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    The Divine Hermaphrodite

William Arthur Mills/ acrylic on canvas/ 72” x 46”/ 2005

The Sacred Hermaphrodite: Shiva-Shakti



How sweet and mysterious is their union! Though the whole universe is too small to contain them, they dwell together happily in the tiniest particle.          

                                                                                          

                                                                                         -Jnaneshwar Maharaj      

Detail of a myriad of forms in various stages, eternally manifesting and dissolving in the cosmic soup (from the upper right hand corner of the Divine Hermaphrodite’s portrait).

Above: Detail of the ethereal tea from which all ‘existence’ manifests (lower left hand corner of “Ardhanarishwara).”

Detail: Within the crown of Ardhanarishwara

The Feet Of A Deity Are A Spiritual Delicacy




Ardhanarishwara’s left foot symbolizes the very roots of the Great Mother Herself, as depicted here weaving Itself into the subatomic fabric of the three worlds. The entire universe is replicated, in miniature, in one’s feet (symbolically as well as physiologically); therefore, the feet of a saint, or deity, are a spiritual delicacy, representing release from the limitations of worldliness (or maya of ego).


The Glorious Hermaphrodite grants moksha (liberation) to all sincere 'seekers' of Truth. However, the devotee must always approach His/Her ever blooming, heavenly fragrant lotus feet with great respect, pure intent, and deep humility. In this way, the cloud of ignorance is dispelled- or eclipsed- by the boundless Light of the Supreme Source Within. Ardhanarishwara gracefully illumines the daily life of all sincere devotees.


Illusions dissipate as they are exposed to the light of consciousness. Through the recognition of what is true and what is false, the aspirant has the potential to move toward the awareness of one’s true divine identity. Witnessing one’s self-imposed experience of separation and fear merging with the light of true knowledge, the devotee then has an opportunity to remember his/her authentic identity as the imperishable universal Self. This is why the feet of a deity are considered a spiritual delicacy.

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The Deification of Our Cosmic Parents


by William Arthur Mills




The iconography of the Supreme Androgynous Being, or, specifically, the Divine Hermaphrodite, celebrates freedom from limited and self imposed concepts of ‘spirituality’. Ardhanarishwara, both immanent and transcendent, represents the self effulgent union of universal opposites. This all pervasive non dual archetype symbolizes harmony and balance on all levels.


In Hindu cosmology, the Sacred Hermaphrodite is half Father, Shiva; and half Mother, Shakti. Ardhanarishwara concisely imparts the teaching of the divine merging of consciousness and energy. Together, complete in Their eternal union, They are “one without a second” (the very essence of Advaita Vedanta).


The Great Hermaphrodite is a concise model for the conceptualization of the merging of duality and non duality. Witnessing- experiencing- and be-ing- the supreme living embodiment of all power, the Father-Mother God is the recognition of our timeless Oneness with all aspects of consciousness. In this particular model, everything is Shiva-Shakti. Theirs is an ecstatic dance of immutable intelligence and incomprehensible power, pervading all that is and ever will be. This divine aspect of divinity is impeccably deified by Ardhanarishwara, meaning “the God Who Is Half Woman (or Goddess)”.

“You were born to realize your true nature,” says Sri Ardhanarishwara,

“The recognition of the Self Within is your sole purpose for being here. May the Supreme Light of Wisdom guide you to the recognition of this timeless truth.”

(Above) details of the hands of “Ardhanarishwara”: The self luminous hands of the Hermaphrodite. Displaying a dazzling current of endless diamonds, stars, and sparks of light illumining all the worlds, the entire cosmic play of maya ushers forth through It’s exquisite fingertips. Exhibiting the auspicious mudra (hand gesture) which grants spiritual wisdom, Ardhanarishwara invites us into the fold of It’s magnificent throne: The Universe Within.

The Celestial Garden




In this painting, I have depicted The Hermaphrodite enthroned in the universe, the very universe that It has created- and the infinite, immutable, field of consciousness which It so gracefully- and symmetrically- pervades. Seated in a magnificent throne composed of the elements of the sacred Koshas, Shri (meaning “True Wealth”), is in perpetual bloom. Like a radiant flower blooming in a celestial garden, Shri gracefully blesses all the worlds with the light of infinite suns.


With unparalleled bliss, Ardhanarishwara creates all beings, all worlds, and galaxies in the blink of an eye. Master Architect and Builder of the perennial garden, grown of light and vibration (Shakti), and informed by Pure Consciousness (Shiva), Ardhanarishwara is the Self within All. Graciously inviting us to dwell within the vast expansion of It’s cosmic fold, The Gentle Hermaphrodite illumines the contrasts between the Self and the non-self (ego).


Shri is stillness and tranquility deified. S/he graciously reveals the contrasts between the pure and the impure; and the true and the false. In this silence, one has the opportunity to become aware of how all physical and metaphysical contradictions are so exquisitely resolved in this profoundly expressed union of Shiva and Shakti. Ardhanarishwara graciously beckons us to enter this silence, and experience the indescribable peace- and bliss- eternally emanating through It’s uniquely androgynous divine presence.


Ardhanarishwara is the cosmic embodiment of the joyous experience of the Self. This joy, concealed in every object of creation, can never be known through mere intellectual study or recitations of religious  scriptures. For this reason, the Great Hermaphrodite beckons us to go beyond the limitations of thought, including all religion, doctrine, and dogma; and remember the vast silence from which all creation emerged.

Merging With the Perennial Database




The evolution of this painting was, in itself, a mystery. Ironically, it seemed to emerge out of the groundless ‘left field”, during a period when I felt my work was quite comfortably established in non-representational abstraction. However, from the very first marks on the canvas, it became increasingly clear that I merely needed to step aside, and just allow the painting to come through. As it continued to evolve, I keenly intuited how all the potential realities we draw toward us appear to rise from something akin to a perennial database.


Gradually, the Great Hermaphrodite began to reveal Itself in all It’s splendor. An indescribable current of peace- at times, waves of bliss- flowed over me as I ‘worked’ this painting. Ardhanarishwara is still one of the most delicately kept secrets of the universe, and I remain extremely grateful for the guidance mysteriously imparted by the Shakti Art Sirens. I am ever grateful for Their assistance, as I felt the presence of these deliciously subtle Goddess Muses graciously presiding throughout this mysterious process.


As the days and nights passed in the sublime making of this painting, I had a powerful sense that my newfound relationship with The Hermaphrodite was becoming more and more intimate. At times, it felt as though Sri was actually painting Itself, continuing to graciously offer me minute glimpses into the subtle mysteries of the creative process. This much was generously imparted to me by the Great Hermahrodite: On every ‘level’ of creativity, from the very separate, ego-laden sphere of perception, to the cosmic database of the akashic vapors- and beyond- ALL are united in one, vast, eternal organism.

(Above) Detail: Beyond all notions of “I”, me”, and “mine”, Ardhanarishwara gazes  out upon all of It’s children, the myriad universes It has given birth to. Seated at It’s throne, The Great Hermaphrodite radiates tranquility and gentleness, filling the three worlds with the dazzling, omnipresent brilliance of the Self. Shri’s boundless, self luminous crown, ascending higher and higher to the most distant universes, symbolically stretches beyond the constraints of the six foot canvas.

On the Iconography of Ardhanarishwara




Those who are familiar with the traditional iconography of Ardhanarishwara will immediately notice that I have taken some obvious liberties in this depiction of The Sacred Hermaphrodite. Here, instead of equally dividing the forms of Shiva and Shakti vertically down the center, as in the traditional iconography, I have chosen to integrate these bilateral features, mingling them throughout It’s overall form. These considerations for this painting evolved as I sensed Ardhanarishwara’s presence becoming more and more tangible to me.


As a subtle device in indicating the bilaterally divided genders in the traditional depiction of Ardhanarishwara, I have chosen to depict the right side of the deity, Shiva, painted in shades of blue; and on the left side, Shakti, in various shades of red. One may notice that a female breast appears on It’s left side, as does a male breast on It’s right. Though the arms and shoulders of the deity are large and masculine, the face is decidedly feminine.

Detail from the base of the throne of the Divine Hermaphrodite, showing the auspicious sheaths of consciousness, or five koshas offered to the feet of the great androgynous cosmic being.








The Five Koshas: Sheaths of Consciousness



(Above): Detail from “The Sacred Hermaphrodite” (at the base of the throne, the auspicious sheaths of consciousness emanating from Anandamayakosha); depicting the Five Koshas at the feet of the great androgynous cosmic being.


World within world, within world within world, within... resting at the lotus feet of the Holy Hermaphrodite are the koshas: the five conceptual sheaths, or layers, of consciousness which, in unconscious perception, only seem to cover the Atman. The omnipresent indweller of all, Atman, is the one and only ‘Doer” in the very truest sense. This awareness recognizes that nothing (or no thing) is ever really happening to begin with. In truth, the many (duality) has always seamlessly resided in the One. Beyond the ego driven identification with name and form and “knower” and “known”, is the one immutable reality encompassing every aspect of ‘existence’.

The Journey to the Lampshade


by William Arthur Mils




At the base of It’s throne, fabricated from the excellent elements of eternity, the Supreme Sovereign, Ardhanarishwara, projects the teachings of the five koshas outward from the very center of It’s Self. The Glorious Hermaphrodite calls out to us ceaselessly, gently inviting us to journey inward, to experience the timeless nature of Cosmic Beingness. In this magnificent system of teachings aimed at more fully understanding our true, changeless nature, the Koshas are the five sheaths (veils, or layers), which, with graduating subtlety, enfold the Self.


These layers of the spiritual evolution of karma comprise the Koshas, which cover the infinitely radiant Atman, the very Oneness beyond all fields of perception. Though the entire universe is Ardhanarishwara’s home, the Sacred Hermaphrodite also dwells within the tiniest, microcosmic, one celled life forms, maintaining all that is- and ever will be- in perfect balance.


The densest of the Koshas, composed of the five elements, is the Annamaya Kosha, the food (anna) body. The next sheath is Pranamaya Kosha, the vital breath (prana), life force, and energy sheath. Then, follows the Manomaya Kosha, the “mind (mana) mental sheath, which encloses brain functions, ‘mundane’ thought, and rationality. Next is Vijnanamaya Kosha, the intellect, or discriminating layer of consciousness. This sheath surrounds the higher regions of the mind. Included in this layer, are compassion, creativity, conceptual thought, and spiritual inspiration. This Kosha contains the higher wisdom which facilitates the will of remembrance to experience the fifth sheath, Anandamaya Kosha.


The Anandamaya Kosha is the bliss sheath, which constitutes the super-conscious mind, the causal body. This Kosha surrounds the Atman, the Supreme Self that resides beyond the mind. Though this kosha is composed of the light of the purest knowledge, it is still a sheath, a covering. Though only very subtle traces of ego are in tact at this Kosha, some differentiation yet remains. This sheath is often compared to the lampshade that covers the light bulb-  the light is ‘visible’ through it’s covering, yet it is still obscured by minute traces of lingering ego. The thin veil of Anandamaya Kosha is the portal to the Atman, or Brahman, which is the bliss beyond all words, thoughts, and concepts.

“Children of the world,” Sri Ardhanarishwara instructs, “be invincible. Meditate. Find out Who you really are. There is only one destination- the Self illumined awareness of the real ‘you’; perfect non-differentiated oneness, or Sat-chit-ananda: eternal existence, consciousness, and bliss!”

The Mysterious Union of Opposites




As the unified embodiment of Shiva and Shakti, the Hermaphrodite celebrates the unification of the contradictions and opposites of this world; and, for some of us, offers solutions to a radically new definition of peace without boundaries. Shri opens It’s arms to welcome us to the joyous remembrance of our eternal nature. In the splendor of the radiant Hermaphrodite’s timeless embrace, we are instantly transported to this peaceful and contemplative ‘space’.


As we continue to open more and more deeply to the experience of the intimacy and tenderness of the Divine, there is a sense that we are returning Home. Our lives seem to take on a clearer, renewed focus. As the very embodiment of our Cosmic Parents, Shiva and Shakti, Ardhanarishwara ceaselessly calls out to every being in the universe, “Come Home! Come Home!”


The ecstatic, spiraling dance of Shiva-Shakti, likened to a cosmic version of the Double Helix, may well be understood as the infinite intelligence that pervades all that is, and all that ever will be. As depicted in countless examples of popular Hindu iconography, Ardhanarishwara, with a steady, straightforward gaze, invites us to join in this dance of bliss. With eyes sparkling with the dazzling radiance of every precious stone and gem ever unearthed, the Gentle Hermaphrodite beckons us to enter into It’s blissful, self luminous presence.


This inner-space, where no differences or opposites exist, dissolves all anguish; and every fear and doubt. All of creation sings, as this indescribable Light floods The Three Worlds. This mysterious union of the opposites of the Cosmic Presence is as ‘real’ as the density of a rock; and as nebulous as the conversation between two ferns in a dark, primeval forest. This is the dance that we are ALL partaking in-  the infinite mystery of Shiva-Shakti eternally creating Itself!

Nothing in the Universe is Ever Lost!



The Light of Truth Within, Love, sustains the universe. Love is the universe. As Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, founder of Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York once wrote: “Love is found in the form of mutual attraction and gravitation, inherent in electrons and protons, in atoms and elements, as well as in the compound worlds. He who knows this secret of divine nature knows pure love and attains liberation."


The word “Akasha” is derived from the root syllable, “kash”, meaning “to shine, illuminate, or radiate”. It is said that every breath of every soul who has ever lived and breathed the breath of life is stored in the Akashic Warehouse. Every aspect of consciousness, in the truest sense, is immutable and eternal. I believe that this is the eternal wisdom that the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita spoke of; and others, including Aldous Huxley, were referring to as the perennial philosophy.


Like a vast, organic, database, this nebulous region, which is closest in essence to pure spirit, is where Ardhanarishwara has stored all the ‘records’ of creation since the beginning of time. Among these ‘records’ in this infinitely dimensional, eternally suspended substance, are all thoughts that have ever been thought; as well as the blueprint for all that are yet to come. All movement- physical, perceptual, and spiritual- including astral travel- are facilitated by the Akasha.


From the tiniest subatomic particles, to the macrocosmic order of solar systems and galaxies, every aspect of  consciousness is essential to the whole; and the inseparable lovers, Shiva-Shakti, dwell simultaneously within and without It’s endless expanse. It is, indeed, a relief to learn that NOTHING in the universe is ever lost in the shuffle, as This Love is the Supreme Omnipresence- one vast cosmic organism eternally experiencing Itself!

The Silence Enshrined in the Heart:

A Message from the Great Hermaphrodite






“My Dear Child”, Sri beckons, bowing gracefully before us, “Be still, quiet your mind, and relax into the peace of my eternal embrace. Always remember that you are created from the light filled vibrations of My love, and are a infinitely cherished blessing to this entire universe. You are the Cosmic Self, in which all of creation resides. Know that I am the Supreme Self. Though all thought and all awareness are born from me, I am incomplete without the gifts you offer me- and therefore to all creation.


I am ever grateful for all of your essential contributions to the ever unfolding Manifestation. Every precious cell of your body emanates from my wisdom; as do all the planets and various life forms throughout the galaxies. I am the very breath, the sparkling rivers, and the raging fires concealed in all levels of life, animate and inanimate. I am the spark created by Shiva and Shakti’s mutual attraction for one another. The infinite ‘space’ of Shiva’s pure consciousness; and the inseparable primordial vibration of His beloved Shakti.


May My instructions to you be lucid and reassuring. Remember that the truth is found only in silence, and no words can describe it. Know that I am your very Self, forever enshrined in your heart. Take refuge in me whenever you doubt these eternal truths. Know that I want nothing more than to be truly helpful. Together, we shall overcome the burdens of the unnecessary conflicts which needlessly weigh on you and every being here.


The Forces of Light within you will always be victorious over the forces of darkness which often seem to loom so heavy. Please remember that you have nothing to fear. I will be with you always. Whenever you feel lost or fearful, whenever you feel overwhelmed as though raggedly tossed about on the relentless tides of distress, call on me with ceaseless, one pointed devotion- and I will be with you in a heartbeat!  Be Victorious!”.




Aum Shantih Shantih Shantih Aum

Invocation to Ardhanarishwara




In the light born of True Knowledge, we invoke Shri Ardhanrishwara, the fascinating form of our cosmic parents merged into One, to become our gentle guide to the entrance of the luminous Cave of the Heart: the inner-scape of the Self. This is the only invitation that You, the Great Hermaphrodite, needs to silently instruct us in discriminating between the permanent and the impermanent; the real and the unreal. Once we are established in the stillness of this inner peace, may we release all concepts of divinity- including all preconceptions of even You, Dear and Ever Luminous One.


May You, the Supremely Blissful One, Ardhanarishwara, moving with unfathomable beauty and grace, transport Your devotees to the spaceless and timeless stillness beyond thought. The Self Within IS this very stillness; the quietude behind thoughts, words, and actions. Silence is the universal ‘all terrain vehicle’ for embarking upon this timeless journey to nowhere- and everywhere. As we surrender to the divine rapture of this vast, eternal mystery, may we begin to taste the sweetness of That which resides beyond thought- deep, all pervasive silence.

Detail from the upper left hand corner of “Ardhanarishwara”








Surrounding the Sacred Hermaphrodite’s throne are the all- pervading, subtle vibratory fields known as the Akasha. Akin to ether, the Akasha is the least physical of the five basic elements. It is the invisible field from which everything arises and everything returns. It is the same, or closest, to the “Divine Ground” in Mahayana Buddhism, the divine awareness of one’s eternal ONEness with the vibratory field from which everything arises and returns.

The ambrosial left leg of the Divine Hermaphrodite.

The ambrosial left foot of the Divine Hermaphrodite.

 

Pure Non Differentiated Consciousness




The acknowledgment that there is nothing ‘here’ but pure consciousness Itself, and all life is ‘none other’ than a shared cosmic gift, offers a tremendous sense of purpose to spiritual aspirants. Acknowledging that we are already perfectly complete and need do nothing is a profoundly powerful realization- like the perfection of a blade of grass, just be-ing ‘blade of grass’-ness. On some level, the blade of grass knows exactly what ‘It’ is supposed to do; but, at the same time, doesn’t need to be reminded that it is inhabited by a vast industrial complex called photosynthesis. On the surface it appears to be completely fulfilled, basking in it’s own impeccable glory.


The union of pure consciousness, Shiva, and pure energy, Shakti, is the mystical spark from which the entire universe unfolds. Sri Ardhanarishwara is the exquisite, archetypical embodiment of timeless fusion with our true (genderless) non dual nature, or authority. A profound archetype, the Sacred Hermaphrodite represents one, formless, non differentiated state of shared Cosmic Being-ness that pervades everything. From the microcosm to the macrocosm, this union of time, Shiva, and space, Shakti, is the model for all of creation. All life, everything here, is part of this mysterious structure of the inseparable cosmic male and female principle.

Our Cosmic Parents Laboratory






Without exception, everything we experience originates in our Cosmic Parents laboratory. They alone are ‘doing’ all of this. And there is more good news: we are not who we think we are. To begin with, the Great Hermaphrodite teaches us that we are not (really) even male or female. Then, that we are not the body either. The exquisite iconography of Ardhanarisvara, Shiva-Shakti, represents the entire universal body of the Cosmic Father and Mother principles fused into one deity. Beyond symbology, the Sacred Hermaphrodite is the perfect balance of the Immanent Goddess- and the Transcendent God.


Though it is in the form of a hermaphrodite, and unmistakably appears androgynous, I usually think of “It”, for the most part, as being female: a Goddess. Sacred androgyny is an ageless iconic theme, precisely because It inhabits and manifests as all cosmic form. From this perspective, everything we see and know with the vast organs of perception is none other than the Great Goddess Herself. In this awareness, Sri Ardhanarishwara embodies all genders, yet forever remains gender-less. The Great Hermaphrodite is non sexual- yet omnisexual. It is pan sexual- yet always in complete balance.

The Great Hermaphrodite is invoked for bringing about balance and light within and without. For this unitive purpose alone, perhaps It’s greatest medicine for our planet is unconditional compassion. In extending the timeless gift of love and oneness with all existence, Ardhanarishwara offers a bridge into the Self. The Self is the light of truth within. This Light, which is not ‘ours’, but accompanies ‘us’ everywhere, is everything; and every non thing. Beyond all philosophical and religious thought systems, Sri Ardhanarishwara Is the immutably seamless unity of all things.

Supreme Knowledge of the Self



Contemplating this supreme secret of secrets is a colossal stretch of the mind. And as I continued working, it felt as though Shri was assisting me in the task of making this awareness more accessible. Gaining this humble insight into the mysterious union of Shiva and Shakti, the unmanifested and the manifested consciousness, helped to open this painting- and my life- into a celebration of indescribable grace. 

Every moment of our lives, influenced by myriad activities such as drawing and painting, offer a tremendous opportunity in the relinquishment of doer-ship. The Sacred Hermaphrodite subtly instructs us that the recognition of the Self may be accomplished by merging the tools of mind and heart. This re-cognition of the Self as the one omnipresent truth, reconciles the immanent and the transcendent as one ever expansive reality. 

Ardhanarishwara gently guides us to the supreme knowledge of the Self. Here, it is revealed that this Self is the indweller of all embodied beings. In this remembrance, all quaint dualistic concepts such as “inner” or “outer” or “in between” grow meaningless and obsolete. These incessantly confounding thoughts only ‘serve’ to keep one continuously bound, limited, and fear laden. In the light of true wisdom, the exquisite stillness beyond thought is the very nature of the Self, as It is concealed- and revealed-  in the highest heavens within. 


Victory to Ardhanarishwara!

The Divine Hermaphrodite:


The Union of Matter and Spirit



Vertically, completely through the exact center of this painting, the spiraling movement depicts the psychic energy centers of consciousness, the chakras, which preside over the ever continuous creation of the entire universe. The infinite wisdom of Mother Kundalini symbolically flows through the center of the painting; from the very bottom to the very top of the six foot canvas. The decidedly formal symmetrical composition of the painting seems to lend itself to the regality of the Supreme Sovereign: Father-Mother Universe.


Also, though this is a painting of Ardhanarishwara, I feel it to have more of a cosmic feminine (Shakti Ma) leaning. On the same point, though it is in the form of a hermaphrodite, and definitely appears androgynous, I do think of “It” as being closer to a female archetype, a Goddess, precisely because It inhabits and manifests as all cosmic form (including a painting). From this perspective, everything we see, know, and intuit with the vast organs of perception are, in truth, none other than the Great Hermaphrodite, whose radiant presence encompasses the totality of the universe.

The self luminous right hand (Shiva side) of the Divine Hermaphrodite.

   The Sacred Hermaphrodite

William Arthur Mills/ acrylic on canvas/ 72” x 46”/ 2004