Tantra is in the widest sense a universal system. It has been and still is a way of life for various diverse groups of people throughout the world. Though there may be local differences, the basic premise is fundamentally the same: that for the sake of understanding, worship and spiritual practices, existence is divided into two aspects – the unmanifested and the manifested. In fact, the real nature of the world and existence is way beyond even this concept, but this must be realized in higher states of awareness. For practical purposes it is convenient to make this division. In Indian tantra, the subject of this topic, these two aspects are called Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (power or energy of manifestation). For the sake of convenience and symbology, Shakti is regarded as the cosmic mother. In modern language, she is referred to as mother nature, though few people who use this term realize its origin and significance.
This concept is not confined to India. In Taoism of China there is Tao and Teh. The Tao corresponds to Shiva (though there are some slight reservations about this) and Teh is exactly the same as Shakti or the mother of the universe. The ancient Egyptians worshipped Osiris (consciousness or Shiva) and Isis (the mother, Shakti, or the cosmic power of manifestation). In Christianity there is the Virgin Mary -a symbol of the universal mother. The father, needless to say, is consciousness. The first two cards of the Tarot pack are the Magus and veiled Isis, representing consciousness and the power of manifestation respectively. And so we could go on giving so many other examples, but this is not the place. What we want to indicate is that the concept of the cosmic mother and the accompanying symbol or personification of consciousness does not depend on time, place and race. The concept is universal, it is ingrained deeply in the collective psyche of humanity.
Tantra is a system that carries on the tradition that has been practised throughout the world since time immemorial. It is not really something that has been invented; it is an expression of the deeper realizations of man. The system of tantra (universal tantra, not necessarily the form prevalent in India) has been practised for good reasons – the most obvious being that this concept or understanding of existence has been found to be true up as far as reasonably elevated levels of awareness. This division of Shiva and Shakti is verifiable by personal experience from moderate states of awareness to elevated levels of awareness. This concept has been found to be valid by mystics in states of meditation. It is the expression of mystical experiences of countless sages, yogis, saints, etc. throughout the ages. It has been formulated because of realizations in states of meditation. It is only at indescribable levels of awareness that the concept breaks down … and this is still covered by tantra, for Shiva and Shakti merely become one and the same. So bear this in mind – the concept of Shiva and Shakti and all the other similar personifications throughout the history of mankind are based on mystical experiences.