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The Llewellyn Journal
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Tantra Comes to America

This article was written by Mark A. Michaels
posted under Tantra

In 1976, Dr. Jonn Mumford (Swami Anandakapila Saraswati) delivered a series of very important and influential lectures at Gnosticon 5, an extended conference sponsored by Llewellyn Publications that brought together experts from a variety of occult backgrounds and disciplines. A taped set of these lectures was available from Llewellyn for a number of years. Today, copies are virtually impossible to find, and Dr. Mumford was content to let the information languish because he had doubts about whether some of the more explicit material should ever appear in print.

In 2004, my wife and teaching partner Patricia Johnson (Devi Veenanand) suggested that we approach Dr. Mumford about the possibility of writing a book based on his Gnosticon lectures. She felt the material was too valuable to be allowed to lapse into obscurity and that it was important to ensure that his contribution to the development of contemporary Tantra receives the recognition it deserves. Much to our surprise, he agreed to support us in this undertaking.

Dr. Mumford has a rare gift for placing authentic Hindu Tantra, including its sexual aspects, within a conceptual framework that makes it accessible for Westerners. He manages to do this without overemphasizing sexuality, watering down the teachings or using cliché New Age techniques, however appealing such modifications might be to Western seekers. We became his students because we were seeking something deeper and more authentic than what popular American Tantra had to offer, and that is exactly what we found.

The lectures on which The Essence of Tantric Sexuality is based were perhaps the first public discussion of sexual Tantra delivered to an American audience by a Western teacher with authentic Indian training in a lineage-based system. Some of the material that Dr. Mumford presented at Gnosticon was almost entirely unknown outside of India at the time, and his teachings have inspired succeeding generations of Tantra teachers, whether they realize it or not.

The Gnosticon lectures are of great historical importance in the development of Tantra in the West, and they helped shape what is known today as Neo-Tantra—a term coined in the early twentieth century but used by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) to describe his approach, and now applied more generally to Westernized systems of practice that emphasize sexuality. While some traditionalists take a dim view of Neo-Tantra, it can, at its best, lead practitioners to approach sexuality with deeper awareness and a greater sense of reverence. The information that Dr. Mumford shared in 1976, in the aftermath of the sexual revolution, is perhaps even more valuable today than it was then, given the current climate of sexual repression in the United States. Beyond any historical value or cultural and political significance, the content of the lectures is profound and the techniques are extraordinary.

Although Dr. Mumford was reluctant to authorize the re-release of this information and its adaptation into book form, we felt it was important to undertake this project. Over the years, his important work has been misrepresented, misunderstood and appropriated without acknowledgment; we wanted to set the record straight and honor him as one of the most important figures in modern Tantra. We are deeply grateful that he encouraged us to use his material and allowed us the freedom to take liberties with it. We are also grateful for his willingness to provide additional information and elaboration whenever it was needed. Working on this book afforded us an opportunity to absorb the teachings very deeply, and serious readers will have a similar experience, if they study the material carefully.

Those who are familiar with Neo-Tantra may be surprised to discover that certain practices emphasized by many contemporary schools receive little or no attention in our book. In 1976, Dr. Mumford was largely unconcerned with male multiple orgasm or female ejaculation, and these topics are only mentioned in passing. Both female ejaculation and male multiple orgasms are wonderful experiences and enjoyable—but not essential—parts of the sexual repertoire; however, they are not a core concern in traditional Tantric sexuality, nor does developing the capacity to experience them make one a Tantrika. From the classical perspective, the G-Spot is a trigger point for Swadisthana Chakra, nothing more. It is certainly not the key to sexual healing, nor is it anything new. It is discussed both in Indian erotic literature such as the Koka Shastra and in the erotic novels of eighteenth century-Europe.

While we have taken some liberties with the original tapes and have included our own perspective at times, we all feel that we are conveying the essential teachings Dr. Mumford presented in 1976. The content remains as relevant today as it was thirty years ago; the techniques are powerful, pleasurable, and effective. Practicing them should yield interesting results and bring you much delight.

Mark A. MichaelsMark A. Michaels
Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson, a devoted married couple, have been teaching Tantra together since 1999. Their approach combines traditional lineage-based Tantra with the best contemporary methods so that students can bring heightened awareness and...  Read more

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