The Rise and Fall of the Ancient Mother Goddess




The Liberating Power

The Rise and Fall of the Ancient
Mother Goddess

Ty Koontz – Laughing Man Magazine, Vol 4, Number 3,



Human beings have conceived
and worshipped the Divine Personality in female form since
prehistoric times. In the Upper Paleolithic Age, when
religion took the form of fertility rituals and
celebrations, the stylized image of Woman became a dominant
religious symbol. Our Stone Age ancestors carved female
figurines from bone, ivory, and stone, portraying
exaggeratedly fleshy women with large, pendulous breasts,
protruding bellies and vulvas, fat thighs, and minimally
delineated heads and limbs. These carvings were associated
with the mystery of birth, fertility, and generation, and
they were used as fertility charms or for ritual

When the nomadic lifestyle of the Paleolithic
hunter-gatherer culture gave way to the lifestyle of the
Neolithic Age, these “Great Mother” statuettes acquired new
meaning. Whereas women had played a lesser. role in the
hunting-gathering stage, their involvement in agriculture
and in the domestication of animals greatly boosted their
social status. In response to this new social environment
and increased dependence on the fertility of a fixed locale,
new cults sprang up, dedicated to the veneration of the
Earth Mother, the Goddess of fertility and the creator of

The names and forms of the Mother Goddess are legion, and
her worship appears to have been worldwide. According to
Robert Graves, “the whole of Neolithic Europe, to judge from
surviving artifacts and myths, had a remarkably homogenous
system of religious ideas, based on worship of the many
titled Mother Goddess.”1 In prehistoric Egypt, she was
worshipped as Nuit, the sky goddess. In preclassical Greece,
she was the earth-mother, Gaea. To the ancient Chinese, she
was known as Nu Kwa, who restored the shattered heavens to
harmony. To the Dahomey people of Africa, she is Mawu, who
created human beings out of clay and water. As late as the
sixteenth century, she was worshipped in Slavic countries as
the Great Goddess Mokosh. She is

Amaterasu, the Divine Ancestress, in Japan; Tara, the
protectress and Divine Consort, in Tibet; Bachue, who had
intercourse with her son to create the human race, in
Colombia. To the Amazon River people, she appears as Ituana,
the Goddess of the afterworld; and in Australia, she takes
the form of the Wawalag Sisters, who brought agricultural,
civilization to the continent.

1. Carlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of
Early Greece (Berkeley: Moon Books, 1978), p. 12.


Today, this ancient matriarchal religion has been nearly
universally suppressed by a global patriarchy. The cult of
the Mother Goddess has all but vanished. The once powerful
Goddess, worshipped in ecstatic, life-affirming fertility
ceremonies, has become the tamed and weakened fairy-tale
goddess of Western civilization–Mother Nature. The
energetic and passionate worship that characterized the
“barbarian” cults of the Mother Goddess was left no place in
the left-brained, orderly patriarchal society, whose
-religion”‘ tends toward asceticism, abstraction, and tacit
hostility toward the feminine. The cruelties of the Spanish
Inquisition and the feverish witch-hunts of the period from
1450 to 1722 (the date of the last witch execution in
Scotland) marked the final, bloody suppression of the
ancient European matriarchal religion.

However, in Western civilization the ultimate blow
against the ancient religion has not been . dealt by
patriarchal Christianity, but by science. Religion itself is
a `feminine” enterprise: In its concern for right
relationship to spirits and/or the Spirit and to invisible
forces that shape human lives, religion emphasizes
intuitive, emotive, and subjective experience. But science,
in affirming only the “masculine” position of the logical,
objective observer of materially measurable events, has
excluded “feminine” spiritual and psychic events (which are
necessarily participatory and non-measurable) ‘from its
realm of reality. With materialistic science as the arbiter
of truth, it has become no longer necessary to hunt witches.
They are simply denied-existence. Ironically, the
paternalistic religions, which created the milieu that
spawned science, have themselves been undermined and
weakened by the scientistic denial of all things

Shatki in Modern Times

Whenever one part of the psyche is suppressed, it will
inevitably reassert itself, generally either consciously and
reactively or unconsciously and neurotically. The
present-day feminist movement represents the backlash to the
lopsided dominance of paternal institutions and their
propensity toward subordination of women. In an effort to
reestablish the value of the feminine, women scholars have
unearthed the ubiquitous cult of the Mother Goddess and our
lost heritage of matriarchal religion. Concomitantly, we are
witnessing the appearance of a renewed interest in occult,
psychic, and spiritual phenomena. The signs of change are
everywhere, from witch covens in New Jersey, to “the Force”
of the Star Wars films, to the rising popularity of
Kundalini Yoga, to the appearance of New Age Tarot decks, to
the emerging interest in Oriental medicine and psychic
healing techniques. The Shakti, the feminine principle, is
making a reappearance to Western consciousness.

Shakti, like her personification as the Mother Goddess,
can appear in a multitude of forms, each with its own
quality. In one aspect she is the Mother as creator, from
whose womb the cosmos issues forth. From a different
perspective, she is the Mother as sustainer, from whose
breasts flow life-giving milk, the energy and materials
necessary for survival. She is the source of power for
magical practices and the protectress in times of danger.
She is the Kundalini Shakti, the spiritual energy that
transforms the yogi. On a more mundane level, she is the
matter and energy we manipulate technologically for our
comfort, and it is she who scientists observe and attempt to
master through knowledge and technology.

However, the Goddess also displays a darker side. She is
the energy unleashed in nuclear bombs. She is Kali, the
goddess of destruction, who wears a necklace of human heads
and a girdle of severed arms. Her law is the law of the
jungle-eat and be eaten. She is the force behind the
hurricane (which we rightly give a female name) and the
awesome power of the tornado. She brings death to her
children as suddenly, unhesitatingly, and energetically as
the lightning bolt leaps from the cloud.

Her names may be multitudinous and her qualities
contradictory, but out of this seeming confusion she emerges
as a Living Principle: “the vital principle of the visible
universe which has many faces: gracious, cruel, creative,
destructive; ‘ loving, indifferent-the endless possibility
of active energy at the heart of the world.”2
Seen as a whole, she represents the sacrificial nature of
manifest existence, The Goddess gives birth and she sustains
her creatures, but she also brings life to an end. She
reminds us that created life is transitory and ultimately
must be transcended.


2. Leonard Nathan and Clinton Seely,
Grace and Mercy in Her Wild Hair (Boulder, Colo.: Great
Eastern Book Co., 1982), p. 4.


This quality of the Goddess as a goad to
self-transcendence is still capable of informing the
spiritual practice of individuals today in India, which
looks back upon a long tradition of worship of the Goddess,
most notably in the form of Kali or Shakti. While worship of
the Mother Goddess was almost completely suppressed in most
parts of the civilized world, it thrived in India, a country
which has demonstrated an unusual tolerance for religious
variety. There, the Goddess is still recognized and
venerated in many of her ancient forms, As Maya, she
embodies the power of illusion by which this fleeting world
is made to appear attractive and consoling. Under her spell,
the self-created concerns of the ego seem to make perfect
sense. In her terrible aspect as Kali, she is the antidote
to Maya-Kali represents the end of everything the ego would
grasp and hold. Paradoxically, while Maya seems benign, she
is a spidery temptress who snares men and women in webs of
self-possession. Kali, on the other hand, looks gruesome and
menacing, but the very aspects that would normally inspire
negativity can also be seen as signs of her benign,
liberating power:

“Her raised and bloodied sword suggests the death of
ignorance, her disheveled hair suggests the freedom of
release, and her girdle of severed arms , may suggest the
end of rasping. As death or the mistress of death she grants
to him who sees truly the ultimate boon of unconditioned
freedom…. Her two right hands, the upper making the mudra
[ritual gesture] of “fear not” and the lower making
the mudra of granting boons, convey to him who would seek
his true spiritual destiny the knowledge that death is only
the passing away of the non-essential and the gateway to
ultimate freedom.”3

Kali, who is a form of the Goddess Shakti, is usually
shown dancing on the corpse-like body of Shiva. As such, she
represents the female dimension of Energy or Power, while
Shiva represents the male dimension of Consciousness. But
the two are One Reality-Shakti/ Shiva. They are as
inseparable as food and its taste, fire and its heat, the
sun and its light. Thus, Kali is the consort of Shiva in the
sense that she is the Energy of Consciousness, but she is
not “other” than Shiva. In Master Da Free John’s expression
of this truth, the two are Consciousness and its Radiance,
and together they are the Radiant Transcendental Being Who
is Reality.

3. David R. Kinsley, The Sword and the
Flute (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), p.


The Play of Mother


Shakti has been courted as the power behind shamanistic
and occult practices representative of the third stage of
life, she has been worshipped as the object of religious
ceremonialism typical of the fourth stage, and she has been
venerated as the transforming Spirit-Energy, the driving
force of Kundalini and Tantra Yoga, which pertain to the
fifth stage of life. But the highest form of Shakti worship
is to enter into relationship with her as the Liberating
Power, the graceful Energy who attracts the devotee beyond
herself to the Realization of Shakti/ Shiva, the Radiant
Transcendental Being. As Master Da Free John expresses

“The Shakti in this Form is the Divine Being as a
Living Person. Her Force is not that of Creative Energy but
of Love for the Source, Love for the Transcendental
Condition, Submission to the Transcendental Condition. She
transcends her Creative Aspect and is only Submission to the
Source. She dies in that Source. She attracts some rare
individuals to become Her devotees and brings them into a
state of Embrace and ultimate Unity with Her in which She
then dies or submits Herself to the Transcendental
Condition. She does this when the devotee has achieved a
state of Unity with Her through Her attraction. Then Her
death becomes the devotee’s death, not ordinary personal
death but perfect death, the transcendence of the ego in
Transcendental Self Realization.”4

4. Da Free John, The Fire Gospel
(Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1982), p.


In her form as the Liberating Power, the Goddess is not a
mere symbol for the all-pervading Energy of the cosmos or
even Divine Grace. To her most earnest devotees, she appears
as a living Spirit Being or Divine Personality. Ramakrishna,
the nineteenth century saint of Dakshineswar, provides a
moving and colorful example of someone in modern times who
worshipped Kali as a living Personality. In his pursuit of
the vision of Kali the young priest began to spend his
waking hours solely in meditation and in serving her temple.
As his love for Kali deepened, he either forgot or set aside
the formalities of worship. Sitting before her image, he
would sing her praises for hours. He complained that he felt
like a child separated from his mother. In agony, he would
rub his face against the ground and weep bitterly. Soon, he
was barely able to eat, and he gave up sleep altogether.

One day when he was looking on Kali’s sword in her
temple, he decided to end his miserable life. Like a madman,
he jumped up and seized the sword, when (in his words)
“suddenly the blessed Mother revealed Herself. The buildings
with their different parts, the temple, and everything else
vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in
their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of
Bliss.”5 He collapsed in unconsciousness,
swallowed up by bliss. When he regained consciousness, , ..
the first word he spoke was “Mother.”

This vision of Mother Kali only increased his devotion.
He longed to see her uninterruptedly in meditation and with
eyes open. In the midst of weeping in longing to see her,
Ramakrishna would fall into a trance and find Mother Kali
smiling before him, offering him consolation and
instruction. He received many visions of her, and at times
he would feel her breath or hear her voice. He began to act
strangely in his love-mad worship of her. In her temple, he
would reel to her throne like a drunkard. Seeing her image
as a living Person, he would chuck her on the chin and talk
and joke with her, During worship ceremonies, he would take
a bit of the food offering, beg her to taste it, and hold it
to her mouth until he was satisfied that she had really
eaten it. At night he would hear her light steps climbing
the stairs to the upper story of the temple, her anklets
jingling. He would see her black form silhouetted against
the sky, her long hair flowing.

Some of Ramakrishna’s associates began to fear that he
was insane. But he had passed beyond the realms of
conventional sanity and insanity. He was God-mad,
intoxicated with Divine Bliss. One day, performing what
conventionally would have been an act of desecration, he fed
a cat the food offering intended for Kali. Later, he gave
the following explanation: “The Divine Mother revealed to me
in the Kali temple that it was She who had become
everything. She showed me that everything was full of
Consciousness. The image was Consciousness, the altar was
Consciousness, the water-vessels were Consciousness, the
doorsill was Consciousness, the marble floor was
Consciousness-all was Consciousness. I found everything
inside the room soaked, as it were, in Bliss-the Bliss of
God…. I clearly perceived that all this was the Divine
Mother-even the cat.”6

5. Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel
of Sri Ramakrishna, abr, ed. (New York: Ramakrishna
‘-Vivekananda Center, 1974), p. 20.

6. Ibid., p. 23.


Whereas Ramakrishna’s relationship to Kali was like that
of a child to his Mother, Swami Vivekananda, a devotee of
Ramakrishna, at times approached Mother Kali more in the
mood of a fully grown son demanding his inheritance. Unlike
Ramakrishna’s vision of her as a loving young Mother,
Vivekananda saw her as the terrible Goddess. To him, Kali
represented pain, illness, death-all that one would tend to
shirk or fear in life. He felt she must be squarely faced:
“There must be no fear. No begging, but demanding-demanding
the Highest! The true devotees of the Mother are as hard as
adamant, and as fearless as lions.

They are not the least upset if the whole universe
suddenly crumbles into dust at their feet! Make her listen
to you. None of that cringing to Mother!”7

In the fall of 1898, Vivekananda underwent a period of
intense devotion to the Mother. Songs to her were constantly
on his lips, and he was conscious of her Presence guiding
him, as if she were a person in the room. Overflowing with
love for the Mother, he adopted a solitary lifestyle, so
that he could devote himself entirely to the contemplation
of Kali. One evening, the anticipated revelation came. He
had centered his “whole attention on the dark, the painful,
and the inscrutable in the world, with the determination to
reach, by this particular road, the One behind
phenomena.”8 Struck by a sublime vision of Kali,
he wrote the poem “Kali the Mother,” which contains the
following lines of terrible rapture:_

“Dancing mad with joy,
Come, Mother, come!
For terror is Thy name,
Death is Thy breath,
And every shaking step
Destroys a world for e’er.”9

After the final word of the poem was written, the pen
fell from his hand and he dropped unconscious to the floor
in an ecstatic trance.


7. His Eastern and Western Disciples, The
Life of Swami Vivekananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1981),
pp. 380-81.

8. Ibid., p. 379.

9. Swami Nikhilananda, Vivekananda: A
Biography (Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1953), p.


The Goddess as the Agency of

While Ramakrishna approached Mother Kali as a child, and
Vivekananda approached her as an adult son, there is a third
method of approach to the Goddess employed by the Hindu and
the Buddhist Tantric sects: the practice of consorting
“sexually” with the feminine aspect of the Divine Being. In
lefthanded Tantrism, actual ritual coition with a female
partner, who is treated as a living embodiment of the
Shakti, is employed to achieve ecstatic union with the
Female Principle. This practice is known as the “heroic”
path, due to its obvious pitfalls and “dangers.” In the more
advanced stages of the path, the practitioner consorts with
superhuman, female Spirit Beings, known as “devis” in Hindu
Tantrism and “dakinis” in Buddhist Tantrism.

It was this path that was employed by Drukpa Kunley, the
Divine Madman of medieval Tibet. In the course of his
wanderings after the completion of his own sadhana or
spiritual practice, this God-Realized beggar engaged in
sexual intercourse with numerous women-no longer for his own
benefit but in order to quicken their spiritual progress
through his Tantric embrace. Additionally, he worked with
many Spirit Beings, initiating the benign ones as guardians
and protectors, and binding the demonic beings to prevent
their ability to do harm.

Like Drukpa Kunley, Master Da Free John has never held
sexuality to be inimical to spiritual practice. During the
final six years of his sadhana he was a married householder.
At the culmination of his sadhana, the Goddess Shakti
herself assumed the role of

his spiritual guide and, ultimately, became his Tantric
Consort, Taking the part of the Divine Consort, she became
the means of his Enlightenment. As he describes this

“In my own life, therefore, I have Consorted with this
great Goddess as Force, but then as a Person. Ultimately,
you see, She submitted Herself to me in the event of my own
Transcendence and became not Mother, not Guide, not Guru,
but the Loved (Me, the Lover, and She dissolved, became
completely Identical to the Transcendental Self … became
the Consort of the Self, became nothing but the Radiance of
the Self. ‘10

After his God-Realization, Master Da was no longer
related to the Goddess as an “other.”. Her Power became an
Agency of his Spiritual Transmission to devotees.

“The Shakti, the Goddess Force, the Transmitted Power
that works through the Adept is not other than the
Transcendental Divine, and not other than the Adept, but is
simply the Attractive Power, the Grace Function, the Agency
of the Divine. It is the Power of Attractiveness that draws
living beings not merely into subtle planes and conditions
of Nature, but into the Divine Condition Itself.

To worship the Goddess alone is to submit to chaos – at
times she is the gentle summer rain and at other times she,
is the hurricane. She is Kali, the madwoman who eats her own
children, and she is Maya, who tempts spiritual aspirants
with deluding experiences. In herself, she is not the Power
of Illumination, but simply the Energy of endless change.
But in the Adept she is wedded to Shiva-her Force is unified
with Consciousness. In her service to the Adept, she becomes
the Power of Grace that enables his Realization to be of use
to devotees. This is the great opportunity to be found in
the company of all God-Realized Adepts, and the present
offer of Master Da Free John:

“I entered into the God-State via the Goddess. This is
the characteristic aspect of my sadhana. And, having
Identified with the Source, I am your means of Realization.
I stand in place surrounded by the circle of the
Spirit-Power. My devotees do not practice the way of
submission to the Goddess, because I am the Goddess. I have
been the devotee of the Goddess to the point of Realization.
Such a process of Realization does not occur very often, but
when it does, the Spiritual Master is the Son of God and
Goddess. He is Identified with both, and therefore all
aspects of the way of Realization are manifested and
magnified in the Spiritual Master and developed in his
Company. “12


10. Da Free John, The Dreaded Gom-Boo or
the Imaginary Disease That Religion Weeks to Cure
(Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1983), p.

11. From an unpublished talk given by Da
Free John on January 26, 1983.

12. Da Free John, The Fire Gospel, p.



on The Shakti