"Archetypally, (the) eyes of death are implacable and profound, seeing an immediate is-ness that finds pretense, ideals, even individuality and relatedness, irrelevant. They also hold and enable the mystery of a radically different, precultural mode of perception. They perceive with an objectivity like that of nature itself and our dreams, boring into the soul to find the naked truth, to see reality beneath all its myriad forms and the illusions and defenses it displays.
"Western science once aspired to such vision. But we humans do not have such objective eyes. We can see only limited and relative, indeterminate truths. We and our subjectivity are part of the reality we seek to see. The eyes (of the chthonic goddesses) see from and embody the starkness of the abyss that takes all back, reduces the dancing, playing maya of the (above-ground) goddess to inert matter and stops life on earth.
"These eyes obviate the patterns and ideals of habitual and collective rational consciousness - the way we see in linguistic confines, trapped within conceptual spaces* that form the world of differentiated appearances. They pierce through and get down to the substance of preverbal reality itself. They see, also, through collective standards that are false to life as it is. Thus they destroy identification with animus ideals. They make possible a perception of reality without the distortions and preconceptions of superego. This means seeing, not what might be good or bad, but what exists before judgement, which is always messy and full of affect and of the preverbal precepts of the near senses (touch, smell, taste). This implies not caring first and foremost about relatedness to an outer other, nor to a collective gestalt or imperative. Seeing this way - which is initially so frightening because it cannot be validated by the collective - can provide what Logos consciousness fears as mere chaos, with the possibilities of a totally fresh perception, a new pattern, a creative perspective, a never ending exploration.
"Such seeing is radical and dangerously innovative, but not necessarily evil unless unbalanced and therefore static and partial. It feels monstrous and ugly and even petrifying to the non-initiate. For it shears us of our defenses and entails a sacrifice of easy collective understandings and of the hopes and expectations of looking good and safely belonging. It is crude, chaotic, surprising, giving a view of the ground below ethics and aesthetics and the opposites themselves. It is the instinctual eye - an eye of the spirit in nature. This is the vision that Ereshkigal and Kali and the Gorgon bring to the initiate. It is the meaning of the vision of the terrible guardian head at Siva's temples. It is awful, and yet bestows a refined perception of reality to those who can bear it. This is the wisdom of the dark feminine that Psyche could not yet sustain - the knowledge she was to bring to Aphrodite, the Greek Inanna, to make her beautiful and eternal. Psyche saw it briefly and fell unconscious, for that age was not ready for such knowledge. Now we need to know this vision, for we are already working with its subtle energies in astro- and atomic physics.
"Psychologically, this mode of seeing, this knowledge, implies that destruction and transformation into something even radically new are part of the cycle of reality. Such knowledge is hard to endure. We try to pretty it up, cover, avoid. But knowing this basic reality permits a woman to give up trying to be agreeable to parental and animus imperatives and ideals. It is like hitting rock bottom, from where they are irrelevant. It relativizes all principles, and opens a woman to the paradoxes involved in living with the Self.
"This cool, objective eye is one basis of feminine evaluation. It does not get deceived by responsible performance or willed achievement, but finds the ineluctable facts in process, the panoply of emotional vectors that give each moment life, and that pass as others crowd into the present, leaving the individual at the mercy of time and processes over which one has little control, but in which one may find a grounding if one can reverence change itself and find one's own way to move with it. Such vision is transpersonal and a power that can protect - so Athena, 'gorgopis' (bright-eyed) and owl-eyed, wore the Gorgon's eyes on her shield."
Descent to the Goddess by Sylvia Brinton Perera]
*see Antonio T. de Nicolas,
Meditations through the Rig-Veda: Four Dimensional Man, p. 24