Abhinavagupta wrote a hymn of praise to the twelve Kalis, which gives an overview of the highest mystical path followed by the worshipper of Kali in all stages of the spiritual experience. Following is how he describes the passage and the experience of the various Kalis that lead to the Absolute.
The first, Shristikali, creation of objects, is the Supreme Consciousness [Parasamvit] when the will to create arises in her, and the would-be creation shines in outline objectively within her.
The second, Raktakali, or experience of objects, is when, after the manifestation of the objective world, the Supreme Consciousness manifests herself as the means of knowledge [the five senses] and is affected by the externalized objective world. This is the concept of the power of “preservation” in relation to the object.
The third, Sthitinasakali, termination of the experience of objects, is the Supreme Consciousness intent upon terminating her extrovert form, and, therefore, the objective world, because of her inclination to rest within herself in the form of the consciousness “I have known the object.” This is the concept of “annihilation” in relation to the object.
The fourth, Yamakali, doubt about the experience of the object, is the concept of an indefinable power relating to conceptual objects and experience. It leads to the rise of doubt about the objects of experience that is present as a mere idea and to its removal or destruction. The subtle distinction between the latter two [Sthitinasakali and Yamakali] is, “I have known the object” and “the objects of experience are non-different from me.”
The fifth, Samharakali, or dissociation of objects from external norms, centres round the power of destruction. After the destruction of doubt, or its objects, the Supreme Consciousness brings about the disappearance of the externality of the objects and groups them within, as one with herself.
The sixth, Mrtyukali, total merging of object in subject, is of the nature of death [Mrtyu], causing the disappearance of the externality of objects. But it is related to objectivity, in so far as it realizes objectivity as non-different from itself. But this objectivity can have being only if it rests on the Subject [Pramatr] that is free of all limitations. Mrtyukali is so called because it engulfs even Samharakali.
The seventh, Rudrakali or Bhadrakali, object momentarily reinstated to be finally dissolved, is when, immediately after dissolving the multitude of objects, the Universal Consciousness gives rise to a definite object in the mind of an individual subject.
To this object, which is a revived mental picture of a particular action done in the past, doubt is related. The doubt about it is, whether it was right or wrong. And the certainty about it being right or wrong is responsible for its fruition in the pleasant or unpleasant experiences here and hereafter.
The eighth, Martandakali, merging of the twelve faculties, is Universal Consciousness in that she brings about the merging of all the twelve means of knowledge, the Indriyas—which are the five senses of perception, the five organs of action, Manas [Mind], and Buddhi [Intellect]—in the Ahamkara or ego-consciousness.
Martandakali represents Anakhya [indefinable] power in relation to the means of knowledge, in so far as it brings about the identification of the twelve means of knowledge with the ego-consciousness, to the extent that they completely lose their being, and become unnameable.
The preceding four Kalis are the aspects of the Universal Consciousness which destroy the means of knowledge and action. The following four, beginning with Paramarka kali, are such as destroy the limited subject.
The ninth, Paramarkakali, is merging of ego-consciousness into the limited subject of “spirit.” It represents the particular power in relation to the limited subject in so far as it brings about the emergence of the limited subject through merging in it of Ahamkara, ego-consiousness.
The tenth, Kalanalarudrakali, merging Spirit with Pure Wisdom, is the particular power of the Universal Consciousness when she brings about the merging of a limited self with the Universal Self, in whom all objectivity has its being. This power of the limited subject resting in the Universal is experienced as “I am all this.” Because of her capacity for holding everything, even time, within herself, she is called Mahakali, the Supreme Kali.
The experience which characterizes Mahakala [Time transcending time] is, “I am all this.” But there is a yet higher experience, in which the “this” element is absent. The distinction between these two experiences is that in the former the “I” rests on the “this,” but in the latter, the “this” being absent, the “I” rests within itself.
The eleventh, Mahakalakali, merging Pure Wisdom in Energy, is the Universal Consciousness as she brings about the merging of the “I”—which shines in opposition to “this,” as “I am all this,” into the “Pure I,” the “Perfect I,” the “Akula,” which is free of all relations to “objectivity,” to “this.” Subject is annihilated here.
The twelfth, Mahabhairavacandograghorakali, merging Energy in the Absolute, embraces “Perfect I,” “Akula,” subject, object, the means of knowledge as well as knowledge in perfect unity with Pure Consciousness. The stage is called “Para.” It does not manifest itself in subject, object, the means of knowledge or knowledge, and therefore is free from all relations. It is “total.”
Source : Tantric Kali : secret practices and rituals : Daniel Odier [Translated in English by Jack Cain.]