Ancient and Modern Spiritual Technologies Dancing In Unison
Why the Cardano blockchain is the natural habitat of the ten Great Wisdom Goddesses
I just minted a collection of NFTs on the Cardano blockchain! A Cardano NFT is commonly referred to as a #cNFT. This article offers an excellent overview of the ever evolving world of cNFTs. I will not attempt to delve deeper here into the technical workings of Cardano, which on the eve of the Alonzo hard-fork, is about to morph into an entirely new magical creature anyway!
Unsigs: the Ganesha in the room
Most of what I’ve learned about Cardano I came to understand and appreciate by engaging with the art and the artists who are minting cNFTs. Like so many others, I was almost immediately deeply seduced by the beauty and jaw dropping intelligence of some of the art projects I discovered on Cardano, beginning with #unsigned_algorithms, which I was able to discover soon enough, if not quite as early as I wish I had…
Interestingly, I discovered the art of Alexander Watanabe through derivative “unsig” art, in which other artists incorporate unsig pieces they own into their personal work. Looking back only a handful of weeks, it’s mind boggling — although not entirely surprising, to realize that derivative unsig art was being made before all 31,119 unsigs sold out just last month, in August 2021.
Unsig derivative art
It’s as if @nusigs knew that unsigs would soon become the benchmark and the backdrop for everything that was to come in terms of the nascent art scene on the Cardano blockchain. I remember fondly finding his color saturated backgrounds incredibly beautiful. I’m not sure why it took me a moment to catch on but I’m incredibly grateful for the detour: call me a late bloomer! @CardanoMonad is another artist who vibrates at a similar frequency and who unknowingly also pointed me in all sorts of excellent directions, although not before I became somewhat addicted to his MonAda collection!
The impossible allure of clever, conceptually significant, technologically savvy art
I share the story of how I discovered unsigs because it often appears that people believe there is a secret sauce for curation or for getting in early on the best drops. While I’m hardly averse to hard data and number crunching, my personal experience is that intuition and discernment are the superior tools. Paying attention, including and especially perhaps to less visible participants–and I would definitely count myself in that group–seems to be the equivalent of taking the scenic route: that’s where the beauty and poetry and magic live.
Like unsigned_algorithms, these trailblazing projects have in common their ability to weave their art into the very fabric of the blockchain, thus acquiring a kind of irresistible, edgy crypto chic. Clearly I’m a fan and my wallet is about as long crypto chic as I can possibly afford at this point!
Coming full circle: the wisdom of cyclicality and impermanence
And yet — I also want to inject a soupçon of nuance here. A lot of us have been made to feel that our “jpeg art” was somehow subpar. While smaller players may be using less awesome technology, it seems fair to say that historically, good art has transcended its form (I’m bracing myself for a comeback here to the effect that “the medium is the message”). To illustrate my point I would like to go way back, well before the rightfully beloved Marshal McLuhan, all the way back to the Mahavidyas, the Great Wisdom Goddesses of tantric Shaivism, whose roots can be found over a thousand years ago in the valley of Kashmir.
So many Eastern scriptures and texts are hard to date precisely because their authors believed us to be caught up in endless samsaric cycles of death and rebirth which in turn are embedded in these astronomically large cycles that are impossible to fathom on the scale of human life. In that context it would seem useless to measure creativity by the technology employed by the artist. My inner anarcho-dadaist-hacker thinks Marcel Duchamp would agree!
Finally there is the matter of immutability offered by blockchain technology: yes the promise of longevity is very sexy, it also feels somehow tragic as humanity continues to drive towards the cliff in slow motion. My way of coping with the acceleration of my demise and that of the world has been to deepen my personal practice, to practice more intently and entirely for its own sake. I make yantras and other devotional art in much the same spirit.
Ancient spiritual technology
I created a yantra to honor each of the ten Mahavidyas, the ten Great Wisdom Goddesses worshiped by the classical tantric lineage of Kashmir Shaivism. Yantras are ancient mystical diagrams. They are geometric embodiments containing the energy signature and the qualities of a particular deity.
Yantras are a spiritual technology which has been passed down in the form of long-established blueprints. I closely followed these well trodden maps of consciousness to create this series. The gates in the middle of each of the four sides of the square at once protect and grant access to the yantra. Downward pointing triangles embody the grounding feminine energy of Shakti, while upward pointing triangles embody the transcending masculine energy of Shiva consciousness. Intersections of the two are where Shiva and Shakti unite and dance. Concentric triangles are used to amplify intensity.
Some Goddesses, like Matangi, are almost pure Shakti energy! She still has a central oval shape, called a Shiva lingam, representing the transcending energy of Shiva. Visual attention can travel along the borders and the gates and work its way to the yantra’s center, to meet the heart of the energy of the Goddess.
The dance of form
The choice of colors for these diagrams, on the other hand, is less prescriptive. Traditionally colors were limited to a small palette, typically including red and black. Here, I drew on my devotional practice and my resonance with each deity to intuit the color choices for each yantra. I also applied the principles of color theory and the use of gradients to create the illusion of depth and also heighten the after-image on the retina after gazing.
Gazing intentionally at a yantra is to invite in the power of the Goddess residing in that yantra. It is a way of activating in ourselves the aspect of her power that we already carry within us. These yantras hold the energy of the Goddess, they are alive with the power of the Goddess in their individual graphic form. In this profound sense, these yantras are not mere jpegs pointing to the Goddess, rather they are the Goddess, much like the blockchain itself is the expression of manifestation unfolding through the dance of Shakti.