The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

Symbols and allegories.
obnoxion
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The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

Post by obnoxion »

I recently watched Roman Polanski's "The Tenant"(1976). This film is the final part of his so-called appartment trilogy ("Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby" are two the previous parts). In the film the male protagonist finds a tooth hidden inside a small hole on his appartment's wall. This makes him ponder about personality. He muses that If one looses a tooth or and arm, one could say, "me and my arm" or "me and my tooth". But If one looses his head, should one say "me and my head" or "me and my body", because with what right should the head call himself the "me" and the body "my".

Soon after, the protagonist starts to crossdress, assuming the identity of his appartment's previous tenant, a young lady who killed herself. As s/he admires her Image from the mirror, s/he says "I'm pregnant".

I see in this sequence a rare example in horror film of the symbol of being decapitated by the feminine, which is so common in tantric imagery, (and which also plays an important role in christian symbolism, later to be amplified by Symbolist and Decadent artists). By the term 'sequence' I am refering to (my understanding of) James B. Twitchell's theory, from his book "Dreadful Pleasures - An Anatomy of Modern Horror" (Ofrod University Press, 1985). He writes of the idea of diffuse horror that is fragmented into repetative sequences, that carry fearful ideas so that they can be confronted without fighting or fleeing. These moments are the ones that Otto Rudolf would describe as moments of awe, or of the demonic dread, that the mystical or visionary experience of the mysterium tremendum emanates, and which can lead to evolution of spiritual consciousness.

Now, in Polanski's film the psychological decapitation sequence seems to lead into psycopathological rather than a spiritual state. And, as is mentioned in the next quotation, the experience of this sequences can be "dark and dangerous". Polanski's tenant seems to illustrate this danger (s/he becomes psychotic and suicidal). But in a similar sequences in the tantric imagery of the decapitating goddess, there is vast spiritual potential.

On this spiritual potential, here is a reference to Alfred Collin's idea, who: "...questions wether a language of female anger is subtly coded, and perhaps also suppressed, in the abstract and impersonal philosophical principles of of purusha (male spirit, pure 'witnessing' consciousness) and prakriti (feminine matter/energy). He interprets the scene in which prakriti's highest aspect, the faculty of intellect (buddhi), sees through and dissolves the (implicitly male) ego (ahamkara) as akin to the beheading scenes of bhakti myths and tantric icons - a violent scene that in the abstractions of Samkhya philosophy leaves no room to affirm that purusha could be, in psychoanalytic parlance, prakriti's reciprocating 'self-object'. Ahamkara or ego is the self that can be represented as a head cut off physically so that purusha can be its own self-witness on an 'onanistic' spiritual isolation (kaivalya). Prakriti is thus seen to have been pleasurable and liberating in acting for the 'purpose of purusha'. Yet ultimately she is dark and dangerous to the ego, a sword-wielding embodiment of blind, uncoscious ignorance. Collins asks whether prakriti deludes out of rage at being unrecognized in her wholeness. But could it not also be that she is enraged at being 'witnessed' in her insentient wholeness without being able to 'consciously' witness back?" (Hiltebel & Erndl (ed.): "Is The Goddess a Feminist - The Politics of South Asian Goddesses" (New York University Press, 2000; p. 21).
One day of Brahma has 14 Indras; his life has 54 000 Indras. One day of Vishnu is the lifetime of Brahma. The lifetime of Vishnu is one day of Shiva.
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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I take this to be the myth of my own karmic and dharmic being. My all time favourite of all visual art pieces is Moreau's Salome dancing away the head of John Baptist (L'Apparition). Just a few hours ago I put a double underlining to the Jung's quote of Le Songe de Poliphile: "Aufer caput, corpus ne tangito" (Carry away the head, but don't touch the body).

I take this fatal identification being both pathological and transcendent. It comes from so extreme an inner experience, where the feminine presence of energetic Nature (including God; i.e. we are talking about the Goddess) or divine anima is so demanding, that the human life is unable to tolerate it. It is to die at every moment, quite literally, even though the mask-body keeps breathing. Somehow! A miracle! But a black magic miracle...
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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Nefastos wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:59 pm
I take this to be the myth of my own karmic and dharmic being.
This is something we share.
Nefastos wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:59 pm
A miracle! But a black magic miracle...
It could not be described in any less stronger words


There are two things in the above that I find especially significant. (At least they are significant to my satanismi):

- That there is a parallelism with images in in horror fiction and the spiritual imagery of tantricism. Horror fiction is often interpreted as social/political commentary. But I think that the deep interpretation needs to consider the spirituality of horror - in light, for example, of the "philosophical monsters" of tantric buddhism.

- That buddhi can be experiences in certain occasions as dark and dangerous force.
One day of Brahma has 14 Indras; his life has 54 000 Indras. One day of Vishnu is the lifetime of Brahma. The lifetime of Vishnu is one day of Shiva.
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:09 pm
- That buddhi can be experiences in certain occasions as dark and dangerous force.

Buddhi is Satan, the Demoness, because She is always the thing I apparently am not: "to accomplish the miracle of one being".
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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Nefastos wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:24 pm
obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:09 pm
- That buddhi can be experiences in certain occasions as dark and dangerous force.

Buddhi is Satan, the Demoness, because She is always the thing I apparently am not: "to accomplish the miracle of one being".
This is, basically, my argument why gothic/horror texts merit close readings. The coherence of the horror sequences is in that they make way for the (potentially constructive) meetings of the (apparently) abnormal with the (seemingly) normal. The diffuse horror of which the coherent sequences are fragmented from is a mystical form of buddhi.
One day of Brahma has 14 Indras; his life has 54 000 Indras. One day of Vishnu is the lifetime of Brahma. The lifetime of Vishnu is one day of Shiva.
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 3:37 pm
This is, basically, my argument why gothic/horror texts merit close readings.

I find it sad that the golden era of Gothic horror was so long ago that those texts mostly appear very cumbersome to a modern reader. (My Monk, for example, has been on page 208 about five years, and my Melmoth has never wandered past page 44.) H.P. Lovecraft was a delicious bend, but after him the later horror tends to be more vulgar than gothic, and I can no longer approve. One of the few exceptions is William Peter Blatty, I adore his works.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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Thank you for this intriquing opening, Obnoxion. I feel a bit nervous to be taking part in this topic, as I've not read that much about tantra. But it's always interesting to have close readings of horror and discuss the relations of the feminine and the masculine principle.
obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:38 pm
Collins asks whether prakriti deludes out of rage at being unrecognized in her wholeness. But could it not also be that she is enraged at being 'witnessed' in her insentient wholeness without being able to 'consciously' witness back?" (Hiltebel & Erndl (ed.): "Is The Goddess a Feministi - The Politics of South Asian Goddesses" (New York University Press, 2000; p. 21).
I feel that purusha in relation to praktiti is destined to loose his head. As praktiti is destined to loose her ever-expanding dark body in relation to purusha. Purusha with its witnessing eye nails praktiti down - and by nailing praktiti down, he is simultaniously decapitated by her. Both functions - the feminine and the masculine - are then transformed. I don't really feel that purusha is cabable witness the wholeness of praktiti as her wholeness cannot be witnessed - her/his wholeness can be embodyed only (by the holy hermaphrodite).
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:38 pm
Ahamkara or ego is the self that can be represented as a head cut off physically so that purusha can be its own self-witness on an 'onanistic' spiritual isolation (kaivalya). Prakriti is thus seen to have been pleasurable and liberating in acting for the 'purpose of purusha'.
I see here is presented two instances of the same mystery. The idea of spiralling motion returning to the same horizontal spot, while the vertical axis has lifted some seems relevant to this repetition or two sides of it. The feminine has decapitated the head separate from the body so that the 'onanistic' spiritual isolation could awake the individual from the dream. I have for example heard life stories and witnessed from afar people going on autopilot for deacades of their lives and then suddenly awake to the facts of their reality, having heavy loans and ties to something they haven't consciously considered. This would be quite basic initiation to the head. The more tormenting the head becomes the more one has courage not to regress, yet also there comes the inability to unite and progress.

Thus eventually the head starts to become limiting just like words might. I've observed two ways one can go from there: run away from the head, abandon it and eventually, whether in this or some coming incarnations, slip to insanity in the mysteries of Dionysus. (Ofcourse corrections to these courses can be made.) The other way points to the higher instance of this same mystery where we actually witness the goddess executing the beheading maneuvre and in awe of the sight the head is no more limited to its onanistic self, but can be placed as a sharp tool to mediate forth the mysterium trememdum. By so doing the occultist starts to shed his previous skin and the slaying of the ego becomes an exaltation of it - a conscious connection to the higher self, the Will, starts to form. I'm not sure if this is the same spot on the vertical axis of the spiral after all, for it might be the opposite point if we'd assume full circle would consist of two halves of emphasized phases on both prakriti and purusha. Thus this latter instance of the mystey could be seen the opposite way of purusha acting for the 'purpose of prakriti' (this is possible when the high and the low becomes to represent each other, as in the Chalice of Mount Argarizim). I imagine completing the full circle would grant both of the polar pools to the use of the magician to be applied almost seamlessly in the following mysteries.
obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:38 pm
Yet ultimately she is dark and dangerous to the ego, a sword-wielding embodiment of blind, uncoscious ignorance. Collins asks whether prakriti deludes out of rage at being unrecognized in her wholeness. But could it not also be that she is enraged at being 'witnessed' in her insentient wholeness without being able to 'consciously' witness back?"
This allows us to enter a bit more nuanced place in 'the witnessing of prakriti'. The last sentence points to the pure horror the darkness entails. The horror is present in the most primitive fear of the dark, as well as in the fear of not knowing, which is the unability to see while being observed. Although I've not overcome this specific kind of fear totally, I've seen it help to face the fear when you bring unspoiling, respecting humbleness in the midst of it. Humbleness of not knowing is the first step to start seeing, and when stepping in to a dark place in a literal sense, one can also practice this same humbleness there to learn to face the darkness in another way and again apply these lessons of the literal experiences when the inner world is cast again in to the horrors.
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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Ave wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:24 pm
Thank you for this intriquing opening, Obnoxion. I feel a bit nervous to be taking part in this topic, as I've not read that much about tantra. But it's always interesting to have close readings of horror and discuss the relations of the feminine and the masculine principle.
obnoxion wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 2:38 pm
Collins asks whether prakriti deludes out of rage at being unrecognized in her wholeness. But could it not also be that she is enraged at being 'witnessed' in her insentient wholeness without being able to 'consciously' witness back?" (Hiltebel & Erndl (ed.): "Is The Goddess a Feministi - The Politics of South Asian Goddesses" (New York University Press, 2000; p. 21).
I feel that purusha in relation to praktiti is destined to loose his head. As praktiti is destined to loose her ever-expanding dark body in relation to purusha. Purusha with its witnessing eye nails praktiti down - and by nailing praktiti down, he is simultaniously decapitated by her. Both functions - the feminine and the masculine - are then transformed. I don't really feel that purusha is cabable witness the wholeness of praktiti as her wholeness cannot be witnessed - her/his wholeness can be embodyed only (by the holy hermaphrodite).
Oh my. Seems like I got little carried away with my bloodlust and arranged erraticly the whole masculine energy to be decapitated also, not only the masculine ego! :oops: I was however trying form a picture masculine and feminine energy uniting in an emanating particle. (In trancendence they are always whole, intact.) In my personal life I have pondered the embodyment of masculine and feminine energy alot.
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Re: The Symbolism of The Decapitating Feminine

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Smaragd wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 9:36 pm
I've observed two ways one can go from there: run away from the head, abandon it and eventually, whether in this or some coming incarnations, slip to insanity in the mysteries of Dionysus.

It is no wonder that nowadays, when our culture has at least one & half century been what it is (prostrated worship of the head-ego), that people "aufer corpus, caput ne tangito" (run with the body & leave the head). And this is extremely easy, on the surface, because such a way was the primitive way, that our body still remembers. So we are trying to turn and run, instead of taking responsibility & putting the focus where it should in the process of balancing, i.e. in the heart that would unite the head with the peripheral body. (This is one reason why I have stressed the not very orthodox reading of buddhi as the center of emotion, instead of intellect, which would be more to the line of the old Sanskrit doctrine.)

Smaragd wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 9:36 pm
the beheading maneuvre and in awe of the sight the head is no more limited to its onanistic self, but can be placed as a sharp tool to mediate forth the mysterium trememdum.

I am slightly hesitant to call it onanistic per se, although the connection is clear. From the Zohar I have once again learned how it was so extreme a sin to let one's semen fall to the ground (the sin of Onan) that from that spring all violence, wars, even the flood with which God kills out all of his creation (except the new seed in the womb-ark). I rather stick to my own vocabulary of making it Oedipal instead, for in Oedipal the Magician & the Mother are in ceaseless separation-union of the Dance, and there is no "sin" per se: just suffering, because the ahamakâra is forced to perceive its apparent and yet illusionary separation from the mother-nature. In that reality, there is no separation, and thus the trauma is psychic instead of factual, and can be mended. (Theoretically! Yet we face the fact that the sinners get their Redeemer but Oedipus is destined to suffer forever...)

I mentioned W.P. Blatty, and he seems to share this fascination of not only the painful problem of evil (suffering & theodicy), but also of the removed head. In the Exorcist, the turning of the head is mentioned as a fatal demonic pact. (In the movie, the possessed girl's head turn this way, but the novel has more important head-turning of the first victim, who then comes back as a part of the possessing demon.) In its sequel Legion, removing of the head becomes the most important and recurring topos both literal & symbolic. (Just an example.)

Ave wrote:
Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:24 pm
I don't really feel that purusha is cabable witness the wholeness of praktiti as her wholeness cannot be witnessed - her/his wholeness can be embodyed only (by the holy hermaphrodite).

The word "witness" is indeed important to notice here. For if the purusha-prakriti is the Taichitu of spirit-matter, factually One, then the only one who can "witness" its unity is the one outside, the jiva of an outsider (once again "apparent", like Moreau's painting puts it so well). The "holy hermaphrodite" or Ardhanarishvara is macrocosmically the Avalokiteshvara and microcosmically the enlightened adept. But, paradoxically, the "witnessing" is possible only at the point when the ahamkaric Head has been made the caput mortis, it has been "let go" of, and the whole of the devotee is seen as the complete union itself. It then becomes a temperamental point whether the Head is seen once again becoming the part of the resurrected tantric, or whether it is left outside as the templar's relic.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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