Tantra Nataraj 1500X563

What is Tantra?

Is tantra simply “eroticism for the New Age" or is it a long overdue reaction to an over-sexualised society? We are often asked, “What is tantra?”, but the answer is not so simple.

Sex is only the surface. Tantra is much too complex for me to discuss. But it's about reconnecting with the world of the spirit through everyday things.

Sting
Sri Yantra
Sri Yantra

Tantra in India - superstition and sexual magic

Tantra can be traced back to a probable origin in the early Middle Ages in India, as an esoteric development within Hinduism. People wanted to make use of (sexual-) magical rituals in order to attain power or become invincible. Early tantrics were probably similar to shamans in other cultures, responsible for dispelling demons and influencing fate. A variety of tools and aids were used for this, such as mantras or yoga. ‘Maithuna’ was one of these: ritualised sexual union. 

This is all light years away from tantra massage or other holistic massage in the way we understand it today. 

Positively valued sexual power that is integrated within the framework of a ritual – this is more or less the only common aspect between modern tantra massage and the original tantra rituals. 

More on the origin and development of tantra in India

Osho Neo Tantra
Osho with disciples during a darshan

Osho, Margo Anand and Neo-Tantra

The Indian philosopher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later also known as Osho, still has many disciples around the world today. He recognised the longing for a connection between physicality and spirituality. He developed, partly together with his disciples, a form of holistic bodywork which permitted sensual-sexual sensations. Building on the teachings of Wilhelm Reich, yoga and meditation, this developed into "neo-tantra". In the West, tantra schools started to develop in the 1970s; perhaps really they should be called neo-tantra schools.

In the mid-80s, there were the first books and workshops which dealt with sensual-tantric massage. Pioneers in this field included, in Germany, the tantra teacher Andro and, in the USA, Joseph Kramer and Annie Sprinkle. They were the first to develop holistic massage forms which integrated the genital region. 

More on the development: Tantra and Neo-Tantra in the West