Here are some notes I was preparing for an answer to Satyaraja way back when he was promoting the Vallabhacharya view against the Gaudiya, either here or on VNN. I never sent them in because the discussion got out of hand, but they are relevant to this question:
Gaudiya Vaishnavas accept that Vedanta Sutra 2.2.42ff is saying that Shakti is not independent in creating the world. On the analogy of the sexual relationship found in Gita 14.3, both male and female elements are needed for creation. The Vedanta does not deny the existence of prakriti or shakti, it only denies its primacy.
In this section the sutras are discussing whether or not sakti is independent in the act of creation. The position of Vedanta is that sakti is not independently responsible for the world. She depends upon Brahman. Vs. 2.2.43 tells us that Brahman has no material senses through which he connects with sakti. However in the next sutra it is stated that there is no contradiction (apratisedhah) if it said that Brahman has senses (a body) made of knowledge and so on (vijnana adi). This indeed is what we say and thus while we refute the Shakta theory itself, we do not reject it altogether. We qualify it and include it in Vedanta. The Upanishads say
svAbhAvikI jnAna-bala-kriyA ca (ÇvetU.6.8).
So we understand this to mean that Brahman has Shakti, energy or power by which he accomplishes things.
na tat-samaz cAbhyadhikaz ca dRzyate
parAsya zaktir vividhaiva zrUyate
svAbhAvikI jnAna-bala-kriyA ca
When the one without a second takes on attributes for the sake of lila (to put it one way; time is not a factor), then the implications of this action are manifold. One of these implications is that everywhere opposites are created, because variegatedness implies opposites. If the Supreme Lord manifests as male, the implication is that an equal and opposite female pole exists in company with that supreme male, or Purushottama. The existence of a supreme male without a female is nonsense, like saying an electron can exist without a proton.
These opposites are manifest in primarily three ways (1) unconscious matter (as Krishna is supreme consciousness); this is the jaDa-zakti or external energy; (2)infinitesimal consciousness or jiva (as Krishna is infinite consciousness), this is taTastha energy; (3) and sexually differentiated supreme consciousness or Shakti, as Krishna is supreme malehood. This is also called svarUpa-zakti.
The Gaudiya Vaishnavas primarily refer to the Vishnu Purana, where all three of these are referred to as Shaktis of different sorts.
jyotsnA vistAriNI yathA |
parasya brahmaNaH zaktis
tathedam akhilaM jagat || [1.22.56]
viSNu-zaktiH parA proktA
kSetra-jnAkhyA tathAparA |
tRtIyA zaktir iSyate || [ViP 6.7.61]
tayA tirohitatvAc ca
zaktiH kSetra-jna-saMjnitA |
tAratamyena vartate ||[ViP 6.7.63]
The idea of bhagavan without Shakti is, as I have said, a complete contradiction in terms. According to Jiva Goswami, the word bhaga itself refers to Shakti.
The ViP thus refers to Lakshmi as anapAyinI (never leaving God), and this same word is also found in the Bhagavatam [BhP 12.11.20] in the same context–
sAkSAd Atmano hareH ||
TIkA ca - anapAyinI hareH zaktiH | tatra hetuH sAkSAd AtmanaH sva-svarUpasya cid-rUpatvAt tasyAs tad-abhedAd ity arthaH |
So as you see, the idea of the eternal unity of the Shakti and the Shaktiman is something t
hat is accepted in the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana. This is also the meaning of the famous Satapatha Brahmana passage:
“He did not enjoy. Therefore one does not enjoy when alone. He desired a second. So He transformed Himself, becoming as a man and woman locked in embrace. He divided the one atma into two parts, becoming husband and wife. From that pair comes all this universe, so says Yajnavalkya. That sky is fulfilled by woman, and by going to her, mankind was born.” (Satapatha-brahmana 220.127.116.11)
The Satapatha Brahmana is full of all kinds of creation myths. This is just one of them. But most of them seem to involve the splitting of the non-dual Brahman into equal male and female parts necessary for the function of creation.
To call Radha, Lakshmi or any of Vishnu's shaktis jivas is a complete misunderstanding of the personal godhead.
The Gaudiyas NEVER say that the Shakti and Shaktiman are to be worshiped separately. Jiva Goswami finishes the Krishna-sandarbha with the words –
Briefly, the object of worship is not Krishna, but the Divine Couple, Radha-Krishna.
vinA rAdhAM kRSNo 'py ahaha sakhi mAM viklavayati |
janiH sA me mA bhUt kSaNam api na yatra kSaNa-duhau
yugenAkSNor lihyAM yugapad anayor vaktra-zazinau ||
One day, when Srimati Radharani and Krishna were separated as a result of some misdeed of his, Shyama's friend Bakulamali came and revealed her mind to Champakalata, "Dear friend, when Radha is separated from Krishna, then to see her gives me a pain in the heart. And when I see Krishna without Radha, I also truly feel great suffering. What misery! Oh beautiful one, I therefore pray that I shall never take any birth in which I shall not be able to drink with my eyes the beauty of Radha and Krishna's moon-like faces, creating a joyful festival together." (UN 8.128)
The rest, unfortunately, was never completed.