For the past few days I have been reading David Gordon White's book The Alchemical Body. Interesting read and I may have more to comment on as I get into it further. I find it highly interesting from an historical perspective but it lacks something important. Transmission.
What he speaks of comes from mostly written sources and is definitely done from the academic perspective. All respect towards the monumental task he has accomplished.
However, in regards to my discussion at hand, I quote his words from the introduction:
"Let the reader be forewarned, then that my interpretation of the language of the Hindu alchemical, hathayogic, and tantric traditions bear no stamp of approval from any Indian guru of any sect whatsoever. This is a textual study, one that is based, in any case, on a number of texts for which the all important chain of transmission of oral tradition from teacher to disciple has long since been broken."
I spent two years working with the tantra from a practical perspective before receiving diksa (initiation) from my guru. Those 2 years were very powerful for me but in some ways were like the anthropologist studying a group from the outside. This recalls my actual study of cultural anthropology in college 20 years ago. I often wondered how much more powerful it would be if these scholars who I read so much about, had actually fully entered the traditions they proposed to expound.
I admit that White has done a great service with what he had available and I do find his text interesting. But I have to take much of it with a certain grain of salt as well. Because I know better about these subjects. They are not so easy of access to the non-initiated.
Parasurama in his Kalpa Sutras says in the very first sutra "now we shall expound the diksa (initiation)." Later he states "through tradition and faith there is every fulfillment".
What does this mean? Many deep subjects like the tantra cannot even begin to be properly approached until there is an initiation. There is a timeless, spaceless quality about direct transmission. A download of information, a connection to something totally beyond logic and all rationality that occurs through this transmission.
Scholars so often approach the esoteric subjects like tantra through rationality, left brained thinking, concepts that work in the everyday world that we live in. Real tantra doesn't function like that. Maybe good for history. But even then, real tantra is not linear either.
Since receiving diksa, much has come to me, much. I cannot even begin to explain most of it in words, but if I could it would be like a zip file has been downloaded directly into me. Sometimes it comes so fast I have to shut the door and put all my weight against it to keep it from coming too fast. This isn't like it was before the diksa.
I imagine this is true of any initiatory tradition. If anything, it leaves me wondering more of what truly was going on with the ancient alchemists. In this way it reads to me almost more like good science fiction.
"Through faith and tradition there is every fulfilment."
When one is part of an authentic parampara (guru/disciple tradition), one has access to all those who have gone before. The entire lineage of gurus. This is powerful. This accesses what one might even call "mythic consciousness", consciousness that trancends the time/space boundaries. Dates, history, timelines don't mean anything here.
Anyway, thanks to White for his book, I do find it interesting.
As far as the secrets of the hatha yoga and the tantra, I look for them elsewhere, within the roots of the lineages that have been handed down to me directly.