Enlightenment and Tantrism – Part 1

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2012
Tantra is a practice found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and certain other religions. It is primarily based upon the teachings of the Hindu Tantras, or holy books. Despite its esoteric nature and historical confinement primarily to Tibetan Buddhism and Shivaite Hinduism, the influence of tantra in various forms and ways has increased in the West significantly in the last generation.

Enlightenment and Tantrism – Part 1

To unveil the nature of the demonic aspect of enlightenment, let’s consider an illustration provided by the occult practice of tantrism as seen in the late Rajneesh and other modern gurus.[1]

Tantra is a practice found in Hinduism, Buddhism, and certain other religions. It is primarily based upon the teachings of the Hindu Tantras, or holy books. Despite its esoteric nature and historical confinement primarily to Tibetan Buddhism and Shivaite Hinduism, the influence of tantra in various forms and ways has increased in the West significantly in the last generation. Even the immensely popular movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom involved tantric themes largely unnoticed by its millions of viewers. (Indiana Jones was really combating a “left-hand” tantric sect for possession of a primeval shivalingam in order to return the talisman to its proper owners, presumably a “right-hand” tantric sect.[2])

To further illustrate, aspects of tantra can be found in many of the guru movements and the new religions as well as in segments of the New Age Movement and the occult in general.

The world of the occult has been considerably influenced by tantra through its Eastern connections: “Almost all forms of occult teaching make direct use of eastern philosophical notions. The image of the East in western occultism borrows heavily from tantric lore, especially where the emphasis is on mystical powers and magical abilities.”[3]

Examples of tantric influence among Eastern gurus include earlier leaders such as Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, and Paramahansa Yogananda, as well as modern prominent gurus including Ram Dass, Muktananda, and many others. However, because of its notorious reputation, many proponents do not directly advertise what they are selling. Thus, “most of the Indian gurus in the West have been delivering tantra, whatever they may be advertising…. As Aagaard says, ‘most gurus explicitly deny their own tantric roots! No doubt they wish to evade the taint of tantra’s still seamy reputation.”[4]

Indeed, many, or perhaps most, of the deepest secrets of tantra are not written in any Eastern scripture. Or, if so, they are deliberately discussed in ambiguous and obscure language to protect the secrets. This explains why the secret oral teachings of the spiritual master or guru is a necessity for the survival and transmission of tantra.[5]

A final influence of tantra in America comes through the field of humanistic and transpersonal psychology where Hinduism and Buddhism have found powerful friends. For example, as indicated by the journals in transpersonal and humanistic psychology, it is probably true that among American Buddhist disciples, psychologists, as a class, represent the largest single grouping.

All this indicates that tantra is not an obscure, irrelevant occult practice without influence in America, but is a slowly increasing presence in American life.

The term “tantra” has numerous meanings and may refer either to particular scriptures of Tibet and India, certain practices and techniques taught by those scriptures (primarily involving yoga practice), the religious and philosophical traditions based on those scriptures, or all of this considered as a collective phenomenon.[6]

Although worldwide, tantric beliefs and practice vary, a common theme is the belief that in its true, indivisible nature, everything is divine. As we noted, this is known as monism. A corollary belief is that all duality—or experience in the world—is seen as an illusion or maya. This harmonizes well with the advaita philosophy of Vedanta and New Age belief in general. Tantra cannot be properly understood unless one recognizes that all of its actions are designed to transcend all dualities and achieve enlightenment through manipulation of consciousness: “Tantrism above all is what one does to produce certain states of consciousness. The tantric doctrines are simply interpretations of those states.”[7]

However, tantra is unique in how it employs the world of duality. It is not seen as merely an illusion to escape from, but as an actual vehicle for spiritual enlightenment. In other words, the illusory mind, body, and physical universe can actively (indeed, amorally) be employed in the very process of liberation itself. For example, the cosmic dualities of light and dark, male and female, are believed to function at all levels of existence. One can transcend these illusory dualities and arrive at liberation through particular acts—as we will see, even acts of evil such as perverse sexuality, violence, ritual human sacrifice, or other practices aimed at manipulating the energies of the universe toward the goal of transcending illusory categories. The goal is to use the physical body and universe in such a powerful or extreme way as to literally force a radical alteration of consciousness such that enlightenment is achieved through the vehicle of duality.

Concerning the body, a number of bodily functions are used in tantra as a basis for achieving enlightenment. The sexual act is the best known of these. In addition, tantra uses posture and breathing (yoga), sight (mandalas, yantras), speech and hearing (mantras).

To the tantric, the universe is a mystical tissue of consciousness, held in form by the tensions of duality—the polar opposites of positive and negative, light and dark, male and female, yang and yin, etc.—that appear throughout all levels of existence. Tantra is a way to the mastery of these fundamental cosmic dualities—through the mastery of one’s sexual function.

The connection between sex and cosmic sorcery is based on the theory of occult correspondence. Polarity is the key to existence; its tensions give unity and structure to all of manifest reality. The human body, as part of manifest reality, is caught in this network of polarity and existence. The body is a microcosm, a miniature version of the cosmos. Polarity in the body—sex—is therefore the key to our own existence. It is also an antenna, tuned to energies of polarity that span the universe. By learning to control the energies of polarity in the body (i.e., the sexual function) the tantric taps the powers of matter and mind, and masters the secrets of space and time.

Tantra thus embraces illusion as a means to reality, baptizes duality as a path to the One, and affirms the human body—particularly the sexual function—as our most reliable connection with the divine.

But even in its affirmations, tantra is haunted by paradox. The naturalness of human life is affirmed, but only as a means for its ultimate dissolution. Human existence is validated but only as a platform for leaving humanity behind.[8]

It should be noted that physical sex in tantra is not used primarily for pleasure, but rather for spiritual enlightenment through occult exercises that immobilize the breath, consciousness, and semen as a means to achieve mystical union with the One impersonal divine consciousness. (As far as sexuality is concerned, tantric practitioners are termed “left-hand” or “right-hand” based on their literal or figurative interpretation of the maithuna ritual. Right-hand or “white” tantrics interpret the passages figuratively while left-hand or “red” tantrics take the scriptural instructions literally and engage in actual sexual acts during ritual performances.)

The sexual aspect of tantra (along with its connection to drugs[9]), is what has fascinated many New Age and counterculture Westerners. Tantra’s “alchemical ecstasy,” in which the body becomes a sexual “clearinghouse of interdimensional energies,” can be seen in such literature as Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy.

But Western experimenters are urged, even by tantrists, to exercise caution. Tantra traditionally is held to be a fast path to enlightenment, and tantric texts warn that the dangers are considerable—including permanent physical disability, insanity, and death.[10]

Whether considered from the perspective of Christianity, religion in general, or common sense, tantrism is a truly revolutionary spirituality, and carries all the consequences of a revolution. Because tantra, like many Eastern religions, seeks the destruction of what is truly human, its approach to life is both contradictory and consequential: “Tantra… embodies all the extremes and contradictions that it thrives on. It is simultaneously erotic and ascetic, self-indulgent and self-denying. Its rituals invoke demons and deities indiscriminately, yet its doctrine dismisses them all in the name of radical monism. Tantra’s adherents range from the respectable to the scandalous, from the credentialed scholar pursuing sanskrit etymology to the illiterate yogi practicing unspeakable graveyard rituals in the dead of night.”[11]

In essence, tantric belief and practice are fundamentally hostile to every aspect of the creation—including humanity made in the image of God. In the end, what tantra destroys is everything of value according to biblical teaching: “Christianity and tantra face each other as virtual mirror images. Each system exalts what the other devalues and affirms what the other denies.”[12] “Every level of tantric practice constitutes an assault on the realm of normal experience by literally disintegrating it—by dissolving it into its occult (hidden) components, then using those elemental forces of creation as links to forces that are beyond creation altogether. Tantra unravels the normal world of perception and understanding and reweaves it into an intricate network of occult correspondences that ultimately vanishes into the One…. Tantra is how the world looks as it disappears.”[13]

As noted, in hidden corners, tantra and related philosophies have been influencing the West for decades. Today, the influence of tantra continues to be seen in Eastern and Western forms of witchcraft, in aspects of modern Satanic practice, and in controversial gurus like Da Free John and, again, the late Rajneesh who also incorporated modern psychotherapeutic methods with his tantric philosophy.

But tantric initiation and practice may involve things like extreme sexual perversion, violence, and even human sacrifice as a means of experientially shattering moral sensibilities in order to experience the union of opposites (male/female; good/evil). Again, this is the means to the enlightened state in which one realizes “all is one” and that all actions, good or evil, in the end, are only the actions of the ultimate impersonal God who exists beyond primitive notions of right and wrong. As Tal Brooke recalled of his experience with the Rajneesh ashram in Poona, India, “The initiate must become blasé about the lesser taboos of good and evil such as rape and assault and perversion.”[14]

Thus, all acts of evil and all forms of perversion are potential means of spiritual advancement. When used properly, such acts are to be considered holy. As Rajneesh once stated, “For tantra, everything is holy, nothing is unholy.”[15]

Thus, in a clandestine mission to India, Brooke documented the horrors in the Rajneesh ashram at Poona, India, cataloging the delicate souls who were raped, abused, shattered—all in the name of tantric “enlightenment.” He also discusses the indescribably blissful experiences produced by spiritistic manipulation of the mind, as well as the suicides and the violence.[16]

(to be continued)




  1. Most of our initial discussion is excerpted from Brooks Alexander, “Tantra: The Worship and Occult Power of Sex,” SCP Newsletter, Summer 1985.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., p. 10.
  4. Ibid., p. 11.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., p. 1.
  7. Ibid., pp. 6-7.
  8. Ibid., p. 5.
  9. See Ibid., p. 11.
  10. Ibid., p. 6.
  11. Ibid., p. 5.
  12. Ibid., p. 9.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Tal Brooke, Riders of the Cosmic Circuit: Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Muktananda…Gods of the New Age (Batavia, IL: Lion, 1986), pp. 150-53.
  15. 567:36-37.
  16. e.g., 249:141-53.

Read Part 2

Leave a Comment