Imagine a time when the only popular reporting about ceremonial magick involved rituals that involved sex. In a repressive societyâ€”one which denounces sex while hypocritically leering at itâ€”this will always be a problem. I remember when the news media only seemed to be interested in Wicca’s “Great Rite.” Today that has changed (thankfully!), but there’s another fad that seems to have replaced this: Tantra.
Tantra is actually an ancient spiritual tradition. It may be the world’s oldest form of Paganism that has been continually practiced by a large population. It includes rituals, deities, a sigil that can be used like the Kabalistic Tree of Life, divination systems, magickal techniques, holidays, and much more. Virtually all of the spiritual concepts that originated in Indiaâ€”karma, chakras, kundalini, etc.â€”were developed by Tantric masters. Many things not usually associated with Indiaâ€”including astrology, feng shui, acupuncture, the zero in mathematics, and kung fuâ€”also began with the Tantrics (although they further evolved elsewhere). As with any complete spiritual system, Tantra also looks at sexuality, and does so from a spiritual point of view. But to focus on the sexual aspect of Tantra is like focusing on the gas cap of a race car.
Because there is this hypocritical leering at sexuality while wanting to repress it, there has been an opening for a sexually-oriented spiritual system. One of the most important popularizers of such a system, the late Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh), called what he was teaching, “neo-Tantra.” Unfortunately, many proponents of this system, and variations of it, have dropped the appropriate “neo-” prefix and simply call it “Tantra.”
So why do I bring all this up? One of the things I like to say during workshops I give is, “Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.” Recently, an organization has started an on-line information source they call the Tantric News. As of this writing the contributors they list include people involved in neo-Tantra, as well as people involved with sexuality and some who have nothing to do with any form or aspect of Tantra at all. That’s fine. However, they don’t include so much as one person who writes on Traditional Tantra. Not one. How can you “check it out for yourself,” how can you discover the full range of Tantra, when there are no easily-found resources to do so? How can you find out about Tantra when a resource claims to be covering the news of Tantra and they only cover a sliver of what Tantra involves? It would be like getting your news only from a left wing or right wing source rather than getting the facts. I’m not saying that the information they’re providing is in some way wrong or not valuable. From what I’ve read so far it has some great information. What I am saying is that the populist, faddish view of Tantra that is so popular today presents a fallacious view of the true depth of Tantra.
A second thing that has drawn my attention concerns one of the persons who has attracted a lot of attention to (neo-) Tantra, the musician Sting. He had previously claimed to have 8-hour Tantric sex sessions with his wife. Later he admitted that it wasn’t that long. Now, according to an article in the New York Daily News, his daughter, CocoÂ Sumner, reveals the truth. It never happened. It was a “gag.” Her father “knows squat about Tantric sex.”
Assuming that this is accurate, I have mixed feelings about possible results of this revelation. I imagine that some people will be disappointed to learn that Sting’s supposed Tantric sex romps never existed and won’t investigate either Traditional Tantra or neo-Tantra. This may eliminate interest from some of the faddists who get in the way of those who could become more involved. But it may also turn off some people who might be interested in and find useful the more complete system found in Traditional Tantra. And that would be a loss.
Don’t get me wrongâ€”I’m not denouncing neo-Tantra at all. It wouldn’t be popular if it weren’t needed. I think there is a place for both neo-Tantra and Traditional Tantra. The problem, in my opinion, is that the focus on Tantric sexuality far outweighs its proportionate value within Traditional Tantra. This may be due to the fact that there are lots and lots of books about “Tantra” (or more accurately neo-Tantra or Tantric sexuality). Many of them have little or nothing to do with Tantra of any kind, but use the word “Tantra” as a catchword to attract attention. Ancient Egyptian Tantra? Tantra from the Pleiades? I don’t think so. On the other hand, although there are a few books that look at individual aspects of Traditional Tantra, there are none I know of that give an overview of Tantra that would make it approachable and useable by people in the West.
Hmmm. Perhaps someone should write that book…