By the time you read this I will have traveled to and returned from Hawaii—not for a vacation, but to give a workshop on the subject of the Sri Yantra, an important diagram for practitioners of some paths of Tantra. Its main image is that of nine triangles of differing sizes that lay over each other, with four pointing up and five pointing down surrounded by symbolic lotus petals, circles, and an outer "square."
The Sri Yantra
Now, the question some readers may be asking is: "What is a nice Kabalist like Kraig doing with this Tantra sex stuff?" The answer is actually twofold. First, Tantra is not just "sex stuff," even though that's the opinion of most Westerners. Tantra is a complete spiritual system that originated thousands of years ago in northeast India. From the ancient proto-Tantrics evolved the concepts of the chakras, kundalini, a type of astrology, healing techniques (including acupuncture), vastu (the source of feng shui), martial arts, and much more. It has a complex philosophical system, rituals, divination techniques, deities, and a unique approach to the Divine. And yes, as with any complete spiritual system—like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.—it has ideas about sexuality.
Tantra was first introduced to the West in the late nineteenth century. This was the Victorian period, a time of sexual repression. However, many Westerners felt it was okay to discuss the sexuality of other peoples. As a result, they focused on the sexual aspects of Tantra. That's like buying a new car and only talking about the rear bumper. Tantra is far more than sex.
Second, Tantra and kabalah are actually not that far apart! In the voluminous book The Jewish Mind by Raphael Patai (known to many for his book The Hebrew Goddess), the author shows that the kabalah "resembles … certain Hindu schools." His reference, here, is to certain Shavite (Shiva-oriented) paths that are early forms of Tantra. Patai won't say that they are related because there is no written evidence to support this and, since Tantra predates Judaism, he doesn't want to imply that mystical Judaism came from India. But he does claim that as both developed there was certainly communication between the areas.
In my view, it makes perfect sense for kabalists—and followers of any magical path—to study traditional or classical Tantra. The problem is, most books on Tantra available in the West focus on sex (more accurately, that's called Neo-Tantra) and not on one or more of the complete ancient spiritual traditions.
That's why I'm very glad that Dr. Jonn Mumford has written several books revealing aspects of Tantric thought. I'd like to talk about a few of them.
Perhaps his most famous book is Ecstasy Through Tantra. This is unique in the entire field as it clearly compares Western and Tantric concepts and paths. It also includes information on both traditional Tantra and Neo-Tantra. It is a wonderful introduction to the subject (and I'm proud to say that I wrote a chapter for it).
The next book of his that I highly recommend is A Chakra and Kundalini Workbook. This is literally a course in how to change your life. You not only learn about the chakras and kundalini, but also how to work with them. It features numerous exercises and diagrams that will help you in these practices. For additional information and work in this area I suggest the excellent Kundalini for Beginners by Ravindra Kumar and Anodea Judith's Wheels of Life.
Many people are directly or indirectly involved with the techniques of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The group introduced the concept of the Tattwas to the West (although it was all taken from one book published by the Theosophists). The Tattwas are ancient Tantric symbols of the elements used to change for the better your mind, body, and spirit. You can get a full-color set of the Tattwa symbols, along with instructions on how to use them for spiritual development, chakra stimulation, divination, the reduction of anxiety, negativity, etc. with the Magical Tattwa Cards. The colors of the cards are so precise that you are advised to keep them in the box when not using them so the colors don't fade from exposure to light. This is a very special and powerful tool. A Western version, combining the Tattwas and Enochian magick, is found in The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot by Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero and Bill and Judi Genaw.
One thing that many people overlook is a brilliant workshop on cassette by Dr. Jonn Mumford & Jasmine Riddle on the subject of Yoga Nidra. This is an ancient technique of being conscious in the deepest state of sleep. When you meditate, you are in a state of consciousness that is close to the waking state. You may have images, emotions, and feelings course through you, but you are still very much awake. In yoga nidra you move beyond waking and beyond dreaming to the deepest sleep state—but you remain alert. Not only is this relaxing, but it allows you to purify the deepest aspects of yourself that cause you to do things that generate unwanted karma. As a result, it speeds your spiritual development. This tape guides you with meditation and visualization, using narration, music, and mantras. After you listen to Yoga Nidra just once, you'll want to use it frequently.
Karma is a Sanskrit word that translates directly as "action," and in spiritual use refers to the law of cause and effect. Everything you do results in consequences that can be felt a minute, an hour, a year, or many lifetimes from now. Many Western forms of spirituality have adopted the concept of karma either in its original form or in modified versions. For example, the Wiccan "Threefold Law" that whatever you do will eventually come back to you three times over is such a modification. In Mumford's book, The Karma Manual, you'll discover the different types of karma and how you create it. More importantly, the book includes simple exercises to help you discover and process your karma so you don't have to deal with it in the future.
If the concept of karma interests you, another unique tool for discovering your karma and working with it can be found in the book Karmic Palmistry by Jon Saint-Germain. Palmistry has a long history with Tantra (I have several rare books imported from India on the subject, including one that has an entire system that works exclusively with the thumb), and this book is not just about fortunetelling. Rather, it uses palmistry to help you discover the unique path of spiritual development that is ideal for you.