The Dark Age of Bruce Mael (Darkness Rising Universe Book 2)

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Among the Hindus we find the most The Golden Age of the Vedas 7 1 beautiful poetry, but always with an element of utter irrationality: we are attracted by its grace, but The result was the destruction of Buddhism and the occupation of the country by the Muhammadans. For the British in India, the classification of Tantra and its pathologies was never a simple matter of intellectual curiosity about an exotic Eastern environment.

For a majority of Orientalist authors, Tantra represented everything that was most dangerous about the land they hoped to rule. As we will see in the following chapters, however, the discourse on Tantra would soon be played out, not just in the abstract realm of scholarly discourse, but in the concrete realms of social struggle and political action. Invoke the Mother Kali. The Mother asks for sacrificial offerings.

What does the Mother want? A fowl or sheep or buffalo? She wants many white Asuras. The Mother is thirsting after the blood of the Feringhees. Kali rises in the East. And it reached its peak in the tumultuous years of the early twentieth century, in the face of a growing, often violent nationalist movement whose struggle for independence was sometimes bloody.

In the colonial mode of production of reality. Many Indian authors, such as the young Aurobindo Ghose, would appropriate and exploit the terrifying image of Tantra, and particularly the violent goddess Kali, as the most powerful embodiment of their political cause. I will then examine the ways in which some Indian authors in turn appropriated the images of Kali and Tantra as revolutionary weapons, exploiting their terrifying power in the colonial imagination.

Sir George MacMunn, The Underworld of India Based in large part on the descriptions of Orientalist scholarship, British government officials and colonial administrators also began to take an interest in the tantras and to contribute a new element to the imagining of Tantra. As we see in the cases of the Mau Mau in Kenya or in various native uprisings in South America, political rebellion was often believed to be associated with immorality, sexual transgression, and the violation of social taboos.

Above all, India was imagined as a land where political activism and religious fervor were often wedded in the most dangerous form.

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She drinks the blood of her victims. She lives in an orgy of horrors. Osborn Martin, The Gods of India To know the Hindoo idolatry as it is, a person must wade through the filth of the thirty-six pooranus. Kali has been a powerful presence in the Hindu religious imagination since at least the early centuries of the common era. Vickers, With her horrific violence and rampant sexuality, Kali is the most explicit embodiment of this ghastly perversion that passes under the name of religion: The dark image of this goddess is a truly horrid figure. Maha Kali. She exhibits the appearance of drunken frantic fury.

Yet this is the goddess. The supreme delight of this divinity. He recognized Thuggee as instruments of the ultimate evil in their day, of that which as an end in itself takes human life indiscriminately. He was inspired by the belief that Thuggee must be destroyed.


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While appearing to be a good citizen and loyal subject of British law, the Thug was in fact a murderous criminal of the most sinister type: The most astounding fact about the Thug is that It was essential to the safety of their criminal operations that they should pass as peaceful citizens. Not only had they left no trace behind of their foul deed, but they concealed their trail by every art and craft, and with ill-gotten rupees bribed officials, police and villagers, in whose territory the murders had occurred. It is not extraordinary that Thuggee remained a mystery; rather it is remarkable that it was ever brought to light.

He is a deceiver who defies the all-penetrating gaze of colonial rule. Whether the Thuggee were a real or an imaginary cult, a rich lore quickly grew up around them, combining fact and fantasy into a vivid narrative. Kali then established the cult of Thuggee, dedicated to her, which would continue the ritual art of strangulation and robbery. Initially, the story goes. Kali had agreed to devour the corpses herself; however, after one of her devotees looked back to watch her as she consumed a victim, she refused to eat the bodies any longer. Not only were they thought to engage in rampant violence in the name of Kali, but the Thuggee were also believed to hold dark secret rituals dedicated to her.

These sinister rites were described as a kind of Black Mass, consisting of blood sacrifice and sacramental consumption of wine and meat. That giant power which has held the human race in chains wherever the. Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess 85 If the only monument to British rule in India was the suppression of Thuggee, it is doubtful whether any other nation could show a finer one.

What other men of any other Western nation have deliberately imperiled their lives for years on end to protect native life only? For many years the Department of Thuggee. Eventually it was merged in the Criminal Intelligence Department, whose annals will make the most astounding reading in the world, in which crime mingles with Shiva and Vishnu in a manner unknown elsewhere.

Behind all the cruelty and sudden death of the world lies. Kali, the goddess of all horror. Not even the perverted imaginations of the Marquis de Sade could devise a more horrible nightmare than Kali. To minds such as students. Moral corruption, religious perversion, and political unrest come together around the image of Kali and her obscene devotion. Thus Luther wore the mask of the Apostle Paul, the revolution of Utopian imagination thus cuts across the continuum of.

As the basic human faculty for grasping the foreign or the unknown, mimesis is our ability to represent the Other. At the same time, of course, colonized peoples also have their own powers of mimesis and their own ways of imaginally representing the colonizing Other. Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess As a powerful dialectical image, the shaman was in large part the result of a complex play of mimesis between the Europeans and the colonized Indians.

Sri Aurobindo, quoted in Iyengar, Sri Aurobindo We find much the same dialectical play of imagery in the role of Kali in colonial Bengal. Sri Aurobindo as a young man. Dutt or G. In the period after , the Swadeshi movement began to assume a more violent and extremist form, abandoning the earlier doctrines of passive resistance or boycott in favor of the tactics of revolutionary terrorism.

The ideal that Aurobindo came to adopt was that of swaraj, or complete autonomy for India, which could only be achieved by a radical overthrow of British power. Throughout these organizations, there were often deep connections between Sakta Tantra and revolutionary politics. The left wing extremists which organized themselves into revolutionary secret societies followed the practice of taking vows before the goddess Kali.

Invoking Varuna, Agni and other deities. Then bowing to a sword, crown of all weapons, the symbol of death, they lifted it up in the name of the Adya Shakti original Energy, conceived as the Goddess KalT. The latter openly preached revolution and subversion of British authority. Despite his violent revolutionary activities, Aurobindo considered his cause to be not merely political but also profoundly religious. For him, nationalism was a divine a mission, and religion was the life-blood that flowed through the organic body of the Indian nation: Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess 9 3 Nationalism is not a mere political program; Nationalism is a religion that has come from God.

Nationalism is a creed which you shall have to live. If you are to be Nationalist. It is not by any mere political programme. What is the one thing needful?


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  • The Mother Is Thirsty! Offer sacrifice to me. Give for I am thirsty. Seeing me, know and adore the original Power, ranging here as Kali, who. Although Kali has long appeared in Indian mythology as a goddess 94 Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess of military power and violence, her largely mythological figure was to assume a very concrete political role in the context of colonial Bengal. In any case, his novel later would be reinterpreted by the leaders of the nationalist movement as a weapon against the British and a model for revolution in the name of the Goddess.

    Newly appropriated by figures like Swami Vivekananda and Sister Nivedita in her influential book Kali the Mother [] , and seized upon by the extremist Bengali journals, the image of Kali suddenly assumed a markedly political form. In an even more explicit attempt to fuse the political and the religious do- Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess 95 mains, he drew on the traditional Tantric imagery of the Goddess as power on both the spiritual and revolutionary planes.

    Here, Aurobindo lays out his ideal of a secret religio- political organization, an order of young ascetics who would consecrate themselves to the liberation of the motherland. The ascetics would meet at a temple of the goddess Bhawani, a manifestation of Kali, hidden in a secret place where her disciples would prepare for the armed struggle for independence. All is growing large and strong. The Shakti of war, the Shakti of wealth, the Shakti of science are tenfold more mighty and colossal Everywhere the Mother is at work; from 9 6 Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess her mighty and shaping hands enormous forces of Rakshasas, Asuras, Devas are leaping forth.

    We have seen the. Some are Mleccha Shaktis. She is whirling into life the new. For Aurobindo, this divine Sakti is nothing other than the collective power of India, the combined energy of each individual Indian soul. It is not a piece of earth, nor a figure of speech. It is a mighty Shakti, composed of the Shaktis of all the millions of units that make up the nation. As Nandy observes, the nationalists hoped to refashion and remake the self- image of the Bengali male himself. All of this could be schematically represented as in table i.

    For Au- robindo and the other leaders of the Jugantar group drew upon precisely those elements of the Goddess that the British most feared and despised— the violent and wrathful Mother-in-arms, who drinks human blood and wears garlands of severed heads. One of the most powerful images used by the national movement was taken explicitly from a traditional Tantric image of Kali as Chinnamasta, who stands naked on the corpse of her husband, Siva, holding her own severed head and drinking the blood that flows from it.

    Bipanchandra Pal, another leader in the revolutionary movement, offered a new interpretation of this traditional image: it is a representation of the motherland herself, which has been beheaded by the British and drinks her own blood in order to survive: The Mother. This is the Mother as she is, dark because ignorant of herself, the heads with dripping blood are those of her own children destroyed by famine and pestilence; the jackals licking these drippings are.

    For since her earliest appearances in Hindu myth. Kali has also been the symbol of destruction, bloodshed, and war, and hence an effective symbol for inciting political violence. Thou naked art Kali and utterly ruthless thou art. I bow to Thee as the violent One, O Ender of worlds. The mighty Mother of creatures has vanquished the age of Strife Abide forever gracious in this land, O mighty One.

    The rage of Mother India in her violent form has been unleashed, and it cannot be pacified until it tastes the severed heads of her oppressors. As the radical newspaper Jugantar exhorts its readers. The Mother is thirsty and is pointing out to her sons the only thing that can quench that thirst. Nothing less than human blood and decapitated heads will satisfy her. Let her sons worship her with these offerings and let them not shrink even from sacrificing their lives to procure them.

    But it is also the cremation ground of the great cosmic sacrifice at the end of time, the conflagration of worlds that signals the end of the old yuga and the violent dawn of the new. Immersed in the study of yoga and Indian philosophy, a small group of disciples eventually gathered around his ashram. Despite urgings from many members of the nationalist movement, Aurobindo never reentered the political arena, claiming instead that he was having a greater impact on Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess the course of world history through his spiritual teachings.

    She was now the ideal of pure Spirit, the embodiment of India as the land of literature, culture, art, and above all religion. Do not attempt to intervene in the world, do not engage in futile conflict. The result. They are. Born in Paris of a Sephardic Jewish family, Richards had been a student at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and part of the artistic avant-garde scene in Paris. Leaving behind home and children, she joined Aurobindo and became his disciple in As his new religious community began to gather around him, Aurobindo eventually elevated Mira to a divine status nearly equal to his own.

    Not only did Mira progressively take over all the details of running the growing ashram, but, by , she came to be revered as none other than the Mother herself, the manifestation of the supreme Sakti in human form. The Mother stands for all these but she is working here in the body to bring down something not yet expressed in this material world so as to transform life here. She is that in the body, but in her whole consciousness she is also identified with all other aspects of the Divine. Without the Mother Following the lead of Partha Chatterjee, I would suggest that the rather curious union of Aurobindo and Mira Richards is a profound symbol of the deeper ambivalence underlying Indian nationalism as a whole.

    Prakrti , outward, imagination the Spiritual East active, the material West his revolutionary nationalist period—is a profound symbol of the deeper conflicts at work the hearts of Aurobindo and other intellectuals of the early twentieth century. European ideas and orientations, modern Indian thinkers are not free from such ideas. He has now tried to accommodate the power of the West— the power of European technology, science, and material advancement— while at the same time asserting the ultimate spiritual superiority, and seeming political impotence, of the East.

    While the dangerous, violent Sakti of the Tantras has failed, a new hope lies in the attempt to incorporate the Sakti of the West. These two conditions Sacrificing White Goats to the Goddess alike leave man unashamed to place above all other gods, Shakti the Deity of Power—the Cruel One, whose right hand wields the weapon of guile. In the politics of Europe drunk with Power we see the worship of Shakti. She is thus a fitting symbol for the birth, hope, and failure of the revolutionary nationalist movement.

    Ironically, the use of violence and power did not prove to be a viable solution for either colonizer or colonized. The radical ideal of the Tantric Sakti gave way to passive resistance of Gandhian nationalism and the relatively peaceful withdrawal of the British from India in I would like also to point out some larger comparative implications of this discussion of Tantra and colonial politics.

    The shifting role of Tan- tra in the British and Indian imaginations sheds some important light on the role of religious symbolism in the formation of political identities, particularly during periods of colonial rule. He seeks to kill desire by an unlimited indulgence which brings satiety and extinction of emotion. The indulgence is enjoined by his so-called religion; and his depravity is commended as a great virtue. In both India and Europe, the morbid, sexual tales of Tantra quickly sparked the imaginations of many creative authors, serving as the vehicle for the expression of intense fears, fantasies, and repressed desires.

    This sort of fictional portrayal of Tantra is not, of course, entirely a byproduct of the colonial era. No need to abandon the life of a lover. This bliss includes all sensual pleasure. Here the flag pole equals the sacrificial post; the liquor cup equals the soma; the drinkers the priests. The thirst of the drinker is the sacrificial fire. We who offer oblations in the fire in the form of human flesh, brains, entrails and marrow break our fast with alcohol kept in the skull of a Brahmana. Mahabhairava has to be worshipped with human offerings, lustrous with streams of blood flowing from the stiff throat which is freshly cut.

    Incorporating, playing upon, and exaggerating the fears of Tantra in the colonial imagination, many British authors began to portray the hideous obscenities of Tantra in ever more fantastic forms—not only as licentious or criminal, but as threatening to all rationality and moral order. As such, I will argue, the representations of Tantra in these novels was a key part of the national imagining of both England and India in the late colonial period. But it was no less true of the novels written by Indians during the colonial era, in which they reimagined themselves as subjects of foreign power.

    Sir Richard Francis Burton, trans. As Edward Rice argues, it is likely that Burton had some contact with the Tantric practices of a group known as the Nagar Brahmans during his stay in Baroda in the s, and that he worked this experience into his writings and translations. He was initiated by an apostate Brahmin, made a declaration that he renounced all the ceremonies of his old religion.

    The teacher told him that he was not to indulge shame or aversion to anything. Whereas holy men, holding that subjugation of the passions is essential to final beatitude, accomplish this by bodily austerities, he proceeded to blunt the passions with excessive indulgence. Elizabeth Sharpe, Secrets of the Kaula Circle 6 Some of the most colorful descriptions of Tantra in British fiction would come from the many women romantic novelists of the late colonial era.

    As we read in I. The dreaming woman amongst the lotus-flowers was the personification of a bloodthirsty heathenism— a religion replete with hideous cruelty. Far from the model of chaste moderation within the bounds of legal marriage, Tantra presents a vision of unbridled feminine sexuality and transgressive antisocial relations. Thus, F. From that day onwards I saw him daily; he deprived me of much: beauty, ideals and money.

    I gave him all I had to give. I shuddered often at his ugliness, his crudity, and his strength, but I submitted to his wishes all the same. He placed me under a spell, bewildered me with the glamour of power. Indian and Tibetan alike spoke of my husband with hushed breath: a Mahatma, a man of superhuman power. I too thought that through him I might reach god- hood.

    He said that I was the greatest Yogini of any world. He said that my beauty had driven him mad. Something weak in me made me yield my body unresistingly to this man of an alien land. In this circle the woman is the mother—but all desires are fulfilled—that is the vow. Few woman come through the ordeal unstained. The outer circle of the temple of the goddess was heaped with raw flesh, fish and these with wine, were given to those of the outer circle.

    Man after man. Later on they would be forced to drink the forty-two bottles of wine prescribed by the rules of the ceremony: eat, drink and be merry and die: for their doom—poor fools—was already on them. A voice would then cry out. He called himself by a number. In the beginning he was extremely handsome, afterwards he grew gross. He had many women at his disposal. He learnt many magical processes by which he drew into his circle great phantoms.

    He had with him a pupil, a thin, long-nosed boy. I wondered why he had followed the man whose number was I watched that day the spirits he evoked with the help of the Lamas. She is finally saved, not by the obscene rites of the Tantras, but by her eventual return to Christianity. I knew then that God lives in the sweet, tender simple things of fife—and He is the resurrected man, the Christ. That Mai Kali will get the blood for which She asks unless quick action be taken.

    Who governs India as a whole must govern by power. After marrying a civil engineer who was called to serve in the subcontinent, she arrived in Calcutta in and lived in India until Unlike many Victorian novelists, she seems to have genuinely tried to immerse herself in the Indian world and to learn as much as possible about its culture and religion; yet she still held fast to the belief in the moral superiority of the British and the need to rule this potentially dangerous people with a firm hand. Steel unsexes herself and identifies female sexuality as the force that has the power to destroy civilization.

    Steel is best known today as a novelist of the India Mutiny, whose On the Face of the Waters was a huge commercial success. However, she is also the author of an array of other popular novels and stories, many of which contain vivid accounts of the insidious rituals of the Tantras. She secretly witnesses them conceal explosives inside an image of the Goddess.

    The opening scene of the book is a graphic description of a chilling blood sacrifice to the goddess Kali, as a wild crowd of devotees writhe and scream in a temple splattered with congealed gore: The vast crowd. The blood of Birth, the Blood of death! These two pivots of the Great Wheel, blended, had brought men, women and children in their thousands, to kill some miserable lambling.

    For Kali as the feminine principle of life is pre-eminent in Hindu mythology. Her worship, full of horrors, is all but universal. Pierre Arnold Bernard a. During a conversation with a skeptical Englishman, who has heard only of the horrible licentiousness of Tantra, Nigel feels obliged to defend his Tantric faith. I should very much like to know what teaching underlies the farrago of black magic and immorality called the Tantras. It is the life and soul of modern Hinduism, for it holds the Dogma of the whole World.

    The love of good, of country, of mother, of wife, the Love of which poets sang.

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    Steel, however, had a deeper knowledge of the world of India. If the great novels of the empire typically reinforce the ideal of the nation and its just rule over the colonies, these novels that deal with the violence and scandal of Tantra reveal a frightening element of subversion that undermines and undoes the ideal of a coherent, tightly controlled nation or colony.

    These novelists reveal not only a loathing for the violent licentiousness of Tantra, but also a secret longing and repressed desire for it. Through their vivid accounts of the sexual goddess Kali and the unrestrained worship of her Tantric devotees, these authors express a shameful desire for the carnal, passionate underworld of India, a land that threatens to seduce and corrupt the colonizers themselves. And if the English fiction of the nineteenth century was a crucial part of the imagining of the British as a colonizing power, so too the Indian literature of this period was a crucial element in the reimagining of Indian identity.

    For example, one popular genre that emerged in Bengali literature is the semifictional travel narrative, often with a religious theme. After leaving his home in Calcutta, the narrator goes in search of tantrikas and other sadhus throughout north India, delving as far as possible into these mysterious cults. All the things they do, righteous people say, cannot be understood as dharma. And spiritual practice involving women—Oh! These words indicate danger, but danger of what? Tantriks can accomplish everything.

    Where am I to flee to? Expressed through vernacular languages like Bengali and Hindi, the novel emerged as one of the most popular literary forms of the nineteenth century, a medium for the expression of both aesthetic values and political ideals. This is particularly true in the case of Bengal, where language, literature, and national identity became increasingly intertwined during the colonial and postcolonial eras.

    One of the most influential figures in the modern Indian imagining of Tantra was also the first major novelist in the Bengali language, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee or Bankimcandra Cattopadhyay, He seems to have resigned himself to the fact that the British would be there for a long time to come and that independence could only be achieved by sustained effort at national integration over a long time. Such a purified Hinduism. The story begins with the hero, Nabakumar, lost at sea and washing up on the shore of an unknown land.

    Around his throat was a necklace of rudraksa seeds, and the broad circle of his face with surrounded with matted hair and beard. Nabakumar could smell a terrible stench. The form with matted hair was seated on a headless putrid corpse. With even greater fear he saw that a human skull lay before him, and inside it was some red liquid. On all sides bones were strewn. He knew that this person must be a terrible Kapalika. Holding Kapalakundala by the hand, Nabakumar led her across the burning ground to bathe her.

    Bones began sticking to their feet. Wild animals were roaming in all directions eating the corpses. Originally published in serial form in the journal Bangadarsan the last installment was on May , the story was first published in book form in December For revolutionaries like Aurobindo, this text was a manifesto for anticolonial insurgency and its author the prophet of Indian nationalism. We have only one Mother—richly watered, richly fruited. Making a secret oath in the name of the Goddess, the Sannyasls vow to forsake all worldly pleasures, to forget caste distinctions, and never to retreat from the battlefield.

    As Sisir Kumar Das observes, it is likely that this oath draws not only on Tantric traditions, but also on European secret societies like the Carbonari, which influenced Aurobindo and Tagore. With many strengths who art mighty and stored, To thee I call Mother and Lord! Thou who savest, arise and save! To her I cry who ever her foeman drove Back from plain and sea And shook herself free. Bankim himself appears to have been insecure about the reception of the novel. A mysterious healer appears in the final pages and argues that the British are the real saviors of India, without whom the nation cannot overcome its own ignorance or regain its true strength.

    The True Faith does not consist in the worship of million deities; that is only a base religion of the masses. Under its influence, the True Faith. The True Hinduism is based on knowledge and not on action. Therefore the English must be made our sovereign. Imbued with a knowledge of objective sciences by English education our people will be able to comprehend subjective truths. Desist from fighting with the English. The rebellion was raised only that the English might be initiated into sovereignty. Where is the enemy now? There is none. The English are a friendly power, and no one had the power to come off victorious in a fight with the English.

    The English have redeemed Bengal from anarchy. Their revolution is bogged up in love and. As Raychaudhuri suggests, it is likely that Bankim censored his originally revolutionary opinions for pragmatic reasons of self-protection: As a government servant he was forced to modify his initial statements into which an anti-British. There is plentiful evidence that he saw that rule as painful bondage.

    One has the feeling that their creator had almost expected such a result. All duties have become as shadows: all rules and restraints have snapped their Rabindranath Tagore, The Home and the World Born to an affluent Calcutta family, Tagore turned from his youthful concentration in the arts to an increasing concern with public affairs and the political life of Bengal.

    I must share in the life of the present world, though I do not believe in its cry. I try to listen This was in part the reason for his ambivalent involvement in the Brahmo Samaj, which he had hoped might realize his humanist and universalist ideals.

    A humanist, Nikhil faces isolation and ridicule because of his opposition to the violent means employed by the charismatic but unscrupulous revolutionaries. Like the Sakti-worshiping, Tantric-influenced revolutionaries of the Jugantar movement, Sandip is fanatically dedicated to the liberation of the Mother in her most terrible and bloody form. The novel is in many ways the dramatization of the tension between these two, the clash between conservative and revolutionary.

    In a sense, Bimala is an icon of Bengal, the motherland, which is caught between tradition and change, rational adherence to colonial law and bloody revolution. Her husband offers her gold and tender love; Sandip offers her worship, and revolutionaries. Terrorism inspired by neo-Saktism was the target. The grandson has to remodel the gods created by the grandfather to suit his own taste, or else he is left an atheist.

    It is my mission to modernize the ancient deities. I am born the savior of the gods, to emancipate them from the thraldom of the past. We must make a goddess of her. We must get one of the current images accepted as representing the country—the worship of the people must flow toward it along the deep-cut grooves of custom. Illusions are necessary for lesser minds. This is why divinities are set up in every country to keep up the illusion of their weakness. For them who can truly believe. With our nature and our traditions we are unable to realize our country as she is, but we can easily bring ourselves to believe in her image.

    What other province of India has succeeded in giving such wonderful visual expression to the ideal of its quest? Extreme situations call for extreme measures, including what seem to be utterly ruthless, violent, and brutal acts, so long as they are carried out in the just name of the Goddess: This is not the time for nice scruples.

    We must be unswervingly, unreason- ingly brutal. We must give our women red sandal paste with which to anoint our sin. Give to us indomitable courage to go to the bottom of Ruin itself. Impart grace to all that is baneful. I want the Western military style to prevail, not the Indian. We shall then not be ashamed of the flag of our passion, which mother nature has sent with us. All duties have become as shadows: all rules and restraints have snapped their bonds.

    I could set fire to all the world outside this land on which you have set your feet and dance in mad revel over them. My devotion to you has made me cruel; my worship of you has lighted the raging flame of destruction within me. I have no beliefs. Kill for the love of Kali! Kill, Kill, Kill! For it was a key element in the reimagining of the Indian nation during the confusing, often violent decline of colonial rule.

    The cultural shreds and patches used by nationalism are often arbitrary historical inventions. In the form of Nigel Blennerhasset, the Great Beast , Mary de la Mont, and other white devotees of the Goddess, Tantra is a seductive power that threatens to infiltrate and pervert the colonial world. As both Bankim and Tagore remind us, the Sakti of Tantra is an awesome force that promises transgressive liberation, sensual gratification, and material power, but also often leads to self-destruction, explosive violence, and the ultimate shattering of the very idea of a unified nation.

    Of course, these fictional imaginings of Tantra—so colorful and vivid, at times humorous, at times terrible—were by no means limited to the genre of novel or even to the colonial era. Later in the twentieth century they would be taken up by a number of British novelists, such as John Masters in his tale of the Thuggee, The Deceivers.

    And, of course, such popular imagining of Tantra has long since been taken up by Bollywood, as well. The fictional representation of Tantra continues to be a key part of the imagining of both Indian and Western identity in the postcolonial era. The Tantra Sastra is not, as some seem to suppose, a petty Sastra of no account. It is on the contrary, with Veda, Smrti and Purana, one of the foremost important Sastras in India, governing in various degrees What is more surprising, however, is that we also find an attempt on the part of more sympathetic figures to defend, revalorize, and purify the Tantric tradition, cleansing it of the taint of li- [ 34 Deodorized Tantra : 35 centious immorality and redefining it as a noble philosophical tradition.

    But this process of sanitization would only intensify in the early decades of the twentieth century, in the face of rising nationalism, political agitation, and a new desire to reimagine Hinduism in response to the Western world. Two of the most important figures in this process were Sir John Woodroffe , otherwise known as Arthur Avalon, the father of modern Tantric studies in the West; and Swami Vivekananda Vivekananda, conversely, was the chief disciple of the great modern Bengali saint Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa—a man who was deeply influenced by the teachings and practices of the sakta tantras.

    And they each re-presented Tantra in a form that was—like so much of twentieth-century neo-Hinduism, as Halbfass argues 4 —heavily influenced by modern Western paradigms of morality, science, and rationality. Woodroffe, Shakti and Shdkta See some Lama and understand from him what your beliefs are. It is so extraordinary to us Europeans that you Buddhists and Hindus or everyone of you do not understand your own religions. I speak particularly of the Tantric doctrines. Sir John Woodroffe, at the Konark temple in Orissa.

    Woodroffe appears to have led a kind of dual life, working publicly as a respected British judge and studying privately as a scholar of the tantras. After serving as a barrister at the High Court of Calcutta beginning in , Woodroffe was a judge from to A well-known author of many texts on British-Indian law, Woodroffe was an Indophile and art connoisseur who belonged to the : 3 8 Deodorized Tantra circle around the Tagores. Yet in his private life as a scholar of the tantras, Woodroffe would publish a vast corpus of writings, translations, and commentaries.

    The other is secret, Indian and Tantric. Originally from East Bengal, Siva Candra attracted a number of educated bhadralok s in Calcutta, along with a few interested Westerners, one of whom was John Woodroffe. Based on his correspondence with his collaborators, Lama Kazi Dawasamdup and Atal Behari Ghose, it seems fairly clear that Woodroffe was not particularly competent at Sanskrit.

    In fact, some Indian linguists have asserted that Woodroffe could not even read the script accurately. Unfortunately, as many authors have pointed out, Woodroffe often went far in the opposite direction. Avalon even compares it to the defense of traditional Catholicism against the threat of modernism in the early twentieth century: The present work is a defense of the Tantra. Rather, it forms a coherent, unified, systematic whole, a single bharata dbarma, or Aryan religion: To the Western, Indian Religion seems a jungle of contradictory beliefs amidst which he is lost. It has been asserted that there is no such thing as Indian religion, though there are many Religions in India.

    This is not so. There is a common Indian Religion. Bharata Dharma, an Aryan Religion held by all Aryas. Sir John Woodroffe, Bharata Shakti The Cartesian dualism of mind and matter no longer holds. As the power that is the foundation of both matter and spirit, body and consciousness, the Sakti of the tantras would seem to offer the ideal solution to the apparent dichotomy of East and West. Woodroffe, Shakti and Shdkta [ 4 2. The secret rites of the Tantra, he explains, are strictly closed to the ordinary pasu, or bestial man; they can only be revealed to the true vira, the hero or spiritually evolved man, who can fathom their deeper spiritual meaning.

    Mudra is the act of relinquishing all association with evil. This was not so in earlier days. As we saw in chapter i, the Mahdnirvana is an extremely unusual work, one that many suspect was composed in the late eighteenth century as part of an attempt to bring the tantras into harmony with the new system of British Indian law. Not only does Woodroffe wish to find parallels between the tantras and modern science, but he also seems to have a persistent desire to find parallels with the traditions of the Catholic Church. Like the ancient and carefully guarded liturgy of the Church, he suggests, the tantras have preserved throughout the ages an elaborate ritual tradition, whose true aim is not to incite the physical senses, but rather to awaken higher spiritual ideals.

    As are its faithful, the Church is composed of both body deha and soul atma. It renders to the lord isvara a double worship, external bahyapuja and interior manasapuja , the latter being the prayer vandana of the faithful. Woodroffe, Bharata Shakti c 44 Deodorized Tantra Writing in the early decades of the twentieth century, surrounded by the violence of the nationalist movement and the increasing association of Tantra with political dissidence in the popular imagination, Woodroffe could not help but be aware of the political dimension of Tantra.

    Yet, paradoxically—perhaps— Woodroffe was not a judge who was. We consume. We want more wants. Its poison does not harm the snake but it is death to others. India is now approaching the most momentous epoch in its history. The country will be subject to the play of monster economic forces. Will she have the strength to keep her feet in it? I hope she may. By power I do not mean only physical force. Material force was necessary and serviceable in its way, but it must be backed by mental and spiritual force.

    Was he simply inconsistent and contradictory? Tantra, for Woodroffe, could not be associated with violence and revolutionary dissent, any more than it could be associated with black magic or hedonistic excess. These circums- Deodorized Tantra [ 47 tances, and the manner in which they are capable of being met by the Tantra Sastra, give another ground for the belief that some of the. Mahendranath Gupta, Srisriramakrsnakathdmrta The path of the Vedas is not meant for the Kali yuga. The path of Tantra is efficacious. Do you mean to say that one cannot follow the path of Tantra?

    That which is Brahman is also Sakti, Kali. Gupta, Srisrirdmakrsnakathamrta Sakti-sadhana is no joke. There are very strenuous and dangerous practices in it. An intense visionary mystic, who reported a series of remarkable spiritual encounters with the dark mother Kali and with a host of other divine beings, Ramakrishna came to be regarded by his disciples not merely as a charismatic holy man; rather, he was progressively identified as an avatar, a divine incarnation for this most dangerous of eras in the Kali yuga of India under colonial rule.

    Ramakrishna has thus been revered by both Indian and European authors as a prophet of religious harmony, who was as comfortable worshiping Jesus or Muhammad as he was praising Krsna, and who saw the inner unity of all religions in the encompassing vision of Hindu Vedanta. Sri Ramakrishna. From Swami Nikhilananda, trans. I saw [God] in the sexual intercourse of a dog and a bitch. He practiced all the disciplines of the sixty-four principal Tantra books. After the observance of a few preliminary rites, he would be overwhelmed with a strange divine fervor and would go into samadhi.

    Evil ceased to exist for him. The whole world and everything in it appeared as the lila, the sport of Siva and Sakti. He beheld everywhere manifest the power and beauty of the Mother. Just as there are various doors for entering a house, by some doors one enters the front room; and by some doors one can enter the inner chambers, but there is a separate door for the Sweeper [methar ; i. Ramakrishna frankly admitted that he was attacked by lust. If he consistently associated Tantra with the latrine, it was because he himself. All these emotional reactions. The only condition of.

    Sri Ramakrishna [is] the fulfillment of the India sages, the sage for the time, one whose teaching is just now. O thou Mother of the universe, vouchsafe manliness unto me, O thou Mother of strength, take away my weakness, take away my unmanliness and make me a Man! Armed with the spirituality of Advaita Vedanta, young Hindu men are given the mission of conquering the world and reestablishing the power of their own nation.

    I tell them to their face that it is all vain. The dollar. In the mad rush for gold, you forget the spiritual until you have become a nation of materialists. Their features are regular, their eyes dark and the skin the color which would be produced by the drops which fell from a pricked finger into a glass of milk.

    Wonderful temples everywhere. What has the Englishman left? Nothing but mounds of broken brandy bottles! They are quite savage. They only think to kill. They should overcome their lethargy and advance to new vigor and self-confidence. These are at the root of most religions. How few have dared to worship Death or Kali! Let us embrace the Terrible, because it is terrible, not asking that it be toned down.

    And when Buddhism became impotent because of this kind of immorality, they were driven out by Kumarila Bhatta. Anyone demuring to this must step out of this Order. This form of practice must never even be mentioned in the Math. Ruin shall seize the wicked man, both here and hereafter, who would introduce vile Vamachara into His fold. The message was one of activity and strength, as well as of conscious action for the masses. We must have a history! What was needed was to claim for the Indian nation the historical agency for completing the project of modernity. Only by purging this demoralizing parasite can India recover its virile, masculine power: Just look to your own province and see how this Vamachara immoral practices of the Tantras has entered into your very marrow.

    Even modern Vaishnavism We must stem the tide of this Vamachara which is contrary to the spirit of the Vedas. When I see how much the Vamachara has entered into our society, I find it a most disgraceful place with all its boast of culture. These Vamachara secrets are honeycombing our society in Bengal.

    They are published by the cartload and you poison the minds of your children with them. Fathers of Calcutta, do you not feel ashamed that such horrible stuff as these Vamachara Tantras. If you are ashamed, take them away from your children and let them read the true Shastras, the Vedas, the Gita and the Upanishads. Bengali identity. There are many high and sublime Vedantic thoughts in them. All the forms of our worship and the ceremonials of the present day, comprising the Karma Kanda, are observed in accordance with the Tantras.

    I did not denounce the Mother worship of the Tantras. The purport of the Tantras is to worship women in a spirit of Divinity. I denounced only these corrupt. He knew nothing of England or the English. But he lived a great life and I read the meaning. He knew nothing of Vedanta, nothing of theories! He was contented to live that great life, and let others explain! One might well impute to Vivekananda the sort of behavior that he himself once identified in the Vedanta sage Sankara: that he attacked and rejected a darker religious practice.

    As we can see in the case of Sri Ramakrishna, the avatar for a new age of Hindu renaissance, the tantras would remain a dark secret at the very heart of the tradition. It had to be sanitized and spiritualized, therefore, or else suppressed. Yet neither of these attempts at censorship and sanitization would prove very successful in the end. Humanity is fallen: it is now a case of swimming against the stream. The tantrika does not renounce the world; he tries to overcome it while enjoying perfect freedom. Thus D. Similarly, the modern study of Eastern religions has often been characterized by a central preoccupation with Tantra, as the most erotic and alluring aspect of the exotic Orient itself.

    These three have had a formative impact on the fields of Indology in the case of Zimmer , esotericism and right-wing politics Evola , and comparative religions Eliade. And all three felt a strong attraction to Tantra, a tradition that they defined as the culmination of all Indian thought: the most radical form of spirituality and the archaic heart of aboriginal India. There are, of course, other important scholars who could be mentioned here, such as the Italian Buddhologist Giuseppe Tucci and the Austrian convert to Hinduism Agehananda Bharati, both of whom played important roles in the study of Tantra.

    However, because these two have been discussed by others most notably by Gustavo Benevides and Jeffrey Kripal , I only mention them in passing in this chapter. It appeared to offer a means of affirming this material world, in all its sensuality and passion, while at the same time transforming this world into a means to spiritual liberation.

    Elaving encountered the horror, violence, and amorality of war, they each turned to Tantra as the most appropriate—perhaps unavoidable— religion for this darkest, most violent of epochs. Simultaneously, Tantra began to play a central role in modern Indian scholarship. In India, too, the imagining of Tantra was intimately tied to the shifting political landscape in the decades after independence.

    Without these, I regard them as fraudulent. As Bharati predicted, Tantra first entered the West, not through spiritual proselytizers, but through scholars and intellectuals, who saw in Tantra an alternative worldview to that of the modern West. Imagining India: Heinrich Zimmer and the Tantric Imagination The world no longer possesses a sheltering womb where one could be perfectly safe.

    In Europe everywhere, a new breed of man has been concocted. Now man will tear to pieces the body of his mother, Nature, and will quarry her for new and different forms of power. Born in Greifswald in , the son of a respected scholar of Vedic culture, Zimmer studied German and comparative philology in Berlin. During the First World War, Zimmer fought in the trenches of the front lines, an event that appears to have left a deep mark on his psyche and played a formative role in his later life and work.

    All his work was part of his life and his life part of his work. The answers he found in dealing with religion were valid for himself. Tired of the stale, lifeless world that surrounded him, he turned to the exotic, erotic mysterious land of India: What made me abandon Western studies.

    I could not stand the stale. I offered my life for the ideals With this life I brought back, I am free to do what I decide to do. They have no claim upon me anymore. A fate we cannot transform into meaning will crush us. If modern man can no longer find the gods outside himself in the heavens, he must turn inward to recover them within his own soul. This, for Zimmer, is the essence of both Indian yogic practice and artistic traditions, which use the powers of creative vision to awaken the divine forces within us.

    Through the use of yantras and mandalas, the Tantric initiate draws forth the gods and demons, heavens and hells, all from the depths of his own imagination. The worshipper projects within himself a vision of the divine reality; to project the worship of the divine is to become oneself divine. If the modern West had become sterile, cerebral, bloodless, and cold, then the solution to the maladies of our age lay in the sensuous religion of Tantra.

    Derived from the most archaic stratum of human civilization—the ancient matriarchal culture of goddess worship—Tantra is the antidote to the patriarchal, life-denying Christian tradition. What the Vedic sages had recognized in the heavens. Having passed through the violent initiatory ordeal of war- torn Europe, Zimmer left behind the sterile world of the modern West, to discover the gods within his own heart, revealed through the power of the creative imagination and the sensual body itself.

    Rather than avoid The arrival of the Kali Yuga cancels the bond which at other times imposed secrecy regarding the doctrines and practices of the way of the Left Hand because of their perilous nature. The fundamental principle of the secret teaching To this day, Evola remains one of the most enigmatic, poorly understood, and yet influential figures in the scholarship and politics of modern Europe. After joining the army at age nineteen and fighting as a mountain artillery officer, Evola began a spiritual quest for absolute transcendence and liberation. After narrowly escaping arrest by the Americans in , Evola fled to Vienna, where he was hit by a shell and left permanently crippled.

    The main characteristics of Tantric deities must be Religion for the Age of Darkness I 75 considered as symbols of destroying forces, nude and free, superior to all laws. There can be no going back, no retreat from the modern world into the premodern past. This, for Evola, is the essence of the Tantric path: to grab the snake by the throat and to transform his poison into am- Religion for the Age of Darkness brosia, to embrace the forces of violence and lust and transmute them into forces of freedom and transcendence: The teachings.

    Mankind in these later ages may find knowledge. Only Tantric practices based on shakti During the Kali Yuga. The immediate task consists in facing and absorbing these forces, in taking the risk of riding the tiger Therefore the only way open is not that of pure detachment. The metaphysics of sex survives in those very cases where, in looking at wretched mankind All ethics of a merely human nature, however elevated, cease to have any validity.

    It is more conspicuously Western than Christian soteri- ology, which proclaims an ideal of salvation from a world that is looked upon as a vale of tears. The password of Tantrism is. He must act like the hero Arjuna upon the battlefield of Kuruksetra in the Mahdbharata. Even though he risks violating dharma, the warrior must still, at the command of God, plunge into the bloodbath; he must transcend and transgress dharma in the service of the often destructive and amoral Absolute Godhead: Krishna incites Arjuna to fight and to kill even those friends and relatives militating on the enemy side, declaring that his actions would not generate karma so long as they were performed in a detached, impersonal way.

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