Beauty is a subject I have found myself confronting within my devotional and magickal practice for a few years now. I came to this topic unexpectedly and without many road signs telling me where I was headed.
I came to beauty via pleasure, when I discovered that certain beautiful forms gave me a pleasurable experience like nothing else really had before. Various sexual complications and nearly a decade of committed sacred marriage had all but snuffed out my libido; I have never gotten a great deal of pleasure from that particular aspect of my humanity. I’m aware of my weakness when it comes to drugs and alcohol so I limit my consumption. These things don’t get me high like they do other people (a physical high sure, but not, you know, HIGH). Food, perhaps, sometimes, takes me to that place. Not even fine or exotic food, just food that is good and perfectly prepared with love and attention. Sometimes I go to that place where sound drops away and pain recedes and I am suspended in a perfect novel moment.
Then I discovered that books, beautiful, unique, unusual, peculiar books gave me that same intense and sublime hit of pleasure. That’s dangerous since the law of diminishing returns provides sound insight into the psychology of pleasure gained through consumption. (Basically, you’re always going to be chasing that first perfect high and will never ever regain it again.) Plus, good books – like other fine sources of pleasure – can get expensive. For my psychological and financial well-being, it was important to understand exactly what it was I was after when I sought pleasure through this particular avenue of beauty.
I discovered that my desire for these high hits of pleasure had several names. It was named Desire for Knowledge and Desire for Pain Relief. It was also named Desire for a Higher Harmony. I wanted to experience a higher kind of beauty, one that I didn’t encounter in my daily life. I (like many spirit worker and devotional mystic types) struggle with deep dissatisfaction with the world and a tendency to reject it in its imperfection. I wanted a glimpse of celestial, transcendent beauty.
My Gods have never been highly aesthetic Gods. Loki has tended towards spare altars for the past several years and a gradual move towards symmetry has occurred. Hela was also rather stark; even her pretty things had sharp edges and hard lines. Odin, Kali, Shiva, Skadi – everyone who had shared a long- or short-term devotional relationship with me had tended towards spare, limited tastes.
I developed a craving for beauty in worship when My Lord appeared in feminine form for an extended period of time. I got to know Her fairly well during this period (as much as anyone can claim to know Her, I suppose; She can be fairly secretive). I feel in love with Her aesthetic expression and I responded to Her inspiration towards beauty. I see My Lord in red, hot, bloody goddesses, the same ones that are surrounded by lots of bronze and roses. She changed the way I approach the Gods and the way I worship.
Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari Sodashi Kamakhya also significantly transformed my spiritual life. She is the Goddess Who Plays, the Beauty of the Three Worlds, In Her Fullness, the Form and Fulfillment of Desire. She is the engagement of the soul through beauty. She is the enchantment of the mind through pleasure. She isn’t a Goddess of love; She is a Goddess of fulfillment, which means She is a Goddess of desire.
These two Goddesses have changed the way I think about beauty. Beauty is as seductive and dangerous and addictive as any drug and it can inspire all kinds of bad choices. It can also be a balm and healing power. It can also be the draw of the sacred and a key that perfectly unlocks our emotional nature to the power of the divine. I have changed the way I approach beauty within my spiritual life and it’s all been for the better.