(Inner Traditions, 1992)
In this book, granted the rank of a classic among the Spiritual seekers (especially fascinated with the terms Left Hand Path and Right Hand Path), the controversial Italian philosopher and esotericist Julius Evola seeks to clarify the history and the meaning of the term Tantra to a Western mind.
The Vedic or Hindu myths in general can be extremely difficult to understand to a Western mind not used to the multifaceted and colourful world of the symbolism and characteristics of the numerous Gods. Many times a God can be seen in different light or with different roles in one path than in some other path or context. This makes analysis of the Hindu spiritual world especially challenging. However, Tantra can indeed can be seen as a reformer of the older philosophical and metaphysical concepts, in a similar way that Buddhism was in the times of it’s birth, hence some of the ancient terms and symbology may have different meanings compared to the older versions of the terms.
However, according to Evola, the feminine aspects of the spiritual current known as Tantrism can be traced back to ancient worship of the Mother Goddess, which has been left out in the more future versions of more masculine Hinduism. The main characteristics of Tantra include the joining of the absolute feminine and dynamic creative powers of the universe, the goddess of many forms called Shakti (and her many forms such as Kali and Durga), with the masculine powers of Shiva.
The main goal of Tantric practices usually means the uniting of the static and dynamic, active and passive, female and male, the energies of consciousness and matter, enjoying the world and all it’s pleasures with realizing their fallacy. The terms Left Hand and Right Hand traditionally mean the two ways of worship where the Right is more concerned with nomianism and contemplation, and the Left more with antinomianism and action. They can be also seen as the other one identifying the Atman with the Brahman, and the other one the Brahman with the Atman (these last examples are my own descriptions, not Evola’s). The concepts are however so complex and diverse, the Hindu scholars have naturally debated upon them for centuries, and it is impossible to grasp or explain them in a few sentences.
The main characteristics and aim of Tantra lies in the action of the practitioner, rather than the static contemplation found in other forms of illumination. It is through the ways of the Kriya (action) that one may find Liberation, or freedom from the veils of Maya while still functioning in this world, described by the term Jivanmukta. The goal of the Tantric is to be free to do whatever he or she choose, without any desires of the Ego. In this sense it has nothing to do with pleasures of the flesh or using intoxicants in rituals in the way some may have misunderstood. Evola also makes it clear the Left Hand Path is quite different from the individualism of for example Nietzsche.
In the later parts of the book, Evola gives a detailed analysis (of theory and practice) of the Tantric systems of using Mantras and Pranayama, and utilizing Sexual Magic and even intoxicants. Likewise, he gives detailed descriptions of the methods of Kundalini Yoga, and the system of the Chakras (as methods of contemplation and advancement). An appendix also discusses the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, as there are two notions in Hinduism; the aforementioned Jivanmukta or one who rids himself of the bonds of existence while still alive, and Videhamukta or one who achieves the Liberation in death or at a later stage.
Although the book is written after his magnificent analysis of Buddhism, “The Doctrine Of Awakening”, the style in which he writes is a bit more “clearer” and not so academic, although this might depend on the translator, which makes it perhaps more suitable to those whom have gotten frightened of his style in his other works. Nevertheless, the book offers detailed descriptions of the Tantric terminology and symbology, as well as specific examples of various meditative and physical workings, in the much appreciated scientific analytic way Evola has done in the past.