(ᵂ )omen out/of Time: Metis, Medea, Mahakali // Nandita Biswas Mellamphy

In memory of my father who was a great devotee of the Mad Mother.

Medea, the woman, knows that she is going to die unless she calls out to the Other. ‘For whoever wants me dead, I can be barbaric’.
Faced with panic, one must be able to recreate another world without common measure with the one that is found to be lacking, not just return a mediocre blow for blow. ‘Being barbaric’. ‘Being Medea’.

Isabelle Stengers, ‘Souviens-toi que je suis Médée’, 13.

 By subverting, mocking, or rejecting conventional norms and opening onto the realm of the forbidden (the realm of ‘forbidden things’), ‘kaligraphy’—the inscription/incarnation of Kali, goddess of destruction— stretches one’s consciousness beyond the conventional and socially sanctioned, thereby ‘liberat[ing] [it] from the inherited, imposed, and probably inhibiting categories of proper and improper,good and bad, polluted and pure’.

Dan Mellamphy, ‘Kaligraphy’.

We are no longer a part of the drama of alienation; we live in the ecstasy of communication. And this ecstasy is obscene. The obscene is what does away with every mirror, every look, every image. The obscene puts an end to every representation.

Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Ecstasy of Communication’, 150.

‘What if Truth were an Omen?’ I ask (with a nod to Nietzsche1through aglass, darkly). What if Truth were a Namshub,  a Magic Word/Work, the nomen of an omen? Such a truth advances here—in this essay—masked as women. Metis, Medea and Mahakali;first, a Pelasgian Titan, the first wife of Zeus and unacknowledged mother of Athena, who was doomed to be swallowed-up whole and usurped by the head of Olympos; second, a foreign priestess of the chthonic Hecate, who (as first told in Apollonius of Rhodes’s Argonautika and later immortalized by Euripides and Seneca) helps the Greek Jason retrieve the mythic golden fleece, and who eventually murders her entire family and escapes back to Kolkhis; and finally,a fringe Hindu goddess first worshipped by criminals and outcastes, a dark deity clothed in severed heads, who drinks the blood of her victims and resides in the cremation-ground—one who comes to be adopted as an incarnation of great time (mahakala) or death itself in Hindu religion.

All three are women who are omens and mothers who are others: that is, each is an outsider (foreign, marginal, outcast) with regard to the contexts/constructs of civilization (all three autochthonous in origin, as we shall see, and portending the sub-version of propriety), and each brings about the heretical vision of a death and destruction of order and civility, making it impossible to build an alternate politics from and upon them. Rather than serving as a ground—as archetypes, ideal types and/or avatars—of subjectivity or of alternative agency, these three {ʷ}omen are strictly speaking abysmal stigmata or wounds: “the puncturing puncta that cut into the context quacon-job of culture, revealing the kha of khaos—that gushing gap, oozing orifice, or terribly terrific tear in the fabric of phenomena (phenomenal fabrications) which wounds the world ‘as we know it’. Stable forms find themselves fissured, fractured, fragmented, and (via this ‘fragmentation’,‘fracturing’ or ‘fission’) formidably fluid, bleeding beyond their beseeming boundaries.” In the following, I suggest that Metis, Medea andMahakali are all associated with matrices,and all embody the matrix of holes—or{ʷ}hole-matrix—that disjunctively conjoins  a fabric or network of relations. Metis’s cunning intelligence (metis) is said to involve the “interlacing of opposite directions […]  and imprints” producing “an enigma in the true sense of the word”that constitute[s] “living bond[s]”/double-binds which “bind” and “secure” but themselves elude capture.  Medea too is said to be endowed with metis, the cunning technical intelligence that is itself “net-like” and necessitates a knowing how (i.e. “know-how”) to manipulate the matrix of interlaced oppositions. As living magical nets that gain (rather than lose) their power through the paradoxical contiguity of oppositions (and thus through the eluding and exceeding of definition), all three—Metis, Medea and Mahakali— bind and thus mediate, but ultimately remain unbound and unmediated themselves (and thus undomesticated and barbaric from the point-of-view of civility and the civitas), proceeding by way of oblique rather than linear pathways, by deception, illusion and contagion rather than by way of logic, law and legitimacy. Each has been anthropomorphized (that is, made to represent woman, gender, sexual politics of varying sorts), but each is incorrectly deemed human and should instead be considered inhuman and over-human: “If Medea had been avenged,like us simple mortals, she would have paid the price for her act of revenge. She has entered into a contract with humanity and the contract has been broken.”  This is one context in which we can understand Medea’s defiant statement that she can be barbaric (epigram: Stengers); “being Medea” means being untameable, unassimilable, un-anthropomorph[ize]able—that is, being inhuman and/or overhuman. “[F]our-armed,garlanded with skulls and with disheveled hair, she holds a freshly-cut human head and a bloodied scimitar in her left hand while making signs for fearlessness, assurance, and the bestowing of boons with her right hand. Her neck adorned with a garland of severed human heads all dripping blood, a severed head hanging from each of her earlobes, she wears a girdle of severed human hands round her waist […]  and the smile on her lips glistens with blood […] as her three eyes burn red, glaring like two rising suns.” Mahakali, as such, might be the clearest articulation of a pre-human and overhuman assemblage which is arguably becoming emblematic of an emergent planetary- wide ‘network-centric condition’: she is always multiple, heterogeneous, and terrifyingly in-/over-human.

So, although all three are personifications and principles of ancient, bygone cultures (effroyablement anciennes, in fact), I argue that they are particularly relevant because they conjure and evoke an important aspect of the networked future—particularly, the chthonic matrix that is currently manifesting itself, corresponding to what Alexander Galloway calls not a “hermeneutic” or “iridescent” but a “furious” mediation:

After Hermes and Iris, instead of a return to hermeneutics (the critical narrative) or a return to phenomenology (the iridescent arc), there isa third mode that combines and annihilates the other two. For after Hermes andIris there is another divine form of pure mediation, the distributed network,which finds incarnation in the incontinent body of what the Greeks called first the Erinyes and later the Eumenides, and the Romans called the Furies. So instead of a problem or a poem, today we must confront a system. A third divinity must join the group: not a man, not a woman, but a pack of animals.

The networked condition that is currently manifesting itself is becoming more and more furious (“pack animal”-like), that is, prehistoric, nonhuman/inhuman, heterogeneous and multiple, consequently less and less anthropocentric—i.e. humanistically hermeneutic and descriptively dialectical.

It has been commonplace—even politically necessary—for feminist theorization since thefirst wave to ground itself in and reproduce the conditions for what Baudrillard called “the drama of alienation,” that Primal Scene of Sovereign Power  in which a primor-dial heterogeneity is turned into a difference that can be dualized and disciplined, that is,  structured dialectically as the antagonistic and agonistic (i.e. alienating and potentially transformative) relations between two forces, or identities, or parties (e.g. order and chaos, master and slave, self and other, male and female, masculine and feminine, patriarchal and matriarchal, hetero and homo, light and dark, inside and outside, etc., to name just a few of the dualities that have been in play for centuries). Dialectics—the contestation between opponents or opposing elements, adopted largely from the inheritance of the ancient Greeks— has been the governing metaphor and model for human action and communication in all spheres from war, policy, and ethics, to poetics, aesthetics, and informatics. Mythically, this governing metaphor is not just as a description for relations of exchange in which one element encounters/relates to another, but more precisely it is an intellectual mechanism for conceptualizing knowledge as the product of a fundamental asymmetric relation of domination and subjugation in which one element, identified as primary, subjugates and incorporates, as well as metabolizes and eliminates, another element which it encounters as a‘strange externality’. In the Theogony, just as order subjugates chaos and patriarchy usurps matriarchy, so the victory of the Olympians over the Titans (the old chthonic pantheon) is enacted in a Primal Scene of subjugation and incorporation that thereafter gets repeated: Zeus swallows his first wife, the Oceanid Metis, thereby initiating the entire dramatis personae of the Olympian pantheon. Metis’s incorporation and domestication by Zeus is the mythic source for the subsequent usurpation of the chthonic gods by the new Olympian order; Athena, Hermes, Apollo are all said have inherited metis through Zeus’s incorporation of Metis’s powers; and the chthonic Erinyes are also thereafter subjugated and co-opted by the goddess Athena—in the name of her father Zeus Pater—and renamed the ‘Eumenides’ or ‘kindly ones’. This is the drama of alienation that is literally meant to put that which is off-stage (ob-scena) onto center-stage, and in so doing justify the gesture of political domestication that founds the Sovereign’s power over an Other that is initially encountered as unfamiliar, unknown and external, but becomes familiar, known, and internalized.

The obscenity of Metis is transformed through her subjugation and assimilation by Zeus: the strange externality that was Metis, now incorporated by Zeus, becomes the catalyst for the birth ofAthena, and as such, the precondition for the emergence of the quintessentialGreek invention, the polis. For so long, this basic dialectical model set the scene for the incorporation and domestication of the obscene, that uncanny other the integration of which founds the scenes and circuits of human communication and exchange. The structure of dialectics, like that of the theatrical scene (as well as of the mirror), sets up a dynamic—the very drama of alienation according to Baudrillard—in which the necessary division and distance between two different but related elements (i.e. subject/object) is posited, reversed, and overcome. The city thus encounters a menacing and ungraspable exteriority, one that makes light of and does not submit to the Laws except on its own terms (cf. Stengers, 16-7).

Has civilization been able to digest the obscenity of Metis, Medea and Mahakali? This drama of alienation and the politics of dialectical subjugation, incorporation and transformation no longer adequately reflect the [hyper]realities of our current network- centric condition, which as Baudrillard had suggested,depends no longer on a communicative and agonistic model of dialectics, difference and reconciliation, but rather on a protean, interfacial, and reticulated model of contiguity which entails the reversibility between identical things:

The description of this whole intimate universe—projective, imaginary and symbolic—still corresponded to the object’s status as mirror of the subject, and that in turn to the imaginary depths of the mirror and ‘scene’: there is a domestic scene, a scene of interiority,a private space-time (correlative, moreover, to a public space).  […]  But today the scene and mirror no longer exist; instead, there is a screen and network. In place of the reflexive transcendence of mirror and scene, there is a nonreflecting surface, an immanent surface where operations unfold- the smooth operational surface of communication. […]  No more fantasies of power, speed and appropriation linked to the object itself, but instead a tactic of potentialities linked to usage: mastery, control and command, an optimalization of the play of possibilities offered by the car as vector and vehicle, and no longer as object of psychological sanctuary. […][I]t’s all over with speed […]. Now, however, it is an ecological ideal that installs itself at every level. No more expenditure, consumption, performance, but instead regulation,well-tempered functionality, solidarity among all the elements of the same system, control and global management of an ensemble.

How is it possible to imagine otherness and alterity outside the schema of dialectical difference and resistance, and within the context of the feedback circuit that is structured like a Möbius strip—no longer a scene of events but an obscene and heterogeneous medium/mediation in which, instead of agonisms and antagonisms, there are only environmental modulations, tendencies, and thresholds?

Metis,Medea and Mahakali are best considered in light of obscenity, the [furious] {ʷ}hole-matrix that both mediates and subverts logic, law and civilized channels, including those of the masculine and the patriarchal, but also—of the feminine and the maternal. As figures that presage not just doom but total destruction, these omens are not mediatable by logos or Olympian logic (the principle of Order); all three are portents of dark and occluded, autochthonous and underground forces; and all three make use of many temporalities, weaving ways in-and-out of various timeframes (kairos, kronos, aion), eventually subverting and destroying any stable framework, framed world, or categorical identity through the cunning and magical manipulation of the very logic and grammar of that order, using and abusing identity by way of so{ᵘ}rcery (autochthonous and elemental but occulted powers), {ˢ}witchcraft  (the occult arts/sciences). These {ʷ}omen who are {ᵐ}others, inhuman and invincible, derive their omnipotence from subverting and flaunting the strictures of consistency and constancy, paternity and maternity, marriage and motherhood, literally spilling blood in order to bleed these institutions dry. Their occult powers are directly linked to metamorphosis and illusion, and accessed through magical linguistic manipulations. In this sense, each is not only associated with the magical forces of speech, manipulation of logos/logic, riddles and enigmas, but also with the power of mutation: each is herself the manifestation and concretization of (and catalyst for) the enigma,the riddle, the puzzle and piège.  Like the magical forces of language that they summon to help their allies and subdue their enemies, Metis, Medea and Mahakali are traps (called “strephomena, as are the puzzles set by the gods of metis”) and nets (“which the Greeks call griphoi […], the name given to some types of fishing-nets”). As omens that are also enigmas, Metis, Medea and Mahakali act like namshubs: spells (destructive codes/code-words/code-works)that contaminate and destroy logos itself—not archetypes of communication per se but monstrous aberrations that are harbingers of total logical and semantic breakdown. All three enact what they describe: they are catalysts for and mechanisms of total informational apocalypse (what Scott Bakker calls “the semantic apocalypse” and Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash the“infocalypse”) wherein language ceases to be hermeneutically“communicative” and instead becomes “oracular” (where “language changes into an oracle” in the words of Michel Leiris as quoted in Mellamphy 2015; or again, what Galloway would call “iridescent” or “immanent” [ex]communication), and then finally infuriated, contagious, viral.  The challenge, then, is to conceptualize Metis, Medea and Mahakali from the perspective of networks—or more precisely, {ʷ}hole-matrices—rather than from that of dialectics (with its agonistic political model corresponding to what Galloway describes within the context of the Hermeneutic and Iridescent models of communication and mediation). In their most ominous sense(literally as ‘omen’ rather than as ‘type[s]’), let us think of Metis, Medea and Mahakali as deployments within a magical (i.e. contagious and technical) environment and architects of contingency or ‘tensegrity’ to use a term coined by Buckminister Fuller (i.e. networked hole matrices) who/which themselves function as mechanisms that introduce incalculability and novelty into a system. The obscenity (that is Metis, Medea and Mahakali) always risks exposing the susceptibility of human relations to the fury of Contingency which engenders the very thing that the social order struggles to contain and exclude. The obscenity functions, as such, like a catalyst for “phase transition, like that between liquid and crystal, a change of identity.”

To illustrate my point, take Metis for example.From a hermeneutical and dialectical viewpoint (which, to bring back Baudrillard, revolves around the drama of alienation and transformation) the story of Metis is a narrative about patriarchy, gender inequality, feminine power and experientiality. Metis, the epitome of cunning wisdom (metis), described in the Theogonyas “she who knows most of all the gods and humans,”is represented as the subjugated female/subjugated femininity/subjugated foreignness and interpreted as being a strange externality that must be incorporated in order to constitute Zeus’s sovereignty. Only by absorbing her magic “down into his belly” does Zeus succeed in containing her: the masculine absorbs and domesticates the feminine. Zeus deploys metis (ruse or cunning intelligence) to consume Metis: he tricks her into turning herself into a fly and then swallows her, but she is already with child. This child, Athena, who later comes out of Zeus’s head, will attest that she was begotten by no mother but only a father.  Undigested, Metis is poison (ominous, unstable and wreaking havoc); but once digested, Zeus tries to not only civilize and politicize her magical force, but once domesticated, also gives it royal status as permanent and universal. And so, cosmic order and sovereign power take root only by incorporating/domesticating/transforming Metis/metis, she/that who/which would destroy all order and all politics: the new Olympian order begins with the progeny of Zeus and Themis. Themis, not Metis, is the fertile ground from which springs the stable,  continuous and regulated world of the Olympian gods. The hermeneutic and dialectical are thus revealed to also be hierarchical:

[Themis’s] role is to indicate what is forbidden, what frontiers must not be crossed and the hierarchy that must be respected foreach individual to be kept forever within the limits of his own domain and status. Metis, on the other hand, intervenes at moments when the divine world seems to be still in movement or when the balance of the powers which operate within it appears to be momentarily upset. […] The cunning of Metis constitutes a threat to any established order; her intelligence operates in the realm of what is shifting and unexpected in order the better to reverse situations and overturn hierarchies which appear unassailable.

Thus dialectics cannot fully digest Metis because she cannot be fully domesticated by hierarchies (even reversed and transformed ones). Instead of being hierarchical, metic intelligence is distributed and duplicitous (the French word duplice connotes both duplicity and duplication qua multiplicity): in this case, Metis is both poison—the threat to any established order as the quote above suggests—as well as possible cure (pharmakon)that leads to the establishment ofOlympian hierarchical order. While Metis, the pharmakon, can be incorporated by Zeus, she cannot be allowed to contaminate order, and so must be excluded and held at bay.

Indeed, as Sarah Kofman suggested in her study of cunning intelligence, the entire foundation of Western thought from Plato onward has been firmly anchored to this Olympian sovereign principle which is constituted by the exclusion of cunning intelligence (metis), “that which proceeds by way of twists and turns”.  Kofman also highlights the connection that Plato made in The Symposium—following the Orphic tradition—between Metis and Eros, whose coupling produced a son, Poros. Poros (the root of the English ‘porous’)can be translated as passage or pathway, but it can also be translated as expedient, or a way out (the correlative term aporia being translated as ‘obstacle’). Metis, as cunning intelligence, is thus linked to multiplicity,incalculability and the subversion of any limit or hierarchy:

 The family tie between Poros and Metis is an undissolvable link between the path,the pathway, the forging forward, resourcefulness, guile, expediency, techne, light and limit (peiras). […]  To say that poros is a pathway across a liquid expanse is to underline that it is never drawn in advance, always erasable, always to be redrawn in a novel way. We are talking about poros when it is about opening up a way where there does not exist or cannot exist anyway, properly speaking; when it is about crossing over an uncrossable, unknown,hostile, [and]  unlimited world, apeiron, that is impossible to cross from one end to the other; the marine abyss, pontos, it is aporia itself, aporon because it is apeiron:the sea is the unending reign of pure movement, the most mobile space, the most changing, the most polymorphous, where all heretofore paths that have been drawn erase themselves, transforming all navigation into an ever novel, dangerous and uncertain exploration.

Detienne and Vernant also link metis with the ruses of the sea, especially to the cunning tactics of the octopus and fish.  Metis is fluid, mobile, ever-masked, and polymorphous; metis can bind elements but also can escape a bond by transforming itself. Metis’s subversive power or sorcery lies in its capacity to bind and beguile—that is, to manipulate and transform appearances in order to confront a reality the “polymorphic powers [of which]render it almost impossible to seize.”

Medea is like Metis, multiplicitous and duplicitous, both poison and cure. Medea—sorceress, killer and healer—is also associated with this form of magic and metic knowledge. Medea is an outsider, a foreigner from Asia Minor, and although Greek women were also associated with magic, the most powerful of the mages were said to be non- Greeks  living on the fringe of society. Although Hesiod portrays Medea as possessor of metis, it is Ovid who describes Medea as “the barbara venefica, ‘barbarian witch’, insinuating that Medea practices love-magic and has cast a spell on Jason.” Medea is said to cast the “glamour,” a spell which deceives the eyes, connoting magical beguilment. Glamour, like metis, is an “absolute weapon” that is the sorceress’s device for counterfeiting nature (which from the sixteenth century onwards comes to be associated with cosmetics, face-painting, and techniques of subverting appearances): “appearance is now fashioned along the lines of a power that is truly and correctly, if indefinably called ‘magical’.” 

Medea, daughter of the Kolchian king Aaetes (who was himself begot of Sun and Ocean) and niece of Circe, is priestess of the cult of the Golden Fleece, a magical object upon which the political power of the entire kingdom rests, when she meets Jason, a Greek who, with help of Medea’s sorcerous powers, takes the golden fleece in order to advance his own claim to the throne of his birthplace, Iolcus. Although historical accounts of Medea vary widely from earliest mentions in the mythic Argonautika to the later Baroque period, she is depicted as practicing both guile and beguilement, metis and magic,involving murder and rejuvenation. At each step Medea’s cunning magic helps Jason and her get out of untenable situations. Medea is outsider, deceiver, murderer, jealous and jilted wife, and killer of her own children; but Medea also possesses Metis’s technepantoie or “art of many facets,” and due to her metic and pharmacological powers, by the sixteenth century, her technical powers come to be associated with the health and medical arts, as well as with alchemy. Guile and beguilement, metis and magic—these are the technical sources for Medea’s {ˢ}witchcraft and of her ‘so{ᵘ}rcery’:  the word ‘techne’, associated with Hephaesthus’s bonds, is given the sense of trick or trap and often can be found alongside the word apate, or ‘deception’; the consequence of techne being ruse—“something that is not what it appears to be.” Medea and Metis both use technical tools such as incantations and potions, as well as shifting words and logic (poikiloi logoi), but in so doing, they also make themselves instruments of metis—that is, catalysts and mechanisms for contingency, ambiguity and the heterogeneous operations that bring about incalculable modulations within any feedback system of rules and results. Using so{ᵘ}rcery and {ˢ}witchcraft, they make themselves into heretical forces that subvert hierarchies, be they spatial or temporal. Weaving appearances with shimmering words, they are both masters and servants of time: on the one hand, their magical metis depends on mastering temporal ‘know-how’, which is also a‘knowing when’—that is, the technical mastery to switch between and weave in and out of different schemas of time (including kronoi or sequential progressive temporalities; kairoi, or propitious moments; and aionas, in the sense of whole lifetimes, entire generations, or existent eternities) in order to ‘light a path’ or ‘forge a way’ out of an untenable situation—and on the other hand, they make themselves servants of and conduits for temporal weaving and switching, the mixing59  of different times and temporalities for the purposes of guile and beguilement.

Perhaps the most obscene of all three {ʷ}hole-matrices is Mahakali—‘Great Kali’, mistress of death and destruction—herself the mask of‘Great Time’ (‘Maha-Kala’) and one of the most maligned of all the figures of the Hindu pantheon, the latter in no small part due to her extreme appearance and behaviour which goes beyond the normal limits of propriety and civility. Like her consort Shiva, she is the omen of horrifying terror (ghora). Feral and uncontrollable, she is untameable, even demonic: “she is dark as a great cloud […]. Her tongue is poised as if to lick. She has fearful teeth, sunken eyes, and is smiling. She wears a necklace of snakes, the half-moon rests on her forehead, she has matted hair, and in engaged in licking a corpse. […]  She has two hands and has corpses for ear ornaments.” Mahakali, while bloodthirsty and destructive, is also considered in this role (and not in her more beneficent and gentler incarnations) as the [chaotic]  guardian of the cosmos, her destructive and uncontrollable powers being the very necessary precondition for renewal and regeneration. She is heterogeneous and multiple: she transforms, splits, or multiplies herself and “tears into her enemies with awful glee […]. She is the distillation of the furious, raw, savage power and lust of the frenzied warrior, and as such she is truly a terrible being, feared by her enemies, to be sure, but a threat to the overall stability of the world itself.” Although she eventually transcends her origins and comes to be adopted as an extreme manifestation of the ‘great goddess’ in the Hindu pantheon, Mahakali, like Metis and Medea, is most often depicted as having indigenous, or non-Aryan origins associated with tribes relegated to the margins of Indian society, a tribal goddess worshipped by hunters and thieves said to live in cremation grounds (scorning all categories of civilization), and having early associations to the demoness Nirrti, personification of death, destruction and sorrow in theVedic literature. Later, Kali enters the Hindu pantheon as the terrifying incarnation of the great goddess-warrior, Durga, literally coming out of Durga’s head as she steps onto the battlefield. The brutality and blood-thirstiness of Kali is surpassed only by her jocular contempt for life, which makes her a truly invincible force. Like the metic namshub that bedazzles but also lights the way out, Kali “blazes like a million rising suns” even in the deepest darkness (Kinsley: 1997, 23). The namshub of the great Kali (Maha-Kali) breaks all convention (in Greek, nomos) and all limitation (peiras), burning them away in the cremation fires, “the cremation- ground [being] the place where the five elements—the pancha mahabhuta—are dissolved”. Mahakali both dwells in the obscene place of phenomenal dissolution and is herself a force of this primordial chaos. As this primordial cosmic force of dissolution, the omen of great time (Maha-Kala) and harbinger of the end of time (Kali-Yuga, the age of destruction corresponding to the Greek age of iron), Mahakali is also known asMistress of Time, and called the ‘Mad Mother’65  to her disciples, a mother who is freed from all worldly attachment (especially toher children). The weaving that is order (the Greek kosmos) “comes to an end in Kali’s wild, unbound, flowing hair.” She is the force “who wears all things down”; “she consumes all things. Her appetite is unquenchable, and she is utterly undiscriminating.

All things and all beings must yield to relentless, pitiless grinding down by the Mistress of Time.”  Like the great alchemical Fire that both destroys and transforms, as well as illuminates the path of the adept, the namshub of Mahakali involves a great pyrotechne: “setting fire to—and/or upon—existents, Kali reveals the existence beyond it, in all its paradoxical confliction, conflagration, contradiction, embracing both its aporia and its porosity: its absolute and absolutely aggressive ambiguity.” 

There is no escape from the web of Great Time (Maha-Kala),a Time which comes before and goes beyond the human, the geological, and even the astrological; a Time which both dissolves and holds together all conceptions of time. No alternate politics, agencies, identities can be forged from this source because it is, rather, the progenitor of all things:

At the dissolution of things, it is Kala [Time]  Who will devour all, and by reason of this He is called Mahakala [an epithet of Siva], and since You devourest Mahakala Himself, it isYou who are the Supreme Primordial Kalika. Because You devour Kala, You are Kali, the original form of all things, and because You are the Origin of and devour all things You are called the Adya [primordial]  Kali.Resuming after Dissolution Your own form, dark and formless, You alone remain as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet are You formless; though Yourself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya [illusion], You are the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that You are.

Metis, Medea and Mahakali are the architects of this paradoxicality and themselves aporetic architectures that ultimately do not respect or uphold any of the arguments that historically make up feminist critique. And though each has been used in countless ways to revalue just that—an alternative feminism, an alternate politics—I have argued that all are {ʷ}hole-matrices and obscenities that cannot be completely incorporated within a hermeneutic and dialectical schema (without somehow missing the ‘point’—the punctum and the hole-matrix—that each veritably is).Each is an exception to the norm and rule of the polis, but each is also the master and the servant of contingent, continguous, paradoxical networks; as such, each is especially suited for thinking about and through the paradoxes of the Age of Destruction (the Fourth Age qua Kali-Yuga), which will intensify and contiguously culminate in our present-and-forthcoming era of digital matrices.

Nandita Biswas Mellamphy is associate professor of political theory at Western University, co-founder and co-director of the EGG Electro-Governance Group (egg.uwo.ca), advisory-board member at the Center for Transformative Media (Parsons: The New School for Design), research fellow of the Centre for War & Technology (University of Bath, Claverton Down), and author of The Three Stigmata of Friedrich Nietzsche: Political Physiology in the Age of Nihilism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2010). 

(ᵂ)omen out/‘of Time’:  MètisMedeaMahakāli” was originally published in Speculations of the Other Women: New Realisms in Feminist Philosophy—retitled-at-the-last-minute/in-the-last-instance as After the ‘Speculative Turn’: Realism, Philosophy and Feminism—eds. Katerina Kolozova & Eileen Joy (New York: Punctum Books, 2016) pp.133-158 


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