The spiritual Phenomenon called the Divine Mother has always been deeply interesting to spiritual seekers. Known to sages and saints throughout history, it is the Divine Mother whom we in the West address as the Holy Spirit and Mother Nature. In India, Hindus address Her as Shakti, Maya, Kali, and Durga. She is also known as Wisdom, Aum, Amen, the Word of God.
By whatever name we refer to Her, She is an actual Entity that exists and can be directly experienced. In this paper, I present a number of conjectures about Her identity based on the recorded experiences of these saints and sages.
The Mother’s nature is one of the unfathomable mysteries of life. Nothing can be said about Her directly or positively. Almost everything that can be said of Her must be couched in metaphors; She is described in terms of waves, clouds, lights, fire, voices, music, though She is none of these. I know of no other way to discuss Her than metaphorically.
Her existence preceded language. Therefore it stands to reason that She operates without recourse to or dependence on words. As I am led to believe, no amount of intellectual understanding can substitute for a direct and personal experience of Her.
The subject of the Mother’s identity can be very dense. Even arriving at the generalities presented here required the matching of many pieces of a large and complex spiritual puzzle. In the end, all of it must remain guesswork on my part.
If we mean to follow the case as set out here, we will have to suspend disbelief, at least until the full argument has been stated.
Every name used in this essay, unless otherwise stated, is a name by which the Mother has been known to an enlightened master. Towards the end of the essay, a list of these names is given. Because all refer to the same Entity, I could have chosen any one of them as definitive. In fact, I have chosen to follow Sri Ramakrishna’s practice and refer to this high power as the “Divine Mother.”
If, after finishing this article, you wish to pursue the subject further, the best source to turn to is the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, the recorded conversations of the Mother’s greatest devotee. While most sages knew a single facet of the Mother, the Avatar of Dakshineswar scaled the lofty peaks of enlightenment by several routes and displayed a sublime, multi-faceted knowledge of the Mother which offers a standard of comparison for other accounts.
The Mother is neither a female nor a person
To arrive at a notion of the Mother, we must first put aside our anthropocentric ways of thinking and realize that She is not a person, and not a female either, but an agency, a power in the universe which can only be understood as it is.
Avatars and enlightened saints and sages, who refer to the Holy Father and Divine Mother, find themselves in a position of needing to speak about entities which are one at the absolute level of existence and apparently two at the relative. To differentiate between them, they draw upon a metaphor of gender, as Kabir and Lao Tzu illustrate:
Kabir: “The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.” (1)
Lao Tzu: “Nameless indeed is the source of creation [i.e., the Father],
But things have a mother and she has a name.” (2)
Both Kabir and Lao Tzu are differentiating between an absolute realm where name and form are not to be found and a relative plane where they are. The former is designated the Father; the latter, the Mother.
However, down through the centuries, using the gender metaphor has given rise to a difficulty. We ordinary people, lacking the knowledge that accompanies enlightenment, project onto these two high powers stereotypes and conclusions, likes and dislikes proper to actual males and females and improper to these genderless sublime entities. The Divine Mother becomes anthropomorphized into a woman, leading us to distort Her true nature and enmeshing us in a web of imprisoning thoughts.
Not a female, the Mother is nonetheless the necessary cause of gender; not a male, the Father is its sufficient cause. Not a person Herself, the Mother is the source of personhood; not a person Himself, the Father is the source of existence itself.
If we truly wish to approach an understanding of Her Nature that may help us realize Her, we must be vigilant against taking the gender metaphor farther than its usefulness permits.
The term “Mother” refers to the relative plane of existence; the term “Father” refers to the absolute
Understanding some basic distinctions about Her will require us to think in vast terms. Sri Ramakrishna hinted at this to his devotees: “The macrocosm and microcosm rest in the Mother’s womb. Now do you see how vast She is?” (3)
One of Sri Ramakrishna’s translators and biographers, Swami Nikhilananda, explains: reality has two levels, one of which may be called the absolute, acosmic, or transcendental level and the other the relative, cosmic, or phenomenal. (4) It was these two levels of Reality that saints and sages wished to speak about by using the metaphor of a cosmic male and female.
According to Swami Nikhilananda, at the phenomenal level, one perceives the universe of diversity and is aware of one’s own individual personality or ego, whereas at the transcendental level, differences merge into an inexplicable non-dual consciousness. Both these levels of experience are real from their respective standpoints, though what is perceived at one level may be negated at the other. (5)
Thus, the Mother, coterminous with this relative plane of existence, includes all things, all creation, all manifestation, all matter. The Father, the source of creation, remains ever no-thing, un-created, un-manifest, im-material.
On the relative plane, the Divine Mother creates all there is, preserves it for a time, and then dissolves it into the formless Father again
According to the saints and sages we shall hear from, it is the Mother who operates the world; that is, who creates, preserves, and destroys everything there is.
As Swami Nikhilananda observes, She is “Procreatrix [cf. Prakriti], Nature, the Destroyer, the Creator.” (6) His remarks echo ancient texts. Of Her the Upanishads declared: “Thou art the creator; thou art the destroyer by thy prowess; and thou art the protector.” (7) In the Bhagavad-Gita, Sri Krishna addresses Her as Maya.
“Maya makes all things: what moves, what is unmoving.
O son of Kunti, that is why the world spins,
Turning its wheel through birth and through destruction.” (8)
This knowledge is not privy to Hindus alone. The avatar Zarathustra taught that the Mother was in sole charge of “the management of the bodily and spiritual worlds.” (9) Solomon also knew that Wisdom “operates everything.” (10)
Swami Nikhilananda used various metaphors to suggest how She operates:
“She projects the world and again withdraws it. She spins it as the spider spins its web. She is the Mother of the Universe, identical with the Brahman of Vedanta, and with the Atman of Yoga. As eternal Lawgiver, She makes and unmakes laws; it is by Her imperious will that karma yields its fruit. She ensnares men with illusion and again releases them from bondage with a look of Her benign eyes. She is the Supreme Mistress of the cosmic play, and all objects, animate and inanimate, dance by Her will. Even those who realize the Absolute in nirvikalpa samadhi are under Her jurisdiction as long as they live on the relative plane.” (11)
She is metaphorically called the Voice in the Wilderness in the Bible because no law, no principle of organization, no structure can apply to the formless God. Only the Mother has form; as such She gives Voice to God and cries in the “wilderness” that the Father is.
The Mother made the body
Having created the universe, the Divine Mother dwells within it, as King Solomon, an enlightened devotee of the Mother, suggests: “Wisdom [Solomon’s name for the Divine Mother] … penetrates and permeates everything that is, every material thing.” (12) Sri Ramakrishna agrees: “After the creation the Primal Power [the Mother] dwells in the universe itself. She brings forth this phenomenal world and then pervades it.” (13) The Avatar of Dakshineswar confided to his devotees that “the Divine Mother revealed to me that it is She Herself who has become man.” (14)
She made the five material bodies (or pancha kosas) by which we act and know. Solomon cryptically comments that: “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn her seven pillars.” (15) It is my impression that the “seven pillars” are the seven chakras. St. Paul too was referring to Her role as the body’s creator and in-dweller when he said: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God [the Mother] dwelleth in you?” (16) In Sri Krishna’s words: “Every human being is essentially a soul [the Child of God or Atman, one with the Father], covered with a veil of maya [the Mother].” (17)
Let us pause with this mention of the immortal soul. We now have three eternal actors in our divine play. We have the Father without form, the Mother with form, and the immortal soul, their offspring, which the prophet Amos called “a firebrand plucked out of the burning.” (19) What is the divine drama in which all three are engaged?
If we look at events from the standpoint of the immortal soul, then it could be said, as I have done elsewhere, (18) that the purpose of life is enlightenment. The purpose of life is that the undying soul should travel out from God, into the world, where, after eons of spiritual evolution and enlightenment, it will learn that it and God are one. The purpose of life, viewed from the Creator’s standpoint, is that God should meet God, and, through that meeting, enjoy His own bliss. (20) The Father created the Mother, who went on to create trillions of forms – prodigal children, embodied souls – which left the Father and travelled in the realm of matter, until every form comes to know itself as God.
These three actors could be called the Transcendental (the Holy Father), the Phenomenal (the Divine Mother), and the Transcendental in the Phenomenal (the immortal soul or Child of God). If we alter their order, we have what Christians call the “Trinity” – the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We explore the Father and Mother in this article. The immortal soul is the unrealized “Son of God,” (21) the treasure buried in a field, the Pearl of great price, the Prince of peace, and the mustard seed that, upon realization, grows into a great tree. (22) The point at which Christianity and Hinduism intersect is right here, at exactly this same Trinity, which Hindus know as Brahman, Atman, and Shakti.
The Divine Mother made the body and the Holy Father hid a fragment of Himself within its heart (the Child of God), which the Mother has raised and educated until the divine spark realizes its true identity.
The Mother arises from the Father and merges in Him again.
The Mother arises from the Father and falls back into Him again. She is like the clouds in the sky; the Father is the sky from which the clouds emerge and into which they melt again. Sri Ramakrishna tried to convey Their relationship by using the metaphor of impermanent waves forming on the ocean of Satchidananda:
“These waves [arise] from the Great Ocean and merge again into the Great Ocean. From the Absolute to the Relative, and from the Relative to the Absolute.” (23)
“It has been revealed to me that there exists an Ocean of “Consciousness” without limit [i.e., the Father]. From it come all things of the relative plane [i.e., the Mother], and in it they merge again.” (24)
Paramahansa Yogananda also used a wave metaphor to describe the Mother: “The storm-roar [the Mother] of the sea [the Father] creates the waves [materiality] – preserves them for some time as larger or smaller waves — and then dissolves them.” (25)
While the great ocean of consciousness is formless, the waves, which are a part of it, have form. Nonetheless waves and ocean are one. “That which has form,” Sri Ramakrishna asserted, “again, is without form. That which has attributes, again, has no attributes.” (26) “Water is water whether it is calm or full of waves. The Absolute alone is the Primordial Energy, which creates, preserves, and destroys.” (27)
Sri Ramakrishna describes how the relative plane emerges from the absolute and falls back into it again.
“Brahman [the Father] may be compared to an infinite ocean, without beginning or end. Just as, through intense cold, some portions of the ocean freeze into ice and formless water appears to have form, so through intense love of the devotee, Brahman appears to take on form and personality. But the form melts away again as the Sun of Knowledge rises. Then the universe [the Mother] also disappears, and there is seen to be nothing but Brahman.” (28)
She is energy, movement, vibration; the Father is an inactive,
According to Swami Nikhilananda, the essence of the Divine Mother is shakti or energy; in fact, adyashaktior the primordial energy. “Maya, the mighty weaver of [the mysterious garb of name and form],” he said, “is none other than Kali, the Divine Mother, She is the primordial Divine Energy, Sakti.” (29)
What is Shakti and what is Brahman? What is the Mother and what is the Father? Sri Ramakrishna says the distinction between the two is the same as distinction between the static and the dynamic:
“When inactive He is called Brahman, the Purusha [i.e., the Supreme Person]. He is called Sakti, or Prakriti [the Primordial Energy], when engaged in creation, preservation, and destruction. These are the two aspects of Reality: Purusha and Prakriti. He who is the Purusha is also the Prakriti.” (30)
He equates the static Father with the impersonal God, Nirguna Brahman (or the Father without attributes), and the dynamic Mother with the personal God, Saguna Brahman (the Father with attributes):
“When the Godhead [the Father] is thought of as creating, preserving, and destroyinq, It is known as the Personal God, Saguna Brahman, or the Primal Energy, Adyasakti [the Mother]. Again, when It is thought of as beyond the three gunas [the three qualities of the phenomenal world – sattwa, rajas, and thamas, or balance, energy, and sloth], then It is called the Attributeless Reality, Nirguna Brahman, beyond speech and thought; this is the Supreme Brahman, Parabrahman.” (31)
Sri Ramakrishna revealed the secret meaning behind the statues of Shakti and Shiva that show Shiva lying recumbent while Shakti dances on His body.
“Kali stands on the bosom of Siva; Siva lies under Her feet like a corpse; Kali looks at Siva. All this denotes the union of Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha is inactive; therefore Siva lies on the ground like a corpse. Prakriti performs all Her activities in conjunction with Purusha. Thus She creates, preserves, and destroys.” (32)
Thus the Father is “immoveable and actionless” (33), a profound stillness in which we discover Sat-Chit-Ananda, or Being, Awareness, and Bliss Absolute. The Mother is the movement in this stillness, the voice in the silence, the primordial, active energy in the eternal tranquillity of the Father. It is this relationship between the dynamic and the static that Jesus hinted at when he called the totality of God “a movement and a rest.” (34)
Bernadette Roberts stressed the Father’s stillness when she called him “the ‘still-point’ at the center of being.” (35) Lao Tzu emphasized it when he asserted that: “The Way [the Tao or the Father] is a Void.” (36)
Empty of name and form, qualities and attributes, and quintessentially tranquil and still, the Father is in the end inconceivable. “What Brahman is cannot be described,” declared the Godman of Dakshineswar. (37) Because ego is subdued for a time upon attaining the Father, leaving no observer to observe, no thinker to think, “no one has ever been able to say what Brahman is.” (38)
The essence of the Mother is a universal creative vibration,
symbolized by the sacred syllable ‘Aum,’ which calls matter into being, sustains it for a while, and then releases it back into the general dissolution of the Father
Hindus symbolize the primal power – the Mother as vibration or energy – by the sacred syllable – or rather vibration – ‘Aum.’ Sri Ramakrishna makes this connection when he equates Aum with the Divine Mother, exclaiming: “O Mother! O Embodiment of ‘Om.’” (39)
Paramahansa Yogananda identifies “Aum,” or “Amen,” with the Holy Spirit: Christians are familiar with the Amen from Revelation: “These things saith the Amen [the Mother], the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” (40)
“The ancients, not versed in the polished language of modern times, used ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘Word’ for Intelligent Cosmic Vibration, which is the first materialization of God the Father in matter [i.e., the Mother]. The Hindus speak of this Holy Ghost as the ‘Aum.’” (41)
Holy Ghost, Aum of the Hindus, the Mohammedan Amin, the Christian Amen, Voice of Many Waters, Word, are the same thing. (42)
Yogananda links “Aum” and the “Holy Ghost” to the primordial energy:
“The Bible refers to Aum as the Holy Ghost or invisible life force that divinely upholds creation. ‘What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which we have of God, and ye are not your own?’ (I Corinthians 6:19.)” (43)
Now we know the Mother, Shakti, the Holy Ghost, as Aum. Aum creates, preserves and destroys.
“The cosmic sound of Aum creates all things as Nebulae, preserves them in the forms of the present cosmos and worlds, and ultimately will dissolve all things in the bosom-sea of God.” (44)
Nature is an objectification of Aum, the Primal Sound or Vibratory Word. (45)
Sage Vasistha made the same point in the Yoga Vasistha. The form of his teaching is similar to Sri Ramakrishna’s, that waves or vibrations arise out of the Ocean of Sathchidananda.
“When the infinite vibrates, the worlds appear to emerge. When it does not vibrate, the worlds appear to submerge, even as when a firebrand is whirled fast a circle appears. And when it is held steady, the circle vanishes. Vibrating or not vibrating, it is the same everywhere at all times.” (46)
Theosophist Annie Besant propagated this view as well:
“The source from which a universe proceeds is a manifested Divine Being, to whom in the modern form of the Ancient Wisdom the name of Logos, or Word, has been given. The name is drawn from Greek philosophy, but perfectly expresses the ancient idea, the Word which emerges from the Silence, the Voice, the sound, by which the worlds come into being.” (47)
Have we any representations of the birth of the Mother? A recent article in What is Enlightenment? magazine relates a vision of the author, Maura O’Connor, a student of the Kabbalah. In it she was taught by a rabbi, Moses de Leon, the following:
“Emptiness, what the kabbalists call ayin, exists far beyond concepts or language. It is like a pure ether that can never be grasped by the mind. … Emptiness is the ultimate mystery, the secretof the Cause of Causes, and it brought everything into being. …
“I must tell you of the great rabbi, Isaac Luria. Luria was a visionary like none other: he lived during the fifteenth century in the holy town of Galilee…. He spent his life ceaselessly contemplating the source of the universe, the primordial emptiness we call ayin…. He recognized that in order for the latent divinity of ayin to manifest its glorious potential for life, a cataclysmic contraction had to take place. …
“Luria understood that the absolute nature of this emptiness meant that it was so pervasive, nothing else but it could exist. In order for life to become manifest, a seismic contraction of emptiness in on itselfhad to occur, creating a space in which divine emanation was possible. …
“Following this immense contraction, God’s first cosmic act was the emission of a single perfect ray of light. This beam pierced through the void and then expanded in all directions. Think of it as God’s first breath [‘spirit’ = ‘breath’] exhaling into the abyss after eons of slumber and filling it with His divinity. This is how the universe was born.” (48)
This first perfect ray of Light is the Holy Spirit or Divine Mother. Its expansion in all directions is the birth of the universe. What we may be hearing is a vision of the creation of the universe — what scientists call “the Big Bang.”
Ultimately, She is one with the Father
This Light, this vibration called “Aum,” the Divine Mother, is one with the vibrationless Father. Patanjali states: “The Word which expresses [God] is “Om“ (49) “Oh, Lord, dweller within,” says Shankara, “ “Om is your very self.” (50) Or the Upanishads: “Om is Brahman, both the conditioned [Mother] and the unconditioned [Father], the personal [Mother] and the impersonal [Father].” (51)
Krishna, speaking as God, declares:
“I am …
Om in all the Vedas,
The word that is God.” (52)
Three Hindu masters – Swami Yukestwar Giri, Swami Sivananda, and Paramahansa Ramakrishna explain the relationship between Brahman and Shakti, or Father and Mother, by using a fire metaphor.
Swami Yukteswar Giri, guru to Paramahansa Yogananda
“[The] manifestation of the Word (becoming flesh, the external material) created this visible world. So the Word, Amen, Aum [the Mother], being the manifestation of the Eternal Nature of the Almighty Father or His own Self, is inseparable from and nothing but God Himself; as the burning power is inseparable from and nothing but the fire itself.” (53)
“Just as one cannot separate heat from fire, so also one cannot separate Sakti [Mother] from Sakta [Father]. Sakti and Sakta are one. They are inseparable.” (54)
“Brahman and Sakti are identical. If you accept the one, you must accept the other. It is like fire and its power to burn. If you see the fire, you must recognize its power to burn also. … One cannot think of the Absolute without the Relative, or the Relative without the Absolute.” (55)
“Sakti is Brahman itself,” concludes Swami Sivananda. (56) Sri Ramaskrishna agrees: “Brahman is Sakti; Sakti is Brahman. They are not two.” (57) “[Brahman and Sakti] are only two aspects, male and female, of the same Reality, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.” (58)
When we speak to the Divine Mother, we are speaking to the Holy Father. Sri Ramakrishna teaches: “It is Brahman whom I address as Sakti or Kali.” (59)
She plays a central role in enlightenment
As we have seen, the Mother is portrayed as leading the Sons and Daughters of God to a final meeting with the Father, in what is the culminating event of many lives. As Jesus did, so have we all come from the Father into the world. We are all prodigal children wandering in the domain of matter (mater, Mother), until we realize our true nature. Many metaphors are used to suggest how this realization of true identity happens. The Mother is depicted as withdrawing Her veil of phenomenal reality and revealing the Father. She is portrayed as leading the Child of God to the Father.
Hindus, like Swami Sivananda, advise us to beseech the Mother’s help in our attempts to reach the Father.
“It behooves … the aspirant [to] approach the Mother first, so that She may introduce Her spiritual child to the Father for its illumination or Self-realization.” (60)
The knowledge of God as the Child, the Mother, and the Father constitutes three discrete levels of enlightenment. When we know this Trinity in full, we have completed the human leg of our journey back to God.
Let us examine the Mother as bringer of enlightenment and object of enlightenment.
There is a passage in Proverbs where the Mother (as “Wisdom”) is represented as speaking directly. Her words are consistent with what we’ve learned about Her so far:
“Doth not wisdom cry…
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting [that is, before time], from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.” (61)
Why are they blessed who keep Her ways? Because God the Mother will enlighten those who follow Her commands.
We see evidence of this throughout the Bible, as the Mother enlightens those who “keep Her ways.” Hebrew kings and prophets were baptized with the Holy Spirit . Here She brings enlightenment to the disciples of Jesus upon the Day of Pentecost, after his death.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all of one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. “(62)
Sri Yukteswar explains the significance of this event. “Being baptized in the sacred stream of Pranava (the Holy Aum vibration)” the spiritual aspirant “comprehends the “Kingdom of God.” (63)
For many years I believed that Islam recognized only Allah, the Father. But recently I have found a passage in the Koran which demonstrates that its author acknowledges the Mother or Holy Spirit as well. The passage concerns the Holy Spirit enlightening the worthy in the penultimate experience of illumination, immediately prior to God-Realization, symbolically preparing the Child of God for meeting the Father. The Koran says:
“Exalted and throned on high, [Allah] lets the Spirit descend at His behest on those of His servants whom He chooses, that He may warn them of the day when they shall meet Him.” (64)
The Divine Mother or Holy Ghost enlightened the 12th-Century German saint Hildegard of Bingen, who testified:
“When I was forty-two years and seven months old, a burning light of tremendous brightness coming from heaven poured into my entire mind. Like a flame that does not burn but enkindles, it inflamed my entire heart and my entire breast, just like the sun that warms an object with its rays.” (65)
Following this experience, Hildegard could not stop from singing the praises of the Holy Spirit or Divine Mother:
“Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is a Burning Spirit. It kindles the hearts of humankind. Like tympanum and lyre it plays them, gathering volumes in the temple of the soul. The Holy Spirit resurrects and awakens everything that is.” (66)
The Mother manifested to Sri Ramakrishna as clouds of consciousness and bliss:
“Suddenly I had the wonderful vision of the Mother and fell down unconscious.” (67)
“It was as if houses, doors, temples, and everything else vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever. However far and in whatever direction I looked I saw a continuous succession of effulgent waves madly rushing at me from all sides, with great speed. f was caught in the rush, and panting for breath I collapsed, unconscious.” (68)
“I did not know what happened then in the external world — how that day and the next slipped away. But in my heart of hearts there was flowing a current of intense bliss, never experienced before, and I had the immediate knowledge of the liqht that was Mother.” (69)
And She appeared to Ramakrishna’s doubting non-dualistic guru Totapuri, who until that moment refused to accept Her reality:
“Suddenly, in one dazzling moment, [Totapuri, saw] on all sides the presence of the Divine Mother. She is in everything; She is everything. She is in the water; She is on land. She is the body. She is the mind. She is pain; She is comfort. She is is life; She is death. She is everything that one sees, hears, or imagines. She turns ‘yea’ into ‘nay,’ and ‘nay’ into ‘yea.’ Without Her grace no embodied being can go beyond Her realm. Man has no free will. He is not even free to die. Yet, again, beyond the body and mind She resides in Her Transcendental, Absolute aspect. She is the Brahman that Totapuri had been worshipping all his life.” (70)
She is the kundalini energy in the body and, when that energy rises from the muladhara chakra to the sahasrara, Shakti is said to merge with Shiva. This is another way in which the Mother can lead the aspirant to the Father. Swami Sivananda says: Shakti “leads the individual from Cakra to Cakra, from plane to plane and unifies him with Lord Siva in the Sahasrara.” (71)
Sri Ramakrishna and his disciples used to sing a song whose aim was to invoke the kundalini to rise, so that Shakti would meet Shiva at the sahasrara.
“Awake, Mother! Awake! How long Thou hast been asleep
In the lotus of the Muladhara!
“Fulfil Thy secret function, Mother:
Rise to the thousand-petalled lotus within the head,
Where mighty Siva has His dwelling;
Swiftly pierce the six lotuses
And take away my grief, O Essence of Consciousness!” (72)
As each chakra awakens under the influence of our growing spirituality, the Mother is heard to “knock at the door,” in Paramahansa Yogananda’s words.
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock (sound through Om vibration): If any man hear my voice (listen to Om), and open the door, I will come in to him. (Revelation 3:20).” (73)
Many aspirants, prominent among them Franklin Merrell-Wolff and Da Free John, were led to Brahmajnana (or God-realization attendant upon the spiritual energy reaching the seventh chakra) by the kundalini. Here is how Dr. Wolff described it:
“The Current is clearly a subtle, fluid-like substance which brings the sense of well-being already described. Along with It, a more than earthly Joy suffuses the whole nature. To myself, I called It a Nectar. Now, I recognize It under several names. It is … the ‘Soma,’ the ‘Ambrosia of the Gods,’ the ‘Elixir of Life,’ the ‘Water of Life’ of Jesus, and the ‘Baptism of the Spirit’ of St. Paul. It is more than related to Immortality; in fact it is Identical with Immortality.” (74)
Da Free John called it this “current of immortal joy.” (75) His energetic experiences with the Divine Energy or the Shakti are unusual. His process, which ended in God-realization, began one day when:
“I could feel and hear little clicking pulses in the base of my head and neck, indicating the characteristic Presence of the Mother Shakti.” (76)
The Mother knocks at the door and Da Free John hears Her and invites Her in. Meditating in a Vedanta Society temple in Hollywood, which he found to be a very powerful centre of Shakti:
“I felt the Shakti appear against my own form. She embraced me, and we grasped one another in sexual union. We clasped one another in a fire of cosmic desire, as if to give birth to the universes. Then I felt the oneness of the Divine Energy and my own Being. There was no separation at all. The one Being that was my own nature included the reality that is all manifestation as a single cosmic unity and eternal union.
“The sensations of the embrace were overwhelmingly blissful. It exceeded any kind of pleasure that a man could acquire. And soon I ceased to feel myself as a dependent child of the Shakti. I accepted her as my consort, my loved-one, and I held her forever to my heart.” (77)
This proved to be his penultimate experience before God-Realization, the “harbinger” of the Father. He returned to the temple the next day but nothing happened. He simply sat in the temple. In a moment, he became aware of his true nature.
“In an instant, I became profoundly and directly aware of what I am. It was a tacit realization, a direct knowledge in consciousness itself. It was consciousness itself without the addition of a communication from any other source. I simply sat there and knew what I am. I was being what I am. I am Reality, the Self, and Nature and Support of all things and all beings. I am the One Being, known as God, Brahman, Atman, the One Mind.” (78)
Withdrawing Her veils, moving us onward by her evolutionary coaxings, teaching us in Her school of matter, liberating us through the rising of the kundalini – there are many ways that the Mother leads the prodigal child to the Father.
No other spiritual agency has received the attention She has, under such a variety of names, and yet has been so little understood
The Divine Mother has been known to sages throughout the centuries, around the world, in religions from Advaita to Zarathustreanism. But the myriad names She has been called and the lack of integrated studies of Her have sometimes proved confusing.
I’d like to summarize the names I’ve found linked to the Mother. I’ve given one or two references for each use, though many more could have been given. This list has been derived by starting with undoubted epithets like “Holy Spirit,” “Divine Mother,” and “Shakti,” and then noting what other synonymous terms are used by the same enlightened source.
These are full or partial synonyms for the Divine Mother:
Adyasakti (or Ancient Power) (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 218 and 460.)
Ahunavairya (Zarathustra in GZ, 8-9.)
Amen (Revelation 3:14; Shankara, CJD, I; Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 23 and 24; Paramahansa Yogananda in AY, 237n and 363n and SCC, 1, 17 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Amin (Paramahansa Yogananda in, 237n.)
Aum or Om (UPAN 50 and 53; Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 299; Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 24; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 143-4, 237n, 363n, 484, and 487n and SCC, 1, 15-6 and 19 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Breath of God (Job 33:4; Solomon in APO, 191.)
Comforter or Comforter Spirit (Zarathustra in GZ, 217; Jesus in John 14:16 and 14:26 and 15:26; Hildegard of Bingen in IHB, 9; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 144n and 363n and SCC, 1, 19.)
Cosmic Power or Energy (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 116; Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 2, 22; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 25.)
Cosmic Sound (Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 237, SCC, 1, 15 and 17 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Cosmic Vibration (Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 15-6, 17, and 56 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer (UPAN, 37; Zarathustra, GZ, 187, 227 and 240; Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 32, 107, 135, and 653; Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 15-6.)
Divine Mother (Lao Tzu in WOL, 53, 72, and 105; Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 32, 107, 136, 200, and 299; Swami Sivananda Sarasvati in KYW, 25; Nikhilananda in VIV, 24; Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, LAS, 1, 15, 21, 22, and 28; Da Free John in KOL, 132; etc.)
Divine Power (Sister Vandana, NJ, 190-1.)
Durga (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 216.)
Embodiment of Om (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 299.)
The Fashioner of all things (Solomon in APO, 191.)
Holy Ghost (Jesus in Matthew 12: 31-2; John 14:26 and 20:21-2; Paramhansa Yogananda, AY, 143-4, 363n, and 487n and SCC, 1, 15-6 and 19 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Holy Spirit (Solomon in APO, 195; Zarathustra, 217 and 227; Luke 11:13.)
Holy Vibration (Paramahansa Yogananda in SCC, 1, 56.)
Hum (Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 237n.)
Kali (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 107 and 634; Nikhilananda, “Introduction,” to GSR, 9-10; Nikhilananda, “Vivekananda” in VIV, 24; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 10, 40n, and 41.)
Kundalini (Swami Sivananda in KYW, 25 and 30; GSR, 182.)
Logos (Annie Besant, AW, 44; Vivekananda in Nikhilananda, VIV, 422.)
Matrix (Lao Tzu in WOL, 105; Sri Aurobindo, SOY, 3.)
Maya (Sri Krishna in BG, 80; Shankara in CJD, 49; Sri Aurobindo, UP, 27; Nikhilananda, HIN, 42-3 and 45; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 26.)
Mother – See Divine Mother.
Mother Nature, Mother of nature (Swami Sivananda in KYW, 26; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 10 and 41; Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, CML, 19; Nikhilananda in GSR, 9-10.)
Mother of the universe (Nikhilananda, “Vivekananda” in VIV, 24.)
Natural Law (Solomon in Proverbs 1:8-9, 3:1, and 6:20; Jesus in
Matthew 12:31-2; St. Paul in Romans 8:2; Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, CML, 18-9; Krishnamurti, AFM, 25.)
Nature (Paramahansa Yogananda, AY,40n and 41 and SCC, 1, 33; John Redtail Freesoul, BI, 11-2.)
Noise of many waters (David in Psalm 93:3-4; Ezekiel 43:1-2.)
Personal God or Saguna Brahman (Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 32, 149, 218 and 277.)
Power of God, Power of the Lord (Solomon in APO, 191; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 25.)
Prakriti/Procreatrix (Sri Krishna in BG, 103, 104, and 106; Sri Aurobindo, UP, 27; Ramakrishnananda, GDI, 1 and 8: Swami Sivananda in KYW, 26; Paramahansa Ramakrishna in GSR, 32 and123; Nikhilananda, “Introduction” to GSR, 9-10; Paramahansa Yogananda, SCC, 1, 33.)
Prana (UPAN , 35-8; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 484; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 26.)
Primal Energy, Primal Power (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 116 and 135; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 25.)
Primordial/Primal Energy (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 107 and 242.)
Relative Plane (Sri Ramakrishna, GSR, 653.)
Saguna Brahman See Personal God or Saguna Brahman.
Shakti Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 116; Swami Sivananda in KYW, 25-6.)
Sound-Brahman, Shabda Brahman, or Pranava (PR in GSR, 263; Swami Vivekananda in Nikhilananda, VIV, 422; Sister Vandana, NJ, 190-1.)
Sound of many waters (Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 267-8.)
Sphota (Swami Vivekananda in Nikhilananda, VIV, 422; Usha, RVW, 74.)
Spirit of the Bridegroom (St. John of the Cross, CWSJC, 580.)
Spirit of God, Spirit of the Lord (Genesis 1:2; Exodus 35:31; Isaiah 11:2; Ibn Arabi, KK, 15-6; Paramahansa Yogananda in AY, 142 and 143.)
Spirit of Truth (Jesus in John 14:17.)
Spirit of Wisdom (Zarathushtra, GZ, 13 and 187; Exodus 28:3 and 35:31; Deuteronomy 34:9; Isaiah 11:2; St. Paul in Ephesians 1:15-7.)
Spouse (St. John of the Cross in CWSJC, 75.)
Syama (Sri Ramakrishna in GSR, 271.)
Voice in the Silence (Annie Besant, AW, 44; Mabel Collins, LOP, 22.)
Voice of many waters (St. John in Revelation 14:2; Paramahansa Yogananda in AY, 17n and SCC, 1, 19.)
Voice of one that crieth in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3.)
Wisdom or Sophia (Zarathustra, GZ, 187 and 227; Solomon in Proverbs 3:19 and 9:1 and APO, 191 and 195; Isaiah 11:2; .Jesus in Matthew 11:19; John of the Cross in CWSJC, 75.)
Witness (St. John in Revelation 3:14 and Paramahansa Yogananda in AY, 143-4 and 237 and SCC, 2, 22.)
Womb of God, Womb of Brahman, womb of wombs; Brahmayoni (Sri Krishna in BG, 106; Sri Ramakrishna, GSR, 870; Yogeshananda in VSR, 41; Sri Aurobindo, SOY, 3.)
Word (Hermes, DPH, 8 and 17; Zarathustra in GZ, 8-9; John 1:1 and 1:3; Annie Besant, AW, 44; Sri Yukteswar Giri, HS, 23 and 24; Paramahansa Yogananda, AY, 143-4, 237n, and 363n, SCC, 1, 19 and SCC, 2, 22.)
The Mother will always be incomprehensible and Her significance will remain immeasurable
One day we shall be able to say with Solomon: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom… She is more precious than rubies; and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared with her.” (79) But though we merge with Her and reap all the rewards of doings so, we can never know Her as long as we are human.
Only those who have achieved what Jesus called everlasting life, the immortality that the experience of vijnana, (80) or stable and permanent realization, confers reach a high enough vantage point even to begin to inquire into, let alone understand, Her mystery. Even then, they can only marvel and say, with Shankara:
[The Mother] is neither being nor non-being, nor a mixture of both. She is neither divided nor undivided, nor a mixture of both. She is neither an indivisible whole, nor composed of parts, nor a mixture of both. She is most strange. Her nature is inexplicable. (81)
For full details on these sources, see Bibliography
(1) Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1978; c1942, 150. [Hereafter GSR.]
(2) Lao Tzu, The Way of Life. The Tao Te Ching. trans. R.B. Blakney. New York, etc.: Avon, 1975, 53.
(3) GSR, 106.
(4) Swami Nikhilananda, Hinduism. lts Meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1968, 29; Swami Nikhilananda, trans. Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1953, 24. [Hereafter HIN and VIV.]
(5) HIN, 29.
(6) GSR, 9-10.
(7) Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester, trans., The Upanishads. Breath of the Eternal. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1957; c1948, 37. [Hereafter UPAN.]
(8) Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 80. [Hereafter BG.]
(9) Duncan Greenlees, trans. The Gospel of Zarathushtra. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1978, 187.
(10) Edgar J. Goodspeed, trans., The Apocrypha. An American Translation. New York: Random House, 1959; c1938, 192. [Hereafter APO.]
(11) GSR, 30.
(12) APO, 191.
(13) GSR, 135.
(14) Ibid., 231.
(15) Proverbs 9:1.
(16) Corinthians 3:16.
(17) BG, 103.
(18) See ”The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/purpose.html.
(19) Amos 4:1.
(20) See “The Divine Plan” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/divine1.html and “Is There a Plan to Life?” at http://www.angelfire.com/space2/light11/plan.html.
(21) “If you will know yourselves, then you will … know that you are the sons of the Living Father.” That is, if you were realized, you would know that you are Sons of God. (Jesus in GATT, 3.)
(22) See “Christianity and Hinduism are One” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2012/10/28/christianity-and-hinduism-are-one/.
(23) GSR, 353.
(24) Ibid., 359.
(25) Paramahansa Yogananda, The Second Coming of Christ. Dallas: Amrita Foundation, 1979, 1, 16. [Hereafter SCC.]
(26) GSR, 271.
(27) Loc. Cit.
(28) Sri Ramakrishna cited in Nikhilananda, “Shankara’s Philosophy of Non-Dualism,” CJD, 18-9; cf. GSR, 191.
(29) GSR, 30
(30) Ibid., 321.
(31) Ibid., 218.
(32) Ibid., 271.
(33) Ibid., 104.
(34) A. Guillaumont et al. The Gospel According to Thomas. New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1959, 29.
(35) Berandette Roberts, The Experience of No-Self. A Contemplative Journey. Boston and London: Shamballa, 1985, 10.
(36) WOL, 56.
(37) GSR, 102.
(38) Loc. Cit.
(39) GSR, 299.
(40) Rev. 3:14.
(41) SCC, 1, 16.
(42) Ibid., 19; HS, 24.
(43) Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi. Bombay: Jaico, 1975, 363.
(44) SCC, 1, 16.
(45) AY, 155-6.
(46) Swami Venkatesananda, ed., The Concise Yoga Vasistha. Albany: State University of New York, 1984, 45.
(47) Annie Besant, The Ancient Wisdom. Adyar: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972; c1897, 44.
(48) Maura O’Connor, “A People’s Revolution of Enlightenment: Kabbalah,” WIE, Issue 27, Nov.-Feb. 2004, 86-7.
(49) Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., How to Know God. The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. New York, etc.: New American Library, 1969; c1953, 39.
(50) Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher lsherwood, Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1975; c1947, i. [Hereafter CJD.]
(51) UPAN, 40.
(52) BG, 71.
(53) Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, The Holy Science. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1984, 24.
(54) Swami Sivananda Radha, Kundalini Yoga for the West. Spokane: Timeless Books, 1978, 25. [Hereafter KYW.]
(55) GSR, 134.
(56) KYW, 26.
(57) GSR, 271.
(58) Loc. cit.
(59) Ibid., 734.
(60) KYW, 25.
(61) Proverbs 8:1, 22-4, and 32.
(62) Acts 2:1-4.
(63) Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, The Holy Science. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1984, 15.
(64) N.J. Dawood, trans. The Koran. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964; c1959, 160.
(65) Matthew Fox, Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen. Santa Fe: Bear, 1985, 9.
(66) Loc. cit.
(67) Swami Yogeshananda, The Visions of Sri Ramakrishna. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1980, 13.
(68) Loc. cit.
(69) Loc. cit.
(70) GSR, 31.
(71) KYW, 26.
(72) GSR, 242.
(73) Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons, Number 29, 3.
(74) Swami Yogeshananda, The Visions of Sri Ramakrishna. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1980, 31.
(75) Da Free John,The Knee of Listening. Original Edition. Clearlake, CA; Dawn Horse Press, 1984; c1973, 157.
(76) Ibid., 132.
(77) Ibid., 134.
(78) Ibid., 134-5.
(79) Proverbs 3:13 and 15.
(80) Sri Ramakrishna: “There is a stage beyond even Brahmajnana, After jnana comes vijnana.” ( GSR, 288.) Ramana Maharshi calls it turiyatita and sahaja [permanent] nirvikalpa samadhi:
Sahaja [samadhi] is also Nirvikalpa. You are probably meaning [Kevalya] Nirvikalpa, which is temporary, while the Samadhi lasts. The Sahaja Nirvikalpais permanent and in it lies liberation from rebirths. (S.S. Cohen, Guru Ramana. Memories and Notes. 6th edition. Tiruvannamalai: Sri Ramanasramam, 1993, 88.) [Hereafter GR.]
[The] Heart is the seat of Jnanam as well as of the granthi (knot of ignorance). It is represented in the physical body by a hole smaller than the smallest pin-point, which is always shut. When the mind drops down in Kevalya nirvikalpa [samadhi], it opens but shuts again after it. When sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi is attained it opens for good. (GR, 96.)
This is the final goal. (Ramana Maharshi, Self-Enquiry. Trans. T.M.P. Mahadevan. http://www.realization.org/page/namedoc0/self/self_0.htm Downloaded 1 August 2005, answer to question 40.)
This is the “final goal” in the sense that it frees an individual from the need to reincarnate in physical matter again, but it is not the final goal in terms of subsequent enlightenments. See “The Purpose of Life is Enlightenment – Ch. 11 – Enlightenment is Virtually Endless” at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2011/08/11/the-purpose-of-life-is-enlightenment-ch-11-enlightenment-is-virtually-endless/
(81) CJD, 49.