I am pretty annoyed right now at the ongoing attempts at misusing Goddess Kali as part of attempted metapolitical [and often outright metaphysical political] ‘analysis’.
Now to be sure, I am NOT against folk attempting to incorporate religious understandings of the world into their politics. I do it all the time. I encourage others to do the same. But if you are GOING to do this, then the onus is on YOU to i) do it right; ii) not blithely palm off the responsibility for accuracy onto whichever authors you’re referencing with your work.
FIRST point to be made here is that the main figures being drawn upon to substantiate a lot of the material being bandied around at the moment are guys like Evola and Guenon. Now I’m NOT going to say that nobody’s allowed to read and reference non-Indian thinkers and writers talking about Hindu-inflected subject-matter … because that would be self-evidently ridiculous. Everybody acknowledges David Frawley et co generally know their stuff – and in this day and age [stealth pun there], there’s not exactly a shortage of Indian folk who get things wrong or misuse ancient materials for contemporary political mischief, either. [And besides … if I were to advocate such a thing, what would then be the point of your reading anything I might have to say :p ]
But we’ve known for some time now that a number of European authors who made use of concepts they *thought* were authentically Indian in their work [interestingly enough, including even Nietzsche] … were in fact getting the wrong end of the stick. Whether because they relied upon bad translations, Colonial misunderstandings, seriously secondary or even tertiary sources, or any of the rest of it. Or, perhaps, because some of them just didn’t care that much about accuracy when making an illustration of some polemical point.
So if you’re GOING to write a thing which takes from these late-19th, early-mid 20th century European sources … take a step back from the computer, go and find an *actual* source [or, quite probably, because these things seem to do better interpersonally, go out and find yourself a proper Hindu who’s up for educating you about a few things – heh, an Acharya, indeed], and reconsider EVERYTHING you’re about to write in light of what you’ve just learned.
Because it’s very possible there’s a better Hindu principle, metaphor, or Understanding of the Divine for you to draw upon – which may even helpto change, broaden, and add depth to what you think.
Clear? Good 😀
Now, onto the most common fallacy going around at the moment. People keep making this same mistake that “Kali Yuga” is Yuga within which Goddess Kali presides. This is … largely a result of simple laziness on the part of Gora who haven’t bothered to go back to Sanskrit and note that the English/romanization of Sanskrit sounds is NOT a perfect reflection. So Even though “Kali” and “Kali” [कलि and काली, respectively] LOOK exactly the same in standard romanization … they’re different words [as you can see by looking at the Devanagari text above. First one’s the demon, second one’s the Goddess. More on that in a moment.].
What this leads to, is wrong-headed thinking about role of Goddess Kali in Kali Yuga – with people making grandiloquent … yet religiously FALSE … prescriptions that this somehow means the trouble of this age is ‘feminine’ or something.
I can understand why people might think this [and there’s a Guenon quote I’ve recently seen cited which basically states exactly this], but it’s WRONG. If we look at descriptions of Kali Yuga, it is the *materialism* and *moral degeneracy* which accompanies it of the age – the IMPIETY – that is at root of Evilness of Kali Yuga. These are associated with the MALE demon Kali.
Role of FEMALE Goddess Kali is basically to PURGE this evil as part of the Pralaya which accompanies the end of this Age. [there’s a few interpretations I’m combining here, but the broad similarity is that our Destroyer Goddess – whether we are talking of Kali, or Dhumavati, or other Forms of Mother Goddess – IS DEFINITELY NOT responsible for the malefic influence of the present Yuga … but instead, plays lead role in FIGHTING BACK AGAINST THIS CORRUPTION. [this is pretty common theme in Durga myths, as it happens; with Goddess taking Warrior Form to wage war against whichever Demon is attempting to undermine Righteousness] See how this is BACKWARDS from implication many non-Hindu people are drawing?]
Now having established that, even though it is Demon Kali rather than Goddess Kali who is providing the pernicious ‘spirit of the age’ that must be fought back valiantly against, this does not necessarily mean that it is inaccurate to state there is a close connection between Kali Yuga and Goddess Kali.
Instead, as pointed out above, Goddess Kali has VERY IMPORTANT role to play in this Yuga. Even if that role is, in some tellings, burning the irrevocably corrupted world to ash for purposes of new Creation coming into being afterwards as the Great Cycle continues once more.
Thus, I draw something of a distinction between the sort of folks I’m calling out here with this post, attempting to make ill-informed polemical points with things they already believe supported by a thin veneer of woefully and egregiously misunderstood/misapplied/outright-Culturally-Appropriated Hinduism … and other thinkers, writers, musicians who’ve gone down a somewhat different path and made a *better informed* and *more religiously accurate* connection between Kali Ma and Kali Yuga with proper respect and appreciation of the role of the former in the latter. [i.e. as Salvatory Agent rather than Rank Antagonist]
Oh, and DON’T get me started on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom! Very good reason it was once alleged that Spielberg’s film was some sort of plot by Pakistani Intelligence against India 😛
Anyway. If you are in doubt, the take-home points from this article are:
1. If you’re using a modern source on Devi Kali, it is quite possibly seriously suspect. Particularly if it’s the aforementioned Evola/Guenon ones. Therefore, CHECK with somebody who is actually OF the religion you are borrowing from that what you’re doing is not inadvertently [or grossly negligently] sacrilegious and in egregious error. [or, as we’d term it … “ABSOLUTELY ANARYA”].
2. Integrating religious understandings into political/metapolitical/metaphysical analysis can be a REALLY GOOD THING, provided it’s done RIGHT rather than CARELESSLY or WRONGFULLY with regard to actual nature and content of aforementioned religious understandings. Because just as religious thinking can ILLUMINATE concepts, so that we see hidden depths and previously unconsidered elements to them, whilst also connecting us with righteous ways of doing and thinking [very appropriate and necessary, appropriately enough, in Kali Yuga due to nature of the age…] if done in inappropriate or outright inverted manner, then mistakes and misapplications serve to OCCLUDE rather than illuminate – and can lead to seriously dangerous and outright corrupting thinking and conclusions. So please make sure you get it right.
3. Key point to remember is that religious elements are truths in and of themselves. They are not there simply to provide metaphors for you to casually decorate your tawdry polemical points with. Your argument, if you are GOING to bring religious material into it, is there to help illuminate and bring to an audience the aforementioned religious understanding. NOT the other way around. Anything else, and it’s quite probably cultural appropriation and much more open towards spurious, specious misuse of wahtever it is you’re drawing upon. I.e. putting forward your OPINION in the garb of truth, rather htan Truth in the guise of your opinion. You wind up, as a chap from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade noted, falling into trap of seeking to elevate your own glory rather than the Divine. And the peril with this, apart from the disrespect shown to both the culture and the Divinities or other supernal personages in question, is that you wind up havin difficulty seeing too much further than your own nose – rather than being able to draw upon the much vaster vision of seers, sages, and Suras.
4. So with that in mind … if you FEEL like you’re going to incorporate a religious value, term, or perspective into your writing, and particularly if you’re not ACTUALLY religious/from the religion in question – can I once again reiterate that you’ll probably find your writing and your output that much the richer if you aactually ‘go back to basics’, ASK somebody who knows that of which they speak [at least somewhat – we are all learning, after all], and reformulate what you were initially seeking to put forward with your new understanding in mind.
5. It’s quite possible you’ll produce something inestimably better, as a result 😀 [and you won’t look foolish when somebody calls you on your completely backwards understanding of a concept that is to us pretty common knowledge…]