The Wrath of Kali

[aras-image:7At.018,,10,,,Figure 6 Kali dancing on the prostrate body of Siva.]


In the riots of April and May of 1992 which started in Los Angeles and spread to other major cities in the United States we saw the wrath of Kali. She is the energy manifested in such violence and destruction. The gangs were the instruments of that divine, cosmic energy. That much of the action seemed mindless is not relevant to these considerations for the human individuals were possessed by an archetypal power; they were instruments of an energy and anger much larger than themselves and their human reactions. Here we have named that energy, Kali. We recognize her, not as an image, but as the violence of destruction and the whirlwind of fire, Agni himself, racing through the buildings and smoldering in the remains.
In the thirty years since the Watts riots, no major changes in the social structure and economic climate of the inner cities have taken place. Commentators on the TV news clips, both black and white, both young and old, repeatedly talked of the absence of jobs, of basic services, of housing, grievances aggravated over recent decades. Inner city programs are necessary measures, but they are not solutions. The overt violence had to be contained, but that action does not address the sources of the rage which lie in the primordial layers of the psyche.
Under the title "Burning All Illusions Tonight," June Jordan writes in The San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Fire everywhere! Across the miasma of Los Angeles the flames lift into the night and they proliferate. They rise, explosive, from my heart. Is there horror!/ Is there heat unbearable?/ And is there light where, otherwise, we could not see ourselves? Is there an unexpected/ unpredictable colossal energy alive and burning, uncontrolled throughout America?... And white kids and Chicanos and Chicanas join them, yes! There they stand or run beside/ among these young Black men who will not bow down! They will not say, 'OK. I am nobody. I have nothing and you hate me and that's fine!"
In the same issue of the Bay Guardian, Donald Taylor writes: "I have the hardest job in America. I am a conscious Black Man. My job continually reminds me of who I am and how I fit into the 'American Dream.'... As I talk to brothers, the question was never, 'Have you ever been a victim of police brutality?' It was, 'Tell me about what happened when you were victimized.' Each one had a story to tell."
A quotation from the Vishnu Purana, an Indian scripture handed down through millennia, seems surprisingly accurate in its descriptions of the current misery: "The state leaders will no longer protect the people but through taxes, will appropriate all wealth. Farmers will give up their work of plowing and harvesting to become unskilled workers and adopt the customs of outcasts. Many will be dressed in rags, unemployed, sleeping on the ground, living like paupers. Through the fault of public authorities, many children will die. Water will be lacking, and in many regions people will watch the sky, hoping for rain. There will be no rain; the fields will become barren; fruit will no longer have any flavor."
America will continue to disintegrate into ethnic minorities without a center unless it becomes a genuinely multi-cultural society. The central overriding value must be the valuing of differences. This may not have been the intent of the "founding fathers" who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for a white society from western Europe, ignoring at the time both the Native American population and the African slaves in the colonies. But the waves of immigration, first from western Europe, and then from Eastern Europe, and Asia have changed unalterably the character of the country. These historical developments have created a country unimagined in the eighteenth century. Each ethnic wave has been perceived as a threat to the existing structures of power, and indeed their presence has challenged assumptions about the nature of American society. All the time, underneath the immigration of peoples from across the seas, have been the unacknowledged Afro-American culture which dates with the arrival of the first Europeans, and the confrontation with the Native American cultures which were here from the beginning.
Another quotation from the Linga Purana seems peculiarly apt. These are not predictions of the events of 1992, but rather the accumulated experience gathered through the circumstances and compiled records of the outcome of such events. "The earth will produce plenty in some place and too little in others. Rulers will confiscate property and use it badly. They will cease to protect the people... Scholars will be in the service of mediocre, conceited and malevolent men... There will be many displaced persons, wandering from one country to another... The number of men will decrease, while that of women will increase... Men of integrity will cease to play an active role. Ready cooked food will be on sale... There will be many beggars and unemployed people. Everyone will use hard and vulgar language... The degradation of virtues and the censorship of hypocritical and moralizing puritans characterize the period of the end of the Kali Yuga... Water will be lacking and fruit scarce. Thieves will be numerous. Rapes will be frequent. Many people will be treacherous, lustful, base, and foolhardy. They will have disheveled hair. There will be many children born whose life expectancy is no more than sixteen years... People will massacre women, children, cows, and one another."
Reading these comments seriously, we find many which apply immediately to national issues. We also find that many have global implications for the conditions which have developed beyond our national boundaries. This fact does not free us from any responsibility or concern for their outcome.
In writing of what we call the "end of the world" Alain Daniélou describes three kinds of endings: the first, induces destruction (which concerns all living beings on earth) takes place at the end of each Kalpa, the second, natural destruction is that which concerns the whole universe. It takes place when the divine dream which is the world ends. Matter, space, and time then cease to exist. It takes place at the end of time. The third, immediate end, refers to the liberation of the individual for whom the visible world ceases to exist. Immediate destruction therefore concerns the individual, induces destruction all living species on earth, and natural destruction the end of the universe."
Accidental or induced destruction "concerns the human species. It takes place when the creator can no longer find any remedy apart from a total destruction of the world to put an end to the disastrous and unplanned increase in the number of living beings." These quotations from the Puranas carry the tone of the Apocalypse from the Christian Bible. Daniélou comments, "The extent to which certain men will be able to reverse the tendencies of the modern world, and rediscover ways of like and though in keeping with their true nature, will determine for how long the final days can be forestalled, or at least allow some groups of individuals to escape the cataclysm and participate in the formation of the future humanity and the new Golden Age, which should appear after the next flood. Therefore, it is not a pointless exercise for human beings to try to cut themselves off from the modern world and rediscover the values and virtues whose rules and principles have been preserved by esoteric teachings."
June Jordan concludes her remarks about the riots by saying, "And I believe that we must take care not to become like our enemies: I do not accept that we should fall upon a stranger, outnumber him or her, and beat and possibly kill our 'prey.' And I believe we must take care to distinguish between our enemies and our allies, and not confuse them or forget the difference between a maniac and a (potential) comrade... Behold the fire everywhere!"