Three Goddesses & Tantra
In India, as in a number of cultures throughout the world including Orthodox Christianity, three Goddesses are recognized, with their countless personalities, manifestations, and variations. There is a White Goddess, a Red Goddess, and a Black Goddess.
When we examine the surface of the world for marks and signs of the Goddess in all her three forms, we can’t help but notice the resemblance between Goddesses and rivers, especially the great rivers. Many of the great rivers begin their world-creating journey in the snows and ancient glaciers of the high mountains, pulled with the gravity of the guna “rajas” towards the ocean. She wears white as She emerges from the frozen eternity, rushing down the mountainside, changes into a red gown as she brings fertility to the Earth, settling and expanding into the plains, and then She disappears into the ocean wearing black.
Saraswati, India’s White Goddess, the Creatrix, whose name comes from the onomatopoeic syllables “sara” sounding like flowing water and meaning just about the same, is also known as Vagdevi, The Goddess of Speech, as she creates the world from the primal word. She objectifies creation, as her consort Brahma is the subject of creation.
Mahalakshmi, India’s Red Goddess, whose name derives from the marks and signs on the surface of the world, and their perception, is Speech fully manifested and condensed into the density of Earth. That which springs from the Earth is man’s prosperity, be it grains, healing plants, or gold. So she is known as the Goddess of Prosperity, the consort of Vishnu, who maintains the world.
Mahakali, India’s Black Goddess, whose name means “black,” is the least understood of the three, and certainly the most enigmatic. For as Speech is created and then manifested, it is through this very same speech that the world may be reabsorbed in the Ocean of Consciousness. For those whom the perception of the world is the ultimate reality, this personality of nature appears terrifying, withdrawing the world into the great unknown, but to those who understand the world to be only the reality of our perception, She is the Goddess of Knowledge.
She wears skulls around her neck, syllables severed from their manifested world of 5 elements, and it is these syllables, the phonemes of our Speech responsible for our boundaries of knowledge that are withdrawn away from objectivity into subjectivity. The Sanskrit word that Patanjali used in his Yoga Sutra was “pratyahar.”
It’s by taking things apart, spreading the pieces in front of our eyes, and then figuring out how they go back together that we realize how they work. If there is a commonality among the various tantras, this is perhaps it, and this is why the practice of tantra is often connected with the “black” goddesses, who are often personified in horrific and frightening forms.
Those who use the knowledge that the Black Goddess marks, to grow their egos, often obtain great worldly power, but those who use the knowledge to make their egos transparent, obtain liberation.