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Encountering KālīIn the Margins, at the Center, in the West$
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Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520232396

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520232396.001.0001

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Why the Tāntrika is a Hero

Why the Tāntrika is a Hero

Kālī in the Psychoanalytic Tradition

(p.196) Chapter 9 Why the Tāntrika is a Hero
Encountering Kālī

Rachel Fell McDermott

Jeffrey J. Kripal

University of California Press

Although Sigmund Freud never actually wrote about Kālī, he definitely knew more than a little about her through the work of C. D. Daly and what he playfully called the “twin-headed three-volume work” of Romain Rolland. This chapter takes up Western theory as both an arena for Kālī's descent into Western culture and a battleground for her proper representation and interpretation. Psychoanalysis is the Western hermeneutical tradition that has given the longest and most studied attention to Kālī. Interpreting the Goddess as a striking mythological embodiment of psychological patterns originating in India's child-rearing practices and Brāhmanical social values, this chapter argues that psychoanalysis can throw considerable light on such questions as why the male Tāntrika is called a “hero,” why Tantric ritual and language tend to “split” woman into a pure Mother and a sexually dangerous but attractive Lover, and why the Tantric traditions insist on their (in)famous synthesis of spiritual and sexual energies.

Keywords:   Tāntrika, hero, Kālī, psychoanalysis, C. D. Daly, Sigmund Freud, Romain Rolland, Western culture, child-rearing practices, social values

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