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Kalas is a not so well-known term that comes up when reading the Vodoun Gnostic Workbook (VGW). From my own experience, I know that reading the VGW can be difficult. Thus, I thought about discussing here at the OTOA website a few of the concepts that appear there and that are not among the most popular. And because I was reading about similar subjects I chose to begin with this one. This was not the only reason, though. In truth, to understand Kalas is very important because those “centers” can awaken magical powers and they also can be understood as magical powers per se.
Kalas comes from Kala (and I hope you all forgive my Sanskrit, please), which, among many meanings, is linked to time and can also mean a certain unit of time or even unit of rhythm. Kala also resembles Kali - the great black Goddess whose classic iconography is that of a woman with her tongue out, with a sword, trident and a head in her hands and who also wears a necklace of heads. Kali would mean black, but evidently there is a correlation between Kali and Kala - nigredo and time. There is evidence here of an alchemical transformation that somehow connects Kali and Kalas as well. I hope we can explore a little bit more of it in this text.
Kali in the Kabbalah (as Dion Fortune puts it) is associated to Binah. This is very interesting as it connects this Goddess to time (Saturn), revealing yet another face of the association between her and Kala. In addition to this, Binah is at the top (or at the beginning, depending on the point of view) of the severity pillar, the female pillar. One of the reasons for this pillar to be understood as “severe” is that it is the great mother ( Binah ) that gives shape and everything that takes shape is destined to “die”. From above the abyss, Binah also functions as a connection point between the supernals and what is below - a connection that goes to the roots of absolute darkness represented by the nameless and unimaginable beyond Kether (Pluto / Yuggoth).
From her position in the tree of life, like a great portal, Kali emanates 16 kalas from her vulva upon us (the exact number of Kalas is a matter of great debate among the Tantric lineages, but we will agree on 16 here because it is the number that Grant uses). These Kalas are things of time and things of darkness. They are also magical powers. The fact that they emanate from Kali - Shiva's consort/complementary part - is no accident. Kali has, after all, a Lunar aspect – as we will discuss briefly later. Kalas ( as told by David Gordon White) are also connected to the Moon. These "Lunar digits" (also according to White) would be related to the lunar cycle when the Moon is getting “bigger” and being filled with this "nectar" that ultimately would leak from it in the form of a powerful elixir of vitality. Here we have a clear connection between the Moon and Kali: signs of the feminine and also of the night. Furthermore, it must be remembered that the Moon is also a lady of time, although of the smaller cycles, while Saturn would rule the great cycles.
Here the symbolism is easy to grasp. Kali is the woman who is emanating, that is, "secreting" and “menstruating” these Kalas over time, according to the Lunar cycle. The dark moon, the apex of the waning moon, is an auspicious season for Kali and so is the new moon. In both seasons festivals are held in different parts of India to honor the Black Goddess. It is worth remembering that Kali's forehead is “luminous like the Moon” and that it is always dripping or emanating Amrit - the nectar of the Gods that confers immortality. Looking closely at the eye on Kali's forehead, the similarity to the vulva is clear and this connects it to the Kalas being “menstruated”. In addition, the connection with Ajna Cakra is evident.
What is discussed in the paragraph above is the basis of several rites of Tantric lineages and the implications of it and of those rites are varied. It is also possible to understand that Kalas are parts of a time cycle (like a big clock) used in order to awaken certain qualities or “magical powers”. Other way to see this process would be: from the nigredo of Kali are secreted 16 Kalas - which can be viewed as multicolored, like the peacock’s tail.
To Kenneth Grant, the 16 Kalas are complemented by their reflexes - adding up to 32. This number contains several connections, the most obvious and directs being here with the tree of life that has 22 paths and 10 Sephirah. At the very least, we can understand that the tree of life is a map of the Kalas and their magical powers. From that point on, the associations are almost infinite. The reader will also not be surprised to learn that the Kalas are associated with Sanskrit phonemes - a curious parallel with the connection of the tree of life with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Thus, Kether (Pluto/ Yuggoth ) would represent one of the Kala s and knowing that Kether is the primary concentration point of the manifestation, it is necessarily considered that there is something beyond. This is fundamental and from here I will try to connect tjose regions beyond Yuggoth and the Kalas. What lies in those regions is a matter for discussion, but evidently it seems to be from that transyuggothic place that the Kalas originate. Thus, it is possible to consider that those centers or powers (Kalas) are direct connections to the divine in its most fundamental form.
Kali, which is a form of time (one might put it that way, I guess), is a filter through which we perceive the manifestation. We are all here, manifest and ruled by time, after all. However, those roots of divinity, the Kalas, can be awakened in the human body through certain techniques. Mantras, mainly, can be used. Here it is important to remember that the 16 Kalas have associations with Sanskrit phonemes. Whatever the method used, the manner how it works has been already guessed. David Gordon White comments that the idea would be to "superimpose the body of the divinity with the human body" and thus awaken those Kalas. In other words, the process would encompass the identification with the divine.
It is possible that through the activation of these “centers of power” we can even go beyond time and reach the most remote regions of the universe. Through the portal of Kali we can work on these magical powers, a work guided by the Moon. To dominate or awaken the 16 Kalas would be, in a way, the journey of walking the paths and having the experiences of Sephirah. It seems clear that awakening the Kalas in the practitioner is a fundamental development in magical work.
Grant, K . The Revival of Magic.
Grant, K. Alesteir Crowley and the hidden God.
Grant, K. Cults of the Shadow.
Grant, K. Outside the Circles of Time.
White, D. G. The Alchemical Body: Siddha traditions in Medieval India.
Bertiaux, M. The Vodoun Gnostic Workbook.
Fortune, D. The Mystical Qabalah
Harding, E. U. Kali: The Black Goddess of Darkshineswar