WARNING: The content of this article is not be suitable for children.
On July 26th, the Vancouver Sun newspaper printed an article titled “Sex Brings Christians Closer to God.” The article gives a warning that states: “The content of this story may be offensive to some readers.” But for discerning Christians, what may be equally offending is the fact that the article features a Christian professor from an evangelical university (Trinity Western University in BC).
The definition of tantra is: “Tantra is the name of the ancient Hindu sacred texts that contain certain rituals and secrets. Some deal with taking the energies brought forth in meditation through the chakras and combining them with love-making to enhance sexual experiences” (Yungen, FMSC, p. 115). Essentially, tantric sex is when sexual activity is combined with mystical meditation and the altered states of consciousness that meditation produces.
Reporting that there is a growing acceptance of tantric sex in our society, the Sun features psychologist Chuck MacKnee, a professor at TWU. MacKnee has been researching and writing about a Christian version of tantric sex, what he calls “spiritual sex,” since the 1990s.
According to the Sun article, MacKnee believes that “ultimately in sex we’re going to meet God”; he says that “humans’ relationship with God is essentially erotic.” The article admits that evangelicals, like MacKnee, who are “teaching about spiritual sex are in some ways catching up with Eastern-influenced New Age spirituality.” It adds:
Sensual spirituality has been popularized in the West through Hindu Tantric ritual, which links sexual energy with spiritual liberation.
In 1996, MacKnee wrote a report titled “Peak Sexual and Spiritual Experience: Exploring the Mystical Relationship.” In the paper, MacKnee refers to mystics like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as examples of those who understood erotic spiritual experience. He states:
It is significant to note that mystics have traditionally expressed their experience in the language of sexual love. (p.. 2)
In his report, MacKnee leaves no question that he is referring to mystical spirituality; he embraces “the characteristics of peak mystical experiences and how these characteristics are related to peak sexual and peak spiritual experiences” (p. 99) and says that sexuality involves entering “an altered state of consciousness.” (p. 4) From the Sun, it states:
As in Celtic Christian tradition, MacKnee believes being sensual and sexual creates a “thin zone” between humans and God, reducing the usually thick barrier between this world and the sacred realm.
In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland says: “This term ‘thin place’ [zone] originated with Celtic spirituality (i.e., contemplative) and is in line with panentheism … Thin places imply that God is in all things, and the gap between God, evil, man, everything thins out and ultimately disappears in meditation (pp. 114-115).
MacKnee, and others like him such as Mary Anne McPherson Oliver (Conjugal Spirituality – a primer on tantra) and Gary Thomas, (who quotes Oliver twelve times in his popular Christian book Sacred Marriage and encourages mantra meditation in his book Sacred Pathways), is closing the gap between Christianity and Eastern religion through his views on mystical sexuality.
Ray Yungen explains the implications of the move to bring tantra into our society:
Once completely off-limits to the masses of humanity, tantra, like all other New Age methodologies, is now starting to gain increasing popularity. A Google search on the Internet shows 6,600,000 [now over 12,000,000] entries for the word tantra! This union of sexuality and Eastern spirituality is a perfect example to illustrate just how much the New Age has permeated our society as it has affected even the most intimate areas of people’s lives.
The potential to impact a very great number of people, especially men, was brought out in an article by a sex worker who incorporates “Tantric Bodywork” into her services. She paints a very sad portrait of the dynamics of the “enormous sex industry” in which millions of stressed and unhappy men seek out “erotic release” from women who are just as unhappy and stressed as their clients. She observes that there is a “culturally rampant phenomenon that spouses are disconnected from each other.”
To remedy this tragic interplay of exploitation, she has turned to Tantric Union to give her clients what she feels is not just sex but “union with the divine.” After she read a book called Women of the Light: The New Sacred Prostitute, she turned her erotic business into a “temple.” Of this temple, she says it is:
…dedicated to being a haven of the sacred, a home for the embodiment of spirit, filled with altars, sacred objects, plants, art, dreamy sensual music, blissful scents. My space is home to Quan Yin [a Buddhist goddess], crystals blessed by the Entities of John of God [a Brazilian spirit channeler].
Now the “multitudes of men” who come to her get much more than they bargained for. In the past, wives and girlfriends needed only to worry about sexually transmitted diseases from cheating husbands and boyfriends, but now their men may instead bring home spiritual entities!
Most readers might think that tantra is something exceedingly obscure that would never attract average people. But the movie industry thinks otherwise. In a 2003 movie, Hollywood Homicide (starring Harrison Ford, one of the industry’s leading men), viewers were presented with a brief snippet of tantric sex in one scene where fellow police officers opened the locker of Ford’s rookie detective partner and out falls a book (which the camera focuses on) about tantra, revealing the side-kick’s spiritual/sexual affinities (incidentally, he also teaches yoga in the film). (For Many Shall Come in My Name, 2nd ed., pp. 115-116)
If Christians begin to incorporate their contemplative proclivities with their sexual lives (a Christian version of tantric sex), the results will be devastating to the church, and we predict sexual perversion will be more rampant than ever. Why? Because if the altered states of consciousness are truly demonic realms (as we believe they are) then tantric sex is another venue of the hidden darkness that Jesus spoke of.
These assertions may sound absurd and far-fetched to some readers, but evidence of the truth of this does exist. For instance, Henri Nouwen(who, along with Thomas Merton, is one of the top icons of the contemplative prayer movement), in the last book he wrote The Sabbatical Journey, favorably revealed how he listened to audio tapes on the seven chakras, which is the basis for tantric sex (p. 20). Also in Nouwen’s book, he makes mention of his encounter with a gay mystic named Andrew Harvey, whom Nouwen referred to as his soul friend (spiritual mentor) and how much Harvey’s mysticism had touched him (p. 149). And yet Harvey’s mysticism includes the tantric element. In a conference (The International Conference on Sacred Sexuality), Harvey led a workshop called “Sexual Liberation, Tantra, and Sacred Activism”.
As for Chuck MacKnee at Trinity Western University, he “admits his research has ‘raised some eyebrows,’ both in secular academia and Christian circles. But there are always waiting lists for his TWU classes, and his private therapy practice is full.”
As believers who are to “shine as lights in the world,” we must flee the deeds of darkness and “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” We cannot do this in our own strength, but Jesus Christ living inside us will enable us through His mercy and grace: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).