Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Path of Paradox

"While lists of siddhis in India are as numerous as varieties of cheese in France, nearly all may be categorized under two general headings, 'magical' and 'abstract'. The latter, better known, are especially found in yogic and high Hindu Tantric sources. . .The former, found in both Buddhist and Hindu sources, are, in spite of having fallen out of vogue among Tantric authors and commentators, nonetheless more original and authentic."

David Gordon White, Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts

"Among the general public, there is a common misconception about Tantra. It is believed that in performing Tantric practices one uses mystic formulas or mantras, invokes spirits and mystic deities and as a result acquires weird powers and uncanny experiences. But this understanding of Tantra is obviously naive, for Tantra has a much wider connotation. It stands for a particular conception of reality and subsequently a particular way of life."

Kamalakar Mishra, Kashmir Saivism: The Central Philosophy of Tantra

Friday, May 12, 2006

Aleister Crowley and Timothy Leary, two of the most notorious figures of the 20th-century, were influenced by the Tantric tradition, and any Westerner who practices Tantra has in turn been influenced by them. Both Crowley and Leary were brilliant, misguided, worshipped by some and vilified by others. Both understood the importance of the inner quest -- the exploration of consciousness -- and sought to live unfettered by convention; both paid a heavy price for that choice. Both men were deeply flawed, but each left us an important legacy.

"Every generation lives the old drama out over and over again. Every person can. The challenge is for you to become your own priest. For you to become your own doctor. For you to become your own researcher on consciousness."
Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy

"To obey a set of rules is to shift the whole responsibility of conduct on to some superannuated Bodhisattva, who would resent you bitterly if he could see you, and tick you off in no uncertain terms for being such a fool as to think you could dodge the difficulties of research by the aid of a set of conventions which have little or nothing to do with actual conditions."
Aleister Crowley, Eight Lectures on Yoga

Each statement is a perfectly succinct articulation of what it means to live Tantrically.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"The War on Contraception" by Russell Shorto, which appeared in Sunday's New York Times Magazine is very important reading for anyone concerned about sexual freedom. It provides a good deal of insight into the mind set of the "abstinence only" crowd and makes it abundantly clear that for many in that group, overturning Roe v. Wade is not so much a goal as it is a first step.

For many social conservatives, non-procreative sex is the problem; their hidden agenda is the elimination of all forms of contraception and that is not all. According to Shorto, "[t]heir ultimate goal is not a number - the percentage of abortions or unintended pregnancies - but an ideal, a way for people to think and behave." This is why they are seeking to block the production of a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus; they value their goal of transforming society more than they value the lives of sexually active women, protestations about the sanctity of life notwithstanding. Their way of thinking is profoundly at odds with the Tantric perspective, in which sexual activity can be a means to an end -- most often the experience of altered states of consciousness, a direct path to union with the divine.

There is a very quiet movement afoot in the United States to stamp out the rights of all sexual minorities, to return to a mythical golden age when we were invisible, when non-marital sex was forbidden and women were little more than breeding machines, with no right to pleasure. While some members of this movement can be quite vocal, the general public remains substantially unaware of the scope of its project. This is an age-old struggle; Shorto begins his article with a discussion of Daniel Defoe's "A Treatise Concerning the Use and Abuse of the Marriage Bed", in which Defoe claimed that by enaging in non-procreative sex, married men make whores of their wives. Today, beyond the struggles over abortion rights and contraception, several Southern states ban the sale of sex toys, and these statutes have been upheld in the courts.

Those of us who do not share the social conservatives' views ignore them or minimize them at our peril. Roe v. Wade hangs on by a thread -- in all probability a single vote on the Supreme Court. When that thread is pulled, the entire fabric that protects our rights will begin to unravel, and we will be living in a society governed by a set of rules that could make outlaws of us all.

http://tinyurl.com/rmrht (subscription required)