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Union and Unity in Hindu Tantrism

Union and Unity in Hindu Tantrism
By Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam

Published with author’s permission from: http://www.svabhinava.org/union/unioneli-frame.html

“O vision of immortal and supreme ambrosia, resplendent with conscious light streaming from the absolute Reality, be my refuge. Through it art Thou worshipped by those who know the secret (science). Having purified the ‘foundation’ (âdhâra-dharâ) by sprinkling it with the rapturous savor of Self-Consciousness, and mentally offering all objects presenting themselves (to the senses, as if they were) flowers exhaling an innate scent, (dipping them first in) the nectar of bliss overflowing the impeccable libation-vessel (argha-pâtra) of my heart, I worship Thee night and day, O God united to the Goddess, in this House of YHWH (deva-sadana), my Body.”

Abhinavagupta, Tantrâloka, 26.63-64, 29.176; adapted from Silburn’s translation, Kundalinî, p. 204.

  1. Inclusive Unity in the Trika System
  2. Tantric Physiology and the Unification of Consciousness
  3. The Vocabulary of Union and Unity in the Trika
  4. Kulayâga: Paradigm of Union and Unity in Hinduism
  5. Sexual Union as Sacrifice: Between Veda and Tantra
  6. Bhairava-Consciousness and the all-devouring Fire

The fundamental preoccupation of Hinduism is to put an end to the infernal cycle of rebirths (samsâra) and thus to attain ‘deliverance’ (moksha).1 The Hindu ideal aims at fusion with the totality (brahman), which abolishes all individuality (âtman). In this regard, the different systems of Hindu philosophy seem to rally around this idea expressed in the Parama Hamsa Upanisad: “I know the Unity; my soul is no longer separate but united to the cosmic soul; this is indeed the supreme union (junction)—no more ‘me’ nor ‘you’ for him (= the liberated), the very universe has disappeared.”2 Under the influence of Advaita Vedânta, unity in the Hindu tradition has been generally understood in opposition to the world of multiplicity, of illusion (mâyâ), of bodily incarnation, which must necessarily be rejected in order to unite oneself with the Absolute. Within such a perspective, it is difficult to understand how any concrete union, presupposing as it does the (at least initial) dualism of the sexes, could lead to salvation. Sexual union is after all based on the identification with the ephemeral flux of the body and the desire for its other, whereas unity is precisely the negation of the Other. In the Vedic myth, it is indeed through the desire for the Other that the One become many. The valorization of symbols of sexual union and the universalization of their sacrificial notation in the brahmanical ritual functioned within a public ‘polytheistic’ context where any aim of unity is not at all apparent. It is only in the later doctrines of Tantrism that ritualized sexual union is systematically sanctified within a non-dualistic perspective, precisely as a means to individual liberation. For here unity is understood rather as the absence of oppositions between moksha and samsâraan ineffable state including both transcendence and immanence that the Trika philosophical system—more widely called ‘Kashmir Shaivism’—designates by the term anuttara (‘that which has no beyond’).

Inclusive Unity in the Trika System3

The Trika is a doctrinal synthesis which constitutes, among other things, the sophisticated self-representation of a radical Tantric outlook within and through the high discourse of classical Brahmanism itself.4 Though the doctrinal bases were already laid down by the beginning of the ninth century A.D., its highly refined philosophical superstructure called the ‘Doctrine of Recognition’ (Pratyabhijñâ) found its fullest and most powerful formulation in the extensive work of its dominating figure, Abhinavagupta (10-11th century), who insists on going “beyond dualism and non-dualism.” Unlike the ‘exclusive’ non-dualism of Shankara’s Advaita Vedânta which simply rejects all dualism, the Trika perspective seeks to encompass the rich diversity of manifestation within the non-dual principle at its heart. The fundamental difference consists in the apprehension of activity as illusion (mâyâ) for Shankara and as reality for Abhinavagupta. For the latter, the Absolute is characterized by the totality of two powers (shakti), that of knowledge (jñâna) and that of activity (kriyâ). The sort of ideological split that occurred within the Veda-based orthodoxy between the ritualists (Mîmâmsakas), who espoused action in this world to the detriment of knowledge, and the Vedântins who could affirm such liberating knowledge only by negating action, is not only reconciled in practice but also resolved in theory by the Trika. Ritual confers insight and stabilizes the degrees of self-realization, just as knowledge vivifies and empowers the outer activity in turn. Hence the affirmation of a supreme non-dualism (parâdvaita) that goes ‘beyond both dualism and non-dualism’ makes good sense from the soteriological point of view.

The Trika distinguishes between two modes or rather logically successive states of spiritual realization, which have been translated by borrowing the terms ‘ascending’ (sankoca: ‘retraction’) and ‘descending’ (vikâsa: ‘expansion’) realization respectively. “During the ascending realization, Consciousness isolates itself from all objectivity (including body, mind, etc.) until it transcends the latter through a process assimilated to a gradual ‘self-purification’…. But the process attains completion only when Consciousness ‘re-descends’ to assimilate the entire objective world to itself, a ‘universalization’ culminating in the state of Anuttara, impossible to describe in terms of sankoca and vikâsa, understood as constituting the ultimate essence of Bhairava. This claim is typically inserted in the midst of arguments justifying the non-observance of the distinction pure/impure or edible/prohibited (food) and so on. The logic behind this equation becomes clear when we consider the definition of purity: whatever is (experienced as) distinct from Consciousness is impure, whereas whatever is (experienced as) identical with Consciousness is pure. Both terms of the opposition are therefore relevant only with respect to that preliminary, though better known, process of the ascending realization. For the Kaula adept intent on universalizing his Consciousness by re-descending to and assimilating the lowest and most impure aspects of objective manifestation, it is the pure/impure distinction itself that is considered the ultimate impurity to be transcended. It is in attempting the dangerous process of totalization that the adept often commits deliberate transgressions to shatter the rules and limitations that had earlier propped up both his worldly life and spiritual disciplines.”5 The category of the impure, which is externally imposed by tradition, thus reveals itself to be ultimately dependent on a dialectic of interdiction and transgression correlated to the two modes of spiritual realization.

Whereas those techniques aiming at an ascending realization and the religio-philosophical currents based on them advocate turning away from the world of ordinary sensory-experience to attain an ultimate reality that is transcendent, the techniques of the descent insist that it is possible to ‘recognize’ this transcendent reality as simultaneously immanent, even glorifying itself, in the everyday world of sensory-experiences. Not falling a prey to it by recognizing one’s inner transcendence, it is possible to continue living in the world, enjoying it as a manifestation of the Divine. Thus the unity which the individual seeks to attain by ascending towards God is presupposed by and encompassed within a larger movement whereby God Himself re-descends to re-appropriate his creation through the medium of the adept who has surrendered his limited individuality to the supreme Consciousness. Functioning both as the means to and the expression of transcendence in the midst of worldly experience, transgression, by dissolving the final barriers which preserve the profane from the sacred, raises the experience of unity to a second order. It is the reconciliation of deliverance (moksha) and sensual enjoyment (bhoga) that permits the supreme valorization of the body in the ‘descendingTantric perspective. Abhinavagupta, the living incarnation of Bhairava, attributes his highest metaphysical realization to his initiation into the technique of the ‘Kula-Sacrifice’ (kula-yâga) consisting primarily in the exceptional use of meat and wine in order to reinforce the bliss of incestuous sexual union.

Tantric Physiology and the Unification of Consciousness

Chapter twenty-nine of the Tantrâloka, which describes the kula-yâga—the most esoteric ritual of union for the attainment of unity—is extremely difficult to understand because of Abhinavagupta’s deliberately obscure style (TA 29.169). Lilian Silburn’s pioneering work, the life-work of a scholar and practitioner of the Trika, has proved invaluable in clearing many difficulties and I am indebted to her translation, notes and explanations.6 In order to understand the process of unification during sex, the following ternary structure must be especially kept in mind: idâpingalâ and susumnâ. This detailed Tantric physiology goes back to the Upanishads, where the body is traversed by innumerable canals (nâdî) among which these three play the dominant role.

One has thus this series of symbolic correspondences:

Name Place River Color Light Sex Breath
idâ left Gangâ yellow moon female apâna
pingalâ right Yamunâ red sun male prâna
sushumnâ center Sarasvatî diamond fire neuter udâna

Through the mutual friction and neutralization of the opposed solar and lunar breaths (prâna/apâna), fire is produced in the form of the ascending udâna which devours all duality, just as the twin Vedic churn-sticks were consumed in the spark of the sacrificial fire they kindled. The fusion of these three breaths, viz. apâna, prâna and udâna also symbolizes the unity of desire, knowledge and action in the Trika. The ascent of udâna through the median canal (sushumnâ) corresponds to the elevation of the kundalinî, the sexual energy in the form of a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. In Sanskrit, “this term has an exact synonym in the compound bhogavatî, bhoga is at the same time curvature, coiling up (especially of the serpent) and everything that pertains to sense experience, notably enjoyment” (Biardeau, L’hindouisme, p. 167). Sensuality and, more particularly, sexuality is thus inherent in the conception and functioning of kundalinî. The spiritual exercises based on the tantric physiology should allow the kundalinî to take the way of the sushumnâ to reach the dvâdaçânta, place of meeting with the Absolute and where the perfect union of Shiva and his Shakti is realized.

Unlike the later texts of hatha-yoga which describe the cakras as seven stationary centers visualized in elaborate detail with varying numbers of petals corresponding to the letters of the alphabet, etc., the Shaivas of Kashmir experienced them rather as whirling many-spoked wheels serving as nodal points for energy exchanges between various parts of the body and the median channel.7 These wheels, which in the ordinary person exist rather in the form of coagulated ‘knots’ (granthi) obstructing the free circulation of conscious energy, are moreover only five in number. The ‘root support’ (mûlâdhâra) at the base of the spine is represented by a downward pointing (adhovaktra) triangle (trikona), for the sexual energies are normally dissipated downwards. It is the seat of the dormant kundalinî coiled around the germinal point (bindu) representing Shiva and the essence of virility. The intimate relation of this center with the sexual and reproductive functions is underlined through other names like the ‘base of generation’ (janmâdhâra) and ‘place of the womb’ (yoni-sthâna). When the adept successfully inverts this triangle so that the opening at its apex is directed upwards, virile energy is instead drawn into the median channel through an opening called medhra-kanda ‘bulb (at the base) of the penis.’ The second wheel at the navel (nâbhî) with ten spokes is at the junction of ten principal pathways (nâdî). The wheel of the heart (hrdaya), where the breaths are understood to fuse, is especially privileged by Abhinavagupta as a seat of awakening for the kundalinî. Insofar as it reflects the fusion of the opposing triangles at the two extremities of the median channel, it can even be considered the primary center, infusing all the rest with its overflowing essence (rasa). Above the fourth wheel situated in the neck (kantha) is the fifth located between the eyebrows (bhrû-madhya), which is the ‘confluence of the triple current’ (trivenî) of the vital breaths. In the ordinary person, this upward pointing triangle is still not effectively linked to the topmost wheel at the ‘orifice of Brahma’ (brahma-randhra), which is located on the crown of the skull at the “end of twelve fingers’ breadth” (dvâdaçânta) away from it. The experience of the latter corresponds to the height of the ascent when the Self is realized in a state of meditative absorption (samâdhi). However, the supreme dvâdaçânta is above the body at the ‘end of twelve fingers’ breadth’ from the brahmarandhra itself, and corresponds to the experience of Shiva in the entire universe at the culmination of the descending realization. This eternally present ‘thousand-rayed’ (sahasrâra) wheel of innumerable energies, a fusion of light (bindu) and sound-vibration (nâda), is the very nature of things. Likened to the orb of the full moon shedding ambrosia, it contains the trident representing the united triple (trika) energy of will (desire), knowledge and activity that gives the Trika doctrine its name.

The aim of the practice is to retract the dispersed psycho-physical energies back into the ‘point’ (bindu) at the center of each wheel before directing their flow upwards so that the wheels are threaded by the median channel piercing through their centers. Ultimately, there is only a unique bindu on account of the fusion of all the wheels. The upturning of the inverted triangle (female) at the mûlâdhâra results in its elevation through the flow of kundalinî to the point between the eyebrows, where it unites with the upper triangle (male) to form the six-pointed (shatkona) ‘Seal of Solomon’ at the brahmarandhra. This coincidence of Shiva and Shakti so that they share a common bindusymbolizes the highest experience of unity possible in the body. Most pertinent is that the interaction or ‘friction’ of these two ‘lotuses’ leading to their fusion is conceived as a mode of sexual union that may be facilitated by, synchronized with and wholly assimilated to an external copulation, which is precisely what happens during the kula-yâga. The inner union of the triangles, which restores the original unity of the opposed—masculine and feminine—principles, is represented in Hinduism in the figure of the ardhanârîçvara or androgyne.8

The paradoxical ‘transmission’ of the realization of the unity of Consciousness from the teacher to the aspiring disciple hence takes the form of an intermediate unity involving the temporary compenetration of the two at the level of their corresponding cakras (Kundalinî, pp. 87-103). The initiation (dîkshâ) of the pupil consists in the systematic ‘piercing’ of one or more of his wheels by the teacher in order to infuse him with his own energy and momentarily raise him to the same level. It is almost a fusion of bodies resembling the Upanishadic sacrifice called sampratti wherein the son lay on the dying father—limb on corresponding limb—in order to receive the latter’s breaths and sense-faculties. Though all the six modes of ‘initiation by piercing’ (vedha-dîkshâ) require that the teacher renew his unity with the Absolute Consciousness before uniting the disciple’s limited consciousness with his own, the raising of the kundalinî in some of them has a particularly marked sexual component. In the mode called ‘piercing through virile potency’ (bindu-vedha), the guru concentrates his seminal energy in his heart so as to intensify it before focusing it outwards through the bindu in the middle of his eyebrows. The disciple likewise receives it through the middle of the eyebrows where the guru attempts to retain it, failing which it is deposited in the heart or in the root-bulb in respective order. On reaching the latter sex-center, the breath is transformed into a seminal flow that permeates the bodies of both partners before rising to the brahmarandhra. Similarly, the next two initiations (shâkta and bhujanga) are described as different modes, gradual or instantaneous, whereby the teacher unites the female ‘energy’ (shakti) at the base of his spine with the male ‘possessor of energy’ (shaktimat = shiva) at the brahmarandhra, in order to reproduce the same inner union within the disciple. It is certainly no mere coincidence that the details of the vedha-dîkshâ are discussed in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Tantrâloka (29.236-253) consecrated primarily to the exposition of the kula-yâga. The secret of unity through sexual union was transmitted by preference to female disciples (yoginî) who subsequently initiated other males. It may be expected that some forms of ‘penetration,’ especially those with a marked inward sexual dimension, were combined in some way or other with the practice of copulation itself. This is perhaps implied in Abhinava’s declaration that “by means of the couple of man and woman and without resorting to vows, to yoga… the guru, ever evoking the original sacrifice (i.e., the kula-yâga), engages therein, and lays on the female body and on his own body, science and efficiency respectively. He meditates on the lotus (woman) in the form of the moon (knowable), and on himself in the form of the sun (knowledge). Then he intimately merges together these two sanctuaries made up of science (vidyâ) and efficiency (mantra)” (TA 29.166-8).

Whereas the modes of ascending realization underlying the other philosophical systems denounce the (limited) ego-function (ahamkâra) as the supreme obstacle to the realization of unity, the descending perspective of the Trika rather recommends the universalization of the ‘I-Subject’ as the highest mode of unity.9 This totalization of Self is condensed into the word ‘I’ (aham) by transforming it into a sacred formula (mantra) comprising the first (a) and the last (ha)—hence all the—letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, which merge into the single point (bindu) representing the nasalized (a-ha-m). Since the letters (varna or mâtrkâ) of the alphabet correspond to specific energies of the wheels, the realization of ‘total I-ness’ (pûrnâhamtâ) corresponds on the ‘physiological’ level to the union of the male and female triangles around the unique binduThus even the highest metaphysical realization of the universal ‘I-ness’ is not without implications of unity at the level of the (subtle) body and vice-versa. There is always a latent sexual dimension even in the case of transmission from male guru to male disciple and this is because the realization of the total ‘I’ already implies a spiritualized sexual union within the teacher himself. The ‘libido’ of consciousness functions—like electricity—only through its inherent tendency to polarization represented by the male and the female. The privileged mode of realizing its essential non-differentiation is thus precisely through sexual union.

The Vocabulary of Union and Unity in the Trika10

It is pertinent to note here that some of the terms used to denote various aspects of unification with the Supreme Principle are derived from the sphere of conjugal relations or have at least unmistakable erotic connotations. Perhaps partly under the influence of the ‘intentional’ (sandhâ-) or ‘twilight’ (sandhyâ-) language (bhâshâ) of the Tantrics, terms referring to sexual practices or states are given a highly refined but innocuous epistemological or theosophical content. Thus even the term kula which Abhinavagupta charges with the most diverse meanings (Tantrâloka, 29.4-6), could literally mean ‘clan’ or (extended) ‘family’ and hence the sexual-rite that goes by that name could have simply served to underline their incestuous or ‘endogamic’ character. The term âveça derives from the root viç- ‘enter into,’ it is often translated by ‘possession’ which is understood in the Trika context as identification with the state of Bhairava (bhairavâveça). This does not obviate its external manifestation in the form of a palpitating trance, as evidenced by its characterization through words meaning ‘trembling’ (kampa), ‘swirling’ (ghûrni), ‘fainting’ and so on. In the Kaula context (kulâveça), the term refers more specifically to the absorption in the divine energy brought about through sexual union. The term melâpa, which is defined as the perfect unity that dissolves the dichotomy between subject and object, also refers more concretely to the ritualized practice of group-sex. The term sâmarasya designates the ‘homogeneity’ of the undifferentiated Consciousness, in this context the ‘equalization’ (from sama– ‘equal’) of its ‘flow’ (from rasa ‘sap’) in and especially between the opposite sexes during the their union. On a more concrete level, it is applied even to the ‘fusion’ of male and female reproductive substances. From here we easily arrive at the term especially used by the tradition to designate union: yâmala whose primary meaning is ‘twin.’ It is remarkable that it is this term that has been retained to translate the union of Shiva and Shakti, and there are entire compendia which go under the name (Brahma-, Rudra-, etc.) Yâmala, which is also the denomination of an entire sub-current of Tantrism, where the feminine element begins to take the upper hand. At a deeper level, the union between the sexes is merely the means to reproduce their divine unity within each partner, and thus the figure of the twins oscillates between that of the ‘sexed couple’ and the androgyne.11 In the tantric rites of union, the woman hence plays an indispensable—and sometimes even the dominant—role: the feminine and the masculine are fundamental symbols of reality, and tantrism abolishes this duality in order to accede to unity through union.

Kulayâga: Paradigm of Union and Unity in Hinduism

Though the divine ‘energy’ (shakti) which is intrinsic to Consciousness may be realized through various techniques, the method of the kula-yâga insists on the difficulty, if not impossibility, of realizing unity in all its plenitude without resorting to physical union with an external woman, technically called dûtî (TA 29.96). The dynamic flow of Consciousness during the sex-act is expressed in terms of the interaction between the secondary wheels (anu-cakra)—in this context, particularly the five sense-faculties and the mind that coordinates them—and the main wheel (mukhya-cakra) which refers to the sex-organs, the heart and ultimately to the supreme Consciousness (TA 29.106-115). This extraordinary usage is based on the unification of these centers at the height of the sexual union. The partners begin with mutual stimulation of their secondary wheels in a congenial atmosphere, heightened through the use of food, incense, flowers, etc. pleasing to the senses, and thus engage in worship of the main wheel. The external and internal sensations of kissing, etc., take the place of the delicious ‘food’ offered to the deity in normal worship. Due to the introverted attitude, the satiated senses feed their energies into the sex center, which expands only to merge into the wheel of Consciousness. The movement thus corresponds to an ‘ascending’ realization, a retraction into the quiescent Self using the sensuous experience itself as a support. Thereby a first degree of unity is achieved through the absorption of the secondary wheels into the central wheel of Consciousness.

Paradoxically, this spiritualization renders the union far more delightful and satisfying than ordinary sex, wherein (the energies and experiences of) the secondary centers remain distinct, neither vibrating nor satiated, precisely because their unification is hindered by the false identification with the body in the form of egoistic feelings of ‘I’ and ‘you.’ As the climax of union is approached, a reverse process takes place whereby the plenitude of the main wheel of Consciousness overflows through the sex-center back into the secondary centers infusing them with its own virile energy (vîrya). A second degree of unity is attained, corresponding to the “descending” realization, whereby the central wheel of Consciousness in turn expands outwards (vikâsa) to appropriate the functioning of the senses and their respective contents, namely, the multiplicity of external objects. This indescribable condition of bliss is designated by the term ‘the mouth of the yoginî‘ (yoginî-vaktra), which refers to the unity of the sex center with the other two primary cakras of the heart and the brahmarandhra. Hence it is also designated as the ‘heart of the yoginî‘ (yoginî-hrdaya), the ‘middle center’ (madhya-cakra), and so on. These verbal equations underline the fact that, under these specific conditions, the physical experience culminates in an emotional plenitude wherein the heart, vitalized by the influx of sexual energy, expands to envelope both the organ of generation below and the supreme seat of Consciousness (brahmarandhra) above. In a profound sense, the heart thus mediates in a total experience, where the sexual union seems to take place at the brahmarandhra within the supreme Consciousness, and conversely this realization of the unity of Consciousness seems to take place within the experience of sexual union. It is this mediation of the heart that explains the use of the same term rasa to refer to the ‘flow’ of Consciousness, to the sexual ‘fluid’ and to the emotional ‘essence’ of the aesthetic experience. And it is the unification of the sex-center with the supreme Consciousness that underlies Abhinavagupta’s universalization of the aesthetic experience beyond the world of the theater.

The experience of unity through sexual union is such that it informs both the means and the final condition attained. On the one hand, the duality of the partners—of the enjoyer and the enjoyed—tends to dissolve into a unitary experience of bliss and, on the other hand, the absolute Consciousness reveals itself to be a polarity best represented as a sexed couple (Shiva-Shakti). This bi-unity is revealed especially in the indescribable fusion—wherein all differentiation is dissolved—of the quiescent transcendent (çânta) and the emergent immanent (udita) poles of the supreme Consciousness (TA 29.115-20, 126-7). The supreme secret of the Kula is neither quiescent nor emergent but the ground of these two alternating and co-existing movements. It is simultaneously and equally experienced by both the sexes, with the only difference that the emergent aspect is shared through the union of the organs by the partners intent on enjoying each other, whereas the quiescent aspect is experienced independently and inwardly by each partner. Those intent on final emancipation concentrate exclusively on the latter dimension, whereas those seeking the lordship of creative (magical) powers and longevity particularly cultivate the former aspect. The real emission (visarga) which culminates the union is not external but internal, and the extraordinary concentration of energies produced by the sexual friction is released primarily into Consciousness to fill it with a universalizing quasi-androgynous bliss (sâmarasya). At the heart of the Kula is the unitive friction (sanghatta) of the two flows—external (udita) and internal (çânta)—of emission which somehow replicates the union of the external couple within each partner. This then is the ultimate significance of the term yâmala (twin) applied not only to the union of the sexed couple (mithuna) but also and especially to each partner as a fusion (sâmarasya) of Shiva and Shakti: there could be no better symbol of the identity of the couple and of the polarization of the One than the figure of the (identical) twin(s). The interpenetration of the active male ‘means’ (upâya) and the passive female ‘wisdom’ (prajñâ) into the principle of ‘two-in-one’ (yuga-naddha, Tibetan zung-‘jug) is also found in the Buddhist Vajrayâna (Snellgrove, pp. 278-88).

In the case of the discriminating gnostic endowed with the required purity of heart, who can therefore dispense with the ritual preliminaries and supports, this alternation of contraction and expansion corresponds to the equalizing technique of the krama-mudrâ which, like the bhairavî-mudrâ, is a technique that is generally practiced quite independently of any rites of sexual union. However, unlike the bhairavî-mudrâ which grasps the inner and the outer simultaneously in a single immobile perception, the ‘sequential posture’ (krama-mudrâ) is a dynamic movement where Consciousness repeatedly flows inwards and outwards so as to dissolve the barriers that hinder the experience of transcendence in the midst of worldly experience. The two stages of ascent towards quiescence and descent towards emergence are more sharply distinguished by Abhinavagupta, when he recapitulates the technique of the kula-yâga for the benefit of those whose discrimination is not so mature (TA 29.129-39). The latter ritualists are enjoined to worship the divinities of the wheels beginning with the outermost: Ganesha with his attendants, the couple of Kula teachers, the three goddesses of the Trika at the points of the trident, etc. These are to be worshipped, while in a sexually aroused (udita) state, as residing in the ‘main wheel’ of the yoginî and in the aspirant’s own body. During the ascending stage, the aspirant repeatedly focuses his heart-consciousness on the quiescent aspect (the ‘internal emission’) and thus establishes himself in the state of the transcendent Shiva. Like an ocean unruffled by waves, this static mode of bliss (nirânanda) is characterized rather by the immobilization of the host of divine energies in the sex-center which remain suspended in the void. Likewise, the secondary wheels of sight, etc., which depend on the energies of the main wheel, are also immersed in this tranquil bliss and lose their individual natures. However, it must not be forgotten that this ‘ascending’ mode is being effected within, and is conditioned by, the highly sensuous context of sexual union. Though immobilized in turn and (temporarily) desisting from their respective pleasures, the senses nevertheless continue to crave for their corresponding forms of enjoyment but now as instruments of the supreme Consciousness. And though they next rush out to exuberate in the midst of external impressions overflowing with the sap of their own individual flavors, whatever moments of satisfaction (of the sex-center) derived thereby are now experienced as offerings to the supreme Self. All these delightful streams of sense impressions flow into the already stabilized main wheel to infuse it with a tremendous stir of virile energy (vîrya-vikshobha). With this vehement (sexual) effervescence of the hitherto unruffled reservoir of Consciousness, the Lord of the wheel(s) too expands impetuously towards the external world. Though this ‘re-descent’ clearly presupposes the ascent, the end result is the same fusion of the two poles that characterized the experience of the accomplished adept almost from the beginning. Hence, Abhinava again distinguishes the three modes of emission (visarga): creative or emergent identified with Shakti and the kunda (‘womb’), resorptive or quiescent identified with Shiva and the linga (‘phallus’), and the supreme or unitive (sanghatta) identified with their indescribable union (melaka).

The unity achieved through union is simultaneously realized on three correlated levels which are experientially and symbolically superposed so as to seal it with the essence of the supreme posture (khecarî-mudrâ, TA 29.150-4). The friction (sanghatta) within the median channel of the sun and the moon representing all the pairs of dualities—from the most material ovum/sperm to the most abstract knowledge/known level—results in the production of Fire representing both the (supreme) knower and the resulting conception. This unitive friction serves to equate the external union between the male and the female (organs) with the friction between the lower inverted triangle at the mûlâdhâra and the upper upright triangle, which is precisely what awakens the kundalinî in the median channel and ultimately leads to their total fusion above. Since the stem of the median channel is also visualized as inseparably linked to the sex-organs—as it indeed is in the esoteric experience—there results a symbolic identification of the male and female united through the phallus with the sexually polarized triangular lotuses strung on and united through the median channel. It is no doubt here, in the reciprocal ‘sexualization’ of the median channel and the ‘spiritualization’ of the coital exchange, that the mythical identity of the axis mundi with the linga has its true rationale. The germ which sprouts in the womb from the union of the male and the female is hence simultaneously fertilized by the spiritual seed descending the median channel from the union on high represented by the seal of Solomon. The yoginîbhû is thus primarily the fiery consciousness born of the union (yâmala) internal to each partner and is only secondarily the new physical sheath that sprouts from the external sexual union. In fact, the term yoginîbhûrefers primarily to this indescribable condition and only secondarily to the child that may or may not issue from it. Through this khecarî-mudrâ, naturally arising from the coalescence of moon, sun and fire, the adept becomes rooted in the transcendental ‘fourth’ (turya) state and inwardly engages in the instantaneous sequence of creation, etc. The idea seems to be implied that the process of ‘creating an embryo’ is being initiated at that supreme level where the adept has appropriated the Lord’s function of universal creation, etc.

Though the Kaula texts are generally written from the male point of view which characterizes the larger culture and though Abhinava himself elsewhere often describes the male as the enjoyer (bhoktr) and the woman as the enjoyed (bhogya), it is nevertheless emphasized in this context that there is no difference between the experience (çântodita) of the two sexes. Which is precisely why it is called ‘twin’ (yâmala) with respect to either and both of the partners. When the distinction is made, it is on the contrary in favor of the woman (TA 29.121-9), who alone is capable of nurturing the creative germ not only in the biological but also in the spiritual sense. Though the female physiology may be relatively less adapted to the ascetic or ‘ascending’ modes of realization, it surrenders far more readily to the spontaneous expansion of the median channel that defines the ‘descending’ mode of the sexual union. Hence, like Shivânandanâtha, the founder of the Krama school, the guru imparts the secret doctrine (kulârtha) to the dûtî as the true depositary of the experience, who in turn initiates male disciples. The (temporary) unity of consciousness between guru and disciple during the ‘initiations through piercing’ (vedha-dîkshâ) is probably achieved here through the medium of sexual union. The mainstay of the esoteric tradition is the ‘mouth of the yoginî‘ understood not only as the supreme wheel of Consciousness but also as its physiological basis, the mouth of the vagina. The transmission of salvific knowledge “from mouth to mouth,” that is, orally and hence secretly, acquires in this context the additional quasi-literal meaning of the transfer of the combined male and female reproductive substance (kunda-golaka) to the mouth of the male and vice-versa, before it is deposited in an external ‘libation-vessel’ (argha-pâtra, see also TA 29.22). The idea is that the semen and the ovum emitted are highly purified, infused with the spiritual condition of the partners, and that their ingestion has quasi-medical effects resulting in the rejuvenation of the body. The real elixir of immortality, of which the kundagolaka is as it were the tangible concentrate, is thus the ‘substance of the Kaula experience’ (kulârtha has both meanings). By the same logic, the embryo resulting from such a union has in reality been conceived within the womb of Consciousness (yoginîvaktra) and has the nature of Shiva even before its birth (TA 29.162-3). Though this theme is not explicitly developed by Abhinavagupta, it is pertinent to ask whether it is not in some sense implied that the partners—particularly the male adept—are themselves reborn and rejuvenated in and through this universal womb. Would it not be in this sense rather that Abhinavagupta’s own claim to being ‘born of a yoginî‘ (yoginîbhû) ought to be taken? In the corresponding Buddhist secret ’empowerment’ (abhiseka), the disciple voluntarily surrenders his female companion to the Vajrayâna guru. After the latter has copulated with her, the initiand is brought in to swallow the guru’s semen “as the embodiment of all the Buddhas” immediately followed by “a drop of the pollen of all the Tathâgatas” from the vagina of his consort. Considering that the Yogânuttara doctrines were revealed by the Lord (Vajrapâni) ensconced in the Paradise of Bliss within the vagina of the Vajra-maiden, “the Mother of all the Buddhas,” it is probable that ‘the Buddha-embryo’ (tathâgata-garbha) was to be understood not just as a metaphysical metaphor but xxx (Snellgrove, pp. 111-5, 121 n.9, 243-77). All the concrete elements of these Buddhist tantras have been derived more specifically from the texts of the Shaiva Vidyâpîtha which belong to the Kâpâlika cults of the Krama/Trika which form the basis of Abhinavagupta’s Tantrâloka.12

The principle of the ‘re-descent’ shatters the barrier between the sacred and the profane, it obliterates the distinction between (ritual) means and (physiological) side-effects. The arduous exercises practiced in order to attain unity now manifest instead as spontaneous expressions of the Kaula state, or are otherwise effortlessly integrated in their essential nature into the experience of union (TA 29.142-61). Having mastered this art of awakening, bringing to rest and penetrating (samâveça), as applied to the ascending and descending current in the median channel, and (from there) to the remaining 72,000 channels, the wheels, junctions and joints, (the adept identified with) Shiva fuses the parceled elements of consciousness diffused throughout the body into a vibrant undifferentiated unity. The state of Bhairava characterized by ‘unitive emission’ (sanghatta) thus permeates the entire organism, and the unity of Consciousness is experienced within the body. The alternating solar and lunar breaths, which the yogin otherwise strives assiduously to neutralize, easily give way to the experience of the supreme Subject in the median channel, when the adept focuses his attention thereon during this total immersion in the quiescent-cum-emergent Kaula state. Mantra is no longer the separate repetition of sacred syllables but the absorption in the spontaneous resonance of Self-awareness which arises from the fusion of the triple flow of emission. By focusing one’s personal mantra onto this original vibration underlying all sound, the adept understands the emergence of (all) mantra, assimilates their potency (vîrya), and applies them with least effort (even for material ends). The effects aimed at by 300,000 recitations (japa) of the mantra divided between the quiescent, emergent and unitive states, are naturally achieved by simply focusing on the (silent) reverberation (nâda) during the convergence of the secondary wheels into the central wheel of Consciousness. Similarly, when the couple is immersed in the quintessential khecarî-mudrâ described above, even their experience of mutual kisses, fondling, play, laughter, etc., is endowed with all the eight increasingly subtle stages of sound that internally constitute the (potency of) mantra. By entering the eight-fold wheel of this mudrâ—which is deployed in the to-and-fro movement of the breath, in the intellect, in hearing, sight, in the mere contact of both the sexual organs, in their actual union, at the dvâdaçânta, and finally in the twin (yâmala = çântodita) state of union comprising all this—in order to utter the spontaneous japa, the adept attains the state of the eight Bhairavas presiding over these stages. The indistinct cry (çîtkâra) arising spontaneously in the heart of the beloved to emerge from her lips at the climax of the union, is itself the privileged vehicle of ultimate appeasement for the adept who hears it, just as the agitation subsides, at the center of both wheels (Shiva and Shakti, as forming the single yoginîvaktra). Through it he realizes the omni-penetration (vyâpti) of the mantra—composed of light, sound and touch—the supreme eight-fold Bhairava in the form of sound (nâda). The commentator adds that this Bhairavian ‘octave’ is designated by the neuter gender because it arises from the state of complete homogeneity (sâmarasya) between Shiva and Shakti. Through the kula-yâga, the essence of all the spiritual techniques—mantra, mudrâ, kundalinî-yoga, etc.— has been distilled into the single experience of sexual orgasm proper to an androgynous twin.

The whole kula-yâga may thus be recapitulated through the various meanings of the term kula: “the Lord’s energy (shakti), efficiency (sâmarthya), elevation (ûrdhvatâ), freedom (svâtantrya), vitality (ojas), efficiency (vîrya), embryo (pinda), consciousness (samvit) and body (çarîraka)” (TA 29.4), all of which elements are integral to the rite. The unity of Consciousness is experienced within the body itself, which accounts for the term kula meaning both ‘body’ and ‘Consciousness.’ So in addition to the abstract metaphysical meanings provided by the commentator, Jayaratha, we may risk indicating some of the more concrete connotations related particularly to the body. Shaktidesignates of course the dûtî identified with the Goddess, and ûrdhvatâ to the ‘ascent’ of the kundalinî corresponding to the ‘erection’ of the phallus. Vîrya is the inherent vitality of Consciousness and more concretely the semen. Pinda not only refers to the experience of the universe as a compact, homogeneous ‘mass’ but literally means ’embryo’ which could simultaneously refer to the fusion of reproductive substances and to the spiritual “birth from theyoginî.” The compenetration (samâveça) which results in the ‘sexualization’ of the supreme Consciousness and the ‘divinization’ of the body is perhaps best summed up in Abhinava’s closing declaration that “the body itself is the supreme linga, the auspicious Shiva comprising all the elements, the dwelling of the (primary) wheel of divine energies, and the abode of the highest worship (pûjâ). It is indeed the chief mandala composed of the triple trident, the lotuses, the wheels, and the etheric void.13 It is there that the circles of divinities should be unceasingly worshipped, both externally and internally. With full awareness of their respective mantras, let them appropriate the manifold sap of bliss issuing therefrom (from the principal wheel in the form of the body), through the process of creation and absorption (through the emergent and quiescent modes). Sovereign over the wheel of Consciousness, which is suddenly awakened through this contact, he attains the supreme abode by satiating all the gods (the divine energies within the body). May he satisfy them externally through objects pleasing to the heart and internally through appropriate acts of self-awareness” (TA 29.171-5). If he were re-incarnated in our own times to aesthetically relive this ultimate Kaula experience of Unity, one wonders whether Abhinavagupta would have at all hesitated to re-formulate it in quasi-materialistic terms…

Alexis Sanderson has argued that the Kaula current is in fact a domesticated version of a more radical cremation-ground culture,14 and the adoption of the Kâpâlika-Bhairava—with all his gruesome imagery—as its highest metaphysical principle is perhaps the most telling indication of this. What is striking nevertheless is the scrupulous retention of this symbolic universe through visualization, substitutions, semantic equations, and so on. In their radical versions, these sex rites were practiced in the cremation-grounds and could even make use of corpses. In Abhinava’s description, however, the whole imagery is internalized, through a play on the word citi which means both funeral pyre and (the supreme) consciousness: “Behold within the body itself that citi, resplendent like the Fire at the end of Time, wherein everything is dissolved and all the elements are consumed. This cremation-ground in the form of the void is the most terrible playground, the resort of the yoginîs and the perfected ones (siddha), where all forms are disintegrated. The chains of obscurity are dispelled by the circle of its own (fiery) rays (the sense-organs) to reveal only the (supreme) state of bliss, free of all mentation (vikalpa = doubts). Having entered this receptacle of all the gods, this cremation-ground of consciousness, so terrible with its innumerable funeral-pyres (citi) strewn all around, who indeed would not attain perfection (through performing the kula-yâga)?” (TA 29.182-5). It is not merely a question of using images borrowed from the cremation-ground to depict the destructive (samhâra) aspect of unity with the supreme Consciousness, for the ritual of cremation itself merely exteriorizes an initiatic process. In the holy city of Banaras, which is the ‘great cremation-ground’ (mahâ-çmaçâna) of the Hindu universe, where the pious go to perform the funeral rites of their relatives and to await their own death, the ritual is modeled on both the Vedic fire-sacrifice and the Tantric physiology underlying the process of liberation. Sexual union with the deceased is optionally prescribed for the wife in certain brahmanical funerary texts.15 Though necessarily down-played in the domesticated and aestheticized setting of the Trika, it would seem that the all-consuming bliss of the kula-yâga was nevertheless experienced as a mode of inner death, a dimension which is central to the Vedic dîkshâ. The confirmation of this is to be found not only in the designation of the sushumnâ and, by extension, of the awakened kundalinî, as ‘çmaçâna‘ but also in the symbols of death and the real animal sacrifices associated with concretizations of the axis-mundi whether it be the Vedic yûpa, the posts representing Potu Râju in South India, or the Newar New Year poles which are identified with the linga. The sushumnâ is nevertheless said to devour deathfor the initiatic death—even when it presupposes the loss of individual identity—is the means of attaining a mode of immortality. The sacrificial death has been symbolically equated with sexual union through the frequent practice of inserting the right foot of the male victim into its own mouth in conjunction with the marriage of the post to the Goddess. This makes sense only if we consider the union as taking place within the androgynized animal at the level of its head, that is, with its mouth representing the yoginî-vaktra.

The impurity of death which infests the cremation-ground and transforms it into the very image of hell for the classical brahmin, so obsessed with ritual purity, is perhaps the most vivid spatialization of transgression in the Hindu imagination. The union of the kula-yâga is indeed an experience of transgression in every sense of the term (TA 29.10-17). On the concrete level this takes the form of violating the prohibitions that define the brahmanical ideal of orthodox Hinduism. Abhinavagupta indeed begins by affirming that to the intelligent are prescribed those disgusting substances like meat, alcohol and those of sexual origin, which are forbidden in the traditional religious treatises. The first two M’s—meat (mâmsa) and wine (madya)—serve primarily as aphrodisiacs in facilitating and reinforcing the bliss of the third M, sexual union (mithuna). The experience of union is concretized in the fusion of male and female reproductive substances, the primary offering (argha = kunda-golaka) to which are added (twelve) other secret substances selected specifically on account of their impurity. Though this is not explicit in the description given in the Tantrâloka,16 it is well-known that in the radical forms of Tantric union the woman was expected to be menstruating and her blood was ingested with the other reproductive substances. This transformation of the most impure of substances into the “elixir of immortality” is not peculiar to India, for Lévi-Strauss has demonstrated that honey (or maple-syrup) is likewise used as a metaphor for menstrual-blood in Amerindian mythology, where its relation to ‘fire’ parallels that of Soma in the Indian tradition.

Moreover, the choice of the woman (dûtî) is determined regardless of beauty, caste, age, birth, etc., and solely in terms of her capacity to identify with the adept (TA 29.99-103). In the radical forms of the Tantric union, this often implied a predilection for untouchable women drawn even from the castes related to the cremation-ground rituals. The breaking of caste-barriers through the joint participation of brahmins and untouchables is merely the systematic application of the valorization of impurity in a dialectic of transgression. However, the “domesticated” tradition which Abhinava himself inherited from his Kaula teacher, Shambhunâtha, is in a sense even more radical in that it enjoins the choice of women related through direct familial ties—mother, daughter and sister—or through second-degree ties—grand-mother, grand-daughter and aunts, nieces, etc. The dûtî could herself be the ‘mother’ in the sense of teacher, ‘daughter’ in the sense of disciple, or a ‘sister’ initiated by the same teacher. Here however, spiritual affinity between the male and female adept is reinforced by worldly—genetic—affinity, and the Kaula ‘secret society’ becomes a ‘family’ (kula) tradition in the literal sense of the term. The wife is expressly excluded from the sacrifice because of worldly attachment to her. Though this is interpreted in terms of desire for mere sexual enjoyment (riramsâ) by the commentator, it is clear that ‘attachment’ here rather refers to the adulteration of pure sexual desire (kâma) in her case by other worldly concerns that restrict the experience of union to a carnal level.17 As for next-of-kin who are normally forbidden precisely because of worldly over-proximity, breaking the incest-barrier may be understood, on the contrary, as the most effective means of raising the sex-experience to a transcendental level. So central is transgression to the kula-yâga, that Abhinava affirms that those who perform this sacrifice without the sources of bliss, the three M’s, will simply go to a horrible hell. More significant than the violation of fundamental brahmanical taboos, however, is Abhinava’s systematic re-definition of principles like bráhman in terms of transgression (TA 29.97-100). Thus a brahmacârin is no longer one who is chaste, but one who literally ‘walks the (path of) bráhman‘ by incorporating the supreme bliss of bráhman within his own body in its concrete forms of wine, meat and especially (the substance of) sexual intercourse. The choice of the brahmanicide Bhairava as the ultimate symbol of the indescribable Anuttara underlines that the experience of the sacred, as revealed through the kula-yâga, is transgressive at its very core. Bhairava’s appropriation of the fifth and central head of Brahmâ suggests, however, that even the experience of Brahman through the kula-yâga is ultimately derived from the Vedic sacrifice.

Sexual Union as Sacrifice: Between Veda and Tantra

The kula-yâga presents itself as a ‘sacrifice’ (yâga) more precisely designated by the term yajña.18 “The order of the world rests on the sacrifice (yajña) and more generally on the rites of which the sacrifice is the supreme form and the model… The very structure of the sacrifice is such that the sacrificer is necessarily an individual, just as it was an individual and, for good reason, the primordial sacrificer when he performed the sacrifice amounting to the creation of the world. In this primordial sacrifice, of course, the oblatory matter can only be the sacrificer’s own body because nothing else exists (Malamoud, ibid., pp. 7-8). Now the essence of the kulayâga resides in the fact that the oblatory matter is the body of the participants, often reduced to the form of seed, which is offered into the fire of Consciousness. Moreover, this rite of union is an act of creation not only on the physiological but especially at the most fundamental level of participating in cosmic creation. There thus seems to be an “incontestable filiation” (S. Levi, ibid., p. 12) between the Vedic and the Tantric sacrifice. The latter consciously models itself on the former by borrowing and elaborating its metaphors and even applying them quite literally. Sexual union (mithuna) is already considered to be a sacrifice in the Vedic current, for it is known that the act of creation is represented as a coupling. “In the Vedic sacrifice, the presence of the wife of the sacrificer is in general indispensable, for the destiny of the couple is inextricably intertwined.”19 Women “cannot by themselves fulfill the role of yajamâna[sacrificer] but it is also true that the sacrificer is supposed to have his wife beside him in order to perform most of the rites and the sacrificer is the couple formed by the husband and the wife (dampati).”20 The Kaula justification for the necessity of the female partner (dûtî) is in this respect most significant: “Just as the brahman’s wife takes part in the Vedic sacrifice, so too does the dûtî participate in the kula-yâga” (commentary ad. TA 29.96).

Despite her vital presence for the efficacy of the Vedic ritual, the role of the woman is however passive and wholly subordinate. Union in this public context is reduced to a profusion of metaphors, extended even to pairs of inanimate and abstract entities. The aim of the Vedic mithuna is ostensibly ‘procreation’ in the sense of abundance and prosperity, both in this and the other world, which would distinguish it from the Tantric mithuna which has procreation as an aim only in the rare cases of the yoginîbhû. In the kula-yâga, it is no longer a question of a simple presence but of an active participation. The woman is identified with the Goddess as a direct consequence of the conception of the divinity as Shiva-Shakti. “If, in most of the cases the Absolute in his ultimate form remains the Purusha in whom everything—including his feminine energy or Shakti—is reabsorbed, the god of the manifested cosmos can only be united to this Shakti in a permanent and happy union. The divine is a couple analogous to the human couple, and inversely, the man or the woman can approach him only by attempting to reproduce in themselves the original couple…. The formula is to be taken literally. This signifies, among other things, that sexual union between man and woman can even be one of the means employed in order to reproduce in oneself this permanent union consubstantial to the divine” (Biardeau, L’hindouisme, p. 163 and n. 1). In the Tantric context, it is rather Shiva-Shakti who represent the ultimate form of the Absolute; and even within the bi-unity of the divine couple, the dynamic Shakti may be elevated above the prostrate corpse of the passive Shiva.

Despite this glaring contrast between the concrete roles of the woman in the classical brahmanical sacrifice and the later Tantric kula-yâga, what is truly striking is the facility with which the sexual symbolism of the former has lent itself to literal application by the Tantric adept. “The union is a ceremony, comprising many preliminary purifications, symbolical homologizations, and prayers—just as in the performance of the Vedic ritual. The woman is first transfigured; she becomes the consecrated place where the sacrifice is performed: ‘Her lap is a sacrificial altar; her hairs, the sacrificial grass; her skin, the soma-press. The two lips of the vulva are the fire in the middle [of the vulva (Brhad-Âranyaka Upanisad, 6.4.3)]… The identification of the sacrificial fire with the female sexual organ is confirmed by the magical charm cast on the wife’s lover: ‘You have made a libation in my fire,’ etc. [ibid., 6.4.12).”21 The Vedic altar (vedi) in which the sacrificial fire is kindled is assimilated to the vulva, and the sacrificial post (yûpa) on its edge—half within and half without—is likewise not without phallic notations, so much so that one would be justified in following Biardeau in seeing in the later aniconic form of Shiva as the linga-in-the-yoni no more than a subsequent transposition of the Vedic motifs.22 Moreover, the ‘female’ ring (casâla), fitted around the ‘male’ knob at the summit of the yûpa at the time of its erection, strangely recalls the sexual union at the brahmarandhra or dvâdaçânta; for it is only the length of the yûpa till the casâla that is measured to the height of the sacrificer. Preceded by its theriomorph, the horse, and followed by the sacrificer, the brand from the ‘householder’ (gârhapatya) fire is carried first knee (jânu symbolizing the ‘genitals’) high, then navel high and finally at the level of the face in the procession to light the ‘invocatory’ (âhavanîya) fire. Even the tripling of the altars thus recalls the different but correlated meanings of the ‘mouth of the yoginî‘ in the kula-yâga. This raises the question as to whether the Tantric re-working is a willful misreading of the Vedic paradigms in favor of a pre-conceived ideology or rather the systematic exegesis of a hidden dimension already latent in the original sacrifice. We may even go on to explore the extent to which the Vedic structures may in turn shed light on certain aspects of sexual union that remain obscure in the exegesis of the Tantrics themselves, an exegesis which is on the whole focused on a metaphysical understanding of the unity thereby achieved.

In fact, the archaic strata of Vedic ritual must have given more explicit and pronounced expression to sexual (and violent) elements, vestiges of which still remain even after its reorganization into its purified classical form. Thus in the Mahâvrata, for example, there was an obligatory and public ritual copulation between a brahmin student and a prostitute. In the imperial Açvamedha, the chief queen was supposed to copulate under a tent with the (dead) sacrificial horse which represented the royal sacrificer himself in a symbolically ‘incestuous’ context. Surprisingly, one of the central and most persistent mythological motifs built into the Vedic sacrifice is that of incest, which characterized Prajâpati as the mythical sacrificer, as the victim offered in his place and also as the sacrifice itself. Already at a very early period, there had been sacrifices like the Gosava, where it was obligatory for the sacrificer to subsequently commit various forms of incest in order to fulfill his vows. The mythical incest of Prajâpati however seems to function at a primarily symbolic level, and is connected rather with the inner state of the sacrificer who, on being consecrated (dîkshita), regressed into an impure, deathly, pre-natal condition. The underlying idea is that the sacrificer is in some way being reborn from the womb of his own wife, which also accounts for her indispensable ritual presence in the classical sacrifice, where they form an indissociable couple. Nevertheless, Prajâpati characteristically mates not with his mother but with his virgin daughter, a crime which is inherited by his successor, the Brahmâ of the Purânas, and which is also the pretext for the latter’s (sacrificial) beheading by Bhairava. This ‘irrational’ identification of the mother and the virgin within a transgressive context is a constant in the later Hindu universe, and suggests that it is not so much any concrete sexual union—incestuous or otherwise—but rather the symbolic reality and the inwardly lived experience encoded in it, that is the prime focus of the ritual.

The relation between sexual union as conceived in the paradigmatic but outmoded public drama of the brahmanical sacrifice and the wholly internalized and transgressive kula-yâga may be clarified by recognizing the manner in which their respective meanings overlap in the mythico-ritual structures that determine the regular worship of the ordinary Hindu. Though the devotee acknowledges the ultimate desirability of liberation, which is actively sought for by the Tantric adept, his immediate intent is nevertheless still the assurance of his worldly welfare in the Vedic sense. The pilgrimage to the chaste, vegetarian goddess Vaishno Devî in north-western India is undertaken as a pious vow normally presupposing the purity of the pilgrims, who arduously ascend the mountain in order to offer her coconuts and other materials of worship at her cave-shrine at the summit. Yet the founding-myth which structures its successive stations and its actual content is based on the attempt of Bhairava to rape the virgin Goddess when she refused him the meat and wine he had demanded of her during an ‘adoration of the virgin’ (kumârî-pûjâ). At the end of his pursuit, she emerged from her cave to punish him with decapitation before according the repentant demon-devotee the privilege of being worshipped immediately after her by the pilgrims. The pious devotee, who has no deliberate intention of following Bhairava’s example, nevertheless retraces the entire itinerary, which includes penetrating into her womb-cave mid-way up the mountain, before symbolically offering up his own head in the form of the coconut wrapped in blood-red cloth. Despite his subordinated role, Bhairava functions as a sort of divine consort to the Goddess, and the pilgrim’s symbolic violation of her womb is charged with all the transgressive notations of the kula-yâga. The Goddess reveals herself in the paradoxical figure of the Virgin-Mother and the devotee’s violation of the virgin is at the same time an initiatic death and a return to the maternal womb.After all, the kumârî-pûjâ and the kula-yâga are ritual elaborations of complementary roles accorded to the feminine within the Tantric ideology, and the purity of the virgin and the breaking of the incest-barrier are but the two extreme poles of a single dialectic of transgression. In the final analysis, the blood-thirsty Goddess and her victim Bhairava constitute a single symbolic entity, for it was Vaishno-Devî herself who first hid in the cave like an embryo in her own womb. Despite variations due to doctrinal context, social milieu and regional history, it could be shown that this paradigm of the pre-classical brahmanical sacrifice has still a pan-Indian application, especially at the symbolic level.23 The traditional insistence that Abhinavagupta ended his terrestrial life by disappearing into the cave of Bhairava would suggest that the above scenario is relevant to a fuller understanding of what it really means to be ‘born of the yoginî.‘ The wearing of (generally red) female attire by the male partner in order to reinforce his identity with the Goddess, also reflects in its own way the androgynous fusion of the embryo with the maternal-womb. From this symbolic perspective, the kula-yâga would remain ‘incestuous’ even if implemented in a mitigated form with the wife assuming the role of dûtî. Even the function of ‘fertility’ generally attributed to (the role of sexual elements and sexual symbolism in) the sacrificial rituals of archaic cultures may well reveal itself to be ultimately the exteriorization of the inner rebirth and rejuvenation obtained through such esoteric techniques.

The Vedic roots of the kula-yâga are to be found in the birth of the brahmán priests Vasishtha and Agastya from the common seed of the dual divinity Mitra-Varuna which was shed into a pot, so much so that one of their frequent appellations is ‘born from a pot’ (kumbha-yoni). In the later mythology, the spirit of Vasishtha enters into the body shared by Mitra-Varuna, and then into the body of the celestial courtesan, Urvashî, as well, when this dual divinity unites with her on the sea-shore. Later Mitra and Varuna split into separate bodies, and whereas Mitra unites with the consenting nymph, Varuna looks on lustfully and simultaneously sheds his seed into a pot. The seed of Mitra, oozing out from Urvashî’s womb onto the earth, is mixed with Varuna’s seed already in the pot, and it is from the common seed in the ‘surrogate’ womb that Vasishtha and his twin, Agastya, are born. Already in the obscure Rig-Vedic hymn, both Vasishtha and Agastya are said to emerge from the pot as the sons of Mitra-Varuna (maitrâvaruni). This doubling of the womb by the pot makes sense if Mitra corresponds to the ’emergent’ (udita) aspect of the emission, which is common to the male-female couple, and Varuna corresponds to the ‘quiescent’ emission into the inner (pot-) womb (of consciousness) related to the base of the spine. The mixing of the seed would then express the idea that Agastya and Vasishtha—who duplicate the polarization of the twin divinity—were born from that union of both emissions which later characterizes the kula-yâga. Vasishtha’s penetration into the body of Urvashî during the coupling further suggests that Varuna, who is himself represented by the pot and whose element is the (subterranean) waters, constitutes the feminine dimension of the twin divinity. Vasishtha in fact embodies the ideal of the Vedic priest and his lineage was most sought after for the role of royal chaplain (purohita) even in later India. The duality of Mitra-Varuna is inherent in the later divinity, Brahmâ, the latter being—like the closely related god, Brhaspati—no more than the mythical projection of the brahmán officiant and purohita. The androgynous dimension of the brahmán, already present in the Rig-Vedic material, finds expression later in the female aspect and even maternity of Brahmâ (Shulman, op. cit., pp. 294-316), which is retained especially in the pot-belly of the elephant-headed god Ganesha whom the Hindus traditionally identify with Brhaspati. The Vedic sacrificer, whatever be his caste, was reborn, after his consecration (dîkshâ), as a brahman from the womb of the brahmán officiant, and the guru is likewise said to bear his disciple in the womb during the process of initiation. The purohitas are credited with a significant role in the formulation of the emerging Tantric systems and Kaula lore brings Vasishtha specifically into relation with orgiastic sexual practices which he is supposed to have “discovered” in Buddhist Tibet. The Vedic antecedents hence likewise suggest that the eugenics of the yoginîbhû is ultimately the transposition of an inner embryogony of taking the place of the Mother (-Goddess) in order to give birth to oneself.24

Bhairava-Consciousness and the all-devouring Fire

Though this requires a separate study that would provisionally bracket aside the specific philosophical doctrines and the theistic context in which the kula-yâga is inscribed and the specific social and ritual context in which the Vedic sacrifice was earlier practiced, a privileged key in establishing this continuity would be Fire (agni) both in its domesticated and in its terrible form. Fire is universally used as a metaphor for the sexual appetite (kâmâgni) insofar as it ‘burns’ and ‘consumes’ and through the intensity of its light it also serves as a metaphor for (degrees of) Consciousness. The metaphor of ‘friction’ (sanghatta) between the solar and the lunar breaths to kindle consciousness in the form of the knowing subject (pramâtâ), is itself directly borrowed from the churning of fire from the ‘sexual union’ of two pieces (aranî) of wood, male and female, in the brahmanical ritual (Biardeau, Histoires de poteaux, pp. 50-62). The ‘incestuous’ character of this union is best underlined by the ritual stipulation that the male rod should be made of an açvattha tree which was growing out of a çamî tree, from which the hollow female part should be made. The açvattha is called ‘born from the çamî‘ (çamî-garbha) not only because the latter is its ‘mother’ but also because, through a play on the root ‘çam-‘, it is ‘appeased in the womb’ or has ‘a pacified womb’ (çânta-yoni). This would correspond to the ‘tranquil’ (çamî) and ’emergent’ (açvattha) poles of the Fire of Consciousness during the Kaula experience of sexual union. Yet, both açvattha and çamî are considered forms of fire, so much so that the child devours the parents at birth only because the parents themselves are born of Fire. The frequent option of having both male and female parts made from açvattha (-born-of-the-çamî) alone, would suggest, firstly, that the maternal ‘incest’ is primarily symbolic and, more importantly, that the male and the female again form a couple of twins (yâmala). The difficulty of deciding unilaterally in favor of a single option for the female aranîwould again suggest that through sexual union the partners (açvattha), particularly the male, are in fact being reborn from the womb of Fire (çamî). ‘To pacify’ (çam-) is, moreover, a euphemism for ‘to kill’ (as in çâmitr, the Vedic executioner), and all these ideas come together in the later Hindu representations of the divinized male victim, the ‘Buffalo-King’ Potu Râju, by a (hence androgynous) pole made of çamî wood beneath a pippal (açvattha) tree located at the center of the South Indian village.

It is the staff of the first Agnihotrin, planted at the confluence of two rivers, that sprouted to become the Varuna-tree now within the compound of the temple to Agni at Patan. And from its wood is sculpted the Mitra-Varuna emerging from a pot, like the purohita Vasishtha, in order to incarnate the priest himself. Popularly represented by a pot (-womb), even at the confluence of three rivers, (Tikka) Bhairava (at the southern limit of the Katmandu valley) is also the terrible fire that devours the dualism of the vital breaths to ascend through the spinal column (sushumnâ). Already during the Licchavi period, which saw the efflorescence of Vedic ideology in tribal Nepal, the enlightened king Amçuvarman offered human flesh into the fire for Bhairava. It is thus by prolonging the embryonic dimension of Varuna through a properly tantric modality, that this Agnihotra installed by the king Shivadeva, himself assimilated to a Bhairava of Assam, has been able to integrate this supreme god of the Kâpâlika adepts of the Soma doctrine (somasiddhânta). In the final analysis, the ease with which the image of the brahmanical sacrificer merges with that of the tantric adept, obliges us to ask whether Vedic religion was not founded from the beginning on such esoteric practices aiming at the expansion of the fire of consciousness. Abhinava repeatedly internalizes the Vedic ‘fire-sacrifice’ (agnihotra) as the external paradigm for the techniques of maintaining an intensified Consciousness such as those employed in the kula-yâga (Silburn, Kundalinî, p. 88, 143-4). The brahmin householder had to offer oblations of ‘semen’ in the form of milk and clarified butter into the sacrificial fire (âhavanîya) mornings and evenings to nourish the gods. The (solar) fire, internalized through the breaths, is an embryo to be nurtured so that at death it consumes the body of the sacrificer only in order to in turn give him (re-) birth into immortal life. In Chândogya Upanishad V.19-24, the Agnihotra is further internalized into an offering to the Self as the universal Fire (vaiçvânara). In the transgressive context of the kula-yâga, this universalization assumes the form of the all-devouring Bhairava-consciousness to which Abhinava attributes his highest spiritual realization. “Once it has been sufficiently kindled, Fire, instead of being snuffed out, purifies in the very process of consuming whatever impurities it comes into contact with. Whereas only pure offerings are made in the brahmanical sacrificial fire, the Trika technique of hathapâka ‘cooking, burning or digesting (the world) by force’ aims at offering the entire objective universe into the blazing gastric Fire of one’s own Bhairava-Consciousness so that it is transformed into undifferentiated ambrosia to be relished till satiation. In the vidûshaka [clown of the classical Indian theater], this totalization is symbolized by his gluttonous, all-devouring appetite, the dramatic transposition of the mythical Fire that in the Purânic cosmogonies destroys the world at the end of each cycle and whose imagery has been borrowed in the above technique. His rounded sweet-meats (modaka) likewise represent the Vedic soma-amrta (ambrosia), which would seem to ultimately refer to the supremely blissful state—often induced by sexual techniques—of Consciousness, which moreover is believed in the Trika to have a rejuvenating influence on the psycho-physical system as a side-effect.”25 In the Mahâbhârata, the god Agni indeed assumes the form of a gluttonous brahmin to consume the Khândava (= “sweet-meat”) forest in the context of Arjuna-and-Krishna’s dalliance with the innumerable women of the harem. Lévi-Strauss has moreover demonstrated that, in Amerindian mythology, the all-devouring forest-fire, often ignited through the friction of two fire-sticks, is symbolically equated to incest. The (secret of) fire was originally hidden in an old woman’s vagina symbolically equated with the “big mouth” of her swallow which must be provoked to laughter before the fire can be stolen by the Indians; the furnace which demands human sacrifices is itself symbolically identified with the womb.26

The total immersion in the expansive sexual joy of the kula-yâga is used as a vehicle for the universalization of Consciousness, and it is the symbolism of Fire that permits the merging of these two levels of experience. If the Vedic motifs and patterns lend themselves so easily to their subsequent Tantric exploitation to communicate an inner lived experience, it is not at all unreasonable to suppose that the brahmanical sacrifice—though elaborated to satisfy other, primarily socio-cosmic, concerns—was from the beginning rooted in such an experience. In such a context, unity would have referred not so much to the abolition of all difference between the sacrificer and a personal god or a metaphysical Absolute, but rather to the totalization of the sacrificer’s self or ‘vital breath’ (âtman) through a realization of its symbolic correspondences with a mythico-ritual universe. A systematic analysis of the content, structure and organization of these enigmatic correspondences could well reveal this universe to be already the coded projection and hypostatization (brahman) of a unified state of consciousness proper to the Vedic ‘shaman’ (rshi). This is indeed implied in Abhinavagupta’s ‘etymology’ (TA 29.164-6) of the ‘primordial’ sacrifice (âdi-yâga) as not only conferring the ‘essence’ of the sacrifice but as constituting the ‘original’ (âdi) sacrifice. The original meaning of brahman, now identified with kula, was (ritual) enigma and resolving the enigma was universally equated with committing an incest. Of course, Tantric and Vedic ritual are worlds apart, but Abhinava insists (TA 29.5-9) that the kula-yâga does not require the outer paraphernalia like the sacrificial circle (mandala), fire-pit (kunda), purificatory gestures (nyâsa), baths, etc., though one may opt to include them at will. In fact, the sacrifice may resort to six different supports: 1) the external world, 2) a woman (shakti) 3) the body, 4) union between a couple (yâmala), 5) the flow of breath (in the median channel) and finally 6) thought itself. According to Abhinavagupta, (the essence of) the kula-yâga belongs to the adept freed from all doubts, who sees the whole universe as Kula (TA 29.5-6), that is, as constituted of the union of Shiva and Shakti (Jayaratha’s commentary), just as the Vedic ritual saw the whole (sacrificial) universe in terms of the mithuna of pairs of objects. The kula-yâga is whatever the Tantric ‘hero’ does—mentally, verbally and physically—in order to establish himself permanently in such a mode of Consciousness, for this sacrifice is ultimately nothing but “knowledge and the knowable.” Transgressive sexual union may have been the indispensable external setting wherein all the above modes and faculties were once effectively integrated, but the ultimate realization of Unity procured by the original sacrifice could just as well become the normal condition of humanity with no other material supports than the body and consciousness itself.


{The bibliography has diacritic fields which need to be replaced]

  1. For a global understanding of Hinduism, see Madeleine Biardeau,L’hindouisme: anthropologie d’une civilisation(Paris: Flammarion, 1981). I thank my husband, Dr. Sunthar Visuvalingam, for all his help in elaborating the theoretical framework around my earlier French draft of this paper. I thank the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, for having supported my fieldwork in India; and the French Ministry of External Affairs for the Romain Rolland Fellowship in Banaras, and now the Lavoisier Fellowship to continue my research at the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University, under Prof. Michael Witzel. I am grateful also to the Bourse de la Vocation, of which I am a laureate since December 1980, for their generous grant towards a computer.
  2. Transl. Jean Varenne (Paris: Seuil, 1981), pp. 94-95.
  3. Much of the materials in this paper had been presented from a more anthropological perspective, focusing rather on the underlying ideology of transgression, in my as yet unpublished (in English) paper on “Adepts of Bhairava in the Hindu Tradition,” presented to the Assembly of the World’s Religions, 15-21 November 1985 (New York).
  4. For this school, refer to the works of Lilian Silburn published by Boccard (Paris: Institut de Civilisation Indienne). Also to theTantrâlokaof Abhinavagupta with the commentary of Jayaratha, The Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies (KSTS), 12 vols., ed. Madhusudan Kaul Shastri (Srinagar: 1918-1938); translated into Italian by Raniero Gnoli, Luce delle Sacre Scritture (Tantrâloka) di Abhinavagupta (Torino: U.T.E.T, 1972). Finally, for an overview of the historical and anthropological background of the system, see A. Sanderson, “Shaivism and the Tantric Traditions,” in The World’s Religions, ed. Stuart Sutherland et. al. (London: Routledge, 1988), pp. 660-704.

5.Sunthar Visuvalingam, “Transgressive Sacrality in the Hindu Tradition,” Paper presented to the Assembly of the World’s Religions (see note 3); see also his section on “A Semiotic Definition of Transgressive Sacrality,” in Alf Hiltebeitel, ed., Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees (Albany: SUNY, 1989), pp. 427-34.

  1. L. Silburn,Kundalinî: Energy of the depths(Albany: SUNY, 1988). Chap. 29 of Tantrâloka, KSTS no. 57 (Bombay: 1936), vol. 11 is also discussed in K. C. Pandey, Abhinavagupta: An Historical and Philosophical Study, 2nd ed. (Varanasi: Chowkhamba, 1963), pp. 607-23. The corresponding Vajrayâna rituals of the Anuttarayoga Tantras are systematically described and analyzed in their Buddhist context by David L. Snellgrove, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan Successors (London: Serindia Publications, 1987), pp. 117-294. For the anthropological background, see also my “Bhairava’s Royal Brahminicide,” esp. pp. 195-8, in Criminal Gods.
  2. For the better-known system ofcakras,see Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, 2nd ed., Bollingen Series 56 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969), pp. 236-41; also Tara Michael, transl. with Introduction and Notes, Hathayogapradîpikâ (Paris: Fayard, 1974). For the specificity of the Trika, see L. Silburn, Kundalinî, pp. 25-33.
  3. See W. D. O’Flaherty,Sexual Metaphors and Animal Symbols in Indian Mythology(Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), pp. 296, 317.
  4. Michel Hulin,Le principe de l’égo dans la pensée indienne classique: la notion d’ahamkâra(Paris: Institut de Civilisation Indienne, 1978), especially pp. 281-358.

10.I am partially summarizing from my Ph.D. thesis; see Elizabeth Chalier, “Unmatta Bhairava in the âgamic tradition of North India: a study of two manuscripts, Unmattâkhyakramapaddhati and Unmattabhairavapañcânga“(University of Paris-X, June 1981), pp. 388-89.

  1. It may be noted that the zodiacal sign of the twins is designated in Sanskrit by the term “mithuna” (coupling or a sexed couple).
  2. This is Alexis Sanderson’s thesis in (the transcript of) his paper on “Vajrayâna: Origin and Function” delivered to the International Conference on “Buddhism into the Year 2000” (7-9 February 1990, Sukhothai Thammathirat Conference Center, Bangkok). Cf. Snellgrove, pp. 128-9, 140, 147-70.
  3. For thetriçûlâbja-mandalaas a visual representation of the supremacy of Trika doctrine over the other sister-doctrines encompassed within it, see Alexis Sanderson, “Mandala and Agamic Identity in the Trika of Kashmir,” in Mantras et diagrammes rituels dans l’hindouisme (Paris: Editions du C.N.R.S., 1986), pp. 169-214. The body is likewise supremely valorized in the Vajrayâna where the role of the Shaiva linga has been replaced by the the ‘thunderbolt’ (vajra) of the Vedic Indra now identified with the ‘adamantine’ body of Buddha-hood (cf. Snellgrove, pp. 131-4, 288-94).
  4. “Purity and Power among the Brahmans of Kashmir,” in M. Carrithers, S. Collins and S. Lukes, eds.The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986), pp. 190-216.
  5. See Elizabeth Visuvalingam, “Bhairava: Kotwâl of Vârânasî,” inVârânasî Through the Ages, ed. T. P. Verma et al., Bhâratîya Itihâsa Sankalan Samiti Publ., no. 4 (Vârânasî: BISS, 1986), 241-60; my contribution toCriminal Gods, esp. pp. 177-91 (see n. 5); and my joint contribution with Sunthar Visuvalingam, “Between Mecca and Banaras: The Marriage of Lât-Bhairo” to Bradley P. Hertel and Cynthia A. Humes, eds., Living Banaras (Albany: SUNY, 1991).

16.The term vâmâmrta-paripluta “sprinkled with the nectar of woman” (TA 29.10) could allude to menstrual blood over and above the less shocking meaning of “wine” (vâma = ‘left’ instead of vâmâ = ‘woman’). (see note )

  1. It is not the wife but “another’s” (parakîyâ) woman who is the natural object of eroticism in popular Tantricism and it is likewise the adulterous woman (abhisârikâ) who is lavished with abundant sensuality in classical Sanskrit poetry and in the Krishna-bhaktiof the cow-herdesses.
  2. On the notion of sacrifice, seeS. Levi,Le sacrifice dans les Brâhmana (Paris: P.U.F., 1966); M. Biardeau and Charles Malamoud, Le sacrifice dans l’Inde ancienne (Paris: P.U.F., 1976).
  3. Charles Malamoud, “Village et forêt dans l’idéologie de l’Inde brahmanique,”Archives européennes de sociologie,vol. 17 (1976), p. 8.
  4. Charles Malamoud,Svâdhyâya, récitation personnelle du Veda, Taittirîya Âranyaka livre II(Paris: Institut de Civilisation Indienne, 1977), p. 68.
  5. Eliade,Yoga, p. 255ff. This especially concerns brahmanism, but as Biardeau says: “Tantrism does not invent anything, it merely appropriates the established values in inverse, by re-reading the Tradition on an esoteric register” (Biardeau,L’hindouisme, p. 164). The same series of homologizations has been further elaborated and adapted to the kula-yâga in a verse cited by the commentary on TA 29.110; see Silburn, Kundalinî, p. 184.
  6. See M. Biardeau,Dictionnaire de Mythologies(offprint; Paris: Flammarion, 1981), 89-90, 109-13; and Histoires de poteaux: Variations védiques autours de la Déesse hindoue (Paris: École Française d’Extrême Orient, 1989), pp. 38-44, 49.
  7. For a systematic analysis, see my “Adepts of Bhairava” (see n. 3), and especially Kathleen M. Erndl, “Rapist or Bodyguard, Demon or Devotee? Images of Bhairo in the Mythology and Cult of Vaisno Devî,” inCriminal Gods, pp. 239-250 (see n. 5). The variations of the same paradigm in the Newar Kumârî, and in the Ankâlamman and Kâttavarâyan cults of Tamil Nadu, have been interpreted in my own and Sunthar Visuvalingam’s contributions toCriminal Gods. David Shulman, Tamil Temple Myths: Sacrifice and Divine Marriage in the South Indian Saiva Tradition (New Jersey: Princeton Univ. Press, 1980) has demonstrated how this paradigm of the Vedic pre-classical sacrifice still underlies the temple-cult of the otherwise purified Shaiva Siddhânta theology. The pervasiveness of the embryogonic theme throughout Asia, irrespective of differing doctrinal and cultural contexts, has been surveyed by Rolf A. Stein in his magisterial article, “Les grottes matrices et lieux saints de la déesse en asie orientale,” Bulletin de l’école française de l’extrème-orient, vol. 151 (Paris: École française de l’extrème-orient, 1988), 1-106.
  8. See especially Sunthar Visuvalingam’s treatment of the embryo of the ‘barren’ (anûbandhyâ) cow sacrificed to Mitra-Varuna, in our contribution toLiving Banaras(see note 15).
  9. S. Visuvalingam, “Transgressive Sacrality,” p. 9. Materials on the Patan Agnihotra are drawn from the seminars by Prof. Michael Witzel at theCollège de Francein May 1989 on the continuity between the Vedic and the Tantric agnihotra, the manner in which the original core is encapsulated within the later framework. For the project of “cooking the world” (loka-pakti) in the brahmanical sacrifice and a more systematic study of the Vedic symbolism of fire, see Charles Malamoud, Cuire le monde: rite et pensée dans l’inde ancienne (Paris: Editions la Découverte, 1989), pp. 35-70.
  10. Claude Lévi-Strauss,The Savage Mind(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1966), p. 105; Mythologiques IV: L’homme nu (Paris: Plon, 1971), pp. 89, 130; The Raw and the Cooked, Introduction to a Science of Mythology: 1 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), p. 126 and note 9; pp. 269, 296 n. 7, 334-6.