On the weekends, we sometimes discuss non-political subjects around here, so I'd like to offer a few words of outrage over this inane Salon article on the joys of Tantric sex, written by a lesbian named Andrea Askowitz. Before you say it: No, what bothers me is not her lesbianism. What bothers me is the fact that this dimwit knows nothing -- NOT ONE THING -- about Tantra. Instead of doing a little reading, she paid money for lessons from a teacher at a "workshop." That's a clue right there. Unless you're talking about the kind of place where Geppetto might store his chisel, the word "workshop" is invariably a synonym for scam.
For most Americans, Tantra has become a sort of shorthand for "spiritual fucking." Wrong. That's not it.
Go to a university library and pick up a good scholarly book on Tantra, as practiced in India and Tibet, and very likely you will see not one word about sex. You will see page after page of very dull ritual; if there's any talk at all of sex, it will be brief. This should give you an idea. There are innumerable variants of Tantra, although the two main divisions are, of course, Vedic and Buddhist. Historically, most Tantrics have been ascetics, abstaining from meat and intercourse -- they aren't even supposed to think about sex. For them, the spiritual union described in the maithuna rite (which I may or may not describe below) is purely symbolic.
I'm sure that Ms. Askowitz is a well-meaning person, but she has unwittingly participated in the kind of spiritual burglary which actual Tantrics must surely consider insulting and ethnocentric. Imagine a cult in Japan composed of people who hit each other in the head with big wooden mallets until they pass out. The leader of the group announces: "We are Christians. This is what Christianity teaches." How would most Christians elsewhere in the world feel about such a bizarre representation of their faith?
Nonsensical American notions about Tantra go back to a priapic spiritual huckster of the early 20th century named Perry Baker, who hailed from California. When he got into the guru business, he rechristened himself Pierre Bernard, and then re-rechristened himself as -- I shit thee not -- "Oom the Omnipotent." Aleister Crowley (nobody's idea of a prude) once summarized Oom's operation as "that slimy abomination, a love cult." Oom's sect attracted rich women who gave him a ton of money. Eventually, he opened up his own ur-version of the Playboy mansion in Upper Nyack, New York, where he spent days and nights ooming and ooming with his devotees until his oomer very nearly fell off. Naturally, he developed a jaded attitude toward "normal" ooming; when his tastes veered toward teens, the police became involved, and the results were all very scandalous. Somehow, Leopold Stokowski got mixed up in this. I shit thee not.
The "sexy" part of Tantra -- the only part of Tantrism that Americans ever seem to care about -- is the maithuna ritual. Almost needless to say, the word "maithuna" appears nowhere in Ms. Askowitz' piece, and nothing similar to it is described.
Love gurus like Oom and the creeps who run these trendy "workshops" will tell you that sex magic is all about "really feeling it" and "respecting your lover" and "visualizing the goddess" and all that other New Agey horseshit. Apparently, Ms. Askowitz -- an alleged writer -- never considered the vast possibilities offered by a visit to the library, or even by calling up Google. I don't mean to seem impolite, but if you're too lazy to do any actual research, then shut the fuck up.
In case you're curious, I have somewhere between 30-40 books about Tantra and at least that many about Western sex magic. (I keep unfolding like a flower, don't I?) The two are not the same thing, despite what the hucksters who run "workshops" will tell you.
Okay, so most items in my library are pdf ebooks, which may strike some of you as insufferably downscale. But words is words, right? Granted, many of the works in that collection are crappy, while others are only semi-crappy. Like a lot of people, I was introduced to the topic of Tantra when I stumbled across a copy of Kamala Devi's semi-crappy The Eastern Way of Love -- which of course focuses only on the sex stuff, because that's the only aspect which American"seekers" could possibly ever care about. (On the other hand, Kamala's book contains the phrase "quaff a jet of bindu," which I've always considered marvelously poetic.)
Just to prove that I really do know something about this stuff: Some of you may recall a previous post, impishly published on Easter Sunday, in which I revealed the Big Damn Secret of Sex Magick, by which I mean western sex magic, which (as noted above) is not tantric and which may or may not go back to the Gnostics. There's a variant of this rite for male homosexuals, but I don't know of a lesbian version. I'm not sure that such a thing is even physically possible.
Frankly, and I don't mean to sound un-PC, but I'm not sure that a lesbian version of the maithuna rite (which I've decided not to describe in this essay) is physically possible either. An actual oomer may be an unfortunate necessity. But don't take my word for it: Look it up. Experiment. You tell me if a girl-girl adaptation is conceivable. If so, let's have a description, preferably with illustrations. If not, 'tis a pity: A properly-done maithuna rite ends in an experience some call the MahaTantra (although I don't think they call it that in India), which causes a psychedelic tactical nuclear missile to go off in your cerebral cortex and compared to which mere orgasm will forever after seem about as exciting as cracking your toe knuckle. And then you spend the rest of your life being Alejandro Jodorowsky.
According to this crappy source, "...the couple must withdraw before the orgasm. The semen must never be ejaculated in one’s life." But now that you are Alejandro Jodorowsky, you won't need to.
(And I haven't even mentioned the nooky-in-the-graveyard thing, as practiced by some Tibetan tantrics. If that sounds sexy to you, look up the practice of Tibetan "sky burial.")
Whatever Ms. Askowitz experienced with her partner seems to have been fun and fulfilling. That's fine. All I ask is this: Don't call it Tantra. Words have definitions. Language is not Calvinball; you can't make up the rules as you go along.
Being the Ancient of Days, I happily consign the maithuna rite to the young. At this stage of the game, my interest in the subject is academic. Nevertheless, I have achieved a certain level of Jodorowskyness.
btw, the initial picture was so gorgeous I thought it might be some new project of yours...I do hope your project/s are on track. I know it can be devastating to lose material, but loss is also an art to be mastered.
The painting at the very top was done by a guy named Karl Bang, born Bong Ka in Shanghai and formally trained in both Chinese and Western styles of art. I just discovered his work. Terrific stuff, if you ask me.
Some years back there was something called EST or like that where you attended some training camp. Why is it we constantly fall for this tripe?
Do we choose our philosophies like we do our leaders?
posted by Mr. Mike : 9:42 AM
It was his prattling on about Tantric sex that put me right off Sting, when he first burst upon the pop scene as part of the band Police, in the UK. Of course the media picked up on it and I suppose he found mentioning it, and bragging how good he was at it, was good for publicity. I sensed affectation and "phoney" - it put me off his singing for good.
Preach, brother! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OP_NKCV_Dn0 (Sorry, couldn't help it!)
posted by Lea : 10:22 AM
"The love for pleasure is a cosmic impulse so vast and consuming that it would wreak havoc if not balanced by another impulse, the love of handling power. Not the love of power, but of handling it. Tantra is a way of handling power, especially the power of attraction, mood, mania, inspiration, including any emotion, positive or negative." Introducing Planetary Tantra