I unpacked and came back downstairs. I noticed an Indian bronze. It quite entranced me. Uncle Hogg nodded. “Handsome fellow isn’t he?” I quite agreed. The god was dancing elegantly, his face serene, on top of a tiny beastie. The artist caught the moment of the graceful dance as the god pause, one leg arched gracefully, the weight of his beautiful body posed on an arched foot. He had four arms. Two arms and hands gestured beautifully while a third arm and hand welded a hourglass and the fourth arm and hand held a stylized flame. The god wore a skimpy fur kilt and a snake coiled around his neck like a necklace. His stylized hair was artfully coiled as of tumbling down from a topknot pinned by a crescent moon. Most of his body was bare and beautiful, his shoulders broad, his chest strong, his waist small, his hips graceful.
“Who is he? Vishnu?”
“Shiva the Destroyer. Not to be confused with Kali the goddess of the Thugs. Brahma is the Creator of the Universe. The Divine Godhood. The Giver of Life. He is rarely portrayed. He is deemed too abstract. Vishnu is the Benevolent Preserver of Life. His Avatar or Incarnation is Krishna who is a lot like Jesus Christ is to us.” Uncle Hogg drew a vertical line on his forehead. “That guy. His priests wear a vertical line on their brows. “Divine Love. Human Love. But this guy…”
“Krishna is the guy in the Mahabharata I am struggling through.”
“Sound scary” I said. “Yet his face is so serene. How can a dancer be a destroyer?”
“‘Destroyer’ is a tad misleading. The translation I mean” Uncle Hogg said as one hand caressed the magnificent sculpture which rivaled the beauty of any Greek work of art in it’s audacity of technological skill and beauty. “Shiva is this.” Uncle Hogg drew three lines horizontally across his forehead. “That is how you can tell his priests from the priests of Vishnu.”
“Do they fight? Like Catholics and Protestants in Ireland?”
Uncle Hogg laughed. “Oh no. they are too wise. They think we Christians, like the Muslims, are too rude to insist on killing for one mere god when they have a galaxy of gods. In India the whole world is divine!
“A prism splinters a beam of bright white light into a rainbow of colors. Thus through a prism of this prophet or that priest God can be divided into red or blue or yellow. One God becomes a triad of gods. Primary colors of divinity then mixing into more colors to become yet more gods.”
“Exactly John. We worship One God like the bright white light while they prefer to worship the rainbow of gods who together form the One God. So Brahma is the Creator of Life. He breathes Life into the World. But that is his only job. To Give Life. To Breathe Life into the world. There is no point kowtowing to Brahma and pleading for this or that. His only job is to Breathe Life into the World.
Vishnu has a different job to do. He Preserves Life. He protects Life. He is like ….. the Doab Canal! When you try to do something to help people, or save people, or make things better, or build, or improve, then you are reflecting Vishnu. When you say ‘Love one another for Love is of God and he who loves one another loves God’ is not only expressing Jesus Christ but Krishna the Avatar or reincarnation of Vishnu. Divine Love that motivates one to help people is Vishnu as expressed through Krishna. When you make things better! That is Vishnu! When you love one another, or even love your lover, then you are expressing Vishnu mirrored in Krishna.”
“And Shiva the Destroyer?”
“He has a job to do too. Just as needful. When he dances he destroys the world and then recreates the world all over again.”
“A dance destroys?”
Uncle Hogg chuckled. “Delightful isn’t it? He is a beautiful god isn’t he?” I nodded. Uncle Hogg looked at me curiously and smiled.
“But how can a Destroyer be beautiful?” I asked.
“Shiva is the most complex of the gods because he is a paradox. He is both destruction and liberation. He is both the still ascetic and the violent anarchist. He is mystic stillness and uninhibited passion. He is introspection and devastation. He is wrathful and angry yet the tender husband to a devoted wife he utterly adores: Parvati. He is merciful yet destructive, unpredictable yet ever the same, terrifying yet fascinating. His snake symbolizes rebirth as it sheds it’s skin each spring. He is the moon ever waxing and waning. He is Spring’s Birth and the reaper of Autumn’s Harvest. He is Creation through Destruction. Revolution. Evolution. Liberation. Emancipation. He cuts away the ties that bind and kicks down the bailiwicks.”
“Sounds like a naughty child.”
“Rather. Yes. He is the Wild Child. The Rebel. The Poltergeist of Indian Heaven. The wilful outlaw. Other gods build up. He knocks down. Priests create elaborate rituals to contain him and he kicks them all aside. Lawyers erect hedgerows and he cuts through them. Missionaries preach and he sticks out his tongue. Shiva is untamable. He is the angry outsider howling in the wilderness. He is never allowed in Indian Heaven you know. He lives in the wilderness. His wife is genteelly accepted by the other gods but Shiva? He can’t take to civilization or gentility or respectability or law and order for very long. He is always thrown out and prowls, the outsider looking in, the ascetic, the loner, unloved except by his saintly and most understanding wife. While other gods party he spends most of the time alone dwelling inside his own head, lonely, suffering, disapproved by society, and defiant. He comes and finds that his wife has not only reincarnated in his absence but also given birth a beautiful child and he is so overwhelmed he laughs and the child….well….”
Becomes Ganesha the elephant god. But Shiva can’t see anything but beauty in a child anyone else would view with horror.”
“Yes. Which I find wonderful.”
“I can relate to that. What you were describing. Shiva I mean. ” I said. “It seemed to be describing me.”
Uncle Hogg stroked the face of the bronze. “His hair is always wild. He wears the skin of a tiger. He wears a snake instead of rich jewels. Only his wife loves him. Only Parvati in her diverse reincarnations can calm him. Her love grounds him and keeps his wildness in check. When he is thus balanced so beautifully on one arched foot he is expressing Parvati’s level headed balance. But even Parvati knows she can never tame Shiva or keep him domesticated for very long. No matter how much he loves her, and Shiva loves Parvati desperately, sooner or later he is compelled to run away, back into the wilderness and danger, howling, the tempestuous searcher for what? Does even Shiva know?”
“Doesn’t sound like India” I said. “Sounds like us. Byron. Beethoven. Your Melville’s Moby Dick!”
“But that is India! India always figures out how to absorb every opposite into one unified whole! Shiva is needed because otherwise India would institutionalize itself into such a mass of rituals and codes or traditions and bailiwicks that it would literally grind to an halt! Ritualize itself to death! Everyone needs Shiva to come along like Alexander The Great and take his sword and just slash through the gorgon knot of mind-boggling complexity!”
“And say ‘fuck you!’” I laughed.
“Exactly! ‘Fuck you!’ That is Shiva! For one thing when he plays the drum…”
“I thought it was a hourglass?” I said.
“A drum, but a hourglass is apropos actually, and dances, he is expressing most beautifully ‘Constructive Destruction’. His flame is like Fire. It can destroy or sterilize, kill life, or save life.”
“And what do Shiva’s worshipers get out of his constructive destruction?” I asked.
“A way out of a maze that is entrapping them. Shiva shows his worshipers how to free their souls from repressive constraints strangling them, help them break out of molds that confine them, burst out of shells that suffocate them, and escape from prisons of the soul that cage them. Through Shiva a soul can rise up like a phoenix bird to soar up from it’s own smoky bier into the sun reborn. Shiva shows people how to be like a snake and peal away the mucky old skins of mucky old feelings and soar up shining clean and bright and renewed. And through the moon Shiva teaches that life is change. Life is always waxing and waning. When you are on top then the carpet is yanked out from under you. When you have hit rock bottom look up! It is the start of a brand new day and anything is possible!”
“Dissolving the blackness in their souls? Black thoughts? Black feelings?”
Uncle Hogg nodded. “That is Shiva. Everyone needs Shiva at one time or another. Some need Shiva more than others. And Shiva has the Third Eye. See it? On his forehead. The Third Eye can see what no one else can. It is the Third Eye of Second Sight of the Clairvoyant. That is us. We Hoggs are the Scion of Shiva. Shiva chooses us. Remember John. Indian gods pick their worshipers. Shiva knows us. He has picked us. Sooner or later John, you and Shiva will meet face to face. I did once. You will do.”
“As a reincarnated avatar? Or an embodiment?”
“More like a medium. You are sensitive to things others cannot see or hear or taste or smell. You can open portals. You can feel the presence, and project the presence, temporarily manifest the presence of something higher, more divine. Shiva can come, will come, to you and touch you John. And you will be able to feel Shiva fill you up like a shimmering glow inside of you. It is called a Higher Presence, unlike the Lower Presence ordinary people or mediocre mediums feel. You will feel Shiva inside of you, not taking possession. Oh no! No! It will feel inspiring, enlarging, supportive, instructive, but at the same time respectful and sympathetic, inspiring you to soar upwards. That is how you will be able to tell! You will feel like a phoenix. It only happened to me once but John! I will always remember it forever!”
“Have Hogg Number 2 or 3 felt it?”
Uncle Hogg shook his head. “Hogg Number 2 has an elephant trunk instead of a nose if you know what I mean. He worships Ganesha the elephant god of prosperity. He worships the son. I worship the father. But now on to other things we must discuss. And in private. In my study….”