"In saying my prayers, I discovered the voice
of an innermost self,
the raw nerve of my identity."
~ Gelsey Kirkland (1986)
Mind Caviar, Vol. 2 Anniversary Issue, 2001
Sacred Sex #1
by Sabrina Qedesha
Sacred Sex can be many things to many people, and there are as many definitions as there are practitioners. In our culture, even the term "Sacred Sex" is charged, since most of us have been raised to see sex as anything but sacred. Even nudity can sometimes cause us trouble; the natural shape and appearance of the body is often something to be hidden, and its functions are often kept out of sight, and usually out of mind. Fighting our natural sexual impusles may cause negative tension within many people. As a result, when some people do encounter nudity, or sex, or thoughts of sex, their responses may be stronger, more negative, even difficult to control, than they would be otherwise. Nearly every social hangup about sex can be traced to the fact that our culture thinks of sex as bad or dirty, even evil.
One result of this potential problem is that our sexual interactions with one another may often go wrong from the very start. In many relationships, sexual intimacy can be a major problem. There is either too much sex and too little intimacy, or too little sex and too much intimacy for anyone to feel particularly comfortable. Sex becomes a goal in itself, the object of fixation, and sometimes even addiction. Others develop sexual habits which are direspectful towards sex, which can be unhealthy psychologically, and lead to sexual experiences which are unfulling or unappealing.
You may find this unusual, but historically, our culture's negative attitude towards sex is the exception, not the rule. Many cultures, both past and present, have not had the same misconceptions regarding sex. These cultures kept sex in perspective -- as a good thing -- but also as something that must be respected. Sex is the source of life, and so in many cultures sex is associated with thoughts of a bountiful harvest or a hunting ground full of fauna. Since it is possible that any single sexual encounter can change one's life for the better or worse, and since there may be repercussions both good and bad, some cultures felt that sex must be respected. Therefore, many cultures throughout time have included sex, either directly or symbolically, in their religious rites.
"Where did the idea come from, that sex is bad?"
Where did the idea come from, that sex is bad? I have some theories I'd like to share with you. I have learned that the main teaching of most mystics is that there is a life-force flowing through each of us -- it has been called chi, qi, prana, or ka in various Asian, Indian, or Egyptian teachings. The only way to acquire mystical experience is to control this life-force by taming the body's needs and sensations. The most frequent form of mystical control is by abstinence. Thus, hunger can be controlled by abstaining from food, or certain types of foods; breath can be controlled by yogic breathing exercises (during which the breath is held for up to a minute at a time); and finally, sexual impulse can be controlled through celibacy.
The mystics were so pleased with the results of their abstinence, they tried to pass their exercises on to their followers. The followers, who were generally in awe of the mystics, but probably unable to duplicate their results, mistook the body control exercises for religious truth. If a mystic told a student, "Sex will keep you separate from God," the student, more often than not, took this to mean that something about sex was inherently bad. This seems to be what has happened in some branches of Buddhism and in early Judaism.
The historical reasons behind Judeo-Christian negativity towards sex are complex. Elaine Pagels did an excellent job of tracking the development of sex negativity in Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. The early Christians inherited negative attitudes towards non-marital sex from Jewish mystic sects such as the Essenes. They also rejected the practices of other non-Judeo-Christian sex-positive religions. While the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian pagans used sex in their worship, the Christians concluded that sex must somehow draw one away from God, rather than towards God. Saint Paul was probably only writing for mystics when he wrote that flesh and its needs were ungodly, but it has been interpreted more literally. [Ed. Note: Much has been written regarding St. Paul as a notorious misogynist (a woman hater) and possibly a homosexual, therefore the sexual union between woman and man was considered undesirable and/or detrimental to all men in his eyes, save for procreational purposes.]
So, for the western reader, the idea of Sacred Sex is a paradox, a misnomer, a mystery. How can something "bad" or "unholy" be used in a good way? Sacred Sex is simply the inclusion of sex in religious or magical rites, based on the belief that it is inherently a good thing. The traditions surrounding the offering of sex as a religious devotion were most vividly developed by the Indians and the Chinese, who raised it to a high art. Frequently when methods of sacred sex are mentioned, what is refered to are the Indian or Chinese methods: complex, stylized systems of Tantra-Yoga which mainly come from Hinduism or Taoism. Not all styles of Tantra involve physical sex; for example, Buddhist Tantrism uses sex only symbolically.
Sacred sex practices are not different, in and of themselves, from secular sex. That is, they run the entire gamut of practices, from hugging, kissing, massaging, through fellatio and cunnilingus, to intercourse in various positions. Styles of sacred sex, though, go beyond the simple mechanics of sexual intercourse. Many styles, such as karezza or yabyum, involve extended periods of slow, or even motionless, intercourse which lasts for hours. Sacred sex often involves preparation -- from yogic exercises designed to increase sexual response or longevity, to use of scented lotions, bath oils, and incense, and other sensory treats.
A Form of Intimacy, of Prayer
Some of the more obviously religious practices of Sacred Sex may include yogic breath or posture techniques that can alter one's consciousness. Other practices include performance of prayer or religious ritual, in which one partner (usually the female) is considered to be divine, and the other partner (usually the male) is a devoted worshipper. More subtly, Sacred Sex involves a sense of reverence for life, for happiness, for lovemaking. In the West, Sacred Sex does not involve the aspect of worship so much, though exercises and yogic methods are often used; in America the focus is frequently on the building of intimacy between the partners -- which could be seen as religious in the sense that marriage is frequently considered analogous to the relationship between God and the church.
Combined, these practices can result in an experience that is much different from the sexuality most Americans experience. An hour or more of near-motionless intercourse provides a unique experience which is deeper, more intense emotionally and spiritually, from the kind of sex most Americans are used to. What is removed is the urgency, the sense of focus on the orgasm as a goal in itself, and what takes its place is a feeling of being in the moment, of living fully, of contemplating each sensation, and of focusing on the sheer bliss of having a body. Ironically, taking the time to experience sex in this way can make normal encounters, or even quickies, more fulfilling. Our sex life can feel more rounded, more complete.
My primary goal in this column
is not to describe the practices or trappings of sacred sex so much as
the frame of mind behind it, to help my readers become comfortable with
the idea, so that they may try Sacred Sex in the privacy of their own home
and in special relationships. Each column will have homework lessons which
I hope will be fun and enriching for you and your chosen partner(s).
Sabrina's Sacred Sex Homework Assignment #1
As you make love, imagine that your partner is a god or a goddess incarnate. He/she has chosen to bestow upon you the time and effort involved in lovemaking -- giving you personally a gift of pleasure and happiness.
In the next column, I will provide an overview of Shakti-Tantra, a way of praising the feminine.
Sacred Sex " Copyright © 2001 Sabrina Qedesha. All rights reserved.
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