Nova Religio
The Heart of the Secret: A Personal and Scholarly Encounter with Shakta Tantrism in Siddha Yoga
Sarah Caldwell


ABSTRACT: This article suggests two apparently contradictory theses: namely that Swami Muktananda (1908––1982) was an enlightened teacher and practitioner of an esoteric form of Tantric sexual yoga, and that he also engaged in actions that were not ethical, legal, or liberatory with many disciples. These two theses are brought into creative tension through a developing Tantric hermeneutic. In discussing secrecy and power, the article addresses critical cultural, feminist, and psychological issues about sexual abuse and the importation of Asian religious traditions into contemporary American society, and argues that what has happened in the recent history of Siddha Yoga arises directly out of Tantra's long history of dissimulation and secrecy. I suggest that a hybrid scholarly sensibility might emerge out of the secret heart of the Tantric teachings, itself offering a way forward in the study of such traditions.

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