We present article from new number of our bulletin "IO Pan" of the friend of Moscow's Oasis "Pan's Asylum" Arjuna Anandanatha.
Tantrism in the Writings of Kenneth Grant
Being the mystical essence of all Hindu and Buddhist traditions, Tantrism in many aspects is close to various secret schools of middle East and West, that occupy a similar position in a context of corresponding religions. One of such systems of Western mysticism is The-lema. Its beginning is marked by the revelation of the Book of the Law, which occurred in 1904 e.v. via Aleister Crowley. Crowley had visited India and Sri Lanka and to a certain degree got in touch with the local Tantric traditions; consequently he didn’t fail to notice their essential similarity to his own world outlook and experience. Later he wrote, thatamong all hindus it is tantrics who are the most advanced.
Like Thelema, Tantra is a life-afﬁrming teaching. Contrary to multiple decadent doctrines ofascetic traditions, Tantrism delivers a gospel of love, elation and enjoyment. Its spirit is concordant with that which is reﬂected in the words of Nu in the ﬁrst chapter of Liber AL. Tantras formulate their basic law in a way resembling the AL’s maxima: “The sole principleis to follow one’s own Will”.1 The metaphysics of Tantra and Thelema is also essentially identical - union/duality of Nuit and Hadit, consequent emerging of the world, divine natureof human being, doctrine of non-dual perception etc. And the same can be said regarding their practical side. As it has been noted by one tantric master, Thelema is Tantra for the West.
Following Crowley, some of his adherents started turning to the theme of Tantra. Among such two are the most famous: an englishman who took the name of Dadaji Mahen-dranath, the founder of AMOOKOS, and Kenneth Grant, the founder of Typhonian O.T.O. Itis Grant’s ideas about Tantrism that are examined in the present article on the basis of his Typhonian Trilogy -The Magical Revival, Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God and Cults of the Shadow.
It is evident from Grant’s works that his interest was Tantric tradition of Srividya.2 Quiet ob-viously, Grant’s views on the subject were based upon literature available at that time inEnglish: a few academic digests, several translations among which are Lalitasahasranama and Kamakalavilasa, and popular books about so called “yoga”. Since Grant had neverbeen initiated into any of Tantric traditions and had been unaware of authentic sources of Tantrism in Sanskrit, his ideas of it are, to say the least, not precise. However it can be said that Grant’s views still are of some interest, and it may be useful to go through them.But while reading his works one has to take care - the basis of this statement is given be-low.
The main problem of Grant’s apprehension of Tantrism is his habit of taking it fragmentarilyand lumping it together with his personal ideas. For instance, there are no grounds forconsidering Tantrism being historically connected to some egyptian cults - which was stated by Grant in several of his books. Etymological “proofs” given by him3 are clearly unsound; a similarity of certain ideas in no way can be regarded as an evidence of any suc
1 For example, see Kali-tantra, 8.19
2 Srividya is one of the main schools of Kaula-tantrism. It originated around 8-11 century C.E. in Kashmir andthen spread all over India - mostly in South India and Bengal. It is in South India where Srividya took its ﬁnalform and became the dominating Tantric tradition, which it remains to be in our time.
3 Cults of the Shadow, p. 63
cession or interrelation of given traditions. Historically, Tantrism evolved around 3-5 cen-tury C.E. from Vedic religion and local cults of female deities. For the fact, it is distinctive Indian tradition.
From place to place in Grant’s books we may ﬁnd references and “quotations” from an un-named “initiated Kaula commentator”. This feature is rather ridiculous given the fact that alloriginal Tantric commentaries have author mentioned. Moreover, considering the languageand the style of “quotation” it can be stated that they were written by an european in 20thcentury - most likely Grant himself or someone of his disciples.
In Grant’s writings there is a considerable amount of factual mistakes. For example, hewrites “arkashani” in spite of correct term “akarshini” (Sanskr. “she who attracts”).4 Even more queerly, he notices no difference between words “kAla”, “time; black” and “kalA”, “aspect; emanation”, and consequently makes several wrong assumptions.5 The name of one Tantric hymn, Karpuradi, Grant erroneously takes to be a name of the Goddess Kali.6 In the same place he provides an incongruous etymology of the bija “Krim”, saying it is aconcentration of the word “karpura”.7 And this list can be continued...
Several fragments cited by Grant and ideas ascribed by him to Tantrism do not occur in corresponding texts and traditions. Poor knowledge of the subject makes Grant to misin-terpret Tantric doctrines and even falsify facts.
It is a question why Grant had chosen from amidst all Tantric traditions particularly Srivid-ya. Perhaps it was due to availability of certain sources and inaccessibility of the other. Forthis or that reason, Grant almost everywhere appeals to the Tantrism of Srividya.8 It is in Srividya where the doctrine of Kamakala, “Emanation of Passion”, from which Grant hadborrowed an idea of kalas as sexual secretions, has a special place. And again, he pulls this idea out of the context of the doctrine, which is not only its necessary foundation butthe sole heart of Srividya in whole.9 Given the fact that Kamakala doctrine is essentiallyclose to the metaphysics of Liber AL, Grant’s attitude is more than strange. Actually, this is just one more demonstration of his interest in mere practical matters and a total apathy tothe matters of true importance.
The doctrine of kalas is of utmost accent to Grant. In fact this is the only idea that he hadborrowed speciﬁcally from Tantrism. And to a certain degree he understood it aptly. For example, Grant noted that woman’s sexual secretions have not merely magical as it iscommonly held in the West, but rather mystical and sacramental signiﬁcance. Contrary to
4 Cults of the Shadow, pp. 82-83; Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 179
5 The linguistic misunderstanding occurs in Grant’s books frequently. As just one example, see Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 211. In addition, Grant baselessly identiﬁes “kula” and “kala” (Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 213).
6 Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 116. In fact, “Karpuradi” means “karpura etc.” - the hymn is named by its ﬁrst word.
7 Ibid., p. 115
8 Seemingly, Grant is simply unaware of other Tantric traditions apart from Srividya.
9 Grant refers to Kamakala very brieﬂy only: see Cults of the Shadow, p. 95 and Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 212.
Crowley, who generally underestimated the magnitude of the woman,10 Grant took a Tan-tric approach in this matter. Sadly, he was not sincere enough. Having borrowed some things of secondary importance, Grant missed the essence of Tantric doctrine. He never rose above the level of an occultist. Moreover, that what he borrowed Grant developed in avery awkward and voluntary way. For example, his speculations about bisexualising of the human body by means of the 16th kala11 sound simply ridiculous. Following jabber aboutsamarasa and “the science of Bhairavas” is no less dubious.12
In his examination of kala theory Grant goes to the extreme opposite to Crowley’s - but even to a greater degree. He states that woman’s secretions are of utmost importance,which is right according to the doctrine of Tantras;13 however, he proceeds with a strange and baseless statement that man’s secretions are of no use in mystical practice.14 This is in direct contradiction with the word of Tantras - they unambiguously say that the best elixiris formed by the conjunction of two.15
Then, Grant several times states that in Kaula ritual a priestess is only brought to excite-ment after which her secretions are collected in a birch leaf and used as a communion. He even adds that sexual contact with her is prohibited. This peculiar practice is of no doubt Grant’s own one - as far as I know, not even one Tantra describes such kind of ritual. In numerous Tantric texts we ﬁnd prescriptions of the oral consumption of woman’s secre-tions or their mixture with semen directly from yoni.16 Most often genital coitus is said to bethe must. According to some, it is preferable for man not to ejaculate17 - but this is applicable to that case only when he is able to achieve the orgasmic state without an egress of semen. Otherwise ejaculation is needed for the rite to be complete and perfect. Having thisin view, we can see that Grant is trying to falsify things and push his own fables in the name of Tantra.
10 However, it was Crowley who also wrote that without a woman man has no power (cited in Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 19).
11 Cults of the Shadow, p. 100
12 Ibid., pp. 101-102
13 This is a direct consequence of the exalted position of woman in Tantrism and her unique role on the path to God. According to Tantric teaching, rituals and practices devoid of woman’s participation are all in vain,and ﬁnal liberation is never achieved without a company of woman. Several Tantric texts are devoted to glo-riﬁcation and practical use of woman’s sexual secretions - for instance, Yoni-tantra. Secretions are consid-ered to be manifestation of the very essence of the Goddess, Her sadbhava.
14 Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 40
15 For example, Kaulavali-nirnaya, 5.36: “The Goddess is to be served with the nectar of yoni and lingam”. Mahakala-samhita advocated the usage of semen only - in the case of woman’s absence.
16 As a good illustration, see Shaktisangama-tantra, Kali-khanda, 21.53-57.
17 Such prescriptions in fact are very rarely met in Tantras. Contrary to the modern view, ejaculation is gen-erally prescribed as a necessary part of Kula ritual, corresponding to purnahuti of the Vedic yaga. But for cer-tain reasons in contemporary Tantrism above mentioned view seems to be dominating. Among textual evi-dences I can bring forth perhaps one only: Kalivilasa-tantra, 10.20, forbids ejaculation in the case of coitionwith another man’s wife.
Following the same line of fraud, Grant writes that a woman who takes part in a ritual as aliving Goddess remains a virgin.18 Contrary to his idea, in the overwhelming majority ofcases this or that kind of sexual act takes place. This is true in regard to Hindu Shakta-tantrism and Sahajiya, as well as to Buddhist Vajrayana and Sahajayana.
Certain ideas Grant deliberately distorts - to bring them in accordance with his own views.For instance, “viparita-maithuna” in no case means something like “a type of sexual congress typical for a dog”,19 which must had been well known to Grant. However he simplymisrepresents the idea20 - for the reason of his obsession with “dog and Sirius theme”. Theword “kumari” which means “a virgin”,21 he baselessly interprets as “a woman who had nochildren”. The most funny case of such misusage of terms by Grant is perhaps the following: his favorite word “suvasini” in reality stands for mere married women22 and not for notorious “specially trained priestesses”.
In his Cults of the Shadow Grant makes a factually wrong statement that adepts of Va-machara strive for longevity and physical immortality - and this is one of the major goals ofthis path.23 It is peculiar to Grant to interpret Tantric doctrines from too much physiological point of view. Thus, with an awkward seriousness he writes about the extreme importance for Tantric practice of a contraction of the anus.24 Of course, such dubious practice is almost absent from authentic Tantric texts. Grant either had got a second-hand information that again proved to be false or merely invented the idea.
Finally, the most disagreeable feature of Grant’s “tantrism”25 as of his world outlook in whole is his pathologic inclination to ugly and unnatural.26 As in the majority of such cases,this mean tendency is substantiated with an ideological base27 of “getting free” and “acquiring completeness”.
18 The Magical Revival, p. 39
19 Cults of the Shadow, p. 102
20 In fact, viparita-maithuna refers to the case when the woman is above the man.
21 Just to illustrate this simple fact: Bengali Tantric text, Pranatoshini, while describing a kumari worship, rec-ommends the anal coitus - which is at all not common for Tantras - for the very reason of avoiding deﬂora-tion. Obviously, kumari is a physical virgin.
22 This is true both for the case of usage of this word in Srividya sources and in modern language.
23 And again contradicting himself, in just another paragraph of the same chapter Grant says that this is not typical for Tantrism.
24 Even the famous vajroli-mudra, which Grant sees as a physiological capacity (for example, The Magical Revival, p. 39) in fact has to be understood symbolically.
25 In the case of an absence of the needed material in available Tantric texts Grant simply fabricates those practices which he wants to be present there. For example, see Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 88.
26 Numerous illustrations in Grant’s books serve a good proof of this. They rather typically represent the worlds of q’lippoth.
27 Signiﬁcantly, Grant cites Austin Spare’s saying about the necessity of perversion (Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, p. 89). Grant’s general liking towards Spare and his degraded art conﬁrms his obsession withthe forces of evil. By the way, Grant’s position in this matter is in total contradiction with the doctrines of Tan-trism and Thelema - they both see beauty as an attribute of Divine.
Summing up, it can be stated that Grant was acquainted with Tantrism to a rather small degree and obviously not directly. Hence his account of Tantric doctrines is of mere inter-est of comparative religious studies but none of practical one. Grant’s approach towardsTantrism can be characterized as none else but a dilettante - notwithstanding numerous claims for esoterism and complete knowledge of all mysteries, we notice an absence oferudition even in trivial matters which make no secret for any literate man who is able totake a look into a dictionary or a reference book. However, it is quiet understandable that Tantrism proper is of no need for Grant. After all in his books Grant sets forth his personal system of occultism, utilizing at times a terminology and certain ideas from those traditionswhich are interesting to him. And, without any doubt, Grant’s writings cannot be seen asadequately portraying doctrines and practices of Tantra. About such kind of self-claimed “adepts” who speculate about the tradition Tantras say: “Having no knowledge of the holy Scriptures, they proclaim their false authority”.28
(с)Arjuna Anandanatha (email@example.com)
Grant, Kenneth. Aleister Crowley & the Hidden God. London, Muller, 1973.
Grant, Kenneth. Cults of the Shadow. London, Scoob, 1994.
Grant, Kenneth. The Magical Revival. New York, Weiser, 1973.
28 Shatsahasra-samhita, 3.63