The lord of consciousness and the destroyers of consciousness

I watched a video from Thomas LeRoy, who you may recognize as the founder of a Left Hand Path organization known as the Sect of the Horned God, and in the video he talked about how he felt the Hindu deity Shiva was the best representation of the Left Hand Path in general. He feels that Shiva represents the consciousness of the individual (which he equates to the concept of Atman), in contrast to Vishnu’s connection with the consciousness of the universe (which he identifies as the concept of Brahman), and as the traditions of the Left Hand Path highly stress the importance of the consciousness of the individual, .

If you want, you can see the full video below.

In a sense, Atman referring to the individual consciousness can be a way of interpreting the concept of Atman, but while Atman is viewed as referring to the essential self, in Hindu tradition that same essential self is viewed as identical with Brahman, the consciousness of the universe. Shiva being the lord of individual consciousness in a Left Hand Path context is still an interesting way to elevate the individual consciousness and its importance in a Hindu context, and it definitely keeps Shiva interesting. In fact, it might be part of why my interest in him has stuck.

I don’t think I could come to dislike him.

This interpretation also brings to my mind a Buddhist myth concerning Shiva. Shiva does appear in the Buddhist tradition as Mahakala, but that’s not his only iteration within Buddhist lore. There’s a story in Buddhist scriptures where Shiva appears as Maheshvara (one of his names which he often goes by) and is defeated by a bodhisattva named Vajrapani. In the story, the cosmic Buddha Vairocana wants to construct a mandala and requests Vajrapani to generate his adamantine family in order to do so, but Vajrapani refuses to cooperate with Vairocana because of Maheshvara “deluding beings with deceitful doctrines and engaging in criminal activity”. In response Vajrapani’s complaint, Vairocana permits him to bring Maheshvara and his entourage to Mount Meru in order to force them to comply with the doctrines of the Buddha Gautama. Vajrapani uses a mantra to drag Maheshvara and company to Mount Meru, and orders all of them submit to the Buddhist teachings, to which all of them comply except Maheshvara, who refers to Vajrapani as a “pathetic tree spirit”. The two challenge each other in magical combat, and after a series of battles Maheshvara eventually defeated by Vajrapani, and along with his wife Uma (clearly a reference to the goddess Parvati) he is tread upon by Vajrapani after his defeat. After Vajrapani’s victory, all of Maheshvara’s entourage submit to the teachings of Buddhism and become a part of Vairocana’s mandala, except for Maheshvara, who is killed, but he is reborn in another realm as a Buddha named Bhasmesvara Nirghosa, who is described as “Soundless Lord of Ashes”.

In Japanese Buddhism, there is a similar myth centering around Gozanze Myo-O (aka Trailokyavijaya), one of the Five Wisdom Kings (a powerful group of wrathful emanations of the Five Buddhas of Wisdom, intended to represent the overcoming of passions and all threats to the Buddhist faith). In Japan, Gozanze Myo-O is the one who subjugates Maheshvara (known in Japan as Daijizaiten) and his wife Uma, thus they are depicted as trampled beneath Gozanze Myo-O’s feet in representations of him. But rather than killing Maheshvara, as Vajrapani did, Gozanze Myo-O converts him and Uma into protectors of the Buddhist faith.

A representation of Gozanze Myo-O.

The story of Maheshvara’s defeat and/or subjugation is obviously a way of illustrating the purported superiority of Buddhism next to Hinduism, and thus the superiority of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas over the Hindu pantheon of deities, but I feel that if we are to consider Shiva as a deity representing individuated consciousness, then beings like Vajrapani and Gozanze Myo-O, in the act of killing or subjugating Maheshvara, become the destroyers of individuated consciousness. This of course ties in to the fact that the goal of Buddhist practice is, ultimately, the extinction of individuated consciousness.

It’s a shame too, because I don’t really look at beings like these the same way after thinking about it that way. The wrathful beings of Buddhist come across to me as expressions of powerful will and strength, so it is a shame when that becomes directed against individuated consciousness in support of religious doctrine.

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Some trends I’ve been noticing about my chosen deities

Now that I feel I have completed my deity pages, I’d like to write about some things I’ve noticed about each of the deities I have chosen, some trends or pattern they seem to follow at least by what seems like chance, and some things that a number of these deities have in common or each reflect in their own way, or at least most of them do.

 

Popularity and unpopularity

Each of the chosen deities seems to have their own history with popularity or prominence within their respective cultures. Varuna was the ruler of the heavens and the supreme deity in the early part of Vedic India, but it seems was not necessarily as popular as Indra, and he was dethroned from his position as supreme deity and became less popular, until he was eventually eclipsed by the new deities such as Shiva and Vishnu and was just not worshiped anymore, much like (ironically) the creator deity Brahma, though the original Varuna likely lives on in the Zoroastrian in the form of Ahura Mazda, who is at least treated with respect by his devotees. Astaroth, as Ishtar, was once one of the popular goddess of ancient Babylon, which makes sense given her associations with love and sex, and she even had cults outside Babylon, but with the rise of Christian monotheism she became treated as a demon, and her association with sex and the cult of sacred prostitution likely contributed to her being with particular disgust by the Christian world. In Egypt, Amun-Ra was one of the most popular deities, and the two deities who would be fused to become him, Amun and Ra, were two of Egypt’s most important deities. Amun-Ra even gained prominence as a national deity and was even considered the ultimate expression of divinity in Egypt. But over time, Amun-Ra lost the prominence he once had in Egypt, and, like Astaroth, was seen as a demon with the rise of Christianity. With Beelzebub, he was largely a way of likening the cult of Baal, which was popular in the Levant, to feces. For the Israelites, Beelzebub represented the opposite of their cult of Jehovah, and was the lord of demons, and as the Western world eventually aligned with that point of view via Christianity, Beelzebub became the Devil, or Satan, the one who we were all supposed to loathe and despise for supposedly being the source of all evil, and if he wasn’t seen as that then he was seen as a powerful demon. However, not all of my chosen deities were once popular but then became unpopular. For Shiva, the opposite is true. Shiva started out as Rudra, and in Vedic times Rudra was a deity who was worshiped primarily out of fear rather than devotion because he was seen as very terrifying deity, but he eventually gained more benign and even universalistic connontations as Shiva, grew more and more popular and to this day he is one of the most beloved deities in Hinduism and one of the most recognized deities in general. Ashura started out as Asura, and Asura in Vedic times used to be an abstract concept referring to power, strength, or might, then became a term for demons or hostile beings in the Hinduism we know, then became a term for jealous and wrathful demigods in Buddhism, but in Japan he became Ashura, a protector of the Buddhist faith, and was treated with some positive status and even got a famous statue at Kofuku-ji in Nara.

A crowd of people paying homage to Ganesha, one of the new deities who eclipsed the Vedic deities of India.

 

Violence and war

Although Ashura is supposed to be the war deity in this configuration, more deities than just him have been associated with war or violence. In ancient Babylon, Astaroth/Ishtar was not just as goddess of love and sex, but also war, and war itself was even referred to as the “dance of Ishtar”. Shiva, as Rudra, used to be a violent deity himself, and he was feared as being unpredictable and even malevolent. Even in his current incarnation, Shiva himself is chiefly associated with destruction, and can assume wrathful forms such as Bhairava and Mahakala. Amun-Ra was not himself a deity that was specifically violent or had a violent history on his own, but Ra, one of the deities that became him, was capable of manifesting violent power in the form of a separate entity in order to exact whatever wrathful or vengeful desires he felt. In addition, the ram in Egypt was venerated in matters of warfare as well as fertility. Rather fitting for the astrological ram Aries who is associated with Mars, the planet associated with and named for a deity of war. However, Beelzebub isn’t explicitly warlike, despite his association with the likes of Baal/Hadad and Set, and Varuna has nothing to do with warfare or violence at all, though has had some association with death.

An image of Kala Bhairava in Nepal

 

Demons

It seems all of my chosen deities have had some history with demons, or with being demons. Beelzebub is the ruler of the demons and a powerful demon himself. Astaroth is a goddess with demonic attributes, or more or less a demon who was once a goddess. Shiva himself was sometimes said to have a horde of spirits called Ganas, or Bhutaganas, sometimes identified as demons. In Iran, Rudra/Shiva was seen as a demon, or rather daeva, named Sarva. Varuna was an asura, in fact he was called Father Asura, but towards the end of the Vedic period the asuras had become treated as demons, and although Varuna was now said to be an asura who left the side of the asuras to join the devas, he was viewed as having demonic or sinister qualities. Some sources say who controls or watches over the demons of the ocean. Ashura was believed to represent the asuras, the very same demons from Hindu lore, though in Buddhism though less demons than hostile demigods. Amun-Ra was never associated with demonic forces, though he would eventually be incarnated as a devil in Christian demonology, just as many of the old deities were. Ra did have Set guarding him on his journey through the underworld though, and Set would later come to be viewed as a kind of demonic deity.

The ganas (or bhuta-ganas), Shiva’s spirit hordes

 

Opposing forces

Most of my chosen deities have had a distinct role in the concepts of “good” and “evil”, or of order and chaos (many cultures before Zoroastrianism and Judaism didn’t really have any sort of cosmic division between “good” and “evil”, though they often presented a division and conflict between order and chaos, and even then there was often a ), in their respective mythologies. Amun-Ra was seen as an upholder of Ma’at, the Egyptian concept of order, truth, and balance, and was praised as a lord of truth in hymns. He also represented the sun, which was believed to battle with the forces of entropy. Beelzebub, as the ruler of the demons, was seen as the lord of darkness and the source of evil in the world. Shiva, as we know him, is one of the deities associated with good and righteousness in Hinduism. In fact he’s so righteous that he refuses to destroy asuras who didn’t do anything wrong simply because they are asuras (unlike Vishnu, who always favors the devas no matter what). He does destroy asuras if they prove to be a threat, or if they insult him or his wife, but won’t destroy them simply because of them being asuras. As the king or representation of the asuras, Ashura tends to represent the anti-gods of both Hinduism and Buddhism. As I’ve previously mentioned, Varuna was once the lord of the heavens and the one who upheld , but eventually became associated with the demons or anti-gods. However, in Iran, Varuna became the inspiration for Ahura Mazda, the lord of order, truth, and all that is good. I don’t think Astaroth originally had a vital role in any kind of duality in Mesopotamian or Semitic myth, but Astaroth was once hailed as the Queen of Heaven, and later descended to the underworld. I guess that merits an association with both the forces of light and darkness? There’s also the duality of creation and destruction to consider. There’s no doubt that Amun-Ra was always considered a deity associated with creation in Egypt. Shiva is chiefly associated with destruction, but he has also been associated with creation in many circles. Shiva is even shown to prevent the untimely destruction of the world in some myths.

I’m not sure where this is from, but it looks like it’s a Babylonian relief.

 

Sex and fertility

Astaroth is probably the deity most associated with sex and fertility, but two other deities have their associations with sex and fertility. Amun-Ra was seen as a fertility deity, chiefly due to his association with the ram (a fertility symbol), and his association with fertility often tied him to the Egyptian phallic fertility deity Min. The ram as a fertility symbol was associated with the deities Khnum, Heryshaf, and Banebdjedet. Shiva has sometimes been associated with sexuality through the lingam, a devotional representation of Shiva meant to represent the potential and energy of the divine. While the lingam is a phallic symbol, it is traditionally connected to the potent energy residing in the cosmos while the female counterpart, the yoni, represents passive space. Traditionally, the sexual organs of the human body are symbolically used to represent the space, energy, and the totality of existence through the inseparability of male and female, rather than simply sexuality and sexual intercourse. However, one could argue this is a way of shying away from the enshrinement of sexuality itself.

Egyptian relief depicting Min, Qetesh, and Resheph.

 

And there you go, these are all the common threads between the chosen deities I can think of.

Fire, light, darkness, chaos, Satan, and God

In Hindu belief, the Aum is the symbol of divine energy and creative force, which is believed to be permeate the entire universe.

Lately I have been thinking a couple of things, about some new ideas about Satan, Chaos, God, light and darkness, and a great fire, and it has been difficult to express these things.

Let’s start with God. I feel like I am seeing that God is something that can be interpreted differently by different people, and how we interpret God in a way shapes our belief system, and this includes both the left and right hand paths. Personally I feel that the concept of God as a single deity that creates, rules, and operates the universe is a mistake. It doesn’t matter if that deity is Jehovah, Allah, Vishnu, or even Shiva, or Satan that matter, and it doesn’t matter if the belief system is theistic or anti-theistic, right-handed or left-handed, it still means falling for a kind of ignorance because the conception of God being employed is erroneous, and it kind of risks a victim mentality depending on how you take it. I think if God is anything it is a divine spark of creation within each of us, Creator in Man rather than Creator above.

Then we have Chaos. I think that the divine spark I mentioned (or God) could be pure, raw, undisciplined energy, perhaps even calling back to my earlier definitions of Chaos (which might not have been so skewed after all). And as long as chaos is pure energy, perhaps light and darkness are forms of that energy, with Chaos being between them as the purest state of energy. Who knows? There could be a lot that is based on the energy of Chaos, like emotion, ecstasy, bliss, what we feel in the senses, righteous feeling and fervor, our very instincts themselves.

Now I finally get to say something about what Satan is. If light and darkness are phases of the same energy, then Satan surely must be the symbol of the dark side of that force, the carnal side. And for the light side of that energy, I would pick either Shiva or Lucifer to represent it (the latter inspired by a conversation with Tadashi), or even Amun Ra. If Shiva isn’t the light side, then he could still represent a certain aspect of that energy, like the male to the female of Shakti. Gods in general can be symbolic of states of energy, in addition to my own being. Despite my identity as a Satanist, I am concerned about having Satan refer to everything in the universe because I feel it doesn’t fully make sense. It’d be hardly different from making Jehovah (or should that be El) the god of everything, and we all know about that story. Personally I think the Baphomet, while it’s not actually a symbol of Satan, could refer to all phases of the energy of Chaos, and it probably still wouldn’t be the symbol of all. God? The Aum. Chaos? Energy is its own symbol, and it’s usually better to feel energy.

This is the closest I’ve gotten to being sure about this whole thing, enough at least to write a blog post, and I still feel I am not so sure. I personally lament not being fully conclusive on this, having all the answers I need. It would be best to just do what works for me, but I ain’t sure yet what works for me. Frankly, what if there’s not just one energy?

Maybe my problem is dealing with what relates to reality too much but what if it’s just my spiritual reality, my truth?

Revised prayer/mantra

It had just occurred to me that since the pantheon of symbolic deities has changed, I need to change the prayer to accommodate the changes. Here is the updated prayer:

By the righteous spirit of Guan Di,

the heavenly desire of Dairokuten Maou,

the fearsome will of Asura,

the youthful persevering fire of Agni,

the watery depth of Varuna,

the horned force and dark draw of Beelzebub,

the primeval creativity and destructive force of Shiva,

and the guiding principle of Chaos and freedom,

with Liberty and Justice at my side,

I proclaim my individuality and invoke strength and fire within

So mote it be

Am

One other thing to note. Shakti is not mentioned this time so that I can stick to the deities and guiding principles. I can likely honor Shakti another way. Also, I may start looking into individual prayers for individual deities, rather than solely rely on a single universal prayer.

Resolution of the pantheon

I have spent some time considering the pantheon, and I am pleased to say I have come to a conclusion.

Chi You, the deity that once enshrined stubbornness, will be overtaken by Guan Di, the Chinese deity who was originally the historical warrior Guan Yu. He will represent the warrior, righteousness, honor, and the spirit of the warrior, and my aspiration and admiration for all of these things. He also maintains the link to Chinese culture. Since he is traditionally viewed as a god of loyalty as well, he can also represent commitment and loyalty to oneself and what one believes in morally, but without self-stifling stubbornness or being bull-headed (no pun intended). Guan Di’s righteousness is intended to reflect righteousness as a human characteristic, a standard or obligation to be imposed. And finally, Guan Di’s status as a hero god and origins in a historical hero pretty marks him as a god of heroism, which ties into an important part of what I want to try to be.

Dairokuten Maou will remain, and in fact he’ll have a little more to him now. He remains the representative of lust, desire, want, and pleasure, but especially heavenly pleasures. Remember, though he is meant to be the lustful deity, he is also meant to be tastefully lustful, not a deity that intends to be crass in his lustful nature. He could even be a mild epicurist.

Asura, aka Ashura Matsuda, will remain in my pantheon, but he cannot remain as the god of righteousness now that Guan Di is here. He will remain as the god of passion and the strong mind, and symbol of the desire to be a strong person in life and to act with passion. He might just retain his association with light, owing to the history of the name Asura. However, he may be more commonly referred to as just Asura from now on, and may be more closely aligned to the Buddhist Asura King and an early singular deity named Asura who may have been worshiped in India. It is possible that some of Asura’s qualities may unintentionally invoke stubbornness, but it can be countered.

Varuna will remain in the same light as he currently is. He is the god of water and watery traits. He is the god that is deep, reflective, kind, tender, mystical, and aquatic. He is also a harmonious deity.

Murugan will be replaced as the god of youth by Agni. Agni is the Vedic Hindu god of fire, but he is also eternally young, which earns him the god of youth title here as well. He will be linked with the ram, and thus associated with Mars and Aries, because I am comfortable with Aries being a part of my picture. Agni can also be associated with the sacred fire, not just in the Indian context but in all religious contexts, including the sacred fire of Persia and the Zoroastrian faith, the sacred fire of Rome, even the Biblical fire.  Agni is also said to be associated and compared with the sun and the sun is also said to be one of his forms. Although there is already a full solar deity in the Vedic pantheon (Surya), the celestial flames of the sun (which in turn bring radiant light to the earth) are also seen as a form of Agni. Interestingly enough, Agni is also associated with lightning, with lightning being the atmosphere form and the flame being terrestrial. Agni can also be associated with food and hunger, not least because of fire’s consuming attribute, and that of Agni himself. Not to mention Guan Di’s association with not just the warrior but also heroic qualities makes Murugan’s role as the hero redundant. Finally, an additional symbolism which also relates to his eternal youth. As the fire is re-lit always, he remains immortal and ever-young, but that could also refer to resilience; even as things grow old and dark, dawn will always rise again.

Shiva will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He represents the great creative force, but in his capacity as the destroyer he can also represent the thrill of destruction and destroying waste and clutter to create space. As the symbol of primal energy and spirit, he could be a God principle of sorts, and Durga can be venerated alongside him as the female manifestation of the same energy. Interesting to note, Shiva is the wild god of destruction and creative energy, but at the same time he also seems to be a harmonious deity. I guess that’s true to his nature as a deity where opposites meet. His intensity and emotionality remain a fact. He can also be associated with light, in part because of his association with truth which pierces ignorance.

Beelzebub will remain, but with additional qualities and connotations. He is the deific link to Satan as a principle, and my interpretation of Satan (because lets face it, Satan seems to have different names for different people). As Satan, he is the one who gave mankind a sword with which to fight oppression, he is the wielder of the lightning bolt and bearer of the true light, commander of the violent winds of passion and fires of the underworld, and the king of the demons and the wilderness of chaos. He is darker and more bestial than Dairokuten Maou, but he also represents my ideological process, my belief in spiritual immortality and spiritual autonomy. In a way Beelzebub is my ideology and Shiva relates to nature. Also, in lieu of anyone else, he’ll also be the god of heavy metal. 😉

Liberty and Justice will remain the same way they were. They may join Beelzebub/Satan as my gods of ethics.

The Deities page(s) will be updated accordingly, and eventually new paintings will be added.

Three deities, four deities, five deities…?

You know it’s often occurred to me that I’m not really doing anything about the deities, or the system that involves them. Well, the truth is I haven’t had many revelations regarding what to do with them, and I haven’t devoted much to ritual. That said there is one idea I did get once.

It may be entirely possible that I might downscale my system of deities to four or three deities. If three, then it would become a trinity consisting of Shiva, Shakti, and Satan (or Baphomet). If four, then it would become a quadrinity consisting of Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, and Satan/Beelzebub. In both cases, Shiva represents destruction, fire, and intensity, Shakti represents the divine power of life, the earth mother, and the fierce light of emotion and passion, Satan represents the dark force of life, but also freedom and power for the individual, and Vishnu represents structure, preservation, and water. The latter formula could also be expressed in a group of five, with Baphomet at the center possibility representing Chaos, primordial force, or some ancient cosmic principle connecting the deities surrounding the Baphomet. Mahakala could also be the central figure, but the Fires of Chaos itself could also take the central place without a deity embodying them.

There is a problem with that though. Either way, it would leave no room for Astaroth (consort of Beelzebub’s just as Astarte was to Baal), the goddesses Liberty and Justice, and deities such as Chi You, Dairokuten Maou, Asura, Kartikeya/Murugan, and Varuna, who you may remember are the rest of the Seven Deities I listed. Not to mention that Vishnu would end up overtaking Varuna due to both of the fact that I’ve represented Varuna similarly to how Vishnu represented (though Vishnu is more heavenly than the traditionally more chthonic Varuna, as chthonic as a deity still associated with the heavens gets), especially with both of them having something to do with water, structure, and balance. Also I’m tempted to consider other deities such as Venus, Amun-Ra, Set, and Aiyanar (a local Tamil deity said to be the offspring of both Shiva and a female Vishnu).

That all said, I need to meditate on this whole subject more. I just hope I can find time for it in my schedule and lifestyle.

By the way, I’d like to thank Tadashi for the term Fires of Chaos. It will very likely make a welcome addition to my regular terminology and vocabulary.

Chaos, the duality of the universe, and Shiva

After Thursday’s meditation led me towards that sense of harmony and fabric, or more or less the music that makes me think of the side of my that likes a mystical sense of structure (which is provided by mystical symbols, geometric patterns, cities, certain architecture, and cubey shapes, also the occasional electronic music), I started wonder where Chaos would fit in all this, given my classical association with it, and I see it as a natural concern considering my desire never to forget my background if you know what I mean.

Something I found that relates pretty well to what I’m trying to illustrate what I talk about that structure stuff. I suspect harmony is more mystical than this though.

Well I’ve done some further meditation yesterday to gather my thoughts, along with some chants to keep this going while adding a sense of personal spiritual practice, and I think I may be drawn towards an idea (or ideas).

This sense of order, structure, or fabric, that might refer to something divine, but that could be within us, the force in us associated with how we bring structure to the world around us. That’s not to say there isn’t harmony or pattern in the universe at large, but this would be born of either the prime material of Chaos, or a raw force much like it (maybe Shakti). Come to think of it, it can be said that we humans manifest some of this in our minds, or our desires, or our aesthetic tastes, in much the same way that we manifest the raw wilderness of the universe in various way. It can be said that human nature is drawn from the same universe that gives birth to it, but that’s not to say the same thing for actions since the universe isn’t really conscious like we are.

Let us bear in mind that the universe is host to both harmonious and wild forces, light and dark, carnal and geometric, and a lot of times it either comes together, conflicts, or just co-exists, and we find a very similar phenomenon in human nature, the human mind is more complex than we often make it out to be. It reminds me of Baphomet, a perfect image of the universe or at least human nature and its duality, or Shiva which to me refers to either the universe of how I relate to it.

Finally, I put this image on my site.

Finally, Chaos. I still consider my connection to Chaos primarily ideological and pertaining to my personal beliefs as such (Shin Megami Tensei style), though I suppose it is through that connection that I can relate to the idea of Chaos as a prime material of the universe. I don’t think I’m entirely conclusive on this yet though.