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Magick & Magicians—Tantra & Tantrics

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on October 4, 2012 | Comments (4)

Magic & Magicians

I am a magician.

I practice magick and I perform magic. I’ve been a “magician member” of  The Magic Castle, a world-famous club for magician entertainers. I have performed magic for all age groups and have entertained thousands of people.

Magic, like magick, has several subcategories. Two such subcategories whose differentiation can be confusing even to magicians, are mentalism and mental magic.

Mental magic is simply any trick giving the impression that some sort of psychic ability is being used or a paranormal phenomenon is being demonstrated. Many magicians, within their acts of cards and coins or boxes filled with assistants or large cats will include such a trick. Often it is in the form of predicting something will occur or reading someone’s mind…or to be more accurate, giving the illusion that these things are being done.

Mentalism is where the entertainer implies that he or she has advanced mental powers by birth, by accident, or as a result of intensive training. In a sense, a mentalist (and many mentalists are upset with the TV show of that name because it gives an entirely incorrect impression of what real mentalists do) performs an entire act of mental magic, often using a uniting theme.

As you may have guessed, there can be a great deal of cross-over between the mentalist and a magician who does mental magic. There are also areas that are very gray: if a magician is doing an entire evening show, and has a section of nothing but mental magic, during that section is he or she still a magician or have they become a mentalist?

I’m not going to take a position on either side of the issue because the point I’m sharing here is that merely doing mental magic doesn’t make one a mentalist. There’s more to it than that.

Magick & Magicians

I am a magician.

I practice magick and I’ve been a member of many magickal groups. I have taught magick to tens of thousands of people, both in person and through my writings.

In Modern Magick I wrote, “Magick isn’t something you do, magick is something you are.”

I wrote that to make a specific point.

The point is that reading a spell out of a book while wearing a robe you bought from The Pyramid Collection and waving a wand you bought from Whimsic Alley won’t make your magick a success and doesn’t make you a magician. Success requires mental and physical training. If you have the training and knowledge, you certainly can do successful magick every so often without formally being a magician.

A magician, however, not only regularly practices the mental and physical requirements necessary for successful magickal work, but literally lives each and every day as one that is filled with magick. The magician understands what happens around him or her—at school, at work, at home—from a magickal perspective. The subjects studied at school, the interactions with people at home and at work, are seen from that perspective. A magician lives a magickal life. He or she may do the same things done before becoming a magician, but everything is seen with the new worldview.

Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.

—Zen Proverb

A person may do magick from the perspective of being just a person doing magick. Alternatively, a person may choose to become a magician, to live a magickal life every day, and perform magick from the perspective of a magician. There can be quite a difference.

By the way, I think there’s plenty of room for magicians and for people who, on occasion, just want to do successful magick. Being either doesn’t make you better than the other, just different. And that brings me to…

Tantra & Tantrics

I am a Tantric.

I live a Tantric life and I’ve been a member of a few Tantric groups. I have taught Tantra, mostly in person, to many hundreds, if not thousands of people.

Like both magic and magick, learning and/or practicing a bit of Tantra does not make you a Tantric. It makes you a person who knows a bit about Tantra and perhaps does some things related to Tantra.

Learning a bit of philosophy or mathematics doesn’t make you a philosopher or mathematician, either. However, knowing something of philosophy and math, is a great thing. Knowing a bit in these areas helps keep your mind sharp and may lead you to new and fascinating discoveries about the world and about yourself.

Therefore I think it is valuable to approach Tantra from either way: learning something from the vast amount of material that makes up Tantric wisdom and knowledge, or learning to be a Tantric and understanding the world and oneself from a Tantric perspective.

Wait a Minute…

Tantric “wisdom and knowledge?” Living life from a “Tantric perspective?” Isn’t Tantra just that sex stuff? How much wisdom and knowledge can be found there? And can living from such a sexual perspective be all that good?

Back in the late 1950s, 60s and 70s, when the major media looked at Wicca and Witchcraft, they primarily wanted to focus on the sexual aspect of it. We’ll share a little of what you think if you share some of the more naughty stuff. What? Some of the people practice nekkid? Let’s publish titillating pictures while we denounce or mock it!

Most readers here know that there is far more to Wicca and Witchcraft than going skyclad or performing the Great Rite.

In the West, the same thing has been going on concerning Tantra for over 150 years. Tantra is a complete Pagan spiritual system dating back to the pre-Hindu period in India, especially the area known as the Indus Valley. Originally an oral tradition, much of Tantra was carried into Hinduism*, but writing of books with exclusively Tantric ideas didn’t occur until later, causing historical confusion.

The knowledge and expansive wisdom found in Tantric sexuality has continuously grown in popularity for a simple reason: we need it! Adding Tantric practices to your sex life doesn’t make you a Tantric, but it can greatly enhance your life and your sexuality. Unfortunately, many—perhaps most—books on Tantra either make stuff up, borrow from other traditions, or present it is a confusing manner.

I have no problem with making stuff up—if it works and if the writer admits that it’s made up. Personally, I don’t like it when someone invents something and falsely claims great antiquity for it or tries to associate it with a tradition that has more caché.

I also have no problem with borrowing from other traditions—if the writer or teacher acknowledges that it comes from another tradition. When it comes to sex, for example, there is a lot of good information that can be found in Taoist traditions such as those shared by Mantak Chia. But his teachings are not part of Traditional Tantra.

So if you’d just like some real Tantric ideas to improve you sex life—and your life in general—is there any place you can turn? I believe so. A book that will shortly be released is Great Sex Made Simple by Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson

You may recognize their names as being two leading Tantra teachers. This illustrated book features over fifty Tantric tips for enhancing your sexual experiences. It’s not going to turn you into a Tantric. It will refresh your relationships and help make your love last. Here is just a bit of what they share on the deceptively simply practice of eye gazing:

Eye gazing is rooted in the traditional Tantric practice of trataka, which means to gaze without blinking, but you can blink during this exercise. In its classical form, trataka often involves focusing on and internalizing the image of a deity. It can be very helpful to bear this in mind when you begin to gaze because it is an opportunity to see the divine in your beloved. After a moment, let the thought go, and allow pure experience to take over. You will probably go into a meditative state quite rapidly.

This is a deceptively simple and powerful practice. We started doing it on our very first date, and spent a few minutes at it whenever we were together. When we began sharing a home, we did it on a daily basis as a formal exercise. Now, it is second nature to us, and we do it both intentionally and out of habit. We also make an effort to use it whenever there is a feeling of disharmony between us. Taking a time-out and gazing at each other silently brings us back into balance and defuses conflict. We are able to do this because we built a strong foundation by practicing regularly when things were going smoothly. This gives us the ability to recognize when we’re out of synch and to make the choice to pause and connect, rather than allow the disruption to get worse.

Stand facing each other, with your arms at your sides, and gaze softly into each other’s eyes. Focus on your partner’s left eye with your right, and allow your left eye to relax and receive. Don’t worry about your thoughts. In all probability, your mind will start to go quiet after a couple of minutes…

This practice will bring you into synch. After a couple of minutes, you will have harmonized your moods and metabolisms. Beyond that, you are recreating the process of falling in love, on multiple levels. Although we think the word healing is overused, we suspect that eye gazing can do a great deal to repair emotional wounds of many kinds, since it replicates perhaps the most primal form of bonding that takes place during infancy – the gaze between baby and primary caregiver…

Many couples find it challenging to gaze together at first, especially if they’ve lost the habit of looking at each other. It is not uncommon to laugh or feel some initial unease. These are perfectly natural responses, but if you stay with it, the discomfort will pass, and you should start experiencing the benefits.

You can pre-order this book now by clicking on the title above.

Becoming a Tantric

While learning and practicing one or several Tantric techniques can be very beneficial on a variety of levels, some of you reading this may wish to start learning to approach the world from a Tantric viewpoint, to actually become a Tantric. Unfortunately, there is no single book I can think of that teahes this. Along with in-person training I’ve received I also have about 1,000 books on the subject, many of which I’ve had to import from India. Curiously, although they’re in English, they’re not available in the U.S.

Because of the breadth of Tantra, I doubt that there will ever be a single book that will explain all of Tantra in a way that is useful to readers. Perhaps there will, in the future, be a book that can direct people on the path to becoming a Tantric. Until that time, one thing that can be done is to read books that give the flavor of what Traditional Tantra is like, books that focus on aspects of Tantra.

Much of Traditional Tantra has become more mainstream today. All of the information on chakras, Asian martial arts such as Kung-fu, healing systems such as Chinese acupuncture and acupressure, astrology, psychology, breathwork, etc., began with the ancient Tantrics and what I like to call the “proto-Tantrics of the Harappan culture in the pre-Hindu Indus Valley.” While there are numerous books on those subjects and scholarly books on more esoteric Tantric topics, there is one very approachable book I’d like to mention: The Essence of Tantric Sexuality, also by Michaels and Johnson. 

The story behind this book is really quite interesting. Over 35 years ago, Llewellyn was presenting one of the earliest events that have evolved around the U.S. to be what are generically called “Pagan Festivals.” Many of these festivals include speakers who are not speaking on Western Paganism or focused on Celtic Paganism that is so popular today. In 1976, at the 5th annual Gnosticon, an electrifying speaker, Anandakapila Saraswati (Dr. Jonn Mumford), gave presentations on Tantric topics, many of which were unknown in the West at that time.

Those workshops were taped and Llewellyn sold copies of the originals for decades. In this book, Michaels and Johnson give transcriptions of the tapes, add elucidating commentary to them and expand upon them from their own experience, making the original concepts presented by Dr. Mumford truly accessible to a new generation.

Just as the authors expand on the teachings of Mumford, they also follow the Doctor’s lead and expand Tantra beyond sex, going to concepts of visualization, breathwork, Western sex magick, perfumery, physiology, massage, and much more. This book really gives the flavor of what it’s like to be a modern Tantric.

One More Thing

There is one more resource I’d like to mention. Most non-fiction books tend to be either “popular,” and focused on reaching lots of people, or “scholarly,” filled with specifics intended to reach scholars and those deeply interested in a topic. Ecstasy Though Tantra by Dr. Jonn Mumford is unique in that it bridges the gap, bringing specifics for scholars along with a style and presentation that will appeal to everyone. 

The book presents an exposition of in-depth Tantric concepts, compares them to Western mystical traditions, and gives practical methodologies. I also like this book because it has an additional chapter by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke and one by myself. While this will hold the interest of any reader fascinated by Tantra it’s also deep enough to intrigue scholars.

 

 

* Contrary to Western belief, Hinduism is not “a” religion. Rather, it is a broad set of religions featuring some common beliefs. Thus, although different deities are recognized, a member of one tradition may not be involved with the deities of another. The correct name for what is commonly called Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma. The translation of these words is “eternal law” or “eternal way.”

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Tim Wilkerson
on October 5th, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

In my studies I learned that Tantric sex is only a part of Tantra, that the bulk of Tantric teachings are not sexual in foundation. Osho’s “The Book of the Secrets” outlines all 112 Tantric Meditations, of these not many are sexual. As with all meditation techniques it is beneficial to have an ‘in person’ teacher. I recommend a Chicago school titled, Tantra Nova. They put into perspective those techniques I had read about in the above publication. Overall a life changing experience for the better.

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#2 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on October 5th, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

Thanks for your comment, Tim. I would respectfully suggest, however, that the 112 meditations or methods presented by Osho in Secrets are not “all” Tantric meditations, just the set he wanted to include. Tantra Nova, as their name indicates, is focused on Neo-Tantra and thus, Tantric sexuality rather than the full breadth of Traditional Tantra. As I stated in my blog, there’s nothing wrong with that focus. I would just say that as Osho also discusses, there’s far more to Tantra than sexuality.

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#3 
Written By megan
on October 7th, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

I love this post. I am always looking for accurate information unveiling tantra. Thanks alot.

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#4 
Written By My website
on October 24th, 2012 @ 8:21 am

I am still surprised by how good and professional the menthalist are. For example, you all know the show “..’Got Talent” a show that is running on many countries. Well this year the show was won by a menthalist, that made a performance ready to surprise even someone who is not easily to impress. Anyway, to sum up the even, the menthalist, had a suitcase, with 3 anvelops, with 3 names on them of the jury. Right before he was about to open it each jury said something to each other like “what could be in the suitcase”..anyway…when the menthalist opened the anvelops on each jury anvelop was exactly the words he said with few seconds before he opened…WOW!!! That made the guy to win the big prize..Not even today i don’t know how he did it..so i respect a lot this !!

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