Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sexuality and Spirituality

Part the First

Vespertine Erotica in a thought-provoking essay on “higher love” ( challenges the reader to explore:

What (if any) is the higher purpose of
my specific set of sexual desires at this point in my life?

It as if Elizavetta reached in and somehow pulled out of my mind and soul the questionings I have been exploring over the past year in particular. In particular, I have been having some revelatory moments over the past very painful 5 years, which, in the quixotic way that life has, culminated in a lot of heartache and a reasonably concurrent measurement of insight into self and the nature of the universe as it unfolds around me.

First and foremost, I concluded many years ago that severing the sexuality of a human being from the spiritual and emotional psyches of the person is a philosophical mistake engendered by centuries of effort on the part of a male-dominated, misogynistic theology which (sadly) labelled sexuality as “animalistic” as opposed to thought and faith which were of the “spirit” and thus preferable. Equating the intensity of sexual experience with animals who were considered inferior, religious philosophers speculated that “god” could be understood and accessed only through rationality and a repudiation of the ‘gross’ body.

Centuries have passed and the mindset continues to thrive; every theology espousing a “male” godhead (and thus includes Muslims, Orthodox Jews and Christians) continues to view human sexuality as something to be fought and overcome, something in fact, to be reviled and if possible, rejected. In each of those religions, the highest-status male practitioners are inevitably chaste (or said to be).

One of the ramifications of this philosophy is that sexuality has been marginalized and derided. The spiritual connection which can be achieved (I believe) via the intensity of sexual experience has been eroded and thinned to the point where in our Western world, it has become a commodity rather than a path to greater insight into another facet of existence.

I’m currently re-reading John Barth’s Giles the Goat Boy; which thankfully, unlike other books I’ve revisited in the past several months, continues to delight as much as it did 30 years ago when I first read it. Even better, my older, mature, more jaded eyes and mindset are enjoying parts of it that my younger, more naive comprehension had missed entirely.

But in the context of the discussion here, there is a scene where Giles, having been asked by an older, mature woman (which at this point in the missive, one speculates might be his “human” mother for Giles was raised on a mythical university campus by goats), has asked him to choose – whether he would be a goat or a boy? Trembling on the edge of puberty, assailed by normal, healthy hormonal imperatives, Giles has the mindset of his cloven-hoofed siblings and sex is natural, to be enjoyed, something to seek and have with as much regularity as possible.

He, passionate, avows “he would be a boy” should she allow him to “BE” with her. The reader is instantly aware that “BE” means to have sex but the woman is confused, unaware and when, after a passage of time and repartee, understands his request, is horrified and rushes away.

Giles is left confused, angry and frustrated, unsure as to how he has offended, confused at her horrified comprehension of his lust, stung by her patent disgust. For “being” with someone is, in his world, something so utterly natural and simple – and to be desired … for as he points out “how can it be bad, something so wonderful?”

The point is that Giles (at THAT point) had not stepped out in the world of humanity where there in his mythological university, as in our world, a sharp division is made between the physical and spiritual.

The fact is that as long back as I can remember, I have felt the intensity and potential spirituality of the sexual instinct. I somehow avoided picking up any feelings of guilt or “badness” about enjoyment of my sexuality while at the same time, managing more or less to avoid the many pitfalls in the judgemental, rigidly defined world of the 1970s where (hard to believe) “virginity” was still spoken of in almost reverential tones and girls still “yearned” to be virgins on their wedding night. Even more perversely, boys WANTED their future potential wives to be virgins… while at the same time pulling out all those old chestnuts like “blue balls” and trying to emotionally manipulate a girl into sex through a form of blackmail (you are a “tease”, you “promised”… you can’t stop NOW). Not sure where they expected to find that Shangri-La of virgins once they matured and started thinking marriage …

I negotiated the minefield of teenage dating more or less intact, not without a few battle scars of course – I was dropped more than once because of my failure to “put out”- but felt comfortable in my skin in my refusal to give in to pressure and expectations outside my own. I had a rich and varied fantasy life, having discovered vibrators at a VERY young age and the joys of self-manipulation.

However, I ALSO realized in discovering and exploring the myriad mysteries of my own body, that this wonderful feeling was not something I wanted to lightly share – that the intensity of my sexual responsiveness was somehow beyond a simple physical expression but reached into a realm of which I was only vaguely aware. Although that was a very long time ago, I distinctly remember thinking that sharing this kind of sensuality with another individual could potentially be life-altering – that it truly was not as simplistic as two bodies banging against each other, but sensed, mistily, still uncertain, still unformed and insubstantial, that sharing this wonderful emotive experience, allowing ingress to my body would involve more than a mere physical reality, but in fact, I would be allowing the entrance of someone else as a totality – their thoughts, their emotions, their moods and their conception of self.

I’m not talking about adolescent dreams of the “One”, of marriage and a white picket fence – those were never my dreams. Even at 15, 16 and then 17, I had no desire/urge to “snag” the “One” and at some unsubstantiated time, start the marriage/kids thing. But I sensed even then, that for me, sex with another individual would involve more than the physical but would indeed, engage the emotional and spiritual yearnings (of which I was very aware) which I touched upon, which I sensed, each time I had an intense physical experience.

Ultimately, sex can ground us to our physical world and provide a bridge from gross reality to the spiritual realm which resides within each of us. In short, sex can provide a bridge between the scared and the profane – a division imposed on us by the rigid mandates of a theology which continues today to insist on dividing the “whole” of a person by removing the erotic aspect of their psyche and emphasizing the “importance” of rational thought.

One of the most detrimental impacts of this type of thought process is that sex has become both a commodity and routine – two states of mind which preclude the true merging of what I believe is mean to be a “whole” – our sacred and our profane are simply different faces on the same body …

more to come


Buffalo said...

I have some thinking to do on this one - the subject, not the writing. The writing is definitely up to your standards.

Elizavetta said...

...but sensed, mistily, still uncertain, still unformed and insubstantial, that sharing this wonderful emotive experience, allowing ingress to my body would involve more than a mere physical reality, but in fact, I would be allowing the entrance of someone else as a totality – their thoughts, their emotions, their moods and their conception of self.

Oh, there's so much in this statement! So many doorways to truths about the mystic function of sex.

I'm glad my post inspired you to ruminate on these things, and to write your thoughts. I look forward to your next posts on this.