Aspects of Tantra - Five Essays Exploring Modern Tantra
by Phil Hine
Many elements of Tantric magic have become absorbed into the general magical lore of the West. Such elements include concepts such as Kundalini, the Chakras, Karma, Yoga, etc. Concepts such as the Chakras have been widely taken up by new agers and spiritualists, many of whom would be horrified if told of the roots of these concepts in tantrism.
So why does Tantra have such a ‘dodgy’ reputation? In part, this is due to the efforts of the European chroniclers of Indian religious life. The Abbé Dubois for example, author of the seminal work on Hindu life, “Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies” (1807), wrote in much detail of the “abominable debaucheries” of ‘sakti worship’. The Abbé’s work contained the first detailed account of the orgiastic ritual that came to be known as ‘cakrapuja’ (circle-worship), and his book did much to fix the European notion that Hindus were depraved.
The Abbé’s descriptions of sakti worship was passed down from author to author, and still colours some modern notions of Tantra. Similarly, the Rev. William Ward, writing of famous tantric texts such as the Yoni Tantra, reverted to asterisks occasionally whilst describing “...things too abominable to enter the ears of man, and impossible to be revealed to a Christian public...”
By the mid-Nineteenth Century, Tantra has acquired the glamour which surrounds it even today - of ‘forbidden rites’, ‘orgiastic ceremonies’, ‘ritual murder’ and ‘oriental mysteries’.