In response to the ‘Sex Issue’

By Letter to the Editor, by Louis Silverstein

In good part, this week’s issue of the Chronicle provided a comprehensive overview of the role of sex in our lives. At the same time, one important aspect of sexuality was not afforded the coverage it deserves—namely, sex and spirituality. So, I am submitting the [following] for your consideration. Sex, rather than being the great temptation that leads one astray, the surest road to hell, can be a path to spiritual development, and thus a gateway toward greater self-knowledge, personal health, power and the experience of the divine. A divinity seen as a state of wholeness and completeness that is implicit in all of us, with male and female (yang and yin) representing opposite halves of that universal whole. Each is an earthly manifestation of the two cosmic creative forces, whose intermingling brings forth all that exists. When we unite in sex, heaven and earth are joined. The sexual experience offers a glimpse of that wholeness within. It is thus one of the great gifts of humanity, offering a relatively accessible experience of peace, joy and harmony, thus serving as a metaphor for the larger purpose of life. That purpose, say the sages, is to achieve peace, joy and harmony through unification of opposites. Look around you, Lao Tzu might say, and recognize man (masculine) and woman (feminine) as yet another expression of the same cosmic duality that creates day and night, winter and summer, positive and negative, north and south. Bring together these opposites and the world unites in spiritual ecstasy. All too often, both historically and in the present, this vision of unity has been obscured and denied by individuals and institutions that have promoted a schism between body and mind, between religious/spiritual feelings and experiences and sexuality.

Taoist and Tantric sexual practices are based on certain common and fundamental tenets. First is that the body is the temple of the divine, and therefore must be treated with absolute care and respect. To abuse the body with unhealthful foods, drink, thoughts, or behavior is to harm in a grievous manner the very home of the universal spirit. Conversely, to respect and understand the body is to respect and understand the universe itself, for the body is the microcosm of all that exists.

Second, mind, body and spirit are a single whole that is unified by a larger body of energy that permeates our physical form. Among the most important parts of this energy pattern is a channel of energy that flows along the spine, beginning at the sex organs and running to the top of the head. Along this channel, or spiritual axis as it is sometimes called, are six energetic chakras, representing levels of consciousness.

At the sexual center is located a pool of powerful energy, conceived of as a coiled snake, or a female deity, called kundalini. During sex, this powerful force can be released from  its potential state and made to move upward along the spiritual axis, causing each state of consciousness, represented by the specific chakras, to be transformed and illuminated. Ultimately, the kundalini reaches the head in a place between the eyebrows, called the third eye, known in esoteric traditions of both East and West as the place of cosmic consciousness. When the kundalini energy unifies all the chakras as it unites with the third eye, you are open to experiencing the joyous ecstasy of oneness with the universe outside the limitations of time of space, the “experience.”

However, it must be realized that such a possibility of experiencing the divine cannot take place without love, trust and commitment to one’s partner. All the human values must be joined with sex in order to make it elevating and spiritually uplifting. In such a context, sex is a way to the ultimate center within.

 Louis Silverstein 

Associate Professor of Humanities, History & Social Sciences