Archives For Tantra

[Guest journalist Zora Burden returns to her discussion with artist, author and hypnotherapist Iona Miller. In Part One, Burden began her conversation with Miller on the subject of sacred sexuality and the reclaiming of the body and sexual self  – a topic that is rarely addressed publicly within a positive framework. Today, we present part two of that interview.]

Casa della Farnesina, Rome, ca. 19 BC [Public Domain]

Casa della Farnesina, Rome, ca. 19 BC [Public Domain]

ZB: In regards to the practice of sacred sex, what would be the best way for a beginner to approach it?

IM: Approach it with love. The key to love is selflessness, and the fulfillment it brings. The soul’s selflessness is as great as the body’s selfishness. Love is the language of the soul that allows us to unleash its unlimited capacity. It is a poetic and aesthetic act, a celebratory rite, and a marriage of matter and spirit as an experience of wholeness. We don’t need to support that phenomenon with any theory, jargon or interpretation. Sacred sex is an inherently healing practice and attitude that promotes well-being. It’s about rapport, reverie, and rebirth.

When you can fully imagine your lover as God/Goddess, their transcendent embodiment of the essence of male/femaleness, you’re there. “Knowing” in the “biblical” sense is direct, undeniable experience — a gnosis. It is ravishment beyond rapture – complete transport to the sacred world which is beyond time, beyond decay. It conveys a sense of the eternal – the fated. It fascinates us because transformation is our biological imperative.

Ultimately, it’s all about love – in or out of bed. You must approach the world as your lover, with naked awareness. That does not mean to be socially naïve or idealistic, nor to overemphasize the mysteries of semen retention, or ‘vaginal weightlifting,’ for example. Did you feel some cosmic merger, some divine infusion? Transcendence? Most will not go through all the initiations and empowerments, but essentially anyone can enjoy the practice of imagining the indwelling divinity of their sexual partner, in or out of an intimate relationship.

The mind is the primary sex organ. The psychological issues remain the same: projection, sex addiction, folie a deux, co-dependence/interdependence, fantasy, rapport, trust, intimacy, and commitment. All libido is sexual energy to some extent, the natural urges of life at any given moment. It is a self-regulating intentionality that knows where it ought to go for the overall health of the psyche. It is the urge to create, an energy arising from “life” drive — physiological or psychic energy associated with sexual urges.

ZB: Could you describe a typical tantric experience for a person to know what to expect and how it differs from standard sex?

IM: Most ‘sacred sex’ is no more than sex with an added psychic dimension, whether that is individual or shared with the partner. That may include visualizations, imagination, adoration of the archetypal aspects of the partner, and as much or little external ritual as one wants or can produce at the time. It does not have to affect spontaneity.

ZB: What is the best way for one partner to introduce tantra into their relationship? How does a committed partner compare to engaging in tantric practice with a stranger?

IM: If you know the person, you can talk about exploring your spiritual and sexual interaction more deeply. It is much like disclosing an interest in any sexual fantasy, and may be less challenging than some exploratory behavior. You find your way along together, moving in mutually satisfactory directions. I cannot comment to the ‘stranger’ issue, but one should avoid romanticizing a sex and love addiction, where there is compulsion at work. If stranger sex is a default or personal choice, then one can probably figure out how they can work out their sexual and spiritual agenda in that context. It cannot be imposed or judged externally, unless there is toxic behavior or reactions of participants. There can be unforeseen consequences.

Iona Miller photo 1

Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: If a person wishes to find an instructor, how do you advise they find a teacher right for them?

IM: Traditionally, the teacher finds you. One you have a good rapport with is probably better than one you cannot relate to or communicate with effectively, even if they have more knowledge. Pick one that harmonizes with your developmental interests.

ZB: How would one know they are ready to engage in ritual practice as a form of sexual awakening?

IM: There is no harm in trying if it is kept simple. Awakening to deeper levels of sexual experience is open to all who care to do so. It is an experiment you make with yourself. Some people speak of being ‘called’ toward such practice by their unconscious and fantasies.

Libido fuels all appetites. It is a drive, identical with fantasy-images, that motivates us spiritually, intellectually, and creatively. If you think you can have a life-affirming experience in this manner you probably will experiment with it.

ZB: Will you explain how one knows if they’ve activated kundalini and what this means for those who are not familiar?

IM: In some sense any sexual arousal activates kundalini or libido. Senses become more heightened, you may feel heat, vibrations, or pressure, and hear different sounds or pitches. Each chakra has its characteristic effects. The energy flow in the subtle body may range from a trickle to a strong flow. Like sex, it requires surrender. Such broad questions cannot be reduced to quick formulas; each person is different.

ZB: What are the precautions or preparations one should keep in mind for kundalini arousal?

IM: Such precautions for Kundalini yoga and other spiritual practices are covered in Michael Murphy’s book: The Future of the Body.  Gopi Krishna describes Kundalini simply as the normally latent psycho-sexual power that, when awakened ascends through the central channel of the subtle body. The root word “kunda” means a pool or reservoir of energy, likened to a coiled snake, ready to strike at any moment. Correctly directed, it leads to cosmic consciousness and liberation.

ZB: What is the best way to practice tantric sex when so many people are busy with work and the stress of daily life?

IM: Just taking the time to make it special, from relaxing and bathing to a full spa-experience helps prepare both body and mind. But the attitude toward the partner and the sacred dimension remains the main thing, even without any preparation time. Nothing prevents the adoration of the archetype or inner divinity at any given moment. Perhaps it begins with just the interlocking gaze of ‘soft eyes.’

ZB: Do you feel there is any aesthetic that should be included in a ritual of sacred sex?

IM: I don’t think there is ever any rule. Perhaps sometimes you feel very dramatic, other times earthy. It’s nice to have an atmospheric spot, certainly conducive music, and perhaps the right incense for the operation. Aesthetic response is an essential emotional aspect that lends flow and harmony to the process of balance, rhythm and synthesis of immediate perception.

Aesthetics is an artistic philosophy. Imagery evokes a perceptual response — an aesthetic response, a participatory way of knowing, remembering, and reconnecting body with soul and identity. Looks -The nature of beauty is an immediate revelation of things as they are: unity, line, rhythm, tension, elegance. This communion of the soul with the mysteries of inner and outer world is naked awareness of divine self-revelation. The felt-sense of form and beauty is instinctual. There is beauty in the rhythms of nature and our nature. This flow is lyrical, epic and dramatic. Aesthetic signification is one thing, but the deep emotional impact of aesthetic arrest — being suspended for a thrilling radiant moment in the eternal — stops us in our tracks in a moment of realization.

ZB: How can one ideally incorporate working with the gods or goddesses in their sacred sex?

IM: Authenticity – bringing one’s whole self to encounter. If you are sensual, be sensual; whatever your style is, express yourself freely. Let intuition guide you to elicit just what is evocative from the psyche. “She” will let you know, as personal anima and Anima Mundi, soul of the World, the sacred Feminine.

ZB: Regarding those who wish to work with Dakinis, will you give a brief introduction to this practice?

IM: Choosing a Vajrayana dakini, an iconic superhuman form, is a practice path. Traditionally you receive empowerment in order to practice the deity. The practice is always a mix of mantra and visualization based on the principals of the bodhisattva path. Each empowerment is four empowerments, and each dakini practice is mahayoga, based on loving-kindness.

Various blisses may be experienced in the practice. Classical Buddhist practice, in which all the various deity yoga practices are essentially the same. We develop wisdom in solitary practice as emptiness and compassion. Through the years, after various empowerments, one finds practice allegiance to one or two. The only choice involved is to abide in one of the great Vajrayana lineages where such empowerments happen.

ZB: How does one work with the elements during tantric trance states?

IM: The Physical Plane is represented by Earth, and includes the physical trappings, body and instantaneous rapport; the Emotional Plane is Water with its qualities of flow, empathy and inter-being through the subtle body or energy body. The Mental Plane is Airy – conceptual, metaphorical, and mental body; the alchemy of Being. The Spiritual Plane is Fiery, symbolized by co-conscious mindbody melding in Sacred Sex – the essence or Quintessence of Sex Magick.

ZB: What are some aphrodisiacs you recommend? What scents, colors, food, music, environmental factors are important in tantric work or within sacred sexuality?

519ASDEHtUL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_IM: In any mind-expanding experience, set and setting or atmosphere is important, though that will mean vastly different ‘turn ons’ to different people. Personally, I like heavy oriental fragrances, except in summer. Some perfumers compose scents from your chart. My favorite fabric palettes are rich, shimmery jewel tones that really pop. For example, essential oils or flowers with their scents can represent maidenhood or fecundity. But psychologically they represent the flowering of differentiation that gives rise to creativity in inner and outer life. In perfume alchemy, each scent elicits a psycho-sensual response.

How often do we claim to be bewitched or enchanted or under someone’s spell? It all boils down to rapport. I wrote about enhancing sex with trance in Hyp-Know-Sex. Remember the corny line, “you fill up my senses”?  That pretty much says it.  There are 64 tantric arts that play into intensification of the experience, building anticipation. But maybe your lover doesn’t care about the flower arrangement on the buffet or feng shui, or whatever.

[Aleister] Crowley said, “Be strong, then can you bear more joy.”  Love is the best aphrodisiac, of course. The Lover wants to be with The Beloved. The arousal of desire begins in the mind. Incorporating a mythic or spiritual dimension adds depth, even if that nuance is a strictly personal or interior experience. Prescriptions are reliable, but I say use whatever works for you. The mind is the biggest sexual organ. Great sex is like taking psychedelics – it is a psychedelic, releasing DMT, endorphins and oxytocin. The longer you stick with it, the more chemistry you pump out.

ZB: In your book, The Magic and Ritual Use of Perfume, you explain the importance of scent in sacred sex and as a form of alchemical transcendence. Will you talk about this?

IM: It has been said that it is only with scent and silk and artifices that we raise love from an instinct to a passion. Perfume alchemy differs from other magical perfumery in that we rely strictly on the quality of the scent, not any other attributions. The doctrine of signatures attributes botanicals to astrological signs, colors, and a host of other linked symbols, but perfume alchemy is concerned with the scent first and magickal or qabalistic attributions secondly. No matter how much we clean ourselves, we all emit a unique odor that is individual. We all affect one another with chemical codes or pheromones.

We communicate through a silent, invisible, virtually subliminal smell language whether at work, in the dining room, or in the bedroom. This exposed portion of the brain (”nose brain”) samples the external world, and deals with the regulation of motor activities and the primary drives of sex, hunger, and thirst. Olfactory stimulation also shoots electrical signals to the limbic system and amygdale. This emotional part of the brain is concerned with visceral, sensory and behavioral mechanisms. This is why odors produce such strong emotional reactions and bring up memories. From time immemorial perfumes and sweet-smelling herbs have played an important part in both religion and sex magic.

Exotic scents have evoked ardor, charming and luring both men and women. Perfumes are actually love potions. A truly “magical” scent works on the subconscious mind, as well as the conscious, to elicit a specific predetermined response. Scents can also be used to stimulate the sexual centers directly, and to help us “anchor” positive feelings, thoughts, and states. Then by smelling the scent alone, we can re-evoke the gestalt of those peak experiences. To excite is to set in motion. Specific formulae not only to enhance desirability and call forth predictable responses, they can also condition our consciousness through association. They can be stimulating, soothing, activate our psychic qualities, or be healing. They stimulate us at all levels — physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Tapping this potential, we can use scents as a language for communicating with and evoking our sub- and super-conscious energies, and creativity.

ZB: Which scents specifically can you recommend for tantric practices or as sexual enhancements?

IM: Keep your partner’s preferences and allergies in mind. Some like florals, or fruity notes, others languid orientals or animal scents. If your practice is qabalistic, keep the scent correspondences in mind, but realize many are not based on scent but on color, visual or medical analogs. It is important to remember in psycho-sexual alchemy the fragrance of the plant and the sensory response the scent elicits are primary. An alchemical essence is formulated for a specific “psycho-sensory, subliminal response”. This sensory response dictates the formulation of an incense or perfume.

The Doctrine of Signatures where herbs, plants, and flowers were assigned either to planetary rulership, or to parts of the human anatomy was based on the color and shape of the plant; so a kidney shaped leaf ‘healed’ kidney ailments and a red flower ‘cured’ blood diseases.  Color associations, linked to astrology, are even more simplistic.  For example, all red flowers belong to Mars; all yellow plants are ruled by the Sun, etc. This system of attributions, however, has no valid application in perfumery since it did not have anything to do with scent. Medicinal attributions are based on the organic principle of the plant and its ingestion as a tonic or tea, but not on the psycho-sensory fragrance.

ZB: How does one practice solitary tantra as compared to with a partner? Is there a difference in the outcome?

IM: Foremost is respect for the forces of creation, sex, and the divine, however you might conceive it. In this case, sex becomes a driver for inducing an altered state of consciousness. Or, such experience may arise in dreams and may or may not include bizarre metaphors.

The essence of tantra is action. Most tantra is not done with a physical partner and is not overtly sexual. The 4 empowerments of traditional Nyingma teachings describe the context. Tantra means: “thread of continuity”, like lineage. Yes, there are “sexual-yoga” practices for practitioner couples but it is called union practice and is essentially a practice to understand the nature of reality. A lama friend called doing union practice alone, “New Age aggressive innocence.” Religious practitioners of Tantra may be intolerant of the self-styled practices of ‘amateurs.’ Their work is a committed lifestyle which involves lifelong discipline.

ZB: How can a person utilize the internet (cyber-sex) as a form of tantra or sexual magick? Can a person experience sacred sex when using such a forum?

IM: Mostly such libido is used as a generator to create a charge around an operation and desired outcome. You can generate it almost any way you like. Soon people will have virtual and ‘designer’ bodies, so it will get very complicated, including the ethics of such encounters, in and out of relationships.

ZB: Can you give advice for women who experience pain or discomfort during long durational sex in practicing tantra?

IM: Any extended or frequent intercourse can cause “honeymoonitis” or urinary tract infection (UTI), which requires medical remedies. Otherwise, choose positions conducive to your fitness level if you plan to sustain activity in one position for a period of time. Pain is not a part of the process, so if it is excessive maybe this isn’t the right path for that person.

During sex, E.coli bacteria which tend to live on the skin around your anus can be transferred to your urethra by fingers or penis. Honeymoon cystitis is more common among young women in their twenties, although single women in their 50s are increasingly reporting that they suffer from the problem. There is more risk if you start having sex again after abstaining for a long period of time. See a Doctor if pain persists.

ZB: In regards to Westerners who’ve been raised with a damaging and shameful view of sexuality and their bodies, how do you see a person overcoming these feelings so they may begin to embrace their sexuality without this shame?

IM: Tantric notions of innate divinity are a good counterpoint to shame-based thinking. The essence of tantra is that the human being is the deity. We have divine qualities within us. Through tantra you can touch and recognize the powerful deity in yourself and partner. Identifying ourselves as victims damages our humanity. Core shame may be a symptom of codependency and is the root of addiction. If a person had severe attachment traumas some basic personality therapy can clear those layers before one takes on the archetypal worlds. Personality work and self-help create a firm foundation for any kind of spirituality. Unless the blocked emotions are released there will still be inhibitions.

Body shaming is a widespread cultural disorder we are left to deal with as individuals. Each person will have a different reaction, so there are also many solutions – many ways through. The therapies include transactional analysis, hypnotherapy, integrative techniques, and gestalt. They deal with the personal unconscious and embedded memories, not the transpersonal dimension of spiritual practice. If feelings, needs and drives are tied to shame, you are shamed to the core. Internalized shame makes us feel inherently flawed, inferior and defective. That pain leads to denial and defense, and sometimes violence, criminality, war and all forms of addiction. We need more self-compassion, not self-loathing. Toxic shame is demonic in its effects.

ZB: How does our orgasm and instant gratification obsessed society begin to understand the importance of abstaining from climax to find the pleasures of the sexual union itself without the goal of ‘completion’?  How can one learn to retrain their bodies to experience sexuality through tantra?

IM: Sex with totally awakened consciousness of the “now” can be enjoyed as an end in itself. Semen retention technique can be used to prolong sex before orgasm. Since the partner who is first to reach orgasm provides the other with an abundance of life force, sex may be seen as a mock battle in which the “opponents” compete to see who can induce the other to climax. Rather than approaching this as a matter of survival, we could view it as refreshing recreational sex play. Even though it is an arbitrary attitude, in the West orgasm is considered the supreme goal and reward of sex. Aside from certain magical practices, failure to experience sexual release is considered harmful and neurotic. But this attitude contains a cultural bias.

We have become obsessed with “achieving” orgasms, the more the better. We may have lost something by paying little attention to the quality of the experience. An evening of “Taoist lovemaking” might restore some specialness to your relationship. It incorporates some subtle nuances by maximizing body contact with your partner while minimizing leaking of vital fluids. If the partners attempt to complement and harmonize with one another, both will be nourished. When the desire for orgasm is so strong it cannot be resisted, we may submit, and then revive ourselves by sipping some ginseng tea!

ZB: What is the practice of hyp-know-sex that you have written extensively about? How does this create healthy sexuality?

IM: Hypnosis, used consciously or unconsciously is always a process of induction, deepening, and emerging. Eye fixation is one of the simplest mutual inductions for lovers. Deepening enhances relaxation, absorption, and visualization, while amplifying the focus of attention and experience. The key is being hypnotic, rather than doing hypnosis. Suggestions create atmosphere and enhance the pleasure of sexual experience and spirituality. Natural trance can be used to facilitate transcendence.

The consciousness altering heightened excitement, herbal refreshments, luxurious baths, oils, sensuous massage, sparkling drinks, flickering candle-light, incense and languid atmosphere of the boudoir setting are all conducive to self-suggestion for greater relaxation, sensual enjoyment, and fantasy experience. By changing your imagery, you can even evoke a more spiritual atmosphere viewing the act as a sexual sacrament. Mutual hypnosis for use with yourself and your lover is easily learned. The deliberate and charismatic use of hypnotic charms in sex has a long history, and created hysterias in past centuries. It is possible to use self-hypnosis or mutual induction to enhance desire, sex and performance. Self-hypnosis is a natural process.

Most of us spend our lives in automatically programmed trance states, such as driving on auto-pilot, anger trances, love trances, fear trances, trances induced by memories of places, phobia trances, archetypal trances, subpersonality trances, social roles, etc.  Reactions are spontaneous trance states when they happen to us. Consciously using hypnosis for changing old programming and for self-enhancement can open new realms of experience and psychic depth. Self-hypnosis, even outside the bedroom, helps us become more aware of the body, more tuned in to it and our feelings, sensual and otherwise. Self-hypnosis and hypnosis among lovers is a permissive process, rather than authoritarian like the old model of the controlling hypnotist. You simply give yourself and your partner “permission” to enjoy altered states of consciousness, other ways of being.

You can change your body image for the positive, and change any outworn attitudes about sex. Problems created by the mind can be solved by the mind, leaving you freer and more passionate about love and life, in general. Self-imposed limitations and constricting boundaries can be dissolved, even eradicated from your belief system. Sexual trance-formation can be applied to awakening or re-awakening the sensual self, overcoming dysfunctions, fears and anxieties, increasing desire and relaxation, building rapport with your partner.

ZB: What are some of the best books on sacred sexuality and tantric work?

IM: My personal favorite is Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy by Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger (1999). Montauk Chia is very nuanced in his tantric teachings. Anodea Judith has written extensively on chakras.

ZB: Will you give an example of what we can learn from studying the origins of mythology regarding sexuality and erotica and how this will help us understand it better?

IM: In the myth, Psyche is originally bound to Eros in a paradise of uroboric unconsciousness, and when she sees Eros in the light, this original unconscious tie is dissolved. This change represents a shift from the principle of fascinating attraction and the fertility of the species to a genuine love principle of personal development and encounter. Love as encounter is one of the central psychological insights of the myth. Kama, Eros, Cupid, Adonis are all active and aimed male principles. But Eros transcends erotic passion with ‘divine fire,’ necessary to the Great Work of self-discovery. Such love is fated, an inescapable destiny in which we lose ourselves in a kind of death that transcends our ego’s interests.

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[Guest journalist Zora Burden is a regular guest writer at The Wild Hunt, sharing her extensive interviews with interesting occult and Pagan personalities. Burden is a poet, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. She has written two books, “Women of the Underground,” featuring female musicians and artists. She also has five books of poetry on the themes of esoterica and surrealism available exclusively at City Lights Bookstore. In all her work, Burden focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism, and the esoteric.]

[The Wild Hunt welcomes back guest journalist Zora Burden, who conducted an in-depth interview with artist, author and hypnotherapist Iona Miller. Burden spoke with Miller specifically on the subject of sacred sexuality and the reclaiming of the body and sexual self  – a topic that is rarely addressed publicly within a positive framework and is more likely to be found at the center of controversy. Is there room in our culture for the understanding and acceptance of ritual, sacred and religious sexual practice? If so, how? We present part one of two.]

Iona Miller photo 1

Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

Iona Miller is a clinical hypnotherapist and multimedia artist whose interest in esoterics began in Ojai with Krishnamurti and the Theosophists, and continued with American pioneers of magick and specializes in extraordinary human potential. Her work and studies fuse esoterics, quantum physics and depth psychology. Miller’s writing includes essays and manifestos for many academic journals and the popular press. Her award winning, prolific work has been recognized as pioneering and innovative in the fields of religious doctrine, science, psychology, and the arts.

Miller serves on several Advisory Boards for science journals and established CAM medical programs. She is published in Pagan and pop magazines, like Green Egg, Nexus, and Paranoia. She has worked in intelligence, parapsychology, and media ecology with many experts, bridging the cultural gap between the arts and life-sciences. Her books include: The Modern Alchemist: A Guide To Personal Transformation (1994), The Magical and Ritual Use of Perfume (1990), Shamanism, Ancestors and Transgenerational Integration (2016). She currently enjoys retirement in Southern Oregon on the Rogue River.

Zora Burden:  How would you best describe ‘healthy sex’?

Iona Miller: The symbolic meaning of sex changes over time. Our models of sexuality are in flux. For example, the sexual revolution is now viewed critically in retrospect, having failed to produce the freedom, happiness, and ecstasy it once promised. Instead it made other issues more conscious, including new forms of inhibition, sexual abuse and violence, gender differences, and disease potential.

Conflicts are associated with power and control, subordination, desire, arousal, and love. Everyone has their own love style. We are fundamentally psychophysical beings, and the mind is the biggest sexual organ. Sacred sex is just part of a more integral worldview and a joyous expression of nature in the language of gesture, action, and communication. It is the feeling of eros, the relational function, and the harmony of drama. Eros is the passionate joy not only for another or a sexual lover, but even for things and animals. The essential archetype of woman and her autonomy remains intact, in a self-contained, multi-faceted femininity, despite our patriarchal culture. Orgasm is both practical and eternal, earthy and divine.

ZB: How do we readdress the stereotyped and distorted concepts of sexuality in the Western world?

IM: Language is a lens and we can increase our sexual vocabulary and repertoire to include the symbolic language of the unconscious, which Jung linked to the “royal marriage,” — a union of opposites. Such polarity in sex is not a gender issue, because we all have male and female elements in our psychophysical being. Some methods require both parties to share the psychophysical process while others can be done quietly on the inner planes. We need to be in rapport and resonance with ourselves, the known or unknown partner, and the cosmos. Each method has its own symbolism, practices, and goals. We can awaken and free the potential genius for love that lies within us all.

We should bear in mind that no sex is really “casual.” Science has shown that the cells of others can colonize our bodies, eggs, and mind, permanently injecting us with the genetic material of both random and relationally intimate partners. Babies of current partners have been found with the germ plasm from former partners. Male children ‘colonize’ our minds with their DNA during gestation and never ‘move out.’ That can be so even if the baby doesn’t come to term. Cells also migrate to the mother’s muscle, thyroid, liver, heart, kidney and skin. The theosophists used to talk of the effects of ‘sharing auras,’ but acquiring such cells is more permanent than etheric connection, as long as 40 years.

ZB: What is your opinion of those who seek healing through professional sex workers?

IM: Healing is good to find wherever one can get it. Sometimes even partnered individuals seek a sex therapist to work through psychosexual issues. They help retrain the mindbody to feel safe and employ new self-regulation techniques. ‘The Holy Whore’ or sacred prostitute notion was popularized late last century in transpersonal psychologies. It spread into pop culture. But now the idea is being revisioned again in psychology. The whole labeling thing is probably a hangover from more religious times that we have failed to shake off. We are a culture in transition. It is just one image among many in which to find one’s ‘power,’ –an animating principle.

ZB: How can we reclaim our bodies from abuse, objectification, or dissociation using spiritual or esoteric techniques?

IM: Techniques for reclaiming the body include sacred sex, hypnosis, embedded tissue memory work, and kinesthetic arts. Sex can also be enhanced by a variety of aesthetic and therapeutic means, including the 64 sexual arts, described in ancient literature. As ever, sex can be a double-edged sword, hurting, healing, or initiating, and that choice remains ours. It remains a challenge throughout our life-span. Such issues, including inequality and aggression, have become a greater concern than sex as a metaphor for happiness. The key dynamics are dissociation and association. New cultural forms are emerging. Fear of transgression is widespread.

As a therapist, I would suggest that the interaction is much clearer in practice if a person has done their own personal work on the related issues, rather than playing them out unconsciously in relationships. Naturally, to a greater or lesser extent we continue to project and let others ‘carry’ parts of our own potential. Desire is programmed, and the ‘object’ is merely a (changing) means to an end, and sometimes self-deception. Sex has a shadow that goes by many names including sex and relationship addictions. There is no shortage of ‘intimacy coaches’ or workshop instruction in the erotic and relational arts. Like all rites of passage, it is a matter of crossing the threshold from one state of consciousness to another by encountering the life force and unconscious. Like the French ‘petit mort,’ it involves the death of the old self and symbolic birth or rebirth of the new self-possessed identity.  From robbing rituals to disrobing, we are preceded by eons of human sexual practice of presentation, and gifting or offering.

We should also not lose sight of the fact that a big part of our sexuality takes place in our dreams, from which we can draw inspiration and self-knowledge otherwise hidden. We may even dream of ourselves as ‘prey’ when we are not victims in life. There are many facets of femininity but we don’t have to act them all out. Psychological space is the edge of freedom. We can reclaim the divinity of our bodies that may have been lost in a profane world that criticizes, abuses, represses, or thwarts our sexual expression. We can heal any shame-based attitudes, romantic assumptions, obsolete programming, and dissociations, or the wounds and trauma inflicted on us by the toxic behaviors of others. We can banish sexual ‘ghosts’ and learn to bring our whole selves into the sexual experience. Wounding opens us to compassion.

Collage by Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

Collage by Iona Miller [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: With the suppression of Goddess religions throughout history, how can women reclaim their divinity through their sexuality?

IM: Actually, in ancient Sumer, the Dragon Queen outranked her male partner, so who is serving whom? The holy female as primordial image has always been with us. The Feminine is always available for identification and exploration as one of many roles we engage. If those opposites are ’at war’ in your own subconscious you may suffer. Gaining awareness of this split goes a long way toward changing attitudes and behavior, even against an archaic cultural undertow of sexism.

Various religions, including Gnosticism, were judged heretical by the Church. This exile of the free feminine led to degradation, dividing nature and humanity. It’s hard to say how “divinely” women were treated in practical terms, even in the era of the Goddess. Every marriage goes through a phase of power-struggle that either makes or breaks it. Society has been stuck in this struggle for some time, much of it the result of political and socio-economic pressures. Of course, it served the agenda of the early church. There is one glaring problem in modern Catholicism, since the assumption of the Virgin, which is that if Mary is elevated to Goddess status, Jesus cannot be the Son of Man – rather of a God and Goddess.

In ancient times, a ‘Virgin’ meant a woman who was complete in herself – psychologically, rather than biologically intact. She has a lived relationship with her Spirit; she carries it for herself, rather than projecting that strength outward for some man to carry for her. So, the battle of patriarchy and sexual paradox is one of Spirit and Soul, which is what the alchemist sought to reunite with the body. If you leave the body out of the equation, nothing will change fundamentally.

However, moving forward, rather than looking back, there are some new models of gender reunion. Many have been consciously getting in touch with our inner opposites – anima for men and animus for women. Symbolically, this expresses a cultural yearning for a deep sense of “completion,” fulfillment, at the species level. It is part of our nostalgia for Spirit, for union with self, nature, and others. It is not a desire to revert to matriarchy, if it ever existed in any global sense, but to discover new ways of being and relating.

ZB: How can women learn to embrace their bodies and feel sexual despite society telling us that our beauty defines our sexual experience? That you must look a certain way, be a specific age to be sexy and sexual. How can magick or ritual address this?

IM: Female archetypes of earth and sky symbolize the Great Mother. She is conscious protector, spiritual guide, and nurturer, while at the same time the unconscious forces of birth and death, life and destruction. The unconscious anima wields her supernatural power to drive our lives either towards mystical knowledge, consciousness and individuation, or towards oblivion in sensual urges. The sky mothers and animas can transcend the body and ego, but in so many myths, they crave balance through the experience of the underworld, the unconscious drives of the instincts and the non-rational, expressing a balanced whole through this unity.

ZB: Will you talk about sacred sexuality? How do we introduce this into the concepts of sex amid the conservative and oppressive sexual nature of the Western world?

IM: Sacred sex is about freely expressing your emotional core. Like any myth or worldview, it has cosmological, metaphysical, sociological, and psychological aspects. If your approach to life is infused with spirit and meaning, it will be likewise in sex, with or without esoteric props and protocols. This is not just about sacred sex, but a sacred rather than profane body. So sex is an energetic merging of subtle bodies. It’s an augmented reality using spiritual technology that heightens sensual experience. It opens the couple to Cosmos, to the psychic reservoir of humanity.

If you have a spiritual approach to your sex life, then it will be so physically and psychically, here and now. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. It is unlikely anyone is actually authentically recreating any traditional practices of the past. We have to be satisfied with a middle road that satisfies our own inclinations for best practice. Even so, some sexual experience may be more mundane than exalted. Some will be celebratory, rather than goal-oriented. Most are unlikely to follow any social or ritual script or prescription.

ZB: What are some of the various forms of magical, tantric or sacred sexual practices?

IM: The power of Magic is rooted in Eros. When the connection between the erotic and the occult is unconscious, repressed or hidden, the mystery of uniting the esoteric and the erotic becomes the ultimate arcane secret. It penetrates into the depths where all life is one, all boundaries broken down, body and mind fused in one. A deep and abiding awareness of the intimate interrelationship unites the opposites through the realization of imaginal workings. We embody the myth. As in tantra, occult ritual involves the transgression of social mores, locating and enacting cultural taboos in order to transcend constrictive boundaries. The erotic and the sexual then become a tool to experience the breaking of mundane bonds and something ‘other.’

Among the sexual arts are traditional Hindu and Buddhist tantra, contemporary ‘fusion’ tantric practice, goal-oriented sex magick or “success magick”, sexual alchemy of Frater and Soror Mystica for transformation, idealized Courtly Love, Kabbalistic practice within marriage, Taoist alchemy for longevity, neo-Gnostic approaches for wisdom and worship of The Feminine, as well as personal eclectic practices of auto-erotic and partnered ‘spiritual sex.’

This is the realm of Blood Mysteries, transformation mysteries, and women’s initiation rites, including offerings, ordeals, and sacrifice. There are several varieties of traditional tantra. Hindu or Buddhist, and if the latter, which school? Or are we talking about some form of self-styled practice and initiation, or that of a particular guru? Taoist alchemy has another approach with a goal of longevity, if not ‘immortality.”

Ritual Space [Courtesy Photo]

Ritual Space [Courtesy Photo]

ZB: For those who may confuse the two as similar, what is the difference between sex magick and tantric sexuality?

IM: There are so many eclectic practices, appropriations, and idiosyncratic forms of belief that we need to be more specific. The main difference between tantra and Sex Magick is that tantra is a form of religion in Sanskrit circles. The key difference between traditional forms of tantra and Crowley’s system lies not in the details of sexual union, but rather in the emphasis that is placed on sex in the first place. Crowley’s knowledge of actual tantric practice was very limited and based on a transgressive approach, so the two bear little resemblance, except in the broadest sense.

‘Tantra’ has become a pop buzzword for any new agey exotic sexual experience – a generic adjective, rather than codified practice. It is merging and emerging. We can experience a rebirth or rejuvenation using a sacred sex approach during which the couple becomes an altar of worship. But is it Tantra? Some of these practices are the opposite of traditional practices. The sexual element of tantra has been over-emphasized and equated to “spiritual sex,” with the goal of heightened orgasm and optimal physical pleasure, not spiritual development or spiritual evolutionary process. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a misnomer for a variety of practices of the arts of love, usually practiced a la carte outside of the religious context in which it arose. Some might consider it cultural appropriation.

Tantra massage is a fad based on mutual masturbation. Usually, some practitioner has found a way to commodify the needs and desires of paying customers. It’s just frottage – a fetish, like in Zentai: the act of rubbing against the body of another person, as in a crowd, to attain sexual gratification. “Zentai” is an abbreviation of “zenshintaitsu”, which means “full body suit” who say they are seeking liberation by effacing the physical self with anonymous sex. Both practices seek depth and transcendence.

Sex magick often has some practical goal, whereas tantra is more about experiencing Gnostic ecstasy – an augmentation of personal experience – an “inner trip.” Both practices are concerned with the fusion in unity of archetypal Male and Female energies to transcend the opposites, irrespective of the genders of participants. Both weave together physical, psychological and magical dimensions. Passion and a merger of minds as well as bodies are more important than protocols. Ultimately, you are generating this narrative and imagery within yourself for connecting and transcending. In magick, “Sex” is stored in the body for spiritual or magical power.

Many know about sex magick in the O.T.O. and how Crowley rewrote his contemporary rituals. Eclectic sex mysticism may or may not be considered tantra or sex magick, per se. Sexual mysticism doesn’t heighten spirit at the expense of matter, but instinctively includes it. You don’t need to be a sorcerer or mystic to imagine your partner as a God or Goddess leading toward rapture and union with the divine.  So, mostly this is an idiosyncratic practice, an eclectic mix someone makes up for themselves, not ‘tantra’. The value of magickal work is only as strong as the goal you are pursuing – short and long term. Whether it enhances your path is a very personal choice on which your inner guide will comment from time to time.

ZB: Will you talk about the history of tantra and what the practice is?

IM: Tantric teachings evolved in India and eventually spread to Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. As an abstract religious and sexual science, tantra has no clear, static definition. It systematically explores the mystery and phenomenon of love and relationships on earth by combining sexual energy, visualizations, and prayer. Understanding yourself and another is healing, completing, harmonizing, and liberating. Tantra unravels the mysteries of love and relationship, weaving together spirit and sex with all aspects of existence in a spiritual philosophy and evolutionary practice.

Tantras are texts which outline specific practices. These practices are meditational systems that aim at the experience of bliss in physical and spiritual relations by cultivating erotic potential. Tantras teach that earthly delights stem from the union of opposites and are achieved with an ideal partner. Such a union exemplifies harmony, perfection, and the centrality of love to existence. Kama, or desire, is a creative principle that aims at the perfection of life on earth. Mantras are aids to meditation. Sacred sounds may be visualized as yantras, and mandalas, symbols of psychic wholeness.

It is the weaving of spirit and sex. It is not, as it commonly labeled in the West, as being solely about sex. It is used in the West as a general term that relates to sexual practice as a spiritual evolutionary practice. Tantra is basically a philosophy of spiritual practice and does not have a negative connotation. It is the key to a life of fulfillment and prosperity. It is about feeling connected to and awed by the spiritual essence of the universe. It is emerging, and one can experience a re-birth when having “sex” with another using tantra techniques. Tantra is a spiritual method or yoga that takes into account both “inner” and “outer” realities. It is alchemical in nature, being based on the union of opposites. Derived from the root words to expand, weave, or extend consciousness, tantra implies a continuity beyond the physical plane.

ZB: Will you describe the act of tantra – physically, mentally, and spiritually within ritual?

IM: The body is your temple. We can embody that Divine archetypal Spirit in male, female, or androgynous form. We ‘see’ one another as divine male and female, Shiva and Shakti. We serve them consciously and they serve us. Both Magick and yoga help the soul on its initiatory journey. Magick begins with concentration and visualization, basic knowledge of the archetypes or god-forms, powers, functions, and attributes of each sphere. The deities become autonomous. Invocation means calling-in that form into the magickal circle and identifying with it. The astral form permeates our Body of Light and we are rejuvenated A banishing returns us to ordinary awareness.

A sympathetic resonance ignites kundalini to blaze up through the chakras, until this stream of flame reaches the crown center. In tantric circle worship, men and women alternate in the circle with one couple in the center. A ceremonial meal of wine, meat, fish, and bread is followed by sexual intercourse. The wine symbolizes fire and the immortality that the tantric must learn to distill and drink. The meat symbolizes air and bodily functions that must be brought under control. Fish represents water and the techniques of sexual occultism. Bread is the earth, or the natural environment, which must be understood and controlled. The sex act is the uniting quintessence. Sex is a sacred symbol that helps us apprehend the ultimate unity and expanded consciousness.

Ritual is the celebration of a myth. Myth functions as a paradigm, or model. Ritual can be seen as the enactment of this myth, as the myth would be represented as the source of all action. Myth is actually a dynamic expression of the motivational power of the archetype at its core. Ritual is for the soul – an aesthetic imitation of a numinous element (or godform) in our personal life. It is an epiphany or grace — a metaphorical expression of creative imagination.

Using a circle clears a working area. Light exercises focus and amplify our energy. Invocation, or the “calling in,” of the desired godform is an attempt at self-transformation. Charging and consuming a eucharist is an epiphany with the god. Meditation is consolidating and reflective. Banishing returns us to “normal” consciousness. We can include divination, dance, dramatic scenarios, or sacred sex acts.

ZB: Will you talk about how Alchemical Eros is a form of sacred sex?

IM: Alchemy approaches the spiritual value of sex by making the Soror Mystica essential to the Great Work. The sacred marriage, or coniunctio, creates a bond by which opposites are united in an image which transcends both original potentials. The whole art of alchemy is symbolized by the conception of a magical or divine child – a spiritual androgyne heralding psychological and spiritual wholeness. The queen is the body, the king stands for the spirit, and the soul unites the two in the royal marriage. The mother is the unconscious; the son is the conscious. It is a return to the womb of the mother. Penetration of the female is the same as the penetration of the water or the unconscious. Ordinarily, spirit, soul and body are separated from each other, even while in dynamic interaction. But when the Great Work is complete, the divine spirit is brought ‘down’ to shine through the soul and body and unifies itself with them, so they all form one and the same ‘body.’ Pulsating life is the substrate of our existence.  I wrote on sexual transcendence in Emotional Alchemy in Tantra.

ZB: What is the physiological or energetic reason behind experiencing bliss through the tantric practice of simple breathing or meditation exercises together?

IM: Bliss is often associated with heart chakra activation, and probably dopamine release and oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. So any method that amplifies the heart center moves us in that direction, separately and together.

ZB: Can practicing sacred sex help heal those who have sexual trauma, fear of intimacy and trust issues?

IM: It would be up to an individual to determine if such “tantric babysteps” help their overall recovery plan. Knowing they will not be physically touched may help, if that is their issue. The sex therapist or practice partner would need to have a certain amount of emotional availability and compassion.

ZB: Does one gender find it more difficult to practice tantra than another?

IM: I cannot imagine why that would be so. However, we should be careful of thinking in such polarities. The Jewish Mishna and Talmud also recognized intersex alternatives: the androgynous, the person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured, one who identified as “female” at birth but who was infertile and developed “male” characteristics at puberty, and one identified as “male” at birth who developed “female” characteristics at puberty and/or is lacking a penis. This likely originated by observing infants over aeons before modern neo-natal medical interventions for sex assignment. Such individuals may have their own issues, especially when transitioning.

ZB: Will you talk about the Kama Sutra and other sacred sexual texts people might study?

IM: There is a Japanese Pillow Book, observations and musings of a courtesan. The Kama Sutra, the classical Indian treatise on the Art of Love, describes ‘Sixty-four Arts’ which reminds us of the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching. These arts add to one’s graciousness, charm, and desirability. They include singing, music, dancing, writing, drawing, painting, sewing, reading, recitation, poetry, sculpture, gymnastics, games, flower arranging, cooking, decoration, perfumery, gardening, mimicry, mental exercises, languages, etiquette, carpentry, magic, chemistry, mineralogy, herbology, healing, gambling, architecture, logic, charm-making, religious rites, household management, disguise, physical sports, and martial arts plus many contemporary activities. May we learn to enjoy them all.

Next week, in part two of this series, Burden will talk with Miller more specifically about various practices and the directions to take to begin healing the body and healing the sacred sexual self. Stay tuned… 

*    *    *

[Guest journalist Zora Burden is a regular guest writer at The Wild Hunt, sharing her extensive interviews with interesting occult and Pagan personalities. Burden is a poet, and a journalist for the San Francisco Herald. She has written two books, “Women of the Underground,” featuring female musicians and artists. She also has five books of poetry on the themes of esoterica and surrealism available exclusively at City Lights Bookstore. In all her work, Burden focuses on feminism, radical outcasts, surrealist art, social activism, and the esoteric.]

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Coilhouse Issue #6

Coilhouse Issue #6

  • Excellent alternative culture magazine and blog Coilhouse is shutting down, though the creators are promising that this is a mere hiatus and that Coilhouse will return in some form in the future. Quote: “We can’t tell you what exactly is coming next, or when; we just know we have no intention of quitting. Potential directions that Coilhouse may move in somewhere down the line: books, apps, limited edition print/art objects, video, fashion collaborations. Smaller, more manageable one-shot projects that don’t break our backs. But first, we will have to re-strategize our business and production plans. Nothing is set in stone at the moment because, simply put, we need a break. We need to rest.” For now, they’ve made the six print issues of Coilhouse magazine available as free PDF downloads, a token of affection to fans and supporters. I highly recommend checking them out. 
  • Is the famous Celtic warrior-queen Boudicca buried beneath a McDonalds restaurant? It is rumored to be so. Quote: “Dr Mike Heyworth, the director of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), said that experts are on the hunt for her burial place, at one point rumoured to be near what is now a McDonald’s restaurant in Birmingham, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she was unearthed in the next few years. There are contradictory but persistent tales (with “no element of truth”, according to the Museum of London) that she lies beneath either platform eight, nine or 10 at King’s Cross Station.” The big question is: what happens to her resting place once the bones are found? 
  • No, Easter was not originally the celebration of Ishtar. Let’s all be more critical of Facebook image memes, OK? 
  • At the Huffington Post Grove Harris discusses composting as a Springtime spiritual exercise. Quote: “Composting is in many ways one of the most spiritual of practices. It is the process that will feed the next cycle of life, which will take endings and serve new beginnings. It is powerfully renewing on many levels, and offers deep metaphoric guidance.”
  • Enforced celibacy doesn’t really work all that often, no matter what the religion/ideology is. The country of Bhutan is distributing condoms to Buddhist monasteries to stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Quote: “Warning signs of risky behavior among monks first appeared in 2009, when a report on risks and vulnerabilities of adolescents revealed that monks were engaging in “thigh sex” (in which a man uses another man’s clenched thighs for intercourse), according to the state-owned Kuensel daily.” So remember, use protection, make it available, no matter what the official rules are. 
The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

The Joy of Sexus by Vicki León.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The Arizona Republic reports on the travails of a downtown Scottsdale Goddess-worshiping temple that neighbors accuse of being a “sex church”. The Phoenix Goddess Temple, run by mother priestess Tracy Elise, claims that they teach Tantra (actually they claim to practice a syncretic “Neo Tantra”) and don’t engage in prostitution (sacred or otherwise).

Scottsdale police spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark said police visited the Phoenix Goddess Temple last week to investigate a complaint that it was a house of prostitution but could not determine if the allegations were true … The temple has drawn police attention because its tenets connect spirituality and sexuality and it employs sexual healers and teaches its members about tantric sexual techniques. “It’s perceived as a sex church,” Elise said. The 48-year-old priestess was unapologetic about the temple and its views on sex, which she said are far more enlightened than those of most other religions. A waiver that members sign states: “I acknowledge that I will not receive any type of sexual gratification in exchange for money during my session” at the temple. A citizen’s complaint to police alleges that prices listed at the temple say services are $204 for one hour and $440 for 2 1/2 hours but do not say what those services are.

Though a police sting operation yielded no arrests, and despite the fact that they seem quite careful to avoid veering into illegality concerning their sex-oriented teachings and sessions (note the rules for a “cuddle party” held at the temple), that hasn’t stopped neighbors from complaining to law enforcement officials and making assumptions about what goes on inside the temple.

Kim Edwards, president of the Scottsdale Southwest Village homeowners group, said she witnessed congestion problems at the church but was unaware of what was going in the home. She figured it was a business operation. “I almost hit somebody crossing the street there,” she said, adding that she complained to the city. “I wouldn’t support any church at that location because of the traffic it draws. But because of the nature of this church, it sends up a lot of red flags.” Another neighborhood leader, Hope Monkewicz, said she was disturbed by a veil of secrecy surrounding the temple. “If you’re operating there and no one knows about it, you can’t be doing something good in there,” she said.

But unhappy neighborhood leaders can breath a sigh of relief, the temple is moving to Phoenix. Not because they were forced out due to their teachings on sex, but because of local zoning laws.

In Scottsdale, the city code enforcement inspectors notified the Phoenix Goddess Temple on Oct. 21 that it needed approval to operate a church out of the home at 68th Street and Exeter, said Malcolm Hankins, the code enforcement manager. After meeting with city planners in December, the temple considered its options for acquiring an adjacent property or moving to a new location. It ultimately decided to move to Phoenix but was still operating this week in Scottsdale … Earlier this week, Elise said she plans to move to a home in 5900 block of East Shea Boulevard in March. Phoenix planner Alan Stephenson said the city has not received an application to operate a temple at the home, but a church would be allowed in that residential zone.

No doubt the Phoenix Goddess Temple will continue to do well for itself, let’s hope the neighbors and local authorities are a bit more tolerant at their new location. Though the only laws they were breaking were local zoning ordinances, I’m disturbed by the neighbor who found them suspicious simply because “no one knows about it”. This is a group that seemed to have no trouble talking to the press, and keep an extensive web site explaining what they do (and don’t do), yet the spectre of sex and female empowerment seemed to trigger suspicion and hostility. If you want a crystal ball to predict how the future growth of modern Paganism will be received once we’re fically robust enough to open temples and sanctuaries in local communities, you could do worse than to examine how these men and women were treated.