The Left-Hand Path of Pleasure and Power
Volume I: Origins
If you've been seeking a legitimate alternative to the puritanical programming of perfectionism that has dominated the religious views of both East and West for of years . . .
If you want to successfully move beyond seeing Nature as an obstacle, sex as a problem and desire as an enemy, then Vamacara Tantra is what you've been looking for.
Vamacara clearly explains how the four great goals of Tantra are actually based on the natural process of mother-child bonding, and how they are not only the keys to human happiness, but are the very foundation of any civilized society.
You will discover that the original purpose of spiritual practice was never to become super human, but rather to become more fully human.
If you are planning to teach Yoga or Tantra, or if you already are a teacher, then this material is absolutely essential.
This work was written by Roderick W. Marling and is protected by copyright. However it is formatted so that you can easily download it for your own personal use. Give it to all those you feel might benefit, but for any other consideration please contact KamaKala.
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Imagine for a moment, that you're living about a hundred years from now in the year 2100. You are reflecting back to the 20th century, trying to put this era into some kind of historical perspective. What is it that most stands out in your mind? Do you primarily see a period of astounding scientific achievements with the invention of the automobile, television, and the exploration of outer space? Or do you see world wars, widespread environmental destruction and cities in decay, with ever increasing crime rates?
I believe a hundred years from now our descendants will look back to the last half of the twentieth century and be astounded not so much by our technological success, but by our unprecedented change in consciousness. For I believe we are in one of the most dramatic evolutionary transformations of consciousness the human species has ever experienced. We are globally experiencing a period of change more significant and inclusive than the Renaissance of the Middle Ages, the Scientific-Industrial Revolution and the discovery of the Americas all combined.
For the past 5,000 years, human beings have been on a journey in consciousness which elevated the masculine over the feminine, the intellectual over the intuitive and instinctual dimensions of our being. We have structured our cultures with an emphasis on competition and conquest, rather than cooperation. We have collectively formed a reality in which only the transcendental qualities of consciousness are valued, while the inherent spiritual values of the Natural World have been depreciated and almost forgotten entirely.
As a species, we are now turning a corner in our collective journey. Our paradigm, or world view is beginning to shift and a whole new horizon stretches out before us. VAMACARA TANTRA is about this journey in consciousness. At the most radical level Vamacara doesn't see the Divine as being solely Transcendent or separate from Nature, but rather it perceives The Divine as Nature, or Immanent. As a logical consequence it doesn't see Nature as an obstacle, sex as a problem and desire as an enemy, but rather integrates every aspect of our lives into a spiritual context. This involves the total acceptance of all of Life's experiences: the highs and the lows; the positive and the negative; the light and the dark; the waking and the dreaming self.
It is precisely this process of unfolding integration, which provides the medium through which human beings grow, bursting our localized limitations to embrace the infinite possibilities of further expansion. This process is the ever expanding, evolutionary Spiral of Consciousness that always moves us beyond our narrow preconceived boundaries of Self and Reality. This is the essence of Vamacara Tantra.
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In The Beginning
When confronted with the overwhelming amount of information now available from archaeologists, anthropologists and mythologists, in the summer of 1985 I suddenly realized how absolutely ignorant I was of our collective past as a species. And for the most part, I had previously considered myself to be an educated person.
It was a rather humiliating realization then, to find the picture that I had put together concerning our past was so small, narrow and even distorted. But on the other hand I was also elated. For at last I was learning something that put our culture in a perspective that made more sense, because its vision was so much more broad, inclusive and penetrating.
I have come to realize the story of our past is not just a record of external events, even though these are important. But rather, it is primarily a story of our inner explorations, our journeys through the many and varied fields of Consciousness.
To retrace our steps along this winding, evolutionary road is definitely a monumental task, and one that I hope many of you may be inspired to explore. However in this work, I am only presenting a very general outline, with the particular purpose of uncovering the cultural and religious context from which the technology of Yoga, and more specifically Tantra Yoga evolved.
I feel it is extremely important to understand this foundational context, in order to appreciate the original intention of Tantra. The strength in the branches of a tree, are determined by the condition of the roots. And the roots of Tantra Yoga reach far deeper into our past than any one has previously imagined.
Our journey then, back into our collective past is not only one of travelling through time, but also of travelling through mind. This journey does not begin in the seventh century with the appearance of the first recognizable Tantra scripture. Nor does it begin in the second century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) with the earliest date for the composition of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, or even with the setting down into writing of the Rig Veda around 1200 B.C.E..
Our journey begins much further back in human evolution than these relatively recent developments. If we really want to examine the roots of Tantra Yoga, then we must go far deeper than what we have come to superficially recognize as civilization. We must travel back into the dawn of human development, into the twilight of pre-history, when Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis still walked the Earth. This is where our journey begins.
The Neanderthal Connection
The earliest physical evidence of Neanderthal Man that we have, reaches back to around 500,000 B.C.E.. This is not some mythological speculation on our part, but something that is very well established by actual physical evidence. The information that has come to light is challenging many of our preconceived ideas of history, as well as religion.
High up in the Alps three caves were discovered, which had once been occupied by Neanderthals. In these caves were found exquisitely crafted stone tools, flagstone flooring, benches and work tables. Not the usual image that comes to mind, when we think of savage ape-like creatures dwelling in caves. Furthermore, they unearthed the graves of several Neanderthals who were ceremonially buried, accompanied by an assortment of shells, flints and flowers, as if these were to be taken along on their journey.
What is particularly interesting, is that all these individuals were carefully arranged in a fetal position, and orientated in an East-West direction to face the rising Sun. Their bodies were sprinkled with red ochre, which is a naturally occurring compound of iron oxide. Surprisingly, Anthropologists have discovered much later grave sites of modern Homo sapiens, who evidently practiced the very same burial rituals - including the use of red ochre.
The Sun's journey is perhaps the oldest religious or mythological symbol of the human experience. Our life was perceived to be similar to the journey of the Sun. It rose like the sun in the East, shinning in the world of physical forms, and then just as dramatically set at the time of death. But just as the Sun, which was perceived to be daily reborn from the Mother Earth, we too, it was believed were destined to rise once again and begin a new day. This hope of resurrection is indicated by burials facing the rising sun. And the practice of burial gift giving was to insure a safe and prosperous journey. The same practice is still being done in many parts of the world for exactly the same reasons.
The use of red ochre in a ritualistic context is another, almost universal practice. The mythology that surrounded this ritual by the Neanderthals, can at this point only be speculative. But the explanations given by their more modern relatives, I believe, can be safely relied on.
The prevailing belief system at one time was that human beings, the animals and the plants were all children of the Mother Earth. And human beings were born colored red. In fact, the root meaning of the word "Adam", is "man or being of red earth".(1) At the time of death then, ochre was used to return the individual back into his original state of redness, returning him or her back to the womb of the Mother Earth. This was to insure or signify a continuity in the Life cycle, and eventual rebirth.
All over the planet, archaeologists and anthropologists have found entrances to caves, temples and tombs colored red with ochre, as a sacred sign indicating that one is about to enter the womb of the Mother Earth.
The continuity of these rituals within the human family is simply amazing, especially when considering the immense span of time they were practiced. But nothing so far had prepared me for the fantastic story concerning the ritual of the cave-bear.
When I first read of this ritual in Joseph Campbell's monumental book, Primitive Mythology, I was deeply effected by it for days. I have reread this particular story many times, still with utter amazement.(2) For there was something else anthropologists found in these early Neanderthal caves. They found stone altars. On these altars were a number of cave-bear skulls carefully arranged, and all the skulls had exactly two vertebrae of the neck attached. Clearly, they indicated some kind of ritual sacrifice.
What is just as strange however, similar skulls have been found in the caves of primitive arctic hunters all over the world. These were not Neanderthal caves now, but those of Homo sapiens, living tens of thousands of years later, long after Neanderthal had disappeared. Surprisingly though, the bear skulls were found arranged in exactly the same manner and in identical condition, as those found in the Neanderthal caves.
The religious context of the cave-bear ritual long remained a mystery however, until the relatively recent discovery of the Ainus people by anthropologists. These people are a semi-nomadic tribe, who lived by hunting and fishing on the northern islands of Japan. The existence of these people itself, was a strange anomaly. For they were not Japanese, nor even remotely related to the Japanese. They were actually Caucasian with white skin, round eyes and wavy hair. The nearest related group of people was more than 5,000 miles away.
What is particularly interesting about the Ainus people, is their religious belief that human beings are much more beautiful than any of the gods. Likewise it is their belief, that the deities consider it good fortune to come to the Earth for a visit. But they always come in the disguise of animals. Their most important deity, the god of the mountains, always appears as a bear.
When a bear cub is caught in the mountains, it is brought back to the village with great joy and celebration, appropriate to a visiting deity. He is suckled by the women of the village, and plays with their children, until he is big enough where such activity might pose a danger. Then he is placed in his own wooden house, which now actually serves as a cage. He is kept there for about two years, fed all the while with sumptuous meals.
One day, it is determined that it is time for the bear to be sent back to his home. Since he is believed to be a visiting deity, his real home is not in the mountains where he was found, but on another plane of existence. The god then, must be released from the body of the bear through a ritual sacrifice called iyomande, which means to "send away".
The bear/god is killed and sent back to all his relatives with a message, describing how the Ainus had been so kind and that he should someday return. He is given various gifts and prayer sticks to take on his journey, so that his ancestors will be pleased.
There is a communal meal, where a portion of the bear is given to each member of the tribe to eat. And the men drink some of his blood for strength. The head is separated from the body with exactly two vertebrae of the neck still remaining attached to the skull and placed on a stone altar among a number of similar skulls from earlier rituals.
Vestiges of this religious sacrifice have been identified throughout the arctic, from Finland and Northern Russia, across Siberia and Alaska, to Hudson Bay; and among many different tribal peoples from the Fins, Lapps, Ostyaks to the Algonquins of North America.
Variations of this ritual have also been discovered in Africa, where instead of the bear being considered the visiting deity, it was the lion, leopard, or the panther. The skulls were all arranged in the same way, and in exactly the same condition. Site after site has been discovered, indicating this belief system was extremely widespread, and spanning an incredible period of time of at least 75,000 years. From a psychological perspective the caves of the Neanderthals can be seen as symbolic of the collective unconscious mind. As a species, we have re-discovered those caves. And entering back into their darkness, we have rekindled the fires of our collective awareness.
What is revealed in this process, might very well be considered the religious and mythic foundation of our species. It is our common scripture written in stone and bone, preaching a gospel that still can be heard today in many different forms and inflections.
It is a story handed down to us from our ancient ancestors who lived on the Earth millions of years before we arrived. Even though they have long ago disappeared, what they have left behind speaks to us of our racial heritage, and forms a bridge of continuity reaching back in time and consciousness to our common origins.
To examine the basic beliefs of this ancient scripture is almost like listening to the voice of our chromosomes, listening to the stories of our cells. For the body has its own wisdom, and our genetic memory forgets nothing.
Just as the cells of our body are set to the rhythms of the rising and setting sun, our mind is set to the cycle of our birth and death. But within that framework there exists strata of consciousness, aware of our continuity beyond the confines of time and space. And all our myths and religions attempt to translate that reality into a temporal and rational story.
These burial rituals of our early ancestors, are the first recorded attempts at just such a story. They tell us that death was not perceived as a final end, but a process of transformation and rebirth. This is perhaps the single most important principle upon which all mythologies and religions rest. And even today, among the majority of aboriginal peoples that yet remain on the Earth, this remains an unchallenged reality.
In the context of this belief structure then, there evolved the special role of the mediator or messenger, one who facilitates communication from this world to the next. The role of the mediator became widespread and still exists even today.
In the case of the Ainus people the bear cub was received as a visiting deity. When he was sacrificed or "sent back home", he took with him the gifts and prayers of the community. His body then became the sacred meal, uniting each member of the community with this divine messenger, and thereby forming a link with the world beyond.
As the role of the mediator continued to develop through the course of human history, eventually a specific member of the community took on the role. This person was set apart to function as the divine messenger, and in some cases even became the sacrificial offering.
We can see this basic theme played out in the stories of all the world's great saviors: Tammuz; Osiris; Adonis; Dionysus; Jesus; and even Buddha in the symbolism of his enlightenment.
Even today, all over the world a continuation of this basic story is ritualistically and symbolically carried out in the sacrifice of the Catholic Mass. All the essential elements remain intact. Instead of the actual sacrifice by death however, the bread and wine are magically transformed into the body and blood of the divine mediator, and then distributed to the religious community as the sacred meal. Each member of this special community then, becomes united with the savior and is assured a place with him in the world beyond. The ancient mythic theme continues.
Just as the physical life of each individual is set off by the events of birth and death, so too the psychic structure must accommodate both these poles of human experience. Mythology is a reflection of this process of accommodation, putting one in accord with the cyclic events of Nature.
Having peered into the caves of our distant past, we have uncovered a mythological theme that like a great river, runs completely through our development as a species. The central core of this great theme is focused on the issues of death, and our journey into the world beyond.
The Great Mother
On the other end of the spectrum of consciousness another great theme was also being played out. This theme revolved around the issues of birth, and the nurturing and sustaining of Life in the Natural World. And standing in the very center of this reality was the image of the Great Mother Goddess.
As early as 30,000 B.C.E. human beings no longer applied their creative energies solely for survival, but applied their tools to carve stone, ivory and bone. Archaeologists have discovered thousands of engravings, reliefs and sculptures across a vast expanse of land stretching from the Pyrenees in Spain to Lake Baikal in Siberia, all images of the Mother Goddess.
On these early Goddess images are various signs and symbols: lines; triangles; zig-zags; circles and spirals. And many of these images have been found stained with red ochre.
At first archaeologists and anthropologists really didn't know what to make of all this. They were at a loss as to how these images and symbols fit in with their current picture of early human development. So they more or less dismissed them as some kind of fetishes related to the erotic. On the other hand, because most of the images were naked, with large breasts, protruding buttocks and pregnant belly, they also interpreted these images to be nothing more than primitive man's projections of human fertility.
It is interesting to notice, that most all of these early archaeologists and anthropologists were men. It wasn't until much later, when an increasing number of women began to enter the field that more serious evaluations were entertained. They began to see these images and symbols in an entirely different light, not as the crude, naturalistic representations of the erotic as formerly thought, but as the symbolic language of the organic and generative process of Nature. It is now commonly understood, these carvings represent the first human attempts to creatively express the great mysteries of birth and sustenance. And quite naturally, at the very center of these mysteries is the Female.
We have to step out of our twentieth century programming, and move back in time and consciousness well before any written history began, back before writing and the wheel were invented, back to a time perhaps when humans were first learning to speak. It is here, that we find ourselves in a world where the Female embodies the mysterious and miraculous powers of Nature. The biological functions of the female body were seen as manifestations of the sacred and magical powers of some greater reality.
What more profound miracle were these people to witness, than the process where one of their own kind came forth from the Female body? The Female was, in the most observable way, the natural mediator between worlds, between the spiritual and the physical dimensions of Life. Through her the invisible suddenly becomes visible. The unmanifest becomes manifest. That which was released at death, now finds a new home in flesh and blood.
Those of you who have participated in or witnessed this awe inspiring event, can begin to appreciate the impact it had on our early ancestors. Their numbers were very small, and life sometimes hung in the balance by a thread. A birth represented in practical terms, the very survival of the new species. And appropriately it was seen as a mysterious and sacred event
Another manifestation of this magical power of the Female, was that from her own body came the food to keep the young alive. She not only brought forth new life, but she became the very source of life-giving nourishment as well.
While attempting to see these events from the perspective of our early ancestors, it becomes very obvious how they came to associate the Female with the life-giving and nourishing powers of the Earth. For the Earth brought forth a rich abundance of life-forms from her own body. The plants, animals and humans all come from the body of our Great Mother Earth. All are nourished from her body, and all eventually returned to her at death.
Given the natural associations between the Female and the living processes of the Earth, it's not surprising then to find these aspects of life-giving prominently displayed in the images of the Female form. For a span of over thirty thousand years, these statues were kept on household altars, in the fields and all places of communal activities.
These primordial images speak to us of a perception of the World as organic and whole. They represent a reality where Spirit and Nature were united, and therefore always manifesting the mysterious and the sacred. Everything was interconnected, woven together in a life-giving, nourishing and regenerating universal form - The Goddess.
One of the earliest and most used symbols for the sacred powers of the Goddess was the vulva.(3) This symbol has been found from Spain to Siberia to India, marking special places of power. It has been found to have seeds and sprouts drawn over or beside it, representing the primal source of Life. The image of the vulva has also been found with indications of rippling movements of water issuing from it, symbolizing the nourishing waters of Life.
At the entrance of many caves - the most sacred places of our early ancestors, the sign of the vulva was carved to indicate the sanctuary of the Great Mother, and the source of her regenerative powers. Caves were seen as the womb of the Mother, a place of not only protection, but a place of initiation where the bond with the Mother was renewed. It was also a place where the individual was returned in death, to be regenerated and reborn.
The vulva has been used as a sacred symbol to indicate a wide range of life-affirming concepts and perceptions for over 30,000 years. And what is truly amazing, is that it is still being used in this context today. From one end of India to the other, one is still able to see this sacred symbol used in its original context in numerous temples.
The concept of the temple itself, evolved as an extension of the primordial womb-cave of the Mother Earth: the two pillars of the front entrance representing the upraised legs; the doorway - the vaginal entrance. The sacrifice was made with the shedding of sacred blood. This blood which contained the powers of Life and regeneration, was then shared by the people as a sacrament. Sometimes the initiates were literally drenched in the sacrificial blood of an animal.
It is interesting to find in the Bible in Paul's letter to the Hebrews an explicit reference to the all encompassing power of blood. In this letter we read that Moses "took the blood of the calves and of the goats, with water and scarlet wood and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying 'This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded for you.' The tabernacle also and all the vessels of the ministry he sprinkled likewise with blood; and with blood almost everything is cleansed according to the Law, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
This ritual then is undoubtedly connected to the ancient associations with the powers of the womb and of the Earth. In the earliest writing that we are currently able to translate, the Sumarian, the word AMA meant both the earth and womb. The Aryan root word Mater was used for both mother and measurement, from which we get such words as matter, metric, material, and matrix which originally meant "womb of matter".(4) * * * Illustrations * * *
The Blood Covenant
One of the primary connections between all of our early religious rituals and symbols was blood. We have seen how the Neanderthals some 75,000 years ago used red ochre to symbolize the blood of the Mother Earth in their burial ceremonies. We have also seen the same ritual used by early humans as far back as 40,000 years. In fact, in many of their ancient grave sites not only were the bones of the dead covered with red ochre, but everything in the cave-tomb, including the walls. When the statues and figurines of the Mother-Goddess, were first discovered many of these were also covered with the same red substance.
Anthropologists have found tribal people as late as this century, still using red ochre in their rituals. When they asked Australian aborigines what it was they were putting on themselves and their sacred stones, they replied: "menstrual blood".(5)
We now understand this was the key to a practice and belief system that has continued for over 75,000 years, and spread in cultures all over the globe. It was the belief that the mysterious power of creation and regeneration, resided in menstrual blood.
These early humans knew that unless the Female was empowered by the presence of blood, the magic of birth could not take place. The transformation of a girl into a woman was an awe inspiring event. It was the invisible and mysterious Mother Goddess initiating the Female into the realms of Her creative power. Like the Earth, the Female could now bring new life from her own body. This magic blood was believed to contain the very essence of Life itself, and was considered a manifestation of great spiritual power.
Most words used today for menstruation, have in their root-meanings such concepts as mysterious, supernatural, and sacred. It has been discovered that ancient cultures all over the world, regarded menstrual blood as a manifestation of sacred power.
In ancient Mesopotamia the great Goddess Ninhursag, created human beings from clay and her own "blood of life". The word Adamah, meaning red or bloody clay, might very well be the original meaning to the name Adam.(6)
In India there was a universal belief that the Great Mother formed all of physical creation from her menstrual blood, and all of creation is seen as the living substance of her own body.
Not only was menstrual blood associated with the obvious ideas of birth and the creation of life, but also with the ideas of rebirth and regeneration. At one time it was a widespread belief throughout the world, that if one painted oneself with the life-giving waters of the womb one could not only have Life more abundantly, but it would ensure survival after death. So quite appropriately, we find many burial sites covered with red ochre to ensure the continuity of life into the next world. In the most graphic terms it represented the idea of rebirth from the womb of the Great Mother Earth.
In many cultures throughout the world that later developed the concept of a Male Deity, this idea of the blood bond between the female and the Mother Goddess was so powerful, that we find a strange but corresponding belief: that in order for human males to bond with their Deity they also have to shed blood. Only this shedding of blood was not a natural event as in the case of females. In order to replicate the menstrual initiation, males came up with the practice of genital mutilation.
True to the spirit of this idea is the practice of circumcision: the ritualistic removal of the foreskin of the penis. In the Bible in the book of Genesis 17:11 circumcision is stated to be the "sign of the covenant" between God and his people.
The Semitic tribes however, are not the only people to practice this ritual. Circumcision can be found on every continent and performed in a wide variety of cultures.
It is also interesting to find, that with the early development of the Male Deities, they themselves, somehow had to be associated with the blood of the Mother Goddess in order to acquire their power.
The Norse God Thor for example, gained eternal life by bathing in a river mixed with the menstrual blood of a Goddess. Odin acquired his supreme power by stealing the sacred blood from the cauldron of the Mother Earth. In India, there is a story where the God Indra, gained his wisdom from the "wise blood" of the Goddess Lakshmi.(7)
Associated with this idea of wisdom being associated with blood, was the ancient belief that post-menopausal women were especially powerful and wise. For it was believed they had the capacity to permanently retain their sacred blood.
In ancient cultures both East and West, menstrual blood was perceived as a medium of transmission of power, wisdom and Life. Kings gained the power to rule by being anointed with the sacred blood of the Queen or Priestess. In some of the Tantric scriptures still found today, it is prescribed in certain rituals that the Shakti, or female representing the Goddess, must be menstruating when uniting with her male consort, so that he may be blessed and share in the power of the Goddess.
It is not surprising then, our human ancestors formed communities that were governed by matrilineal succession. For the sacred power of the blood, was believed to be passed down from mother to daughter. This was the original concept of the" blood line". In this context it was most natural that inheritance of material goods be passed on from mother to daughter as well as the family name. In fact, it is interesting that the root word for "inheritance" is Heres, which is the Greek for "female landowner", and also associated with the Greek Goddess Hera.
At one time it was universally believed, that all Females who had been initiated into the power of the Goddess through Her sacred blood, possessed a magical power to make all things grow and multiply. Because of this belief, women were perceived as the natural caretakers of the land and all that it produced.
In many cultures throughout the world, the origins of agriculture are attributed to the daughters of the Earth Mother. Females were seen as the priestesses of the soil. Even today, there are certain tribal communities that still believe it is the sole power of the female to grow food.
The fertility of the Earth and the fertility of the Female became inextricably bound together. The two were linked by the bonds of sacred blood. It was believed that the magic to bring forth food from the Earth was in the power of menstrual blood. Special rituals were performed using menstrual blood to ensure the fertility of the soil. There are variations of this ancient ritual, still being performed today in various parts of the world.
This sacred bond between blood and soil was universally recognized for thousands of years, and was the fundamental principle upon which agriculture rested. For a man to own land was unthinkable, because within the framework of this reality, he didn't possess the power to make it productive.
Much later on in our history, the concept of matrimony arose. Whereby if a man entered into a ritualistic bond with a female, through her he could gain control over her land or property. The real meaning of matrimony is the inheritance of property of the Matre or Mother.(8)
The Universal Culture
When we look back over this culture of the Goddess from about 30,000 B.C.E. to 4,000 B.C.E., we find a continuous theme of beliefs that served as a foundation for many mythologies, religions and institutions we are familiar with today. We have been exploring this foundation in a process that could very well be described as the Archaeology of Human Consciousness.
The ancient scripture that is being revealed here, has been written with stones, bones, blood and soil. And it has almost been completely forgotten. Only in the most remote areas of the planet, do people still remember parts of the story, but even then, only dimly and with many distortions.
This primeval scripture however, remains intact in the cave of the unconscious mind and can be revealed to anyone who remains alert to its symbolic language. In dreams and visions, art and myths, one can hear and see this ancient heritage of our cells. It is our Spiritual Biology which teaches us about wholeness, a reality where Body and Spirit are not separated; Spirit and Nature remain as two sides of one continuum. Life and Death are seen as stages of an on-going journey. The world is perceived as alive and conscious, and everything is Sacred, because everything is connected and a part of the greater whole - as a manifestation of the ever changing Goddess.
This belief system represents a stage in the evolution of human consciousness where there were no Gods, only a universally worshipped Goddess. Her image and symbols have been discovered from Western Europe, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, to the Indus Valley and China forming a cultural matrix that covered a vast area of the globe.
The unity of this cultural matrix over such a vast area is astounding enough, but when it is realized that it flourished for over 30,000 years, it is truly amazing. In comparison to such a time frame, the Vedas and the Bible were written only a few hours ago.
Another remarkable feature about this culture is that there are no signs of warfare, or the manufacture of weapons. There are no carvings, pictures or symbols of humans killing or fighting other human beings. Hilltops and mountains that were later used as sites for fortresses, at this period are used for shrines and temples.(9)
It was in the later stages of this universal culture that the first attempts at writing occurred, as well as the appearance of pottery, jewelry and weaving, the domestication of animals, the establishment of grain growing agriculture in the fertile river valleys, and the eventual rise of cities.
There are a number of wonderful books giving detailed information regarding the Neolithic Culture of the Goddess, and I highly recommend that people investigate this period of development for themselves. Some of these books are listed in the Bibliography. It isn't in the scope of this work however, to examine this culture in complete detail, but rather to focus on the origins and evolution of specific religious concepts and beliefs. * Illustrations * * *
The Woman And The Moon
A man by the name of Alexander Marshack, in the 1960's found a piece of bone near the headwaters of the Nile. The bone was close to 30,000 years old. But its age however, was not the most interesting feature. What made this bone particularly unusual, is that it had at periodic intervals, notches carved into it as if to mark a sequence of time. He later found many other such markings on bones, antlers, stones and goddess figures, in Czechoslovakia, Russia, Spain and Italy.
After studying these numerous finds, Marshack was convinced that the lines were not made all at once as if to somehow decorate the object, but were made at different times as one would find with any crude calendar. His theory is that these objects were the first attempts at keeping a record of time, and that these markings were actually indications of lunar cycles.(10)
This idea was quite shocking to his academic friends. For it implied a degree of mental sophistication on the part of our early ancestors, that no one had yet imagined. But then something else turned up, something that uncovered their eyes and pulled back the curtain. It is a solitary carving in rock about 17 inches high, discovered in France. Its age has been estimated between 24,000 to 20,000 years old. It is a female figure standing upright. She is holding elevated in her right hand a bison's horn - crescent-shaped like the New Moon. The horn is notched with thirteen lines.
These mysterious thirteen lines became the center of much discussion. Eventually, they came to be understood to indicate either the thirteen days from the visible New Moon to the Full, or the thirteen New Moons of each yearly cycle.
The most astounding thing about this carving however, is graphically indicated by her left hand. She is resting her left hand upon her swelling womb, showing all to see in no uncertain terms, a relationship between the cycles or phases of the Moon and the cycles of the womb. In this figure, the mystery and power of the celestial realms have become graphically infused and embodied in the Female Form.(11)
This mysterious unity of the celestial and the terrestrial realms personified in the Female, is certainly the most powerful and long lasting religious image ever to evolve in the human species. And in fact, it is still with us today. Go into any Catholic church and look closely at the image of the mother of Jesus. She will be found to be standing on the crescent Moon.
If we take off our glasses of the twentieth century and peer out into the darkness of our past, there is one image that dominates the night as no other - the Moon. Her ever changing phases, yet ever renewing cycles captured the imagination of the human mind like no other image. And with her mysterious motions she wove the fabric of many myths and rituals all over the World.
At some point in our evolutionary journey, the Moon became the universal image of the eternal Goddess. The Moon not only governed the tides of the sea, but also the tides of the womb. The menstrual cycle coincides with the 28 day cycle of the Moon. Even today, in many parts of the world women still refer to their menstrual cycle as being in their "moontime".
It is not surprising then, to find that all early calendars were based on this primary association between the cycles of menstruation and the phases of the Moon. In many languages, the words for Moon, month, measurement and menstruation have either similar meanings or common root words. In Gaelic for example, the words for "menstruation" and "calendar" are the same. Similar associations are seen all over the world.(12)
A month was measured from one New Moon to the next, giving 13 New Moons for each year. Consequently, all early calendars had thirteen months in the year. Every festival was calculated to the New or Full Moons. And in many parts of Europe, people continued observing these ancient festivals well into the Middle Ages.
The calendar then, was not some distant abstraction to these people, but something that gave meaning and structure to their lives in ways we can scarcely imagine. It was a paradigm that was woven with the threads of their own biology and spiritual perceptions. It was a reality that recognized the seasons of increase and decrease, of birth and death as rhythmic phases in a larger, ever renewing cycle. Nothing was perceived in terms of absolute opposites, only as complementary cycles in the spiral dance of Creation.
The ever changing, self-renewing lunar image of the Goddess became the unifying symbol of the Heavens and the Earth, and lent meaning and measure to all things. The three phases of the Moon Goddess were reflected in the lives of all her children: human, animal and plant.
In the Northern latitudes the New Moon became associated with Spring, birth, and the growth of all living things. This image was similarly represented in the life of the Female as the maiden or young girl.
Associated with the Full Moon was Summertime, when all life became fruitful. This phase of the Moon naturally became symbolic of motherhood.
The waning or decreasing Moon was associated with Winter, when the Earth became less abundant. It also became associated with the Female who ceased to flow her life-giving blood. Because she now retained the sacred blood of life, the older woman was regarded to be more powerful and wise. For this reason, in many societies the elder women were always the center of power.
So we find this mysterious relationship between the three phases of the Moon, the seasonal rhythms of the Earth, and the three stages in a woman's life, symbolically depicted in the lunar image of the Goddess. She represented the primary image that influenced nearly all concepts of Deity for at least 20,000 years.
Each of these three lunar aspects eventually became personified as a separate Goddess, giving rise to the more abstract concept of the Three in One, and the One in Three. This was the origin of what much later became known as the Trinity.
In Greece, the three Goddesses were known as Athene, Aphrodite and Hecate. In Ireland they were known as Ana, Babd and Macha; in India: Parvati, Durga and Uma.
Eventually the three Goddesses were replaced by Male Gods, or as in the case of Christianity, three masculine aspects of one God.
One aspect of the Moon we have not examined yet but is perhaps the most important of all. As our early ancestors followed the various changes of their Goddess in the night sky, they noticed as we still do, that after reaching her fullness she began to gradually decrease in size, until she finally disappeared altogether. The impact on these early people was profound. For them, their Goddess had left; the Moon had died. The visible became invisible; and the manifest had died back into the darkness of the unmanifest.
One anthropologist, who lived for a time with the African Bushmen, witnessed a ritualistic dance that lasted the entire night. When he asked them the purpose for their dance, he was told that they needed to show the dying Moon how much they loved her, so that she would again return. The Goddess was disappearing from their world; and with her withdrawal, Life itself was perceived as threatened.(13)
This grand drama that was played out on the celestial screen of the night sky, was none other than the mysteries of Life and Death. As the old Moon weakens and eventually dies, it tells us the story of our own lives, and the lives of all living things: everything eventually returns to the darkness of the creative depths, the impenetrable Mystery of the Creative Source.
But the story does not end here, for in time the light is reborn. After three days, the new crescent Moon rises once again. The darkness was not antagonistic to the light, but the very womb from which the light emerged. The young Goddess returns once again, to grow and reach the fullness of Her power.
This same story was reflected in the seasonal life of the plants, which also had a big impact on our early ancestors. For the majority of their diet consisted of plants.
As they were able to observe on a seasonal basis, the seeds that were buried in the Earth, began to sprout with new life. And as the plants grew, they blossomed and bore fruit. Eventually, the plants fell and disappeared back within the darkness of the Earth. And after some time, the seeds sprouted with new life and the Earth became green once again. Death had given way to Life, as Life eventually returned to Death. Neither one an end in itself, but an aspect of a continuing process.
The cyclic process of birth-death-rebirth that was observed in the changing patterns of the Moon was observed in the organic processes of all living things. As it was done in Heaven, so it was done on Earth. Change was perceived to be an integral part of continuity, while continuity formed the basis of a never ending stream of change. Darkness and Light, Life and Death, Continuity and Change were all perceived as complementary aspects of the one Eternal Goddess.
This then was the Gospel of the Moon. The impact and implications of Her message can still be seen in numerous ways. One particular way is in the root meanings of certain words.
The Ashanti people have only one word for their deity, which is the same word for the Moon. In the Basque language also, the words for "deity" and "moon" are exactly the same.(14) To the ancient Greeks, the word menos meant both moon and power, whereby we derive such words as mensuration (to measure), menstruation, mentality, menopause, menses, and mentor.
One such derivative, mania, at one time had a spiritual definition, whereby the Moon Goddess possessed one in ecstatic revelation. The word lunacy, once had exactly the same meaning.(15)
Through these kinds of associations we are still able to get a small glimpse, of the once universally recognized bond between the concepts of Deity, the Moon and Females. The Moon Goddess was perceived to empower a woman and menstrual blood was a sign of that empowerment. The whole concept of measurement of sequential time was born from this perception. The menstrual and lunar cycles became the basis of all ancient calendars, which in turn became the governing principle for almost all activities of early societies, especially those activities centered around agriculture.(16) Even today in many parts of the world, the cycles of the Moon are considered when planting or harvesting food crops. In this country we have the Farmer's Almanac, which still associates times of planting with the cycles of the Moon.
Because of their mysterious association with the Moon Goddess, women were quite naturally seen to be the leaders of the tribe, clan or social structure. Their biological processes were perceived in a spiritual context, whereby women became the natural power holders, the initiators of the species. * * * Illustrations * * *
The Culture of the Goddess
In the ancient and almost universal culture that we have been examining in detail, women didn't dominate men as in the later societies, where men had absolute power over women. We do not find any indications of a pyramid social structure, or hierarchy dominated by a woman or a group of women who gathered most of the wealth and power for themselves, leaving the rest of the society fighting over the crumbs, as we repeatedly find in the later societies ruled exclusively by male hierarchies. Rather, we find cooperative communities where the primary ethic was based on sharing, the sharing of food, natural resources and work. By every indication these early communities sought to live in harmony with the organic and cyclic processes of Nature, rather than to dominate or exploit their environment, a process that begins to be so typical in the later Bronze Age developments.
One other feature that was conspicuously absent from these early communities, is any sign of violence. We find in their extensive artwork no indication of any symbols of domination - spears, swords, or thunderbolts that we find in later societies, where the ruler or deity demands obedience under the threat of killing or violence. Rather the emphasis was on bonding, reinforcing the primal connection with the Source of Life and the cooperation between all Life forms.
We are not looking at some isolated region where one or two tribal societies lived peacefully for a couple of centuries and then mysteriously disappeared. But rather we are examining a continuous culture of shared beliefs and customs that spread out over the Earth in a vast expanse, and lasted for over 30,000 years. Because of this fact, we are literally forced to reevaluate our current ideas about civilization, culture and the nature of human societies.
As we have surveyed this Civilization of the Goddess in a very broad scope, we have seen an extremely large and powerful current of associated ideas and symbols moving through the mental landscape, pushing before it all other religious concepts for thousands of years into the future. And we are discovering this archetypal current is still relevant today. For it is the current of our blood surging through our veins, singing the ancient songs of our cells. It is the story of our genetic heritage and the psychic template of our common past. It is a Spirituality grounded in our Biology. Within the scope of this bio-spirituality, all of Nature is mysteriously infused with the sacred power of the Goddess. And all things are a medium of Her creative expression. The rhythms of the seasons, the phases of the moon, the tides of the sea, the cycles of the womb are all processes of a living and unified whole.
The Story of the Snake
We have seen how the Moon in her ever returning cyclic patterns became a universal symbol of life, death and rebirth. This association was gradually extended to include a particular animal. Just as the Moon was the primary symbol of the Goddess in the Heavens, the snake became her primary symbol on Earth. For it was observed by all peoples that snakes underwent a strange transformation. Like the Moon shedding the shadow of death, the snake would periodically shed its skin, and emerge renewed. Immortality became reflected in the life processes of the serpent, as it was reflected in the ever returning cycles of the Moon.
Furthermore, it was also observed that this mysterious animal would periodically disappear for a time within the womb of the Earth, only to re-emerge as if reborn.
For these reasons it was believed that above all creatures, the serpent possessed the self-renewing power and wisdom of the Goddess. It also became associated with healing and oracular powers. And to this day, in many parts of world these associations still exist.
It is an interesting fact that in ancient Greece, the political leaders as well as foreign rulers sought advice from the famous oracle shrine at Delphi. The Earth Mother was worshipped there and bore the name of Delphyne, which meant "the womb of creation".(17) The priestess of this shrine would give advice or even predict future events by consulting a python, the serpent-son and consort of the Goddess, who lived in a subterranean cave beneath the shrine. This practice stretched far back into the early beginnings of our species and was widespread, spanning many cultures and even continents.
Not only was the serpent associated with the wisdom and power of the subterranean realms, but it appeared to mysteriously move upon the Earth as if possessed by a strange energy. Its undulating course upon the ground and its equal ability to move through water, gave rise to its mythic association with the primordial waters of life. Rivers were seen to resemble huge snakes, undulating currents of life-blood, without which the land remained barren. Through this association, the serpent came to symbolically represent the dynamic life-force of Nature and the inexhaustible fertility of the Goddess.
In all areas of the world where the culture of the Goddess flourished, we find the serpent symbolized by coils, spirals, and zig-zag lines as far back as 20,000 years ago. Later on however, the Goddess herself was portrayed in the image of a snake. She was known in this aspect by many names.
The serpent Goddess in India was known as Ananta and Kadru. In Egypt, the mother of creation was depicted as a serpent named Uazit. The Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for the Goddess was in fact a snake. In ancient Sumer, the great water serpent/Goddess Nammu gave birth to Heaven and Earth. In Babylon, the Goddess was particularly associated with the resurrecting power of the serpent. In her aspect of Queen of the Underworld, she was known as the "Mistress of Serpents".(18)
Beyond any doubt, the serpent captured the imagination and the mythic powers of association like no other symbol. For in almost all mythologies and religions of the world, the image of the snake can be found, whether it is the great serpent of the primordial waters out of which all Life emerged, or the world serpent that encircles the Earth as a cosmic egg.
However, there is one image of the serpent that not only was universal, but is still very much alive today, and in fact continues to evolve. This complex symbol began with the simple observation that not only could snakes live within the Earth, move with ease over ground and water, but could live in trees as well.
This fact brought together two independent streams of symbolic and mythic associations. For by this time, trees already had a whole constellation of mythic importance all their own. With their roots reaching deep into the Earth womb, and their branches embracing the Sky, trees became a symbol for the entire spectrum of Life's journey.
In this Cosmology all Life was seen to be born from the darkness of the Earth and proceeded toward the Heavens, to ascend toward the stars, the realm of the ancestors. As a symbol then, the tree was seen as a cosmic bridge between the worlds: the Underworld, the Earth, and the Sky. And the serpent was perceived to be the one creature to be able to cross this bridge at will and make its home in all three realms.
The serpent then, entwined around the Cosmic Tree of Life became a universal image with many levels of meaning. In the most general terms perhaps, we find in this symbol the energy of the Earth, the dynamic self-renewing life-force, rising up and embracing the Celestial realms, the invisible and transcendental dimensions of Life. The Earth and the Heavens are here perceived to be united through the organic processes of Life-Energy. Spirit and Nature are recognized as a unified field in which the creative energies of the Universe ebb and flow in a continuous process of transformation.
As a true archetypal symbol this image reflected certain qualities in the very structure of human consciousness itself, transcending all historical and cultural settings. As it evolved down through the millennia, this symbol was to eventually take on a whole new dimension of meaning, a development that represented a sophisticated refinement and integration of all that had preceded it. And perhaps this symbol still holds the key, to the future evolutionary journey of our species.
Before we move on to the next stage in the development of this archetypal symbol, we first need to go back and explore a very important formation that was to eventually change the entire mythic-religious landscape forever. * * * Illustrations* * *
The Male Deity Is Born
Human beings universally recognized that their physical bodies, as all living things, participated in the drama of birth and death. They also however realized there was a hidden or invisible side to Nature as well - a Spiritual reality. These two realms, the invisible Spirit and visible Nature, through time, began to separate in human consciousness and move further apart.
Along with this growing distinction the two sexes became more culturally differentiated as well. Male and Female began to take on more specialized roles within society. The masculine qualities of human consciousness gradually became more appreciated as a participant in the sacred power and pleasures of the creative process. Through time the masculine aspect gained importance, until around 6,500 B.C.E. we find it had evolved into an image of something entirely new - a Male Deity.
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a culture at Catal Huyuk on the Konya plain of southern Anatolia (now modern Turkey). This culture had developed rather remarkable abilities at carving stone, spinning, weaving, basket work, pottery, cultivation of crops, domestication of animals, and the building of houses and shrines.
Impressive as all these developments were, (officially, civilization wasn't supposed to begin for another 3,000 years!) there were some other discoveries that proved even more startling. Archaeologists discovered a whole constellation of symbols and associations, which served as an archetypal foundation for many of our current myths and religious concepts.
When reflecting back to the earlier mythologies of the Moon, you will remember the Moon came to universally typify the various phases of Life's creative expression: birth, growth, maturation, old age, death and then rebirth. This cyclic pattern was the manifestation of the Goddess reflected in all living things.
At about 6,500 B.C.E. in Catal Huyuk, we find the lunar cycle being specifically associated with the image of the bull. With his long crescent shaped horns, which perfectly reflected the image of the new and dying moon, the bull became a powerful symbol for the life-giving and regenerative powers of the Moon.
Archaeologists found a shrine dated from about 5,000 B.C.E. in which the figure of the Goddess is giving birth to a number of bulls. What is most important about this image is that the bull is being portrayed as her son. He is born from the darkness of her womb, just as the New Moon rises from the darkness of its previous death. Like the Moon, while increasing light and strength gives fertility to all her children, the bull is now the symbol of that strength and fertility. And just like the Moon in which the drama of death is played out in its inevitable disappearance, the moon bull eventually dies or is ritually sacrificed to be reunited with his Eternal Mother.
Through the magic of association, the bull also became linked with the fertility of the vegetation cycle. Not only did he sire the milk-yielding cows, but he also drew the plow, breaking open the Earth to allow the seeds to enter.
The people of these early civilizations were all part of the agricultural world. On a seasonal basis they saw the plants that they depended on for survival were born from the Earth Mother. After these plants matured they then died back into her body, eventually to be reborn in the Spring.
The bull came to represent this ever returning cycle of abundance and renewal. He came to represent that part of Eternal Life which manifests in time, space, and undergoes the constant flux of birth and death.
On the other hand, the Mother Goddess came to be increasingly associated with the underlying continuity of Life. She was the Eternal Whole, while her son symbolized the temporal manifestation of individual forms.
At various shrine sites at Catal Huyuk, small statues of Male figures were also uncovered. From these carvings, and the prolific use of bulls horns within all the shrines, we have some very convincing evidence that these people had elevated the Male principle into the realm of religious symbolism. And the concept of a Male Deity was now certainly breaking into human awareness.
The image of God as a lunar bull became a universal symbol. Over the next several thousand years, it spread and developed throughout the civilized world. In Egypt their oldest God named Ptah, was said to incarnate as a black bull miraculously engendered by a moonbeam that fell on a cow in heat.(19) In Phonecia the bull-God El, was worshipped as the progenitor of all humans. The oldest God in India, Shiva, was incarnate as a white bull, Nandi.(20) In ancient Greece, Zeus in the form of a bull was consort to the Goddess Europa.
In the beginning of this development, the image of God was not separated from the all powerful Goddess. He first appeared as her son. Then as he matured, he was seen as the fertilizing power of the creative process, and became the consort of the Goddess who fathered his own son.
When this role in the continuation of the Life cycle was completed, the God's death was seen as a preparation for his next incarnation. And with his return, he brought the renewal of fertility and abundance back to the Earth.
This theme then, can also be seen as a personification of the annual vegetation cycle. The young plant is born from the Earth womb. As it grows and matures, it releases its seed into the same womb. After the cycle is completed, the aging plant falls and disappears back into the Earth to eventually rise again with new life in the Spring.
This mythological theme evolved for thousands of years and appears in many cultures. In Sumer, the Goddess Inanna gave birth to Dumuzi, her son-consort. Dumuzi fathered his own son, and then was sacrificed. This same story was carried over to the Babylonians, with the Goddess Ishtar giving birth to the young god Tammuz. In Egypt, the Goddess Isis was accompanied by the bull/god, Osiris, who also fathered his own son, Horus. In Anatolia, the same relationship existed between the Goddess Cybele and her divine son Attis.
Later on in this evolution of the bull/god, it has been discovered that in the temples of Sumer around 4,000 B.C.E., cows were kept on the temple grounds. And one of the holy tasks of the priests and priestesses was to milk the sacred cows that represented the nourishing abundance of the Goddess Ninhursag. The milk was then distributed to the community as a sacramental offering.
What is particularly interesting is that in India today, the cow is still considered a sacred animal. When visiting the temples of the Goddess one is given prasad, a bit of food containing milk or milk products, symbolizing her blessing and abundance.
In south India there is a tribe of people called the Todas. Their temple compounds are in fact dairies, in which cows are regarded as sacred representatives of the Goddess on Earth. In one of their prayers to the Goddess, they include the word Ninkurshag, a still recognizable variation of the Sumerian Goddess almost 6,000 years ago! The Todas however, no longer have any idea to what the word refers.(21)
As the concept/image of the Male Deity evolved through the millennia it became increasingly more significant in human consciousness, gaining tremendous power as a religious and cultural symbol. Almost as a human adolescent growing up, he gradually became more separated and independent from the Mother Goddess, and developed a whole constellation of symbols all his own. His symbolic representatives on Earth were not only the bull, but also the ram, the buck goat, the stag, the boar and the snake. He became the supreme generative principle of Creation.
The King Comes To Power
As this new metaphysical star rose in the heavens, tremendous changes and upheavals were wrought upon the cultural landscape. As the concept of the God gained importance within the human psyche, a corresponding idea of Male dominance gained power within the social structure.
The principle of the Male Deity eventually became embodied in the concept of the alpha male or king. His specialized function was the continued fertility of the land and the general prosperity of the community.
In order for the Male leader to carry out these responsibilities of rulership, he first had to receive the blessings and power of the Goddess. It was still clearly understood, of his own nature, the king could not assume such a responsibility or function.
The high priestess or the queen, was now regarded as the incarnation of the Goddess on Earth. And through sexual union with her, the king gained the necessary power and right to ruler ship and ensured the continuity of the ever flowing abundance of the Goddess on Earth. * * * Illustrations * * *
The Sacred Marriage
The union between the God and Goddess, the king and queen, became known as the Heiros Gamos or Sacred Marriage. The Sacred Marriage was to become the most important religious ritual ever to evolve out of the 30,000 year old culture of the Goddess. The union of the God/king and the Goddess/queen was seen as the marriage between Heaven and Earth: the union of the transcendental or invisible realities beyond birth and death, with the visibly manifest cycles of the Natural World. And through this sacred union, the fertility and abundance of the Earth was regenerated. Just as the Earth awaited the regenerating waters of Heaven to bring it to life, the union of the king and queen was perceived to renew the fruitfulness of the womb, the abundance of the community and the fertility of the land.
The Sacred Marriage was celebrated in the Spring, when Life appeared to be miraculously resurrected. This was the beginning of the New Year. It also happens to be the true origin of the most celebrated of Christian Holy Days: Easter.
The word "Easter" is derived from the Babylonian name of the Goddess Ishtar, the Greeks called her Astarte, the Germans, Oster. Surprisingly, this ancient festival is still being calculated by the same means today, as it was some 5,000 years ago. It is found by using the first full moon after the spring equinox.
Traditionally, this was the time when the long absent God had returned from the womb of the Underworld and the darkness of Winter. The new plants were beginning to break ground and show themselves to the sun, now also gaining in strength. The Moon was pregnant in her fullness, and all of Nature was awakening once again, resurrected from apparent death.
Within the ancient temples there was a special room, the Holy of Holies. It was the bridal chamber where the Sacred Marriage was to take place. In preparation the temple was filled with an abundance of food and drink. Red colored eggs were distributed as symbols of fertility and rebirth.
In the presence of the whole community, the God/king was sexually united with the Goddess/queen. The king was anointed with her life-bestowing waters and thereby infused with the creative energy pouring itself through all things. Sexual ecstasy was seen as the highest sacrament, a direct participation in the mysterious power of the Divine Creative Process.
Through this ecstatic union new life was assured, abundance restored, and well being was enjoyed. The whole community participated in this sacramental ritual. Through the Sacred Marriage they all shared in the creative power and blessings of the Goddess.
This was the high tide of the sacred annual cycle. It was the religious and cultural reflection of Nature's power of regeneration, renewal and rebirth, and it spoke to each individual, biologically as well as spiritually. Through the act of sexual intercourse it was believed that one not only participated in that mysterious act of bringing new life into the world, but that one was actually engaged in a sacramental ritual which allowed the grace or creative power of the Divine to manifest more abundantly through one's life.
The concrete and immediate evidence of this Divine blessing was the experience of pleasure and ecstasy of the union itself. It was believed that through this act, not only was one uniting with one's partner, but that one was also consciously entering back into that primary bond with the Earth, with Nature and with the Divine.
This one fact, perhaps more than any other, holds the key to the entire metaphysical and religious structure of the Goddess culture. And if we can somehow gain this understanding, we will be able to unlock many long locked doors to our understanding not only of their spiritual lives, but ours as well.
The first physical evidence we have of the Sacred Marriage, was a statue found in the Catal Huyuk dated from around 5,750 B.C.E.. From this date, gradually the evidence becomes more prolific and widespread, until around 3,000 B.C.E. we have numerous artifacts covering a vast expanse of the globe.
But what is particularly important about the evidence we find from 3,000 B.C.E. on, is the fact that in the Sumerian cities in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates, people actually began to write down their religious beliefs. Archaeologists have uncovered, literally tens of thousands of inscribed clay tablets.
By no means have all of these tablets been translated. But from what has been translated so far, these people had a rich and mature literature consisting of epic tales, hymns, proverbs, fables and essays. What is particularly significant about this, is that all these writings existed well before the Aryan Vedas, and at least a thousand years before the Bible or Homer's Odyssey.
Among these early Sumerian writings is a story related to the Sacred Marriage. This is a beautiful story of the relationship between the Goddess Innana and her lover Dumuzi. Here for the first time, we are able get an actual glimpse of sexuality expressed in a spiritual setting. Inanna addresses her lover:
"Bridegroom, dear to my heart,
Goodly is your beauty, honey sweet.
Lion, dear to my heart,
Goodly is by your beauty, honey sweet.
You have captivated me, let me stand
trembling before you,
Bridegroom, I would be taken by you to
the bed chamber,
You have captivated me, let me stand
trembling before you,
Lion, I would be taken by you to the
Bridegroom, let me caress you,
My precious caress is more savory than honey,
In the bed chamber, honey filled,
Let us enjoy your goodly beauty,
Lion, let me caress you.
My precious caress
Is more savory than honey."(22)
Surprisingly, a very similar story can be found of all places, in the middle of the Bible. This work has been attributed to Solomon, but there's very little doubt it is actually far older than the time of Solomon. It uses many expressions and symbols of the earlier Babylonian and Sumerian writings. It has been called the "Canticle of Canticles", or "Song of Songs".
When read in conjunction with the earlier Sumerian work, it becomes obvious we are actually witnessing the continuation of the same erotic-spiritual theme.
"Arise, make haste, my love, my dove,
My beautiful one, and come. . .
Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth,
A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me,
He shall abide between my breasts. . .
Stay me up with flowers, compass me about
With apples: because I languish with love.
Let my beloved come into his garden,
And eat the fruit of his apple trees.
His left hand is under my head,
And his right hand shall embrace me."
Archeologists have discovered from writings such as these and numerous artifacts, the ritual of the Sacred Marriage was celebrated for thousands of years in many countries. It eventually became the religious focus of not only the civilizations of Mesopotamia, but of Egypt, Crete, Anatolia, as well as of the Dravidian civilization in the Indus valley, with their great cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.
The Sacred Marriage became the point of fusion of many different currents of associated symbols and beliefs. In doing so, it became the most powerful and profound symbol in the entire spectrum of human consciousness.
Over time, the Sacred Marriage evolved and gradually became institutionalized with numerous symbols, some of which remain to this very day. In temples throughout India, some of the most sacred objects are erect stones symbolizing the phallus of God, and circular stones with hollow centers, represent the vagina of the Goddess. Together, these stones symbolize the Divine Male and Female creative energies that conceive and sustain the universe.
This concept is far older than any of the later Gods and Goddesses of the Aryans or Indo-Europeans. We know this for a fact, because in the earliest writing of the Aryan invaders, the Rig-Veda, the darker skinned aboriginal peoples were derogatorily referred to as "those whose god is the phallus". Rig-Veda 7.21.5. This was written sometime around 2,000 B.C.E. to 1,500 B.C.E..
Amazingly, some 4,000 years later we find many of these people still, much to the discomfort of those more "enlightened' around them, worshipping in exactly the same way as their ancestors did.
The culture of the Goddess flourished in India and produced some of the most amazing and unique temples to be found anywhere on Earth. These temples were dedicated to the creative energies of the Male and Female in a spectacular display of sexual expressions. One can see elaborate carvings on the exterior of some of the temples, and witness an array of sexual attitudes and positions that are truly wonderful. The people of this early culture saw nothing but beauty, pleasure and power in all expressions of human sexuality, and this message is definitely revealed in their art.
The culture and traditions from this period held that any individual of the community could come to the temple and participate in the sacrament of the Sacred Marriage; to participate in the sexual union of the God and Goddess, and thereby become blessed, empowered, healed or made more whole.
In Greece, this practice was called Hierodouleia, meaning: "sacred service". And the women that offered this "sacred service" in the temple was called a Hierodule, or "sacred servant". This special individual represented the Goddess, or was believed to incarnate the power of the Feminine Principle.
Anyone who came to the temple would approach the Hierodule in this spiritual or sacramental context. For it was further believed that if one sexually engaged with the Hierodule, one would actually be uniting with the Divine Herself.(23)
It is most relevant here to understand that the original meaning to the word "prostitute" was: "to stand on behalf of". The individual in this role "stood on behalf of" the Goddess. To serve in the temple in this capacity was considered the most sacred act of service and self-giving that one could perform. In many cultures, it took years of preparation and training to serve in the temple.
In some countries it was expected that every woman before her marriage, would spend a period of time serving in the temple. Those who served in this capacity were prohibited from bearing children while serving at the temple. Not that there was anything wrong with procreation, but this activity was regarded as a spiritual service which brought prosperity and abundance to the whole community. For this specific period of time they sacrificed their own fertility to bring a greater fertility upon the land.
Hierodules, being well versed in music, dance, literature and all the arts of the erotic, also served as teachers. They represented the cultural wealth and refinement of a prosperous country. These spiritual servants in fact, became the living embodiments of Culture itself. For it was further believed, that they possessed the magical power to transform half-human savages into culturally refined citizens.
We find evidence of this belief in one of the oldest and most widely spread works of ancient Mesopotamia, the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is told that there once lived a being, half man and half animal, named Enkidu. The Goddess sent a courtesan to humanize him. She makes love to Enkidu, and teaches him how to behave as a civilized human being. He in turn, eventually civilizes the epic's hero-king, Gilgamesh, and the whole country is uplifted.
This story has a close parallel in Indian literature, in the myth of Rsyshringa. The king and the whole community are saved by a half-man, half-beast named Rsyshringa. He became humanized by a courtesan who introduced him to the arts of erotic pleasure.
Today in the city of Puri at the temple of Jagannatha, the female servants of the deity are known as devadasis. They are considered to be the living embodiments of Laksmi, the Goddess of prosperity, abundance and well-being. All these women are beautifully adorned with gold and precious jewelry. Dancing in the temple daily, they represent the wealth and abundance of the Goddess. Their sexual activity is seen as a vehicle of blessings, health and wholeness, not only to the particular individuals involved, but to the whole community. They are forbidden to walk in the streets where sex is sold as a commodity, as this is considered a profane and a degrading practice.
Interestingly, we find the same prohibition in one of the oldest legal documents ever written. In the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi of 1800 B.C.E., we find that the female servants of the temple, the ishtaritu, are forbidden by law to even visit a place where sex may be sold. The conservative elements in their culture, wanted to preserve a sharp distinction between these two activities. To personally profit from the sexual sacraments of the Goddess, was looked down on as being a sacrilegious act.
The fact that such a distinction was found necessary to be enforced by law, is a strong indication we are no longer in the presence of the same ancient culture of the Goddess. As early as 4,000 B.C.E., waves of alien people, with an entirely different culture began to arrive. These people were not peaceful, and the ancient culture of the Goddess began to change as a result of their traumatic impact.* * * Illustrations* *
The entire metaphysical structure that served as the religious foundation for thousands of years, was now undergoing a tremendous upheaval. By the year 2,500 B.C.E. the great Goddess had receded into the background of the religious stage, as the concept of a Father God began to gain prominence.
The original explanation of Creation emerging from the body of the Mother Goddess was eventually replaced by the role of the Father God, who made the world through various creative techniques (technology). The Natural World was no longer seen as the substance of the Divine, as the Spirit made Flesh, but separated into two distinct worlds. Heaven and Earth were now divorced, and consequently all their children lived in an Age of Separation.
Not only do we find the separation of Heaven and Earth, Spirit and Nature, but we also find a growing sense of separation and polarity within the human psyche as well. In fact, it can be said that these dramatic changes in the basic beliefs of the culture, are reflections of the psychological changes experienced in the collective consciousness of the people. Human consciousness had turned a corner. The distinct perception of the human being as a unique and separate individual was beginning to dawn on the mental landscape of the species.
And this new perception of the autonomous individual that no longer completely identified with the Natural World, gave rise to an entirely different religious outlook.
The Father God, who in some sense came to represent the autonomous self, became a distinct and separate power unto himself. No longer associated with the Goddess as merely her son, he now becomes a self-generating, self-governing entity. His exclusive domain now becomes the Sky; her domain -the Earth. His external symbol becomes the Sun; her's the Moon. He becomes associated with the Light, while she was relegated to the Darkness.
The directions of the compass were also divided between them. He ruled the East, the place where the sun appeared. She governed the West, the place of its disappearance. Even the physical body became divided. The male became associated with the right hand, while the female controlled the left.
In broader terms, the Father God, gradually came to represent those elements of Life which are invisible, all those aspects which transcended the ever-changing, temporal forms of Nature. And in so doing, he now became exactly the opposite of what he originally represented in ages long past.
It is interesting to note, that it is at this point in human development, that our official record of history begins. All of our written history is a recording of our journey into this new conceptual landscape of polarity and oppositions. The old paradigm in which the Whole contained both the darkness and the light as complimentary elements, is no longer perceived or taught. There is now a conflict between the forces of darkness and light, and human beings are perceived to be caught in the ongoing struggle between the two.
This metaphysical and psychological duality continued to develop until it influenced all aspects of human culture. Because of this process it became increasingly more important, that within the social structure there remained a means by which people could experience a sense of collective unity as well as a sense of individual wholeness. It was this need which gave rise to the unprecedented importance of the Sacred Marriage.
The Holy Mountain
In the early development of the Sacred Marriage, people held the sacred ritual on mountaintops. For the mountain was seen as a supernatural symbol, a place where the Earth rose up to meet the Sky. It was the meeting place of the visible with the invisible. The holy mountain of the Goddess was seen as a Cosmic Mountain, the Axis Mundi, the sacred center of the World around which everything revolved.
On the island of Crete the holy mountain was called Ida. Near the summit of Ida there are caves that have been used for thousands of years as shrines of the Goddess.
In Anatolia, as in Crete, there was a holy mountain also called Ida. And at its summit were sanctuaries of the Great Goddess Cybele, who was known as "the Lady of Ida" and "Mother of all the Gods".
Because the holy mountain was believed to be the mysterious and sacred intersection of the Earth and the Sky, it was held to be the most auspicious place where the God and Goddess would come together in the Sacred Marriage.
The God, now associated with the Sky, descends. While the Goddess, associated with the Earth, ascends. And they unite at the summit of the holy mountain. Through their union they ensure that the Wheel of Life will continue to revolve around this sacred axis of creative power.
As agriculture began to develop and the people gradually formed cities in the fertile valleys, they no longer had easy access to their long familiar mountain shrines. So they built their temples on hilltops or high plateaus near their cities. Even though their temples were now situated far from the original sacred mountain, in ancient Sumer the temple was still referred to as "The House of the Mountain".
As the Sumerian technology developed further, they built their temples to resemble the Cosmic Mountain itself. These massive temple towers in Mesopotamia were called ANKIDA, which means Earth and Sky meeting or uniting. They are known today as ziggurats. At the summit of these stone structures was the bridal chamber, which was reserved for the ritual of the Sacred Marriage. We know this for a fact because of the eye witness account written by the Greek historian, Heroditus, who lived in the 5th century B.C.E.. Even at this late date he described the temples of Babylon and the ritual of the Sacred Marriage.
A further development of this principle of the Cosmic Mountain was in Egypt with the pyramids. There is now very strong evidence that in these magnificent structures, the rituals of the Sacred Marriage also played a predominant role, contrary to the popular belief that these monuments were nothing more than elaborate tombs.(24)
Another development of particular importance to the Sacred Marriage was the advancement of mathematics and the ability to make astronomical calculations. It was believed that the conjunction of the Sun and Moon at particular times of the year, represented the marriage in the Heavens between the Sun-God and Moon-Goddess. As this celestial union was being played out in the Heavens, the ritual of the Sacred Marriage was deliberately calculated to take place here on Earth. As it was done in Heaven, so it was done on Earth. By participating in this grand Cosmic Ritual, the community put itself in accord with the creative processes of Heaven and Earth.
This analogous relationship between the Celestial and the Earthly realms, proved to be an extremely powerful association. It came to signify a union of seemingly opposites on many different levels: the union of the God with the Goddess; the Sun with the Moon; the Sky with the Earth; the King with the Queen; the Male with the Female. This drama of cosmic integration was played out through the ritual of the Sacred Marriage for all to observe and participate in. * * * Illustrations * * *
The most sophisticated symbol that became associated with this Cosmic Process of Integration and The Sacred Marriage was the image of a pair of snakes intertwined in union around the “Tree of Life”. Today, this symbol is known as the Caduceus. It can be still found universally associated with the idea of healing.
The Caduceus first appears as an engraving on a Sumerian cup, called the Liberation cup of Gudea, dated about 2,000 B.C.E.. Within this one symbol we can observe a multitude of associations and concepts, merging and uniting to form a profound message.
As we have seen earlier, for thousands of years the snake was a symbol for the dynamic and regenerative energies of the creative life-force. And as such, it also became associated with sexuality. With the Caduceus we see a pair of snakes, representing the Male and Female polarity united. Significantly, this union takes place encircling the "Tree of Life", which traditionally united the three Worlds: the Underworld, the Earth and the Heavens.
Given the interpretation of these individual symbols then, the Caduceus is almost self-explanatory: through the union of the Male and the Female polarity, that which was separated will be made whole and the harmony of the three Worlds will be restored.
The Caduceus is found in many diverse cultures of the world: Sumer, Egypt, Greece, India and even in the Americas. It is an archetypal symbol, a multi-dimensional image with its roots deep within the psychic and conceptual foundation of the human species.
As this symbol evolved between 2,000-1,000 B.C.E., it became increasingly associated with the internal processes of the individual, rather than with the external rituals of the community.
No one is sure exactly where this new interpretation of the Caduceus and the Sacred Marriage began, but more evidence points to India than anywhere else. India, after all, is one of the few places left on Earth where the ancient heritage of the Goddess still remains. This fact however does not rule out the possibility that this shift in interpretation may have originally developed in Mesopotamia, and gradually diffused along the many trade routes that were established between the two regions. Much of the culture in India developed in just this way.
Be that as it may, it is not really important when or where these metaphysical changes originally occurred. But how this process evolved certainly is most intriguing.
As we have seen, at one time the ancient temples of the Goddess served as places where individuals of the community could participate in the sexual sacraments. Within this spiritual context and over a span of several thousand years, gradually the ritual of the Sacred Marriage took on a new dimension of meaning and interpretation. It became internalized. That is, instead of seeing the God and Goddess only in terms of their external manifestations, as being "out there", the conscious process of mythic association turned inward.
This process of internalization served as a real breakthrough in Consciousness. For now the God and Goddess were perceived as symbols of a polarity within the psychic structure of each human being. It was believed that within each person, there resides an inner Male and an inner Female, an inner God and Goddess. And through the sexual sacrament of the Sacred Marriage, these two aspects of consciousness became united in ecstasy.
The Caduceus now became the perfect symbol to reflect this new internalized reality. The pair of serpents intertwined around the "Tree of Life", became associated with the polarized Life-Energy moving around the spinal column within the human body.
Just as in the mythology and rituals of former ages, where the priestess who represented the Goddess on Earth, would ascend the holy mountain of Ida to meet her lord and lover - the sky Father, here we find this same story completely internalized. The ascending feminine current of energy within the individual is now called Ida. It is perceived to rise from the base of the spine and into the head, where it unites with the masculine energy in a state of rapture.
The masculine energy is then felt to descend from the head to the base of the spine. It is known in Sanskrit as Pingala, which means "fiery, or red". In this way, Pingala may have some association with the holy mountain, as in the case of a volcanic eruption spilling its fiery stream down its sides. However, the masculine energy current eventually came to have its primary association with the Sun - just as the concept of the Male Deity became associated with the image of the Sun.
This fact is indirectly reinforced by the definition given to the word Ida, which has now come to be associated with the lunar image of a "cool refreshing drink".
With these interpretations we find an even deeper layer of symbolic images identified with the Caduceus and the Sacred Marriage. The feminine ascending energy of the body now becomes associated with the Moon, and the male descending energy becomes associated with the Sun. And just as with the earlier mythos surrounding the Sacred Marriage which was specifically enacted at the conjunction of the Sun and the Moon, here we find this new internalized perception of the Sacred Marriage consummated when the lunar and solar currents of the body are united. Thus, we have arrived at the original concept of Yoga.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root Yug, which means "joining together, coupling or linking". The English word "yoke" comes from the same root word, as in "yoking together".
To further specify what kind of union was represented by this internal process, the word Hatha became particularly associated with Yoga. Ha represents the Sun, while Tha represents the Moon. Hatha Yoga then, quite literally means the union of the Sun and Moon. This of course refers to the union of the masculine and feminine polarities, the union of the Ida and the Pingala energy currents within the individual.
In the early stages of this mythos when the external Sun and Moon were united in the heavens, the cosmic mountain was considered the bridge from the Earth to the Celestial realms. The Queen, representing the power of the Earth, ascended the holy mountain to unite with her lover, the King who represented the power of the Sky.
The Tree of Life was also recognized as a sacred bridge between the Worlds. And as this entire story gradually became internalized, the Tree of Life and the Holy Mountain became associated with the spinal column within the body. In this new mythology then, the spinal column becomes The Axis Mundi - The Bridge Between The Worlds.
At the base of the spine at the perineum, the Earth Goddess is believed to reside. In India She is known as Kundalini, and is depicted as a sleeping serpent, coiled deep within the cave of the pelvic floor. The word Kundalini comes from the Sanskrit Kundala, meaning "a coil".
At the auspicious conjunction of the solar and lunar currents the Goddess Kundalini awakens, uncoils as a serpent of energy and ascend the Tree of Life: She rises up the spine to unite with the sky God Shiva, in the bridal chamber of the brain.
As a result of this Yoga or union, a shower of warm ambrosia (energy) falls upon all the realms down below, regenerating their life-energy, awakening their creative potential, spreading peace and harmony throughout the psychosomatic landscape. * * * Illustrations * * *
The Sacred Science
The sexual union of the Male and Female in the ritual of the Sacred Marriage became increasingly interiorized in its mythic associations, until there evolved this entirely new mythos of Yoga. The symbols that were once associated with the elementary phenomena of the Natural World, became re-interpreted in the context of the individual’s psychosomatic structure. This interior dimension became the new stage on which the ritual of the Sacred Marriage would be played out; thus opening a door to an entirely new Reality.
Within the precincts of the early temples an extremely sophisticated technology of sexual practices were developed. And over the span of thousands of years of exploring this technology, there evolved a constellation of techniques to control and manipulate the creative life-force of the body. One of the ways this was done, was through elaborate dances. Another was through various physical positions as in the asanas or Yoga postures. At one time, these asanas numbered in the thousands.
Control of the life-force was also perfected through the use of special breathing techniques, known in Sanskrit as ranayama. The power of sound was also explored, by which one could bring about certain internal changes and states of consciousness through the use of specific sounds, words and chants known as mantras.
This Sacred Science composed of sexual practices, physical postures, breathing techniques and the use of sound, was the culminating fruit of a culture that had existed for well over 30,000 years. This was the Art and Science of Vamacara.
The ancient word Vama in Sanskrit has come to be connected with a wide range of meanings. Generally however, they all center around their associations with the Female. In fact, in one of is its many inflections Vama means “beautiful woman”. Because of this primary association, it also has come to mean “left” or leftside, desire, striving after, wealth and fortune.
The word Cara or Kara means: to go, moving, movable, acting or practicing. In this sense it has become to be associated with the concept of a “Path”, as in a “Spiritual Path”.
In general then, we can define Vamacara as the “Path of the Beautiful Female”, or the “Left-hand Path of Desire”. This ancient perspective was born out of the rhythmic life processes of the Earth. Its spirituality was grounded in our biology, and soared into the open skies of our psychology. It represented a whole and healthy way of life, because it integrated all the many facets of human life into a meaningful and living Cosmos.
This Way of Life celebrated the mysteries of birth and death, and gave sacred meaning to all the life-transforming events within this spectrum. Sexuality was accepted in all its various manifestations as a gift of the Goddess and was perceived as a celebration of our unity: a union of sexual partners; a union of the inner Male and Female; and the union of the individual with the Divine.
What has survived down through the ages of this Universal Science, are only bits and pieces of what was once a tremendous body of knowledge. Some of the existing fragments that we do possess, have been preserve in a collection of works and beliefs known as Tantra.
There have been various definitions for this word, but with very little understanding of the conceptual evolution behind it. In the early stages of the Goddess culture around 30,000 – 20,000 B.C.E., we find many statues of the Goddess with patterns of lines representing nets or webs. It was believed that just as the mother, out of the fabric of her own body, spins and weaves the physical form of her child within her womb, the Great Mother Goddess spins and weaves all forms out of her own self. Within her womb of the invisible and the unmanifest, she weaves the threads of the visible into the tapestry of all material forms.
It is within this ancient context that Tantra has its origin. In Sanskrit, the root word Tan, means “thread or web”. Tra means “tool”. The original concept was that of a tool, used for weaving the threads of Life into an integrated whole.
At another level of meaning, Tan has come to mean “expand”, while Tra means to “liberate”. In connection with this level of interpretation, Tantra can be seen as an ongoing creative process of integration that results in a continual expansion of consciousness. Through the integration of apparent polarities within the psyche, consciousness begins to shift from one dimension to another resulting in an expanding synthesis.
Not surprisingly, remnants of the Art and Science of Vamacara Tantra have been discovered in all of the ancient civilizations that have shaped our world today. With its holistic bio-spirituality and its life-affirming sexual practices, it was a tremendously potent source of creativity and inspiration within many cultures and religions.
Vamacara Tantra’s spiritual ideals are Universal, because they are connected to the cyclic processes of the Natural World and remain grounded in the organic or biological life of all people.
Our Mother’s Bond
The plain and observable fact that every human being has come into the world from a woman’s body, served as a powerful analogy for the origins of all Life. And it remains an essential part of the metaphysical foundation of Vamacara Tantra.
In the Maha-Nirvana-Tantra, the Gods address the Mother Goddess by declaring:
“Thou art the Origin of all the manifestations; Thou art the birthplace of even Us… Thou art both the subtle and the gross, manifest and veiled, formless, yet with form. Who can understand Thee?”(25)
In the metaphysics of Vamacara Tantra, the bond that develops between mother and child continues to serve as a wonderful analogy to the relationship that develops between the individual and the Divine. In fact, the general components of the mother/child bonding process correlate with the four principles on which the entire metaphysical structure of Vamacara rests. These four principles are known as: Artha, Kama, Dharma and Moksha, and represent the primal ground from which Vamacara Tantra evolved.
Each of these foundational principles can be interpreted on many different levels, but each has its origins in our relationship with our mother.
The mother is the entire world to the newborn baby, providing everything the baby needs to grow and mature. The mother is the very source of nourishment and abundance. And because she unfailingly gives herself to her baby, this develops a sense of security and trust.
In the light of this primary bonding process, Vamacara also recognizes the Earth to be a manifestation or extension of the mother. All human beings, animals and plants are dependent on the life support systems of the Earth. The processes of the Earth are inherently connected with the life processes of the human body. The Earth is the source of our body, and She sustains and nourishes us from the abundance of Her body.
Vamacara further recognizes the inherent connection between the health of the land, and the health of the community. Fertility of the Earth, always meant abundance and wealth for the people. Anything that destroys or diminishes the ability of the Earth to produce food, has always been perceived as a loss of wealth, security and ultimately Life itself. This fundamental realization provided a sustainable economy for thousands of years and was the very foundation of what was considered a civilized society.
There is a direct connection between the words economy and ecology. In fact, they come from the same Greek word, oikos, meaning house or household. At one time it was universally recognized that in order to have a sustainable economy within the individual household, one had to have a sustainable relationship with the larger “household” of the Earth.
If we trace the Greek word oikos back to its Indo-European root we find the word, weik, from which we get the Anglo-Saxon, wicca, or in current English, witch.(26) Contrary to our popular mythological distortions, this association reveals a time when witches, the powerful females of the clan, were in charge of managing their household economies through their spiritual relationship with the Earth. This was seen as the ultimate source of power and wealth.
The recognition of this primary bond with our Mother Earth became expressed in the Tantric scriptures as the principle of Artha, meaning both “Earth” and “Wealth”. This basic principle represents the deep-seated feelings of connectedness, security and trust. If one is in accord with the principle of Artha, one realizes on an emotional level the organic and primal bond that exists between oneself and the Earth, and every being that lives upon Her.
Many aboriginal people all over the world are absolutely horrified when they witness the massive destruction of the environment, caused by their so called “advanced” neighbors. This is because these “primitive” people are still living with their bond to the Earth intact. The impact would be similar to that of a small child, watching his or her mother being killed. The loss is not just of one particular individual in the child’s life, but a collapse of the entire world.
A major component in the bonding process is the development of our relationship with that part of the Earth with which we are most intimate – our physical body. Not only is our mother the source of our nourishment, but also the origin of our first experiences of pleasure and enjoyment. How this process unfolded for us, greatly influences how we continue to relate to our body.
Furthermore, if something happened to interfere with bonding at this critical stage, the growth of the brain itself may very well be impaired. It has been discovered that tactile stimulation and pleasure is absolutely essential for the proper development of the brain at early stages of growth.
In Tantra, this level of bonding is called Kama, meaning “desire, enjoyment or pleasure”. It suggests that physical pleasure and enjoyment are absolutely necessary for all stages of human growth, be it biological, psychological or spiritual.
The very origins of self-esteem and self-worth are intricately involved with this level of bonding between the mother and child. All pleasurable stimulation sends a message to the child of acceptance and love. While all painful experiences send an equally powerful message of rejection and insecurity. These messages are translated not only in terms of the primary mother-child relationship, but the child’s relationship to his or her own body as well.
If the baby has consistently been denied pleasurable stimulation and repeatedly received messages of rejection, not only will the development of the brain suffer, but personal self-esteem and self-worth will be undermined.
Furthermore, there is a great chance that pleasure and pain will become confused. And the experience of intimacy itself, will become associated with pain and insecurity. Unfortunately, this can remain as a dark subconscious undercurrent influencing all future relationships.
If on the other hand, the child receives an abundance of pleasurable stimulation and messages of physical acceptance, brain development will be greatly enhanced and the emotional stability of a positive self-image will be established. The experience of intimacy will be associated with pleasure and security. The child will be able to take delight in all forms of pleasure, and perceive these as the inherent qualities of his or her world.
As the individual matures, the fulfillment of desires will quite appropriately be perceived as the natural expression of enjoyment and pleasure. And because the individual has become emotionally validated through feelings of abundance, security and enjoyment, he or she is then able to easily expand the primary relationship with the mother to include others. And in most cases, this healthy expansion of the bonding process will eventually include a mate.
This next stage of development then, is also reflected in the Tantric principle of Kama. Here however, the Divine is no longer simply regarded as the Universal Mother but as the Hirodule of Heaven, the Consort who leads one into the life-transforming ecstatic realms, either as a physical partner, or as the inner mate of the psyche.
Within this unfolding process, sexual desire is recognized as a virtue. In fact, the word virtue originates from the Latin virtus, meaning: manly strength, virility or the power of the generative life-force. From the viewpoint of Tantra, the male who engages in a sexual relationship with one who he considers to incarnate the power of the Goddess, is known as a Hero, or Vira in Sanskrit.
The way of the Hero was seen as a natural process of spiritual maturation. He does not fear desire. He does not reject or suppress his sexual energy. He does not set out on a path of conquest.
Because he moves from a place of his own security and personal power, he is able to surrender to the feminine principles of pleasure and desire. He is strong enough to surrender to the Mystery of Life. He is not seeking to escape Life or control it. Rather, he is moved to embrace Life more completely.
As one is increasingly moved to surrender to the Mystery of Life, he or she begins to appreciate the next metaphysical principle of Vamacara Tantra, known as Dharma.
The word Dharma comes from the root word “Dhri”, meaning to hold up, support or maintain. Dharma is the natural order of the Universe, the Cosmic Law that supports all things. It was originally perceived as the Law of the Universal Mother. And in almost every civilization, it was believed that the Mother Goddess was responsible for giving the rules of Life to human beings. Even today in our culture, we still depict Justice as a female holding a pair of scales.
This image most likely had it roots in the Egyptian concept of Dharma, known as Maat. Maat was personified as a beautiful Goddess wearing a feather in her hair. At the time of a person’s death, She weighed their heart-soul against Her feather of Truth in the balance scales of Judgement.
In ancient Sumeria this principle of Dharma was known as ME. The ancient Chinese called it the Tao, or “The Way”. To understand the principle it is essential that it be placed in its original association with both Artha, and Kama. Within this holistic framework, an individual recognizes his or her interconnectedness with, and dependence on the life-support systems of the Earth.
Through this basic realization, comes a natural desire to maintain a harmonious connection with these nurturing and self-sustaining processes. By remaining within this primal bond, one develops such a sense of security and trust that one is able to relax and enjoy the inherent pleasures of Life.
It is within this context that we find the original sense of Dharma. It was not determined by dogmatic rules set down in some sacred book, or imposed by the social structure. Because a dynamic bond with the Divine had already been established, first in the image of the Mother, then expanded in the image of the Lover, a sense of harmony with Nature was a tangible reality, and one’s desires were spontaneously in accord with the creative flow of the Universe.
This was the psychological reality for all those who lived within the cultural matrix of the Goddess. It essentially meant that human happiness could be trusted as a guide for one’s life. The natural flow of the Universe was perceived through a deep sense of belonging and well being. Everything was connected, and therefore everything was respected.
If there is one rule, or code of law that demonstrates this realization above all others, it is the idea of treating others as one would like to be treated. This idea is far older than any of our currently established religions and is firmly grounded in the principle of Dharma. The underlying assumption however, is that every individual has been adequately bonded through the principles of Artha and Kama, and is consequently healthy.
If these earlier stages of bonding have been somehow inadequate, then the individual’s sense of self has been injured. Almost all neurotic and compulsive behaviors associated with sex, food, drugs and money can be seen as reflections of problems originating in the primary bonding process. If one’s natural expressions of creativity are denied, then this same energy is unnaturally expressed in destructive ways.
It has been demonstrated many times through animal studies, that the suppression of physical pleasure results in a perverted expression of cruelty and aggression.
If the primary bonding of Artha and Kama has been adequately established in a person’s life, the qualities of caring, affection, empathy and compassion have also been developed; only then will one’s personal actions reflect a natural consideration of others.
As this principle of Dharma continued to evolve, there arose a level of maturity within human consciousness that blossomed like a beautiful flower. This flower is the concept of Ahimsa, “nonviolence” or “harmlessness”. Ahimsa was widely considered in India to be Sakalo Dharma, the “entire law”.
The rarified heights of this ethical concept were firmly rooted in the perception that each and every expression of Life is an individual manifestation of the Whole, and therefore connected and related to every other part. To injure any part of this web of Life would ultimately bring harm to all other life forms – including oneself.
As we have explored the principles of Artha, Kama, and Dharma we have seen the primary bonding process as a universal model for our relationship with the Divine. In this model, the Divine is first perceived as our nurturing Mother. As one further matures the Divine is eventually perceived as an indulgent Lover.
Within this context we have observed an unfolding process of psychological and emotional development. Associated with the Principle of Artha is security and trust; with Kama, enjoyment and the natural fulfillment of desires, whereby one develops self-esteem and a sense of personal power. Related to Dharma is the concept of Universal Harmony and the ethical principle of consideration for the welfare of others, be they humans, animals, plants or the Earth Herself.
Turning our attention now to the fourth and last principle of Vamacara Tantra, it is very important to remember that all these principles are interrelated and function as an integrated whole. To separate or isolate any one of them from their original cultural and metaphysical setting, presents an incomplete and distorted view. This is especially true when considering this last principle – Moksha.
When human beings made the shift from hunting and gathering societies to the agricultural communities of the fertile river valleys, their perception of Life dramatically changed. Because of their agricultural success people now had the time and energy to explore and develop in many new ways. Life was no longer tied down to the demands of physical survival, but was experienced with a sense of security and enjoyment. And it is within this kind of cultural setting, that we find the principle known as Moksha. Moksha means freedom. Freedom – not from Life, but Freedom of Life; in the sense of playful creativity, exploration, and the abandonment to the passion of experiencing Life in its fullest.
This principle represents the primal motivation of all human beings, and is the dynamic and creative energy that has given birth to all cultures on Earth.
When a child experiences a deep sense of physical and emotional security, automatically his or her creative energies are released. The child who is secure will forget about food, sleep, parental attention or anything else, and become completely absorbed in play. This play however is intentional. It is internally motivated by the unconscious mind. The child is engaged in the process of learning, exploring and discovery. This natural process is the fuel for all future development. It is the mind-expanding drug that produces a profound sense of joy.
Watching a child play, you can observe how the eyes light up and the whole being suddenly becomes present. You can almost see the billion neural connections being formed; the mind weaving together associations and information into a complex neural network.
Without any books or teachers, the child is learning physics, the laws of gravity and motion, how objects fit together, and how they come apart, as well as their shapes, textures and colors. The child is exploring the almost infinite wonders of his or her environment.
This is the flow of Life’s creative energies manifesting in a natural and unobstructed way. Human beings have always sought to enlarge their fields of perception, to extend their range of conscious awareness, and to explore new areas of understanding, not because we have to, or out of a grim sense of duty, but rather because this is the way we have fun. This is our greatest joy. And this is Moksha.
As this process matures in the life of an individual, spirituality is perceived as the conscious surrendering to the continuous unfolding process of creative expression. He or she then becomes a conscious participant in the Cosmic Play of Creation. Creativity is seen as the celebration of the Spirit in our lives, whereby we bless ourselves, one another and the Earth.
The spiritually mature individual becomes so integrated with this sense of creative play, that he or she may become involved in birthing something unique and wonderful in the world, be it an actual child or some creative expression of the hands or head. Nothing in Creation is insignificant or without a purpose. And so it is with any act of our creative efforts, no matter how small. This is how we nourish ourselves and others. This is how we all become more wealthy. As the Divine eventually becomes perceived as a Lover, the spiritually mature individual who is bonded to the Creative Principles of Life, is able to abandon himself or herself to the meditation of sexual play. He or she feels the freedom to express these creative energies in an infinite number of ways. To truly liberate the sexual energy of one’s body and mind, is to liberate the creative energies of the Spirit in one’s life.
These energies may manifests in an explosion of creativity, powerful enough to birth a new civilization, a new technology or a new piece of art. Whatever it is, as the Divine expresses Herself through our sexual and creative energies, we are transported beyond our physical boundaries, liberated from our small ideas of limitation, plunged headlong into the flaming core of Creative Desire that births and sustains the Universe.
This is the process of Vamacara Tantra, the weaving together of the forces of Darkness and Light, the Earth and the Sky, the Goddess and the God, the Female and the Male. This process of integration follows the observable processes of the Natural World, and the ever renewing cycles of the Earth which so beautifully reflect our own continuous process of unfolding potential.
This then is The Gospel of Vamacara, “The Path of Pleasure” which had its origins in the culture of the Goddess as far back as 30,000 years ago. Its message is the message of Creation itself, which is beyond our terribly small ideas of salvation and perfection. Vamacara provides the Ethos, the conceptual matrix out of which the Art and Science of Tantra Yoga could evolve. Vamacara rests on the foundation of complete and utter acceptance of the Natural World, eventually giving birth to the four great principles of Artha/Abundance, Kama/Enjoyment, Dharma/Harmony and Moksha/Freedom.
Being sufficiently grounded in this understanding, one is then able to enter into the practice of Tantra to help facilitate the actualization or expression of these four principles in one’s life. Through Vamacara Tantra the goal becomes the process: an ever deepening relaxation into the universal unfolding process of Abundance, Enjoyment, Harmony and Freedom
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1. Barbara G. Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopdia of Myths and Secrets, p. 635.
2. Joseph Campbell, Primitive Mythology, pp.334-45.
3. Marija Gimburas, In All Her Names: Exploration of the Feminine in Divinity, pp.25,30.
4. Walker, op.cit., p.685.
5. Walker, ibid., p.636.
6. Walker, ibid., p.635.
7. Walker, ibid., p.636.
8. Walker, ibid., p.591.
9. Riane Eisler, The Chalice & The Blade, pp.17-18.
10. Ann Baring & Jules Cashford, The Myth Of The Goddess: Evolution Of An Image, p.20.
11. Baring & Cashford, ibid., p.6.
12. Walker, op.cit., p.646.
13. Baring & Cashford, op.cit., p.19.
14. Walker, op.cit., p.670.
15. Walker, ibid., p.670.
16. Baring & Cashford, op.cit., p.21.
17. Walker, op.cit., p.218.
18. Walker, ibid., pp.903-4.
19. Joseph Campbell, Oriental Mythology, p.89.
20. Walker, op.cit., p.126.
21. Quoted by Campbell, Oriental Mythology, p.218.
22. Samuel Kramer, History Begins At Sumer, p.286.
23. The Encyclopedia of Religion (16 Vols.), Editor in chief – Mircea Eliade, pp.309-13.
24. Robert Bauval & Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery, Unlocking The Secrets Of The Pyramids. Crown. 1994.
25. Quoted by Walker, op.cit., p.489.
26. The American Heritage Dictionary, Appendix: Indo-European Roots, p.1548.
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