I wasn’t sure just what to expect when I first picked up Tantra for the West by Marc Allen. I suppose I was like most Westerners, who, as Allen mentions in the first chapter, associate tantra with sex that has some kind of mystical focus. That’s not at all what tantra, or this book, is about.

Instead, the reader is offered “a path, a means, to freedom and fulfillment.” The book, which was first released in 1981 and has been updated for this new reissue, gives a complete overview of how to live a meaningful life. As someone who loves exploring personal spirituality, I’m not sure how I managed to miss it the first time around!

Allen delves into a wide array of topics and areas of life in this comprehensive volume. This does include sex and romantic relationships, yes, but also work, politics, creativity, money, food & drink, and more. He has a simple and easy-to-understand way of explaining the techniques he is teaching, yet he also makes it clear that these are not quick-fix tools that he’s offering. To reap the benefits of the path laid out here, the reader must do the work, practice the exercises, and make tantra their own. “It is not the world causing your problems,” he writes, “it is your own mind, your resistance to what is.”

Many Pagans disparage New Age practices, seeing them as silly simplifications of complex magickal techniques. This book, while eminently readable, doesn’t dumb down the journey to enlightenment. Allen tackles the tough topics like confronting negative feelings and dealing with conflict. He covers often over-simplified tools like affirmations and creating abundance with a realistic yet passionate touch, and shares how he has used many of these techniques over the years to improve his own life.

In tackling the huge topics of meditation and yoga, Allen covers the benefits and basics, while making it clear that what you bring to the mat is as important as the practices you choose. In a brief section on the pitfalls of meditation and yoga, he says “The most brilliant teachings in the world, like our greatest scientific discoveries, can be either skillfully used or unskillfully misused. It’s up to you to discover whether the practices you are doing are solving problems or creating them. Don’t be afraid to move on to new experiences if your heart is telling you that you can grow more by trying something else.”

The collection of practices and wisdom in this book is quite impressive. Part of me wishes I’d discovered it earlier in my life, but at the same time, it serves as a useful reminder, a universal collection of topics, many of which I’ve already studied in more depth. Allen captures the essence of the basic tools any spiritual seeker should have in his or her tool belt. It’s like a metaphysical encyclopedia, distilled into this small, friendly magickal tome. I feel Tantra for the West is a must read for those interested in living a spiritually-focused life of meaning, purpose, and joy.

~review by Nikki Starcat Shields

Author: Marc Allen
New World Library, 2015
pp.293, $14.95