There are many spiritual paradigms (belief systems) in this beautiful world of ours, most of which contradict each other in one way or another. These differences become more apparent when we explore the realms of spirituality and the mysteries.
In the world of Tantra, especially a more Westernised Tantra, one common paradigm states that there are two types of people: the male and the female. The overriding goal of such systems is for female participants to embody the “divine feminine” or “Shakti”, and for their male counterparts to embody the “divine masculine” or “Shiva”. Within this gendered paradigm, Tantra happens and bliss is possible when the male and female energies combine in a sacred dance causing magic to occur. This is a beautiful paradigm, and in exploring it I’ve experienced great ecstasy. I feel deep adoration when my female lovers call forth the divine feminine and I can bear witness to her in all her magical, mystical, divine glory. In these scenes and rituals, I am a true goddess worshipper. I worship the goddess who stands before me.
Most Tantra teachers that I have worked with in Western countries never seem to journey beyond this gendered paradigm. Some might allow that we have both the divine masculine and the divine feminine inside us, and that we need to combine these in order to find truth. This, too, can be beautiful and powerful model, but it still limits us to a particularly heteronormative world view and reinforces the notion that we live within a binary; and such a notion harms us all.
To gender the divine is to limit the divine
A more useful paradigm is that we each have the “divine” within us – we each have this magical spark of creation. It is powerful beyond words and magical beyond conscious comprehension. Its immensity goes beyond ideas of gender. To gender the divine is to limit the divine.
Tantra is a path of self-discovery, of achieving embodied and fully conscious union with our own divinity – a divinity that is inherently beyond gender. In Tantra circles that don’t attempt to balance gender, we come face to face with different people in such a way that gender often becomes irrelevant. It might mean that in some exercises we end up facing someone we’re attracted to. Other times we’ll be facing someone we’re not. If we approach the experience with a conscious attitude of witnessing the person we’re working with, witnessing the divine within each other and staying open to witnessing our own reactions, then we have a truly powerful opportunity for growth, learning, love and empowerment.
I feel that often I have learnt the most from deeply and honestly facing someone of a gender I’m not attracted to. Sexual attraction can bring its own subconscious desires and projections, and we can find ourselves subconsciously putting on a mask in order to appear a certain way (e.g. more attractive) if there is lust there. Clearly, gendered workshops come full of their own set of distractions and by working outside the normative gendered paradigm, we are reminded that Tantra is not just about bringing spirituality into sex; but also about bringing sex into spirituality. Amanda GayLove points out that “it’s impossible to exist beyond gender in every day life because the gender system seeps in everywhere”. That’s all the more reason to enter the sacredness of spaces where gender fades away and the divine can shine through.
For these reasons, I believe it’s important for Tantra practitioners to break out of the gendered circles we most commonly practice in at the moment, and ensure that we have a larger variety of partners to work with. In Tantric terms, the more mirrors we can look into, the more faces of the divine will be reflected back at us. It’s a powerful way to do the work, and I would encourage more people to look into it.
Further reading: Urban Tantra Professional Training || Barbara Carrellas || Dossie Easton || “When there are more men than women at a workshop” an insightful blog post by Arian Bloodwood || Queer Hearted || My upcoming workshops || The School of Erotic Mysteries || Another take on this in this article by ShadowPlay || And here’s a beautiful article about gender by Jane Abbott