Use Tantrism's Ideas to Assume Avant-Garde Positions

& Attempt New & Valid Syntheses

(beyond Guénon's One-Sided & Incomplete View of Hindu Tradition)

(from “The Yoga of Power”)




Aside from the ideas concerning India that feed the popular imagination (based on Gandhi, fakirs, and the like), and aside from the prejudiced views of some Catholic thinkers (who have frequently categorized India under the label "pantheism"), even those who have analyzed Hindu tradition on a higher level and in greater depth have somehow missed the point. These scholars, in fact, have usually characterized India as the expression of a spirituality that is essentially ascetic, contemplative, and otherworldly. According to these scholars, India's spiritual ascetics flee the world and seek liberation, which is obtained by being reabsorbed into formless transcendence, or into brahman, as a drop of water is reabsorbed into the ocean. After Buddhism was reduced to little more than a humanitarian moral code and after it came to be associated with the stereotypical concept of an evanescent nirvana, (1) the views of Vedanta (I have already pointed out the Tantric criticisms of this darshana) have become instrumental in shaping the current popular opinion concerning Hindu spirituality. The views of Vedanta have been popularized by more or less genuine contemporary epigones of Hinduism and by various Western spiritualist and intellectual circles. A prime example is René Guénon, an eminent exponent of integral Traditionalism, who has presented Vedanta as the quintessence and most genuine expression of Hindu thought and metaphysics. (2) In relation to this, one may be inclined to believe in the thesis that claimed that Eastern civilization (by generalizing one goes from India to the whole Orient) had developed essentially under the aegis of contemplation and of world renunciation, while Western civilization had developed under the aegis of man's affirmation, action, domination, and power.


  1. (1)    Nirvana came to be seen mainly as a refuge from this "sorrowful world." I am not pleased to report that in no work other than my Doctrine of the Awakening it is possible to have an idea of what early Buddhism stood for, prior to its ensuing decadence.

  1. (2)René Guénon, Man and His Becoming According to Vedanta.

There is an element of truth in this view, which nevertheless should be criticized for its one-sidedness and incompleteness. In fact, the reader has probably recognized within the complex history of Hindu ideas and schools of thought (darshanas) the existence of a tradition that clearly contradicts the popular views concerning India's spirituality and the alleged antithesis between East and West. On the one hand, it is true that contemporary orientalists are inclined to ascribe a greater importance to Tantrism than was previously given to it. On the other hand, it has not been a long time since the West became acquainted with Tantrism. Still, it cannot be said that Tantrism has given to India its essential identity; this, however, does not mean that its role and its meaning should be overlooked.

In these final and brief considerations, I am not going to refer to Tantric yoga as such (hatha yoga and kundalini yoga) nor to its transcendent objectives, which can be achieved only by a few individuals who are exceptionally qualified and predisposed. (3) I will rather refer to those Tantric elements that are systematized in a general world view, and in particular to Shaivism and to the Path of the Left Hand.

  1. (3)What I have just said will probably disappoint those who know only the minimalist, modified, and practical yoga that has been imported into the West, as well as those frivolous people who believe

that through this or that exercise it is possible to achieve goodness knows what.  

By referring to this worldview, I raise the danger that what I have said elsewhere (4) in an attempt to differentiate an Eastern and a Western myth (after having criticized some inconsistent and superficial views) may lose its validity. In that context I had stated, by simplification, that India was to be credited for the ideal of liberation and the West was to be credited for the ideal of liberty. On the one hand, there is the impulse to escape from the human condition in order to become reintegrated in an absolute from which we separated ourselves only to end up in a world of illusion (maya). On the other hand, there is the impulse to feel free in a world that is no longer denied, but that is rather considered as a field for action and for experiencing of all the possibilities inherent in the human condition.

  1. (4)Julius Evola, L'arco e la clava (Milan, 1967), chapter 15.

Now, it is clear that with Tantrism the differentiation between liberation and liberty no longer subsists, since, as a general rule, Tantrism, in its spirit - leaving out of consideration the framework of local traditions - should be considered distinctly Western. It is more conspicuously Western than Christian soteriology, which proclaims an ideal of salvation from a world that is looked upon as a "vale of tears" and contemplates the destiny of a human nature that has been infected with sin and that stands in need of redemption. (5) In Tantrism we find a very interesting phenomenon; those ascetic techniques that were well known in India are no longer employed in order to achieve an otherworldly liberation but in order to achieve liberty within the world. These techniques are supposed to bestow on a superior human type an invulnerability that allows one to be open to every worldly experience, and that grants the power to "transform the poison into medicine." The password of Tantrism is not the incompatibility, but rather the unity, of spiritual discipline (sadhana) and enjoyment of the world (bhoga); this has led Tantrism to take issue with Vedanta's view of the world as "illusion" (maya), since Tantrism has perceived the reality of the world in terms of power, or of shakti.

  1. (5)I quote the meaningful words of a Tantric author: "Both Sankara's jnanayoga and Ramanuja's     

bhakti-yoga share a pessimistic perspective. Conversely, in the Tantras one does not find reference to 'valley of tears,' or to 'house of torments,' and to similar designations with which transcendalist darshanas express their contempt for the world. ... Those who practice Tantrism achieve liberation while enjoying the goods of the world which the followers of other schools deprive themselves of." (Woodroffe, Tantrattva).

We have also encountered, when examining the ethics of the Path of the Left Hand and the disciplines leading to the destruction of the human limitations (pasha), forms of anomia, or of something "beyond good and evil," which are so extreme that they make the Western supporters of the theory of the superman look like innocuous amateurs. What is significant, in this context, is the emphasis given to a dimension that these supporters of the superman totally ignore: the dimension of transcendence, or better yet, of an "immanent transcendence." We are far beyond the "blond beast" and the individualist anarchists, who are inspired by a materialistic, secular, and Darwinian worldview. We are dealing here with a liberty that, as we have seen, implies previous disciplines not dissimilar to those advocated by traditional asceticism and by a transcendent orientation. This view has almost no equivalent in the universal history of ideas.

As I have said in the Introduction, Tantrism became widespread in India around the fifth century A.D. The doctrinal formulation of its views may be dated, at latest, around 650 A.D. Between then and now have passed quite a few centuries. It is therefore interesting to notice that if we adapt the traditional Hindu doctrine of the four ages of the world (yugas), Tantrism anticipated a situation that corresponds to our modern times. Tantrism has foretold the phase of the last age (Kali Yuga), whose essential traits - those of an epoch of dissolution - can incontrovertibly be recognized in so many events and trends of our day and age. With this in mind, Tantrism has sanctioned the expiration of traditional spiritual forms that in previous epochs presupposed a different existential situation and a different human type. Tantrism also sought out new forms and new paths that might prove efficacious even in the "dark age," and it tried to implement the realization of the same ideal of other epochs, namely, the awakening and the activation of the dimension of transcendence within humankind. There is a limit to this, though. According to the Tantras, the path to be followed is that which in other times was kept secret in view of the dangers associated with it. This path is reserved only for a small minority (for the viras and the divyas): it is implicitly precluded to the masses, because, it is claimed, the majority of people living in the dark age are pashus, animal-like, conformist, limited individuals, who would not comprehend the doctrine, or who would be ruined by it, because of their lack of necessary qualifications.

We may well say that the essence of the way to be followed in the dark age is summed up in the saying "riding the tiger." I am not even dreaming of proposing Tantrism to the Western world, or of importing it here in the West, so that people may practice it in its original aspects. These aspects, as we have seen, are strictly and inseparably interwoven with local Hindu and Tibetan traditions and with the corresponding spiritual climate. (6) Nonetheless, some of Tantrism's fundamental ideas may be considered by those who wish to deal with the problems encountered in our day and age, by assuming avant-garde positions and by attempting new and valid syntheses. (7)



  1. (6)      A typical example of the vulgarization of Tantrism for the use of Westerners is a book by O. Garrison, Tantra: The Yoga of Sex (New York, 1964). Unfortunately, this book has also been translated into Italian. This book deserves no rating, since it is filled with blunders and inspired by a dull spiritualism. The author, an American, says that he was inspired by a guru "who runs a successful legal office in Bombay."(!!!) Another example of the poor quality of adaptations of Tantrism to Western standards is represented by the "Tantric Order of America," which used to publish a journal in which the readers were reminded that "there is no amount of money large enough to reward a tantric initiation." At least in this "order" there was no pretension of spiritualism, since there were many scandals and lawsuits against its members. These "tantrikas," especially their Great Master, who took the modest name of "Om the Omnipotent," seduced quite a few beautiful American girls; the lawsuits were brought against them, not so much because the girls complained about the "initiations" they underwent, but because their parents were not so thrilled about the whole thing (in those days there was not yet the "beat generation").

  1. (7)These ideas should always be within the context of a general worldview and of ethics, leaving aside anything related to initiation and yoga.


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