magicians to ignore the strictures of society in order to grasp more fully the potentiality of sexuality in general, and to extend the knowledge and power of the individual magician through an understanding of the capabilities of the human body and the human psyche.
The IXth degree represents more specifically what we have been referring to as the Gnostic Marriage or the Alchemical Wedding. While it is nominally a degree concerned with heterosexual intercourse (if viewed purely clinically) it has ramifications far beyond what New Age Tantra practitioners would imagine.
As Grant claims:
The obloquy attached to the Yezidi as devil worshippers arose from the notion of congress between human and non-human entities; the angelic Being is the issue of a hideous marriage.165
And not only among the Yezidi. The union of male and female Tantrikas in the rites of the Kaula circle, for instance, is not a union of human partners. The union cannot take place until each of the two participants has become identified with a god and goddess, respectively. That means that the individual male must be consciously united with his deity, and at that point see the female partner as a goddess; the same is true for the female partner who must be in the same state of exalted trance, identifying herself with the deity perceived by the male and perceiving the male as a god. Thus the two individuals performing the maithuna—the sexual embrace, if the physical act is required by the ritual or by the guru in charge—are no longer human, and the “hideous marriage” may result in angelic offspring.
Ideas about the mating of humans with non-humans are quite ancient and we find examples of this concept in Sumerian and Babylonian religion (specifically in the case of the lillitu), in Greek and Roman mythology, and more recently in the fears associated with succubi and incubi in the Middle Ages. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, succubi and incubi were male and female demons respectively (or a single, genderless demon who could take on either gender depending on the circumstances), who stole semen from a sleeping male and then impregnated a sleeping female with it. Nocturnal emissions were believed to be evidence of the activities of the succubus; unmarried women who became pregnant were believed to be victims of the incubus.
Gods could also assume human or animal form and have sexual relations with humans, as in the tales from Greek mythology involving Zeus and his many incarnations for the purpose of seducing women. The offspring from these unions were always remarkable, and became gods, goddesses and semi-divine beings in their own right. All things being equal, it would be logical to assume that the offspring of any such union between human and non-human (whether divine or demonic or simply extra-terrestrial) would be remarkable and would partake of characteristics of both parents.
Like Wilbur Whateley:
The boy was not talkative, yet when he spoke he seemed to reflect some elusive element wholly unpossessed by Dunwich and its denizens. The strangeness did not reside in what he said, or even in the simple idioms he used; but seemed vaguely linked with his intonation or with the internal organs that produced the spoken sounds. … He was, however, exceedingly ugly despite his appearance of brilliancy; there being something almost goatish or animalistic about his thick lips, large-pored, yellowish skin, coarse crinkly hair, and oddly elongated ears.166
(This was the human twin. The other twin was somewhat … less attractive.)
A look at the illustrations in most grimoires and books on demonology will reveal that the horrific images to be found therein seem to be those of what appear to be deformed human beings: humans with extended limbs, heads of animals, crooked or misshapen arms, legs, torsos. It was as if demons were associated with genetic abnormalities, evolutionary dead ends. But according to Grant—and, to a certain extent, Lovecraft—these “dead ends” are, like Cthulhu himself, merely dreaming. They represent sections of human DNA that have lain dormant for millions of years, no longer required for human survival, but which may be switched on in the future as the human environment changes. They may be potentialities, which is why they have not disappeared from the genetic code and are often overlooked as “junk” DNA, a designation that has been challenged of late. According to Grant, cited below, these genetic anomalies may already be manifesting and may have been switched on through the rituals
of Crowley, Jack Parsons, and others beginning in the early-to-mid twentieth century.
There are vocal qualities peculiar to men, and vocal qualities peculiar to beasts; and it is terrible to hear the one when the source should yield the other. Animal fury and orgiastic license here whipped themselves to demoniac heights by howls and squawking ecstasies that tore and reverberated through those nighted woods like pestilential tempests from the gulfs of hell. … Void of clothing, this hybrid spawn were braying, bellowing and writhing about a monstrous ring-shaped bonfire; in the center of which, revealed by occasional rifts in the curtain of flame, stood a great granite monolith …167
The hybrid forms, though monstrous to modern eyes, commemorate man’s descent from the stars via a system of totemic symbolism suggested necessarily by the fauna of the terrestrial environment wherein the images were first minted. The beasts indicated, also, another line of evolution which did not have its beginnings on earth.168
It’s necessary to understand Grant’s insistence that the type of hideous creatures of which Lovecraft writes so hauntingly only appear that way to the uninitiated “modern” eye. It follows that the methods employed to create these hybrids would also seem “monstrous” to modern eyes, involving non-traditional forms of sexual intercourse with non-traditional sexual partners in non-traditional contexts.
The practices assumed under the umbrella designation of Tantra represent much that is non-traditional, and much that involves intercourse with non-human beings. I have written at length about Tantra elsewhere,169 but for now we can concentrate on those rituals and concepts that preoccupy Grant in the Typhonian Trilogies, for these are the rituals that have attracted so much interest and criticism.
Throughout the Trilogies, Grant makes constant reference to Vama Marg or “left hand” Tantric rituals, to the bodily fluids excreted by both the male and female practitioners, and to the importance of the menstrual cycle to the correct performance of the rituals. He hints that these sexual rituals open gates to other dimensions, other pathways on the Tree of Life.
He also emphasizes the need for the participants to be adepts of a certain level: mastery of the practices required by Crowley in his A A is essential, such as pranayama and the other yogic techniques. Otherwise, instead of a ritual capable of causing changes to occur in the environment of the ritual operators all that is left is play-acting.
Additionally, we may add the importance of timing.
Traditionally, any type of ritual in Asian countries takes into account the calendar and the astrological conditions, Auspicious times are chosen for either the beginning of a ritual or for the central act of the ritual. This is the same in Western traditions as well, but the calendar used is normally an arbitrary one that does not take into consideration actual astronomical conditions. At the very least, a lunar calendar is employed by the type of Tantric cults of which Grant writes. As in the Necronomicon, stellar positioning is not a mere gesture but is critical to the success of the operation. This is not astrology per se; the heavens are a vast clockwork when viewed from the earth, and the planets have greater and lesser distances from the earth depending on their locations as seen against the backdrop of the Zodiac. The stars themselves rise and set at certain times and the circumpolar stars (which never rise or set) revolve around the Pole Star and occupy different positions relative to an observer on the earth according to the day, hour and season. Sensitivity to these issues involves the magician in the macrocosm: it forces the magician to be aware of his or her role and position within the larger universe (a breathing and living organism from the point of view of magic, with obvious parallels and analogues to the human organism; to the Tantrika, the universe is the body of the Goddess). This sensitivity is translated back into the microcosm as the ritual progresses, in accord with the ancient Hermetic axiom: “As above, so below.”
As Grant writes:
It is therefore possible to equate the force-fields (the Kundalini in the chakras) with planetary and stellar powers…. It is possible to draw off stellar or transmundane energy by using the human organism as a condenser. This is achieved by tapping the appropriate power-zone, after Kundalini has animated and magnetized it.170
With this in mind, let us take a look at the form of the central rite in Grant’s work.
The coven of thirteen represents the true chakra or Kaula Circle.171
The Kaula Circle is legendary among afficionadoes of Tantric traditions. It is the one most referenced when the more exotic forms of Tantra are mentioned, such as worshipping in cemeteries or having ritual sexual intercourse in a group. In fact, the word kaula means a “group” or a “family” or a “clan,” and it refers to the group of initiates who are led by a guru or teacher. When Lovecraft writes about groups of people having orgies in the swamps outside New Orleans as part of a religious ritual in “The Call of Cthulhu,” he could as easily have been referring to popular notions concerning the Kaulas.
The approach of the Kaulas—and related Tantric groups such as the Nath Siddhis—towards the human body, sexuality, and even bodily excretions of all types is a positive one: to the Kaula Tantrika, nothing is disgusting or obscene in-and-of-itself. It is the level of awareness in an unadvanced Tantrika that categorizes something as hideous or ugly. In this type of Tantra, nothing can be considered filthy; it is only our attitude towards certain objects or ideas that makes them seem filthy. Thus, nothing is forbidden: no action, no idea, no substance. However, that does not mean that the Kaula initiate may act freely.
The authority of a guru is necessary for the Kaula circle to function, for the guru has the technical knowledge as well as the experience and the discipline necessary to lead the group. While nothing is ugly or forbidden among the Kaulas, the individual members must go through training and preparation before the most infamous of the Tantric rituals—the pancatattva or ritual of the five substances—can be performed.
The Pancatattva is also known as the “ritual of the five M’s.” One important aspect of the rite is the breaking of the Vedic tabus, one by one, which involves eating and drinking various forbidden substances (such as wine) which all begin with the letter “M” in Sanskrit, leading up to the fifth M which stands for maithuna or the “embrace,” a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
The Kaula circle may have only one male-female couple engage in maithuna as part of the ritual: two people who have gone through sufficient initiations and ritual preparation to enable them to embody the
deities, Shiva and Shakti, or there may be multiple couples depending on the circle and its guru. Shiva and Shakti are the archetypal deities of Tantra, and there are Shiva Tantras and Shakti Tantras depending on whether the focus is on the male aspect—Shiva—or the female aspect— Shakti. Shakti represents power, and the word is sometimes used as a synonym for the feminine aspect of power such as when a particular god is said to “have his Shakti” or is “provided with his Shakti.” The female partner in a Kaula circle will represent Shakti just as the male will represent Shiva. Shiva could be said to represent potential energy and Shakti, kinetic energy or the energy of motion.
The Goddess Kundalini, said to reside at the base of the human spine, may also be referred to as Shakti. When Kundalini is raised correctly it will reach the cranial vault where Shiva is believed to reside in solitude. When Kundalini/Shakti meets Shiva in this “chamber” they are said to be in marital embrace. This can be viewed as the Tantric version of the Alchemical Wedding or the Gnostic Marriage. It even has analogues with the concept of the Shekinah reaching upwards from Malkuth to attain union with the Divine in Kether and thus redeem all of Creation.
But before Kundalini can reach her Beloved Shiva she must pass through seven gates or power-zones kmown as chakras, or wheels. (The Kaula Circle is called Kaula chakra.) These are found in the body, ranging from the base of the spine or the muladhara chakra, to the groin, the stomach, the heart, the neck, the head (at a spot between and behind the eyes) and finally to the last and seventh chakra which is the “thousand- petalled lotus” at the very top of the head which, when opened, rains down the elixir of life—the amrita (a Sanskrit word that means “deathless”)— into the body. It would be a mistake to localize these chakras as actual bundles of nerves or other physical attributes, for they are believed to reside in the ethereal, or subtle, body. If one imagines there is a kind of electromagnetic field surrounding the body, then the chakras would be found there rather than in the body itself. However, the result of awakening these chakras is a physical as well as an emotional or psychological sensation.
This idea of the chakras and their individual awakenings is central to the rituals described by Kenneth Grant. He places great emphasis on the necessity for the magician to manipulate the energy passing through the chakras of the priestess, for instance. Each of the seven chakras possesses
a different set of atttributes and siddhis, or occult powers, and it is up to the Thelemic magician to understand these powers and to be able to “switch on” those required by any specific ritual.
According to Grant’s understanding of the ritual, as the chakra in the female magician has been “activated” her entire body undergoes a subtle change. It is thought that the excitation of a specific chakra will trigger the release into the bloodstream of a specific hormone from one of the glands associated with that chakra. This will, in turn, affect the characteristics of her bodily secretions, which are then collected by the magician for use in this—or another—ritual.
How this is done, and the steps to be taken to effect these changes, is the subject addressed in the following pages. While Grant utilizes many Sanskrit and other terms in his descriptions of the magical rituals he and his group employed in London in the 1950s and 1960s, some of what he describes may be unfamiliar to those already schooled in Tantra, even of the Kaula or Nath variety. It is to be understood that Tantric rituals and concepts were incorporated by Grant into a Western-style ceremonial magic system already developed by Kabbalists and those interested in Egyptian religion, etc. He never claimed to be a Tantric adept himself, and he shamelessly used whatever Tantric techniques and ideas came his way in his own form of bricolage. Then, as his group progressed even further, Lovecraftian concepts were added to the mix: a step which would, of course, be wholly objectionable to orthodox Tantrikas. Thus, just as Crowley cannot be used as a source for Egyptian religion, Kenneth Grant cannot be referenced as a source for Tantra. However, his contribution to the field of Western magic and particularly Thelema is not appreciated until one realizes that Grant did more to explain Tantric principles and rituals than any other Western occultist to that point, and to show how important they were towards a deeper understanding of Thelema. Today, we have an embarrassment of riches where translations of Tantric texts are concerned, and many knowledgeable scholars in the field who are excellent sources for more solid information. Grant, however, gives us Tantra within the context of Thelema and Western ceremonial magic— something the academics are not, as yet, able to do with any degree of authority.