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Tantra, Crowley and Occultism

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.tantra,alt.magick,alt.thelema,alt.magick.order,alt.religion.sexuality
From: (nigris (333))
Subject: Tantra, Crowley and Occultism (was Tantra & OTO)
Date: 23 Dec 1997 22:07:29 -0800

49970911 aa2 Hail Satan!  


#>	What's a good starter book on Tantra?  Are/is there any that you
#>regard as worthwhile that relate to OTO-style?
# ...isn't the upshot of this discussion 
# that Crowleyan sex magic is not particularly related to Tantra, except in 
# the way that volleyball is related to golf? 

"Tantra" is a term with a variety of traditional Eastern as well as Western
applications.  unless one were to determine that age of tradition equates
to accuracy, then one is faced with a variety of practices, social groups
and ideas associated with this word, from Indian kundalini/tantra yoga and
Tibetan Buddhism to New Age Tantra and any number of individual gurus and
practitioners affiliated with orgs of all types including those like the
(c)OTO with which Crowley was associated.

# The handful of references he 
# made to the naughty bits of the Shiva Sanhita and the Hathayoga Pradipika 
# don't seem to qualify them as major influences and the form of the O.T.O. 
# sexual teachings does nothing to suggest an origin in or resemblance to 
# Tantra.

please specify to what you associate the term 'Tantra' so that we can begin
to understand your criticism.  Crowley does seem to use some of the same
terminology in his expressions as tantric yogis, including those regarding
cakras.  the (c)OTO, which Crowley heavily influenced, are rumored to have
integrated 3HO sikh-kundalini yoga materials from sources other than 
Crowley (whose background is explored below by FKing).  in searching
on 3HO in Yahoo I have arrived at this URL for further reference:

# I suggest we consider this idea that Crowley got his sex magic from 
# Tantra as yet another of Francis King's dubious historical assertions, 
# and bury it with him.

I never saw a quotation to this effect and when looking through King's
_Tantra For Westerners_ I ran across the following (skipping large 
sections, I advise the interested to consult the text yourself):

	In considering the equation between the chakras of Tantra
	and the sephiroth of qabalism I have given considerable
	weight to the opinions of Crowley.  How far, in fact, can
	Crowley be considered a tantric is a matter of debate.
	Some would say that he was a supreme tantric adept, others
	would affirm that his teachings were a gross perversion of
	Tantra and that he used tantric concepts to excuse his own

	... much sexual activity by an occultist does not necessarily
	indicate an inclination towards Tantra, any more than rigid
	dieting by an occultist necessarily implies asceticism.... 
	On the other hand the fact that a particular occultist enjoys
	sex for its own sake does not mean that he or she cannot, on
	occasion, be using sex as a sacrament as well as to obtain
	the physical pleasures of orgasm.


	Crowley first seems to have decided that sexuality could be
	incorporated into occult rituals as a result of reading some
	of the messier grimoires -- text books of ritual magic, some
	white, some black, most of an unpleasant shade of grey --
	for his first attempt to use sex for occult purposes was in
	the course of a ceremony which most people would regard as
	the nature of black magic.


	While Crowley undoubtedly possessed some clairvoyant powers --
	i.e. the ability to 'see visions' or 'have pictorial hallucin-
	tions' -- he preferred to use 'seers' who reported their visions
	to him.  As a preparation for their visionary experiences the
	seers, usually, but not invariably, women, were excited by drink,
	sexual activity, and, on many occasions, psychedelic drugs,
	typically cannabis or anhalonium (mescal buttons).

	While alcohol and sexual intercourse are an integral part of
	*some* tantric rites, and cannabis is usually taken as a
	preliminary to such rites, there is nothing specifically tantric
	in using the stimuli of drink, drugs and sex as a means of
	overloading the central nervous system and inducing a dissoc-
	iation of consciousness in which visions are seen.  One cannot,
	therefore, claim Crowley as an authentic practitioner of Tantra
	on this account.

	Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of Crowley's teachings
	which must, I think, be considered tantric, or at the very
	least, in total conformity with Tantra.  These aspects of
	Crowley's system are to be found in codified, but not always
	easily understandable, form in those instructional texts
	compiled by Crowley and his associates which can be described
	as the tantric *Libres*.

	Over the period of almost half a century during which Crowley
	taught his Magic -- a synthetic mystical/magical system which
	could well be described as Neognosticism -- he wrote many
	inspirational and/or didactic works which he called *Libres*.
	Some of these are full length books, others little more than
	half a page or so text.  Of these the ones which can legiti-
	mately be considered to be at least quasi-tantric are five in
	number.  They are:

		*Of the Art of Magic*
		*Of the Nature of the Gods*
		*Of the Homonculus*
		*The Book of the Unveiling of the Sangraal*
		*Of the Secret Marriages of Gods and Men*

	The 'Tantra' techniques which Crowley expounded in these works
	he derived from a German source which claimed, almost certainly
	falsely, to have a shadowy ancestry leading back to the Knights
	Templar of the Middle Ages.  The founder, or supposed founder,
	of this German organization was alleged to have received
	instruction in sexual magic from a Hindu teacher or teachers.
	There is no good reason to be unduly sceptical of this latter

	On the methods he had learned from his German teachers, Crwoley
	grafted a philosophical structure which seems almost identical
	to that associated with Tantra of northern India.  This 
	Crowleyan philosophy regards the universe and its component
	parts in exactly the same way as they are regarded in the
	Tantra of Bengal -- as side effects of the eternal game played
	by Shakti and Siva.  The terminology, however, is different.

	Crowley called Shakti by the name of Nuit, the Egyptian star-
	goddess to whom previous reference has been made.  Shiva he
	called by another Egyptian name, 'Hadit'.  The 'concrete
	incarnation' of Shakti was called 'Babalon' by Crowley, that
	of Shiva he called 'the Beast', a name which he specifically
	applied to himself, which seems both odd and arrogant.

	It is unlikely, however, that he, Aleister Crowley, was foolish
	enough to think that he was Shiva, the male principle of the
	cosmic duality -- although it has to be admitted that in moods
	of exaltation he sometimes wrote and spoke as if this was the
	case.  It seems rather more probable that he believed that 
	there existed an element in his psycho-spiritual makeup -- an
	element that had been developed as the result of a series of
	progressive illuminations -- which was an avatar, a manifesta-
	tion of Shiva.

	...It is in [*The Vision and the Voice*] that Crowley's quasi-
	tantric philosophy is most clearly expressed, not in the 
	tantric *Libres* referred to above.

	These latter are very largely concerned with techniques.  
	These bear certain marked similarities to those used by left-
	handed tantrics, but are by no means identical with them.  In
	some ways they are undoubtedly crude than their Indian 
	analogues; there is less emphasis, for example, on the prelim-
	inaries to explicitly sexual rites.  In part this was almost
	certainly because Crowley wished to strip Tantra down to its
	essential core -- the use of the senses to transcend sensuality
	and achieve adeptship -- in order to give it a universal 
	validity free of associations with particular sets of cultural
	conventions such as those typical of Hindu society.

	But as far as Tantra was concerned Crowley was no mere 
	simplifier.  He subtracted some things from the tradition as
	he knew it, but added others, making innovations which, while
	they may be compatible with Bengali tradition, seem to have
	no oriental analogues.

	Notable amongst these innovations was an autoerotic technique
	which he expounded generally in the *Liber* entitled *Of the
	Secret Marriages of Gods and Men* and, more particularly, in
	the chapter of that work called 'Of Great Marriages'.  When
	examining the text of this and Crowley's other tantric 
	*Libres* it must be held in mind that, like many other tantric
	treatises, they employ a 'twilight language' in which words
	are given a secondary, tantric significance.

	It is very easy, however, to break Crowley's code.  Thus in
	the 'Great Marriages' chapter of *Of the Secret Marriages*,
	referred to above in relation to autoeroticism, the word
	'purge' is not used in its primary, excretory sense but in
	reference to orgasm.  Similarly, in the eleventh chapter of
	the same work the phrase 'Evocation by the Wand' means an act
	of masturbation in which the operator's imaginary partner is
	an immaterial entity such as an angel.  The 'Marrow of the
	Wand', refered to in the same chapter, simply means sexual

	The code words and phrases employed to express the sexual
	concepts in both the tantric *Libres* and Crowley's more
	general writings were often derived from the terminology
	of Western alchemy.  Thus Crowley used the archaic word for
	an alchemical furnace (athanor) as a code word for the penis,
	while the word 'cucurbite', a piece of laboratory equipment
	used by alchemists for purposes of distillation, he used as
	a code word for the vulva.  The male sexual discharge was
	referred to in the tantric *Libres* as 'the serpent' or 'the
	blood of the red lion', phrases which in texts concerned
	with physical alchemy, of the type conducted in a laboratory,
	refer to metallic salts.  Similarly the fluids which 
	lubricate the vagina were referred to as the 'menstruum of
	the gluten', while the mixture of this with semen Crowley
	called 'the First Matter' and, after it had supposedly been
	imbued with magical powers by the processes outlined in the
	tantric *Libres*, 'the Elixir'.

	These alchemical words and phrases were not arbitrarily
	chosen.  Crowley believed, rightly or wrongly, that many
	Western alchemical texts were concerned, not with chemical
	processes intended to produce a mysterious stone which could
	transmute base metals into gold, but with sexual techniques,
	essentially identical with those of left-handed Tantra, the
	use of which would result in psychic transmutation.

	Such a variant of European alchemy, a sort of Western Tantra,
	*may* have existed.  As was said earlier, polarity symbolism
	is apparent in many alchemical texts, and it seems probable
	that at least some alchemists were concerned with interior
	transformations rather than physical transmutations desired
	by alchemical laboratory workers.  It is possible that a few
	of these 'psychic alchemists', a minority of a minority,
	practised something very like Tantra, interpreting alchemical
	polarity symbolism in a semi-literal way.

	There are so many resemblances between techniques taught in
	the tantric *Libres* and those employed in oriental Tantra
	that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Crowley was
	an authentic, if unorthodox, tantric.

	It would be possible, of course, to argue that Crowley was not
	just unorthodox, but perverted -- there are spiritual paths
	which lead to the depths as there are those which lead to the
	heights -- but a tantric I am sure he was.

		{FKing NOTE: Those who wish to examine the tantric
		 *Libres* for themselves will find the text of
		 *Of the Art of Magic* printed as an appendix to
		 *Crowley on Christ* (London, 1974).  Versions of
		 the other tantric *Libres* are printed in *The
		 Secret Rites of the OTO* (London and New York,

		[333 note -- the (c)OTO appears to be attempting 
		 to restrict the publication of at last this latter
		 document and appears to have acquired copyrights.
		 interpret this as ye will.]

	Crowley, as was said earlier, had never received tantric
	instructions from an Eastern teacher and his knowledge of
	left-handed techniques had been derived from German sources.
	Curiously enough, he may have learned something of Tantra
	while he was a member of the Golden Dawn.  For while the
	sexual technques of left-handed Tantra would have been
	regarded as black magic by most of the leadership of that
	society -- MacGregor Mathers attached so much importance
	to chastity that he never consummated his marriage -- a
	certain amount of tantric theory and (non-sexual) practice
	was incorporated into the Order's teachings.

	_Tantra for Westerners: a Practical Guide to the Way of
	 Action_, by Francis King, Destiny Books, 1986; pp. 72-77.

he goes on to talk about origins of GD sex magic, which I'm sure may
have been mentioned previously.  corrections, support and opposition
strongly encouraged.

nigris (333) -- --
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