This month's contents:
Photo: Bob Fergeson
We issued a call for papers on the topic: "Does sex have a role to play in the spiritual search?" This month's essays are responses to that topic, interspersed with a few choice quotes.
From "A History of Celibacy" by Elizabeth Abbott | Saving & Rechanneling Energy by Don Juan / Carlos Castaneda | Celibacy by Paul Constant | Restraint by Mahatma Gandhi | Accomplishment by Gary Harmon | Sex and the Siddhi by Bart Marshall | My Experience with Celibacy by Shawn Nevins | An Acquired Habit by Nisargadatta Maharaj | There Is No Search by Steven Norquist | Sex as an Obstacle in Your Search by Anima Pundeer | Find Out for Yourself by Heather Saunders | The Tantric Distraction by David Scoma | The Light Bulb by Art Ticknor | Humor
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From a review at MPR.org: Readers who consider celibacy the exclusive domain of priests and nuns are in for a big surprise. Elizabeth Abbott's entertaining history traces over 3,000 years of sexual abstinence and illustrates how it has been practiced all over the world for a variety of reasons, both religious and secular.
… New factors have mitigated the old considerations, principally religious and moral issues, and social expectations, which now influence far fewer individuals’ judgment and decisions about sex. As a consequence, sexual abandon far outweighs celibacy on the scale of acceptability. Active sexuality, though sometimes fatal, is the majority's lifestyle of choice, and celibacy is widely rejected as untenable, symptomatic of deep psychological problems or even a horrid punishment akin to death itself.
This revulsion stems in large part from the false assumption that celibacy is a form of sexual anorexia, a regimen designed for members of religious orders who only the most peculiar laypeople would voluntarily embrace. This is a blinkered view of celibacy, which can take immensely complex and different forms. As the millennia of its history have shown us, experiments in celibacy have ranged from the communal chastity of the Essenes and the Shakers, the individual commitment of the Christian Fathers and the Brides of Christ, and the utter repression of all sexuality by the brahmacharins. Celibacy can also be devoid of spiritual significance, like that of the Dahomeyan warriors, who used it to transcend the restrictions imposed on other women. It can be coerced, as it was on eunuchs or unmarried and unmarriageable virgins. Its longevity ranges from a monk's lifetime or the decades-long virginity of the vestal virgins to the six weeks favored by Muhammad Ali prior to his boxing bouts and the temporary chastity of shamans training for careers as conduits between mortals and their gods.
… Other celibates rejoice at their sense of heightened spirituality. Quite apart from shamans and members of religious orders, these secular celibates have testified to their sense of profound connection with God and with the ambience of otherworldliness. Today, many still speak of inner exploration, of serenity, of connectedness.
Here's a link to "A History of Celibacy" on Amazon.com.
Saving & Channeling Energy
Paul wrote the following responses to a series of questions about his own experience with celibacy and Richard Rose's teachings:
What exactly does celibacy mean to you?
When I say "celibacy," I mean abstention from all forms of sexual behavior—coitus, masturbation, and reverie.
How did you decide that celibacy would help your spiritual path?
Much of what I learned came to me directly from Richard Rose. When I encountered Mr. Rose's books at the age of 21, a door opened, and one year later (in 1985) I personally met Rose. He considered celibacy as a core aspect of his teachings because it offered a critical tool to improve self-analysis and build tension, thereby expediting the search for Truth. It is this backdrop that set the stage for my lengthy period of celibacy.
What did Rose say?
Often, Mr. Rose gave advice that was very specific to the individual—their appetites, habits, gender, and age. He knew that celibacy is most propitious when a teacher is available to answer questions and guide the student. He also thoroughly understood the protection of Thaumaturgical Laws, and knew male and female psychology better than anyone I have ever met. He advised people to undertake a simple test by reading a deep spiritual book, abstaining for 28 days, and then re-reading the book to gain a fresh perspective. During personal discussions and while talking among groups, he frequently offered his perspectives on entities and getting our life under control.
My notes contain, among many others, the following quotes from Richard Rose:
"Celibacy develops creative genius and intuition—items needed to carry a man where there are no railroad tracks."
"I have taught a moral system of philosophy that helps a person survive life by maintaining the highest physical and mental strength."
"Some people are immediately offended with the idea of celibacy, because they cannot achieve it."
"Fulfilling nature's plans [i.e., sex] is not a sin, but I say resist the plans."
"A true virgin is not someone who has never indulged in sex, but rather someone who chooses prolonged abstinence over indulgence. This decision gives real power."
"Everybody has governing agents which build forces around them and lead them around. Celibacy is the only way to escape this. If you are not celibate, you get bounced back and forth until you get bounced down a narrow channel that has been picked for you."
What happened next?
At the age of 23, I began an eight-year period of complete celibacy. Before the celibacy, all aspects of my physical sexuality were normal. That is, I suffered no physiological impairments that would have prevented a sexual relationship. For eight years, I practiced what I considered a sincere path of self-analysis, and the celibacy was simply one element of that path. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, and faced with the same alternatives at age 23, I would change nothing and again engage in celibacy in a heartbeat.
Did celibacy increase your energy?
It did not make me Superman. It did not keep me from getting ill (e.g., common cold, flu, etc.). And I was still tired after a hard day's work. I do not recall a tremendous change in physical or mental energy levels, either after initiating the celibacy or subsequent to cessation later in life. But I must qualify my situation by stating that I have always tempered my sexual outlets, even during my teenage years. If I were to speculate, someone who is quite active in a sexual sense may experience marked contrasts in energy levels as a result of celibacy.
Did it increase your intuition?
Unequivocally—yes. But here again, I was "sensitive" from the outset. More importantly, over the years, the celibacy improved clarity and focus, and it became much more apparent to me that I was engaged in spiritual activities that were nonsensical. In the words of Mr. Rose, I was better able to "back away from untruth" by seeing thought patterns and activities that were not expediting my attempts at self-definition. Lest the reader becomes overly enthralled with the possibilities of riding a "high horse" of celibate superiority, I do not know if engaging in celibacy will improve intuition for everyone. But I believe the odds are quite in favor of the mind's improved capacity to intuit and reason during celibacy.
What other benefits did you derive from celibacy?
On the most mundane level, total abstention will disengage a seeker from distractions connected with sexual relationships. Likewise, celibacy will inhibit pursuits that grow out of odd sexual practices. The key is gaining any possible edge during a spiritual search. Celibacy helps a seeker to stay sharp and focused on a goal. In my case, I sought the Source of my awareness, which the body and mind seemingly resist at all costs. Ultimately, the path—the backing away from untruth—led me to a final conundrum that dissolved in an instant when No One remained to solve the problem.
Why did you stop being celibate?
At the age of about 31, I broke my celibacy because I was floating adrift in spiritual doldrums, feeling like I was no longer destined to discover my Source. Soon after, I "found" my wife-to-be and later married her.
What advice would you give to someone trying celibacy? Things to watch out for, ways to help success, etc. Any other message-in-a-bottle thoughts you would leave with people?
What did Richard Rose say about celibacy in his book, "Energy Transmutation, Between-ness and Transmission"?
"The aim should be temporary, total abstinence from the conscious sex act."
In the subsequent paragraphs, Rose further defines each segment of this sentence. He states that temporary means we should not set a deadline. For example, a self-defeating approach involves thinking that you might try celibacy for [number of weeks/months/years], but give up if it doesn't work.
Total abstinence means refraining from reverie, coitus, self indulgence, and all other forms.
Conscious sex act means having an attitude of truly not identifying with the act, and this doesn't simply mean an indifference. Many people will falsely latch on to this last phrase, thinking they are not conscious during the act. He provides more wisdom on this topic in the book.
History is replete with ascetics who believed that the act was evil, and that God would only smile kindly on the holy celibates. Rose disagreed, saying he did not believe in sin, and advised anyone who undertook a period of celibacy to consider it a temporary holiday from the energy expenditure. At some point in the future, we may return our debt to nature in the form of normal reproduction.
In the book, Rose offers a caveat that is especially worthy of consideration: "Celibacy is a science. It can kill you if you are not a skilled master of it."
In addition to Energy Transmutation, Between-ness and Transmission, Mr. Rose's lectures, available on CD, and other writings contain more material on the above topics. See the Books & Recordings page for information on these publications.
As we endeavor to accomplish anything we will be faced with the cost of the accomplishment whether it is a material objective, or a desired result such as wisdom. It does seem that little in this life comes as complimentary and that there is expenditure for most everything that is worth doing or surmounting. The more rare and precious, the higher the price will be. An accomplishment to one person may be impossibility or complete absurdity to another. There are many different needs that people have such as winning prestige, or having the most money. Then there are the people that play a different role that seems meaningless to the majority, but important to the few that are interested in discovering the root of their own existence. That will take a very determined person to locate their own essence. We could believe, as many do, what others tell us, if we are that trusting and believe what has been recorded. Perhaps you're not one of those that can accept the belief that we are what has been written in books, or what the preacher or current scientific theory tells us.
We are left with an enormous problem: to discover directly the truth of why and who we are will require the most dedication that we are capable of assembling and we must start from scratch using non-opinionated basic tools. Whatever might be tried to focus our thinking and energy is a necessity, for drifting into true spirituality is highly unlikely. Effort and desire needs to be refocused on definition. The retreat from worldly programmed pleasure might be seen as a bargain when it is time to assault the barrier.
An easy way that we might see the programmed cycle is to refrain from any sexual dissipation for 28 days, and then read a book or esoteric poem that you had read earlier. Often it is found that new meaning has been unearthed in the understanding of the author's words. The provocation of thought might be seen in a different light as our patterns regarding physical pleasure have been rechanneled by the victory at containing and transmuting energy. People that have been labeled genius usually focused on a single-pointed question which generated results that might be labeled miraculous. Nikola Tesla did not know exactly what he was looking for or how it would appear. But through persistence and insight he would find a way to harness electricity and transform the mysterious properties of it into a workable medium for humanity. We seek an even more mysterious goal, the ultimate unknown. It is only logical to use the dynamo that as animals we have been given. It is a powerful force that must be respected, but can attract the wrong kind of attention if one is not careful to treat it as one would handle nitroglycerin. I have had friends make a million dollars by using one-pointed attention, and other friends that found their very essence using the same dedication to their goal.
There is danger for anyone that lives near the proverbial lunatic fringe, and it is always a good idea to have a mentor to advise and work with you as you push the envelope's barrier. There comes a time when you must ask yourself just how serious you are? At first you might find that you are only wishful and not really committed, though you will probably think that you are. That may go on for decades, if it is too pleasurable a condition. Life might then throw you an unexpected curve causing you to realize that everything that is a truth to us is an interpretation of our current consciousness. If we are influenced by outside likes and desires our interpretation of truth will be influenced as well. It may then be seen that the most simple is the most advantageous, and conserving energy to transmute it into a higher type of fuel is a requirement if there is to be any transcendence to an elevated terrain where truth for truth's sake without condition is unmistakable.
J.J. van der Leeuw has said, "The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved but a reality to be explored," which speaks of a confusing paradox. He wrote the book The Conquest of Illusion in the hopes that he might shed some light on the actuality that what most people consider life is but shadows on the wall, as Plato suggested. He is actually speaking to those aspirants who are longing for the conquest of illusion. Living from the place that the shadows are transmitted from is to transcend from a shadow existence through the projected ray of the projector that creates the proverbial shadows. Abstinence and vacationing from the picture show are powerful situation-tested effective methods.
Sorry about the title. I usually scratch even inadvertent puns in rewrite, but this one hung in. The Sanskrit word siddhi is often used to denote a special power, but the literal translation is "attainment," or "success" in the pursuit of supreme knowledge. As seekers we read books, attend gatherings, network with fellow travelers, and now, surf the web in our search for the right practice, technique, bit of magic, or way of holding the head that will propel us into enlightenment. The numerous offerings of advice in this regard range from aromatherapy to zazen, and include a variety of prescriptions for dealing with the powerful human urge for sex.
Although there are some teachings to be found that recommend sexual activity as part of the path, for the most part spiritual systems deal with sex as a problem that must be overcome if one has higher aspirations. Catholic monks and nuns take vows of celibacy. Buddha taught the elimination of all cravings, including sex. And on a more personal level, Richard Rose, the man I came to regard as my spiritual teacher, regarded celibacy as the cornerstone of any serious seeker's life.
His thinking on this had nothing to do with morality—as we've come to view the Catholic prohibition—nor was it Buddhist in the sense that sex is just one of many cravings blocking the doors of perception. Rose's reasoning was more akin to that of the athlete who gives up sex before a fight or big game. It's all just a matter of energy. What you use doing one thing won't be available for something else.
Rose maintained that in order to have any hope of enlightenment, one had to be celibate for an extended period in his twenties—when the level of sexual energy is at its highest—and transmute the energy thus conserved to a spiritual purpose. Further, he held that seeking was for the young and unencumbered, and that if enlightenment didn't happen by age 30, you may as well hang it up.
As luck would have it, I didn't meet Rose until I was 44, married with three kids, and had spent my twenties bedding as many women as I could manage and still have time for occasional food and sleep. If Rose was to be believed, my situation was, to say the least, hopeless. I prayed for a loophole.
It was not the first time I had encountered a linkage between energy conservation and enlightenment, however. Before Rose, my most influential teacher was Don Juan. When a new Castaneda book came out I immediately bought the hardback and read it straight through, then started over. In the midst of all the shamanic adventures and drug experiences that were the main focus of my fascination, was a recurring theme of universal energy, including methods of harnessing and storing it for personal use.
As Don Juan and his fellow "man of knowledge" Don Genero explained it, each of us is born with a relatively fixed quantum of energy. Some persons have a large quantum and an almost unlimited capacity for renewal, allowing them to dissipate as much energy as they care to without drawing down the amount they have available for other pursuits—like sorcery and spiritual matters. This was the case with Don Juan's teacher, Julian. Julian had been a libertine all his life and continued to be so after he became a man of knowledge—indeed, keeping a virtual harem of female sorcerers around him. At the other end of the spectrum, they explained, are persons with an extremely low quantum who need to conserve all the energy they can if they are to have any hope of spiritual knowledge. This was the case with Don Genero, who, as a young apprentice, was told by his teacher that his energy situation was particularly dire, and that henceforth, "Your pecker is only for peeing."
Though much of what Rose taught became the foundation for my seeking from then on, I never practiced celibacy. Partly, I suppose, because my time for a decent return on the investment had long since passed, but mostly because it was too difficult. I never fasted either, or had much luck maintaining a meditation discipline. Asceticism is just not my nature. All my chips were on the loophole.
Turns out, it's there—as Rose well knew. A hole so limitless that Rose and Don Juan and Bart and the universe they inhabit disappear into it. When, in a timeless instant, without cause or reason, undue to worthiness or effort, an unseen arm sweeps the canvass clean of all-that-never-was and there is only the hole—crystal clear emptiness encompassing everything.
Awareness alone exists. There is no one to do spiritual practices. No one to write or read stories about sex and enlightenment. Right where you are, there is no one.
I practiced celibacy for several years. I believed that celibacy built a reserve of energy that needed to reach a sufficient level to break-through to enlightenment—like a rocket reaching escape velocity. I started the practice on the advice of Richard Rose. I felt he had achieved what I wanted (enlightenment for lack of a better word) and it was reasonable to follow the advice of a successful person in any endeavor one pursued.
My vital energy meter, however, did not increase as the years passed. I didn't feel stronger, smarter, or more spiritual.
As a single man, I did realize that sex was the road to family life and I wasn't ready to open that box. What energy I had, I wanted to devote to introspection, reading, meeting with others, and other experiments in the spiritual life. My life was a full plate, and didn't need more complications.
Now, some years after the celibacy experiment, I feel that celibacy increased my intuition. Our area of focus is where we will have intuitive leaps. A successful soldier develops a battlefield intuition, an entrepreneur develops a financial intuition, and a Casanova develops a sexual intuition. Celibacy, along with other lifestyle simplifications, hones the introspective intuition. It helps settle the thoughts and eases the "urgency of habits" of which Rose spoke. In this quieter, more subtle mind, intuition may be heard. Intuition is a tenuous connection with a higher aspect of our self. It was best described by Rose as the "ray of creation." Developing the intuition is akin to fine-tuning the mind to hear the signal from home.
I recommend experimenting with celibacy. I suspect that a month of celibacy may be as beneficial for one man as a year is for another. Naturally, there is the potential to rationalize our aborted attempts, so it is good to discuss our thinking process with a trusted friend who has an understanding of what we are attempting.
There are countless arguments against celibacy and even arguments against taking any action to "attain" a spiritual realization, but I am primarily interested in those who see a glimmer of sense in the idea of celibacy. I offer my success on the spiritual path as a testament to its value.
An Acquired Habit
Some people will argue strongly that sex is a powerful and viable method to enlightenment. They will argue that the tantric path is the path of bliss, that ecstasy and bliss are the very nature of what God is, and that sexual union is the method given whereby the two polarities of God i.e. male and female join and gain union once again. They will make a strong argument that in this joining is released the creative force that brings all manifestation into being and a careful control and expression of this sexual energy can bring enlightenment.
In the other camp are the celibates, the virgins, the pure. They argue that the sexual energy is something that must be redirected and focused away from physical concerns and towards the higher purpose of love and devotion to God directly. To use this energy in simple physical union is to waste it in a selfish and often degrading fashion and more often than not leads one away from God and into a dark world of physical gratification and addiction.
A quick check of the newspapers, divorce rates, booming multibillion dollar porn industry, unwed mothers and sexually transmitted diseases gives a lot of support to the celibate camp.
I have personally never met a person who either obtained enlightenment or claimed to have gained enlightenment from sex, but there are legions of people who's lives have been destroyed by the full embracing and expressing of sex.
So from a pure evidentiary analysis, taking the bulk of the history of the world into account, it seems very, very unlikely that enlightenment is ever gained through sex.
Now the reality:
Both camps are completely wrong. Neither sex nor celibacy contributes one speck of value to obtaining enlightenment. Enlightenment is not about a spiritual quest to obtain something, there is not a method on the earth to follow that results in something.
The peak of ultimate orgasm does not dissolve you into pure divine awareness anymore than starving in a cave in complete darkness, celibacy and austerity causes the divine light to burst forth.
A trillion years before the first life form emerged and considered the idea of sexual union or celibacy, enlightenment existed perfectly. It has to be understood that Enlightenment is before these, but not other than these.
The greatest lie ever told is that there is a search, a quest. None of this exists. There is only pure consciousness, existing endlessly in perfect peace and perfection.
More than this, there is no one seeking enlightenment, no one having sex, or living in purity, there is only the Universe manifesting spontaneously and perfectly.
There are no selves seeking, no lovers joining, no masters living in purity. There is only endless perfection: mindless, selfless, soulless.
The one who wants enlightenment need only shut up, grab a glass of ice-cold gin and sit in silence and sip.
Enlightenment is already, it is only.
Don't seek, don't grasp.
When you fall overboard and the lifeline is thrown out simply say "No thank you."
This act alone puts you closer to enlightenment than all the purity and starving or glorious humping and thrusting could ever do.
Yet even this act is no act.
Remember, no one is acting or ever could. There is much activity in the world but there are no doers. There is only the Universe manifesting spontaneously, blindly, lifelessly and perfectly. The quicker you get this the quicker you can get back to that cave or bordello.
Listen carefully because I really want you to get this: There are no persons in existence experiencing the universe; there is only the experience of the universe being there with no experiencer.
Consciousness is the not the awareness of something, consciousness is pure existence. The manifestation we call the Universe is consciousness and that alone is existence. Manifestation and consciousness are one in the same. Existence and consciousness are one and the same. The feeling/knowing of this as an everyday fact of life is what is called enlightenment.
There is simply nothing more to it than that. Enlightenment is the feeling/knowing of that which has never not been.
Each and every person does not and has never existed and each and every person has always known that they have never not known this.
So embrace sex or reject it, equally the positions have nothing to do with enlightenment and never did. If you want to follow a path then follow one and enjoy it, but never for one second forget that it is and has always been only the Universe manifesting lifelessly and perfectly in eternal monolithic solitude.
An obstacle is when you find your energy is being spent on something other than your goal. Sex can surely be a major obstacle for a seeker. It is a strong physical desire. Especially when the body is young and nature expects you to procreate, it is hard to have a clear head and to meditate. Hormones in our body are running wild. The seeker starts to feel his topmost desire is to have a relationship. If one pays attention and simply watches, this sexual desire evaporates on its own. It is hard to be a passive observer when one gets hit by this particular appetite. Moreover, the nature of our ego is not to be passive. Pretty soon a person who had set out to find Truth may find himself feeling and falling "in love." Soon, you are on a whole new path of life and one's primary goal gets on the back burner. By the time you realize how you have become a mere peg in nature's game, decades have gone by. If you are lucky, you'll still be able to feel that yearning which had initially made you set out on path to finding Truth. Most of the time you become too busy playing the game of life to even remember that you had yearned for complete Freedom at any point in time.
When you are young you have more advantages compared to when you are older. More energy, less set beliefs, less knowledge, more enthusiasm, earnestness and a belief that you can do it. As we get older, life may make us wiser but it is harder to get away from our false identifications and attachments. The knots are much harder to open.
Any obstacle can be an opportunity to know yourself a little better. To be able to admit and see that under all these special feelings that we have towards this particular person, it could simply be our need for sex, is a milestone for a seeker, in my opinion. When one finds himself having obsessive thoughts about a situation, there are two ways of dealing with it without having to act on it. Either you can try to turn your head away from it and try to distract yourself with something else, or you can try to get to the source of the problem and know its nature. The first option, in my opinion, is a temporary fix. It is sort of running away from the situation. The seeker on the path to finding the Truth has to be a like a warrior. Face the demons you encounter on the path. Once you learn to get to the bottom of an obstacle, you realize you can use the same technique to get beyond any obstacle you encounter. This further leads to a better understanding of the nature of this reality that we live in. Without an understanding of the nature of our universe and how our ego operates in it, we cannot have any detachment or non-identification with our little universe. Any expectation of pleasure or long term happiness from your self or from the world has to be relinquished. Liberation is attained only when one's head is turned away from all attachments, ego, and desires.
For a seeker who really wants to realize Truth, it is important to develop will-power and have self-control. Self-control is considered to be the very core of the vedantic discipline. Without it no progress is possible in spiritual life, nor any success in meditation. According to Shankara, self-control means the development of will-power and also the strengthening of the buddhi, or the determinative faculty, which controls all the sense organs. This helps the seeker to direct his energy and time towards his goal. There will be more than plenty of times when doubts about your goal will arise and you'll want to give it all up in pursuit of immediate pleasure and happiness. One may find himself falling and rising again. Sometimes there is a danger of getting in the habit of falling. Each time you decide this will not happen again and yet when you get hit by these particular winds, you find yourself repeating the same pattern. Self-observation helps us to see through our patterns and gives us some distance. It also helps in understanding the nature of our obstacle and how to get to its source. When we get a real perspective on our obstacle, we can feel free to act in whichever way we want.
For a seeker on a path of Self-inquiry, any obstacle is an opportunity to get close to its source. Finally you may find that source of All is That.
Does meditation have a role, reading, doing isolations, self-inquiry, spending time with enlightened beings….does anything have a role? And if so or if not, how does one know what does and what doesn't? I think the bottom line is that the ONLY way anyone can know if something does or doesn't play a role in the spiritual search, is to figure it out for themselves. To take anyone else's word for it, is cheating - but not even cheating, it's not really finding out because what works for one person may or may not work for another. For me, although I can appreciate the paths that others have taken, and I can appreciate the advice given by others, I always take any direction with a huge grain of salt, kind of like "I'm glad that worked for you, I'll give it a try and see what happens for me". If there were a clear path such as "do this (i.e. abstain from sex) and this (enlightenment) will happen", wouldn't we all be enlightened? This is a solo game with no rules - you have to figure the rules out for yourself. And to believe anything strictly based on someone else's experience is to, well, believe - a four letter word in this search!
As far as sex itself goes, I think that for some tantric sex works, for some abstinence works, and for some, just a normal healthy sex life works (or for that matter, an abnormal unhealthy sex life). For me sex gets put into the same cauldron as vegetarianism, compassion, doing good deeds etc. - none of it bad or good, but does it REALLY have anything to do with enlightenment? Who knows?? Find out for yourself - try everything, try tantric, try abstinence - take an honest look and find out for yourself. Being honest means that if you believe that tantric sex is truly part of the path for you - investigate this belief. Why do you believe that? Do you believe it because someone else believes it, or because you really want it to be true?
The problem with any of these "rules" such as meditation or abstinence, or even prayer, is that they themselves can become just a big distraction - something to actually take our minds off of the real question or dilemma, and keep us busy trying to abstain!
As Douglas Harding always said, "be your own authority" - find out for yourself. Don't believe anything!! Find out.
One need only walk through the aisles of a chain bookstore to see the current overabundance of material packaged under the theme of "tantric sex"—in subject categories ranging from New Age, to self-help, to popular psychology. And that is before one even reaches the actual sexuality shelves.
21st century pop-culture tantra is an extremely questionable "system" when it comes to the potential merits it may possess in the realm of truth realization. Yet the fact remains that it is an undeniably popular topic. It is no secret that the market place (both secular and sacred) has always given the best seats in the house to the topic of sex. Yet is there anything in this current cultural fascination with the subject of tantra—or in mainstream sexuality in general—which can actually be useful for one seeking to realize truth? The answer is: if the universe wants it to, anything can be of use—even tantra—for seeing the blinders and the blind spots that are distracting one from what is real. Merely by committing to utilizing a harsh, discriminating light to identify all that is false. However, the reality is that in the hands of the overwhelming majority of seekers following the modern revisionist approaches to this system, tantra is both a dead end and even an open invitation to engaging in illusion all the more.
However, what makes tantric indulgence a potential distraction from waking up (or alternately, an area for concise dissection of human egoic patterns) can also point to parallel areas of identity and identification that one can examine in their own sex lives. What is required is direct honesty with the subject matter, as well as with the human reactions and tendencies being observed. Unfortunately, directness and honesty are not always the first attributes a human reaches for when dealing with potentially painful, in-depth inquiry. And even if the will is mustered enough to be able to take a level look at topics such as social sexual expectations and norms, (and the fear that is the basis of many of them) how much resolve is left to place that same scrutiny upon one's own patterns? Potential "differences" in opinions or ideologies, (especially if they seem to resonate from the "core" where one at that moment falsely feels their own being to be centered) can provide the openings which may point toward spots of investigation. Perhaps it is the marks and traits of gender behavioral identification. Maybe it is a sexual ideology that is a minority "opinion" when compared to those of the masses. In some cases, it may even be the appearance of physical or physiological manifestations (or in the case of celibacy, religious, spiritual, and ideological ones) which seems to set one apart from the crowd. The reason it is beneficial to do this all with a topic that seems to resonate on a "personal" level, such as sexuality, is because it makes the potential effects of unflinching inquiry stand out more.
An analogy: A person is born with a particular condition, perhaps one which is considered by the "norms" of society as a disability of some nature. While society at large may deem that all is red, and red is all, this individual represents a reality that is strictly blue. No matter how blue tries to see as red, blue is the reality, and there is no getting past that. Red, when even the least bit interested in giving credence to the "reality" as seen by blue (if ever) is still embracing something as "reality" which blue knows experientially to be something quite different. In this way, "blue" has a (supposedly) distinct and unique perspective from which to inquire.
Inquire into what? If honest, those barnacles in the realm of human sexuality can be observed one by one all the way through to their ultimately non-existent core. And in that way, they can be stepping stones which can be utilized by the universe to help reveal that final answer. Examination of gender, roles, societal projection upon carnal behavior, as well as personal preferences within the bedroom are excellent outlets for exploring the validity (or lack there of) that such notions hold in the first place. The exhilaration that arises. The awkwardness. The "self" consciousness, the fear, the ecstasy—where is that all coming from? And far more importantly—"What" is noticing it all in the first place?
Be it eating, breathing, working, having sex—even tantric sex—any move toward focusing on "What" is actually taking that experience in (and away from the human tendency to get lost in and identified with extreme bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions—or with the world at large) is a move toward direct discovery of truth.
I met Richard Rose in the spring of 1978, and in the fall of that year I did my first solitary retreat. It was an amazing experience. I decided to fast for the week so that I wouldn't have to be bothered about food. I'd never tried fasting before and didn't have any idea what to expect. I can't say that part was pleasant, but it had many benefits. For example, in retrospect I realized that I had never once during the week experienced what I had thought was the hunger voice. That "voice" I was familiar with was psychological, not metabolic.
Another advantage of fasting was that I slept very lightly and was consequently aware of many dreams each night. One of those dreams I still remember clearly because it struck me as so funny. In the dream I was riding down a street on a bicycle with a basket on the front. In the basket was a fresh loaf of bakery bread. I began to chew the bread ... then remembered with alarm that I was supposed to be fasting ... and awoke laughing.
I never did a solitary retreat afterward that I didn't at least begin with a period of fasting, so I don't have a control case. But solitary retreats were the only times in my life when I would find myself smiling to myself when alone. At some point in almost every retreat I would become bubbly inside ... as if joy were bubbling through my bloodstream. But I'm digressing.
During that first retreat I read Richard Rose's "Transmission Paper," the current edition of which was published by the TAT Foundation under the title Energy Transmutation, Between-ness and Transmission. In the book he made a compelling case for the need to create mental energy for the successful pursuit of Truth. And he described how mental energy is created: we assimilate food, which keeps the body functioning; an intake greater than is needed for purely metabolic functioning can then be transmuted by glandular processes into a higher level of neural functioning; but useless daydreaming, sexual reverie and sexual waste all act to return that neural energy back to the earth. As I read this transformative writing, a light bulb flashed on in my mind—something I thought only happened in cartoons—and the thought that followed was: The only chance I have for mental clarity is through a prolonged period of celibacy.
When that light-bulb realization formed in my mind, I was surprised to see that there was absolutely no argument with it. I think that was the first time I was ever conscious of such a nonargumentative decision or direction. Later I became convinced that the phenomenon was what people referred to as intuition.
The idea of bringing my sex drive under control had never struck me before that. I was delighted and looked forward eagerly to sharing the inspiration with my wife when the retreat was over. It turned out that I severely misjudged what her reaction would be ... but that's another story.
Celibacy descended like a gift and lasted without the least struggle on my part for nearly five years. After that grace period it took another five years to reestablish it solidly. And it was that struggle which I believe taught me about the factor of "between-ness" that's mentioned in the book's title.
Sometime I'd guess within the first year or two of that initial grace period, Mr. Rose made a remark to me at one of the four annual TAT Foundation meetings on his farm. I had said something in a group discussion, and he responded: "You're brightening up." That struck me as odd, since I'd always been "bright" mentally, picked up subtleties and innuendos easily, had a keen sense of humor, and so on. But thinking about his remark now, and remembering his great mental sensitivity, I suspect he could see that intuition light bulb in people and was sensitive to its brightening or dimming.
I know, although I can't prove it, that sexual continence was a major factor in the brightening of intuition in me. Higher intuition is a direct reception of the "message" coming into the mind from its source and is a forerunner of the direct looking that leads us to recognition of that source—our essential being.
One of the bell-ringing statements that I heard from Richard Rose was that no man will ever stand tall in his own eyes until he brings the sex drive under conscious control. Perfect control may be elusive, but the struggle may bring unimaginably wondrous results.
An interesting web site on celibacy: www.celibacy.info
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