The Essence of Tantric Sexuality
By Mark A. Michaels & Patricia Johnson
Llewellyn Publications, 2006, 240 pages
Reading The Essence of Tantric Sexuality was not my first experience with material related to Tantra, but it was my first exposure to an academic approach to the philosophical and theoretical background of traditional Eastern Tantra (compared to American Neo-Tantra). Michaels & Johnson have crafted a solid, detailed, and highly readable brief text intended for those with a moderate or greater background in yoga or other Tantric practices. They approach their content with the dual purposes of bridging the gap between Western and Eastern understandings, and informing the reader of the basics of the Vama Marga practice of Tantra. The source material for this text is drawn primarily from the presentations of Dr. Jonn Mumford (Swami Anandakapila) at the 1976 Gnosticon 5 conference. Readers begin with several chapters of densely informative source-book writing on Vama Marga and Tantra in general, which compares and contrasts the regional differences in practice while tracing the history of the spread of neo-Tantra in America. The material then shifts to specific practices and suggestions for various forms of sexual magic, from masturbatory to perfume-related, culminating of an exploration of sacred partnered sexual tantric practice. However, the focus remains on theoretical understandings, which is the main strength of this book and what makes it stand out from the legions of Tantric sexuality books crowding bookstore shelves and websites. Michaels and Johnson have opted to offer their readers a grounded and respectful exploration of the spiritual practices and foundations of Tantric sexuality. The book is not intended for light reading, and the authors suggest that chapters be approached in the order of greatest interest. Therefore, this should be considered a reference text instead...