If in a previous entry it was said that tantric history would extend over three millennia, and in principle that is true enough. But looking at scientific evidence we find a different picture, simply because the early days are in the dark and unclear.
The problem is that there is hardly any factual and generally accepted proof for tantric forms and developments before the 5th century B.C.E..
Nevertheless, there were first attempts to trace these traditions back to a much earlier date, to place them at the time of the Buddha or the ancient Hindus, or even back to the first civilization of the Indus Valley.
For example, some experts even disagree whether Hindu or the Buddhist Tantra was there first, or whether both directions feed on a pagan and now buried source.
Yet such scholarly discussions should not be involved here. We will try to only distribute humble thematic envelopes, in order to stay familiar with the development of tantra.
In any case, what little consensus exists seems to be based on a Hindu context of tantra and its earliest emergence, therefore, is widely thought to be Hindu.
The devotional aspect
By the middle of the first millennium B.C.E., Hinduism had undergone a remarkable series of transformations, from the ancient Vedic traditions to the classical formation, that we know today. During this time both the tantric and the bhaktic devotional movements originated. While the latter was in late Vedic literature based on a tendency toward monotheism, Tantrism evolved from Vedic ritual traditions as well as from the yogic and meditative traditions that developed in ancient Hinduism as well as in rival Buddhist and Jain traditions.
Hinduism as practiced today is a product of combined tantric and devotional approaches to a practice that was developed during the first millennium.
The eternal misunderstandings
The tantric roots of Hinduism and Buddhism - we'll come to that later - were simultaneously infamous and constantly misunderstood. Due to the strong connection of Tantric traditions with magical practices and the so-called "left-handed path" (v?m?c?ra), associated with sexual and violent rituals, tantric teachings have been confused again and again, at least in the past few centuries, with black magic.
It seems clear that tantric traditions, notwithstanding their originally enormous influence on the practice of Hinduism, are now barely noticed or appreciated by most Hindus.
In a global perspective, however, there is a remarkable asymmetry. Although the term Tantra is now more popular in the West than in its country of origin, India, it is still misunderstood in many ways.
Thus, it is commonly associated with both sex, erotic liberty and disinhibition, as well as eastern spiritual indulgence, tolerance and asceticism.
Tantra, that is also a provocation, probably as timeless and universal as the word itself.