From email@example.comFri Nov 10 12:59:23 1995
Date: 7 Nov 1995 13:18:53 -0500
From: Cyronwode <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: REPOST Venus Takes a Refresher Course
Venus Takes A Refresher Course
by catherine yronwode
(c) 1995 catherine yronwode
In Vedic tantra there are two streams of thought, called "left hand" and
"right hand" paths. The left hand path is antinomian (encourages breaking
of class, dietary, and caste laws as a way to "open" the self to new
experience) and allows for orgiastic rituals. The right hand path is more
inward and does not promote orgiastic experiences in groups.
From what i had previously heard from participants who have attended
tantra yoga courses taught by Americans in the U.S., these left and right
hand paths still remain separate. The major divergence is between the
practices promoted by Charles and Caroline Muir on the one hand, and Lori
Grace on the other.
I have not attended tantra workshops taught by the Muirs, but i have
spoken with those who have. They say that the Muir's workshops are
historical and lecture-oriented in teaching style, while Lori's are more
ecstatic. The Muirs apparently do not give "hands on" demonstrations; Lori
uses a demonstrative approach (with the consent of participants
established every step of the way) which can become quite intimate,
depending upon the group's dynamics. The Muirs refer to the Northern
Indian style as well as to Tibetan and Taoist tantra; Lori attempts to
recreate the Southern Indian tradition, with New Age overtones.
I was invited to attend one of Lori's three day workshops by a man of my
age whom i had met two weeks earlier. He had advertised in a local free
paper's personals ad section that he was looking for a tantrika with whom
to attend these classes and we met and decided to undertake the venture
together. I have practiced the 19th century American path of karezza and
right hand path tantra yoga since 1977, so i was familiar with the
bodywork and symbolism Lori would be teaching,
(An aside on karezza: this system of non-denominational spritual sexuality
was developed by the Chicago gynecologist Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham in the
1880s. Stockham studied tantra first-hand in India, so karezza owes some
of its bodywork techniques to Vedic traditions, but it contains no left
hand path antinomian group-ecstacy aspects. Stockham taught karezza to
monogamous couples, and she herself was in a monogamous relationship. She
disparaged the polygamous left hand path temple rituals practiced in
Southern India. Also, although she was aware of the tantra-like "male
continence" orgasm-control techniques developed by her contemporary, the
American writer and philosopher John Humphrey Noyes, she did not approve
of the "free love" polygamous lifestyle practiced in Noyes' Oneida
Community. In other words, as exponded by Stockham, karezza does not
include having dyadic intercourse in the company of other couples or
having intercourse in groups of more than a dyad.)
Being a student of karezza, i have never made love in a group setting
developed along Southern Indian left hand path lines. Therefore, i
strongly feared that Lori, with her emphasis on the Southern trandition,
would insist on some sort of group grope or orgy and that i would have to
run screaming from the room. I want to make it clear that my fears were
groundless. There was a lot of group hugging and smiling, but no one
infringed in any way on my personal boundaries or on the dyadic boundaries
my partner and i established. The entire experience really felt very safe.
The class took place in Tiburon, California, right on the San Francisco
Bay. The cost was $300, which i initially thought was very expensive, but
once i was there, i saw that it was good value for the money, both in
terms of what was taught and in terms of the accomodations and food, which
There were 44 paired participants in attendance, plus at least a dozen
teachers, facilitators, and assistants. Of the pairs, 11 were couples
(husbands and wives or training partners such as my friend and me) and 11
were singles who had come in the hope of being paired with a compatible
partner during the weekend. Ages ranged from 25 to 60, with most in their
40s. Ethnic groups included Asian, Jewish, European, and Pacific Islander.
All types of bodies were represented, from very thin to obese, and from
trim and muscular to flabby and out of condition.
We parked down in Corte Madera and were bussed up a hill to Lori's estate.
(She is an heiress of incredible wealth.) Lodging was in private rooms
built onto the edges of her enormous, secluded, nudity-permitted
three-level redwood-deck palace in Tiburon, overlooking the Bay. Stone
slab paths led down the slope of the hill to the beach. The entire
property was landscaped with flowering perennials, laid out in an
informal, natural way. Each private room had a clear view across the water
to the Richmond-San Rafael bridge. There were garden hot tubs and hot
showers flowing from rock walls as if from natural springs. Every couple
was entitled to one extra-curricular bodywork session with masseurs who
were brought in for the occasion. It was luxury exemplified -- with one
"karma yoga" consideration: every participant had to sign up for a chore
such as cleaning toilets or scrubbing down the several kitchenettes.
On Friday evening we met, were taught the ground rules, and warmed up with
some circular Sufi dancing. Then we had a short session of learning to
stand in a grounded position, followed by dyadic sharing of light touch
and eye gazing. After that, we danced some more, and got to know each
Saturday began with warm-up dancing and a recap of grounded standing. Then
Lori and two helpers, Patti and Phil, gave us training in establishing
Lori and Patti demonstrated how to ask for permission to touch another, to
touch only where one is permitted, and to ask again for permission before
going on to the next form of touch. We followed their examples.
Then Lori and Phil modelled how to say "no!" and how to say "yes!" When it
came our turn to practice these techniques, what i thought was a childish
level of psychological work brought out amazing results in some of the
participants, including tears and rage. We broke into groups to share our
feelings, and at least a third of the women spoke of having been raped. I
realized that i would defend to the death my "no!" but would not fight to
the death to assert my "yes!"
For our mid-day bodywork session, my training partner and i had chosen
Tantric Couples Massage, strictly because it sounded the most interesting.
It was a wonderful full body (non sexual) massage, perforned on both of us
at the same time as we lay head to toe holding hands on a huge canopy bed.
The massage was given by Lennie and Terumi, a husband and wife who have
their timing down to a fine art, and really created a beautiful slow dance
as they did the bodywork, crossing hand over hand as they took turns
massaging both of us.
After lunch Lori gave a preliminary lecture on the Vedic tradition of
tantra with references to the psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich. Although she
teaches people in couples, she made no mention of karezza or other 19th
century American monogamous traditions such as magnetation, Zugassent's
discovery, anseiratic mysteries, etc. Nor did she mention the polygamous
male continence system of the Oneida Community. I thought this oversight
was unfortunate, because naive participants might be led to think that we
must look to another culture, specifically an "exotic" one, to find
knowledge of these techniques and acceptance of this form of worship. The
truth is, karezza, tantra yoga, magnetation, etc. belong to no single
culture and the techniques and spiritual insights they engender are
continually rediscovered within ourselves in every era and every social
stratum. They are part of our human birthright.
Lori's talk also touched on an area that was of concern to some
participants: the Vedic tradition of incarnations, by which tantrikas take
on the roles, attributes, personae, and even divinity of gods and
This seems to be a big problem for Westerners. Many of us have low self
esteem and suffer from an acute self-consciousness about physical defects,
blemishes, or aging -- all of which seem to belie the concept of personal
divinity. Many of us were raised in the Judeo-Christian paradigm and
subconsciously consider personal incarnation of deity to be tantamount to
For people of the former type, it may take overwhelming sensory beauty,
dozens of songs, guided meditations, and hypnotic repetitions of the
affirmation that we are gods and goddesses for us to see divine loveliness
in ourselves without fear of being ridiculed or condemned.
For people of the latter type, who feel that tanric spirituality is
"sexual fantasy" or "a costume party," the problem is approached by a
different route: We must step back from our cultural paradigm and realize
that we are embarking on a discovery of another RELIGION -- a sincere,
ages-old religion, for which people have built temples, and even bled and
died. Tantra is a religion in which the Beloved is seen to be an
incarnation of the divine. Telling a tantrika that his or her sweetie is
not a god or goddess is like telling a Roman Catholic that the host and
wine do not transubstantiate into the flesh and blood of Jesus.
(An aside: Even karezza, a non-religious form of spiritual sex which was
conceived as compatible with Protestant Christianity, acknowledges the
"divine spark" in the self and the beloved. Southern Indian Vedic tantra,
with no cultural limitations on multiple incarnations of deity, simply
goes the whole nine yards: You are holy. You are divine. You are Shiva,
the cosmic dancer, He whom all beings adore. Everything you touch is made
sacred by your touch. You are Sakti, Parvati, Durga, Candi, Kali, She of
many names and many incarnations, to whom all beings owe their life and
death. Your every loving gesture is a blessing to the Universe. Our union,
the Union of Shiva and Sakti, sanctifies all of Creation. Our union is the
essence of Creation.)
After the lecture, Lori demonstrated and we then practiced breathing
patterns appropriate to various states of arousal (mild to moderate) and
lay on the floor with knees up for a long session of gentle pelvic rocking
coordinated to our breathing. It was like a gym class or hatha yoga
course, except that the subject was the muscles of the genitals, anus, and
abdomen. I was amazed to realize that many people could not perform this
simple exercise at all, and that others could not do it without beginning
to cry. For instance, one woman began babbling about gynecological exams
and "numbness" -- i understood then why Lori had mentioned Reich at the
We finished the pelvic rocking with small group discussions about our
feelings, did another dyadic eye gazing and chakra touch exercise with our
partners, and joined in a circular Sufi dance. At this time Lori asked the
singles to please speak to each other about forming pairs for the evening
to come. She also instructed all singles to practice safe sex and she told
them that protective devices would be supplied free of charge. As far as i
know, each of the singles did receive a partner.
Then, on Saturday night -- the Tantric feast. Oh my!
We were not served dinner, but were told to bathe ourselves and to dress
"as gods and goddesses" in filmy, satiny, easily removable finery. We were
told to bring a small wrapped gift for our patrner. At nine pm we met
upstairs were we were blindfolded and led in pairs down the many flights
of steps, as attendents whispered joyful welcomes to us, calling us
beautiful gods and goddesses entering a temple.
Still blindfolded, we were censed with sage smoke and brought into the
temple room, where we were seated on reclining cushiony things in pairs,
just touching each other's hands at first. The blindfolds stayed on, and
then the ceremony began. A soft, slow raga was playing. The room was warm
with body heat. We were stroked with ostrich feathers by silent
attendents, hand fed bite-sized taste treats (alternating sweet and
savoury), played to with cymbals and flutes, stroked with rabbit furs,
given finger and toe massages. We began to touch each other between the
sensory experiences, at first stopping each time an attendent stoked us or
rang a bell or told us we were holy beings or gave us banana chunks in
chocolate sauce, but eventually forgetting all of that and openly
caressing each other, stroking each other's chests and genitals as the
attendents came by, as we were sprinkled with mist-like drops of water,
fed miniature quiche lorraines, told we were beautiful, fed peach slices
in whipped cream, feather-stroked, and censed with perfumes for TWO HOURS,
blindfolded the whole time, playing with our partners, kissing, caressing,
fucking, touched with feathers, fed dolmas, held by unseen hands, softly
smoothed with fur, and all the time, all the time, touching, sucking,
fingering, and fucking each other and hearing all about us the sounds of
other lovers breathing and groaning with pleasure.
And then, at midnight, the blindfolds came off and we saw the room lit by
a hundred votive altar candles, the attendents costumed as geniies,
angels, even naked except for glitter dust, the floor covered with
entwined naked couples, the mirrored walls reflecting repeated images of
all of us touching and caressing our partners, the music speeding up, the
incense heavy... and...it was....well, the word STUNNING comes to mind. We
were then told to present our gifts to our partners as if to a god or
goddess. There was a short moment of prayer to each other then, and a
song, and the evening ended.
Needless to say, after this ceremony, we went to our rooms quite ready to
practice more pelvic rocking.
The next day, having loosened up a bit (to put it mildly), we attended
more classes. Ah, yes! By this time even the most prudish couples were
naked and no longer embarrassed. The morning opened with a Sufi dance. We
were then each given a questionnaire covering sexually transmitted
diseases and told to take our partners' medical history. Lori's brief
lecture on safe sex practices followed. (Logically, however, it should
have come before the singles chose partners for the feast!)
After a bit of chanting, the real work of the morning began.
First we lay beside our partners on our backs, knees up, as Lori taught us
to visualize kundalini enegry moving up our bodies while we touched
various chakra points. This inclded genital self-touching, but only of the
mildest sort. After we worked up a charge, we were told to turn onto our
sides, facing our partners, and look into their eyes. I think i was not
alone in noticing how this raised the sexual energy level of the
participants. We discharged the energy by touching each other's heart
chakras and breathing in unison.
Next we watched Lennie and Terumi perform a simple, impromptu ceremony to
establish a sacred space in which to make love. They used four candles and
four large leaf fronds to set the corners, and they exchanged simple gifts
of fire and flowers which they placed on their impromptu altar.
We were instructed to go to our rooms and get the personal power objects
we had been told to bring to the workshop, augmenting them with a few
natural items collected otdoors if necessary. Each couple then used these
articles to establish a private, four-cornered sacred space on the floor
The women lay down and Lennie led the male "givers" in body massage, hand
stimulation of the clitoris, and location of the G-spot of their ecstatic
partners while his Terumi led the female "receivers" in techniques of
breathing during high states of arousal to prolong the pre-orgasmic waves
the men were inducing.
After a break for lunch, we returned to our sacred spaces and Terumi led
the female "givers" in body massages and hand stimulation of the penis, as
well as a gentle digital prostate exam (!) of their partners while Lennie
led the male "receivers" in techniques of breathing during high states of
arousal to prolong pre-orgasm while being thus pleasured.
We took a short break to go to our rooms and each bring back the gift we
had been asked to have ready to present to the altar. When we returned, we
all sat and watched as Lori and Phil demonstrated the major positions of
intercourse as shown in the Kama Sutra, while they explained how breathing
techniques, chakra touching, and visualization are integrated at high
levels of mutual arousal.
Lori then talked the group through a guided session of eye gazing, touch,
and breathing during intercourse. At this point i understood fully why
Lennie and Terumi had guided us through the creation of our own separate
dyadic sacred spaces. Multiple dozens of naked couples writhed around the
floor practicing the classic Vedic positions of intercourse, each couple
as spiritually "safe" as if in complete privacy. All the tinkly New Age
music in Marin County could not drown our cries of delight.
When this was brought to a gentle close, Lori gave a brief lecture about
the forms of tantric altars found in India, Bali, and Tibet, asked us to
pray together in pairs for a mutual wish, and to collect our offerings and
approach the altar in pairs (as, believe it or not, a Protestant-sounding
hymn called "Come to the Altar" was played, which made me chuckle). We
left our offerings, and did another slow Sufi circle dance together.
The day wrapped up with a question and answer session about male control
of ejaculation, moderated by Lennie and Phil. Lori spoke also of specific
methods used by women to control their orgasm reflex. We had one more
dance together, hugged and embraced, got dressed, said goodbye, and were
driven down the mountain to our cars.
I think you would have enjoyed it. I know that i sure did.