• Corina Ray Bogart

The Cosmic Coil

The gnosis of Tantra is an embodied knowledge of Absolute Reality, an acceptance of the paradoxical plight of existence, beckoning the limited individual self to fully participate in the evolution of consciousness.

Veiled in secrecy, Tantra is an intellectual enigma composed of a broad, amorphous array of distinguishing definitions and tangled lineages, and significantly misrepresented by Western appropriation (White, 2003; Padoux, 1987). Therefore, the very notion of grappling with Tantra’s complex spiritual teachings, rituals, and history that often overlaps with non-Tantric Hindu traditions result in a titanic truncation of truth. The very inquiry into the nature of Tantrism is synonymous with the mystery of existence in itself: the interplay of duality and the nondual. Each node of Tantra intersects the next, contrast blurs into congruency, dancing and rippling, laughing and provoking, shocking one into the soaring heights of transcendence and into the dizzying depths of consciousness. The ferocious cry of Kālī, the bloodthirsty warrior goddess, is also the tender lullaby of Lakshmī, the goddess of good fortune, and both inhabit the spectrum of Śakti, the Great Mother Goddess, the animating energy of the Absolute Śiva. Tantra’s liminality seamlessly contains the polarities of existence and the contradictory nature of its very own praxis, ranging from the carnal ritualistic mixing of sexual fluids to the loftiest of esoteric numinosity (White, 2003; Dyczkowski, 1987). Although it appears to be impossible to sieve a pure Tantric philosophy from the vast sea of Hindu traditions, it may not be necessary in order to glean salient wisdom from engaging with Tantra. If Tantra fundamentally contains and penetrates all aspects of reality, its varying belief systems inhabit one another at some assorted capacity; therefore, a general survey of Tantric beliefs have the propensity to dramatically benefit the inquirer seeking to reconcile the modern conflict between the physical and the spiritual. The gnosis of Tantra is an embodied knowledge of Absolute Reality, an acceptance of the paradoxical plight of existence, beckoning the limited individual self to fully participate in the evolution of consciousness.

Language is well regarded as a powerful tool to shape the psyche, mold ontological perspectives, oscillate emotional realms, and physically impact the material world through implemented action. Tantra beckons the neophyte to reorient one’s perception of language from an abstract set of symbols to a sacred vehicle of the divine. The positivist scientific perspective of language attributes speech and meaning-making to inexplicably complex neurological processes, where the human intellect assigns symbols to objects (Kemmerer, 2015). According to the Brhadāranyaka Upaniśad, the spoken word is a product of breath and mind, however, in the Hindu context, the mind is not attributed to the rationalizing engine of individual consciousness, but envisioned as an all-pervasive essence that encompasses and embraces all bodies and beings. The mind is correlated to the world of atmosphere, and the breath is equated to heaven, an energy sourced from Ultimate Reality, filling lungs with life, and powering our words on spirited breath (Gupta, Hoens, & Goudriaan,1979). The dynamic between language, breath, and divinity may have been forgotten by the Western mind but remains evident upon the English tongue, where the Latin root for “spirit”— spiritus has the meaning of breath and wind, and the Greek psyche means mind, soul, breath, and gust of wind (Online Etymology Dictionary, n.d.). The non-physical realms of mind and breath, atmosphere and heaven, midwife expression into the physical as audible sound through human articulation: the words that fall from opened mouths or left to reverberate behind closed lips hold the essence of the Absolute.

Conceptually comparable to the Big Bang’s generation of cosmic background radiation in the explosive flaring forth of the universe, Swami Muktananda (1981) posits that words are created from paravani, the most subtle vibration from which the entire cosmos in all of its forms is derived. Paravani is considered to be the realm before sound, “neither duality nor nonduality,” the bindu (point) where Śiva and Śakti are indiscernible from one another (p. 73). Śakti represents the ultimate expression of female divinity, the manifest, active, energetic, and creative element of the universe. Contrastingly, Śiva is the masculine, unmoving, pure, illuminative eternal (Brooks, 1992; Ramachandra Dikshitar, 1991). When Śiva and Śakti come into union, a pulsation of energy is generated: mantra is the vibrational component of the divine that simultaneously creates and pervades all of manifest reality from the Earth, to the wind, to the breath that utters the sounds that resonate as Śakti herself. The essence of mantra is understood to be the movement and the activity of the goddess whose oscillating motion manifests her body— the universe (Muktananda, 1981). Therefore, the words of mantra are not the product of rational thought, nor restricted human imagination, or wisdom, but are direct emanations of Śiva and Śakti, Ultimate Reality. Humanity’s limited intellect grapples with defining the ineffable in dualistic linguists, unable to see the arcane truth that the words they use in the attempt to reach understanding are an integral facet of the knowledge they seek. Gupta, Hoens, and Goudriaan (1979) explicate that “one of the most essential traits of Tantrism is its conception of a phonic plane existing parallel to, and even basic to, the objective world” (p. 93). Concurrently, the words and letters of the mantra do not represent Śiva and Śakti, but are “phonic manifestations of (the) deities” (Gupta, Hoens, & Goudriaan, 1979, p. 93).

The approximate 3,500-year-old Rg Veda elucidates Om as the primordial resonance of Śiva, and in later Hindu texts that of Śakti. Ergo, Om is the root origin of all words. Evolving from the Vedantic understanding of Om as the original vibration of the universe, the Tantric metaphysical theory of sound and meaning evolved to include a mystical trinity consisting of Śiva, Śakti, and their union, the bindu. The bindu is a Tantric concept holding multivalent symbolism and significance. The bindu can be referred to as a point, the singularity from which all manifest forms of reality emerge, a concentrated drop of primordial sound, the condensed origin of energy in the human body, the ajna cakra or third eye, or the mixing of female and male sexual emissions to create a liquid gnosis (Gupta, Hoens, & Goudriaan, 1979; Dyczkowski, 1987, Silburn, 1988; White, 2003).

On one level, Śiva is identified as the bindu, and Śakti is synonymous with the bija, seed syllables within mantras that contain the spiritual essence of the goddess (Silburn, 1988). When the singularity of the bindu (Śiva) and vibration of the bija (Śakti) amalgamize, they create nāda, the threefold bindu or the Supreme Śakti. The SupremeBindu produces the phonic aspect of Brahman, Ultimate Reality expressed in sound, “the principle of intelligence in audible form” (Gupta, Hoens, & Goudriaan, 1979, p. 94). The multivalence of the bindu is pluralistic and may appear contradictory, but it is within the paradox of being both Śiva and Śakti at once, the still and the moving, the point of concentration and the oscillating sound, interpenetrating one another within a mysterious singularity that allows for nondual Tantric philosophy to hold the totality of reality. The paradox breathes with the eternally shifting movement of the cosmos: from tranquility springs chaos, and from chaos forms coherency.

Mukananda (1981) stresses the power of mantra to directly inform the multidimensional experience of the mental, spiritual, and physical. If all originate from the Supreme Bindu, and manifestations are at their basic-level a vibrating quantum, then the reverberation of God in word-form has the power to create, destroy, and preserve upon all layers of existence. Repeating a mantra can pierce the mind, and free it from the prison of negativity. The power of words is not a poetic abstraction, but is a literal form of the Absolute. Paratrisika-vivarana (1989) explains, “The universe is not simply visible phenomenon of the Divine; it is the utterance of the verbal power of the divine” (p. 131). No wonder the knowledge of Tantric praxis is illusive, highly guarded, and veiled, for behind closed lips rests the potential to harness the power of the gods.

Contained within the Sanskrit work for I, Aham, lies the entire alphabet, inner and outer consciousness, the infinite source of Śiva, and the energetic outpouring of Śakti. The letters of an alphabet are the smallest phonemic units into which speech can be analyzed. The 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are “symbolic of the principle elements of the activity of consciousness,” the Absolute contained within the letters (Dyczkowski, 1987, p. 186). The 16 vowels from “a” to “ah” are forms of energy representing the Supreme that is transcendent to manifestation, and the remaining 34 consonants are creative forms of energy manifesting the diverse categories of existence, the tattvas (Paratrisika-vivarana, 1989). The first letter of Aham (meaning I), and the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet is “the point of departure or initial emergence of all the other letters” (Dyczkowski, 1987, p. 186). “A” is the Absolute. “Ha” is the last letter of the alphabet, representing the “point of completion” for all other letters have come into existence before it. It (the letter ha) represents the state in which all the elements of experience, in the domains of both inner consciousness and outer unconsciousness, are fully displayed. It is also the generative, emission which, like the breath, casts the inner into the outer, and draws what is outside inward. (Dyczkowski, 1987, p. 186)

Therefore, the two letters ‘a’ and ‘ha’ portray Śiva and Śakti: Śiva, the transcendental source, and Śakti, the cosmic outpouring that flows back to Him. Between the combined letters “a” and “h” resides all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet— every phase of consciousness, transcendental, universal, and individual.

The final letter of Aham is written as a dot, a bindu. “M” represents the individual soul (purusa) as well as the soul’s life force, and its connection to the transcendent. It is the point where the interiority of Śiva meets the external unfolding that is Śakti. The bindu within the word Aham is the union of the Absolute, the Supreme Bindu emanating the universe. Thus, the bindu in the world I (Aham) is the center of an energetic polar axis, the nucleonic singularity by which complementary aspects pivot around. The overlapping center from which all energy emerges and into which it collapses: the nexus of the pure awareness of I (Dyczkowski, 1987).

According to Kashmiri Shaivism, the objective world of perception is essentially a sequence of thought-constructs, speech internally articulated by the mind (Dyczkowski, 1987). The mind is not the producer of language, but an organ that translates the inflow of consciousness. Similar to verbalized speech, thought is a vibration that also alters or constructs reality. And like speech, thought is a manifest form of the Goddess, an internalized mantra considered to be in closer vicinity to the source of Śakti, having traveled less distance from the individual’s bindu, or concentrated point of divine energy (Muktananda, 1981). Paradoxically, by tracing the outpouring of consciousness back to Śakti, one finds a place of perfect stillness and silence, of oscillating frequency and creative articulation.

What it (Śiva-Śakti’s cosmic dance) generates is nothing but rhythm, and no level escapes it. It is in the perspective of this divine pulsation— of which it is a privileged expression and which it reproduces at every stage—that this energy should be considered, in order to understand the role it plays within humans and the universe. (Silburn, 1988, p. 5-6)

Speech arises as a vibratory dimension Śiva and Śakti’s rhythmic interplay of reverberation and pause, movement and serenity. The union of Śiva and Śakti propagates the myriad of creative arisings that constitute all levels of the Absolute: the ethereal, energetic, and physical worlds.

Although the full spectrum of Ultimate Reality may be obscured to one’s individual conscious experience, Swami Pratyagatmananda (1989) recognizes that pure and undifferentiated Consciousness is always accessible. “Even a finite centre, in any position in the curve of evolution, must never cease to be a ‘point’ of pure and perfect Reality,” Pratyagatmananda eloquently stated (1989, p. 74). In every particle, the infinite can be reached and realize itself. In each moment of time exists the opportunity to know God. The “point” is the bindu through which the unified simultaneously flows and reabsorbs its own outpouring, where all duality is resolved in recognition of Śiva-Śakti as God. The outgoing current is multifarious and diversifying, differentiated and polarized, while the return current assimilates that which has outwardly manifested into wholeness, peace, and harmony. The kundālinī is the “central pivot upon which the whole complex apparatus of the physical body, vital economy, and mental activity moves and turns” (Pratyagatmananda, 1989, p. 80), and the individual body’s multidimensional supporting base and source of energy. The kundālinī is Śakti, the sentient mechanism for creation and realization, represented by the coiled serpent (Silburn, 1988).

The concept of Ultimate Reality being available at every node of the kundālinī’s curved existence is reflected within Western science’s theoretical construction of the black hole. According to the theory of general relativity, the gravity at the center of a black hole is so strong that space-time becomes extremely curved— to the point where the curvature becomes infinite, and the laws of physics disintegrate (Sholtis, 2018). The developing theory of micro black holes posits that all particles may, in fact, be composed of various forms of singularities (Coyne & Cheng, 2009):

At the Planck scale it may well be impossible to disentangle black holes from elementary particles. There simply is no fundamental difference. If black holes show any resemblance with ordinary particles it should be possible to describe them as pure states. (p. 30)

Although it is impossible to collapse quantum theory or Tantric philosophy into one another, a congruent thematic concerning the nature of reality emerges: infinity is beheld within every node of a curved reality on the quantum level. Therefore, all of existence is accessible within every particle. For the yogin, the observable universe is composed of the Absolute emanating from a divine singularity, whose energy is filtered through the various stages of the tattvas (levels of reality), and reabsorbed back into the singularity. For the micro black hole theorist, physical reality is the accumulation of micro infinities, simultaneously radiating particles and collapsing in on itself (Coyne & Cheng, 2009; Nomura, 2020). From the Tantric perspective and that of the quantum, there is a dynamic pulsation and resorption of the universe; the complementary centripetal and centrifugal forces composing the cosmic dance of Śiva and Śakti concurrently manifest and bend back onto itself.

The Tantric physical universe constructed by waveforms emerging from the union of Śiva and Śakti is also illustrated in the scientific discoveries of Dr. Hans Jenny, a forerunner of chaos theory and complexity science. A vibrating lens with water, sand, iron fillings, mercury, or various other liquids held in place by a containment ring was agitated with an audible frequency, which caused visible oscillations to occur in the water (Volk, 2008; McClellan, 1991). As the medium was subjected to a gradually increasing frequency, the oscillations gained coherency, forming beautiful patterns whose intricacy incrementally increased with the rising pitch. The entire structure would dissolve into chaos at a critical tone, only to re-configure into a higher order of complexity as the tone transitioned into a perfect pitch. Between each of the successive notes, an interval of chaos transpired where no coherent forms were evident (Volk, 2008). Swami Muktananda (1981) describes the individual self as a “continually changing mass of consciousness” that stabilizes and focuses in the direction of the Self when projected with the “beam of mantra” (p. 71). Much like Jenny’s sound frequencies projected into liquids, the mantra acts as the perfect pitch, restructuring the individual self from a state of chaos into a purified yantra— a human manifestation of the Absolute.

The evolving forms created by tonal vibrations predictably repeated themselves, resembling organic organisms' growth patterns such as chromosomes, cells, molecules, bone tissue, tree growth-rings, and crystalline structures. Thus, it was Dr. Jenny’s conviction that biological growth was the result of vibration, and the very qualities of the vibration determined the resulting structures. Jenny suspected that each organic cell generated its own frequency. Several cells of the same frequency would then combine to create a new vibrational quality that would be harmonic with the first. Furthermore, the organ composed of these cells would produce an additional frequency, and the body, as a composite of all of its reverberating structures, would also resonate a novel waveform. According to Jenny, the body's consequential frequencies would be “…the result of harmonics, perhaps as found in the natural harmonic series, so that all parts of the whole be assured of compatibility with each other” (McClellan, 1991, p. 51). Each complexifying level containing the previous holds all that has come before as a unified resonance, paralleling the Indian philosophy of the tattvas, various layers of reality derivative of a singular, dynamic infinity. In lieu of reaching for particle accelerators to physically verify the nature of existence, the yogin discovers the portals into the truth of the Ultimate, Saccitānanada (Being-Consciousness-Bliss) by instigating states of consciousness that open the constrictions that limit and bind the unbound expressions of reality. In doing so, the yogin utilizes the mechanisms that construct the phenomenological universe as a means to awaken unto themselves and Truth, to actively participate in the evolving curve of Saccitānanada.

Attempting to provide an efficient explanation of the circular interpenetrating and endless conduit of energy that is the Tantric Absolute Reality may very well be a page left blank. Language completely breaks down when coming into contact with the Tantric event horizon, crumbling under any inkling of verbalized truth. One can reason and ponder to the most staggering of heights and profound subterranean layers of the human intellect, but the mind cannot know what is beyond its metaphysical limitations. The teachings, dripping with transformational wisdom that can only be possible by direct knowledge of Śiva-Śakti, may lead one to the doorway of realization— however, it is embodied experience that will plunge one into the mystery. Tantra beckons those who yearn for liberation, knowledge, and understanding to usher the divine into the physical, to be transformed by the felt sensation of the mantra’s frequency vibrating into and through the body, to physically locate the bindu, and pivot on its axis, subsequently, reversing the dynamic flow between the poles of Śiva and Śakti so that one can experience the point of perfect Being-Consciousness-Bliss. Access to one’s godly nature may at first prove to be burdensome by reason of an attachment to the sedimentary layers of trauma, suffering, delusion, and confusion that reinforce an individual’s fragmented separation. Nevertheless, the perceivably negative aspects that bind may conversely be converted and directed as liberators from one’s bondage to limited consciousness (Pratyagatmananda, 1989; Svoboda, 1986).

Torrents of emotions, rapture, passion, lust, anger, and grief invite the courageous to step into the realm of Tantric illumination. What happens when one yields to the shadow’s potency by reorienting the habituated reaction to recoil, reject or attempt to control nature’s virile forces? The profound opportunity for growth occurs when consciousness constricts itself in the form of darkness, shadow aspects, and wounds, plunging deeply into the contraction of what we would define as horrendous, nightmarish, and abominable. The wound is the eye that allows for deeper vision: the intensity of the human experience is not only rich and meaningful, but a liaison to expanded states of consciousness whereupon the threshold, the yogin transmutes nature’s visceral energy through highly practiced rituals of breath, mantra, and concentration. Tantra's left-handed or Aghora path is arguably the most radical method to dissolve one’s false self-identifications. The Aghori (Aghora practitioner) intersects Tantra on the most intense nodes of the human experience, performing sadhana (spiritual practice) on corpses, bridling the wildness of intoxication, feasting on feces, quenching one’s thirst upon urine, embracing the carnal, the disgusting, and the horrifying.

The Aghori challenges us to worship our terrifying mother, to praise her for her loving hand that severs the entrenched belief systems that keep Śiva’s third eye closed (Svoboda, 1986). By engaging with the hedonistic, taboo, violent, and dangerous, the way of the Aghori prepares one for the ultimate challenge of placing one’s head upon Kālī’s chopping block.

Kālī, the most horrifying manifestation of Śakti, is often depicted as a furious combatant, untamable, wild, and destructive who gets drunk off her victims' blood. Kālī’s obliterating power is evident in the numerous depictions of the goddess within the throws of battle: a garland of human skulls draped around her neck, tongue lolling from her mouth, foot dominantly pressing into Śiva’s supine form, weapons, snakes, fire, and a decapitated head swinging from hand (Caldwell, 1996). Reminiscent of a raging fire’s alchemy clearing away all that is tired, dry, and old, the agni of Kālī burns down the self's structures in such a profound manner that one is stripped of bodily comfort and false senses of security. Kālī uses her blade's sharp edge to slay away any false notions of reality we may cling to, revealing the overwhelming truth: life relies on death to flourish. Although painful, through the annihilation of mental and emotional constructs, the searing clarity that remains is liberatory, reconciling one’s relationship to death, impermanence, and the harsh visceral reality of existence (Caldwell, 1996; Svoboda, 1986). Therefore, within the whirlwind violence of Kālī energy, there lies the sweetness of illumination. White (2003) elucidates that although the red staining Kālī’s mouth iconographically denotes the blood of demons or the red juices of pān (beetle nut chew), the red is also symbolic of her own menstrual discharge. In this fashion, Kālī’s destruction is juxtaposed with the fluid gnosis, her fertility, and her ability to nurture and create through the violent act of fiery annihilation. It is difficult to reconcile the pain and fear amalgamated with the horrifying image of the Mother Goddess, yet the visceral feelings of terror and abhorrence point us to where one continues to cling to illusion. What is afraid to die is not I. Albeit the fear of death is overwhelming, a pain in the heart that threatens to tear apart the fabric of reality itself, striking one’s very core in unflinching waves of nausea. The fear stems from the aspect of our being that is limited, that which Kālī’s blood-stained tongue calls us to abandon. The false identification of our transient personality, lifetimes of karma composited into shifting biases and perspectives do not want to disintegrate into oblivion by the sharp blade of Kālī’s sword. The tension of creativity is held in the manifestation of Kālī, reminding one that truth, liberation, understanding, and knowledge are aroused not only by the sublime but also by radical obliteration.

The powerful wave of energy released through the act of self-awareness carries consciousness from the lower contracted level to the supreme state of expansion, freeing the unawakened from the torments of limitation and awakening them to the fullness of universal consciousness. Like the rhythm of the beating human heart, consciousness pulsates from its wellspring of cosmic subjectivity, radiating outwards into limited forms, only to contract in on itself: experience as life-blood to Śiva’s heart. The Doctrine of Vibration’s teachings orients the yogin to follow the continuity of their consciousness to the exact moment of the arising will. By doing so, one has the opportunity to discern the quality of will. Is the will originating from the individualized I that is breathing, or am I being breathed? Developing the discernment between the limited will of the buddhi (intellect) acting from a pruned sphere of individualism and the will pertaining to an unrefined current of conscious light enables the localized human being to cultivate a more righteous, harmonic, and joyful life. Additionally, by shining in our limited universal form, we mirror the process of consciousness knowing itself. The micro-wounds of the human being are smaller condensed wounds of the cosmos, offering consciousness-evolution to the individual and the Absolute. Perhaps true to the Tantric fashion of throwing oneself into the visceral, the taboo, and the tremendously challenging, the conscious field of All-That-Is manifests the atrocities within the cosmos as a means for consciousness to awaken unto itself in a novel capacity. When the light of consciousness returns to itself, reflecting and intimately re-knowing its nature after taking the long descent into the restrained aspects of manifestation, the pain and suffering collapse back into the singularity. Consciousness utilizes wounds as portals to reach deeper depths of knowing and gleaming luminosity.

The constrictive Western ontological paradigm established the universe as an inert, mechanistic realm strictly composed of matter, yet it too offers the cosmos original horizons of self-knowledge. Similar to the Aghora path, the scientific method is an extreme and contrary modality to awaken humanity’s consciousness. In the case of Dr. Hans Jenny, the patterns generated by electronic sound oscillators elude to the fundamental, spiritual, and intelligent principles of the universe: the rhythm of the cosmic dance of Śiva and Śakti as the source of all manifest reality. Toward the end of Hans Jenny’s (1974) comprehensive research Cymatics, the Western scientist began to emanate a mystically inspired point of view:

In our research we move towards a creative world, towards a world-creating power… in admiring and respecting those visions of a world of harmonics (we feel) that a responsive chord has been struck, for he carries in his heart the new cosmos as the mystery of the primordial word seeking revelation. (p. 185)

Jenny’s inquiry into the realm of sound and its relation to physical reality created a point whereupon the light of consciousness penetrated the mechanistic worldview, inspiring the intimations of a profoundly interconnected, intelligent, and fundamentally vibrational universe that has been understood by Hindu traditions for thousands of years.

Although countless discoveries in modern science and philosophical thought provide evidence that humankind is transitioning into an integral, quantum understanding of existence, the lived reality of the average human being remains entrenched in the separate self defined by skin, intellect, identity, and various societal and cultural constructs. The fragmented collective ripples virulent manifestations in the physical world as a continuum of planetary crises: from economic and ecological collapse, to decade-long wars and systemic corruption, the wounds of modernity bear their mark on every earthly life. Nondual Tantrism illuminates a pathway to wisdom, knowledge, and liberation by means of reclaiming the human experience that has been forsaken by Judeo-Christianity as impure, and by the scientist as strictly biological. The physical, emotional, and imaginary realms are elevated to having sacred merit, acknowledged as integral components of the entire spiritual unfolding. However, the path is nothing short of laborious: repugnant demons guard the gaping dark portals of our transpersonal nightmares, wherein lies the singularity to illuminate consciousness. Growing with intensity, the pressure condenses, and a decision is inevitable. Does one cling to the torments of limitation, rendered inert by the threat of annihilation? Or does one thrust themselves into the depths of the abhorrent, allow oneself to be consumed in the fire of their most profound fear, and trust in the revelation that comes from surrendering to the swift blade of Kālī Ma? The axis pivots and the light of Being-Consciousness-Bliss pours into the limited universal form. Entrained in the evolving and involving polar current of the cosmic coil, one is freed to an awakened mind and an enlivened heart, liberated to completely and daringly embody the Absolute through a participatory relationship with the divine.


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