Book Review for “Tantric Christianity: The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity by James Hughes Reho. (See cover and read preview at end)
When this book was brought to my attention I was thrown off by the title. What settled my apprehension was the description on the back of the book because my mind had little connection to understand how Christianity could be “erotic.” What peeked my interest was the tantric idea of the body as a temple, as I have been looking to learn more about this beyond unhealthy Gnostic ideas that are laced throughout Western Christianity. These ideas separate us from the body and each other in far too many ways. So it was fitting I read this book at a time where I felt God asking me to learn “body prayers.”
And yeah, I’m still learning.
I do not know the author of this book and cannot endorse him as person because I do not know what he is like in every day practice. A subject like this raises a lot of questions in our sexualized culture and so I am basing this review on the book itself, as I should. I found the book to be challenging in both positive and negative ways, while also having many excellent insights that left me thankful that I moved beyond a bias to ignore a subject like this. I also found the author expressing a lot of wisdom when talking about “erotic energy” as something that is sacred and not to be mishandled, or used in a spirit of lust. I see this beautifully summed up on the back of the cover when the author gives the definition as Tantra as
“Tantra is a holistic transformative path of life, love, and being- grounded in practice.”
And that is what this book entails, as it goes far beyond sexuality to help us understand a more holistic approach to all of life. I love the authors’ words from the book that highlight this further.
“Our worship influences who we are and what we believe, as it should: any tantric practitioner knows that we are woven into divinity not solely or even primarily through an intellectual process but through a holistic constellation involving engagement with ritual, breath, body, and the many layers of our consciousness. Deep and healthful worship involves this.”
So first let me start with the positive and negative challenges mixed together because that is how they appeared to me. It was challenging for me to hear different names of deities from other religions because I have very little understanding of them. I often asked myself: “Are these legit deities or are they competing with the God I am familiar with (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)?” At times I wasn’t sure, and other times I was delighted to see how things fit together across traditions. As wise teachers famously say, “If it’s true then it’s true.” So for the less mature, you will need discernment as you read this, but for those seeing Spirit moving in all people and religions, you will be encouraged throughout.
With these challenges I am still learning through the tensions in the book and focusing only on that which resonates deep within. I’d encourage you to do the same.
The best part of the book is that I cannot deny the MANY insights that are presented throughout. There were great insights moving beyond the illusion of separation and dualistic thought. There was great insight from Scripture and context surrounding Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Insights you don’t often hear in the West, which is not familiar with the East from where Jesus lived. All this is helping me further wake up from the illusions within my own Western Christianity. (It’s not all bad, but we got some issues here.)
One of my favorite chapters was Chapter 3 on “The body as the Temple of God.” The author does a great job of reminding us why the body (Including the mind and heart) is so important as “the place where one most directly and fruitfully encounters the Divine.” I felt the author did an excellent job of giving context to the Apostle Paul’s teaching on the body or “flesh” from the Scriptures, which is often very confusing to most people.
Before I make this too long, I enjoyed the book overall. I appreciated the wealth of insight that I would not hear by ignoring this subject and felt some of the practices were very beneficial as well. I’m grateful the author reminded us that Tantric Spirituality does find roots in Jesus in many ways, and is a path that is to be treated with purity, wisdom and discipline.
Lastly, this book is a helpful tool for us in the Western Culture to learn from. Whether it is sexuality (often ignored or shamed in churches) or the beautiful practices from the lands Jesus came from that are foreign to us (literally and spiritually), James gives us useful things to consider that can deepen our faith and understanding. I think this book can be another step forward to bridge all that God is doing in every culture all over the world. May it instruct you in a more holistic faith for us to understand all that God has created us to be.
I received this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review. You can preview or order the book by clicking on cover below.