Before proceeding with Tantric magic, let’s do a brief run through of some required prior knowledge:
Tantra posits what Western alchemists calls the hieros gamos, or the sacred union of opposites. In the case of Tantra, this would be consciousness (Purusa/Siva) and the web of space-time-matter-energy (Prkriti/Shakti/Kali). This cosmic love play is known as Lila. This differentiates Tantra from other Eastern cosmologies that view existence as Maya, the veil of illusion that must be transcended. For the Tantrika (Tantric practitioner), Lila is the sum of experiences that must be treasured, and reveled in.
Life exists so the universe may behold herself (which is one of the reasons my two-dollar bet is that the universe is teeming with life; those who disagree, I believe, will seem as short sighted as those Greeks who were certain that the world ended beyond the Mediterranean (consider the word: Medi, meaning middle, Terra, meaning Earth)).
The seven-chakra system attempts to marry psychological energies with their physical counterparts. Some practitioners focus on the mental aspects of these chakras, while others concern themselves with the physiological nature of these “spinning wheels”; however, they are as linked as Purusa and Prkriti.
From down up, or base to crown:
- Transcendence (Sahasrara)
- Thought (Ajna)
- Communication (Vissudhi)
- Compassion (Anahata)
- Will (Manipura)
- Sexuality (Svadisthana)
- Underworld (Muladhara)
Eschatology is the study of the end of times. For people of the Christian and Islamic faiths, the world ends in one, fiery act of redemptive destruction.
There are parallels in Hindu Tantrism, the notion of Yugas, or periods of time. From that perspective, we are living in the end of days, the Kali Yuga, which sees the coming of the final Avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, Kalki, the world devourer (note: Kalki should not be confused with Kali; these are separate, if interconnected, mythic forces).
Grim stuff, eh?
Buddhist Tantrism isn’t bound by that presupposition. In the Mahayana tradition, the universe has to keep unfolding until every being becomes enlightened.
Some already enlightened beings choose to stick around, waiting for the rest of us. They are called the Bodhisattvas. Some are selfish, and fade into the great nothing, Shunyata. They are called the Arahats. But either way, there is no final battle, no great Armageddon.
Soteriology is the study of individual salvation.
In classical Hinduism, with its fascination with Maya, salvation is escaping the enslavement of illusion.
For a Tantric, if life is play, why would one want to leave?
In classical (Hinyana) Buddhism, Samsara, the Great Wheel of Life/Death/Rebirth is a ride to get off of, as quickly as possible.
For a Tantric, Samsara just means you got another ticket to ride. Enjoy the ride! (And for the god’s sakes, keep your hands in the ride at all times, please!)
Now, this is where things get tricky…
This topic directly impinges on today’s post: Magic.
Tantra has two poles; I would argue that all belief systems do, though some attempt to hide their shadows (and if you look at the crusades, the witch-hunts, the jihadists, or the wife burners, it becomes clear that the shadows don’t stay hidden very long).
But let’s consider a different analogy: music.
Some bands play ballads and show tunes.
Some bands play death metal and screamo.
Some clubs only book the former, while some only book the latter.
Some venues are big enough to book them both.
Tantra is a big tent, and it gleefully holds both sides within it.
In Western occultism, these two approaches are called the right- and left-hand paths.
Wicca is a good example of a right-hand path: its fundamental creed, called the Wiccan rede, is:
An it harm none, do what ye will’
Thelema, Aleister Crowley’s system of magical initiation, gives us a different, more left-handed moral center:
Do as thou will shall be the whole of the law
(in fairness, there is the afterthought of Love is the Law; however, it is immediately amended by Love under Will, which muddies the waters, to say the least).
In Tantra, the ballad bands are called the Dakshinacharas; they adhere to the morality of the Vedas. Nothing carnal to look at here, Mr. Officer. We are good citizens, one and all.
On the other hand (all puns intended) are the Vamacharas, or Vama Margas. The left-hand path is where Kali sings the blues, and all the veils of ego are shattered, leaving room for an existentially infinite universe. It’s also where ritual moves from a passive act of prayer to an active stance of magic. But before the magic, there have to be rituals.
We looked at the 5Ms, or Panchamarkas, in an earlier post. However, a recap is warranted:
- Red Meat
- Hand Gestures (or parched grain, if that suits you better)
These are the central rituals of the left-hand path, all of which found their ways, more or less, into modern Western occultism.
Sounds like a decent party, right? Not so much, here’s where we have to entertain the notion of how the most carnal (carne= flesh; incarnation = to be made flesh) of acts can be divine. Given Tantric cosmology, that’s not difficult; everything is already divine love play. The problem for the initiate is recognizing it, and then…
And this finally brings us to our topic:
Remember, this is Pre-Magic, 101. Next week we start Magic, proper. What do you need to know to proceed?
Props are good.
Altars are even better.
The ability to visualize an image, and still your mind: priceless.
Next week, we start looking at Mantras (sounds) and Yantras (images).
However, let me exit this post by pointing out the strengths of a different school of thought, Chaos Magic:
You are free to choose your images. You are free to choose your sounds.
If it works for you, it works for you. And that will be a recurring theme as we proceed down the rabbit hole of Tantra.
Yes, there is a historic tradition to Tantra; several hundred, to be honest. But does it matter how you get to the party? Yes, a limo can get you there. So can a VW bus. Hell, a pogo stick will do in a bind. Still, in the end, how you arrive is less important than getting there; that’s a key point to understanding Tantra, as well as any other magical system.
The means are irrelevant. The goals are not.