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Tantric Psychology: Between Fear & Heroism

Tantric Psychology: Between Fear & Heroism

This post is about the psychological aspect of Tantra as a path of liberation.

The most unique and fundamental contribution to the psychological dimension of Tantrism comes from two Jungian theorists; Joseph Campbell and Heinrich Zimmer, who analyzed tantric sadhana in terms of “spiritual quest for self-discovery and true identity.” Implicit in this approach is the assumption that, at times, a confrontation with the unconscious part of the psyche, however unpleasant and terrifying is a necessary preliminary to any spiritual growth.

Following this reasoning, one can argue that the tantric path — especially in certain aspects of the Kashmiri non-dual Shaivism tradition. A spiritual discipline that found a new way to challenge one of the most powerful experiences in the dynamics of emotions– is facing fear as opposed to trying to play the hero.

Fear and its patterns from a Tantric Perspective: Fear participates in several conceptual patterns….

Sacralization to Overcome Fear– He is sacralized as the god Bhairava (the fearsome one).

Tantric Sadhana Towards Heroism: Due to fear of transmigration, it constitutes a powerful stimulus to undertake Tantric sādhanā (to avoid suffering).

Spiritual Liberation: Ritualistic ingestion of substances that can provoke fear is used to reduce the contraction of consciousness – which is the cause of bondage. Consequently, in doing this it leads to expansion of consciousness and liberation (mokṣha). Therefore, liberation is approached here through the paradigm of psychological growth that involves a direct, face-to-face confrontation with fear.

OUR FIRST IMPULSE TO OVERCOME FEAR AND DIRECTING TOWARDS HEROISM: Fear thus conceived becomes the main driving force to undertake a tantric path of heroism. Fear functions as a central organizing characteristic in a dynamic construction of tantric identity. The tantric practitioner is called Vīra (hero). His heroism, spiritually motivated, lies in the conquest of fear. It is the fear that you are forced to face both in the realm of the outside world and also in the depths of your soul. Such a confrontation endows a Hero with the virtue of steadfastness (dhairya) that makes him a heroic person and takes him significantly further on his spiritual path, to the knowledge of the goddess Kālī.

It is important to recognize that not all fear bad: An important conclusion about fear that emerges from my analysis is its ambiguous nature. On the one hand, we have a “positive” (evolutionary) fear, considered an emotional peak experience that provides personal and spiritual power, that should be welcomed. On the other hand, we have a “negative” (useless) fear resulting from saṃskāras (mental impressions stored in the subconscious) that give rise to contraction of consciousness and therefore useless suffering. The task of the Tantric Hero lies in conquering this “negative” fear.

However, despite the diversity of objective stimuli that cause fear, there is an important element to find: “positive” fear always arises from the Heart. The symbol of the Heart has been adopted by the non-dual tantrics of Kashmir, as the locus of both emotional power and supreme liberated consciousness. It is conceivable that this assumption represents an attempt to elevate the emotional life which can be seen as a mode of access to the higher metaphysical reality flourishing in all its glory and impenetrable depth.


Sofia Falcone

Sofia Falcone
I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges and hopes, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves.

Reprinted on crystalwind.ca with written permission from Sofia Falcone.

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