Jennifer’s Body: Working with the Elements (II)

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"The distinctive sign through which it is possible
to recognize the nature of someone [or something]
is called a linga."

..Un-Paired and Un-Constellated

What happened after Needy cut herself off from the rest of the world, after “killing” her best friend and assimilating her split-off energies into herself?

The film uses the metaphor of prison, one more bleak than the bedroom that confined Jennifer before. For the bedroom – suffused by pink and boy-band pictures plastered upon the wall – bespoke of a nadi that had been opened, of how she eased the pain of her banishment, finding nourishment in an otherwise vacant room.

By stabbing her heart (not her breast), one prison was exchanged for another, putting an end to Jennifer’s feeding: in place of the promise of pink was a darkened cell, and in place of her idols was a giant “X” marked upon the ground: a self-imposed prohibition and a declaration of where she didn’t want to go.

Adding to her torture was Low Shoulder’s singing which blasted through the inter-com, piercing her consciousness as it did throughout this story, as if it had become the unofficial soundtrack to her life. But now, Kicker was pleading for the music to stop.

It was the first step towards her liberation.

Ida Pingala

The music was intended for Jennifer, not Needy.

They were one and the same, of course, two sides of a personality: one dynamic and exuberant, the other reflective and introverted. One could say they manifest two kinds of energy, like the nadis that wind their way up the body, alternating in dominance between one and the other: Ida and Pingala.

As often happens, one had become the more powerful: Needy was relegated to the sidelines while Jennifer became the star. In the town of Devil’s Kettle, Jennifer (not Needy) was the shining one, leading cheers for the home team before a roaring crowd: “Go Devils!”

Despite this imbalance, the pair found a way to make it work. Jennifer taught Needy about the powers of the female sex, while Needy provided Jennifer with a pupil, amazed at what she learned. Only later would it become a liability: when a sacrifice to the devil transferred a demonic force from boys to girl.

This is why the burden fell on Needy to take an active role. It wasn’t about killing Jennifer since both were fated to die. Both Jennifer and Needy were destined to be replaced by a third – named Kicker – whose job was to harmonize the competing tendencies represented by the pair.

Healing Divining

Which is not to suggest there was anything “wrong” with either of them before. Due to the vicissitudes of living, some skills blossomed while others were only partially developed: a reflection of the course of her life. Nothing less, nothing more.

When Pingala is activated (“awakened”), one becomes a siddha. Special abilities develop, including the capacity to heal, gaining control over matter and nature. Jennifer displayed this ability when she rejuvenated herself – feeling invincible – and considered herself a god.

When Ida is activated (“awakened”), one becomes a seer. Special abilities develop, including the capacity to access cosmic truths through divination and other forms of spiritual sight. Needy developed this ability when she began learning about demonic transference and its relation to sacrifice.

These powers represent two forms of “genius,” one having to do with prana (life-force), the other having to do with citta (consciousness). So alluring are these powers, it’ll feel like nirvana even though their arrival only signals the beginning of the spiritual quest.

Kicker defended against the illusion by holding both in balance, which is how her path toward liberation was created – merging Ida and Pingala – leading to her deliverance from the prison in which she was trapped.

Kali and Shiva               Tara and Shiva

Sacred tales of Shiva and the Goddess mirror this struggle of opposites; they also emphasize their complementarity and interdependence. For it’s said that Shiva without Shakti is like a corpse (shava), while Shakti without Shiva is confusion (kalila); that consciousness without energy is lifeless, while energy without consciousness has no direction.

While battling demons, Kali was overcome with bloodthirst, on the verge of losing her mind. According to one story, only after trampling her husband did she come back to her senses, acquiring a new peace of mind; in another story, Shiva placed himself there purposefully, so as to absorb Kali’s boundless wrath.

Around her neck was a garland of freshly severed heads; wrapped around her waist was a skirt made of arms. These were her trophies, emblems of thinking and grasping that were forcefully taken in the course of war. (In some portraits, Shiva is shown with an erection, signaling the conjunction of Energy and Consciousness, the possibility of a new creation that combined their separate powers.)

While Tara was also terrifying, she’s called the One Who Guides through Troubles. According to mythology, Tara once nursed Shiva at her breast after he swallowed the poison that emerged from the churning of the ocean. It’s said that her milk neutralized the poison’s effect, restoring his life and consciousness.

Portraits show Tara standing on Shiva, looking at him with affection. In one hand, she holds a pair of scissors, symbolizing the virtue of detachment, while Shiva is surrounded by fires of cremation. Tara has acquired some of Shiva’s iconography, like the serpents wrapped around her ankles, waist and neck; Shiva is unadorned, completely naked, as if he were about to be reborn.
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Dhumavati (The Widow)

Of course, not all portraits of the Mahavidyas involve Shiva since they portray the path of the Goddess, each depicting a certain stage on Her path. Like the Widow, Dhumavati, for example, who was always thirsty and hungry, perpetually dissatisfied.
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Matangi (The Outcaste)

Then there was Matangi the Outcaste, associated with the marginalized and polluted. This was less about the Goddess’ degradation than a reminder that She can be found anywhere and, like anyone else on the periphery, is deserving of our respect.
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Bhuvanesvari (She Whose Body Is the World)

For Bhuvaneshvari, the entire universe was her body, all beings ornaments of her vitality. Her joy was the energy of creation – and each created world was a reflection of her Self – which is why she’s known as She Whose Body is the World.
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Chinnamasta (The Self-Decapitated)

Chinnamasta decapitated herself in pursuit of self-transformation. Iconographically, she stands upon a man and woman caught up in copulation. The blood gushing from her neck feeds her two attendants (Ida and Pingala?) while the central stream feeds herself.
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Bhagalamukhi (The Paralyzer)

Bagalamukhi – known as the Paralyzer – controlled the demon who terrorized the world using the power of his tongue. Like Sarasvati, she possessed the power of speech, but also the power to attract, stun, and immobilize her enemies.
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Shodashi (aka Lalita)

Shodashi (“Sixteen”) also known as Lalita and Kamesvari was the beautiful and ferocious warrior who defeated the asura rampaging the kingdom of the gods. She also restored Kama’s power, since Shiva’s Third Eye had previously reduced it to ash.

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Muladhara         Anahata

Lingam and Yoni are the primary symbols used to represent the possibility of spiritual transformation, frequently equated with the sex organs, as this reflects the terms’ literal translation. Since the lower chakras are tied to the genitals, such an assumption can’t be entirely inaccurate, although it would behoove us to remain open to other interpretations as well.

In Muladhara, Lingam is called Svayambhu – “the-self-as-it-exists” – around which the serpent Kundalini is tightly wrapped. Only after this grasp is loosened, only then does her upward journey begin, after a leap of faith abandons the self-as-it-exists. The elephant symbolizes this before-and-after, at first using its trunk to throw water and dirt into the air.

But the trunk is also an organ of sensation: an organ of smell. As the most primitive of senses, it operates below awareness – through unconscious attractions and repulsions – which is probably why lovers (and businesses) use the scent of flowers, soap and perfumes to tap into the primal brain. These signal an alluring “beyond” like the smell of the ocean, beckoning toward waters that remain unseen.

In Anahata, Lingam takes a more prominent – and elevated – position. Here, it’s called Bana (“arrow”), like the Projective instruments of Cupid and Eros. For the first time, Lingam and Kundalini are seen in human form – as Shiva and Shakti – no longer represented as a rigid phallus or a tightly coiled snake.

For the upward journey to be continued, this Lingam must also be pierced, just like in Muladhara: another leap of faith which, this time, leaves the “arrow” behind.

The Sixteen

According to ancient texts, Lingam represents the “subtle” body that operates below consciousness as we go about our daily lives. However, after an intense experience, new sensations can often be felt or heard, like “seeing stars” after an accident or a beating, or the mystic who’s learned to feel the presence of God. This is how the subtle body comes to be known.

This subtle body is constituted by a group of Sixteen: the five subtle elements, the five sense organs, the five action organs, and the mind. Each is produced during the course of manifestation, enabling contact with the outside world, allowing us to experience pleasure (and pain).

The downward triangle depicts this impulse toward experience. It also indicates the sequence of creation that culminates in the gross elements of the material world.

The motor organs (karma-indriyas) enable our “active” relation to the elements; the sensory organs (jnana-indriyas) enable receptivity to experience. The subtle elements (tanmatras) provide the mediums of experience, while the mind (manas) is what Buddhists call “monkey mind,” enthralled and confused by its relation to the world.

Meditation attempts to reverse this orientation by controlling the senses and training the mind. When successful, new capacities are revealed, including the development of Buddhi, the organ used for discriminating between true and false, and discerning the nature of reality.

The organs of sensation are crucial for this task: when turned inward, they become organs of knowledge (jnana) rather than (external) sense. Attention shifts from the gross to the subtle, to the mediums that make the experience of elements possible. Each organ is transformed: like the tongue learning to understand the nature of taste rather than being ruled by the action-organ and its relation to water.

Fire Ghost

Isn’t this what Kicker was doing while retelling her story from prison? For in balancing activity and receptivity, that’s when sensory organs become organs of knowledge instead.

The crucial pivot was the fire that exploded while Jennifer grasped Needy’s hand. The flames emerged without explanation – a signal of something bursting into consciousness – and would change her life forever. (The action organ associated with Fire is the feet, used for locomotion; the sensory organ is the eye, used to detect color and form.)

The first time around, Needy couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing, unable to convert sense into knowledge, overwhelmed by the force of fire. Only later, after it’s digestion, only then could it be understood.

A similar thing happened while Kicker was in isolation (although only shown in the film’s deleted scenes). She was haunted by apparitions floating in the air, usually “felt” rather than seen. While the action organ associated with Air is the hand, the sense organ which becomes an organ of knowledge is the skin: more sensitive than nose (earth), genitals (water) or eyes (fire).

When haunted by ghosts, ego must be strong enough to calm the mind so that Buddhi can discern their truth. As the movies have taught us: ghosts merely have unfinished business – still clinging even though they’re already dead – because of a crucial lesson that hasn’t yet been learned.

Ajna

In Ajna, Lingam takes center stage. Here, it’s known as Itara (“other”). The world of diversity is reduced to the polarity of two. Shiva appears as his androgynous form (Ardhanarisvara): half of his body is recognizably his own, the other half belongs to Shakti (Gauri); his consort Hakini possesses six-heads.

Like all chakras, this depicts a double moment: the force of manifestation (Nature) and the power of dissolution (Consciousness). It’s like the rhythm of the tides moving out and moving in: li- (to dissolve) gam (to go out). Lingam is the organ of growth (gam) that shrinks or dissolves (li). When this rhythmic movement is brought to an end, that’s when liberation is achieved.

During the course of manifestation, Shakti “loses” heads; the six she bears at Ajna is reduced to Muladhara’s one. During the course of dissolution, moving in reverse, Shakti re-gains a head at each stage of the journey, reestablishing her relationship with Shiva (consciousness) until she’s no longer kalila (confused).

During the course of manifestation, Shiva ages until he becomes an old man in Manipura. (In Swadhisthana, “he” becomes Vishnu the Preserver; in Muladhara, Brahma the Creator is him.) After reaching Anahata, he becomes younger during each stage of dissolution, reestablishing his relationship with Shakti (Nature) until he’s no longer a corpse (shava).

While this process is described in terms of masculine and feminine, it applies equally to women and men. For both are subject to the samsaric cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution, a cycle which repeats itself interminably unless and until each Lingam is breached, bringing the cycle to an end.

Guru Chakra

At the base of Sahasrara is the Guru Chakra, the place from which the sadhaka (in Ajna) draws inner wisdom. After the last Lingam is pierced, all need for an external teacher disappears. “The light that dispels the darkness” (gu-ru) is accessed from within, no longer associated with an-other.

Inside the chakra’s petals is the white circle known as the Void. Within the void is the A-Ka-Tha triangle, also known as the Womb of the Mother (Yoni), the most creative spot in the universe. From this triangle, all worlds are made, its three sides associated with the Goddesses – and forces – associated with the cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution.

Within the womb is Bindu, the seed of manifestation, also known as the Fourth. Bindu combines the energy of Shiva and Shakti: cosmic consciousness and cosmic energy, represented as Kameswara and Kameswari, the God and Goddess of Love. The impulse of creation began with their separation (beginning the period of expansion) and their reunion brings about its end (during the path of return).

Romantics might liken this journey to a love story, and perhaps it is. But Shiva and Shakti are principles, not individuals, and their separation is not the same as unrequited love. When Nature is alienated from Consciousness – and vice versa – that’s when desire begins, yearning to recapture what was lost.

Only after overcoming this hunger, only then are Shiva and Shakti reunited, when they become Kameswara and Kameswari: masters or rulers (isvara/i) over sensual desire (kama).

Muladhara Lingam    Anahata Lingam    Ajna Lingam

If Lingam is the distinctive sign through which someone or something can be recognized, the chakras show us how that recognition occurs through stages and by leaps of faith.

1. In Muladhara, Lingam is inert, symbolized as grey, encased within the element of earth. At this stage, it’s known as Svayambhu (self-as-it-exists) and is sustained by a “dormant” Kundalini until its awakening.
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2. In Anahata, Lingam is aflame, burning brightly. At this stage, it’s known as Bana (arrow) and is caught between two forces: one pushing upward (the fire of transformation), the other pulling down (water seeking containment).
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3. In Ajna, Lingam is black; and no longer is it connected with the elements. At this stage, it’s known as Itara (other), reflecting the separation of powers that gave birth to the universe: the Sun and the Moon.

Once Vishuddha is traversed, all organs associated with the elements have been converted to organs of knowledge. This is probably why Itara is depicted as black: no new knowledge (a-jna) comes from the outside. All that’s left is for Lingam to contemplate itself and receive the wisdom that comes from above (gu-ru), the light that dispels darkness.

In some traditions, the impulse towards manifestation is described as a Fall, a descent into matter depicted as an unfortunate event. But according to the traditions to which Lingam belongs, this descent is absolutely necessary. For it’s only through experience of the elements that Consciousness becomes self-aware, and the God and Goddess of Love are reunited eons after their separation at the beginning of Creation.

This is why Lingam is worshipped: for it provides the circuit for transforming experience into knowledge – and then wisdom – opening the passageway toward liberation and bliss.

Kameswari

Whether this was Kicker’s experience, it’s impossible to say. Only she has access to what happened in that prison cell. But her pose points to the spiritual tradition defined by chakras and their relation to the elements: as she meditates, she gains access to her subtle body, and eventually becomes lighter than air.

To be continued …

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~ by mistified on December 21, 2013.

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