In the West today, “Tantra” has become big business. One can buy Tantra underwear (“Guaranteed prolonged underwear pleasure. Just breathe”); buy a Tantric massage at, for example, Vancouver’s “Red Lotus Temple of Tantra” (whose claim not to offer sexual services you can judge for yourself); or take pole dancing classes at Tantra Fitness (also in Vancouver).
The more serious side of Tantra today is seen in its embrace as a mode of sexual healing by people like Caroline and Charles Muir. The Muirs and countless teachers like them combine breath and body work, meditation, counseling, and couple’s exercises which they claim heal sexual and psychological trauma, promote intimacy and love, and improve orgasmic intensity and frequency.
Tantric teachers like the Muirs go to great lengths to present their teachings as grounded in ancient Tantra. Their teachings, however, are certainly not grounded in actual Tantric sexual practices. At best, they are an application of the right-hand Tantric worldview that everything is divine and can be used for spiritual purposes.
Yet it remains the case that Tantric spirituality did not aim at improving love relationships, sexual healing, or simply enjoying our bodies and the world. Its purposes were transcendence of the world, knowledge of the divine, and magical power.
Nevertheless, as German Indologist Georg Feuerstein writes in the epilogue of his book Tantra: Path of Ecstasy:
“Many are attracted to Neo-Tantrism because it promises sexual excitement or fulfillment while clothing purely genital impulses or neurotic emotional needs in an aura of spirituality…today translations of several major Tantras are readily available in book form…This gives would-be Tantrics the opportunity to concoct their own idiosyncratic ceremonies and philosophies, which they can then promote as Tantra.”
Geoffrey Samuel, a scholar of Tantra and Yoga, differs: “‘Tantra’ as a modern Western sexual and spiritual practice, however complex and contested its origins in Asia…took up themes of considerable depth and significance within Western culture, and synthesized them creatively with borrowings from Buddhist and Hindu sources.”
Either way, the fact remains that modern Tantra, or Neo-Tantra, is primarily a product of Western cultural preoccupations.
Next, have a look at some incredible, ancient tantric sex art. Then, check out Becklard’s Physiology, the randy Victorian’s guide to sex. Finally, check out weird sex facts you really don’t want to know.