Age of Iron



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INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE KALI YUGA

The Kali Yuga still has 200,000 or so years to play…good news for advocates & avatars of CHAOS, bad news for Brahmins, Yahwists, bureaucratic-gods & their runningdogs.

I knew Darjeeling hid something for me soon as I heard the name–dorje ling–Thunderbolt City. In 1969 I arrived just before the monsoons. Old British hill station, summer hdqrs for Govt. of Bengal—streets in the form of winding wood staircases, the Mall with a View of Sikkim & Mt. Katchenhunga—Tibetan temples & refugees—beautiful yellow-porcelain people called Lepchas (the real abo’s)—Hindus, Moslems, Nepalese & Bhutanese Buddhists & decaying Brits who lost their way home in ‘47, still running musty banks & tea-shoppes.

Met Ganesh Baba, fat white-bearded saddhu with overly impeccable Oxford accent—never saw anyone smoke so much ganja, chillam after chillam full, then we’d wander the streets while he played ball with shrieking kids or picked fights in the bazaar, chasing after terrified clerks with his umbrella, then roaring with laughter.

He introduced me to Sri Kamanaransan Biswas, a tiny wispy middleage Bengali government clerk in a shabby suit, who offered to teach me Tantra. Mr. Biswas lived in a tiny bungalow perched on a steep pine-tree misty hillside, where I visited him daily with pints of cheap brandy for puja & tippling—he encouraged me to smoke while we talked, since ganja too is sacred to Kali.

Mr. Biswas in his wild youth was a member of the Bengali Terrorist Party, which included both Kali worshippers & heretic Moslem mystics as well as anarchists & extreme leftists. Ganesh Baba seemed to approve of his secret past, as if it were a sign of Mr. Biswas’s hidden tantrika strength, despite his outward seedy mild appearance.

We discussed my readings in Sir John Woodruffe (“Arthur Avalon”) each afternoon, I walked there thru cold summer fogs, Tibetan spirit-traps flapping in the soaked breeze loomed out of the mist and cedars. We practiced the Tara-mantra and Tara-mudra (or Yoni-mudra), and studied the Tara-yantra diagram for magical purposes. Once we visited a temple to the Hindu Mars (like ours, both planet & war-god) where he bought a finger-ring made from an iron horseshoe nail & gave it to me. More brandy & ganja.

imageTara: one of the forms of Kali, very similar in attributes: dwarfish, naked, four-armed with weapons, dancing on dead Shiva, necklace of skulls or severed heads, togue dripping blood, skin a deep blue-grey the precise color of monsoon clouds. Every day more rain—mud slides blocking roads. My Border Area permit expires. Mr. Biswas & I descend the slick wet Himalayas by jeep & train down to his ancestral city, Siliguri in the flat Bengali plains where the Ganges into a sodden viridescent delta.

We visit his wife in the hospital. Last year a flood drowned Siliguri killing tens of thousands. Cholera broke out, the city’s a wreck, algae-stained & ruined, the hospital’s halls still caked with slime, blood, vomit, the liquids of death. She sits silent on her bed glaring unblinking at hideous fates. Dark side of the goddess. He gives me a colored lithograph of Tara which miraculously floated above the water & was saved.

That night we attend some ceremony at the local Kali-temple, a modest half ruined little roadside shrine—torchlight the only illumination—chanting & drums with strange, almost African syncopation, totally unclassical, primordial & yet insanely complex. We drink, we smoke.

Alone in the cemetery, next to a half-burnt corpse, I’m initiated into Tara Tantra. Next day, feverish & spaced out, I say farewell & set out for Assam, to the great temple of Shakti’s yoni in Gauhati, just in time for the annual festival. Assam is forbidden territory & I have no permit. Midnight in Gauhati I sneak off the train, back down the tracks thru rain & mud up to my knees & total darkness, blunder at last into the city & find a bug-ridden hotel. Sick as a dog by this time. No sleep.’

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In the morning, bus up to the temple on a nearby mountain. Huge towers, pullulating deities, courtyards, outbuildings—hundreds of thousands of pilgrims—weird saddhus down from their ice caves squatting on tiger skins & chanting. Sheep & doves are being slaughtered by the thousands, a real hecatomb—(not another white sahib in sight)—gutters running inch-deep in blood—curve-bladed Kali-swords chop chop chop, dead heads plocking onto slippery cobblestones.

When Shiva chopped Shakti into 53 pieces & scattered them over the whole Ganges basin, her cunt fell here. Some friendly priests speak English & help me find the cave where Yoni’s on display. By this time I know I’m seriously sick, but determined to finish the ritual. A herd of pilgrims (all at least one head shorter than me) literally engulfs me like an undertow-wave at the beach, & hurls me suspended down suffocating winding troglodyte stairs into claustrophobic womb-cave where I swirl nauseated & hallucinating towards a shapeless cone meteorite smeared in centuries of ghee & ochre. The herd parts for me, allows me to throw a garland of jasmine over the yoni.

A week later in Kathmandu I enter the German Missionary Hospital (for a month) with hepatitis. A small price to pay for all that knowledge—the liver of some retired colonel from a Kipling story!—but I know her, I know Kali. Yes absolutely the archetype of all that horror, yet for those who know, she becomes the generous mother. Later in a cave in the jungle above Rishikish I meditated on Tara for several days (with mantra, yantra, mudra, incense, & flowers) & returned to the serenity of Darjeeling, its beneficent visions.

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Her age must contain horrors, for most of us cannot understand her or reach beyond the necklace of skulls to the garland of jasmine, knowing in what sense they are the same. To go thru CHAOS, to ride it like a tiger, to embrace it (even sexually) & absorb some of its shakti, its life-juice—this is the Path of Kali Yuga. Creative nihilism. For those who follow it she promises enlightenment & even wealth, a share of her temporal power.


The sexuality & violence serve as metaphors in a poem which acts directly on consciousness through the Image-ination—or else in the correct circumstances they can be openly deployed & enjoyed, imbued with a sense of the holiness of every thing from ecstasy & wine to garbage & corpses.

Those who ignore her or see her outside themselves risk destruction. Those who worship her as ishta-devata, or divine self, taste her Age of Iron as if it were gold, knowing the alchemy of her presence.

–Hakim Bey

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    that was an extremely interesting read, very inspiring.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Jai Maa Kali