Shakti and Maya

The Great Goddess is both Shakti and Maya, both being two sides of the same. Shakti is the primordal life energy of creation. Shakti is the creative energy of life. On a grander scale She is the divine force behind the whole created universe, and without Shakti nothing would be. Shakti is the essence of Maya, and Maya is the phenomenal experience of creation. Maya is known as the great illusion. Maya is the great theatre of existence, the great dream of being. Maya is all that we know and all that we experience. This world, our world, your world, my world, is Maya, the being of the great goddess. Without Maya nothing exists, for existence is Maya. It is known as the great illusion, but this should not be understood just negatively. Maya is positive as well. There is something great and wonderful about Maya, which I will explain in just a minute.

The ascetic, renunciating path sees Maya negatively and so seeks to leave it behind or go beyond it. And yet that path leads to voidness, to nothingness. It leads to the Reality beyond existence, before existence. It leads to Brahman, the unmanifest Reality, the Reality before existence. It is possible to renunciate life and disolve into the unmanifest void. This is the ultimate death. When one reaches this, or renunciates into this void, if one can, then only Brahman is. Then there is nothing. Maya is left behind, but nothing remains. Yet when this ultimate void is reached, a great paradox will be revealed, the paradox of Brahman. Let me try to explain. Brahman is the ultimate void. Brahman is essentially nothing, and yet Brahaman is the ultimate Reality. Brahman is the ultimate Being, the Cosmic Self, beyond gender and beyond qualification. Brahman is simultaneously ultimate nothing and ultimate Self.

Brahman is both Unconscious and Super-conscious. This is the great paradox. To better clarify this reality, we can say that Brahman in Itself, in pure Essence, is the unmanifest, unconscious void, and yet from this Void comes the manifest and the conscious. Brahman is the great non-existence, and yet from this comes existence. Thus, although Brahman remains eternally the Void, the great Unknown, Brahman is also the Source of all existential experience. Thus, where Brahman is, there is the existential void and also the Source of existence. Existence spontaneously emerges from Brahman, and since Maya is existence, Brahman spontaneously creates Maya. So from the standpoint of Brahman, the Void is eternal and existence is eternally unfolded. Thus, if Brahman can be reached by the renunciate, if the Void is reached, new existence will spontaneously emerge from this Void, because that is the nature of the Void. The Void will produce existence. The Void will produce Maya. This is how Maya was created and this is how Maya will be eternally created.

Thus, Maya can be transcended, can be renunciated, but new Maya will emerge, for this is the nature of the universal Being. This is also the secret of transformation and evolution. For there is spiritual value in renunciation of Maya, whereby one releases the illusions and attachments of self-existence, and from this act of transcendence the void will be reached and from this void will emerge new creative activity. A newness of creative being will emerge from the renunciation, and due to the energies transformed by the sacrifices of renunciation there shall emerge an evolution of creative being.

Thus, the tantra teaches the value of renunciating Maya, but it does not suggest that Maya is wholly negative since Maya is the positive creation of Brahman. The world of Maya is meant to be, meant to be experienced, understood and enjoyed. You can leave Maya behind, but Maya will spontaneously re-emerge, hopefully in a more meaningful, beautiful and enjoyable way. You can transmute one dream back to the source of dreaming, but another dream will eventually emerge. In other words, if you feel that the present dream is less than right, or less than real, then you can transcend this dream for another, and you can do this until finally the dream feels right and real.

Then, this will be your Maya, your reality, until the time comes when you see through this illusion and thus see into the next dream. Ultimately all dreams are not the ultimate Reality, and you can continually reject dream after dream, continually renunciating life experience, but you will never really find that ultimate Reality as an ultimate experience, for all experience is still Maya. This may appear to be a nihilistic view, that we can never truly reach that ultimate goal, but what one must remember is that this goal is but a dream. It is the ultimate illusion. You may be continually dissatisfied with life and so take the extreme path of renunciation, but then you will always be dissatisfied because nothing will ever be satisfying except for the experience of the Ultimate Reality. Yet that ultimate Reality is nothing but the Void, and all that can be experienced is but a phenomenon of this Ultimate. The Ultimate is forever neti neti, not this, not that. Whenever reached, so to speak, a new phenomenon or new experience of This will spontaneously emerge. Of course, this new emerging experience may be closer to Reality than any previous experience, but it will never be the ultimate eternal Reality or Being Itself, for any experience is but one reflection of Being, and every experience, no matter how deep or spiritual, will be relatively temporal and changing.

There is no ultimate, eternal, unchanging experience of Being Itself. There is no ultimate knowing, gnosis or knowledge, which is That Itself forever eternal. All experiences are relatively limited, from the standpoint of the Ultimate Brahman, and yet all experiences come from the Ultimate Brahman. This is why we say that all spiritual experiences are both veils of Brahman and revelations of Brahman. This is where we can understand the positive and negative paradox of Maya. Maya both veils and reveals. Maya, or any experience, whether thought to be spiritual or mundane, reveals one of the many qualities of Brahman, the Cosmic Being, and also veils a more deeper, essential reality of Brahman. We need to see this truth of Maya's relativity, the relativity of Self-experience. Once understood, we can view the spiritual path as an evolving penetration into the deeper truth of any experience or a gradual uncovering of the veils of Maya. Thus, the spiritual devotee, whether male or female, acts as male in relation to Maya, as he deliberately uncovers the veils of Maya and actively penetrates deeper into the essence of Maya.

This devotee, then, becomes the spiritual reflection of Shiva, who loves Maya, for how she happens to appear and how she is to him, but is also continually undressing her, taking away the unessentials, and penetrating ever deeper to her infinite essence which is none other than Brahman, the Essence of Shiva himself.

Brahman, Shiva and Vishnu

Maya is the Great goddess. Shiva is the great god. Both emerge together simultaneously from the Brahman, the One reality, which is the Great Void. We should understand Brahman as both Void and infinite potential, as nothing and potentially everything. Brahman is the great ocean of being, the Mother of existence. This is one side of Brahman, the Mother side, Matar, the aspect of infinite potential. The other side of Brahman is the great destroyer of veils, Who brings Maya to naught, only so that Maya is reborn through the Mother aspect as re-manifested potential. The destroyer aspect is Shiva, the penetrating and unveiling consciousness. Maya is the infinity of veils and the infinity of appearances. Shiva rips apart the veils of Maya, though She continually reveals inner veils, and He penetrates deeper into her essence. The Mother aspect of Brahman is actually Vishnu, the ocean of infinite potential of which Maya is the appearance. Thus it is said that Maya is the dream of Vishnu. Thus, Brahman is continually creating Maya, as spiritual potential is continually seeking manifestation and experience, while Brahman is also continually destroying Maya, or the veils of Maya. Existence, or the manifold pluralities of experience, are continually being destroyed and contunually being renewed.

We call this the polarised activity of Brahman. It is known as the power of Shiva and Vishnu, though remember that these powers are aspects of Brahman, the One Cosmic Being. Brahman is the source of this polar activity, but as I said Brahman is also the Void. This Void is spontaneously creative, but it also is eternally passive, Just Is, but neti neti, not this or that. As I said Brahman is the great paradox and the source of all apparent contradiction in life. All is naught but Brahman. On one hand, Brahman is eternally evasive, for Brahman is the Self-Reality which transcends all thoughts and representations of It. As is said of the Tao, you can understand aspects of the Tao, you can speak of the Tao, but what you know and what you speak of is not the Tao Itself.

So, Brahman is the source of all knowing, all experiences, all creations, but not this or that. Brahman is the One enjoying creation and experience, and enjoying the many powers and revelations, but Brahman is not the creation, nor the experience. And yet, Brahman is the creation as well, since there is none else but Brahman. The contradiction sounds absurd, but you have to understand underneath language.

As said, on the one hand, Brahman-Self is eternally evasive and transcending. Yet on the other hand, Brahman is the infinite ocean of potentialities. From within that transcending Universal Self, the Cosmic Experiencer, are all the infinite potentials of Being. So, Brahman is not only the elusive transcending Experiencer, but also the infinite possibilities of manifested experience. This understanding of Brahman as the Ultimate Self and the infinite potential is known as Vishnu. We must understand the metaphysical principle that whenever Brahman is defined, this becomes one of the dieties or aspects of Brahman, so that Brahman can return to being the undefined Source of all qualities. Thus, we find Vishnu, as the Cosmic Being or Divine Self-experiencer.

This Self is free of being fooled by the illusions of experience, yet enjoys experience and is able to incarnate into any creative form. Within Vishnu, the Great Self, are all the infinite potentials of manifested Self. Thus, it is Vishnu, and the potentials of Vishnu, which continuously incarnate into existence. That is why they say that Vishnu is the perpetuator or preserver of existence. Vishnu is the Divine Self which incarnates.

You and me and all of us are incarnations of Vishnu, for there really is only one Being. Yet, once incarnated, as body, mind and emotion, this individual personality forgets Who it is. That transcending Self-experiencer, Vishnu, Who is now incarnating and experiencing, is forgotten by the personality who is overwhelmed by the forces and appearances of this world in which it lives, this Maya. Vishnu lives in Maya, for Maya is the world of its appearance and the only world of which to experience. The world of Maya is necessary for divine potentials to manifest, and yet these manifested divine potentials become the entangled webs and veils which keep us enchanted and make the true divine Self elusive. Manifestation is needed to reveal the divine potentials, but coincidentally it veils divine essence and the Divine Self experiencing manifestation.

Vishnu is the preserver of Maya, for Maya is the field of manifestation in which Vishnu can experience some of His infinite potentials. Maya is also the trap and illusion veiling the true Self of Vishnu. But Vishnu is indifferent. Vishnu just loves the appearances of His Self-potential. Thus, Vishnu has a positive outlook on creation. Though creation is both revelation and veil, Vishnu is just concerned with the revelation aspect.

It is Shiva who seeks to unravel the tangled web and unveil Maya. Shiva and Vishnu are two aspects of Brahman. Shiva is the power to transcend existence, or Maya, and Vishnu is the power to perpetuate existence or Maya, as Vishnu's infinite potentials continually appear as Maya. Shiva transcends Maya by the power of pure consciousness to see through the illusion or dream of Maya, and thus destroy Maya. Vishnu perpetuates Maya by continually bringing forth new potentials into existence. We could view two aspects of Vishnu as the Mother of existence, the Ocean of Divine potentials, and as the creative power to manifest these potentials.

Creation and Consciousness

Maya is creation and Shiva is consciousness, and the two together make a Cosmic Dance of Love. The god consciousness needs the goddess creation in order for there to be something to be conscious of. And creation needs consciousness in order that it may be known and experienced.

Also, consciousness can penetrate deeper into the essence of creation, and creation can unfold evermore consciously. But as consciousness intercourses in creation, various levels of consciousness appear, as the pure consciousness, or Shiva, often becomes over-involved and lost in the trance of Maya. So, in creation there are various levels of consciousness, depending on the degree of consciousness being obsessed by and lost in creation or Maya.

Now, from the standpoint of consciousness, or Shiva, creation has a positive and negative value. Positively, creation or Maya is loved because it is all that consciousness can truly know and because Maya can be so very beautiful and enjoyable. Maya is the art-form of life.

Negatively, Shiva consciousness realises how Maya can trap it and obsess it, and thus Shiva must break free of Maya and transcend her spell. Shiva, then, must respect the positive and negative of Maya. He cannot help but love Her, but He must not become trapped by Her. This is the plight of all men. They adore and are virtually obsessed with the female, but they instinctually fear the power of the woman to bind their freedom. Shiva has this archetypal problem. He loves Maya but also wants to be free of Her.

In the stories of Shiva we find Shiva the lover and Shiva the ascetic. In may be fine in mythology for Shiva to have five faces and a bunch of contradictions, but if one man is to be Shiva there needs to be some resolution of this. The resolution is that Shiva can love Maya, while continually unveiling her illusions and penetrating deeper into Her secret essence.

Thus, Shiva can be transcending Maya, while loving every minute of it. He can go beyond and not get stuck in any one dream, belief, attachment or appearance of Maya, while simultaneously enjoying whatever dream or illusion or appearance happens to be present at the moment. This is Shiva the great hero. He who plays with fire. He who plays with Maya without getting trapped.

Shiva the Hero does not just become an ascetic and withdraw from Maya. Neither does He weaken and become trapped by Her powers to weave a love spell of superflous attachment. The great Shiva should not frighten away from Maya, fearing himself become lost in her dream spell, and neither should he lose himself in all the various attachments of creation if he decides to play in the dance of love. Shiva the hero becomes master of Maya, not victom of Maya.

The diffculty with Maya is Her power to produce a spell on consciousness. Maya appears to be real, appears to be the only reality. The individual consciousness, which in essence is the One Spirit, becomes entangled in the appearances and emotional attachments of Maya and believes that this world is the one and only reality. The person is thus 'played' by Maya, instead of the person playing in Maya. The person is obsessed by Maya, compelled by Maya and bounded by Maya.

But Shiva is the conscious will which breaks free of this illusion, transcends the illusion, and thus destroys the illusion. This quality or power of Shiva is continually penetrating through the illusion, through pure consciousness and will, to return to the divine Essence, the Source, the pure Self. That Source is Brahman, but as I said, Brahman can never really be known, except as the Void or the eternal Unknown, but still, Shiva keeps on penetrating deeper into the Essence, returning ever closer to His own hidden Self.

Thus, Shiva is the great destroyer of Maya, the illusion at hand. Vishnu is the great lover of Maya as the manifested revelation of Self-potentials. When these two divine powers, the destroyer and the lover, are united in one being, we have the Hero Shiva, Who comes ever closer to the Divine Gnosis by a loving recognition or penetrating insight into the deeper essence of Maya. The Hero Shiva loves Maya, not just for her appearance alone, but because her appearance or form, as one of the many revelations of Self, can lead to the gnosis of divine essence. Maya is the only revelation of Divine Self, so it is only through Her that consciousness can penetrate closer to the Essence.

The two great aspects of Shiva are pure consciousness and the will to penetrate back to the Essence, the Source or Self of existence. Consciousness is the power of the penetration, the power of insight through Maya into Essence. The Spiritual Will of Shiva is the determination to penetrate through Maya and unveil the Essence or Source of Maya. An additional third great aspect of Shiva is the lover of Maya, which can be thought of as the love quality of Vishnu, who enjoys the experience of the manifested divine revelaions.

Now, we have suggested that Vishnu is primarily that essential Self-experiencer and also the Self containing all potential. We can also say that this Self loves to manifest its potentials and enjoys these manifestations, even though these revelations of Self may also be veils and become traps. We should also remember that these qualities of Vishnu, as well as the qualities of Shiva, are all essentially the qualities of Brahman, the One. The Self-experiencer, the divine potentials, the Maya, and the conscious will to return to self, and the Lover of all, are all aspects of the One Brahman. So in the tantra we can speak of Brahman as the Mother of all. On one hand, Brahman can be understood as the Self transcending all creation, and on the other hand, Brahman is the Mother of all creation. Here, the transcending Self is the masculine truth and the Ocean of potentials is the feminine truth. The great Mother, or Matar, contains all potentialities. These potentials subsist passively, awaiting recognition and manifestation. The Mother of potentials can give birth to these, but She needs the power or will-to-create. And She has this power within her essence. It is the creative power of Shakti. This is called Vimarsa-Sakti, the active and deliberate life-affirming energy of creation. In pictures she is red, being a vibrant, active force. This life energy is the will-to-become. It is the power source of the created universe and the power behind Maya. Shakti is the expressive power. She is life potential seeking the joy of manifestation. She is the joy of manifesting, for joy is the cause or energy of manifestation. So, the Great Mother giving birth to all things, to all experiences, and to all Maya, is Shakti power manifesting divine potential. The Mother is the Ocean of divine potentials, sometimes attributed to Vishnu or to Brahman, but still this is the Mother aspect of Reality. The Mother has the potential and ability to give birth to all divine possibility. She is eternally ready to give birth, only needing a special active power to activate or catalyse the birth, the actualisation of the awaiting potential. This activating power, this energy charge to manifest the potential, is of course Shakti. Now for the real shocker.

That Shakti comes from Shiva. The Shakti is actually transmitted to the Mother goddess through the lingam of Shiva. This is why the Lingam is so significant as the fertiliser and inseminator of life. In the ancient teachings, the Mother held all the divine potentials for new birth and was able to give birth, while the man, or lingam, was known to instigate, activate and energy spark that birth of potential to manifestation. And yet the activator is the goddess Shakti. The secret is found in olden artifacts of the Lingam, where inside is secretly hidden the goddess Shakti. So through the excited lingam, Shakti is transmitted, and this Shakti felt by the woman as coming from the man's excited lingam excites the woman's divinity and activates that divinity to come forth. Thus, Shakti is the excitement throbbing inside the Lingam, the excitement and delight of this sensual world and the love of divine manifestation. Now let me tell you another secret. The Shakti inside the lingam originated in the woman. Shakti is a female essence, though she lives in man as well. But Shakti originates in woman. In woman's essence is the sexual and life-affirming energy of Shakti, which appears and manifests as Maya, the Beautiful. Man receives the Shakti from woman and this shakti accumulates and excites in the lingam, where upon the lingam seeks to return that shakti charge to woman, to excite and activate more of the woman's shakti. Shakti thus builds upon the exchange of herself. So, Shakti comes into man from the essence of woman. For woman, it may seem that Shakti originates from man. This is because the woman is not necessarily conscious of originally transmitting shakti to man, and her first awareness of shakti will be the shakti returned to her from man. Man, though, is aware of the shakti coming from woman and is usually aware of his will to give the shakti to woman. Woman can discover her shakti within and become more conscious of its expression and effect in the world. This is the sexual and life-affirming force of woman. Yet, more often, woman will find that her shakti becomes conscious through man, through man desiring her and giving her pleasure. Thus, the sexual and life-affirming energy of Shakti originates in woman herself, yet is awakened, as it were, by man who was awakened by the shakti originating from woman. So it is said that Shiva, represented in man, awakens the Shakti of woman, through the Lingam, and yet the secret force of Shiva's Lingam is none other than Shakti Herself, transmitted unconsciously by woman. Since the shakti is first unconscious, and transmitted unconsciously to man, man is first conscious of Shakti, first to recognize Shakti as coming from woman, and so man consciously projects this energy back to woman, and the divine love dance goes on.

Shiva is the energy of consciousness. Shakti is the energy of life-expression or sensual expression. Both need each other. The life expressive energy or sensual energy needs to become conscious and fully awake. And consciousness needs life energy or sensual energy to enjoy. Thus, consciousness and life dance together in love. Shiva is the power of consciousness and the will to be more conscious. Shakti is the power of life and sensuality seeking expression. And both powers derive from the Being of Brahman.

Shakti is the goddess of life energy, which is both vital and sexual*. The great goddess of tantra is Shakti, though she is sometimes known as Shaktimaya. Shakti and Maya are really inseparable, though they each can be distinguished as two metaphysical powers. Shakti is the deliberating energy of life or that great force which ever-seeks to create and manifest the various potentials of life. She is not still, not calm, not passive. She is active, vital, creative. She is also pleasure seeking and the opposite of the ascetic.

She is the pleasure principle itself. It is this Shakti which is responsible for Maya. We can say that Maya is the effect of Shakti and Shakti is the cause of Maya. They go together. Where there is Shakti, Maya appears. Where there is Maya, Shakti is there in its essence. So, this liveliness of Shakti energy is the essence or cause of Maya. When one speaks of being lost in Maya, one could also speak of being lost in Shakti energy, for Shakti is always seeking the pleasure of manifestation, always actively creating experiences to love. Shakti is life-affirming. Shakti weaves Maya, the Maya of life experience. So, Shakti and Maya come as one goddess, or shall we say two sides of the same goddess, the essence and the appearance. But we can also speak of these as two goddesses or two types of goddess.

The goddess Shakti is that intense life manifesting energy, that vital life essence which ever seeks to become manifest, and Shakti is that intense sexual energy ever seeking greater pleasure and expansiveness. Thus, the goddess Shakti is the creative power and the sexual power. The goddess Maya is both the beauty and the obsessions of life. She is the most beautiful and seductive of all goddesses, and She is also the beauty and seductive entrapments that we become obsessed with. She is the great dream itself, both wonderful and bewitching. She is both the divine virgin princess whom you always dreamed to love and the evil witch who traps you in her spell. Maya is both these. She is most powerful and most dangerous. And her essential energy is Shakti.

The goddess Shakimaya is both active and passive. Her active energy is shakti, the primordial life-sexual energy which activates and excites the divine potentialities and produces the manifold universe of appearances. She creates the appearances and experiences for consciousness to enjoy. Shakti excites consciousness. She is the will-to-excite.

Maya is the passive aspect of the goddess, though she is certainly effacatious. Maya is the beauty and seductiveness of divine appearance. She is passive because she just is beautiful and seductive. She doesn't try to be seductive or actively project seductivess. She just is. She just is seductively beautiful. And this passive beauty excites man, or excites consciousness. Thus are the active and passive aspects of Shaktimaya, though let us remember that these aspects of shakti and maya are inseparably related. Shakti produces Maya and Maya inherantly carries Shakti. So, though Maya is passive the shakti within Her unconsciously transmits to man. In the tanric romance the man will be conscious of either Shakti or Maya, either the active or passive aspect of woman's power. He may be conscious of Shakti actively and expansively exciting, and so proclaim his love for Shakti, Oh, Shakti lover. Or, he may be conscious of the seductive power of Maya, in Her just being passively the beauty She is, and so proclaim his love for Maya, Oh Maya my love. Both aspects are exciting to man and both essentially involve shakti and maya. Shakti and Maya are always present in the lover, though man may be focused on one or the other. When Shakti is felt to emerge actively and deliberately from the woman, which is Shakti conscious in the woman, then the man proclaims his love for Shakti.

When Shakti does not appear to be active, or conscious in the woman, but nonetheless secretly excites the man through the power of Her appearing Maya, then man proclaims his love for Maya. You see, Maya secretly holds the power of Shakti, so, though appearing to be passive the woman is unconsciously releasing her shakti to the man who is now unaware of the inner force behind the seductive beauty of Maya. Thus, the lover appears as Maya when the power of her active Shakti is unconscious (though still efficacious) to both the man and woman. In the mode of Maya the woman is unaware of her Shakti being transmitted and, in fact, she feels herself to be passively receptive to the sexual and desiring energies of the man. She feels the sexual shakti coming from the man and beginning to excite and arouse her own shakti desire for the man, until finally her shakti will burst forth into full awareness and so become more consciously active in relation to the man. Yet, all the time she feels herself in the passively receptive mode, as being Maya the beautiful for man to love and adore, her very own shakti essence has been secretly and unconsciously exciting the man. Thus, the passive mode of the love goddess, when viewed as the passive and innocently seductive Maya, actually carries forth the actively exciting shakti - though unconsciously and secretly. Maya appears to be passive and innocent, but the deliberating and desiring Shakti energy unconsciously works through Maya. Basically, Maya is unconscious of the deliberating Shakti within Her, and Shakti is unaware Maya, of the seductive beauty and trance effect of Her energy. So, Shakti and Maya, though inseparable, can be unconscious of each other, just as an effect might be unconscious of its cause and a cause might be unconscious of its effect. Yet consciousness can come to Shakti and Maya, or to the one Shaktimaya. Shaktimaya can be infused with consciousness. This consciousness is Shiva.

Shiva brings consciousness into the Goddess. This is the esoteric meaning of the Lingam, the fullness of consciousness ready to enter the goddess Maya. With this Shiva consciousness there is recognition of the beauty and divinity of life, of nature, of woman, and of man as well.

Without this gift of Shiva the divinity of Maya, the goddess, is unrecognised. Now, Shiva is not merely spell-bound by Maya, though He is certainly attracted to Her, but Shiva consciousness penetrates to the divine essence of Maya. He re-cognises the divinity permeating the appearances of Maya. He recognises deep into the appearance and may go far in uncovering or discovering the Divine Life within all living appearances. Through Maya, Shiva discovers the living energy, the creative force, Shakti, and in Shakti He recognises the creative energy of the One Divine Being, Brahman. He finds in Shakti his counterpart within the Being of Brahman, for the two great aspects of Brahman are creative energy and divine consciousness.

Now, though the creative energy, Shakti, is essentially one deliberating and life-affirming energy of the Divine, this creative energy split and individualised into many. As Shakti emerged from Brahman, She separated from her union with Shiva and spread herself out into the world. Better said, She differentiated into a plurality of shaktis, which then created the differentiated world of Maya. This is why Maya, or the world, often appears as unintegrated, and this is why creative energies and desires come into conflict in the world. The divine creative energy lost its unitary consciousness when it emerged out on its own, differentiating itself in time and space. Thus, Shakti lost Her unity. Though essentially always one creative energy, Her self-consciousness has become fragmented into many diverse and often competing desires, not only in the world in general but also within individual women and men. Without consciousness, or the penetrating consciousness to the unitary essence, Shakti is just pure creative force and desire, deliberating but not integrated. We can speak here of Shakti as impulsive and spontaneously autonomous. She is deliberate and affirming, but blind and unconscious. She has fragmented into many impulses and desires, and each of these is a separate shakti being. Each, on its own, is creatively affirming. Each is impulsively desiring and expressing the will-to-become. Each has become a fragment of the one divine desire to express and enjoy, and each is relatively unconscious of its essential unity with the other shakti forces, which makes disharmony in one's life and in the world. Shakti has fragmented into many and is blasting and bursting forth all over in a frantic madness of sexual and creative desire, and the spontaneous joy of living, and life as we know it is a mixture of fulfillment, frustration and conflict. If we view the negative side of this situation of Shakti, we can understand why so may have opted to withdraw from such forces in life. Yet, with Shiva the frustrations and conflicts of fragmented Shakti can be resolved. For Shiva can bring unitary consciousness and integration to Shakti. Shakti must allow the greater divine consciousness of Shiva to enter and fill Her. Consciousness must merge into Shakti. The creative life energy, the impulses of desire, must be filled with Light. When filled with the Light of Shiva, the fragmented Shakti regains consciousness of Her divine unity, for consciousness re-connects and integrates back to wholeness. Divine Consciousness shatters the illusion of separation and re-establishes the unity of Self. For consciousness, in its pure essence, is Unity knowing Itself.

We can understand this Shiva consciousness as conscious self-unity. Two aspects are apparent. One is inclusive consciousness, and the other is the will-to-unify. Divine consciousness, Shiva, seeks to unify or relate together, and it accomplishes this with its inclusive consciousness. We could call this Shiva the divine Ego seeking to bring all creative energies and desires into an integrated harmony or one purposeful identity. Thus, in the person, Shiva can be thought of as the consciously integrating ego, integrating or unifying the fragmented forces within. But we should not make the false asumption, as has western psychology, that this ego is separate from all other egos and from the rest of life. The self-conscious ego can believe itself to be separate and thus live only for its own limited ends, but from the greater view of the divine Self this limited belief is an illusion and not the way to ultimate fulfillment. The fullness of Shiva consciousness can be limited in a person, or immature, but Shiva is an inclusive consciousness and one which is ever penetrating to deeper recognitions of self-creativity, so ultimately there will be recognition of one's being and creative forces as transpersonal, not merely separate or exclusive from others. As consciousness penetrates to the core of the personal creative essence, a greater transpersonal self is revealed, until ultimately there is recognition that all creative desires and qualities of oneself are of the One Divine Being, Who is shared by all. This pantheistic recognition of the divinity of all energies and desires is brought into unity by the inclusive consciousness and the will-to-integrate. Thus, all desires are divinely respected, but any separativeness is gradually dissolved, as these desires are integrated and brought into harmony. What we have in the universal dance between Shakti and Shiva is, on one hand, the expanding and diversifying creative energy, eternally and spontaneously seeking expression, in all sorts of ways, and on the other hand, there is the consciousness of relational unity, which brings the energies together, reintegrates the fragmentation, and virtually destroys that fragmentation and separateness.

Thus, we find Shakti creating evermore, expanding and complexifying the Maya, while Shiva is bringing the universe, the created Maya, back together into conscious unity. Shakti is creating new experiences and Shiva is Recognizing the essential unity of these. Shakti is the creator of diversity, by Her fragmentation, and Shiva is the unveiler of essence until the unity is finally known.

So, in the meeting or merging of Shiva and Shakti, or shall I say re-mergence, the Shakti life-affirming creative force becomes conscious and gradually integrated by consciousness, and Shiva consciousness becomes full of life and inspiration. Without life, without the joy and desire of life which creates and perpetuates the world, there would be nothing for consciousness to be conscious of. Without this Shakti and Maya, Shiva has no real energy for penetrating essence and Shiva would be just pure Light essence. Shakti creates the world of exploration and enjoyment. Without this Shiva is left alone with nothing to explore and enjoy. And without Shiva, Shakti is unconscious and unrealised.

Shiva's relation with Shakti can be illustrated in the two extremes of Shiva being. One extreme of Shiva is the full, illuminated moon, the white Shiva, called Sakala Shiva. The other extreme is the no moon, or new moon, which is the black Shiva, called Nishkala Shiva. The white, fully illuminated Shiva is full of Shakti energy. He is consciousness fully excited, full of life and joy. Here, the joy of Shakti, the energy of Shakti, and the beauty of Shakti as Maya is full in consciousness, so Shiva is fully awake in Shaktimaya and fully life-affirming, because the energy of Shakti is flowing through Him. At the opposite extreme, the black Shiva, also known as the colorless Shiva, is devoid of Shakti life. He is the unexcited consciousness, the sleeping consciousness. He is the sleeping Brahman, the void aspect of Brahman, or Brahman as just potential. He is in Himself, without any relation to the life of Shakti, and because of this extreme aloness, or aloofness in the void, He remains as just potential, as the pure potential of consciousness yet to be born and related in life. Only as this sleeping Shiva begins to be enlivened and aroused by the creative and sexual living energy of Shakti, does consciousness begin to illuminate. This shows the need of consciousness for life energy. Shakti is like the electrical spark or energy giving power to the illumination of consciousness. Thus, in tantra spiritual teachings, the self-realisation of divine consciousness requires the living sexual or vital energy of the body Shakti. She empowers the illumination of divine consciousness. She inspires self-realisation. She brings forth the full potential of divine consciousness and enjoyment, just as She inspires the sleeping Lingam to fullness. Thus, the unawakened Nishkala Shiva, as the new moon, is without Shakti and awaits arousal from Shakti, while the illuminated Sakala Shiva, as the full moon, is the fully active Lingam, full of Shakti energy.

The more full and illumined is Shiva, the greater is His active power to bring forth more of Shakti and enjoy the pleasures of Shakimaya. While the more Shakti is awakened, the more She is able to arouse and activate the Shiva power.

Thus, Shakti and Shiva awaken and empower each other. We might then question which comes first. If each needs the other, then which one gets it all going? The answer to this may seem a paradox to our usual way of understanding cause and effect, but the tantra says that both are simultaneous causes. The relationship of Shiva and Shakti are just waxing and waning throughout time. It may seem that Shakti arouses consciousness, or it may seem that Shiva awakens the creative energy. The primary cause of it all is the great mystery. In the microcosmic body, and in the system of yoga, Shakti sleeps in the base centre as kundalini, until She is awakened by active consciousness. Yet, the pure consciousness of Shiva sleeps in the crown centre at the top of the head, until aroused by the rising of Shakti. The beginnings of each awakening the other is accomplished in one of two possible ways. One means is when the individual purifies his body, emotions and mind, and empties all discord in the middle centres, the Shakti is then able to spontaneously rise upward to vitalise and stimulate the higher centres and finally the crown centre. The other means is when an illuminated being, or tantric master, consciously awakens your Shakti to rise and arouse all your centres. The former means is thought to be the safest and gentlest approach, though the latter means can be more expediant.

There is an explanation in a few teachings of the essential cause behind Shiva and Shakti awakening each other, or in how Shiva and Shakti begin their relationship. This explanation brings in the power of Vishnu, as a third force. Here, Vishnu is the power of love. Vishnu is the quality of the lover. Thus, love itself brings together Shiva and Shakti, or attracts them to each other. Because of love inherent in both, each is drawn to the other.

Consciousness inherently loves creation or creativity, and creativity inherently loves to be conscious. Each inherently enjoys the other, and therefore each inherently seeks relationship, blending and union. Enjoyment, then, is the key cause of both creation and consciousness, and the key to their union. Creation comes to be because creation is enjoyable. Consciousness comes to be because it is enjoyable. Joy is the cause and the effect. Thus, joy is the power behind creativity and sexual excitement, which is Shakti, and joy is the power behind consciousness illumined. And enjoyment needs the vital creative, as well as consciousness. Without consciousness there would be no enjoyment or love of creation. Without the vital creative or sexual energy there would be no enjoyment of consciousness.

Thus, we can say that Vishnu love permeates Shakti and Shiva. Though coincidentally, love is both a creative energy, as we say love makes the world go around, and it is also a quality of consciousness. We can speak of the love energy and the love consciousness. These are two aspects of love, or Vishnu, and these two aspects of love are Shakti and Shiva, the energy and consciousness of love. Through Shakti we feel the energy of love, we have sensual enjoyment of love energy. Through Shiva we consciously realize love and enjoy the consciousness of love. So in this metaphysical relation, Vishnu love is primary to its aspects Shiva and Shakti. Vishnu is the universal Being of Love, the universal Ocean of Love, which is both creative energy and consciousness. Now, in this infinite Ocean there arises the Island of Jewels. This Island is individual divine consciousness or the Drop of Self-realisation. It is the Divine knowing Itself. This is called Bindu, the point of power. This point of power is both creative and conscious.

It is both the power of creativity and the power of consciousness. Once the Island of Self-realisation is discovered, or once it emerges from the Ocean of Potential, creative manifestation sparkles with beauty, as creativity emerges from Divine Knowing. This is why the Bindu, or the Island, is the great centre and source of divine creative power, because this creative power has the Divine Consciousness within it. Because Shakti has Shiva within Her. This centre of power is known as the Island of Jewels, because everything there manifested is divine beauty and is realised as such. This is the place of divine manifestation, where divine beauty has emerged from the Ocean of Divine Potential. It is, at once, a manifestation of beauty, a creative source of beauty, and a realisation of beauty. This Island represents what is possible for you and me, that is, Divine Realisation and Divine Manifestation. It is your divine essence and possibility. It also shows that the divine power is individualised in each of us, for each of us can be Bindu points of power within the great Ocean of existence. The Island is a beautifully jeweled manifestation. It is completely comprised of precious gems, just as each individual is essentially comprised of all the beautiful colors of precious stones. At the center of the Island, at the Heart, is the Divine Throne, where sits the great red goddesss Shakti, the creative power at the essence of this individualised divine manifestation. She is the great point of power. Yet She is also awake with the fiery eyes of divine consciousness, for that power of Shiva is within Her. She is not only active Shakti, but knowing Shakti as well. She is very self-knowing of Her own creative and sexual power. We might say she is well experienced and Self-realised, the mature and powerful sexual goddess. She has been awakened and is now fully conscious of her power, as well as her divine beauty. She is the full moon goddess, full in her power, red hot with vital and sexual energy, and confidently able to manifest the precious gems uncovered from the Ocean of Potential. She realises her Island to be the divine manifestation, the beauty of divine embodiment.

This Island is her body and Her creative expression. She also realises Her essence of creative power. So, the goddess Shaktimaya is conscious of both her shakti and her maya, which are her aspects of life-excited energy and life-enchanting beauty. She knows Herself, Her power of creativity and her power of consciousness, Her power to give and manifest love and Her power to consciously enjoy love. Thus, the precious treasure of life is Hers.

The three worlds

The creative goddess Shakti is sometimes called the Fairest Maiden of the Three Towns. The three towns are the three worlds, Triloka, of earth nature, the vast sky above, and the atmosphere in the middle. These three worlds are created out of the goddess Shakti and they are the three worlds of Maya. Shiva is known as the destroyer of the three towns, because Shiva brings Maya back to Her Shakti essence and brings back the realisation of the One Divine Being, Brahman. The three worlds are the physical world of nature and embodiment, the vast spiritual world of divine powers and qualities of Being, and the world between called the astral world or world of psychic experiences. These are the three dimensions of existence which are brought about by the creative energies of Shakti.

At the higher dimension, the spirit world, Shakti is the creative energy bringing the gods and goddesses into existence, as individual powers, while Shiva destroys these individual powers or spirits back to their Source. This creation and destruction is rhythmically transpiring at every moment in eternity, as Shiva and Shakti make love. For in their cosmic love ritual, the energies of Shakti keep producing the manifold diversity of experiences and individual sensations, while the firey consciousness of Shiva keeps burning away diversity and separation back into the Divine Essence or back to Unitive consciousness.

At the lower dimension of the earth world, Shakti is the creative life force responsible for the diversity of nature and manifestation, while Shiva is responsible for the transmutation of nature back towards its spiritual essence. Neither Shakti nor Shiva is considered as more spiritually significant than the other. Both the creative diversity from essence and the transmutation back to essence are spiritually significant. These are equal aspects in the love dance of spiritual existence. The destructive, transmuting power is also known as the goddess Kali. Kali, the black goddess, is basically the Quality of Shiva in the form of the goddess, and She represents that destructive aspect in nature, the natural law of ecological existence whereby all that lives must feed off the lives of other life-forms. Kali rips apart and eats the lives created from Shakti, in order to acquire their shakti energy for a new form of manifestation. So in the world of nature, Shakti is renewed by recycling Her own energy, by transmuting the shakti energy into new forms of creation, via the destructive power of Kali. This shows us one of the great laws of nature, which also applies to the other worlds, that creative energy is gained by assimilating the forces around one. All of nature is divine and yet transmutable. All of nature can be divinely valued and appreciated, and yet each life must destroy or transmute some of this nature for its own renewal and the creation of new diversity. Again, this is the dance with and in life.

This necessity of destruction and transmutation can also be appreciated in the astral world, the psychic world between nature and the spiritual dimension. The astral world is the world of our psychic experiences. This is the world of our feelings, beliefs and imaginations concerning our individual and collective reality. How we feel about life and what we think of life is part of this astral dimension.

It is the world of mental and emotional phenomena, and it is the world in which we are mostly caught up in. This is both individual and collective, because what we usually think is our own individual experience is most often a reflection of collective experience or a kind of group experience going on in the world at this time. So we can speak of the collective astral as well as the individual astral, and these intermingle, interpenetrate and interelate. Some lives have made a more autonomous, individual psychic world, which is more protected from the collective world and more influential upon the collective, while other psychic realities are really more of a collective consciousness, not much different from other people. Yet, no psychic reality is completely autonomous or completely distinct from the greater collective human experience. To at least some degree, we each are influenced by forces from the collective astral and we each contribute to this collective human experience of living. Humanity itself is a whole astral entity, influencing and influenced by the diversity of human experiences, feelings and beliefs, within it.

This astral realm is the psychic atmoshere in which we live, collectively and individually. This is the primary world of Maya. We can say that nature is Maya, that the various manifestations around us is Maya, the dream and enchantment of Vishnu or Brahman. The manifestations of nature and from our creative life are but temporary and ever-changing projections of spiritual creative powers. From the view of the spiritual dimension, this world of manifestations is not as real as the powers projecting it all, but from the view of our human experience the world of manifestation is as real as the spiritual world, as both are two sides of existence. We are partly beings of nature and partly beings of transcending spirit, and these two sides of our existence blend and find meaning in the middle world of our psychic experience. The psyche, or the experiencing mind, is our astral world, in the terminology of tantra.

Nature and manifestation can be considered as Maya, as the material forms of Maya, but the experience of Maya is in the astral realm. So, Maya as experience is actually this middle atmosphere between form and spirit, between manifestation and power. Here is the great dream and enchantment. The tantra does not view this realm just negatively, for the beauty of existence and all the qualities of divinity can only be experienced through the psyche, but the tantra does recognize the power of this realm to hold us in attachment and limiting illusions. Average man and woman become lost in their own Maya, in their own limited feelings and beliefs, and these personal realities are greatly influenced and conditioned by the collective social psyche. Thus, Maya, the psychic reality of each of us, can be beautiful experiences of divinity, beautiful experiences of love and divine enchantment, but it can also become a great trap of self-delusion. We can become lost and trapped in the forces of our own making and in the forces of the social psyche.

These forces are very real for us, very powerful, and they hold our inherantly free consciousness in a tight grip. Thus we need to make conscious effort to break free of these forces, to free up our divine consciousness. This is accomplished through the will to be free, the will to renunciate the psychic attachments of Maya, which is an aspect of Shiva power. Also needed is the power of penetrating consciousness, to see through the astral influences of Maya. This is known as penetrating through the fog of astral glamour, to see clearly the forces that be and not be deluded and taken away by these psychic forces. This is the consciousness power of Shiva, who can freely see through the glamours and delusions of the astral realm. We need to remember that this astral world of emotional and psychic forces seems very real to us and can be very subtle and deceptive, so we need to make extra effort at times to wilfully use the power of pure and free consciousness to see through these forces and break free of them. One must use the powers of will and consciousness, or conscious will, which is inherent within us and which is motivated by our wish to be free and penetrate to the truth. As we invoke this power and use it, we become more free. The key is our wish for freedom and the willingness to make some effort for it, and this wish and the willing effort actually comes from Freedom itself, the power of pure consciousness to be free.

Thus the power of Shiva is invoked and expressed, and this power is also the source or spiritual influence behind that invocation and renunciation of astral maya. This is the great influence of Shiva, the destroyer of astral glamour.

He is both the renunciate or ascetic consciousness and the penetrating conscious will. He penetrates into Maya and also withdraws from Her, which is symbolically experienced in the love ritual, as man penetrates and withdraws. Though, paradoxically, his penetration to her essence is destructive of Maya illusion and his withdrawing creates further attraction to Maya so that he again desires to go into the world of Maya to penetrate to Her essence.

In studying the destructive power of Shiva, or Kali, an important esoteric truth is revealed concerning the astral psychic world. This truth is about the transmutation of energy. It says 'As Shiva eats, Shiva grows.' The astral consists of thought-forms energised by emotion. Most often our minds are wrapped up in a continuous stream of thought. For most people the mind seems to always be thinking, calculating or worrying over the near future, or reminising and replaying the events of the past, or the mind may be considering what is true and not true. Many different modes of thinking, but it's all thinking. It is all thought-forms appearing and disappearing, one after the other. This is our astral world, and one believes that 'I am thinking', as though this `I' were directing it all. But most often there is no director of these thought streams, for they are merely conditioned and associated thought-reactions to the various stimuli which happens to us in life. These thought-forms are locked in a complex pattern of mechanical thinking, which are the ways we believe our world to be and the ways we associatively react to this believed reality. And there is a strong magnetism holding these patterns of thought and emotion together, a magnetism often so great that it is virtually impossible to break free of it without some outside help. Yet, this magnetism holds together our mind and our personality, as we know it, so if that magnetic power is broken one may feel that they are losing their mind or dying, for if we began to lose these patterns of thought we would feel to be quite a different person, and most people are frightened of that kind of change. So even though there is often suffering in these patterns of thought and emotion, the average person is too frightened to let go of these and begin a newer experience of life. For that magnetism holding our astral mind together, holding together the patterns we know as our personality, that magnetism is the holding power of our emotional attachment to ourself and the fear of letting it all die. The magnetism is one's attachment, or holding on, to one's known beliefs and emotions, to the present as a continuation of the past, and motivated by a fear of death to the known, a fear of the unknown. This attachment and fear, this magnetism holding the personality in its present patterns, is deeply rooted in the subconscious and so very subtle to the conscious awareness. It can only be recognised and released by self-meditation and self-observation.

Now, remember that this magnetism of attachment, which is predominately subconscious, is the power regenerating our patterns of thought-form and emotional reaction. It is known as the power of tamas and it keeps the astral maya as it is. It keeps our particular patterns of astral karma regenerating or continually re-emerging in our experience.

Remember also that these astral patterns of psychic experience consist of thought-forms or beliefs, empowered by a quality of emotion. This astral world consists of emotionally energised thought-forms, which continually attract to us, or are regenerated, through the magnetic power of subconscious attachment. This is our maya. It is the dream we live in. Yet because it is energy, it is quite real and quite powerful. We say that the tamas of Maya is a force to be recogned with, and it will put up a good fight when its survival is threatened. If threatened, it will fight back in many subtle ways. It produces sentimentality and nostalgia, which holds us to the past and to repeating patterns. Now, I have said that Shiva is the power of willfully renunciating or withdrawing from this maya and the power to consciously penetrate its illusions of being real. Shiva is the power to transmute these astral energies into light or energy essence. The power of this transmutation is in our will and our consciousness, which is the Shiva power inherent in us or available to us.

Shiva preys upon the astral glamours. He walks through the astral world of emotional thought-form and intentionally devourers these emotional attachments and thought-forms. He eats them and swallows them up in His purifying consciousness of Light. He destroys them with the Light of pure consciousness and unemotional detachment. And 'As Shiva eats, Shiva grows.' For these thought-forms and the emotional energies behind them are food for the growth of Shiva consciousness and Shiva power. As consciousness devours these astral forms, their energies are released from the magnetic hold and pure consciousness is more empowered.

In this way the karmic patterns and attachments of personal maya are transmuted. They are destroyed, broken apart, and the energies freed for assimilation into a refined vibration of light or consciousness. This is one of the keys to personal transformation. More and more of the astral glamour and old patterns of thought are destroyed and transmuted back into light essence. Thus, the individual proceeds on the path to Divine Realisation, or the realisation of Supreme Truth, by intentionally and consciously penetrating through the astral world of thought-emotion and devouring all that appears in the psychic experience, until nothing remains but the Light and Silence of Pure Being. This is the way of Shiva. As one proceeds on this path of devouring, without sentimentality and attachment, more and more of the energies trapped in the astral maya are released and become food for the growth of higher consciousness. A new magnetism develops. A new magnetic centre grows in power and stability. This is the magnetic centre of pure consciousness. And as the magnetism of astral maya is weakened and as the old patterns of thought-emotion are devoured, there is less to trap the energies of pure consciousness, so that a more purified consciousness becomes more continuous and undeluded by the astral forces. Pure consciousness, or consciousness purified of the astral forms, becomes more stable and continuous, as its magnetism is strengthened by the devouring of astral energies and the assimilation of that astral magnetism. 'As Shiva eats, Shiva grows.' This is the esoteric law of energy transmutation and personal transformation. What begins to develop is Sattva, the energy of stable conscious Being, and this grows in power and magnetism by the transmutation of tamas energy, that energy of attachment. Sattva actually develops through the blending of tamas and rajas energies. Tamas holds together and stabilises the spontaneous creative energy of Shakti, while rajas breaks apart and releases the spontaneous Shakti. Shiva consciousness essentially brings rajas energy into the tamas energy of the astral world, and the essence of tamas, or stability, becomes blended with the free and spontaneous energy of rajas to produce Sattva, a stabilised freedom of consciousness.

As we become free of our astral forms of belief and emotional reactions, the fog of emotional thought-form which clouds our pure vision of truth gradually disolves. Then, our vision becomes more clear. We begin to see life and nature around us as it is, and not merely how we think it is. We begin to see clearly what is, unclouded by thoughts or preconceptions. We are less in the state of thinking about life, and more in the state of purely seeing life, being more purely conscious in life as-it-is. Thus, we come more into the true nature of life. Our focus is less in the astral maya, and more in the Maya of material nature. Now the obvious question here is why the material maya is any better than the astral maya. There is no better or worse.

Each has its power to hold and trap consciousness in it, while coincidentally each has its own kind of beauty. In the tantra we do not view the maya as all negative or all positive. There is potential value and goodness in all aspects of existence, and there are potential pitfalls as well. Astral experience, which we can understand as experiences of the psychic imagination or phenomenon of the mind, can be very beautiful and spiritually valuable. The problem is when one becomes attached to these experiences and mistakenly believes them to be the sum total of reality. We need to remember that all phenomena of the mind are but appearances of hidden powers and truths, and we must at times look deeper into our experience in order to unveil what is hidden beneath it. Now, besides astral maya we say there is material maya which are the appearances found in nature and those objects and events created by human beings.

The material maya is all that is considered as reality by materialists, that is, the hard stuff around us, the forms of manifestation, the sensed world. Material maya is real and not real. It is real, in the sense that if a lion takes a bite out of us this is real, or if the wind and rain sinks our boat this is real. The forests, the oceans, the sky, the trees and animals, are all very real. Tantra philosophers are not just materialists, but they are not stupid. The material world is real. It must be respected as real. But from the viewpoint of the eternal spirtual powers and qualities of Divine Being, the material world is an ever-changing, temporal appearance or manifestation of Spirit. From the view of divine consciousness, this present material world of people, objects and events is just a new and changing appearance of the eternal spiritual powers. It is as though the divine consciousness happens to awaken in one particular world and then another, and later on another.

This is what is menat by the dreams of Vishnu. The divine consciousness of Vishnu just awakens within different dreams of existence or different kinds of worlds. And when there is death in one world, the divine consciousness merely awakens in another world or another material circumstance, another time and place. And yet each material circumstance is very real in its own right. Nature around us and within us is very real and absolutely divine. Nature is material Maya, which is the embodiment of Divine Spirit. This embodiment is both a veil and a revelation of Spirit. Nature is pure Maya, and when She is perceived unclouded by the astral fog of thought and emotional reaction She is known in Her purity.

Nature is the pure beauty of Maya. She is divinity in its purest appearance. She is naked Maya, the radiant Body of Divine Spirit, unclothed by astral glamour. So we say in the tantra that if our minds are purified of thought, beliefs and glamour, then we are able to perceive the naked beauty of pure Maya, and we come closer to the divine truth empowering this pure appearance. Thus, the natural world, or the purely material world of manifestation, is closer to the naked truth of Divine Being than is the astral world. And yet, the astral world of imaginative dreams and visions of spiritual phenomena is middle link between the material world and the absolute spiritual world. Both the natural world and the psychic world have their respective positive value, and yet both have their potential pitfalls. For the material world of nature can fool us into believing that there is nothing else real but it. But it must be recognised as an appearance of Spirit or spiritual truth. And the astral world of the psyche can fool us into believing that nothing is real but these experiences. But these experiences must be recognised as merely mental imaginings of the spiritual powers and Divine Being dreaming and reflecting upon Itself. Without the world of nature, or material maya, there is a great danger that the astral psyche will become lost in its own maya and believe only in its everchanging dream. This potential danger is counteracted by nature and material existence, because the material world has the power to wake us up from our own self-delusions, attachments and dreams, unless we completely disregard the material world which is what many so-called spiritual people have done. The fact is that nature, the pure Maya, purifies the astral world, since nature can reveal a naked reality as we surrender our astral clothing. So, meditation in nature and upon nature helps purify the astral psyche. One might argue that this is still Maya, but it is pure Maya, unclothed by astral glamours and psychic imaginations, and in this naked appearance of Spirit one is closest to the spiritual essence within all Maya. The pitfall is still attachment and na've materialism. But these these are really pitfalls in the astral world, for nature merely gives us the appearance of divinity, while attachment, belief and desire are of the astral world. So it is not nature which needs purifying. It is our emotional-mental psyche in need of purification.

Thus, the tantra, although very much embracing and appreciating the psychic imagination and spiritual imagery, tells us to go back to the purity of nature, to the nature around us and the nature within us. It tells us to unclothe our love and appreciate the naked nature of Vishnu's appearance, whether male or female. This is the sacred beauty of natural, unclothed Maya. And as one delves into this, as one gets into nature, one discovers the spiritual truth and essence of Her appearance and Her life-affirming desire. For within nature, and the nature of each being, is the life-affirming spiritual essence, manifesting as Shakti-desire and Maya-beauty.

In the traditions, there is the ancient, mythical story of the great sage who seeks to penetrate and comprehend the Secret of Maya, the mystery behind this ever-changing existence. The sage completely purifies himself until he is finally able to come in contact with Vishnu, the sustainer of Maya, and he asks to comprehend the great Secret of Maya, in hopes of being free of the dream of Maya. But Vishnu cannot give him any formula or Mantra, but rather plunges him into the oceanic waters of Maya, where he experiences the dream of being another body in another circumstance. And he becomes lost in this dream, believing in its reality, until he again wakes up to the inner search for Vishnu, to comprehend the Secret of Maya. He again comes in contact with Vishnu and the scenario repeats itself again. So, can one ever comprehend the Secret of Maya? One can come into the Presence of Vishnu, the Divine Being sustaining Maya, which is the great Secret, but Maya Herself can only be known in the experience of Her. The great sage actually does come in contact with the Secret, but he wants to have his own experience of Maya from the secret view of Vishnu. He wants to have the experience of Vishnu, so Vishnu plunges him back into the waters of Maya, because the experience of Vishnu is Maya, the everchanging appearance of life or the many experiences of life. The true secret of Maya, which is the dream of Vishnu, is found in the very experience of this sage. Because Vishnu plunges Himself into Maya, submerges Himself in His own dream. He allows Himself to dream and temporarily lose himself in believing the reality of this dream, which is how the dream is sustained.

But while in the dreaming, He gradually awakens to Himself, to the essence of His own creative power of being the dreamer. He finally awakens completely, but then plunges back into a new dream. Thus, Maya, the dream, continually changes. One dream is sustained for awhile until the dreamer awakens, and then a new dream can unfold. This is the rhythm of existence. Vishnu's dream is creation, which is Maya, which is samsara, where Vishnu differentiates into the manifold dreams of individual experiences.