Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kriya & Tantra Yoga are the Foundations of Ritual Magick

I have just completed level one and two of the intense series of programs learning to master the art of Kriya and Tantra Yoga, as taught by Richard and Antoinette Asimus of the Tantra Heart organization. They follow the teachings of the Satyananda and Bihar schools of Kriya and Kundalini Tantric Yoga. The ultimate founder of this line of yogic practice is Mahavatar Babaji, who brought it out of obscurity and assembled this system in the mid 19th century, to be passed on to others. Babaji’s life and revolutionary practices were brought to public notice by Paramahansa Yogananda’s book “Biography of a Yogi,” which has given worldwide recognition to this spiritual path. You can find a link to the Tantra Heart organization here

During these sessions I was taught a very rigorous system of daily and periodic practices that focus on formulations of asana, pranayama, mandala, mantra and internal visualizations and actual physical exercises with the seven classical chakras. The basic premise of this regimen is that the lower four chakras, covering the area of the root, genitals, solar plexus and the heart, need to be greatly empowered and mastered before one is ready for enlightenment. The root chakra (Mooladhara) is the key to the whole process, for that is where the Kundalini serpent slumbers and where the focus of the discipline begins and ends. I can’t reveal too much more without violating my confidential obligations to my teachers, but what I have discovered in this process is not only something that I feel is very important to share, it must also be greatly emphasized and integrated into the whole of the discipline of ritual magick. I believe that without it, the obtainment of enlightenment in the practice of ritual magick may not only be much more difficult, but perhaps even impossible.

In my previous writings I have emphasized the requirement for a basic practice of meditation, which is asana, breath control (simple forms of pranayama), contemplation and the use of simple mantras and mandalas so as to aid the practitioner in learning to master the mind and deliberately cause to occur altered states of consciousness or even ecstasy. However, Kriya and Tantra yoga take this simple practice and add to it a greater degree of complexity and internal control, articulating a spiritual system that is based on an elaborate variation of the energy model. What this does is assist the operator not only to master higher forms of altered states of consciousness, but also to build up a complex relationship between the mind, body and the spirit that ultimately leads to the highest states of consciousness that one can achieve and maintain. If this advanced practice is integrated into a full practice of ritual magick, then the operator will not only master the inner self, but also the various domains of spirit as well as the material plane. Thus I believe that a fruitful combination of these techniques can forge a magickal practice leading to complete enlightenment and union with the Deity.

How is this integration accomplished? How does a practice of Kriya and Tantra yoga fit into the practice of ritual magick? Are they truly complimentary or do they somehow contradict each other? These are important questions, and ones that I must seek to answer in order to prove the premise of this article - that Kriya and Tantra yoga are the key to ascendancy in regards to the practice of magick. These are, of course, just my opinions, but they are neither original nor am I  stating them for the first time. Aleister Crowley was a great advocate of adopting an entire regimen of eastern yogic practices for the sake of building a foundation for magickal practices. Many others have also made this point, but some have focused specifically on the practices and philosophies of Tantric yoga, incorporating certain physical practices into an ancillary system of sex magick. The author, Donald Michael Craig, with his book “Modern Sex Magick” has done a truly remarkable job of integrating Western practices of magick with Eastern practices of Tantra and Kriya Yoga, and I would highly recommend everyone purchase and read this book. Such writings and their associated practices represent, in my opinion, the backbone or foundation for any truly serious practice of the high art of magick.

I will now attempt to answer the above questions and seek to explain how these forms of yoga can readily fit into a full and complete system of ritual magick. It has always been my intention to incorporate these practices and disciplines into my practice of ritual magick, since I believed that they were an integral part of ritual magick, even though I had put off truly engaging with this study until now.

For my part, I have always had problems with individuals who have seemed to espouse sex magick as a kind of trendy practice, yet who not only lacked a fundamental knowledge of sacred sexuality, but who also lacked a strong working knowledge of ritual magick as well. If one is going to practice sex magick, then one needs to fully understand sacred sexuality and all of its disciplines and practices as well as having a deep and committed practice with ritual magick as well. One should be something of an accomplished adept at both before engaging in such practices.

However, to master the art and practice of sacred sexuality, one can and must study and practice the disciplines of Kriya and Tantra Yoga. These studies and practices can be started while alone and not engaged with any partner, but ultimately, they will bring the magician to a point where working with a partner and a lover can produce the greatest and ultimate achievement. So let us get to the basic definitions and compare Tantra yoga with the practice of ritual magick.

Kriya yoga is aptly defined in the following manner. Notice that some of its tenets appear to overlap the practices and beliefs of Kundalini Tantric yoga.

“Kriya Yoga: Kriya  means action  and Yoga  means integration. Kriya Yoga [emphasizes] integration of separative consciousness (generated by unceasing movement of thought) with an [awakening] (that is, a non-elective holistic attention free from mental [fragmentation]) through actions of perception and not through the activities of [conceptualization].

Kriya deconditions and sets the seeker free from the past karma. It transforms fundamentally the gross ego-centre of the seeker into a subtle individual uniqueness which also includes universality. It brings harmony with the wholeness of life by piercing through the ignorance of the ways of self. It is a unique combination of Hatha-Raja-Laya Yoga. It settles the seeker in his natural state in which his body receives instructions only [from] glands and Chakras.”

Tantra or Kundalina Tantric Yoga is defined somewhat differently than Kriya yoga, but there is an overlap between them, particularly in the area of the focus and use of the six chakras. However, Tantra seems to be more like an eastern version of magick, since is breaks with traditions that adhere to either the Vedic texts or the world-renouncing restrictions of traditional yoga. Tantra means literally “weaving”, which denotes that practices and techniques are woven and melded together to form a complete practice. I have taken the following quote to succinctly define Tantra yoga.

“Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas which is characterized by the use of ritual, by the use of the mundane to access the supra-mundane, and by the identification of the microcosm  with the macrocosm. The Tantric practitioner seeks to use the prana (divine power) that flows through the universe  (including one's own body) to attain purposeful goals. These goals may be spiritual, material or both. Most practitioners of tantra consider mystical  experience imperative. Some versions of Tantra require the guidance of a guru.

In the process of working with energy, the Tantrika, or tantric practitioner, has various tools at hand. These include yoga, to actuate processes that will "yoke" the practitioner to the divine. Also important are visualizations of deity, and [verbalization] or evocation through mantras, which may be construed as seeing, listening internally, and singing power into a stronger state within the individual, resulting in an ever-increasing awareness of cosmic vibration through daily practice. Identification with and [internalization] of the divine is enacted, through a total identification with deity, such that the aspirant ‘becomes’ the Ishta-deva or meditational deity.

Tantrism is a quest for spiritual perfection and magical power. Its purpose is to achieve complete control of oneself, and of all the forces of nature, in order to attain union with the cosmos and with the divine. Long training is generally required to master Tantric methods, into which pupils are typically initiated by a guru. Yoga, including breathing techniques and postures (asana), is employed to subject the body to the control of the will. Mudras, or gestures; mantras or syllables, words and phrases; mandalas and yantras, which are symbolic diagrams of the forces at work in the universe, are all used as aids for meditation and for the achievement of spiritual and magical power.

During meditation, the initiate identifies herself or himself with any of the numerous Hindu gods and goddesses representing cosmic forces. The initiate visualizes them and takes them into her or his mind so that she or he unites with them, a process likened to sexual courtship and consummation. In fact, some Tantric monks use females partners to represent goddesses. Also, in left-handed Tantra (Vamachara), ritual sexual intercourse is employed—not for pleasure—but as a way of entering into the underlying processes and structure of the universe.”

First of all Kriya and Kundalini Tantric yoga are more centered in the physical reality of the body and the material world and typically don’t require a complete renunciation of the material world, similarly, neither does the practice of ritual magick. These systems of yoga have as their foundation the same identical point - the focus of all the practices use the root chakra as their place of origin and source. Thus, the more baser qualities of material existence are neither avoided nor renounced. They are instead integrated into the greater spiritual practice. This is also true of the practice of western ritual magick, since the magician is not only required to function in this world through self-mastery, but also to master the spiritual domains that lie beyond it.

The main difference between Tantric yoga and ritual magick is the explicit use of complex ritual and ceremony to cause changes in the material world - to draw the domain of spirit into tighter union with the material world so that there is no difference. Otherwise, they are, for the most part, identical variations of the same ultimate practice. Ritual magick is a western oriented spiritual discipline, and Tantra is an eastern oriented one. However, there are techniques in Tantra and Kriya Yoga that can and should be incorporated into the practices of ritual magick, since they represent processes that appear to have been lost over the ages. These techniques are godhead assumption, intense practices of asana, pranayama, mantra and mandala techniques that utilize the seven chakras to build (or become aware of) a powerful spiritual facsimile of the human body. The objective of ritual magick is to become one with the Godhead, but through the artifice of sacred sexuality, this achievement can be completely realized and experienced through a material artifice - the union of lovers and the fusion of their spiritual bodies. No where else is this discipline taught in such a succinct manner, so one must assume that it is important for the ritual magician to expropriate these practices into one’s personal magickal regimen.

If we consider the basic tenets of Kriya and Tantra Yoga merged into the basic practices of the ritual magician, the overall methodology would produce a powerful foundation to the practice of the spiritual discipline of ritual magick. That foundation would consist of the following practices and techniques.

  • Body based methodologies (asana) and yogic isometrics
  • Expanded concentration exercises
  • Full body breathing
  • Variations on Cobra Breath (Ujjayi breathing)
  • Fire Breath orgasm
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Mantra and Yantra practices
  • Use of various strategic Bandhas (Moola, Uddiyana, Jaladhara)
  • Visualized chakric exploration and integration
  • Meditation and deep contemplation

In addition, the above practices would be performed as part of a daily regimen that I call the comprehensive meditation session, which can last as long as an hour a day or more.

Along with these foundational practices, there would also be liturgical practices (saying Mass, assuming the Godhead, performance of rites of sacred sexuality and engaging the cyclic mysteries of the Moon and Sun) as well as periods of devotion and spiritual service. The practitioner would also spend time to research, study, perform self analysis and receive some kind of periodic peer review. All of these practices would represent the foundation of a ritual magician’s regular work.

From this foundation there would be the progression caused by periodic transformative initiations, which would fully engage the practitioner of ritual magick through the performance of specific ordeals. These ordeals would represent specific challenges at incremental levels of difficulty that the magician would undertake to precipitate and encourage rapid spiritual growth.  

If the foundation represents the roots of a symbolic tree, then the process of performing ordeals and experiencing transformative initiations would be the trunk of this tree. From the trunk there would be three branches, each representing a level of comprehension and accomplishment more greater than the previous, but each branch would be fully incorporated by the practicing magician. This means that mastery of one branch does not rule out its continual use as one seeks to master the next branch. These three branches are the three practices of ritual magick - earth based magick, theurgy and evocation, and the higher ordeals beyond them.

Earth based Magick - these practices include Elemental Magick, Planetary and Zodiacal Magick. A knowledge of several forms of divination would also be included, particularly Astrology, Tarot, I-Ching, Geomancy and Runes. Earth based magick is a methodology that is required to help the magician fulfill the basic material requirements for self-actualization. Once that material base is established, then the magician will have need to resolve issues and take advantage of material opportunities from time to time. This basic methodology of magick is never really outgrown, since there is always something that one must resolve or develop in regards to the material world.

Theurgy and Evocation - invoking strategic and various spirits from within the over-all spiritual hierarchy. This would include an immersion into the domain of the spirit and receiving intimate communications and direct transformative experiences. Ascending through the hierarchy of the inner planes would represent specific initiatory processes that the magician could deliberately establish. There could also be a slight overlap between certain spirits and Earth based magick.

Higher Ordeals - the workings of Lesser and Greater Archaeomancy, the progressive levels of the invocation of the Bornless One, Abramelin Lunar Ordeal, Tetra-sacramentary Temple workings, ordeals of Stellar Gnosis and the Abysmal Transition. These higher ordeals are covered as part of the rites and ceremonies of the inner order of the Order of the Gnostic Star.

All of these various levels work together to formulate a comprehensive and profound system of practice - one that is assured of obtaining total mastery of the self, one’s world and samadhi, enlightenment or illumination. So now, we begin the work of integrating all of these practices into a single spiritual and magickal discipline. I will continue to report my progress as I gain greater mastery of the techniques of Kundalini Yoga and integrate them into my magickal practice. I have only recently begun this path, so there is much more for me to learn and develop in the days and years ahead.

Frater Barrabbas

5 comments:

  1. This sounds like an interesting set of practices. My main question would be whether they constitute "the key" to mastering ritual magick as you write above or simply "a key" to accomplishing the same.

    I ask because I agree with you that energy work is a vital part of magical practice, but most of my own ongoing work along those lines is based on combining western ritual practices with Qigong techniques rather than Kundalini Yoga. Do you believe that the Kundalini Yoga approach is more effective, and if so, why?

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  2. @Ananael - not knowing very much about Qigong practices makes answering your questions a bit difficult. Perhaps the reason why I consider Kriya and Tantra Yoga to be the foundation of ritual magick is that it facilitates more than just energy working in the body - it also aids one in overcoming psychic barriers to spiritual evolution and to assume the godhead in one's body, not to mention to emulate spiritual union through sacred sexuality. So I would guess that there is more to these two yogic systems that lend themselves to assisting the magician in obtaining samadhi.

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  3. c.f. generation and completion stages of Buddhist Tantra

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  4. Being somewhat familiar with the differences between Qigong & Kundalini, I'd have to say that I believe the latter is more effective (for me, at least) because of the central energy point of the root & the trail that the energy/breathing & focus takes. Kundalini doesn't leave me "light headed" or "high" feeling the way some Qigong or Tai Chi movements do.

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  5. I would think, getting to know both systems inside out before combining them would be best.

    Also, there are many paths to enlightenment....

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