The Subtle Embrace in Tantra Yoga

The Subtle Embrace “Pierced at a distance by the thorn of sanyama, thE virgin yields her essence which, like moonlight, soothes those burned by the three-tongued flame of misery.”

– Fragment of a Lost Tantra

It is a common boast among Tantriks of certain Kaula sects that they enjoy the desired fruit of maithuna without any physical contact with the woman. Conversely, a female initiate may effect the same kind of subtle union with a virile young male, as we have noted in the instance of the Ka’a sect of Tibetan nuns, who use the energy so derived for healing and magical rites.

The various disciplines for accomplishing this end differ with the several sects that practice them, but all are based upon the principle of bioelectrical duality common to most Tantras.

As previously explained in the article on sound, all breathing creatures unconsciously utter an involuntary mantram – “hang-sah, hang-sah,” – made by the incoming and outflowing breath. Known as the ajapa mantra, it corresponds to the cosmic pulse, the breath of God, in a manner of speaking.

The Divine Rhythm

Vital functions of living organisms follow this pranic pattern, manifesting themselves rhythmically by expansion and contraction. Even in the single-celled amoeba, this pulsation is to be found in motion of the vacuoles.

In higher forms of life, including man, the divine rhythm moves constantly through the various organs, providing the dynamic that makes them function.

The heart has its systole and diastole; the intestines their alternating motion called peristalsis; the muscles, striped and smooth, have respectively contractive and serpentine movements.

Governing all these rhythms of the body are electrical processes, known to Western science as “pacemakers.” Tantriks, of course, regard all bioelectricity as modes of Shakti, the primal energy. They assert that opposite polarities generate constant motion in both physical and subtle bodies, as energy passes from centers of higher potential to those of lower potential.

At the time of puberty and for several years thereafter, a natural stirring of the serpent power or kundalini occurs. Although it vitalizes all the chakras of the subtle body, it is most potently concentrated in the genitals, whence it is discharged to some extent into the young person’s aura.

Poltergeist Phenomena

It is interesting to note that Western investigators are beginning to suspect what Tantriks have taught for centuries – that psycho-sexual energy generated in this way can produce startling and inexplicable phenomena in the physical world.

One of the chief sources of data available to our inquirers is that of poltergeist phenomena.

Poltergeists are the “noisy ghosts” assumed to be responsible for various kinds of unexplained disturbances. These include loud knockings and terrifying sounds; mysterious levitation of articles, which fly through the air or move about a room; and the sudden appearance of intense heat on walls and bedsteads.

Significantly, the poltergeist or “rattling spirit” has never been confined to one locality or age. Rather, he is known in all areas of our globe, both savage and civilized. Recorded accounts of his strange behavior date back as far as 856 B.C.

In centuries of observation and study of poltergeist mischief, researchers have all agreed that one factor seems always to be present at the scene of the enigmatic outbreaks. The baffling incidents occur in the immediate vicinity of young women, or in less frequent instances, of boys near the age of puberty.

Harry Price, the noted investigator of psychic phenomena, observed that in 95% of the poltergeist cases studied by him, a young girl was closely associated with the strange disturbances. In the remaining 5%, a young boy seemed to have some connection with it.

He further remarks upon the fact that puberty, adolescence and sexual excitement or trauma very often mark the onset or the termination of poltergeist phenomena. He cites an instance in which the paranormal events associated with a young girl disappeared overnight with her first menstruation.

He also calls attention to the fact that during experiments conducted in Vienna, a subject who had the ability to make objects move at a distance (a power known as psycho-kinesis), displayed greater energy when a sympathetic young woman acted as control.

From the Tantrik point of view, the incendiary effects of poltergeist activity are also highly significant in pointing to the source of the energy at work. The prime attribute of kundalini energy is heat.

A typical case of poltergeist heat phenomena was reported from Cidevelle Abbey in France. Among the curious incidents were heavy rumblings and blows on the walls of a room. Some person evidently schooled in matters of the occult suggested to the Cure that iron spikes be driven into the walls. When this was done, smoke and flames issued from the holes made by them. The extraordinary happenings ceased when two boys, aged twelve and fourteen, who occupied the room, were removed from the Abbey.

 A similar instance in which intense heat was produced in conjunction with other poltergeist phenomena, was reported by the Rev. L. A. Foyster, who resided in the celebrated Borley Rectory in Essex, an edifice known as “the most haunted house in England.”

The rector noted in his diary that whilst he was entertaining some visitors one day, a mysterious fire broke out in an unused bedroom. When he entered the room, he found one portion of a wall incandescent, glowing like an ember.

This and subsequent disturbances of a weird nature finally forced the clergyman and his family to vacate the rectory. It was later occupied by Price and a number of associates who wished to study the phenomena at close range.

In 1938, a message was received by automatic writing, stating that the haunted rectory would be destroyed by fire. A year later, the prophecy came true. It burned to the ground mysteriously one midnight. Spectators at the scene insisted that they had seen phantoms amid the leaping flames.

When the charred ruins were completely cleared in 1945, in one of the cellars workmen found human bones that were identified as those of a young woman. Tantriks say that the circumstances and nature of such phenomena associated with poltergeists strongly suggest that the energy manifested in them is sexual in origin. In his book, “The Story of Psychic Science,” he notes that the peculiar kind of energy witnessed in these proceedings seems to be radiated from the body of the human agent just at the time sexual vigor is blossoming into maturity. “It would almost seem,” he writes, “as though these energies, instead of taking their normal course, were somehow turned to another channel at such times and were externalized beyond the limits of the body, producing the manifestations in question.”

Dr. John Layard, a Jungian psychologist, sees in poltergeist disturbances indications of a deep and unresolved conflict in the personality of the human agent responsible for them. He enunciates the principle in terms of polarity, and his statement sounds as though he were quoting from one of the Tantras. He says there exists, a priori, in such a personality situations of extreme tension, “when the two poles of the personality are trying to join, but cannot.”

While adolescence is the classic time for extraordinary display of psycho-sexual energy, the same energy is sometimes discharged into the surrounding ether by adults during sexual excitation. For example, the husband of an Austrian sensitive reported that during the acme of sexual embrace with his wife, small ornaments on the mantel would move about mysteriously. In the flow of such energy from one person to another, the current or radiation will move toward the weaker of the two. It thus behaves in the same way as electrical energy.

As regards the latter, it is well known that if a highly charged body is connected to one of lower potential, current flows from the stronger to the weaker, until equalization between the two charges occurs.

As a matter of fact, the theory has long been held throughout the world that a person of advanced age who lives in prolonged and intimate contact with youth, apparently draws vitality and health from the younger person or persons. This is all the more true if the younger is of the opposite sex and in glowing good health.

It was no doubt this knowledge which prompted the retainers of ailing King David of antiquity to search his kingdom for a young girl who might help restore his waning physical strength. “Now King David was old and stricken in years,” the scripture relates, “and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my Lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in his bosom, that my Lord the king may get heat.

“So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag, a Shunnamite, and brought her to the king.”

Later, with the rise of the Troubadours in Medieval Europe, the same Tantrik technique makes its appearance once more. One of the least adequately explored aspects of the Troubadour movement in the feudal courts is the Tantrik origin of its secret disciplines. The relationship between the true Troubadour and the object of his love (usually the wife of a feudal lord, but sometimes a maid) was more than that of mere patroness and poet. The Troubadours had a special name for this relationship. They called it donnoi. A careful examination of their celebrated love songs will quickly make clear the exact nature of the relationship denoted by that word.

Some speak of a certain manner of gazing at the beloved so as to awaken slumbering forces in the lover. Others describe how they undressed their lady, gazed rapturously at her naked body, made passes over it, and spent hours at a time with her nude form pressed close to their own. But in no place is there a reference to any kind of marked orgasm or to intercourse in the conventional sense of the word. On the contrary, they declared that “he knows nothing of donnoi who wants to possess his lady carnally.”

William of Poitiers, one of the first Troubadours, unequivocally spells out the Tantrik nature of donnoi. He says:

“I want to retain my lady in order to refresh my heart and renew my body so well that I cannot age. He will live a hundred years who succeeds in possessing the joy of his love.”

Centuries before, a grateful Roman by the name of Hermippus had raised a marble monument to the same formula. The inscription read:

“To Aesculapius and Sanitas this is placed by L. Clo-dius Hermippus, who lived 115 years and five days by perspiration of a young virgin, causing great wonder to all physicians. May posterity lead similar lives in this fashion.”

Parenthetically, it should be borne in mind that in classical usage (as in Biblical and Hindu texts), the word “virgin” did not have exactly the same meaning as that given it in most countries today. It referred to any unmarried girl past the age of puberty, usually one who enjoyed the vitality and burgeoning beauty of good health. The term used by the ancients in referring to a girl who had never known sexual intercourse was more explicit: virgo intacta.

Mention should be made in the present context also of another Medieval group who apparently held certain views that were unquestionably Tantrik in origin, namely, King Arthur and his knights.

De Rougement, in his “Love in the Western World,” quotes Rene Nelli on the erotic magic of the Grail as follows:

“This erotic magic was inspired first of all by a belief that the female body displayed by its mere presence certain supernatural powers, the same that were attributed to the Grail. (The Grail rejuvenated those who contemplated it.)”

Nelli’s analysis does not make clear the important fact that the female body referred to was that of a beautiful young virgin, the kumari of Tantrik treatises.

Persecution of the Church eventually extirpated such sects as the Troubadours, Cathars and mystic lovers of the Middle Ages, but the ancient belief that in virginity could be found an elixir of life persisted in the West, as it always had in the East. In the eighteenth century, the wife of a French physician operated a successful establishment in Paris, which offered rejuvenation to old men and renewed vigor to impotent young men. The technique used was close contact with virgins. Restif de la Bretonne, historian of sexual life in the Paris of his day, describes the procedure in some detail. He says that girls recruited for the purpose had to be in glowing good health, and in the first bloom of maidenhood. Urban Paris was apparently unable to provide consorts who could meet those requirements. Most of them were found in the rural areas of France.

The Tantrik nature of the practice, despite its low moral character and setting, is evident from the proce-dure followed. Each girl was carefully inspected for hidden defects and thereafter underwent a period of training by Madame Janus, as the operator of the strange lupanar was called. They had to be of average height, well-formed, of pleasant countenance and disposition; and to walk with the lithe step of a leopard. The girls – there were forty of them – were placed on a diet which, it was believed, would greatly increase their vitality and bring to full charge the electrical potential in each. They followed a strict regimen of daily physical exercise, personally supervised by Madame Janus herself.

As in the case of Tantrik maithuna, both the male client and the two virginal partners who were to serve him, were given perfumed baths, followed by a brisk rubdown to increase circulation and build bioelectricity in the body. The man then retired for the night, lying between two girls, one a blonde, the other a brunette. All three slept on the right side, the brunette closely pressed against the man’s back and he, in turn, in close contact with the nude back of the blonde.   This course of “treatment” continued nightly for a little more than three weeks. Each pair of virgins was relieved by two fresh ones after eight days of continuous service.

Madame Janus declared that a girl’s restorative powers were exhausted in about a year if she was employed every night, without periods of respite. If, on the other hand, she took two-week intermissions to rest up and to revitalize herself, she would be effective as a rejuvenator for as long as three years.

Mahatma Gandhi And Virgin Consorts

In our own day, it has been reported that the late Mahatma Gandhi sometimes slept chastely in bed with young girls. The English assumed that he did this to prove his power over temptation, but Tantriks say he found the subtle emanations of virgins a valuable source of energy during his long and debilitating fasts, undertaken in the course of his struggle with the British Raj.

According to Tantrik teachings, during a night-long contact of the kind just described, a polarization takes place which, while not of the all-pervading, plenary character of ritual union, is nonetheless a subtle kind of maithuna. Far more potent, of course, is the discipline performed at a distance and without bodily contact of any kind. An epoptic treatise in the possession of a Kaula sect in Bengal tells how this may be accomplished.

The sadhaka is instructed, first of all, to find a nayika or virgin consort suitable for the practice. She may be a stranger casually encountered, who remains unaware that the sadhana is being performed. Or she may be a female servant, a pupil, or a girl paid for her service. But from whatever quarter she comes, she must meet certain requirements as to appearance and physical condition. In general, these qualifications are the same as those prescribed for the partner in the secret ritual. That is, she must be of good health, possess a body without physical defects, have fully developed breasts (a sine qua non among all Hindus), prominent mons veneris, and lustrous, abundant hair.

In practice, the sadhana is most often performed as an unauthorized intrusion. Without attracting attention, the practicant places himself within the girl’s auric range, that is, at a distance of six feet or less. Making certain that he is unobserved, either by the girl or by others, he then makes sanyama on the con-sort’s sex chakra. Sanyama means bringing the mind to a point and focusing it on an object, mental image or idea. The process embodies three steps.

First, withdrawing the awareness from objects of sense, the yogi strongly visualizes the muladhara center, situated midway between the anus and genitals. This may be conceived as a triangle, inside which is a brilliant red, twisted tongue of flame. For the space of several minutes, his mind dwells solely upon this image, without wavering or “spreading” to related ideas or train of thoughts.

 Such one-pointedness is accomplished, not by willing it (or the law of reverse effort will take over and the end result will be opposite that desired), but by the imagination. In a quiet, tranquil, almost detached mood, he turns his attention fully upon the image of the chakra, as though it were before his eyes.

Once a degree of full concentration is established, the yogi, oblivious of all else save his vision of the triangle and its tongue of flame, once more allows his thoughts to move. Only, this time they move around the image he has held in focus. The effect may be compared with the stopping of a motion picture film during projection. All action is arrested. A single image remains frozen upon the screen, to be studied in detail for as long a period as desired. Then motion is resumed and the flow of visual continuity goes on. We see not only the object or view that was fixed in the stationary frame, but related features, either of setting or of detail. So it is with the sadhaka, who now allows the continuity of thoughts to resume. He finds that instead of the promiscuous series of ideas that usually flow through the conscious mind when it is given free rein, a meaningful and associated pattern of mental perceptions emerges.

Unlike ordinary reverie, his present thought is charged with emotion. He not only visualizes the objective of his sanyama; he also strongly feels it. It becomes a vivid dream of the yoga sleep. At this point, according to the text, he experiences rapture. That is to say, he forgets his own identity, losing himself in the intuitional contact with the muladhara chakra of the girl before him.

After an interval of mystical unity, which may last for a brief moment or for an hour, he rouses himself to cognitive awareness. Then noting the girl’s respiratory rhythm, as indicated by the rising and falling of the chest, he begins to breathe in unison. As he does so, he stimulates the electrical discharge of his own muladhara by contracting the sphincter muscles of the anus. If he has properly “locked on,” he can now speed up the respiratory rate of his shakti by breathing more rapidly himself.

With a quicker vibration thus established in both sadhaka and sadharani, the yogi visualizes an invisible, but powerful current flowing from the muladhara center of the younger person into his own. As he rhyth-mically contracts the anal sphincter, he mentally repeats the mantra, “Hang-sah; Hang-sah.”

Success of the sadhana is signalled by the rise of body temperature, especially in the region of the genitals. Essentially, the feeling of warmth that begins to emanate from the muladhara is activity of the kundalini, and is related to the tumo or psychic heat extensively dealt with in Tibetan texts.

To Western readers, who have inherited the rationalist, materialistic philosophy of their civilization, a procedure such as that just described may appear fantastic or naively imaginative. They should bear in mind, however, that Tantra is based firmly upon the premise that an exchange of psychic energy is constantly going on between person and person, planet and planet, universe and universe.

The Shastra further holds that sanyama, or the practice of combined concentration, meditation and rapture, can arouse slumbering forces within one’s own body or in that of others. By the same technique, these forces can be directed from one point to another, anywhere in the universe. The reason is this: mind and matter are but two different modes or polarities of the same supreme Power -the one subtle, the other gross. It seems clear to the Tantrik that one can act upon the other.

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