The classic iconography of Kali: a four-armed goddess, with two hands making mudras for protection and blessings; one hand wielding a sentient blade; and from the other, hanging suspended by its hair and dripping blood, the freshly chopped-off head of the king of demons. Dark-skinned, bare-breasted, with a lolling tongue, Kali wears a skirt of amputated limbs and a garland of severed heads. She tramples the prostrate body of her consort, Shiva, her foot upon his heart chakra. In contrast to her ferocity is Shiva’s bliss. This image speaks to me of the character of sensate reality, and our relationship to it as material beings. It codifies, in essence, the tantrika’s mode of being.
Kali entered my life during a morning meditation. I am the ocean of blood at the beginning and end of the universe, she said. You will perform daily pujas and learn the techniques of tantric sex. I did as I was told, without understanding why or where it was leading until, a few months later, my father unexpectedly died. It felt as if Kali equipped me with the means to cope with that ordeal. When reality wears its Kali-face, it’s time to do as Shiva does.
When, recently, Kali appeared once more, demanding puja, I was not overjoyed but fearful. Soon afterwards, my mother’s health failed. I thought maybe I could see where this was headed. But then, to vast relief, my mother recovered.
It was not clear what Kali wanted me to do. In a gift shop, a notebook bearing her image caught my attention. I bought it, and put it away. But at the back of my mind the idea grew that it ought to contain a message from the goddess. I needed a way for this to appear without me writing it. So I cut up newspapers and magazines. Any phrase that fetched attention was clipped and cast onto a pile, re-arranged, until it seemed sentences were forming. Images suggested themselves as accompaniments to the text, pictures of death and sexuality, perversities and atrocities. Sourcing these has no doubt permanently marred my search history.
Each page of the notebook was stained by hand with ink, and the pictures and phrases glued on top. A portion of the text arrived during a ritual at one of the regular meetings between Boffo and I. Each page consumed hours of labour. At last, Liber Kali was complete. Yet its purpose seemed more than to lie forgotten at the bottom of my box of notebooks. Boffo and I brought it to a large magickal gathering and made it the basis of a ceremony entitled The Kali Hypno Puja.
The statement of intent was that all participants, to their benefit, would receive a communication from Kali. Boffo, who is a mighty purveyor of trance, placed the whole room under hypnosis, then provided a quiet and lilting drum accompaniment to my reading of the text.
Be warned that Liber Kali contains pornographic images, and pictures of human suffering and violent death. A digital copy is included here [PDF, 2MB], and, should you read it, you might discover that it’s not a typical hymn of praise. Constructed from snippets of current media, traces of the zeitgeist are inescapable. Its opening lines are a plaintive cry to the goddess, but what develops thereafter is perhaps a devotee’s personal train of enquiry towards salvation. Or perhaps you will read it as something else entirely, because hopefully there is adequate ambiguity to inspire in everyone something completely unique.
The results of our hypno puja were certainly diverse. One person remembered no words of the text at all, but only the sensation of a hand stroking her face, and then embracement in a multitude of loving arms. Others reported visions of Kali at varying levels of intensity, one person moved to tears on recounting his. And the remainder reported milder phenomena, such as simply the feeling that something good was bound to happen.
My personal result from the ritual is what I shall explore in my next sermon.