Tantra: Theory and Practice

Introduction: exorcising the ghosts of science.

This paper aims to render the innermost mysteries of tantra coherent and sensible to a modern anglophone reader. The subject of tantra is one of great curiosity to the modern mind, however before we begin exploring it, we must first acknowledge that tāntric thought is a completely different system of knowledge, from how we as inhabitants of the 21st century are accustomed to thinking. Most of us now inhabit consciously or unconsciously a secular scientific modernist worldview. Since Darwin proved that humans descended from apes, it has not been possible for the western world to be religious in the same way it was before. The scientific worldview appears to us to be natural, that it somehow gives us a ‘true’ picture of reality. From this position one may easily slip into the fallacy of assuming that all other knowledge systems that don’t apparently coincide with the present state of scientific knowledge are all essentially false. Contrary to the disciplinary divisions in western knowledge of science, art and religion, one would have to emphatically assert that tantra is not a science, religion or art in the western sense of the terms. Rather, tantra is art, science and religion all at once. I would like to preface my discussion of tantric theory and method with a very brief discussion of the limits of science in particular and human discursive knowledge in general.[1] Continue reading

Tantra and Sacred Art: Exploring Rasa Theory through Yogic Principles

This paper discusses yoga and meditation in order to explore how the para-normal or spiritual experiences caused by these practices imbue sacred Indian art with a magical potency. This potency arises from the revelation of the nature of the symbolic realm of the unconscious mind as well as the a priori structures of the mind-body complex that make thought and cognition possible. Since the earliest times, esotericism in India has allied itself with art. I say ‘allied’ rather than ‘expressed’ itself because esotericism used art both as a medium of spiritual reportage as well as an aid to spiritual practice. Classical Indian art theory did not distinguish between the purely aesthetic and the doctrinally significant. My focus shall be on how tantrism relates with art. Continue reading