As we roll ever onwards into the 21st century, it’s hard to ignore the growth of Tantra. Now that yoga has gone mainstream, it looks like Tantra is one of the next big things to attract those interested in living life even more fully. And for good reason—Tantra, in the form it takes in the world today, is a unique set of teachings and practices that explore areas that otherwise would not be touched.
What is Tantra and Neo-Tantra?
The origins of Classical Tantra go far back into the mists of ancient India. Its heyday was between 800–1200 AD, and it incorporates the use of mantras, maṇḍalas, mudrās, deity yoga, guru-yoga, and more. Hatha yoga stemmed from classical Tantra, and there was an emphasis on initiation passed on from master to disciple.
Today, a lot of what we see in the world under the name of Tantra is actually Neo-Tantra. Neo-Tantra is a synthesis, weaving inspiration from the original tantric teachings, and combining them with modern psychotherapeutic techniques with a stronger focus on sexuality. Fans of classical Tantra continue to dismiss this off-shoot as ‘not true Tantra’, but whilst it has a different focus, it also has developed to even more perfectly fit with the needs of our time.
How ‘The Sex Guru’ Inspired Tantra
Sex features as an aspect of left-handed classical Tantra, but it was a small part of a much larger system. Neo-Tantra, by focusing in more on sexuality, sought to bring consciousness and healing to an area of people’s lives that has been a taboo for thousands of years. One of the biggest voices that inspired the emergence of neo-Tantra in the last 50 years was Osho, an Indian guru who courted controversy for many years, and whose seminal talk ‘From Sex to Superconsciousness’ became one of the most revered—or reviled—books of its time.
Why such uproar? Because he spoke of the urgent need to link sex, love and spirituality into one unified whole. That very idea still shocks some people even today, but for many devout Indians in 1969, it was a step too far. Branded ‘the sex guru’, the majority vilified him. And yet for Western seekers, he struck a deep chord of truth. As he says himself:
“Sex is raw energy. It has to be transformed, and through transformation there is transcendence. Rather than transforming it, religions have been repressing it. And if you repress it the natural outcome is a perverted human being. He becomes obsessed with sex.”
“The people who call me ‘sex guru’ are obsessed with sex. I have not talked about sex more than I have talked about meditation, love, God, prayer, but nobody seems to be interested in God, love, meditation, prayer. If I say anything about sex, immediately they jump upon it.”
From ‘Sex Is a Sin’ to ‘Sex Is Innocent’
Since so many of us have grown up with the idea that sex is a sin, to hear that it is in fact a natural expression of divinity that can help raise us to the heights of ecstasy is a revolutionary concept. Osho was a system breaker, one ready to challenge the system upon which society was founded, point out its flaws, and lead the way to his vision of a new human that he called ‘Zorba the Buddha’; one able both to meditate and celebrate, and find the divine in all of life. As he said, “Zorba is the foundation and Buddha is the palace. Buddha is the peak, but the foundation stones are laid by Zorba. It will be foolish to choose to be a Buddha without having the foundation stones.”
Westerners travelling to India on the hippie trail in the late sixties and seventies were drawn by this rebellious spiritual teacher who encouraged a spiritualisation of sexuality. He encouraged them to re-perceive it—returning it, as he argued, to its original innocence. He criticised the corruption of the word sex, used by the Church to turn a divine act into an original sin. He also encouraged people to free themselves of the insipid negative impact of such education or conditioning.
If everything is sacred, surely sex is sacred too. And if it is, how do we approach it in such a way to go deeper, to open more to light up the superconsciousness? How can we utilise the body as a vehicle to merge with a greater power, whether you call that God/Love/Universe/Energy or any other name?
Margot Anand and the Birth of Neo-Tantra
In the late ’70s, the first Tantra teacher Osho appointed at his ashram in India was Margot Anand, today known as the ‘Grandmother of Modern Tantra’. She was a psychotherapist by training, and drawing from this background and from the Human Potential Movement that was growing in popularity in the West, she and Osho created a new form of Tantra—one that spoke to the needs of our time. One that said yes to sex and to sexual energy, and explored how we can use it as a vehicle for deep therapeutic healing, for spiritual inquiry, and for freeing humanity from repression and limitation.
Today these neo-tantric teachings feel just as relevant as they did all those years ago. It is rare to find any culture around the world that has not, on some level, allowed sex to be seen as dirty or sinful, and in doing so—often in the name of God—we cut ourselves off from our full potential.
What I Discovered in Neo-Tantra
Before I had explored Neo-Tantra, I too assumed it was not rich or relevant enough because of its distance from the original teachings from which it had grown. Then I went to see for myself, to leave the prejudice aside and in the spirit of inquiry go to some workshops and see what neo-Tantra might have as gifts for me. Its gifts were many layered.
It helped me open up to women in a new and more authentic way. It helped me work through trauma from my childhood and teenage years, rewriting beliefs of what sex and intimacy was and what it could be. It also helped heal the anger I had held unconsciously towards women and the feminine. Anger that I only saw through deep inquiry and through workshop processes that uncovered core wounds. These workshops created a safe space for them to emerge, be witnessed, and to be lovingly integrated with new understanding.
Tantra: A Revolution and an Evolution
Now a Tantra teacher myself, I see how neo-Tantra helps so many people have a revolution in their love lives, their sex lives, and their whole manner of day-to-day living. And this is where it still ties in with the origins of Tantra, which was a householder’s path of spirituality. One that embraced those who work, have a home, perhaps children, and yet who also want to integrate something deeper in their connection to the divine.
I’ve seen how Neo-Tantra teaches people to become better lovers, in so many ways and on so many levels. And not just a better lover, but also a more authentic human who can relate to others from a place of depth. One who becomes increasingly adept at inviting both themselves and others into deeper levels of intimacy. Not with an agenda, but from the simple view that life can so easily become shallow, when all of us yearn for greater depth.
Neo-Tantra shows people how to become multi-orgasmic or whole-body orgasmic. It shows them how to extend and expand pleasure from their genitals to the whole of their body, and beyond that, into the energy body, and into subtle yet profound states of ecstasy, meditation, and communion with themselves and their partner. A revolution? More like an evolution. And one the world continues to need deeply.
Integrating Sex and Spirituality
Whilst Osho was not the very first to speak of sex and spirituality—Wilhelm Reich and others were speaking of it long before him—he catalysed and inspired a new generation, and one that returned to the West to spread that teaching even further. Today we stand on the cusp of a new level of integration of our sex lives with our spiritual lives. Because now, more than ever, is the rise of “Zorba the Buddha” in women and men the world over—through workshops, trainings, one-to-one sessions, books, films, online courses, through the laying down of masks and armours of protection, and the emergence of the most loving and tender of hearts. One’s ready to love and be loved, to our depths, to our heights, and also to our widths—as we expand in all directions to become divine humans on a profound earth walk. A walk that becomes a dance, a song, a poem, a love letter written through our living life to its depths.
For those that have not explored Tantra yet, it might feel scary to walk into a workshop, or to go see someone for a one-to-one tantric session. But in that fear is a seed that is yearning to flower into fully alive vibrance. The scariest bit is walking through the door, but once you have, a whole new world of love and intimacy opens up to you. So, feel the fear, take a breath, and leap forwards!
“Create meditation out of sex; make sex an object of meditation. Treat it as a temple and you will transcend it and be transformed.” (Osho)
Find a Tantric Massage Practitioner Near You
If you’re interested in exploring Tantra, please visit the tantric healing massage section of Tantralize Directory to find a practitioner near you. All the Tantric Massage providers listed in the Directory are qualified in their practices, and welcome people new to Tantra.