The points chauds are elements of an occult Matrix, places where one strand of the spider’s web crosses another. Taken together, they form a membrane over the cranium of the magical operator like the touch screen on a computer monitor. It is where Bertiaux’s “voodoo” meets Grant’s Tantra that the intellectual and conceptual explosion takes place that leads the Typhonian Order into the realm of the Dark Lord.
It was most likely observing the meetings of David Curwen and Aleister Crowley that provided Kenneth Grant with the impetus he needed to realize that Indian Tantra held the key to the mysteries of the OTO as well as to all of western occultism itself. While Grant usually quotes discredited texts on the Yezidis and on Vodun, in the realm of Indian religion and magic he is on somewhat surer ground even as he makes at times reckless use of the texts. For many western occultists, drawn to magic through the works of Crowley or of the other magicians who came out of the Golden Dawn environment, Grant’s books were the first that introduced them to Tantra and to the potentiality of this rather messy yet strikingly powerful tradition: “messy” in the sense that no one can agree on what Tantra is; powerful because it deals with magical processes in remarkably clear language.
Of all the unspeakable cults in Grant’s repetoire, Tantra is where his erudition (although subject to serious criticism by actual Tantrikas) and his grasp of the terminology shines through. Grant is a knowledgeable non- initiate when it comes to Tantra, but it must be said that he makes mistakes in nomenclature, definitions, etc. which may be due more to the lack of access to published materials (and his own lack of initiation into a Tantric circle) than to any desire to confuse or bloviate. The value in Grant’s description of Tantric rites and concepts lies in the fact that it is the first time for many western occultists that they have been exposed to this material and serves as an inducement to conduct their own, independent research. Further, while Tantrikas may object to Grant’s cavalier use of Tantric terms and concepts to further his own investigations of the Dark Lord, it is entirely consistent with Bertiaux’s approach to Vodun and Crowley’s approach to Egyptology and Yezidism. That is not to absolve these magicians from a responsibility to be accurate insofar as possible, but it does demonstrate the essential bricolage tendency of western occultists who strive to reach beyond a Judeao-Christian framework and into other, foreign realms. This is the lure of Babalon, of course: the ultimate “foreigner” and seducer of spiritual aspirants since time immemorial.
David Curwen (1893-1984) was an intimate of Aleister Crowley in the period 1944-1947, until the latter’s death in December of that year, and they maintained a deep correspondence on magic, alchemy and especially Tantra. Curwen recently (2006) was “outed” as the author of the very influential alchemical work In Pursuit of Gold (1976) written under the pseudonym Lapidus (Latin for “Stone”). In Pursuit of Gold was subtitled “Alchemy Today in Theory and Practice” which seems to echo Crowley’s own Magick in Theory and Practice and to a certain extent these two volumes complement each other as modern takes on these ancient arts.
The relationship between Curwen and Crowley was not always fraternal. Crowley soon began to realize that Curwen—who had studied Tantra in India—was more knowledgeable than he when it came to Indian forms of occultism and, of course, in particular Tantra. Crowley’s exposure to Tantra was limited to a few English translations of a handful of Tantric texts, whereas Curwen’s experience was much deeper and more profound. When both Curwen and Crowley began to realize Crowley’s limitation in that regard, the friendship suffered a little. Crowley had to be the smartest man in the room, at least where occultism was concerned, and Curwen was living proof that there were other mysteries, other revelations to which Crowley had had no previous access.
At the same time, a friendship developed between Kenneth Grant and David Curwen, to the extent that Curwen encouraged Grant to explore Tantra more deeply. This would set Grant on the path for which he would become most famous: the exploration of Thelema and the core secret of the OTO as delineated in the texts and practices of the Tantric adepts of India.
The subject of Tantra is vast, and I have introduced the subject elsewhere,123 but for the purposes of this investigation we will focus on the type of Tantric groups that are of interest to Grant, the “unspeakable cults” of India.
The first such group is the Sri Vidya sect.
r Vidy (“Holy Knowledge”) can actually be broken down into four separate, but linked, manifestations. Basically, it is form of Goddess worship that has as its goal advaita, or non-duality. Therefore it is a Shakta tradition (as differentiated from a Shaivite tradition) in which the source of power, of shakti, is imagined in the Goddess. The particular goddess in the case of Sri Vidya is known as Lalit Tripurasundar . Tripura Sundari
means “Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities,” the three cities in this case referring to three different aspects of the goddess as physical, subtle, and supreme. She is usually depicted as a sixteen-year-old girl, and for that reason is sometimes called o a or “Sixteen” and Lalitã or “she who plays.” It should be noted that the number sixteen figures prominently in Grant’s number system as the designation for the sixteenth kala, the ultimate of the kalas or secretions of the priestess. Her mantra also contains sixteen letters.
The foremost symbol of the Sri Vidya sect is the Sri Meru Cakra, which is a three-dimensional version of the Sri Yantra, usually made of special metals in a sacred alloy that allows the blessings of the Goddess to flow more powerfully. The Sri Yantra is a two-dimensional magical drawing of nine interlocking triangles that represents the unity of male and female— Shiva and Shakti—forces and could thus be seen as a depiction of the essential philosophy of both Tantra and Thelema.
The form of worship known as Samayachara takes place in the mind, as even the rituals—puja—themselves can be performed mentally if the appropriate ritual objects are not to hand. In this case the Goddess is visualized and the entire ritual is much more personal and interiorized.
In increasing complexity, we then arrive at the form of Sri Vidya known as Dakshinachara in which an external form of the Goddess is required: either an idol or the Sri Meru Cakra … or even a female devotee. It should be noted that in this practice there is no intimate contact between the worshipper and the woman—the suvasini—who represents the Goddess although she is a focus for the ritual.
The Kaulachara is the one that gets most of the attention, for the external object of devotion is a living woman or a man, or a male and female couple. The famous ritual of the “Five M’s”—the panchamakara— is part of the Kaulachara repetoire, although not practiced as often or as widely as believed. Since the goal of Sri Vidya is essentially advaita and the negation of all duality, the rituals themselves emphasize that there is no difference between the worshipper and the worshipped: that, in effect, everyone and everything is the Goddess. Eventually all sense of self—self as a separate entity, apart from the rest of the cosmos—disappears. The use of nudity and sexuality in these rituals, which can be as physical or as virtual as the leader determines, is designed to remove all sense of “otherness” by conquering shame, fear, and carnal desire.
The final, and most controversial, form of Sri Vidya is the Vamachara practice. The devotees of Vamachara are the groups that meet in cemeteries and crematory grounds, and which see the Goddess in her terrible and frightening aspect. The idea is to transcend even the grossest, most loathesome aspects of creation, of humanity, of reality. To see the Goddess in the corpses of the cremation ground, to smell Her perfume in the stench of burning flesh, and to hear Her voice in the hideous sounds of an Indian cemetery in the night is the height of spiritual piety. And when the Vamachara circle goes to the extent—as some of them do—to perform panchatattva or panchamakara (the ritual of the Five M’s that includes maithuna or sexual contact) in the intimate, overwhelming presence of corpses is to conquer death and to bring all of creation back to a single point: death and the act of conception taking place in the same location, decay and desire obliterating the boundary between this world and the next.
It is no wonder then that Grant would have been fascinated by these practices. He would have seen—as glimpsed through a scrim, at an angle, in shadow—the secrets of the Gnostic Mass and the Star Sapphire ritual exposed and expanded through the intense ceremonies of the Kaulachara and Vamachara sects. The Tantric texts and rituals would have revealed to Grant the secrets behind the secrets. Shiva and Shakti on thrones in the center of the Kaula circle are analogues of Chaos and Babalon, of what Jung perhaps would call the Shadow and the Anima, and the consumption of the fluids in the Gnostic Mass and the Star Sapphire rituals are perfectly comprehensible within the context of the Sri Vidya tradition. In fact, the reasons behind the secrets of the OTO’s VIIIth and IXth degrees would be explained and amplified through consulting the Tantric texts, not only of the Sri Vidya sect but also of a number of other groups from the Kashmiri Shaivites to the Nath Siddhis and, of course, of the Tibetan Tantric tradition with its famous Kalachakra Tantra and the associated scheme of initiations.
Grant would focus on two aspects of the Tantras that he felt were crucial to an understanding of Thelema. The first was the idea of non-duality and the destruction of the ego. This also concerned Crowley, of course, as we have mentioned above, in his pursuit of sam dhi or the state of actually experiencing non-duality through the identification of subject with object during meditation. Crowley, who was familiar with the Yoga Sutras of
Patanjali (an English translation of which had appeared in 1914), knew that samadhi was the highest possible state of consciousness that could be achieved while still alive, the only possible higher state being that of the mahasam dhi or “great samadhi” that occurs at the time of death.
The second was the concept of the k la.
The best blood is of the moon, monthly … (AL III:24)
Grant would have been the first western occultist to write openly about this subject, at least the first to enjoy a wide audience among those interested in ceremonial magic and the western occult tradition. The kalas are explained as vaginal secretions, not limited to menstrual blood, which occur during the entire menstrual cycle and which have different occult properties depending on the day they occur. These are not to be understood as the grosser physical form of mucoid secretions or blood, but as their subtler counterparts imbued with qualities that are analogous to the alchemical elements that are involved in the process of spiritual transformation.
The subject of kalas is a complex one, for the production of the kalas depends on the occult capability of the priestess as well as on their manipulation by the priest. There are astrological and astronomical considerations and ritual requirements to ensure the proper condensation of these essences at the right time so that they may be employed for magical ends.
Basically, the word k la indicates a unit of time, most specifically a lunar “digit” or day. Different authorities offer different definitions and identifications of this lunar day. In some cases, it refers to about one-day- and-a-half in solar days, or about 36 hours. In other cases, the authorities insist that each lunar day is equivalent in length to a solar day, only calculated from dusk to dusk rather than from dawn to dawn, etc. Those familiar with Vedic astrology are familiar with this term and with a related term tithi, which means the same thing but which is used more often in astrology than in the Tantras.
The important thing to remember here is that the lunar cycle is really the result of the interplay between the moon, the earth and the sun. If we consider the earth to be a vessel for the mingled essences of the sun and moon—a traditional Tantric concept—then the importance of the kala becomes apparent. On different days of the lunar cycle, as the moon
gradually waxes from a New Moon to a Full Moon, and then begins to wane again, the quality of moonlight (it’s brightness) changes from night to night. The Indian astrologers and Tantrikas imagine this to be the Sun giving the precious Soma to the Moon, drop by drop, until the Moon is full, at which point it begins returning the Soma to the Sun, also drop by drop, until it is depleted; and then the whole cycle begins again. Each lunar day has a specific quality associated with it, as well as a specific deity. It is this concept that is related to the Tantric idea of kalas that Grant writes about so frequently. Each lunar digit or kala has a different quality. When this quality is combined with the individual menstrual cycle of the priestess, then you have a different “tincture” or essence.
Central to Indian religion and especially to Tantra is the concept of amrita. Amrita is the combination of the male and female potencies that ensures immortality, and the power to cure illness. It is the source of western ideas about the elixir vitae and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is the result of an internal process of meditation, yoga, and ritual but also involves alignment with the priest or priestess as well as with the lunar phases themselves. It is an interlocking of the microcosm with the macrocosm—the human body with the stars—in a way that transcends how this is understood by the newcomer to ceremonial magic and alchemy. The sensitivity of the female partner to her menstrual cycle and the corresponding sensitivity of the male partner to the female partner— coupled with: (1) the awareness of both to the external “cycle” of the sun and moon, and (2) the proper performance of rituals that are undertaken with a great deal of personal preparation (particularly in the psycho- biological processes which are subsumed under the control of the autonomic nervous system: in particular breathing, heart rate, etc.)— provides a vehicle for spiritual transformation that would be difficult to surpass. As one identifies oneself with the Goddess through the normal stages of the Sri Vidya puja, but with these other considerations honored, then the goal of advaita or non-duality is obtained through identification of the Goddess with the universe, the universe with the Goddess, and eventually identification of the Self with No-Self: the transcending of opposites and the attainment of samadhi.