THE MANTANTRA LETTERS is an intimate and vibrant correspondence that deals with the fundamental problems of sexuality and its relationship to the spirit. Over a period of ten years — the 1990’s — two radical gay thinkers, old friends from Oxford, describe the impact on their personal lives of the ancient spiritual path of Tantra.
Victor Bliss, an American therapist with graduate degrees in Philosophy and Comparative Religion, takes refuge from the AIDS crisis in San Francisco in the mountains of Northern India, where he undergoes a rigorous Tantric training in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. He brings this experience to bear upon a remarkable romantic relationship that blooms and unfolds over the course of the exchange.
Nathan James is a writer and queer theorist living and working in France. Emerging out of a bad relationship, he develops an interest in discovering how Tantric practice can serve him as a single man on the scene in Paris.
In contrast to the Judeo-Christian tradition, which regards sexuality as an obstacle or hindrance to the spirit, Tantra incorporates erotic energy into the highest realization of spiritual truth. Ever since the seventies, when Tantra appeared in the West, it has been seen as a way of enhancing sexual experience. Bliss and James discover on the contrary that its main purpose is the clarification of the nature of consciousness itself, a condition that profoundly affects sexual economy and expression.
In the course of their exploration, the correspondents deal with the central matters and issues of sex and spirit in Tantra. These include the transformation of sexual ecstasy into Self-realization, the balance of feminine and masculine energies, the division of Tantra into “Right Hand” (or meditation) and “Left Hand” (sexual yoga) paths, and the practices and rituals of each path. Bliss and James are equally passionate however about the shadowy issues of Tantra that are largely disowned by the mainstream and the gay community. They cover in great depth subjects such as self – condemnation and destructiveness, sexual compulsion, perversion, addiction, jealousy, and possessiveness. Each in his own way cuts a swath through these thickets of sexuality into new clarity and understanding, and through their correspondence, they find the highest purpose of sexuality in their own lives and consciousness.
The central question posed by the book is this: what is the highest purpose of sexual love between men? The correspondents process this question for themselves with such radical honesty that they do it for all gay men, and indeed for all who seek an authentic way to live out the mystery of sex to its highest end.