January 20th 2016 - Humanity is now experiencing a shift in evolutionary consciousness especially catalyzed and facilitated by the Divine Female. Goddess, as She is often called, can be represented through a variety of guises, forms, and names; but it is because we tend to think of “God” as strictly male (and usually transcendent) that I avoid this term when speaking about Her, although she is nonetheless that. In this brief introduction to the Dark Goddess, I will alternatively represent Her using capitalization or lower case (e.g., “Her” and “her,” or “Goddess” and “goddess”) and will universalize or particularize my articulations in order to shatter limiting notions of the Great Mystery. But first, why focus on Her?
Goddess is today gathering worldwide appeal even in lands that have historically denied Her. Within a global milieu that largely assigns value and power only to the male and masculine, it has become increasingly important to rebalance within levels of the mundane and sacred, holding equal space within our bodies for the feminine and equal room for Goddess to answer our prayers. Once uncovered from unhealthy layers of meaning imposed by religion, culture, and society, the Divine Female can be called upon to manifest, empower, and ultimately heal. Today, She is driving us, challenging us, to get beyond our fear, beyond our egos, beyond our dualistic notions of right and wrong. She is helping us finally get things back into balance.
The role of the Dark Goddess is both simple and complex. She depotentiates toxicity wherever it is found and creates new spaces for life-affirming, fuller expressions of reality. She is Dark because she can speak of that which we don’t want illuminated: injustice, inequity, inequality, inappropriateness. She is Dark because the Dark is what humanity has generally subjugated, one people to the next. She is Dark because she reveals our secrets. She gives voice to the voiceless, creates room for the marginalized and oppressed, opens our eyes and moves us to greater depths of soul…if we are willing to struggle with Her and move mountains.
Wherever we find Her, we know Her as a deeply transformational power capable of awakening humanity to new potentials. She is the Goddess of Resistance and Sanctuary. Goddess of Compassion and Freedom. And while the difficulties of certain religio-cultural constructs have imposed less-than-direct divine revelation in many of the living goddess traditions, with numerous devotees suffering despite Her exquisite grace within them, the Divine Female (inclusive of her ancient and post-modern roots) can nevertheless help us all, I believe, find creative ways to break pathological hierarchies from both inside and outside the mainstream.
In an increasingly global world, how can borders hold Her back? Change is upon us, and She is Change. Although often concretized in culture-specific ways and given names such as Kali, Tara, Quan Yin, and Spider Woman, Goddess, as well as goddesses, are required for the unfurling of beauty, for the opening to personal, planetary and cosmic healing. From lands near and far, we see Her coming to us no matter what our address, speaking to us through dreams, inspirations and synchronicities while offering boons, blessings, tension and direct confrontations. She may visit as terrifying Kali to humble a selfish heart, or reveal herself as Persephone to dissuade material desire. We may not speak her native tongue or understand Her sacred symbols in cultural context, yet our heart knows Her meaning and relevance for our time and particulars. Indeed, many of us are listening to our deepest yearning and finding Goddess there, quite alive.
Her healing gifts and powers, I argue, most deeply align with five principles that I have come to understand act across gross, subtle and causal levels. Briefly, these principles are:
• Antinomian – she sits outside the mainstream, breaking normative conceptions in order to provide safe and free spaces for embracing of the whole, uncensored spectrum of beingness. With this consciousness, She helps us fly in the face of convention, questioning the doxa or unspoken agreements we have about life and our values, ethics and moral concerns;
• Relational – She enables connection across divides of difference (gender, race, culture, ethnicity, species, age, etc.) and is facilitating new meanings for the union of opposites, particularly of Sacred Female and Sacred Male;
• Embodied – she is sacred Earth, sacred matter, calling for a recognition of the immanence of Spirit. She is the power of our ancestors, upon whose shoulders we stand in new consciousness, demanding to be honored for the sake of including, synthesizing and then transcending their and our greatest aspirations;
• Cyclical – she is the power of spiraling space-time and non-linear constructions of reality helping us collectively move into new awareness (such as offered through Life-Death-Rebirth and Creation-Preservation-Destruction-Transformation constructions); and
• Chthonic – She is cāyā, our shadow individual and collective, brought to consciousness from the depths of all we have repressed and suppressed so that we may reintegrate ourselves, kissing our patriarchal wounds and coming to wholeness. She brings the Ouroboric Primordial Snake of Transformation to consciousness so that we can all do our own deepest self-reflective work.
Acting as and through these principles, Goddess is leading us to a hieros unios. This is my term for a sacred union within a multiplex reality that includes and transcends the traditional hieros gamos (sacred marriage) alluded to in ancient mythologies, alchemical traditions, and depth psychology. Hieros unios as I intend fully means first, a partnership that frees opposites from charged, pathologically hierarchical renderings of relationship; and second, allows for expansion into a radically non-dual awareness. It also means a multiplicitous coming together of all graces of divine spirit – within both the immanent and transcendent realms – in order to suggest something applicable to the condition of Creation from personal to cosmic proportions.
To be more specific, rather than limited to a simple pairing of opposites with restricted gender perspectives (and traditional overlays of patriarchal visionings of marriage) as with the hieros gamos, the hieros unios offers a position affirming of life’s ability to simultaneously express duality, multiplicity, and unity. It is exactly a non-dual awareness that brings particularities of perspective to bear on the appreciation of all realities and is not a monolithic One dismissive of individuality or unique expressions of the divine (whether embodied or not). Thus, a hieros unios is not simply advaita (non-duality). It is equally an awareness in which the consciousness of matter, dynamic balance of opposites, and transformational character of a spiraling involution/evolution are witnessed and understood to reflect the Divine’s yearning for itself.
Whether invoking through spiritual, alchemical, psychological or other metaphors, the hieros unios She inspires can be readily expressed as shakti – primary, activating female energy – unleashed now for moves beyond the patriarchal paradigm. Her presence thus means forcing an unpathologizing of dualities and facilitating the shattering of structures to provide liberatory spaces for females and the feminine to (re)emerge. On Earth, it means, for example, that we honor women in places of power within all institutions and allow men free and full expression of whatever might be considered feminine qualities. On the level of the Divine, it means that we grant the Sacred Male his place among us here, immanent, sexual and alive…for example, might we envision taking Jesus down from the cross, allowing Him as Cosmic Christ to rest a time in Her earthy embrace? Might we grant Shiva a wild dance of liberation in partnership with Her, rather than one of destruction which must be stopped in its lonely rampage? Might we then afford the Divine a Female ‘side,’ calling God “She” while opening to the principles addressed above in our formulations of Her? Such ideas and desires may help catalyze a (r)evolution of consciousness that can not only wake humanity up to the fact of what denying the fullest spectrum of life looks like, but also help us make difficult choices in order to embrace our truest potentials.
The Dark Goddess is the one holding us tenderly now as we, our planetary collective, travel through this often times painful transition into wholeness. This is perhaps also our greatest initiation into the next evolutionary phase of spiritual development, and her strength comes from Her vulnerability. She is with us aware of the unique position we each occupy at an intersection of identity-forming categories. She knows, for example, the color of our skin, our gender and overall make up and how that has been impacted as well as impacts us within human-constructed, imposed or realized notions of s/Self. Knowing us, she makes the process personally meaningful. Call her Hecate, Oya, Mary, Guadalupe, Baba Yaga or Great Mother, but call Her. Let us open to her offerings of guidance, wisdom, energy and unabashed candor in our individual and collective quests for sustainability, truth, beauty and the kind of good, happy lives we most deeply want to have. She will listen and respond to our unique heart’s song.
Chandra Alexandre is a Tantric Bhairavi, an initiator in the tradition of Kali, serving SHARANYA as clergy. She is a householder and a regular pilgrim to the birthplace of Tantra in northeastern India, where she studies and practices with her teachers. Chandra was first initiated into the mysteries of the dark goddess in 1998 in Puri, Orissa on the dakshinacara path, and then, five years later, she accepted the non-dualistic path of vamacara Tantra at Kamakhya outside of Guwahati in Assam. Her maternal grandmother was her first guide into the ways of spirit in the world.
On her initial return from India, Chandra founded SHARANYA to serve those committed to embodied and engaged spirituality for social justice and transformation. This was the birth of Sha’can, an authentic lineage tradition of Shakta Tantra contextualized and made relevant for people and lands distant from the source. Chandra and community complement San Francisco Bay Area worship, events and services with an online mystery school, Kali Vidya, to serve an international community of spiritual seekers and lovers of Maa.
Chandra is known for her passionate engagement of theory and practice. She holds a PhD in Asian & Comparative Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies, a Doctor of Ministry degree from Wisdom University (formerly the University of Creation Spirituality), and an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School. In addition to SHARANYA, she engages her commitment through several community-based nonprofit organizations working for educational equity, poverty alleviation and the empowerment of women and girls.
Originally from New York, Chandra has, since 1995, called San Francisco home. She is a devoted wife and mother and also conjurer of The Aghori Bakery: Everyday Spiritual Conversations (forthcoming).
For more information, see sharanya.org.
Chandra Alexandre, Ph.D.
Rashani Chandranath Alexandre
San Francisco, CA 94127