The “Dark Nature” of Shiva is not one of the gunas, but the original abyss

A good example of the fact that when talking about tamas and relating it to Shiva, it is meant not simply one guna of the Prakriti, but something more, we can see in the earliest sources. Here is how it is said about the nature of darkness in “Nasadiya-suktam” (Rig Veda, Mandala 10. 129. 03):

तम आसीत्तमसा गूढमग्रेऽप्रकेतं सलिलं सर्वमा इदं ।
तुच्छ्येनाभ्वपिहितं यदासीत्तपसस्तन्महिना जायतैकं ॥३॥

tama āsīttamasā gūḍhamagre’praketaṃ salilaṃ sarvamā idaṃ ।
tucchyenābhvapihitaṃ yadāsīttapasastanmahinā jāyataikaṃ ॥3॥

At the very beginning of the creation of all existence was darkness, hidden by the very darkness, all these were waters. From a single tapas (the heat) in the void, the One was originated.

The darkness there is not just one of the qualities (as some of the Krishna’s followers interpret, for example) of the primary cause of the Prakriti creation, but indeed, this is the Great Abyss from which everything manifested itself and into which everything is absorbed back. Exactly in this context Shiva is also meant, when one speaks of His inherent darkness.

Sound as light and fluids in the Rig Veda

We often find practices related to light and sound in Yoga. You can see a lot of such elements as sexual secretion, red and white in Kaula Tantrism, as well as in the Yoga of Nathas and Siddhas. These elements can be described both as liquid substances and as forms of light (fire). Abhinavagupta described the sounds of anahata and the manifestation of the entire Matrika, as a manifestation of Shiva and Shakti passions, linking this with the theory of Shabda Brahman. However, the connection of sound with light and liquid can be traced in the Vedas, I offer quotes from the most ancient one, the Rig Veda.

Sound as light:

07.101.01 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

ति॒स्रो वाचः॒ प्र व॑द॒ ज्योति॑रग्रा॒ या ए॒तद्दु॒ह्रे म॑धुदो॒घमूधः॑ ।
स व॒त्सं कृ॒ण्वन्गर्भ॒मोष॑धीनां स॒द्यो जा॒तो वृ॑ष॒भो रो॑रवीति ॥

tisraḥ ǀ vācaḥ ǀ pra ǀ vada ǀ jyotiḥ-agrāḥ ǀ yāḥ ǀ etat ǀ duhre ǀ madhu-dogham ǀ ūdhaḥ ǀ
saḥ ǀ vatsam ǀ kṛṇvan ǀ garbham ǀ oṣadhīnām ǀ sadyaḥ ǀ jātaḥ ǀ vṛṣabhaḥ ǀ roravīti ǁ

VII, 101. To Parjanya

1. Pronounce three speeches ahead of which is the light,
(Those) that are milked from this udder flowing the honey.
Creating a calf, a plant fragment,
Barely born, the bull immediately roars loudly.

01.138.02 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

प्र हि त्वा॑ पूषन्नजि॒रं न याम॑नि॒ स्तोमे॑भिः कृ॒ण्व ऋ॒णवो॒ यथा॒ मृध॒ उष्ट्रो॒ न पी॑परो॒ मृधः॑ ।
हु॒वे यत्त्वा॑ मयो॒भुवं॑ दे॒वं स॒ख्याय॒ मर्त्यः॑ ।
अ॒स्माक॑मांगू॒षान्द्यु॒म्निन॑स्कृधि॒ वाजे॑षु द्यु॒म्निन॑स्कृधि ॥

pra ǀ hi ǀ tvā ǀ pūṣan ǀ ajiram ǀ na ǀ yāmani ǀ stomebhiḥ ǀ kṛṇve ǀ ṛṇavaḥ ǀ yathā ǀ mṛdhaḥ ǀ uṣṭraḥ ǀ na ǀ pīparaḥ ǀ mṛdhaḥ ǀ
huve ǀ yat ǀ tvā ǀ mayaḥ-bhuvam ǀ devam ǀ sakhyāya ǀ martyaḥ ǀ
asmākam ǀ āṅgūṣān ǀ dyumninaḥ ǀ kṛdhi ǀ vājeṣu ǀ dyumninaḥ ǀ kṛdhi ǁ

I, 138. To Pushan

O Pushan, after all, I urge you forward, by praising,
Like horse in a riding, that you disseminate the hostile intentions.
Like a camel (a load), pass over (through us) hostile plans!
When I call you, blessed
God, (I,) mortal, for friendship,
Make our praises brilliant,
To get awards, make (them) brilliant!

02.009.04 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

अग्ने॒ यज॑स्व ह॒विषा॒ यजी॑यांछ्रु॒ष्टी दे॒ष्णम॒भि गृ॑णीहि॒ राधः॑ ।
त्वं ह्यसि॑ रयि॒पती॑ रयी॒णां त्वं शु॒क्रस्य॒ वच॑सो म॒नोता॑ ॥

agne ǀ yajasva ǀ haviṣā ǀ yajīyān ǀ śruṣṭī ǀ deṣṇam ǀ abhi ǀ gṛṇīhi ǀ rādhaḥ ǀ
tvam ǀ hi ǀ asi ǀ rayi-patiḥ ǀ rayīṇām ǀ tvam ǀ śukrasya ǀ vacasaḥ ǀ manotā ǁ

II, 9. To Agni

4. O Agni, sacrifice the libation as the best sacrificer!
With (your) ability to favorably listen, accept cordially the gift (and) offering!
After all, you are the master of wealth,
You are the inventor of brilliant speech!

Sound as liquid:

09.057.01 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

प्र ते॒ धारा॑ अस॒श्चतो॑ दि॒वो न यं॑ति वृ॒ष्टयः॑ ।
अच्छा॒ वाजं॑ सह॒स्रिणं॑ ॥

pra ǀ te ǀ dhārāḥ ǀ asaścataḥ ǀ divaḥ ǀ na ǀ yanti ǀ vṛṣṭayaḥ ǀ
accha ǀ vājam ǀ sahasriṇam ǁ

1. Your flows, without drying out, are moving forward,
like raindrops from the sky,
To the thousandth reward.

09.057.02 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

अ॒भि प्रि॒याणि॒ काव्या॒ विश्वा॒ चक्षा॑णो अर्षति ।
हरि॑स्तुंजा॒न आयु॑धा ॥

abhi ǀ priyāṇi ǀ kāvyā ǀ viśvā ǀ cakṣāṇaḥ ǀ arṣati ǀ
hariḥ ǀ tuñjānaḥ ǀ āyudhā ǁ

2. Looking at all the pleasant
Poetic works, flowing
Golden, shaking with weapons.

IX, 34. 6. To Soma

समे॑न॒मह्रु॑ता इ॒मा गिरो॑ अर्षंति स॒स्रुतः॑ ।
धे॒नूर्वा॒श्रो अ॑वीवशत् ॥

sam ǀ enam ǀ ahrutāḥ ǀ imāḥ ǀ giraḥ ǀ arṣanti ǀ sa-srutaḥ ǀ
dhenūḥ ǀ vāśraḥ ǀ avīvaśan ǁ

6. These songs, non-deflecting, one way
are flowing one way all together to him.
The roaring caused the mooing of milk cows.

A hymn to Soma

त्वं धियं॑ मनो॒युजं॑ सृ॒जा वृ॒ष्टिं न त॑न्य॒तुः ।
त्वं वसू॑नि॒ पार्थि॑वा दि॒व्या च॑ सोम पुष्यसि ॥

tvam ǀ dhiyam ǀ manaḥ-yujam ǀ sṛja ǀ vṛṣṭim ǀ na ǀ tanyatuḥ ǀ
tvam ǀ vasūni ǀ pārthivā ǀ divyā ǀ ca ǀ soma ǀ puṣyasi ǁ

09.100.03 (Mandala. Sukta. Rik)

Release a poetic thought, harnessed by the spirit,
As the thunder (releases) rain!
You cause prosperity, o Soma,
Earthly and heavenly goods.