Tantric Obsession

On Wednesday the Rubin Museum invited me to have a conversation with David Vago, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, to speak about tantric obsession and how spiritual bliss can sometimes go terribly wrong. It was a fascinating discussion in an amazing venue. Here are a few highlights.



  1. Elizabeth   •  

    I read the “Death and Madness on Diamond Mountain” article a while back. Having also lead participated in, then led a study abroad trip to Dharamsala through Emory, I found the article captivating. In India, we would also comment on the “crazy injis” and discuss things like religious and cultural appropriation. But, in so many ways, Tibetan Buddhism (through Chogyam Trungpa, Lama Yeshe, etc) lends itself to this type of evangelicalism. It is disconcerting when individuals take on traditions and practices, even meditation/mindfulness which is currently being touted as the ultimate solution to everything, without a firm background in the tradition and advanced practitioners for guidance. Wasn’t there also a NY Times article about McNally and Roach, before the Diamond Mountain even existed? Anyway, I love Carney’s writing and will definitely be buying this book, but is there anyway you can post the whole conversation from the Rubin Museum?

  2. Scott Carney   •     Author

    Thanks. I don’t think i’m planning on posting the whole video from the talk at the Rubin very soon, but I might cut something slightly longer. I do know that the Rubin plans to put it out in a few months at its full length. I’d love to know what you think of the book.

  3. Teresa DeSantis   •  

    Thank you for taking on this challenging topic.

    I have received and read your newest book yesterday.
    I found the book hard to put down- It seemed to move along
    quickly, more like an extended magazine article read.
    I found myself wishing that the structure of the book
    was designed for more time to be given for pause and
    reflection by the reader.

    Also, given the seriousness of the topic, I found myself
    wishing it to be balanced out by perhaps
    more of a sense of camaraderie and humor on the part of the author.

    (As I write this- I find myself thinking of performance artist Laurie
    Anderson’s piece- “Language is a Virus”- where she runs into
    a man involved in “abstract trances,” making some unusual
    vocalizations. links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jvb0-Fm98qI and
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bhldlJ0Aus with interview with Laurie
    at the end of video.)

    Also, I am wondering who is the intended audience for this book?
    From its content, readers might not be the general public,
    but spiritual seekers, psychologists, mental health professionals, even
    fire and police and first responders. Because of the possible
    readership of the book, I found myself wishing the chapter on
    meditation and neuroscience had been longer, and more detailed.
    (Thank you for your detailed references in the back of the book.)
    Also, on the topic of deity possession, I found myself thinking of
    the parallels in Haitian Voudou. As an anthropologist, perhaps
    could you consider exploring more connections at a more in-depth level
    as a part of your investigations in the future.

    Also, I found it curious that there were no illustrations of any kind
    in the book. A few quality maps would help orient the reader.
    Also, including more of the retreatants’ day to day life in the yurts, and an illustration/
    drawing/map of the spatial layout of the yurts, compound, mountain and caves would
    have been welcomed. I enjoyed reading about your own camping in
    the valley and would have liked for you have expanded a bit on your
    own experiences on the spiritual path.

    Best wishes from a Cartographer,

    Teresa DeSantis

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