Kali: The Burning Away of Dross
By Maria Wednesday
I bow my head, says Prasad, before desire and liberation; Knowing the secret that Kali is one with the highest Brahman, I have discarded, once for all, both righteousness and sin. Ramprasad Sen
Who is Kali but She who cuts away that which is not, and leaves only that which is? If there were ever a single diety embodies all that one needs and requires, Kali is it. To the ignorant and foreign, She appears frightening and savage. This is warranted for She is fierce beyond description, but of the most beautiful fierceness imaginable.
Kali is reminiscent of the mythological tale in which Ishtar journeys to the Underworld. As Ishtar passes through each gate, seven in total, and at each She was asked to disrobe an item. First her crown, then her radiance, her bracelets, her veil, her robe, and so forth, until She reached the inner sanctum nude and without power. Such is the one who comes to know Kali, whom comes in intimate contact with Her through yantra, yoga, and mantra. As in Christian parable, come unto God as a child. Mind you, this does not mean powerlessness nor weakness. This is a presentation of self in its absolute core, stark naked, as a student presents herself unto a Master in pure earnestness to learn. One discards that which is not, and presents only what is.
This is the essence of Kali, a blazing knife with cuts through butter, which severs away that which is not, which burns away the dross, leaving only that which is. It is the apophatic approach, the negative approach, to speak as ‘you are not this, you are not that’. As one focuses on the yantra, it is as the insulation of a wire removed, leaving only the live wire itself. It is the removal of the dross, the clay, leaving only the fire, the raw power itself. In the imagery of Kali we see her with machete, with severed heads, with violent spirit, for She hacks away that which is waste. The more one clings, the more one clenches with attachment, the more painful and threatening this can be. The less one clings, as Ishtar through each gate, as an earnest nude student to a master, a child unto God, the easier the dross melts away. This is the paradox of clinging to dross by thinking it is strength, when it is the release of it which allows ‘that which is’ to be revealed, that raw fire or power. The less we cling or grasp, the more we have to spend or use. Naturally we are pure power, if only we would allow ourselves to be such by letting go and returning to this natural state. This is the beauty and ability of Kali, to directly cut through without mercy or hesitation.
Linguistically and theologically, in occult and elsewhere, there has been dubbed the ‘Left Handed Path’ and the ‘Right Handed Path’. I am not a pedantic on the matter. People can define it as they will. I mention it now relevant to this apophatic approach, to this approach through Kali. In the orthodox, the right handed, it is a slow and steady delayering to lay open only ‘that which is’. Perhaps lifetimes, perhaps not, but a cautious and steady orthodox approach through certain religious living. Then there is the heterodox, sometimes seen as transgressive even. It is the more straight and dangerous approach which instead of slowly lifting back layer after layer, it is as a hot knife to butter slicing away the dross, leaving only the raw power. This is the essence of Kali, an apophatic force that immediately burns away the dross, leaving only ‘that which is’. It is naturally threatening and frightening to one whom clings or is attached to the dross, but to one whom presents themselves as Ishtar did, or as a nude woman to a lover does, it can only be described as intoxicating and beautiful.
It is the baring of oneself to the utmost, but it is simultaneously through the apophatic force of Kali that it is done. Perhaps one may call it ‘atman’, or the ‘True/Higher Self’, or the ‘Primordial State’; the name does not matter. Personally I can only describe it as ‘raw fire’ or ‘raw power’, or as ‘only that which is’. Words fail me past what I have written above. It is a resonating hum, a steady vibration, a still fire, that I feel within and there is nothing else but that. This is the beauty of Mother Kali that brings tears to my eyes as I write this and share with the universe at large. If I could summarize it succinctly, Kali is that direct apophatic force which cuts away ‘that which is not’ and leaves only ‘that which is’.
Om Hrim Shreem Klim Adya Kalika Param Eshwari Swaha [Om Hreem Shreem Kleem Ahd-yah Kah-lee-kah Pah-rahm Ehsh-wah-ree Swah-hah]
“Om and salutations to She who is the first one, dark within her own reality, the supreme primordial feminine, who cuts through illusion to the unabridged truth of existence.”