Sexual Secrets: Twentieth Anniversary Edition: The Alchemy of Ecstasy

Sexual Secrets: Twentieth Anniversary Edition: The Alchemy of Ecstasy

by Nik Douglas, Penny Slinger


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• The #1 guide to sex and mysticism, redesigned in full color for the new millennium.

• More than 600 illustrations of the erotic sentiment, 199 in full color.

• More than 1 million copies sold with translations in 19 languages.

• Combines the wisdom of the great Eastern sages with images from the West to present a celebration of creative sexuality.

Sexual Secrets is the definitive guide to sex and mysticism, revealing the wisdom of the sages of India, Nepal, Tibet, China, and Japan whose teachings on sexuality unveil how physical love can be the pathway to spiritual liberation. Containing more than 600 illustrations—the most comprehensive collection of images expressing the erotic sentiment—and with more than one million copies sold in more than 19 languages, Sexual Secrets unlocks for everyone the experience of ecstasy once sealed in the ancient texts and art of the East.

In celebration of its 20th year in print, Sexual Secrets has been completely revised and redesigned and includes 199 color illustrations to complement Penny Slinger's unsurpassed black-and-white illustrations, which evoke all the major cultures of the East. Working from contemporary models and from ancient pieces originally commissioned by kings and emperors, Slinger blends images of the West with the sentiments of the East to further enhance the experience of the text and to help in the transmission of the secrets—a celebration of creative sexuality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780892818051
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 12/01/1999
Edition description: 20TH ANNIVERSARY
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 248,315
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Nik Douglas (1944-2012) studied Oriental art, philosophy, medicine, and related sexual practices while living for eight years in the Himalayas. He studied with Indian physicians, adepts of Tantra, and Tibetan lamas, at the same time mastering Sanskrit and the Tibetan language. He organized numerous exhibitions of Eastern art and was called upon by leading museums and private collectors to authenticate Oriental art and writings.

An honors graduate of the Chelsea College of Fine Arts, Penny Slinger is one of Europe’s leading erotic artists. Her work has been exhibited widely and hailed as “dynamic, progressive eroticism, an exploration of female sexuality.” Her illustrations for Sexual Secrets evoke and represent all the major cultures of the East and are inspired by centuries of artistic achievement. Working from life and from ancient images originally commissioned by kings and emperors, Slinger blends the images of the West with the sentiments of the East.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Brahma, the Creator, desired that it should be so and he willed forth the Principle of the Universe; from this came the Primal Energy and from that the Mind. Then there evolved the subtle elements and from these the many worlds. From the acts performed by beings in those worlds the chain of cause and effect was established.


Saraswati, the consort of Brahma, has a bodily luster more powerful than the light of ten million moons. Her garments are purified by celestial fire. She is the Mother of the Vedas, the very embodiment of Nature and the Patroness of the Arts and Sciences. She is always smiling and is exceedingly beautiful; her body is decorated with jewels and pearls.


the creative attitude

Each person should cultivate a creative attitude in order to successfully advance along the path of love. This is a positive mental attitude, a dynamically charged state of mind, which derives its potency from the recognition that there is meaning and purpose to life. This attitude might best be called cosmic optimism. It consists in recognizing and identifying with the primal energy that has created all things. The creative attitude puts us in touch with the source of our being and endows us with a limitless capacity for evolution.

    The creative attitude should remain with us always and be the touchstone by which we gauge our actions in the world. It is a feeling of self-confidence, a recognition of the Divine within each of us,a conviction that we are projections of higher principles that we can come to know. It is part of the process of evolution.

    One lesson this book will endeavor to teach is that worldly or physical limitations can be overcome by invoking the creative attitude and making it work for us. Such mental attitudes have been utilized to achieve success in the world of commerce. Salesmen and top company executives are trained to imagine themselves as filled with positive energy, which creates an impenetrable barrier to any doubts or negativity.

    In the area of Tantric sexuality there are many barriers to be overcome. A creative attitude works wonders in eliminating doubts or uncertainty, while at the same time acting as a potent virilific. Impotency and sexual frustration are direct effects of a lack of self-confidence, which in turn stems from a feeling of emptiness, that life has no purpose. By looking to high spiritual ideals for inspiration, we strengthen the creative attitude. An exquisite joyfulness accompanies this state of mind, so remember to evoke it at all times. Open yourself to the marvelous possibilities that will manifest. When the creative attitude is brought to bear during love-making, a wealth of variety unfolds.

Brahma and Saraswati

Brahma is the name of the creative aspect of the Divine. The symbol of Brahma is a golden egg or aura, the substance of which is infinite positive energy. In Tantric cosmology, Brahma is the embodiment of all creativity. Since Brahma rules over destiny and the things of the world, it is considered imperative to "become Brahma" or "have Brahma on your side." The Eastern teachings state that one can become a thing by identifying with it. Through identification, the power of creativity can work in the individual at all times.

    Recognizing the reality of the creative as co-essential with one's own being, a new awareness emerges like radiance from the central "seed" of the Golden Egg. A useful and very effective technique for identifying with Brahma and the creative universal energy is to visualize yourself surrounded by a golden egg or aura of positively charged energy. See yourself radiating golden sunbeams, warming and invigorating, illuminating life itself.

    The senses are the instruments of the Creative. Originating in the subtle inner realm of Brahma, they manifest on the surface of reality and are expressed in the sense organs, the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. These instruments must be finely tuned to serve as sensitive conduits to the Divine Principle within. Esoteric traditions consider mind the instrument of the sixth sense. When the mind assumes the creative attitude, it functions as the organ of the sixth sense.

    Saraswati is the Indian name given to the feminine Energy counterpart of Brahma, the Creative. She is always referred to as "Patroness of the Sixty-four Arts," of which the Art of Love is considered foremost. The feminine Energy or "Shakti" is the power of the Creative, without which no act of creation can proceed. So it is that Brahma and Saraswati are the creative Cosmic Couple, inseparable as the Creative Aspect and the Creative Energy. This dualism is found in all worldly relationships. The unity of these two principles is of particular significance to the path of Tantric love. When couples identify themselves with these high ideals, all relative aspects of their intimate relationship take on an inner and absolute significance. This is of great importance in the Art of Love.

    The symbol of Saraswati is an Indian seven-stringed musical instrument known as the Vina. The Vina has gourds as sounding boxes at each end of a fretted fingerboard. Its sensual shape is evocative of the body of a woman; the sound it makes is like a beautiful voice. It is the "instrument of the senses," the pleasure of Brahma. By playing on the Vina the goddess Saraswati expresses her joy in creation.

    The seven strings of Saraswati's Vina symbolize the sevenfold nature of evolution, the seven rays of creation, the natural order of change found in all worldly phenomena. In science we find this sevenfold division of elements in the Periodic Table, based on relative atomic weights. In music it occurs in the scale; a ray of light is naturally divided into seven colors and in the Subtle Body of Tantra there are also seven stages. This sevenfold principle occurs throughout all esoteric literature.

    Both Brahma and Saraswati should be visualized as golden and radiant. Like the sun, they emit creative, invigorating light, producing growth and evolution. Through identification with these higher Cosmic Truths, the couple can derive tremendous benefits. It is an abstract and at the same time a specific meditation, a support, and an inner strength of vast potential. By "becoming Brahma and Saraswati" the couple can evoke the creative archetype of their existence.

the sixty-four arts

The Kama Sutra, the classical Indian treatise on the Art of Love, enumerates the Sixty-four Arts. The text advises that these should be studied along with the Kama Sutra, preferably under the guidance of a teacher. These arts and sciences (for no distinction between them was then made) include singing, music, dancing, writing, drawing, painting, sewing, reading, recitation, poetry, sculpture, gymnastics, games, flower arranging, cooking, decoration, perfumery, gardening, mimicry, mental exercises, languages, etiquette, carpentry, magic, chemistry, mineralogy, gambling, architecture, logic, charm-making religious rites, household management, disguise, physical sports, and martial arts plus many specialized activities related to the culture and time. The accomplishments expected of young women in Victorian time echoed this idea. To update this, the arts related to more recent technical innovations such as photography, could be added.

    The Indian treatises on love suggest that both men and women should be well verses in as many of the Sixty-four Arts as possible. Three arguments as to why these arts should be studied are presented in the texts. First, person who is accomplished in them is automatically given an honorable place in society. Second, through the application of these arts one can more easily win over the objects of desire, be it husband, wife, or lover, and provide more fulfillment. Third, a single person can easily be self-supporting by the application of these skills. Even a bare knowledge of these arts adds to the charm and interest of a person.

    In the West today, over-specialization is a problem, which tends to inhibit the mind's capacity to intuitively express the many facets of knowledge. Yet the Art of Love relies on the other arts for its support. Without these modes of expression our existence would be boring and restrictive. Humanity depends upon these arts as a means of communication and self-expression.

    There is no Western equivalent of the Kama Sutra, and perhaps for this reason, sex as an art form has yet to mature in the West. Social repression and internalized guilt have prevented Westerners from a frank and joyous exploration of sexuality, today's "liberated attitudes" notwithstanding. Practically all that the Occident offers in this area is pornography, or clinical sex manuals, so filled with anatomical details and "techniques" that they would be sufficient to put a person off sex for life. One result of this repression is inhuman sexual perversion, a subject we will treat in more detail later. The sexual act is rarely tastefully portrayed in Western art or literature. We either reject sex altogether as a subject proper to art or, in lieu of better, accept mediocre treatment of it.

    The Orient did not consider sex apart from, or opposed to, spirituality or religion. The sex act was given a place of honor and was intimately connected with the other arts. Men and women alike studied the Kama Sutra and similar texts. In the temples, all variations of sexual postures were openly portrayed and venerated as ideals. In the privacy of the home, the entire range of erotic art and literature was considered a normal and respectable subject of study.

    The parameters of sexual behavior in the East extend way beyond the West's narrow spectrum of normalcy, without the least debasement of the sexual function. Celibacy, monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry all had a place in Oriental culture.

    The Sixty-four Arts should be conceived as the Paths of creative Energy. They are the emanations of the goddess Saraswati, the "anima" of Jungian psychology. They can be likened to the flames of an inner sun, blazing from the solar plexus. Burning up all negativity, these flames of the creative attitude purify the psyche and bring about an inner transformation. As practical skills of the outer world, they delight others and fulfill the talented practitioner.

the temple of the body

The physical body is the temple of the soul, the microcosm of the universe. Within this temple are found all of the cosmic principles. The Tantras teach that no temple surpasses in sanctity the "Temple of the Body." All the elements, space, air, fire, water, and earth are found within the body, together with their properties. The bodily temple has its "gardens," "rivers," "sanctuaries," and "gates." By definition, a temple is a place of worship, an edifice dedicated to the service of God. This God, according to Tantra, is our highest self or soul, to be known and served through the Temple of the Body.

    Tantra teaches that there are nine "gates" to the bodily temple. These are divided between the upper part and the lower part. The "lower gates" are the orifices of the anus and the sexual organ. The "upper gates" are the mouth, nose, two eyes, two ears and the fontanel opening at the top of the head. The fontanel is clearly visible as an opening at the time of birth, but it gradually closes up during the first year of life. Eastern esoteric tradition tells us that through this opening, known as the "Aperture of Brahma," the soul enters and leaves the bodily temple. Though the other gates may be used by the soul in its journeys, it is the uppermost one that leads to the higher spiritual realms.

    The Temple of the Subtle Body contains three main "rivers," from which branch out innumerable tributaries. One Great River or "psychic pathway" runs from the region of the lower gates, the perineum, up the spine to the uppermost gate at the top of the head. This is sometimes referred to as the Great Axis, the Holy Mount Meru, or just the Great Pathway. It connects the individual with the cosmos.

    At either side of the central Great River are two "rivers" that emanate from the same source and lead to the upper "gates." These are associated with the solar and lunar energies, related to the right and left sides of the body respectively. They are conceived of as crossing the central Great River at stages in the ascent, like twin snakes wound around a central staff. This symbol, known as the caduceus, or wand of Mercury, has been adopted as an emblem by the medical profession.

    The act of worship in the Temple of the Body consists in focusing the creative attitude by channeling the sex energy upward. The evolutionary process, experienced as an ecstatic thrill, rises up from the sexual region and flares at the solar plexus. The sixty-four vital flames burn up all negativity and purify the psychic pathways. The fire of love floods the three rivers and the solar and lunar energies unite, thus illuminating the temple. This psycho-cosmic process manifests as the ecstatic emotion, which no words can truly describe. Through knowledge of the psychic pathways, the sexual experience becomes more potent. By practicing the secret techniques of Tantra one can consciously experience orgasm and the ensuing transcendental delight.

    The psycho-cosmic process or "self-worship" in the Temple of the Body takes place on every level, from the physical to the most subtle. It is important to really regard the body as a temple. Awareness of its physical and subtle condition is an integral part of the creative attitude. The bodily temple should be kept clean, healthy and harmonious, out of respect for the divinity within. Provide enjoyment and spare no effort to ensure the temple divinity's complete satisfaction. Do not hold back, for real worship is a spontaneous and total act of love. By worshipping in the Temple of the Body during love-making, all desires are fulfilled. That sensual love is an act of great magical and spiritual potency is one of the main principles of Tantra.

head and heart

The head and the heart are two distinct parts of the body that, in the West, are a cause of psychic disunity. But the Temple of the Body, though comprising many parts, is in fact a Divine Unity. We speak of the "heart ruling the head" when someone seems to have lost all common sense and is prey to emotions. The head is said to rule the heart when the mind is calculating and unmoved by human feeling. In both cases, one center dominates at the expense of the other. This dichotomy of head and heart always produces a breakdown of intimacy in a relationship. It is completely incompatible with the selfless ecstasy of Tantric love.

    In Western mystical traditions, one frequently encounters the idea of "renouncing the flesh for the sake of the soul." This is, in reality, a hopeless endeavor. For whatever is repressed will inevitably erupt, usually at the most inopportune moment. The Tantric way teaches that we must use all our endowments of mind, body, head, and heart, on the Path to Liberation. Through the consecration of all parts of our being to an exalted purpose, we integrate them into a whole. In this way, the emotions and passions of the heart can be transformed into the joy of transcendent ecstasy. This transformation takes place through the interplay of head and heart, reason and emotion. The Tantric image of this process is the heart's "fire of emotion" melting and distilling the head's "waters of wisdom."

    The notion of exchange and mutual enrichment is an essential ingredient of Tantric love-making. It makes possible a true exchange between the lovers. The path of Tantric love encompasses all aspects of the emotions and intellect. It leads to an experience of cosmic ecstasy through awareness of the Universal Self in both partners.

breaking habits

Personal growth can be accelerated simply by changing one's habits. It is the condition of dependency inherent in habits that must be broken. When you find yourself saying or thinking, "But I can't change that ... I always do that," then that is undoubtedly the first habit to break. Freedom of choice results from mastering habit. Independence from habits in the area of sexuality should be cultivated, as sexual habits are the most restrictive. Any intentional act of will has a magical potency and is far more effective than a habitual or unintentional act. The human body is capable of quite extraordinary adaptation, even when it seems set in a rigid pattern. The potential for change is always there, but it is better not to wait for a moment of crisis before ridding ourselves of habits. Our very survival as a species is due to our ability to change and adapt.

    Mental habits are more difficult to deal with than physical ones, as they are less obvious. Often enough, they are inherited from parents or acquired through social conditioning. They restrict our whole way of life, insidiously providing a false sense of security. By causing us to forget our Higher Selves, they obliterate our awareness and are fatal to an intimate relationship. Frequently, an unawareness of disagreeable habits or idiosyncrasies is a source of contention between people. Yet often, all that's needed to overcome this obstacle is the willingness, on the part of both people, to change, grow, and evolve. When the initial fear of change is overcome, one can really begin to enjoy new experiences. Sexual habits are especially limiting and it is here that Tantra requires absolute adaptability. All Eastern teachings on the sexual mysteries point to the need for variety and uninhibited spontaneity.


Self-examination is vital to the evolutionary path of love. Only in an atmosphere of complete honesty can unconscious psychic impediments to our growth be cleared away. When we turn our consciousness inward to reflect upon the self, a new sensitivity unfolds. Self-examination helps to renew and fine-tune the senses. Sexual habits are particularly dulling to the senses, and it is here that self-examination is of great value.

    If one partner depends exclusively on the other for support and comfort rather than seeking these within, the result can be a burdensome imbalance in the relationship. Real love places no value on projection of selfish fantasies onto the other. This does not allow room for the play of ecstatic, spontaneous love, which is the goal of Tantra. Instead, a relationship becomes limiting; it may even drag both partners into an unresolvable conflict.

    Failures in both love and marriage often result when one partner does not live up to the expectations of the other. This suggests that there is no real partnership, but rather that one partner is being selfish with the other. In this situation a couple lives together in an inner state of separation and hypocrisy.

    In the Tao te Ching, a Chinese philosophical work of the sixth century B.C., there is a beautiful and clear statement about self-knowledge. The author, Lao-tzu, declares: "Knowing others leads to Wisdom; knowing the self leads to Enlightenment. Mastering others requires force; mastering the self calls for inner strength."

    Self-examination is both a touchstone and a support in life. It strengthens the mental attitude necessary for self-development. It is a very personal practice and should not be made a topic of general conversation, for doing so results in psychic dispersion and weakened self-confidence. Positive self-examination deepens the capacity for intuitive experiences. It creates a state of enhanced receptivity. By seeing ourselves in a clear light, we can eliminate negativity and doubt, which tend to pollute our relationships. Authenticity within the couple fosters spontaneity, thus liberating the relationship from the conventional and predictable. Invoke an earnest desire to know your true self. Put aside self-doubt and fears.

    Self-examination is a prerequisite of any practice of meditation. It can be performed at any time and is an internal reflective process far removed from the mind's chatter and random thoughts.

    Self-examination starts with the observation of one's relation to the things and events of the world. Try to view all experiences as connected to one another and to oneself; notice the fine details and cultivate an inquisitive but detached attitude. Examine whatever comes to you and try to understand the causes behind each situation and your actions in it. A simple procedure for self-examination is to sit comfortably in front of a mirror, close your eyes and empty your mind of all thoughts. Then gradually begin to open your eyes, looking at the reflection in the mirror as if meeting that person for the first time. See what sort of impression you make on yourself. Notice how changes in your facial expressions are linked to thoughts and emotions. Gradually enter into rapport with your mirror image, gently relaxing your face while maintaining conscious control of breathing. If you notice negative qualities in your reflection, make a careful adjustment of attitude and emotion, using the breath to stabilize the psyche. Imagine that you are replacing a negative quality with a positive one, and try to feel the "new you" as real and lasting. Then gradually close your eyes and concentrate on assimilating the experience, imagining it as pervading your whole being.

    The essence of meditation is using the mind to know the self. External objects can help in meditation, but should not be relied upon exclusively. A lit candle can, for example, be a helpful aid to self-examination. Study the flame and focus all thought upon it. Then compare qualities in yourself with the bright dancing candlelight. Imagine that the flames are burning away all the impurities in your psyche. Then mentally center an image of the candle flame between your eyes and keep it burning in your mind. Bathe your whole being with this inner light of the mind and use it as a focus for self-examination.

    By knowing yourself you can come to know others. Don't criticize others before correcting faults in yourself. Only through self-examination can you develop real insight. Real insight requires courage and rigorous honesty. An attitude of constant self-examination will quickly overcome inner obstacles to growth and generate a marvelous potential for Tantric love. Self-examination is the most direct path to the experience of non-duality and mystic awareness. Only in that experience can a physical relationship take on a lasting meaning.

bhakti and shakti

    There are two important requirements for the person embarking on a journey of self-awareness. These are the provisions that sustain one on the journey. The first is Bhakti, meaning faith or devotion. This quality can make the impossible possible. On the spiritual path, faith dissolves self-doubt, and devotion speeds one rapidly to the goal. By maintaining faith in the higher direction of evolution, one will overcome all obstacles. Faith has no substance, but is a deep feeling; people generally cannot say why they have faith, they just know and believe.

    The erotic sentiment stimulates faith and leads to commitment. Eroticism can create the awareness of a timeless state of non-duality. There is an Eastern saying that "in the unsteady mind enters time"; faith is a timeless and steadying experience that can transform an ordinary physical love into the supersensual union of a "god" and "goodess," the highest attributes of our spirits. The truly erotic experience is always timeless; the couple evoke faith in each other and awaken the non-dual essence within. So it is with faith in the cosmic nature of our consciousness and in the highest spiritual ideals common to every inner tradition. Test your faith by the practice of self-examination: open in your heart a field within which lasting faith can grow. Be devoted to everything you believe in and especially to the transforming power of sexual energy. A couple who are united in faith and mutual devotion can experience their true natures as god and goddess.

    The second provision for the journey is Shakti, the Divine Energy of Creation, the exalted feminine principle that pervades all things. The term Shakti has several connotations, all of which relate to creative energy. In the human body this energy is located primarily in the sexual region. It is the power of transformation, an uplifting and liberating force that, when awakened, leads to the ecstasy of fulfillment. It is the power of the orgasm, the thrill of sexual delight, the sudden flash of insight. Shakti exists on many different levels, from the physical to the very subtle. When Shakti is evoked during sexual love, the couple can awaken to a new creative potential within themselves. Recognizing and honoring Shakti opens the path of love.

    There is a well-known Tantric saying that "without Shakti the lover is but a corpse." Shakti is especially concentrated in woman and it is this power that enables her to give birth. The term Shakti therefore can also refer to the female partner, without whom no act of Tantric love can be completed. An "inner woman" exists in both men and women and manifests as sexual energy. This natural (bisexual) quality of all human beings results from our origin through the union of the two sexes. The attempt to suppress this natural androgyny in favor of an exaggerated "male" or "female" emphasis has created serious psychological imbalance in the West. Psychiatrists report sexual role confusion as one of the dominant neuroses in contemporary society.

    A liberated attitude to sexuality demands an awareness of the natural bisexuality of all human beings. The couple should make full use of this kind of awareness during lovemaking and playfully exchange sex roles, recognizing that there is a female in every male and a male in every female. Both Taoist and Tantric teachings state that it is important to recognize the significance of role reversals when engaging in mystic sexual practices. This does not mean that a man needs to become "effeminate" or a woman "aggressive." Rather it means one should let go of preconceptions about sexual roles and allow spontaneity to enrich the relationship. Honor male and female qualities equally. Try to understand the mystery of life through the subtle interplay of male and female principles. All that is created is but an emanation of the one Creative Force of Nature. In this world the female principle, or Adi Shakti (Original Shakti), is particularly exalted and as such should be greatly honored.

    A man's attitude toward women is a direct reflection of his attitude toward life. Therefore a man should always take care to honor the female principle in his partner, in other women, and in himself. Likewise, a woman should recognize the qualities of the Goddess in herself and try to embody them. She should also try to relate to the "inner woman" of her partner, aiming to please both aspects of the One Creative Power or Shakti. When a man spontaneously views his partner as an embodiment of Supreme Shakti, the Creative Goddess, she will respond with Bhakti, pure faith and devotion. She will become his high priestess and initiatress into the mysteries of love; he will then reveal himself as her Lord and Lover.

Table of Contents

Sexual Secrets: 20th Anniversary Edition
The Alchemy of Ecstasy
New discoveries on the origins of the secrets
Preface to the 20th anniversary edition
Publisher's Preface
Part One: Brahma The Creative
Part Two: Shiva The Transcendental
The Buddha
The Yellow Emperor
Part Three: Vishnu The Preserver
Summary of secrets

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