The Devi and Planes of Consciousness

Subhash Kak
6 min readNov 20, 2022

The chimpanzee and the human have similar sensory capacities, but why can some humans do science or poetry and chimps apparently can’t?

If truth be told, the memory of chimps is far superior to that of humans as revealed in the famous study on a chimpanzee named Ayumu at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University the details of which may be read here. [1][2] But the superiority of the chimp speed is not the issue as far as the capacity of the sense of sight is concerned, so let us put them as being effectively equivalent.

Our senses provide data to the brain; the understanding is not done by it, but by the mind.

The mind is not in the brain.

The mind operates at a plane that is not physical.

The chimp’s mind-plane is not identical to the human’s, even with the brain’s processing of imaging information superior (or let’s say comparable) to the human’s.

One may infer from this that there are multiple mind-planes. In Sanskrit they are called lokas (cognate with “look”, that is “to see”), or worlds as perceived by us.

The mind-planes by themselves, if they were part of the brain’s circuitry, could not have the capacity to cognize. The only logical inference is that these planes exist in the realm of consciousness.

Consciousness is the light (Skt. div) that is scattered in our mind into a spectrum of hues, where each represents a different aspect of experience.

Reality may be seen through a tripartite schema: sat (universe and its laws), cit (consciousness), and ānanda (our ability to transform and intuit this reality). [3]

The divinities at the basis of such experience are called Vishnu, Shiva, and Shakti in the Indian tradition.

The power that makes this understanding accessible to the human mind is the Devi (Shakti). Since light may be visualized variously by the mind, the one Devi takes many forms.

The journey of mastery of transformation is the path of action that cultivates intuition. It starts with desire, followed by knowledge and action. Desire is embodied in icchā-śakti, Sarasvatī; knowledge in jñāna-śakti, Lakṣmī; and action in kriyā–śakti or Durgā.

The confusion about the multiplicity of Devis comes from the view that “reality is just bodies”. This restricting and false view produces mindblindness, which is the inability to attribute mental states to others, or have empathy.

Historically, such mindblindness has been common in some cultures and in societies that objectify people, and especially women. Violence and rapine are a consequence.

Colonialism was driven by racism, in which the objectification was of the colonized people.

New woke ideas in the West are pushing for the objectification of everyone and of oneself. Surely, no good will come out of that.

Planes of Consciousness

Of the multiple planes of consciousness, humans share many with animals. Indeed, our normal existence converges with that of animals. [4]

The three principal higher planes are:

The plane of empathic self. It is through this that one is able to acquire knowledge. It is also the domain of desire.

The plane of auspiciousness and knowledge. It is through this that one is able to reach success.

The plane of action and power. This gives one the courage to take on challenges.

The Devis associated with these planes are Sarasvatī, Lakshmī, and Durgā.

Let us look around the world in different cultures to see the names for the Devi, although the mapping may not be one-to-one:

Greece: Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis

Rome: Minerva, Venus, Diana

Arabia: al-Lat, al-‘Uzzá, and Manāt

Japan: Benzaiten, Kishijoten, Koti-sri

If God is the Source of the inner light, one cannot reach it, for our minds are not made of the light. The illumination is the meeting of sat and cit, and the intuition arising is the power of the Devi.

Spiritual, scientific, or creative advancement occur by the grace of the Devi when it represents the power of speech and learning (Sarasvatī). The rejection of the Goddess plunged Europe into the Dark Ages out of which it emerged only in the Renaissance when it was acknowledged that Nature (as Devi) is what guides knowledge.


Creative people often acknowledge that their ideas came spontaneously or in a dream, or suddenly in some other odd manner.

Sometimes, the creative effort comes from the altering of the way one sees things. That is the counterintuitive working of the Devi, for it is like pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps.

The Goddess with the lion

The Goddess is shown as beautiful and powerful, often with a lion. [5] In some images the lion is substituted by a tiger.

In the Ṛgveda 10.125 (Devīsūkta), the Goddess proclaims that she is the sovereign queen of all existence, and the ultimate object of all worship.


The image of the Devi with the lion represents both the free-wheeling nature, which evolves according to law (ṛta), as well as the control of it by higher agency. The Devi by virtue of the power of the spirit, quite like the dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi of Vedanta is able to command the beast and make it do what she wants.

Consciousness guides the individual and the collective.

Of beauty and love

The Devi rules the mind: our cognitions are a consequence of how the light falling on it is perceived.

Love is the emotion that gives meaning to life. Underneath this emotion is the attraction to beauty.

In science there is the slogan “Truth is beauty”. It is to the search of this beauty that the scientists dedicates one’s life.

This attraction resides within the plane of our experience, but its source lies outside.

The two cannot be brought together: the attainment of the object of love ultimately turns out to be unsatisfactory.

It is beauty in itself, and not the association with the object of desire that holds the power. The beauty is not gendered, as the simplistic body-centric explanation would let one think; it resides in another plane.

Let us say the object of love is the Moon, and it is alone. The heart of the one who is in love is the heaving pond.

Autumn Moon शरद चान्द

alone; अकेला;

the heaving pond काम्पता सरस

The Moon doesn’t know that it is beautiful. Beauty is solitary.

Love is a river. One speaks of crossing over, but the secret wish is for an endless drift on the waters.

These intuitions are at the basis of the ritual of the Vedic wedding (RV 10.85).

The bride is in gold and the groom in white. The bride is Sūryā (daughter of Sun, gold) and the groom is Soma (Moon, silver, white).

Light comes from the Sun. The bride herself may not know it, but her beauty becomes the teacher to the groom.

Here’s Purandara Dasa’s timeless classic asking Lakshmi to come home:

The Cosmic Order replicates itself at several levels. The Śrī Sūkta compares the Goddess to the Moon illumined by the Sun. The Sun is far away, but it also shines within the our minds. The mystery of Reality can be fathomed by understanding oneself, and that can only be done by letting the Devi guide you.

The paradox of knowledge is that you gain it by just knowing who you are and where you stand.


1. Ayumu the chimpanzee

2. Matsuzawa, T. The Ai project: historical and ecological contexts. Animal Cognition 6, 199–211 (2003).

3. A brief guide to Hinduism for the perplexed.

4. The power of the story.

5. Nanā Devi Ambā and the Zodiac.