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  • Writer's pictureKaren O'Moore

The blissful kiss of an androgyne

In Plato's Symposium, Aristophanes delivers his speech in the form of a myth in where prior to Zeus splitting them in half, there were three kinds of human beings: male, descended from the sun; female, descended from earth; and androgynous, with both male and female elements, descended from the moon. I love this (the full story is worth the read) plus it weaves with Tantra in that the sun respresents Shiva or masculine energy/consciousness - the force of the sun gives light and life, nothing can exist without it just as nothing can exist without consciousness. The most basic manifestation of Shakti or feminine energy/creation is the earth itself, the source of life, our sexuality. The energy of moon weaves and plays between both.

We find divine beings in most cultures - two spirit beings who are both male and female at the same time. In Hinduism, there is one close to my heart, Ardhanaishvara who is a composite androgynous form of Shiva and his consort Parvati (also known as Devi or Shakti). Shiva is generally viewed as the symbolism of ultimate masculinity - he is the god of destruction (and in destruction and death there is rebirth), but in the form of Ardhanaishvara (ShivShakti), one half of him is a fully developed woman. His wife, Parvati, was so enthralled with Shiva's ecstatic state within himself, that she wanted to experience this for herself too. Shiva called her to sit on his lap and when she went to him with no resistance and full surrender, he gentle pulled her in and she became half of him. Shiva became androgyne: to include Parvati though, he had to shed half of himself - the masculine and feminine equally divided within, bringing a perpetual state of ecstasy.

The Egyptians had both Atum (the god of creation who created the goddess Tefnut by spitting her out of his mouth - the myth uses the metaphor of masturbation, with the hand he uses representing the female principle within him) and Neith (the goddess of war, is represented with an erect phallus is some papyri). The Greeks had Hermaphroditu (the two-sexed child of Aphrodite and Hermes) and Athena (although a female deity she delights in assuming male gender roles, the most conspicuous being her role as a goddess of war). The ancient Palestinians had Baal (although one of two separate deities, was often represented the dual gender of a single androgynous deity) and the Templars has Baphomet (a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on its head between its horns). Wonderful representations of not only the masculine & feminine inside each of us, but also the universe that exists and plays within.

Androgynes exist between gender categories and by this fact have become powerful symbols for transcending the distinctions that form human life. In Judaism, androgynes occupy a special legal status and in India, Hijras have officially been recognised as a third gender and are the subject of numerous tales that testify to their power to bring auspicious blessings to children.

In Tantra, Shiva (God), the unmovable Absolute and Shakti, the sacred force or primordial cosmic energy, are often depicted in sexual embrace or YabYum - a two in one androgyne in which the dualisms of the phenomenal world are transcended. Practitioners of Tantra explore ways of cultivating a kind of androgynous awareness. For example, an exercise of 'dropping' what defines you as your gender and taking on the role of an opposite gender or a man might imagine himself as a woman while engaging in sexual intercourse. These meditative practices are explored to push past the confines of gender identity, the illusions of the phenomenal world and its dualisms to harmonise the masculine (love) and feminine (lust) within all of us.

The female serpent Kundaluni also becomes androgynous in that she unites with Shiva as she enters the final energy centre, or chakra, of the subtle body. The static unmanifested Kundalini is symbolised by a serpent coiled into three and a half circles, with her tail in her mouth, and spiralling around the central axis (Svayambhu-linga) at the base of the spine. When the Kundalini Shakti (power consciousness) is ready to unfold, she ascends to unite above the crown of the head with Shiva (pure consciousness), whose manifest energy she is. It is in this that we gain bliss-consciousness in the union of ShivShakti.

Tantric Buddhism holds androgynes in reverence as radiant diamond beings, those that feel in their heart, ''the blissful kiss of inner and female forces'', pointing to a plane of existence in which conventional human boundaries no longer have meaning. Masculine and feminine does not always mean male and female (according to whatever genitals they may have) but rather certain qualities and it is only when these two qualities happen in balance within, can we begin living a life of deep fulfilment. It is one heck of a ride!

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