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Tantric Jesus - The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity

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About the Book Unbeknownst to many, the original spirituality practiced in early Christian communities and by Jesus himself was a tantric spirituality. In the West, Tantra often evokes images of arcane rituals or acrobatic sexual positions, while in reality Tantra is a holistic transformative path of life, love, and being-grounded in practice. Offering a new understanding of Jesus as guru and master of left-handed Tantra, James Reho, an Episcopal priest and tantric initiate, reframes ...
About the Book

Unbeknownst to many, the original spirituality practiced in early Christian communities and by Jesus himself was a tantric spirituality. In the West, Tantra often evokes images of arcane rituals or acrobatic sexual positions, while in reality Tantra is a holistic transformative path of life, love, and being-grounded in practice.

Offering a new understanding of Jesus as guru and master of left-handed Tantra, James Reho, an Episcopal priest and tantric initiate, reframes the Christian story and restores to modern Christianity the tantric wisdom that faded from church thought and practice and was forgotten over the centuries. He explains how tantric Christianity views the human body as the primary "temple" of the holy, with erotic energy as the signature of divine presence within. Rev. Reho explores how early Christian thought and practice deeply resonate with the tantric yoga of India and Tibet and explores the role of Kundalini and the chakras. Informed by the insights of ancient texts and early masters of Christian spirituality, he detai is how to work with mantras, icons, and the breath-and also offers partnered spiritual practices involving eye gazing, foot washing, and sacred sexual connection-all in the context of a renewed Christian Tantra.

About the Author

Rev. Reho reveals how these heart-opening practices are rooted in eros, the life of deep desire, expressive of God's grace within us, and are still alive in monastic practices in the Christian East. Integrating his personal spiritual experiences, years of study of ancient Christian mysticism, and an expertise in yoga and Tantra, the author shows how we can reengage the original truths of the early church to affirm the body as a holy vehicle and to utilize the energy of the erotic to achieve ecstatic union-with the Divine.

THE REVEREND JAMES HUGHES REHO, PH.D., is an ordained Episcopal priest with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from PrincetonUniversity. He has served on the staff of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Miami, as the Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Formation at the General Theological Seminary in New York City, and currently pastors a Lutheran-Episcopal church in Fort Myers, Florida. A spiritual director and certified yoga instructor, he leads retreats and work- shops on yoga, meditation, and tantric practice in both religious and secular settings.

Foreword

I welcome this book with open arms, and I am pleased to be invited to pen a foreword for it. As an elder, now living my seventy-fifth year on this planet, one looks to the upcoming generations for hope and for leadership that will make a difference in our world where strife and self- centeredness, the reptilian brain and mindlessness, so often dominate. One looks for signs that rigid religion need not perpetuate itself and space is made for justice and compassion to assert themselves in all our relations, whether that be with one another or with Earth and her marvelous creatures.

This book offers such a vision in both a theological and a practical way, for it presents many insightful breakthroughs in the Western grasp of the person of Jesus while it brings the wisdom of the East and West together, enlivens body and spirit, and moves us beyond a world of dualisms and antimatter philosophies to a consciousness that opts for a sacred marriage of the divine feminine and sacred masculine. It also offers concrete practices to get there from here. It warms this creation spirituality theologian's heart to know that a new generation is coming along, not just to carryon the tradition but to offer genuinely fresh rapprochements in all these important areas. Let me elaborate a bit more.

Back in 1988 I wrote my book The Coming of the Cosmic Christ) and in it I coined a new term, deep ecumenism, which I derived from my Buddhist friend Joanna Macy, who was actively involved in the work of deep ecology. Deep ecology was that movement for environmental rights that operated not out of a mere secular political context of "we are right and you are wrong and we are going to defeat you polluters" but included the dimension of the sacred: that there is a holiness to creation that cannot be bought, sold, and discarded lightly; that every being has its integrity and right to exist; and indeed that every being is a Cosmic Christ, a Buddha Nature, an Image of the One who is beyond all names.

By adapting that language to the ongoing dialogues between faith traditions that flourished in a special way after the Second Vatican Council, I was underscoring the spiritual dimension needed for a deeper interfaith encounter. I abhorred the dialogue that stopped at the superficiallevel of theological position papers-"We believe this. What do you believe?"-and wanted to engage at the deeper level of what Father Bede Griffiths calls the "cave of the heart," where mystical experience takes route as a connection to the Source and in turn gives birth to prophetic actions that result in justice making.

The book was released at the same time that I was punished with an enforced year of silence by Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), who was then the inquisitor general at the Sacred Congregation for the Propogation of the Faith (previously known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition) in Pope John Paul II's Vatican.

Today the term deep ecumenism is still in circulation, but other language has emerged as well, such as interfaith and interspirituality. A graduate of my master's program, Gina Rose Halpern, launched a school in interfaith chaplaincy in Berkeley, California, that has thrived for six- teen years and is called the Chaplaincy Institute (ChI), an Interfaith Seminary and Community. Brother Wayne Teasdale, now deceased and a student of the late Father Bede Griffiths, is credited by Kurt Johnson, author of The Coming Interspirituality Age, with coming up with the term interspirituality, and Kurt and others are working energetically in that field. Father Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk who lived in an ashram in Southern India for over fifty years, wrote numerous books on the interface of Hindu and Christian spirituality, including Christ in India) Return to the Center, The Marriage of East and West) and The Cosmic Revelation. He stands out as a genuine pioneer in the field of deep ecumenism and Interfaith.

So, too, does Father Thomas Merton, who woke up to Eastern wisdom, especially in dialogues with the Japanese Zen scholar Dr. D. T. Suzuki, who urged him to read Meister Eckhart in particular as a representative of authentic Western mysticism. Merton's final trip as a Trappist monk ended in his death in Bangkok, but it was not before he made deep connections with Eastern thinkers and underwent a profound mystical breakthrough at a Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka. Merton kept a record of his last journey, now published as a book, Asian Journal) where he shares the people and events that moved him deeply. Among the people he met was the Dalai Lama (who was only thirty-two at the time), who made a deep impression on him and vice versa. Indeed, the Dalai Lama has written that Merton was the first Christian he had ever met, and it started him on his own path of deep ecumenism. Thich Naht Hanh was also a friend of Merton's, as were Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalorni, who visited him several times in his monastery.

Bishop William Swing, Episcopal bishop of California and the one who welcomed me into the Episcopal fold after the Vatican fired me, launched his interfaith movement, called United Religions Initiative (URI), which has flourished mightily around the world. Its goal is to create a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by energizing people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and Earth.

Introduction

These people are your ancestors. There exists another lineage, another stream that was outside, or maybe underneath, the power and grandeur that had been the Hagia Sophia in its prime. Tracing this stream, we find it leads us back to the original wellspring of Jesus and the early communities that gathered around his presence, before and after his death. At certain points in history, this stream has been a roaring river, bringing life and refreshment to many; at other times, it has been an underground aquifer, all but invisible.

Writers of the first centuries of the Common Era who swam in and drank from this stream used the thought-language of their time to relate their experience. They redefined the terms of Neoplatonic philosophy in an attempt to express a reality that was in many important ways contrary to the views of Neoplatonic mysticism. In the same way, the initial generations of jesus's followers appropriated the tides of Roman power used to describe Augustus Caesar, such as "Son of God" and "Savior" and even "Virgin-born," to express a very different picture of power antithetical to Rome and her Caesars. In the long run, this antilanguage was only somewhat successful. Over time, the paradox and protest that informed the early Christian use of Neoplatonic and imperial Roman language was largely lost. Christian spirituality fell prey to the world-denying and body-negative views of the ascetic Neoplatonists, just as Christ himself became more and more fused with the imperial Roman god Sol Invictus (the Unconquerable Sun).

The mystical Christianity that I tasted among its own artifacts at Goreme had thrived largely outside the official institution symbolized by large structures such as the Hagia Sophia. This lineage is not rooted in imperial power or Sol Invictus. It is rooted in a way of seeing that parallels the insights of Eastern Tantra, though from within a Christian framework.

THE REST BETWEEN TWO NOTES

As I began a more focused exploration of the meaning of what had happened to me at the Goreme refectory, I quickly ran into a problem. It became clear that much classical Christian language that might have been used to speak about the deep revelations of the mystical tradition had been drastically redefined or had become loaded with dogmatic baggage and strange associations from more modern expressions of the faith such as evangelicalism or biblical fundamentalism. In searching for a vocabulary to express the unique and often surprising insights of this mystical Christianity, I found that the traditional religious language of the Christian household was, paradoxically, not always the best choice. I began to explore other vocabularies.

, During this same period of searching, I had a series of powerful visions (some recounted in this book) that included both Christian and Hindu imagery. These visions brought up new questions for me. For instance, what did it mean for me as a Christian person to have a vision that included both Jesus and the goddess Durga, and led me to an experience of the Divine that seemed to move beyond the parameters of either? I meditated upon these visions and discussed them with my own spiritual mentors, who both affirmed that such experiences could be part of a genuine Christian path and helped me come to realize that the substance of these visions would be significantly flattened if limited to only one tradition's iconography. Our pluralistic world allows for the interplay of such images in ways that are still faithful to one's root tradition, just as in its early days Christianity engaged the art and deities of older traditions in fruitful ways. In my own case, the insights and images of the Eastern world, particularly of Indian and Tibetan Tantra, had been very alive for me from the time of my childhood, and formed the center of my university studies.

Now it seemed that I was being called to inhabit both worlds, to allow Tantra and mystical Christianity to coexist in my heart. Bearing authentic witness to what was coming alive within me, I sought for the clearest and most useful way of expressing the truths of mystical Christianity within our own historical particularity. This work drew me into an exploration of the resonances and parallels between Tantra and Christianity. Two lines that are parallel travel in the same direction but never overlap: each remains its own reality. Yet honoring the space between them makes their resonances all the more informative. There is a pregnant silence between the unique notes (languages) of Tantra and Christianity. It is that silence between the two notes that makes them into music, and holds the promise of a deeper sounding. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke has written,

Contents

Foreword by the Reverend Dr. Mathew Foxix
Acknowledgementsxvii
PartI
Five Roots of Christian Tantra
1Introduction to Christian Tantra3
2The First Root - The Reality and goodness of the World18
3The Second Root - Christ-Shakti as Divine Activity44
4The Third Root - The Body as the Temple of god75
5The Fourth Root - Erose and Antinomian behavior103
6The Fifth Root - Guru and Param guru139
7Opening the Heart - Activiating the christian Energetic synthesis169
8Repeating the Sacred Name - Mantra, japa and the jesus Prayer194
9Engaging the Holy Image - Working with Icons221
10Gazing - The eyes as Doorways into God247
11The Washing of the Feet - Opening the Channel to the Divine269
12Sacred sexual Union - Entering the Life of the Tantric Trinity291
Afterword - Why Tantric Christianity Matters324
Notes329
Glossary343
Bibliography347
Index355









Item Code: NAO098 Author: James Hughes Reho Cover: Paperback Edition: 2017 Publisher: Destiny Books ISBN: 9781620555613 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch Pages: 385 (8 Colors Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 635 gms
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