fifth century A.D., which is also the time when Buddhist Tantric texts begin to appear.” p. 26
Sir John Woodroff, Mahanirvana Tantra. Sacredtexts.com http://www.sacredtexts.com/tantra/maha/maha04.htm (Accessed Jan, 12, 2008)
Guleri, p. 197
“What was true for tribal women was not necessarily true for tribal men. In order to increase the numbers of Brahmans tribal chiefs and priests were initiated into the Brahman and ksatriya castes through initiation ceremonies. This enabled two purposes, one to create more Brahmans and also fortify the strength of the Ksatriya military. Occasionally, Brahmans would marry tribal women. The new converts would be freed from tribal law, and the chief would become ruler of his former tribe, therefore sending the ordinary tribesmen into peasantry.” Jordan, Donna. “A Post-Orientalist History of the Fierce Shakti of the Subaltern Domain” Diss. CIIS, Nov. 1999
Cythia Humes, “Local Goddess Yet Great Goddess” Devi, The Goddess of India. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass., 1998), p.60
“In the Devi Mahatmya, various conceptions of the femine principle (prakriti, maya, shakti) combine with the notion of an ultimate reality to create a Great Goddess who is the power inherent in creation and dissolution, the primordial material substance (mula-prakriti) as well as the creative impulse, formless yet the matirx of all forms, transcendent as well as immanent. Rita Dasgupta Sherma, ‘Sa Ham- I Am She’: Woman as Goddess. Appears in Is the Goddess a Feminist?, p. 32- 33
Pintchman, p. 179
Ibid., p. 128
Bhattacharya, p. 250
Pintchman, p. 128
Devi Bhagavata. Sacred-texts.com http://www.sacredtexts.com/hin/db/bk01ch08.htm, VII. 30 ( Accessed Jan. 22, 2008)
Devi Bhagavata, Sacred-texts.com http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/db/bk01ch08.htm V. 1-9. ( Accessed Jan, 22, 2008)
Beane, Charles Wendell. Myth, Cult and Symbols in Shakta Hinduism. (Delhi: Monoharlal Publishing, 2001), p.153
Ibid., “To be sure, the testimony of a Rsi to a king is that the goddess ‘is beginningless’ and ‘therefore  that Highest Devi is Eternal and  always the Causes of all Causes’.
N.N. Bhattacharya, The Indian Mother Goddess. p. 210
Kanai Lal Hazra, The Aadi-Buddha. (Delhi; B.R. Publishing Corporation. 1986), p.7
Ibid., p. 14-15
Ibid., p. 19
See Pintchman, p. 23
See Hazra, p. 21
Bhattacharya, p. 440
Apte., p. 560
Oleson, Eleanore. “The Buddhist Female Deities”, The Goddess Re-Awakining:The Feminine Principle., (Wheaton, Illinois:Quest Books, 1989), p. 80
Ibid., p. 81
Bhattacharyya, p. 213
Woodroffe. P. 26
Woodroffe. Mahanirvana Tantra (Accessed Jan, 12, 2008) p.13
David Kinsley, Hindu Goddess. p. 136
Ibid., p. 137
Pintchman, p. 183
Woodroff, p. 35
Beane., p. 152
Eliade., “ For religious man, the cosmos ‘lives’ and ‘speaks.’ Them mere life of the cosmos was created by the gods and the gods show themselves to men through cosmic life.”, p. 165
Marilyn Nelson, The Cachoeira Tales And Other Poems (Louisiana State University Press 2005), p. 26
American Heritage Dictionary (1969)
George P. Hansen, Trickster and the Paranormal, (Xlibris Corporation; 2001) pp.35-36
Ibid., p. 36
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_bang) Jan., 22, 2008
See Shakespear, any copy of Julius Ceasar, Marc Anthony addressing the crowds; “[ ]..the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with Cesar!”
Joni Mitchell, Woodstock. This song was also covered by Crosby Stills, and Nash, but they left out this most important line, and in my opinion, the point of the song was also lost.
Ovrebye, Dennis. “9 Billion Old Dark Energy Reported”New York Times, November 17th 2006.
Alesha, Matoma. The First Book of the Black Goddess. The First Book of the Black Goddess. Tucson Arizona: Matam Press, 1977. p. 289
Ibid., p. 37
Kumar, Pushpendra. The Principle of Shakti, p. 66
See Mookerjee, Kali, The Feminine Force quote by, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, p.88
Shyam Ghosh, The Hindu Concept of Life and Death.. (Delhi:Manushriram Manoharlal. 2002) p. 86
Mookargee, p. 88
Woodroffe, Shakti and Shakta, p. 25
____ The World As Power, p. 356-357
Galland., p. 342
George Smoot, Wrinkles in Time, Witness to the Birth of the Universe. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), p. 296.