Tantra and “Spiritual Sex”?
Tantric sex incorporates mysticism into sexual activity. Couples, who seek out help for their relationships, are instructed to go into meditative states while being intimate. In her book, Conjugal Spirituality (which is promoted by Gary Thomas, a popular Christian author), Mary Anne McPherson Oliver discusses and encourages the use of tantric sex. Oliver suggests that “the Upanishads and Tantric writings [are] the basis of moral theology for couples” and that “mystical experiences can be associated with erotic love.”1 Oliver tells readers to use mantras and breath prayers to induce the tantric experience. She concludes with the following:
Carl Jung predicted that the West would produce its own Yoga on the basis laid down by Christianity. I believe conjugal spirituality [tantra] to be just such a distinctively Western Yoga.2
In 1994 (when Oliver’s book came out), she said the public wasn’t quite ready for such a radical view of sexuality. But she spoke optimistically about the future because of the growing interest in mysticism in our society:
Twentieth-century developments in mainstream theology have also prepared the way for the emergence of conjugal spirituality. An upsurge of interest in the spiritual life and a renaissance in mystical studies have widened the domain of spirituality.3
A July 2008 article in The Vancouver Sun gives a startling illustration of the validity of Oliver’s statement. The Canadian newspaper article titled “Sex Brings Christians Closer to God” reports the growing acceptance of tantric sex.4 Chuck MacKnee, a professor at Trinity Western University (an evangelical school in British Columbia), has been researching and writing about “spiritual sex” (a Christian version of tantric sex), since the 1990s.5
MacKnee believes that “ultiÂmately in sex we’re going to meet God”; he says that “humans’ relationship with God is essentially erotic.” The Sun article observes that evangelicals who, like MacKnee, are “teaching about spiritual sex are in some ways catching up with Eastern-influenced New Age spirituality.” It explains:
Sensual spirituality has been popularized in the West through Hindu Tantric ritual, which links sexual energy with spiritual liberation.6
In a 1996 report titled “Peak Sexual and Spiritual Experience: Exploring the Mystical Relationship,” MacKnee refers to mystics like John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila as examples of those who understood erotic spiritual experience. He says:
It is significant to note that mystics have traditionally expressed their experience in the language of sexual love.7
He also says that sexuality involves entering “an altered state of consciousness.”8 Authors like MacKnee, Mary Anne McPherson Oliver, and Gary Thomas (who quotes Oliver twelve times in his popular Christian book Sacred Marriage) are closing the gap between Christianity and Eastern religion through their views on mystical sexuality.
I believe that the spiritual realms entered during Eastern-style mediation, Yoga, tantra and so on are demonic realms. In view of this, the implications and probable effects of MacKnee and Oliver’s work are disturbing.
The Bible warns that the supernatural world can make contact with humans if a human gives permission for its entrance. That open door allows the spiritual being (sometimes seen as an angel of light: II Corinthians 11:14) to control whoever submits himself to its spiritual power (Genesis 6: 2 – 4).
Obviously these “heavenly” beings are not God’s ministering angels who only do His bidding for His purposes, but they belong to Satan’s legion, are possessed with his diabolical and rebellious source, and are known as fallen angels, a hierarchy of evil powers and principalities of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12). (from Out of India, chapter 12)
1. Mary Anne McPherson Oliver, Conjugal Spirituality (Kansas City, MO: Sheed & Ward, 1994), p. 18.
2. Ibid., p. 109.
3. Ibid., p. 27.
4. Douglas Todd, “Sex Brings Christians Closer to God” (Vancouver Sun, Saturday, July 26, 2008).
6. Chuck M. MacKnee, “Peak Sexual and Spiritual Experiences” (Sage Publications, Theology Sexuality 1996; 3; 97, see online edition: http://tse.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/3/5/97), p. 2.
7. Ibid., p. 4.
8. Wahkeena Sitka Tidepool Ripple, “Can Sex Work Be Shamanic?” (Alternatives, Winter 06, Issue 40).
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)