Saturday, May 16, 2020

Is There An Erotic Christian Religion?


Erotic Christianity |  Tantra is generally understood less in terms of ‘sex’ than in terms of power or energy. That is, it is a series of teachings and techniques aimed at awakening, harnessing, and utilizing the spiritual power believed to flow through the entire cosmos and the human body.”10

We cannot, however, avoid noticing that the embrace of the lawless power is very much in tune with the Gnostic attack on the god of the law who binds his dupes to the Earth, preventing consumption of the fruit, and who works through the lowest level of created existence, manifest in the unredeemed genitals that under normal circumstances, waste seed or push it into unhappy reproductions of unredeemed souls. It is also important to recognize then that in Tantra’s consciousness of kundalini (the serpent), we may see the Gnostic itinerary placed firmly within the human body, as it may be supposed members of Gnostic groups did as well, judging by what we have seen. Much of what the heresiologists took to be crazy physics, cod theology, perverted scripture, and barmy creation structures were almost certainly taken by the cognoscenti of the movement as codes and metaphors for physical practices coupled to a nascent psychology—as Carl Jung recognized and strongly believed.

The whole drama of the Gnostic creation and redemption myths can be seen as taking place not in the objective, arguably illusory, universe, or even beyond it in spatial terms, but chiefly within the awakened being of the Gnostic, wherein paradise is in the genitals, the unknown Father is accessed through the crown of the head, and the serpent-Sophia redeems the seed that comes from on high and brings it back up the spinal column (tree) through the aeons, corresponding to the “cakkras” (chakras) to its source, from which the precious pearl of creation has dripped to the lower regions, governed by a dark ignorance, enslaved to the cycle of birth and death. The way to eternal life is up, and it takes a lot of courage to make the journey; the world doesn’t want you to do it. The world wants you to do as you’re told. The world wants you scared, for your “own good” (an offer we are not meant to refuse). Hence the Tantrik master is a hero and his mistress a heroine, for she in-personates Shakti, as he in-personates for her Shiva, whose symbol is the erect shiva lingam. Now perhaps we can see what the worship of Simon and Helen was all about, once we remove the skin of eighteen hundred years of orthodox smothering.

Gordan Djurdjevic has written most effectively concerning the Tantric use of decadence as a spiritual technique for ascending from the lowest cakkra (chakra) (“wheel” or “flower”), the mūlādhāra, at the genitals, to the highest cakkra where supreme joy awaits the successful practitioner: “According to Tantric theory, the semen, which in its original state [and situated at the top of the head], has ambrosial properties, turns into poison when it reaches the lower parts of the body [cf. the Demiurge and the unredeemed seed] specifically the genitals. For this situation to be remedied, the semen needs to be brought back to the top of the head.”11

Practices for achieving this have involved the voluntary retention of semen and imaginary rechanneling of its essence up the spine, and even sucking back the combined fluids from the vagina after quite extraordinary yogic training. These practices are generally regarded as later developments of Tantric practice. The Kaula method is thought to be the most ancient. Oral consumption of semen (bindu), menstrual blood (rajas), and vaginal sexual fluids (yonitattva) conferred divine status on participants. Such may account for the claims of Simonians that their followers possessed eternal life. Walter O. Kaelber’s account of Vedic asceticism in ancient India informs us how “Male seed is also capable of generating spiritual rebirth and immortality.”12 Understood from this perspective, Ireneaeus’s and Epiphanius’s taunts fired at Gnostics’ belief in their eternal life register as the carping of ignoramuses. It is an ancient belief of the Indian subcontinent that loss of semen contributes to disease, aging, and premature death, for semen is life and the promise of fertility.

The North Indian Tantric tradition of the Nāth Siddhas, credited with developing hatha yoga, considered that while bindu carried immortality, its perpetual dripping from the crown depletes energy by its being consumed in the stomach’s digestive fire or through ejaculation, which, to be at its holiest, must rather be fertile of the spinal lotuses opening them up to induce spiritual awakening as the spirit rises home. Analogies (at least) with Gnostic claims for “realized resurrection in the body” can hardly go unnoticed. Tantriks hold that oral consumption offers rejuvenation as well as enlightenment, for the nectar of the gods is also the elixir of immortality, amrita, or the divine liquor soma, giving the drinker “eternal life in heaven on earth.”13

We may also wonder about the tendency in Gnostic thought to emphasize Jesus’s other body, which watches the crucifixion at a distance in the Nag Hammadi Apocalypse of Peter and in The Second Treatise of the Great Seth.14 Normally attributed to the heresy of Docetism (Jesus only appears as human), the emphasis on Jesus’s being outside of his body may also be attributed to a common store of ideas implicit in Tantra, wherein the gross body conceals a subtle body, and a goal of alchemy is to refine the subtle from the gross. Thus, the subtle body extends invisibly from the genitals via the spine to the crown of the head. When we consider the spine in terms of the Barbelite tree, we may be able to make fresh sense of the following utterance of Jesus in the Apocalypse of Peter, which might as well have been called the awakening of Peter:

He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me. But I, when I [Peter] had looked, said, “Lord no one is looking at you. Let us flee this place.”

No one is looking at the spiritual body. That was the Gnostics’ complaint, so preoccupied with flesh were the fleshly materialists that they failed, from the Gnostic point of view, to see what was really happening: the spiritual glory of the living Jesus, not the death of the fleshly tunic. In worshipping the man, they blinded themselves to themselves. The last words of the Apocalypse are: “When he [Jesus] had said these things, he [Peter] came to himself.” That is the point. He came to himself. John 3:14 seemed to Gnostics to give the game away: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness: even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” For Tantriks, of course, the primal spiritual energy is the snake coiled at the base of the spine. Was Tertullian, I wonder, cognizant of this idea when, in Adversus Valentinianos (II.76), he mercilessly parodied the supposed esoteric “wisdom” of the Valentinians’ serpent: To sum up, the dove used to reveal Christ; the serpent used to tempt him. The former from the first was the herald of divine love; the latter from the first was the thief of God’s image. Therefore, innocence by itself can easily both recognize and exhibit God. Wisdom by itself can rather attack and betray him.

Now, let the serpent hide himself as much as he can; let him twist his entire wisdom into the windings of his lairs. Let him live deep in the ground, push into dark holes, unroll his length coil by coil; let him slither out—but not all of him at once, the light-hating beast. Our dove, however, has a simple home, always in high and open places toward the light since this symbol of the Holy Spirit loves the sunrise, the symbol of Christ. Just so, truth blushes at nothing except being hidden away, because no one is ashamed to listen to her, to learn to recognize as God the one whom nature has already pointed out to him as God, the one whom he sees daily in all his works.

For Tantriks, who would easily qualify for Tertullian’s lesson, kundalinī śakti is the microcosmic correspondent of the Great Goddess, whose divine partner Shiva has his esoteric home on the top of the human head. One can hear Tertullian’s reaction to this: “Microcosmic correspondent! Microcomic, more like!” Heresy, remember, began in Eden, so the Carthaginian lawyer would have no truck with the idea that when Shiva and Shakti appear separate, the world appears illusory, pain-ridden: the world of ordinary people whom, Tertullian asserts, Christ came to save, not with esoteric subtleties (“for the serpent was more subtle than any beast in the field”), but with the truth delivered plainly. But the Gnostic might reply to the Tertullian tirade: “Did not the dove whom you say is the Holy Spirit alight upon the top of Jesus’s head at the baptism, when Jesus emerged from the waters below, and was not the voice heard: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”?

In his book Kālī’s Child, Jeffrey J. Kripal urges us not to see Tantra as a philosophical, text-based school, but as a “dirty path” to ontological truths that are as terrifying as they are profound.”15 Djurdjevic quotes Alexis Sanderson on the benefits of decadent rejection of rules of purity: “The conscientiousness essential to the preservation of purity and social system was to be expelled from his identity by the Tantric Brahman as impurity itself, the only impurity he was to recognize, a state of ignorant self-bondage through the illusion that purity and impurity, prohibitedness and enjoinedness were objective qualities residing in things, persons and actions.”16

Tantra is quintessentially about a kind of marriage, and the sādhāna (sexual rite) is often today performed within otherwise conventional marriages. As we shall see when we investigate Valentinian practices, a kindred setting was enjoyed among Valentinians enjoined to celebrate a kind of mystical marriage involving something like an alchemy of the bodies of the married couple that thoroughly internalized the idea of marriage while transforming it into its spiritual essence. In Tantra, it is the human body that is the setting and the means of achieving gnosis. And when we speak of alchemy, we shall be on the right lines to consider what is intended by a base metal that can be transformed into gold, for as the alchemists have never ceased repeating, the first matter of the Great Work is something universally diffused, but universally unvalued. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, but the world knew him not.

Who is he? What is he?