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Tantra and Neotantra

From: (nagasiva)
Newsgroups: talk.religion.misc,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.tantra
Subject: Re: Tantra and Neotantra (was I'm confused)
Date: 31 Mar 1999 00:23:17 -0800
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49990330 IIIom nama bhasmashaayin of the many names

"Bhasmashaayin" :
# outright fraud in these matters....

	one who assumes a false pose; impostor.

what are the characteristics of "outright frauds" in matters
pertaining to both neotantra and Tantra as you understand it?

# ...*you* keep asking the same questions over and over... even 
# though they've been addressed on numerous occasions....

my apologies. I've tried to pay attention to your responses.
I was attempting to make possible a more coherent as well as
fair and concise differentiation between neotantra and 
Tantra as you understand and experience it. my previous
attempts you dismissed as fallacious, so I thought perhaps
you might contrast with me, for the benefit of those such
as were asking about "tantric sex", how such a request
would be met by the traditional Tantric. please forgive me
if I have misunderstood your intent and expression.

your characterization of my person is extreme and unwarranted.
I make no claim to authority and welcome your respectful, 
informed words in response to my inquiries. I never asked for
greater depth of response after you so kindly responded to
my survey and hoped that the details would be made clear. I
see now that this is not how you would prefer to proceed,
and so I'll repost your very thorough text on the subject
and try to inquire cogently for your elaboration.

[from ]

on Thu, 21 Jan 1999 20:34:27 -0800, "Antar"  wrote:
# nagasiva wrote in message <78810f$>...
#> __________________________________________________________________
#> 1.0.0 General
#>  1.1.0 What is tantra?  What are its elements?
# Because there are so many different Tantric schools, many of 
# the elements one finds in the various Tantras can be very 
# different.  The most common elements in Tantra are:
# 1) The use of some form of a rite usually referred to as 
#   "Pancamakara"....
# 2) The use of mantra, yantra and mudra.  ...
# 3) The belief that liberation (moksha) isn't necessarily a reward 
#    of the afterlife.  The Tantric strain is unique in Indian 
#    thought in that it believes in some variant of jivanmukti 
#    ("liberation in one's lifetime").
# 4) The identification of the sadhaka with the deity....  
#    The Tantric adept's goal is union with some version of the 
#    infinite divine.
# I think if these four elements are present, I'd call whatever-it-
# called-itself a Tantric school....

I think you would agree that neotantrics generally do not 
	a) focus on jivanmukti, moksha, or liberation, tending
	   to prefer different cosmological models
	   (nonreligious or of a competitive religious type)
	b) necessarily involve the identification with a deity

and that we don't always utilize the riteforms or mystical
disciplines described of traditional Tantrics, content to
fabricate or steal from others. all in all, wouldn't you
agree that neotantrics are playing on the popular reputation 
of the term 'tantra' moreso than having any particular 
connection to Indian tradition proper?

with what "infinite divine" do you think Buddhist Tantrics 
attempt to unite?  would you say that yidams qualify as such?

#>   1.1.1 Is tantra a yoga?
# Yes.  Any given Tantra emobodies a yoga (yoga=a wayof achieving things; a 
# set of techniques directed toward some magickal/mystical/spiritual end).

why is it that Western hatha yoga teachers and a number of academics
focus on the root of the term yoga and claim it means 'yoke'?

#>   1.1.2 Is tantra a religion, or a movement within religion(s),
#>  or is it entirely separate from religion?
# Any of the three are possible, at least at the level where religion 
# is equated with some popular belief system.  It is a religion 
# (really a group of several religions) in its own right.  They do 
# rely on some concept of "something bigger and more powerful," so 
# on that level they are definitely religions.

so alt.religion.tantra is a very good place to discuss Tantra by this
description. contrast neotantrics, who may claim anything from the
notion that tantra and religion have no intersection to the claim
that tantra is the religion of sex.

# Tantra arose as an anti-complexity religious movement initially.  
# The Vedic, Brahminic rites had become so complex that they 
# generated an entire class of full-time religious people who 
# demanded something in return for the performance of important 
# rites.  The price was frequently very high, and some rites were 
# so complex that they could only be performed properly by over a 
# dozen priests.  They abstracted their religion and kept much 
# basic information hidden to insure their employment.  

in comparison, it appears that neotantra is also a kind of
'anti-complexity' movement, though provided impetus by virtue
of the puritanical religious contexts of Western society. the
association of sexuality with Tantra appears to be justified
inasmuch as (per your text below) the cosmological schema
includes a sexualized motif (god and goddess conjoining),
but not on any more firm basis than this.

thus many neotantrists appear to have identified with the
fallacious and orientalist 'eroticism of the East' by using the term
'Tantra' in an instruction mostly inclusive of sexual tips and pointers.
having grafted the atmosphere or character rendered unto
'Tantra' by haphazard reviewers, this was transformed into
an envelope which could be both marketed USING sex
as a hook (also your contention regarding others in this
conversation) and a container for elements of sexual 
education repressed in conventional culture (such as lab
and 'hands-on' experimentation, the facilitation of frank
communication about sexuality, and an eroticist's guide
to the human anatomy).

# Tantra, 
# at this level, is an attempt to make direct communion possible 
# once again, and to allow low-caste types access to a spiritual 
# life and magickal technique.

what kinds of magical technique were lent to low-caste types
by Tantras?

# Much of Tantric technique, however, doesn't rely heavily on belief.  
# One need only be able to visualize a deity, for example... it 
# wasn't necessary to believe that the deity in question had any 
# existence of its own....  ...Tantric technique can be divorced 
# from religious faith.

this seems comparably similar when neotantrists use deities.
belief may become important where subtle energy-systems (such 
as a reflection of kundalini and chakra models) are concerned,
but these aren't often used as dogmatic elements.

#>  1.2.0 What distinguishes tantra from non-tantra?
# See the above basic elements.

this is what caused me to ask further. what you are calling
'non-Tantra' sometimes includes at least facades of the four
basic elements you listed therein. to say that they are
therefore 'distinguishing elements' is awkward and could
be easily misunderstood.

#>  1.3.0 What is the exact relationship between tantra and sexuality?
# Physical sexual union is employed as a technique both as part of the
# pancamakara and separately from it.. in some Tantric schools.  Others
# councilled physical celibacy.  

celibacy does not appear to be part of many neotantric espressions,
though it is occasionally accepted as a legitimate manifestation of
personal choice as regards sexuality (especially when 'celibacy' is
taken to mean a lack of sexual interaction with other humans but
inclusive of masturbation).

# In both cases, however, what we can loosely term "sexual desire"
# is to be brought under control within the context of the yoga
# embodied by the Tantra in question.

this also appears to be a commonality with neotantra, in which lust
or over-eagerness (likely a different modality but a similar intent)
are to be tempered so as to firm up the connection with partners.
the emphasis on control and 'overcoming bodily processes' appears
to be most particular to Tantra, where in neotantric circles the issue
of domination and control are more controversial and at times rejected.

# In all cases, however, all Tantras envision the universe and the
# basis of all reality to be some sort of sexual union between a male
# (some version of Shiva or Vishnu in most cases) 

thus my inquiry about Buddhism.

# and female (some version of Kali, Durga, etc.) deity.  The Krama
# school termed the state of Shiva's union with Shakti "anutara",
# a state of being "higher" than either Shiva or Shakti uncoupled.

given that *all* Tantras envision the universe this way, and that
Tantra was inspired by the Tantras, how is it that Buddhist cults
conceive the cosmos and remain Buddhist?  perhaps you can
understand now my continued inquiry in response to you.

needless to say, not all neotantrists engage in such belief or

#> 2.0.0 Practice
#>  2.1.0 Is tantra an attitude, a belief, or a practice?
# Tantras are based in practice.  There are usually accompanying
# beliefs, but that could be said of anything.  I'm not aware of a
# particular Tantric attitude.

neotantra is also based in practice. beliefs are sometimes a part of
the instruction. the attitude usually encouraged by neotantrists is
one of open-mindedness, exploration, and indulgent appreciation.

#> 3.0.0 Origins/Ideals
#>  3.1.0 Where and when did tantra start, if it had an origin?
# The earliest Tantric literature dates to the 9th century, but formal
# Tantric schools probably existed for a couple of centuries before
# that.  There are what appear to be very early, Tantra-like 
# practices preserved in such works as the Rgvidhana, which dates
# back to around 400 BC.  Tantra originated in what is today India;
# the exact location is anyone's guess.  Some scholars think that
# there is evidence of Tantric practice evidenced in artifacts from
# the Harappa civilization... which could date the whole thing back
# to 3000 BC, or even earlier.

contrast this with the origins of neotantra. I would imagine that
there were neotantric explorations occasionally since Tantra arose
in India whenever that happened. however, the most recent spate,
especially local to me, appears to have been in the mid to late 60s
within the so-called 'sexual revolution'. 

books on Extended Orgasm like _Total Orgasm_ by Jack Lee 
Rosenburg (1973, Random House) that included brief commentary 
on kundalini from the Yoga Sutras and "Tantra, the yoga of sex"
can be compared with texts like _Sex and Yoga_ by Nancy Phelan
and Michael Volin (1968, Bantam), which is a more in-depth and
Indian-centric description of Tantra. authors of revealing text
attempting to advocate a new psychospiritual approach that
includes sexuality such as _Tantric Sex_ by Robert K. Moffett 
(1974, Berkley Medallion) and articles in the "New Age Journal",
such as "Karezza: Victorian Tantra", by David Haenke and 
catherine yronwode (July 1977) may be contrasted with quasi-Tantric
gurus dictating their doctrines, such as _The Book of the Secrets_
by Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (vol. I, 1974, Rajneesh Foundation; 
subtitled: "Discourses on 'Vigyana Bhairava Tantra'"). Later this
came to include Western esotericists seeking to profit from the
construction of a 'Western Tantra', such as _Tantra for Westerners:
A Practical Guide to the Way of Action_, by Francis King, (1986,
Destiny Books).

any comments and reviews as to the history of neotantra would
be welcome.

#>   3.1.1 Are there certain types of cultures where it arises?
# It arises in cultures influenced by Indian culture.  It spread at
# least as far as China, Cambodia and Indonesia in ancient times.  
# More recently, it 's also cropped up all over the world... especially
# in Germany, France, the  UK and the US.

neotantra seems to be an urban or suburban, counter-cultural
affair, especially that which relies less on books and more on
direct instruction for its promulgation. I don't know if there is
a predominant language for its communication. people may make
use of the reputation of 'Tantra' to sell almost anything.

#>   3.1.2 Are there historical or fictional people associated with
#>  its origins?
# Hundreds.

of course, but any consistent ones?  Siva seems consistent, major
players would appear to be Parvati and Padmasambhava also.

#>  3.2.0 Is there an 'ideal' tantra, regardless of how it manifests
#>  today?  If so, what is this like?
# Ideal as compared to what?

as compared to competition, fraudulence and failure. what is the
'flower of Tantra' as seen by traditionalists?

#>  3.4.0 What are the essentials of 'tantric philosophy' if there
#>  is such a thing?
# There were lots of them.  Volumes have been written about this subject.   

neotantra, in contrast, appears to function on either a biophysical basis
or on some pseudo-Indian energetic system (often 'kundalini' or 'chakras').
this is used to justify sexual ecstasy and integrate it into sex education
without apologizing.

# The best comparative study of Tantric philosophies may well be
# Bharati's "The Tantric Tradition".... 

thank you for the initial recommendations. I'm not aware of any
comparable documentation of neotantra, in part because of its novelty
and in part because people tend to write only about their own gig.

#>  3.5.0 How does this relate to other Eastern or Western philosophies?
# In ways too many to discuss without getting a PhD for the effort of 
# typing it all up.

no doubt!  neotantra appears to steal from Eastern and sometimes from
Western philosophies, religions and mystical systems for its own
purposes, and this may be an indicator of its association with orientalists
generally and Hermetic culture which is rife with such fraudulence.

#>  4.2.0 Are there Western forms of tantra or rough equivalents?
# There are certainly Western adaptations of Tantra that possess all of the 
# necessary elements.  I haven't come across anything inidigenous in the 
# West that I'd consider any sort of equivalent.

in your examination did you notice any prevailing characteristics of
neotantric emulators?

#>  4.3.0 Can tantra be found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism?
#>  If so, in what forms and characters?
# Again, any useful discussion of this would constitute writing a book.
# ...There are certainly Tantric Hindu and Buddhist schools.

I'm curious how you use the tem 'Tantric' here and whether these
schools would consider one another rivals in some cases. is there some
disagreement amongst the Tantric community proper as regards who
is and who is not authoritative?

#>  4.4.0 Why do people get excited and mention sex when they hear
#>  the word tantra?
# Because people like to think about sex.  ...Certain unscrupulous authors,
# publishing companies and newage con artists have seized upon the sexual
# element of Tantra to generate income for themselves.  Sex sells, and the
# more such things sell, the more people (consumers) are taught that
# Tantra and sex are synonymous.

also I think the more that people are informed that there is an age-old
Indian tradition out there forming the basis for what the neotantrics
are presenting.  as I have said it can easily be compared with those
who instruct on the subject of "qabalah" and dont' acknowledge or
form connections with the Jewish mystics.

#>  4.5.0 What inhibits tantra, what stimulates it, and what kinds of
#>  people are more likely to practice it?
# Nothing necessarily inhibits Tantra.  It's stimulated by practicing it.

very interesting. I think that puritanism and repression inhibit neotantra.

# I can't think of a particular Tantric type... even in ancient times, Tantrikas
# comprised a wide array of individuals, ranging from forest-dwelling 
# ascet ics to householding citizens to decadent royalty.  That situation
# hasn't chan ged much, nor do I think it should....

I suspect that the range for neotantrics is much narrower, but I'll leave that
to those who've had more experience with the community.

#>   4.5.1 Is it possible for tantra to die out?
# Certainly.

I don't think it is possible for neotantra to die out. it'd just be given a
different name.

nama namo nama namo om kami kali kama kala
(emailed replies may be posted); cc me your replies
see also

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