SCOTT JEFFERY, Ph.D.
Lecturer in Sociology: Perth College, University of Highlands & Islands
Tantric Transhumanism: An Esoteric History of Human Enhancement
The human Scott Jeffery received his PhD from the School of Applied Social Science at Stirling University in 2013. His time is currently divided between lecturing in Sociology between Perth College, UHI and Stirling University. When not teaching he can be found performing stand-up comedy and updating his blogs, including the main hub Nth Mind which covers many topics related to Post/Humanism, comics studies, film and the esoteric. His first book, entitled The Posthuman Body in Superhero Comics: Human, Superhuman, Transhuman, Post/Human will be published by Palgrave in the spring of 2016.
This paper proposes a model of Tantric Transhumanism as a counterpoint to the dominant intellectual frameworks underlying much Transhumanist philosophy. Though it is concerned with the proactive enhancement of human bodies and minds with technology many argue that Transhumanism is an ideological descendent of the Enlightenment with its roots in rational humanism. Viewed this way, Transhumanism lends itself easily to both utilitarian and neo-liberal economic visions. While both the European Utilitarian model and the American Libertarian model both present as rational, materialist philosophies (albeit differing along ideological lines) there remain strands of Transhumanist thought that have a more problematic relationship with these very same Enlightenment ideals of rationalism and materialism. Never the less, a second strain of “irrational” Transhumanism which appears to betray a metaphysical or even mystical streak can be discerned.
This strain of Transhumanism runs through the Western occult tradition (indeed, the founder of Theosophy Madame H.P. Blavatsky was writing of the ‘post-Human’ as early as 1888). An alternative history of Transhumanism, which might be dubbed “Tantric Transhumanism” presents itself; one which takes in Crowley and contemporary chaos magick, as well as the transpersonal psychologies of Maslow, Groff and Timothy Leary. Tantric Transhumanism merges modern science and new technologies and archaic spiritualties in a matrix of mutual influences that cultural theorist Erik Davis attempts to capture with the term ‘techgnosis’. Tantric Transhumanism may be said to focus more on the transformation of consciousness rather than the body or linear, ‘rational’, intelligence. As in the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s, which found archetypal expressions in the Esalen Institute, emphasis is placed on transpersonal and spiritual experience. Contemporary ‘trans-spirit’ research including a renewed scientific interest in psychedelics, meditation and the emerging field of neuro-theology all speak of the need to rediscover Transhumanism’s hidden history, with the hope of providing a corrective to the rational-libertarian discourse that currently marks its territory.