Spiritual Materialism/ Material Spiritualism: Shakta Tantric Approaches to Matter



Tropical Materialisms, New Materialism, material spiritualism, Shakta Tantra, Akhanda Mahayoga, Bengal, India


In opposition to ontological discourses that denigrate matter and uphold the superiority of the spirit, one can foreground the Shakta Tantric conceptualization of matter and spirit as interchangeable forces that inform the dynamics of the universe. Rather than seeing matter and spirit as incommensurable poles of a binary, Shakta Tantric yoga integrates them. This approach informs the Shakta Tantric universe of the renowned twentieth-century Bengali yogi, Vishuddhananda Paramahamsa whose Akhanda Mahayoga (Integral Great Yoga) integrates certain aspects of classical Yoga with Shakta Tantric discourses of dynamic matter, thereby enthusing the Shakta Tantric yogi to radically re-epistemologize “matter”. This paper explores how Vishuddhananda’s mode of yoga, through theory and praxis, gives rise to a unique philosophy of spiritual materialism or material spiritualism, foregrounding the ways the Divine Feminine – by revealing the fluid interplay of matter and spirit – forces us to jettison the binarization of these two aspects of existence. In the course of this exploration, the paper investigates whether and how the spiritual materialism/material spiritualism of Shakta Tantra may be seen as prefiguring the western discourses of New Materialism and Posthumanism. As Vishuddhananda hailed from Bengal, a tropical region of India celebrated for its association with Shaktism, the paper explores how his view of spiritual materialism may contribute to an emergent episteme of Tropical Materialisms by proposing a possible connection between such spiritual materialism and certain specific aspects of tropical nature that might have led to the Shakta “spiritualization” of its material dimensions.

Author Biographies

Sudipta Chakraborty, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India

Sudipta Chakraborty is a Full Time PhD Scholar at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor of English at The Directorate of Open and Distance Learning, Kalyani University, West Bengal, India. Her areas of research interest include Indic Philosophy, Hindu Studies, Feminist philosophy and Goddess Tradition. She has presented papers in several International seminars and conferences and has several published articles to her credit. She is currently working on Tantra.

Anway Mukhopadhyay, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India

Dr Anway Mukhopadhyay is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, West Bengal, India. His areas of interest include South Asian Studies, Religious Studies (especially Goddess cultures), Performing Arts,Cultural Studies etc. His publications include, among others, Literary and Cultural Readings of Goddess Spirituality (CSP, 2017), The Goddess in Hindu-Tantric Traditions (Routledge,2018), The Authority of Female Speech in Indian Goddess Traditions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). 


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How to Cite

Chakraborty, S., & Mukhopadhyay, A. (2022). Spiritual Materialism/ Material Spiritualism: Shakta Tantric Approaches to Matter . ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(2), 43–64. Retrieved from https://journals.jcu.edu.au/etropic/article/view/3897