The great magical sex swindle: debunking fake tantrism
The history of sexuality is an immensely vast topic full of surprises. Throughout the centuries, different cultures interpreted it in just as many different ways, influenced by unexpected factors such as technological development, climate, politics and medicine. We can safely say that the idea of sex has evolved through countless forms with only basic biology and a very few other certainties in common. One real evergreen among them is that the best fucks are somewhere else.
Today like four thousand years ago, erotic imagination knows no bounds and spontaneously chases dreams of faraway places where people are less inhibited, hornier and above all into unknown pleasures. Literary study is almost comical: you learn for example that in the second half of the Eighteen century Europe was under the vague spell of a mythical sensuous Orient; Arabians told of the secrets of Asian alcoves; the Far East had legends about the lustful skills of Western women… and so on, in an endless chase devoid of much concrete facts.
The phenomenon persists today. Despite the omniscience allowed by the Internet, for example, the legend of sex slaves academies hidden within some European castles is still pretty widespread in the United States, undoubtably due to History of O, published in 1954. On the other hand, some British clubs would swear that somewhere in Africa there are ponygirls farms, while a sizeable chunk of the Chinese population is convinced that life in North America looks like the queer Babylons imagined (or dreamed of?) by religious fundamentalists.
This would be fun, yet some howlers have been repeated so often and so confusingly that they took on lives of their own. A famous one is the myth about the esoteric Indian sexuality, born in 1883 with the very questionable translation of the Kama Sutra penned by the sex-addicted explorer Richard Francis Burton. Never mind it is a terribly boring book full of improbable suggestions: most readers only read the intercourse positions chapter anyway, believing it to be the proof of a culture dedicated to lewd and complicated arts.
Chief among the standard bearers for that misunderstanding was Pierre Bernard, aka ‘Oom the Magnificient’, who in 1905 founded the Tantrik Order of America: a school where he maintained to teach “the tantra”, a form of yoga strongly oriented to reaching ecstasy through sexual practices. Let’s forget about the abuse charges put forward by several female students and how, while containing some erotic elements, the real tantric tradition is a whole different beast. What really matters is that the concept of “tantric sex” has since taken flight and continued to evolve beyond any good sense. If for example neo-tantra appeared in the ‘80s introducing many new age elements, the latest development is nothing less than the foreboding dark tantra.
Before examining this fad it may be wise to step back and see what so-called tantric sex is acually about. When you remove all the mystical trappings that the practice is normally coated with, what remain are a few erotic techniques which may indeed make the quality of intercourse better:
Pubococcygeous muscle control – The anatomical term indicates those muscles you squeeze when you want to hold back pee. Since they are the same that delay ejaculation in men and give mobility to women’s vaginas, the practical advantages are easily guessed: it is not a coincidence if every sexologist in the world suggests to keep them toned – but they call them Kegel exercises.
Deep breathing – Most people are used to tense and hold their breath when they get close to orgasm, without realizing it is the best way to ruin it. If you learn to overcome cultural conditioning and be a little louder, you’ll come much harder. That’s it.
Communication with your partner – Another widespread bad habit is the tendency to use the partner for our own pleasure instead of making love together. Looking into each other’s eyes, syncronized breathing, focusing your attention on the other’s tiniest reactions and turning sex into a precise ritual forces you into a deeper harmony and into discovering the pleasure of a true union between bodies and souls.
Hypnosis – Hypnosis isn’t just a stage magician’s trick. As a matter of fact, we all experience temporary hypnotical trances of varying depths every day – at least just before falling asleep. That pleasant mix of half-sleep and hyperattentivity is the effect of a mind relaxation induced by a series of physical factors, which unsurprisingly are the same that get activated by the meditation and breathing exercises typical of tantra yoga. Having sex in that semi-abstracted condition can be a memorable experience.
Orgasm decentralization – I always found ‘reaching orgasm’ a pretty funny idiom, suggesting a desperate chase. It also says a lot about how people experience sex, directing it all toward a few seconds of bliss. Alternative sexualities instead prove that everything that happens before may offer great pleasures too, if you only allow yourself to enjoy them – and that’s what also happens with tantra, where you actually aim to delay orgasm as much as possible, or not giving it any importance at all. The tale of Sting’s 8-hours straight tantric fucks is just an urban legend, but you sure can go beyond the Western average five minutes and a half.
Tantric sex, or at least its most common interpretation, is just this. Pleasurable, definitely interesting and quite easy to enjoy after a few simple couple’s experimentations or a handful of proper lessons, with no need to overcomplicate your life with abstruse Hindi terms. Its “dark” variant, by the way, is nothing but good, old BDSM, repackaged and sold as an initiation path through occult roads of pains and pleasures vaguely reminding of Doctor Strange.
Domination and submission games can undoubtably help knowing yourself, introspection and some sort of personal growth. I am however mighty skeptical of the benefits in cloaking an already marvelous experience with an useless aura of mysticism – especially if that happens in expensive “spiritual” week-end retreats or thanks to massage parlor gurus. So, to see clear about it, I asked Luca Sadhaka from Da grande voglio fare il Buddha (lit. ‘I wanna be a Buddha when I grow up’), who actually knows his Indian tradition.
First things first, will you tell us who you are and what your YouTube channel project is about?
As I always say in my video openings: «Greetings to everyone, I am Luca and I am a sadhaka, which is to say an Indian spiritual disciplines practicioner».
I had my regular initiation in India from a master living in the jungle, whose school philosophy is founded on the teachings of Gorakshanath and a mix of Advaita Vedanta, Shaivism and tantrism. I took several journeys through India with my collaborator and manager Riccardo Fine, we meditated in the heart of the jungle, made tapas, braved scorpions, jaguars and local black magic practicioners into human sacrifices (no, I’m not joking!), attended cerimonies and everything you’d expect from a normal spiritual disciple.
Contrary to common belief, our school’s tantric roots do not promote retreating from the world (not that there is anything bad in that), but demands to stay well into it leading a normal life. This means that after learning the meditation techniques we have been kicked back to the West. Once resettled, we felt the need to give some answers to those interested in a healthy spiritual search path, and above all the need to confute and debunk the thousand incorrect myths about Indian philosophy.
Besides that we also have a proper job: we produce scientific documentaries, some of which received rather important awards and recognition. These two souls merged in our YouTube channel, where we attempt to find a real common ground between science and spirit. We have been defined as ‘the most rationals among the irrationals’: a halfway hybrid, too scientific for esoterists and too esoteric for the scientists. Ancient latins said «in medio stat virtus» (trans. ‘virtue sits in the middle’)… who knows whether we got it right somehow?
I have a feeling that, while working in different fields, we are doing quite similar jobs. I too spend the majority of my time to remedy the prevailing disinformation about alternative sexualities, due to lots of shallowness and some questionable character who made a business out of taking advantage of people’s ignorance. What is the situation in the world of spirituality? Looking from the outside, it seems that discounting fraudsters and kooks, those living it seriously are far and few…
Yup, we are probably driven by the same ideal. Surely you have been asked «why do you do it?» too, and I always have the same answer: «Only a blind wouldn’t see the damage done by certain individuals: if nobody puts out a contrary voice they will never stop. So I am asking you: why don’t you do it too?»
What CICAP does with pseudoscience, we do with pseudospirituality. Just like the former disguises itself with scientism yet makes incorrect, arbitrary and made-up statements taking advantage of ignorant people, pseudospirituality follows suit. So alleged masters pop up pretending to heal any illness with their bare touch, with urine or by placing holy Mary icons in your vagina. Equally shady others promise to grant the re-awakening of your kundalini by having sex or, like porn director Renzo Reggi, claim to be masters of an unspecified Egyptian Order.
There are sad characters who, wildly misreading tantrism, ended up inventing absurd rituals. I personally met people proud to practice “mystical eucharisty”, meaning having gay intercourse under the influence of drugs and spirits, in order to reingest their sperm direct from the anus at the end of the cerimony. Make no mistake: I am ok with people having sex with whoever they want, even with a rock. Same goes for coprophagy, golden showers and more. I won’t be the one to discriminate anybody and there is nothing wrong if two consenting partners wish to let their sexual fantasies loose and live their relationship without taboos… But no, you cannot justify your wish to binge on sperm with mysticism! Call it any way you wish, but I can’t tolerate that stuff to be passed out as spirituality.
The problem is that there are thousands of similar cases, and absurd characters keep popping up. Each day a new one, like the aliens «coming out of the fucking walls»! As soon as I cut one of their heads off, two or three more come up. It’s like a hydra, and I feel like a long-haired and scrawny Hercules.
Besides having less fun, the gravest issue with a lack of correct information with extreme eroticism is the danger of getting hurt by shoddily approaching practices which are best researched before acting instead. Those accidents are rarely of the physical kind, but they often carry very serious emotional and psychological consequences. What are the risks of attempting a knockabout spiritual path?
Madness. People literally burn out: they become dissociated, alienated from the world. You can be swept in a sect and be swindled out of thousands of dollars, having your life destroyed and get subjugated. There are those who end up believing in flat Earth theories and those deluded of talking with angels or with god… amid mystical deliriums and kookiness aplenty, I have seen and heard more than enough. Somebody even go as far as committing sucide, self-abuse or hurting others. We should remember how horrid crimes, wars and pyres have been committed in the name of faith and religion. When people feel entitled by a divine or superior principle validating their delusions, they turn into real monsters. As long as people hurt only themselves you could almost say they looked for it, but things change if others get involved, especially children. Some times a dissociated parent’s delusions cause cases of babies hospitalized for malnutrition, or even dead because they weren’t vaccinated or properly cured. These abominations happen precisely due to pseudospirituality. Adult victims of those silliness believe they can cure their children with homeopaty, “thin energy”, magical vibrations, homemade potions and cute prayers.
What advice do you have for somebody who wanted to “become a Buddha” when they grow up?
The one thing to do is meditation. Practice, practice and practice.
Study. Practice, practice and practice.
Find a real master. Practice, practice and practice.
Oh, and clearly also practice.
Always question stuff and seek with your heart. Have I already mentioned practicing?
Just in case, let me say it now: practice, practice and practice.
Let’s get to the point. Is this esoteric sex thing bullshit or not?
It depends. On who does it, how it is done and why. In 99.999999% of the cases yes, it’s a colossal bullshit. An excuse to get laid.
You know well how sexuality is strictly connected to the mind. We live in a society that for centuries made sex a taboo, said not to do this and that, made you feel guilty if you have a healthy fuck or jerk off, if you have prenuptial sex or do it simply for pleasure instead of procreating. It is I now who ask you: what do you think there is, then, behind the excuse of holy sex if not a simple desire of sexual freedom and release?
You see… That’s not spirituality. It might be psychology. It may be therapeutic, I think… but surely it ain’t spirituality. Having sex to work on your self and your mind is a dual action for a dual purpose. Spirituality is the “not-self”, the “not-mind”, it’s beyond duality. The void. The only void thing some people have after intercourse is their balls.
Let’s get more specific: for a rationalist like me, it seems that sexology and science in general have cleared the mechanisms that allow to live very intense pleasures without having to bog them down with disciplines best left to bodhisattvas. In BDSM for example you can experience endorphinic ecstasy, a neurological state which, from an electroencephalography point of view, proved to be identical to the mystical ecstasies of those who undergo ascetic rituals – with the difference that you can reach it in fifteen minutes of sensual practices instead of having to retire in a cavern for thirty years. So, if the goal is purely erotic, is it sensible to pursue it through a spiritual path? Does it actually offer some “added value”?
Yes, you are right – and for two reasons.
One: tantrism is not a system to attain very intense sexual pleasures. ‘Ecstasy’ is an oft-used word and us Westerners always mean it “that way”. Yet the word is misguiding. Ananda (bliss), samadhi (union with the Absolute), moksha (Deliverance) and kaivalya (enlightenment) are different concepts that have nothing to do with orgasm and are essentially reached through meditation. Sexuality has a marginal role in tantrism and it is mostly symbolic. It was American neotantrism that stressed reaching ecstasy in the sense of a veeeeeery long orgasm…
Two: we have a body that universally follows certain chemical and biological rules. I would be surprised if Indians said the opposite, that is they talked about bodily dynamics not observable by science. For yogis the body is not an end, but a tool. Therefore it is no wonder if, for some spiritual practices, you use physical actions such as breathing, perineal contractions or the such.
For example, during Indian ceremonies food (called prasad) is also consumed, often sweets. What is the reason of undergoing a ceremony that may last up to two or three hours to eat a pastry, when I can open the fridge and eat a slice of cake in two minutes? This is how your question sounds to my ears.
Clearly everything depends on the intent behind each action, and the same goes for using sexuality in a ceremony – the fundamental practices remains pure and simple meditation anyway.
If we want to stay scientific, a splendid video by ASAP Science shows how during meditation interesting physical effects happen, such as a growth of the grey matter and an influence on telomerasis. For what I know sex doesn’t do anything like that… and if it did I’d be a 30-kilos brained genius by now. I can’t dare to imagine what Rocco Siffredi’s brain would be like… maybe one of those cases where the ermetical motto ‘as above so below’ would fit like a glove!
Meditation however doesn’t have this purpose, and according to the description the physical effect is just a marginal byproduct.
People retire into grottos for thirty years not to reach prolonged orgasms or an endorphines release (or you could just eat chocolate), not to heal from some illness or to enhance their brain abilities… they do that to attempt to reach enlightenment. This is the basic difference.
By the way, could you try explaining me what the tantric path really is in the simplest possible way?
There are as many paths as there are tantras: we should speak in plural form. It is a combination of precepts, philosophies, behavior rules, ceremonies and meditation practices. The one purpose is reaching Enlightenment, which is to say Oneness with the Absolute (Brahman) to trascend the body and one’s individuality.
For example, among the 112 methods to reach enlightenment described by the vijnana bhairava tantra, scholars debate the meaning of a couple of verses that might be about sexuality or using it just as a symbol. The answer is that it depends… depends on the school, the master and the apprentice. There is no doubt that some practices involve a sexual component, such as for example the couple chakrapooja or masturbation practices called ekavira, and in those cases physical instructions such as perineal squeezing are suggested too. This is however just 0.1% of tantrism, and not even practiced much… it is like if, talking about cars, somebody kept talking exclusively about the small carpet patch under the pedals. You could place that patch in a cardboard box, and the erotomaniacal charlatan wouldn’t see a difference because he ignores what the spiritual car called ‘tantra’ actually is.
There are also instructions about chastity. Monks interpret them as total sexual abstinence; in some rituals it is preparatory to ceremonies involving a sexual act, and some schools see it as creating a family and only having intercourse with one’s shakti (call it a “spiritual companion”, in a way). But as much as there are indications about sex, there are also about cooking, making sweets and spirits, fermenting rice, managing a household and so on: tantrism touches every aspect of life making it sacred. For example: the Kularnava tantra mentions the importance of clarified butter, and not in the Last Tango in Paris sense. So why here in the West they open schools and courses and write books just for mystical sex, but nobody does that for the spiritual importance of honey, yogurt and butter? Westerners only read that 0.1%, and are obsessed with it. Nobody cares shit about the remaining 99.9%.
Tantric Shaivism however is very particular since it breaks and unhinges taboos, not only sexual ones but also social, mental and spiritual ones. Everything you don’t do in the more orthodox Oriental ways, tantrists do. Aghori for example are nude, dirty with ashes and they live in crematory fields. They consume alcohol, drugs and eat human flesh during their rituals.
When people study the tantras they always pretend not to read how reaching enlightenment through sexual practices isn’t for everyone, because the easily cause addiction and inurement. According to tradition they are just for a very few especially detached men, so much that they might even never do it. So I, you and all the readers of this article are out of the category already.
In the remaining 99.99999% of the traditional tantric texts you can read concepts about the Absolute such as:
‘Where duality, unity, and unity and duality together are equally manifested, there true Yoga is’
‘Truly Bhairava is not the Not-dual, not the sum of the sounds, not the three-headed god (…) All of those things in fact are but bogeymen for children, for those whose mind has not awakened yet (…) That omnicomprehensive condition connected with Bhairava, proper of those who identified with Bhairava, trascends intellectual representations, is devoid of any measure, space and time (…)’
Uh… Right, but confess: what is the esoteric sexual secret we poor pashus (unenlightened brutes) can’t even suspect of?
Dunno. I am not a sexologist… Erm… Having protected sex with consenting partners. A healthy sexual activity prevents prostate problems.
Also be free to express your sexuality however you see fit. Personally, I love cumshots and reverse gangbangs, while I don’t feel any attraction both for foot fetish nor for cuckolding. Growing up I learned to appreciate MILFs, but as a youngster I was only into teens. Try to understand what you like and have fun. It’s just sex: don’t give it so much importance.
Remember to meditate.