“In the beginning, this world was only the Self, in the shape of a person. He looked around; he saw nothing there but himself. First of all, he cried out, “I am!” And then he became frightened; thus one is frightened when alone.” Brihad-aranyka Upanishad
In attempting to present to the Western reader a clear understanding of Tantrism, we are immediately con-fronted with a huge semantic obstacle: the word “sex.”
No sound symbol in our language is so emotionally charged. None has been given a more limited or narrow meaning. Until a generation or two ago, the word itself was taboo in public discussion. For it had then, as it has even today, but a single dominant meaning: the biological process of procreation. Something necessary, no doubt, but somehow shameful. To the Tantrik adept (as to the Western initiate), sex has a vastly more comprehensive and more important meaning. For them, sex is the cosmic union of opposites, the primordial energy from which arises everything and every being in the universe.
The sacred texts say that during each cycle of cosmic inaction (called the Night of Brahman), there exists but One. It becomes many by an act of will: “Aham bahu syam – May I be many.”
“He by the power of yoga, became in the act of creation, two-fold; the right half was male and the left was called prakriti or female.” Brahma Vaivartta Purana.
The Act Of Generation
In Tantrik ritual, this first act of generation or “shining forth” is symbolized by a grain of gram. And a more appropriate symbol could hardly be found. The gram consists of a partially divided seed, enveloped by a thin sheath or husk. One side of the seed represents the male principle and the other side the female.
At first the seed, although cleft, is of one substance, and joined together in a single body. Then, as generation occurs, the surrounding shell bursts and new life stirs, reaching toward the light. Such is the bipolar process of creation, from the most microscopic cell to the biggest star. Custodians of the ancient wisdom declare that everything in creation is thus divided into positive and negative, male and female, passive and kinetic, electric and magnetic.
Your own body, for example, is divisible into two halves, each with its own polarity: muscles, limbs, bones, organs of sight and hearing – all come in pairs. Even the brain has two hemispheres. While you have but one heart, it is also divided into right and left sections. The same is true of other internal organs. Structurally, each has two halves, united at a central line.
The feminine or negative side is passive, but magnetic; it attracts to itself, absorbs and stores up potential energy. But bring it into proper contact with the positive or masculine side of nature, and a reaction occurs; power is generated.
The same is true when a predominantly masculine personality is brought into the magnetic “field” of a predominantly feminine one.
“When those two first met,” declared a friend, when describing his introduction of a couple who have since become happily married, “you could almost see the sparks fly.”
He was, in fact, not far wrong in thus characterizing the kind of discharge that results when the inert potential of shakti or the female is fused with the dynamic Shiva or the male.
The man and woman referred to experienced the same kind of reaction that makes the “world go round” on its axis, crops to grow, or an atomic bomb to explode: reunion of divided poles.
When such a union between male-electrical and female-magnetic occurs, the couple involved provide a conduit for cosmic force, which flows through them into the earth plane with tremendous power. This power, radiated by them, polarizes the surrounding atmosphere.
Although this phenomenon has been known for centuries in India and Tibet, it was only recently that a Western researcher “discovered” it, independently of any knowledge of Tantrism.
Dr. Rudolph von Urban, a California physician whose practice is largely devoted to marital problems and sexology, said the manifestation was first reported to him by an Oriental patient.
The patient, also a doctor of medicine, told Dr. von Urban that the curious incident had occurred during the first week of his marriage to a beautiful Syrian girl. He said his wife and he lay together on a couch, naked and in close contact for about an hour, caressing each other, but not consummating the union. The room was in total darkness (a condition, incidentally, that is strictly forbidden in Tantrik ritual).
When the couple separated and stood up, the young physician was amazed to see that his wife was sur-rounded by a corona of greenish-blue, mystic light.
Slowly, the husband reached out his hand toward his bride. When his open palm was within an inch of her breast, an electric spark, painful to both, crackled between them.
“We both shrank back,” he recounted. With this strange case as a point of departure, Dr. von Urban later conducted a carefully controlled study of the phenomenon. The resulting data provided material for an excellent book, based on “the conviction that differences in bio-electrical potential exist in male and female bodies, and that an exchange between these two types of electricity takes place in proper sex union.” Rudolph von Urban, M.D.: “Sex Perfection and Marital Happiness.”
The Tantrik texts leave no doubt as to the importance and the dangers inherent in such a union as that de-scribed. The powerful cosmic forces that surround us at all times, seeking expression through polarization, can vastly alter our whole lives.
Properly understood and used, such a union can intensify and expand the knowledge, talents and mental powers of both partners. The singer will sing as never before, the poet find a greater release into the world of creative imagination; the mathematician will experience less difficulty in arriving at solutions to the most difficult problems.
Here, in fact, is the secret knowledge underlying all Tantrik procedure. It is the basic power that attracts or repels other people. It can bestow health or cause disease. It can be used to obtain wealth, to unlock the mysteries of the unconscious. Ultimately, it can bring the sadhaka (aspirant) to the final goal of all yoga – that of spiritual perfection.
Weird Practices Of “Brothers Of The Left Hand”
In many parts of Tibet, Tantrik magicians, so-called “brothers of the left-hand,” have evolved powerful and frightening ways of using the energy derived from sexual union – not always to good ends.
One order of Tibetan nuns is known to keep spies among the general populace for the purpose of locating and enspelling sexually vigorous young men. These victims are then taken to remote convents where they are held in thrall and used as a source of psychic galvanism for various occult practices.
If we are to believe the account of an English writer, women are similarly spirited away by the Dugpas – a sect of Red Cap lamas – for the same purposes. Elizabeth Sharpe: “Secrets of the Kaula Circle.”
Another and even more dangerous kind of vampirism is secretly practiced in some parts of India. A young and healthy person of the opposite sex is chosen for this technique. Knowing that sublimated sexual energy is stored in the spinal fluid in a form known as ojas, the Tantrik of the left-hand inserts a hollow needle into the donor’s spinal column between the vertebrae and near the base, withdrawing a small amount of fluid.
Then, in a similar operation, he takes from his own spinal column a smaller amount of the fluid. The two are mixed together and re-injected into his own spine.
It must be strongly emphasized that this procedure is extremely dangerous and should never be undertaken by the layman. It and other practices mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs, are cited merely to indicate to the reader the wide scope of Tantrism. At one end of the spectrum, we have the loftiest motives and noblest ideals. At the other, we find negative sensuality, vampirism and magic.
Qualifications For Safe And Successful Results
Both aspects of Tantra, however, have one thing in common. Both make use of the same primal energy which, like any force of nature, may be put to good or evil use, depending upon the character of the user.
As a matter of fact, most Tantrik texts carefully spell out the qualifications necessary for the safe and successful practice of sandhana. They specifically exclude the voluptuary, the drunkard, the lewd person, the glutton, and the lecher.
In the West, sexual intercourse is defined as the act of copulation, or at best, the act together with the love play, if any, preceding it.
The Vedic scriptures, on the other hand, view all relations between persons of opposite sex as varying degrees of coition.
Even contemplating or visualizing the act will, to some extent, change the thinker’s polarity and is, there-fore, to be regarded as one kind of sex act.
In this connection, the words of Jesus seem to indicate a similar view, for he declared:
“But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew V:28.
Eight Aspects Of Sexual Intercourse
In the Hindu texts, sexual intercourse is said to have eight aspects. These are enumerated as: (1) smarnanam or allowing the thoughts to dwell upon it; (2) kirtanam or discussing it with another; (3) keli – keeping company with the opposite sex; (4) prekshenam or flirting; (5) guhyabhashanam or intimate conversation with a person of the opposite sex; (6) samkalpa or the desire for coition; (7) adhyavasayam or firm determination to indulge; and (8) kriyanishpatti or physical copulation.
Thus, many who believe themselves sexually chaste are, in fact, only sexually subtle. Their conduct differs from that of the debauchee, not in-kind, but merely in degree.
Eventually, the Freudians notwithstanding, there will dawn the realization that the libido, manifesting as sexual desire, is not lust per se, but the yearning for completion.
It is the ultimate destiny of the soul to achieve that completion through the union of polar opposites within his own body. Thus reborn as the divine androgyne -the offspring of Shiva and Shakti – the soul will then inhabit only the higher lokas or planes of existence.
Is not such a teleology implied also in the Christian scripture in which Jesus says:
“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Matthew XXII:30.
Levels Of Being
Even in our present state, each of us may function as a man on one level of being and as a woman on another.According to Tantra Shastra, while each of us is predominantly male or female in the physical world, that polarity does not remain the same in the other six lokas or zones of existence.
If you are a woman, for example, on the mental plane you probably are oriented to the masculine pole, and mentally function as a man. A man’s mind, on the other hand, is usually feminine in character. But in the subtle interplay of forces that characterize our invisible relationships, it is the degree of intensity that determines polarity – or if you prefer, sex.
In any man-woman relationship, the partner expressing the stronger qualities of a given plane will be male on that plane, irrespective of his or her sex in the physical body. This means, of course, that a woman may be feminine, absorbing, magnetic in her relationship to one man; but positive, masculine and dominant in her rapport with another. The same is true of a man in his relations with different women.
Herein lies a valuable clue to be used in diagnosing many conflicts and inharmonies of modern marriages.
It may also provide a means of understanding and resolving many discords within ourselves. For each of us exists and functions on more than one plane or level of consciousness. Each of these levels has its own polarity, depending upon the intensity of our feeling in that dimension.
The ancient wisdom of the Tantras asserts that man’s subtle “bodies” or spiritual modalities, polarize each other on a descending scale. The more highly-evolved level of consciousness is always dominant and masculine in its relation to the one just below it.
Conversely, the denser body will be feminine-negative in its relation to the higher.
This line of authority, so to speak, or regulation from above, is tremendously important to the understanding and practice of Tantra Yoga, as will become evident in what follows.