Sex and Sexuality


David Pratt

April 2002, last rev'd Jun 2009


Part 3 of 3



Contents

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3
    6. Pleasure at a price
    7. Leaving sex behind
    8. Chastity links




6. Pleasure at a price

The primary biological function of sex is procreation – to initiate the growth of a new physical body in which a soul may incarnate. It is only natural that this act of creation – necessary for the continuation of the species – should be highly pleasurable.

    In the animal kingdom sex generally takes place only at certain times of the year and for the purpose of reproduction, as animals have no selfconscious intellect to interfere with their natural instincts. Birds lay eggs, and most mammals deliver their young in early spring, when the months ahead are warm and food is plentiful, and the mating season is adjusted to this end. In the human kingdom, on the other hand, most sexual activity is for pleasure and sex can be indulged in all year round, including to excess. Our hedonistic culture constantly bombards us with 'erotic' images and promotes the message that an active sex life is essential to health, sanity, and happiness. Sexual pleasure has become one of the false gods worshipped by modern society, alongside the pursuit of wealth, power, and status. Self-indulgence, rather than self-discipline, is the overriding aim.

    It is no accident that the human kingdom is afflicted with a variety of sexual and degenerative diseases unknown in the animal kingdom. The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is on the increase [1]. In the US, STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, urethritis, genital herpes, and hepatitis-B affect over 13 million people each year, and by the age of 21 about 1 in 4 people are infected with them; the venereal disease rate among homosexuals is as much as 22 times the national average. Gonorrhoea, which can lead to infertility, is treatable with antibiotics, but there are reports that it is becoming dangerously antibiotic-resistant in several countries [2]. H.P. Blavatsky stated that 'by turning the holy mystery of procreation into animal gratification', humanity had become 'a helpless, scrofulous being, ... the wealthiest heir on the globe to constitutional and hereditary diseases, the most consciously and intelligently bestial of all animals!' [3].

    Sex is a natural act whose natural consequence is the creation of a new human being. However, a variety of mechanical, chemical, and surgical means are used to try and avoid this natural outcome, in order to allow unlimited sexual indulgence. One of the main means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies is the contraceptive pill, which is used by over 80 million people worldwide. It is designed to prevent fertilization by interfering with the natural workings of the female reproductive system, and is associated with many health problems, including subfertility, depression, allergies, thrombosis, breast cancer, mineral imbalances, migraine, and strokes. In addition to the abortions attributable to chemicals and devices used primarily for contraceptive purposes, there are well over one million surgical abortions each year worldwide. Adverse physical effects of abortion include sterility, future miscarriages, extrauterine pregnancies, bleeding, perforated uterus, blood clots, and death. Serious emotional and psychological complications are also common.

    When the body is sexually aroused, it is in a state of stress; frequent stress lowers the body's natural defences and makes it more vulnerable to disease. An orgasm sends it into convulsive spasms and the tension is discharged, which the mind interprets as 'pleasure'. However, this does not bring permanent satisfaction, for soon the cycle of arousal and discharge begins all over again; sex can easily become an addiction and the more it is fed the greater the craving for it becomes. But giving in to every sexual impulse that takes hold of us is not a sign of freedom but of slavery. In eastern traditions in particular, compulsive, recreational sex is seen not so much as a sin but as a weakness, a waste of time and energy, while sex for the purpose of generating a new body for a soul to inhabit is regarded as a creative, sacred act.

    During sexual intercourse heart rate doubles, respiratory rate triples, and blood pressure increases considerably. The nervous exhaustion following intercourse can induce a state of amnesia, disorientation, and lethargy. In exceptional cases, the vascular and muscular excitement involved in arousal and orgasm can produce even more unfortunate effects, especially in men, as Havelock Ellis describes:

Fainting, vomiting, involuntary urination and defecation, have been noted as occurring in young men after a first coitus. Epilepsy has been not infrequently recorded. Lesions of various organs, even rupture of the spleen, have sometimes taken place. In men of mature age the arteries have at times been unable to resist the high blood-pressure, and cerebral haemorrhage with paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse with young wives or with prostitutes has sometimes caused death. [4]

    Many partners find that bouts of passion are followed by 'hangover periods', in which they feel emotionally alienated from each other. Marnia Robinson links these see-saw relationships to body chemistry [5]. The buildup to orgasm is accompanied by the release of dopamine, the craving neurochemical, which creates intense anticipation of pleasure. (Dopamine surges are associated with all addictions.) Orgasm triggers a burst of pleasure neurochemicals (endorphins and oxcytocin), as do compassionate caring, altruism, and affection. But orgasm also releases prolactin, which lowers sexual desire and can cause depression. The common result is a cycle of compulsive sexual gratification followed by an emotional slump. Stressful relationships lead to high levels of cortisol, which is sometimes called the death hormone because it can age us rapidly and lower our immunity to disease.

    Thus sex does not necessarily bring happiness and is certainly not synonymous with love. One study found that more people find more pleasure in watching TV, helping others, reading, and pursuing their various hobbies than in having sex [6]. Liz Hodgkinson writes:

deep inside ourselves, we know that physical sex does not have the power to make people happy and stay in love with each other. Most of us who have tried it know to our cost that sex causes far more problems than ever it solves. We know, if only unconsciously, that a physical activity, however blissful or all-consuming it may seem at the time, can never heal an emotional wound, or increase happiness and contentment. ... One of the reasons, I firmly believe, that so many marriages are desperately unhappy is that we are always looking to the other partner to satisfy us sexually. When they are unable to do this, or when we cannot respond to them, much hurt, anger and feelings of deep rejection follow. [7]

When not accompanied by deeper feelings of love and intimacy, sex can lead to the condition known as 'postcoital tristesse' ('sadness after sex').

    Apart from the health risks, another argument commonly cited in favour of sexual moderation, as far as males are concerned, is that sperm and seminal fluid are rich in lecithin, calcium, phosphorus, iron, cholesterol, vitamins E and B, nucleoproteins, and sex hormones [8]. Loss of these substances, for whatever purpose, has a devitalizing and debilitating effect on the body, and the faster semen is expended the more the body must strain to replace it. If it is conserved, it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used to nourish the tissues of the body, especially the brain and nervous system. No two constituents of the body show greater similarity in their lecithin, chlolesterin, and phosphorus contents than brain cells and semen.

    Hinduism in particular emphasizes that semen is a sacred fluid, a creative force, whose conservation contributes to physical health, moral stamina, intellectual vigour, and spiritual growth. This point of view was echoed by the French author Honoré de Balzac, who, after a night of passion, would lament: 'There goes another novel!' It is well known that athletes and prize fighters are still often advised not to have sex in the runup to a big race or match, and according to ancient tradition it is beneficial to abstain from sex before any major physical or mental challenge.

    Whatever the benefits of conserving one's own sperm, and despite sperm's role in the conception of a child, Donald Tyler MD argues that foreign sperm (any sperm into a woman, and another male's sperm into a man) are a potential major cause of cancers and other serious diseases [9]. Sperm can not only enter another person's body directly through ejaculation; sperm pooled in a woman's vagina can move into the urethra of a subsequent sex partner. Sperm invade the lining or surface membranes of internal and external genitalia, sometimes causing pus and mucous discharges or sores, and once they enter blood vessels they can reach any part of the body. The fusion of a sperm with an ovum produces rapidly dividing cells that result in a multi-trillion cell baby in nine months. Sperm invading cells other than ova could account for all the characteristics of malignant cells, including their rapid uncontrolled division and abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Sperm and their parts invading a body are the equivalent of a cell or even organ transplant. Antibodies attacking the sperm may also attack cells and organs of the host body, causing autoimmune diseases.

     The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and rectum, and produces part of the fluid that makes up semen. About one in three men have symptoms of prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate) between the ages of 20 and 50. The most common cause is said to be infection, including sexually transmitted infections [10]. When a man becomes sexually excited, all the pelvic reproductive organs, including the prostate, become congested with blood. John Tilden MD argued that when the prostate is continually subjected to this engorgement, it becomes inflamed and enlarged; this can impede the flow of urine, and the prostate may eventually become a fibrous tumour [11].



Bladder and associated organs in the male (posterior aspect).

    Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the western world, and the second most common cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer is related to age, genetics, diet, lifestyle, medications, and other factors. Most studies have found that sexually transmitted infections (especially gonorrhea and syphilis), a high number of sexual partners, or a high level of sexual activity can increase prostate cancer risk by up to 40% [12]. Other factors associated with increased cancer risk include obesity and consumption of animal fats (especially red meat). A few studies have found a correlation between high ejaculation frequency and reduced prostate cancer risk. A study by Giles et al. (2003) gave rise to misleading media headlines around the world (and all over the internet) that masturbation provides protection against prostate cancer – yet Giles' inconclusive study actually gathered no information whatsoever about masturbation [13]!

    As far as women are concerned, it is commonly believed that there can be no escape from premenstrual and menstrual losses of mucus and blood, including vital substances such as iodine, lecithin, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and sex hormones. The truth is that ovulation need not be accompanied by often painful and prolonged menstruation; no haemorrhage or rupture of blood-vessels is natural and normal [14]. Leucorrhea and excessive menstrual bleeding result from an inflammatory condition of the mucus membrane of the uterus. As well as contributing to chronic inflammation of the vagina and uterus, frequent sex (especially if it begins at an early age) can lead to various other genital complaints, which sometimes assume a malignant form, including cervical cancer.

    It is interesting to note that animals in the wild, with the exception of certain apes, pass through periodic seasons of 'heat' without any noticeable discharge of blood, whereas domesticated animals do menstruate, as a result of confinement, overfeeding, and sexual overactivity. It is also significant that women menstruate much more profusely in 'civilized' societies than in 'primitive' societies, and prostitutes much more so than nuns, for example. Evidence suggests that immoderate sexual behaviour (and erotic fantasies) and a high-protein flesh diet are important factors in causing menstruation, and numerous women have reduced menstruation or eliminated it altogether by adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle. It is a telling fact that the average age at which girls begin to menstruate has fallen from 14 to 12 since the sexual revolution (compared to 16 or 17 among hunter-gatherers).

    Diet has a significant influence on sexual desire and behaviour. Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, salt, spices, onions, garlic, alcohol, (nonherbal) tea, coffee, and tobacco, for example, can all act as aphrodisiacs. Animal products, especially meat and seafood, contain uric acid, which irritates and inflames the genital mucous membranes, triggering sexual arousal. A low-protein vegetarian diet, on the other hand, tends to have the opposite effect [15]. Overeating is endemic in the rich North, and is reflected in the high incidence of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. In a wartime experiment, 32 men reduced their food intake from 1700 to 1400 calories daily for six months. They reported that sexual desire, erotic dreams, nocturnal ejaculations, and aggressive impulses all but disappeared [16].

    Contrasting the effects of sex and exercise on the body, Dr Edwin Flatto writes:

The sex act is essentially catabolic (destructive metabolic action). Sexual stimulation causes the blood to become congested in the pelvic and reproductive organs of the body. Sexual intercourse entails the loss of vital fluids containing the most essential elements and hormones. Sex weakens the individual and places a strain on the heart.
    Exercise is anabolic (constructive metabolic action). It entails bodily action which develops and maintains physical fitness. It is essential movement for keeping the muscles strong and healthy. Proper exercise benefits and strengthens all the vital organs, improves the blood circulation, and strengthens the heart muscles. [17]

    In the vegetable kingdom, after a plant bears fruit it weakens and often dies. Annuals which flower when only a few weeks old die in a few months. Apple and orange trees live much longer than peach trees, because they grow more slowly and bear later. Nut trees bear fruit even later in life and many live more than 1000 years. By clipping off buds to prevent flowering and seeding, not only is the life of the plant lengthened, but annuals may become biennials or perennials. In the animal kingdom, too, reproduction is basically a movement towards death. The Pacific salmon, trout, shad, and several other varieties of anadromous fish die soon after spawning. Male drone bees and male spiders usually die soon after, or even during, mating; the male of the black widow spider is sometimes so weak afterwards that the female eats him. Higher animals are far less likely to die after sex but, as a general rule, the earlier an animal reaches puberty and the more often it mates, the shorter its lifespan [18].

    In the human kingdom, spiritual adeptship and the development of the highest occult powers require perfect self-mastery and are incompatible with sexual indulgence [19]. By leading lives of utmost purity, mahatmas are said to be able to live in the same body for several hundred years if they wish [20]. Among other things, sex has adverse effects on the 'third eye', the organ of spiritual vision.* Theosophy asserts that in the third root-race this was an actual physiological organ located towards the back of the head, but as evolution proceeded down the 'arc of descent' (into matter), and spirituality was supplanted by 'the newly-awakened physiological and psychic passions of the physical man', it gradually lost its powers and atrophied [21]. Finally, it became the pineal gland – an endocrine gland, shaped like a pine cone, located within the third cerebral ventricle along the midline of the brain. In some lower vertebrates the pineal gland has a well-developed eyelike structure, while in others it functions as a light receptor. It is now widely regarded by science as the evolutionary forerunner of the modern eye.

    The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, which affects sleeping patterns, biorhythms, and sexual maturation. Significantly, it is large in children and begins to shrink with the onset of puberty. Lecithin, an organic phosphorized fat, is a chief constituent not only of semen but also of brain and nerve tissue, and the pineal gland is richer in lecithin than any other part of the body. During sexual stimulation impulses are sent up the spinal cord to the brain, and this prevents the 'reopening' of the spiritual eye. It is said that in the seventh root-race, millions of years from now, the pineal gland will once more become active in all humans as the organ for the seventh sense – spiritual intuition [22].


References

  1. Sexually Transmitted Diseases: information and images, www.healthac.org.
  2. New Scientist, 28 Feb 2009, p. 4.
  3. H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press (TUP), 1977 (1888), 2:411.
  4. Havelock Ellis, Psychology of Sex, New York: Mentor, 1963, pp. 28-30.
  5. Marnia Robinson, Peace Between the Sheets: Healing with sexual relationships, Berkeley, CA: Frog, 2004 (www.reuniting.info).
  6. Gabrielle Brown, The New Celibacy: A journey to love, intimacy, and good health in a new age, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 1989, pp. 8-9 (see 'Chastity links').
  7. Liz Hodgkinson, Sex is Not Compulsory, London: Sphere Books, 1988, pp. 8-9.
  8. Raymond W. Bernard, Science Discovers the Physiological Value of Continence, Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research, 1957 (see 'Chastity links').
  9. Donald E. Tyler, The Other Guy's Sperm: The cause of cancers and other diseases, Ontario, OR: Discovery Books, 1994 (see 'Chastity links').
  10. www.fpahealth.org.au/sex-matters/factsheets/64.html.
  11. Edwin Flatto, Warning: Sex may be hazardous to your health, New York: Arco, 2nd ed., 1977, pp. 29-40 (see 'Chastity links'); Edwin Flatto, Super Potency at Any Age, New York: Thorsons, 1993, pp. 37-44.
  12. R.B. Hayes et al., ‘Sexual behaviour, STDs and risks for prostate cancer', British Journal of Cancer, v. 82, 2000, pp. 718-25, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10682688; K.A. Rosenblatt et al., ‘Sexual factors and the risk of prostate cancer', American Journal of Epidemiology, v. 153, 2001, pp. 1152-8, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11415949; L.K. Dennis and D.V. Dawson, ‘Meta-analysis of measures of sexual activity and prostate cancer', Epidemiology, v. 13, 2002, pp. 72-9, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11805589.
  13. G.G. Giles et al., 'Sexual factors and prostate cancer', BJU International, v. 92, 2003, pp. 211-6, www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1464-410X.2003.04319.x; Comment on Giles et al. by S. Brody, www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2004.04581.x; Comment on Giles et al. by R.T.D. Oliver, www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2004.4630_1.x; www.newscientist.com/article/dn3942-masturbating-may-protect-against-prostate-cancer.html.
  14. Raymond Bernard, The Physiological Enigma of Woman: The mystery of menstruation, Health Research, n.d.; Hilton Hotema, Secret of Regeneration, Health Research, 1963, ch. 179-185, 188-189.
  15. Sex is Not Compulsory, pp. 167-75; Raymond W. Bernard, Nutritional Sex Control & Rejuvenation, Health Research, n.d.; Swami Sivananda, Practice of Brahmacharya, 18, www.sivanandadlshq.org/download/brahma_nopic.htm. See 'Chastity links'.
  16. Elizabeth Abbott, A History of Celibacy, New York: Scribner, 2000, p. 85.
  17. Warning: Sex may be hazardous to your health, pp. 133-4.
  18. Ibid., p. 17; Secret of Regeneration, ch. 193.
  19. A.T. Barker (comp.), The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, TUP, 2nd ed., 1975, pp. 122, 274 / Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House (TPH), chron. ed., 1993, pp. 161, 137; The Secret Doctrine, 2:295-6; H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, TPH, 1950-91, 12:702.
  20. G. de Purucker, The Esoteric Tradition, TUP, 2nd ed., 1973, pp. 922-3; H.S. Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, TPH, 1974, 2:218.
  21. The Secret Doctrine, 2:302.
  22. G. de Purucker, Man in Evolution, TUP, 2nd ed., 1977, pp. 202-4.


7. Leaving sex behind

In most societies up until our present times, celibacy has been held in higher regard than sexual activity, as something people could aspire to. The lives of great sages and spiritual teachers who have led celibate lives are still looked upon by many as a source of inspiration in transmuting personal passion into universal compassion.

    In her book A History of Celibacy, Elizabeth Abbott writes: '[T]hroughout the ages, celibacy has been a double-edged sword. As a chosen lifestyle, it may empower and liberate, but when coerced, it can repress and crush' [1]. The oppressive effects of enforced celibacy can be seen in the Catholic church. Since the early 1960s, nearly a quarter of the world's working priests have resigned and nearly half of all parishes have no priest at all. Despite their vows, about half the Catholic clergy are uncelibate [2].

    Sex drive varies immensely from one person to another, and also in the course of a person's life, depending on where their thoughts are focused. Many people find that sex declines in importance the more attention they devote to more satisfying and rewarding pursuits. Several surveys have revealed a trend towards less frequent sex, less interest in casual sex, and an increase in the number of people giving up sexual relations altogether. About 10% of women, 8% of heterosexual men, and 10% of homosexual men are not involved in sexual relationships [3].

    Many couples find that manipulating each other's erogenous zones and exchanging body fluids sooner or later lose their erotic charm. 33% of married people are abstinent for two months at a time on average and many for three months or more. After the birth of a child, mothers often find that their interest in sex declines significantly. One survey found that 72% of American women would be content to be held close and treated tenderly and forget about the sex act, 40% of these women being under 40 years of age [4]. Diminished sexual appetite on the part of one or both partners may lead to conflict, or to desperate attempts to turn each other on again, or to the pursuit of extramarital sex. But if accepted as a natural development, it can be seen as an opportunity to relate to one another more on other levels. For many people, sexual moderation is easier within a relationship than outside one. And couples who choose to raise children face a challenging and vitally important task, requiring all the higher, unselfish qualities they can find.

    People who freely choose to refrain from sex for many months or years, or even for a lifetime, are often called 'secular celibates' if they are not members of religious communities. They speak of the relief of being free from sexual distractions, and of feeling healthier and more energetic, both physically and mentally. They welcome the greater freedom and autonomy that celibacy brings. Many find themselves developing deeper and closer friendships, but free from the worries, frustrations, ill feeling, possessiveness, jealousy, and dependency that can make sexual relationships such a burden. Elizabeth Abbott explains her own decision to give up sexual relations as follows:

Much as I once reveled in sexual indulgence, I realized that at this stage of my life, I value even more the independence and serenity chaste solitude brings me. I welcome my freedom from the jealousy and possessiveness that characterized the most passionate of my relationships, and I am immensely and perpetually relieved that someone else's domestic demands no longer dominate my daily agenda. [5]

    While some people cannot even conceive of life without sex, for others sex holds no fascination. One celibate woman writes: 'I find [sex] a messy and embarrassing sport. Without the required lust it all seems rather pointless.' A male celibate writes: 'Sex is terribly overrated. It is more banal than many people are willing to admit. ... I used to enjoy solitude very much when I was younger. I would like to recapture that spirit of thoughtfulness, mindfulness, intellectual and spiritual seeking that celibacy makes possible' [6]. People who voluntarily opt for celibacy generally find that the longer they go without sex, the easier it becomes.

    Liz Hodgkinson, author of Sex is Not Compulsory, says that since she and her husband adopted celibacy 'we have been completely happy and healthy in every way. We have gone down with no deficiency diseases, and we are not walking round in agonies of sexual frustration. Far from it. We are pleased to be freed from the dark and desperate urges of the body. It is a wonderful liberation, a release, a life-enhancing choice.' The sexual urge, she says, 'has simply vanished' [7].

    Martin Poulter, who used to maintain the Celibate FAQ webpage [8], writes:

I'm always thrown for a loop when asked why I wouldn't have sex. I don't have any great sexual urges, so the act of mutual membrane-agitation seems so arbitrary: the question makes little more sense than 'Why not regularly stand in a big tub of yoghurt?' I can be impressed – moved, even – by a woman's beauty, but I fail to make the connection between that and a need to do something to her. When you see a beautiful flower, you don't need to go up to it and lick it, do you?

He sums up some of the advantages of celibacy as follows:

A whole load of worries are taken off your mind. You don't even have to think about contraception, venereal disease, physical compatibility, who sleeps on the wet patch, impotence, frigidity, bizarre sexual injuries, whether to swallow, whether your partner is good in bed, sexual fidelity, how to stop the bed from creaking, shave or not shave, wash or not wash, whether you know enough positions, orgasm faking, whether to experiment or which flavour of condom to choose. This must surely free up several cubic inches of brain tissue.

    After putting together a special issue of What is Enlightenment dealing with sex and spirituality, the magazine's editors commented: 'we were intrigued to discover that celibacy is a more taboo subject than is tantric sexuality. The more we looked, the more apparent it became that, generally speaking, the subject of celibacy does not often arise for the spiritually inclined. In fact, in the postmodern spiritual marketplace, talk of renunciation of any kind is rarely heard. ... Sometimes even just speaking about [celibacy] makes people angry and upset' [9].

    There is often a certain ambiguity in talk about celibacy and chastity. For many people (especially in the West, where trying to have your cake and eat it is a way of life), celibacy simply means refraining from sexual intercourse with a partner. Others, however, define celibacy more strictly as abstention from all forms of sexual activity, including masturbation. Perfect chastity also entails freedom from sexual thoughts. Dr Franz Hartmann wrote: 'Abstinence in acts is useless for spiritual development, unless it is followed by abstinence in thought. Enforced celibacy does not make a priest; a true priest is a saint, and saints are persons who have outgrown their carnal desires' [10].

    Some people think that without a sexual outlet, semen will simply accumulate in the male, leading inevitably to nocturnal emissions ('wet dreams'). This myth reflects the widespread ignorance of the key fact that unexpended semen is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. The testicles can actually produce more semen in one day than the body's receptacles can hold. There is no evidence that celibate men have more nocturnal emissions than sexually active men. Nocturnal emissions are often a sign of inflammation and congestion of the urethra, resulting from frequent sexual activity and/or a highly stimulating diet. Other causal factors include pressure on the seminal vesicles caused by their being sandwiched between a distended (constipated) colon and full bladder [11]. If all these causes are eliminated, and if all sexual thoughts and fantasies, and other types of erotic stimuli are completely curtailed, nocturnal emissions will not occur. This may take several lifetimes to achieve.



    The Sanskrit word 'brahmacharya' literally means 'conduct of Brahman (the Absolute)', i.e. perfect purity in thought, word, and deed. It is often used as a synonym for chastity, which is a time-honoured tradition in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Chastity is considered essential for the attainment of the highest spiritual illumination and enlightenment. This attitude contrasts starkly with the teachings on 'tantric sex' or 'sacred sexuality' that are becoming very popular in the West. According to Tantrism, those who lose their own personal consciousness in the sex act, while understanding sexual ecstasy to be an aspect of divine bliss and an offering to the Divine, can achieve rapid spiritual evolution. If the male learns to control the urge to ejaculate,* a bout of tantric love-making can even be prolonged for many hours!

    Swami Chidananda says that for one person in a million the tantric-sex path may work, but for most people it simply amounts to pandering to lust under the guise of spirituality. The sex force is sacred, he says, but 'sacred sexuality' is a misnomer because, given the frailty of human nature, once people get enmeshed in sexuality, the sacredness tends to be forgotten. He says that sex focuses our entire attention on that part of our physical nature that we share with the animal kingdom, and this is hardly going to help us attain cosmic consciousness. If freely chosen, brahmacharya does not mean repressing or denying sexuality; it means ceasing to identify with the body and personality, and seeking to express a higher dimension of our being, for which sexual gratification is a meaningless delusion [13].

    Sudhir Kakar writes as follows on the attitude towards sexuality in modern Hindu culture:

[S]exuality, whether in the erotic flourishes of Indian art and in the Dionysian rituals of its popular religion, or in the dramatic combat with ascetic longings of Yogis who seek to conquer and transform it into spiritual power, has been a perennial preoccupation of Hindu culture. ...
    Indian 'mysticism' is typically intended to be an intensely practical affair, concerned with an alchemy of the libido that would convert it from a giver of death to a bestower of immortality. It is the sexual fire that stokes the alchemical transformation wherein the cooking pot is the body and the cooking oil is a distillation from sexual fluids. The strength of this traditional aspiration to sublimate sexuality into spirituality, semen into the elixir Soma, varies in different regions with different castes. Yet though only small sections of Indian society may act on this aspiration, it is a well-known theory subscribed to by most Hindus, including non-literate villagers. In its most popular form, the Hindu theory of sublimation goes something like this.
    Physical strength and mental power have their source in virya, a word that stands for both sexual energy and semen. Virya, in fact, is identical with the essence of maleness. Virya can either move downward in sexual intercourse, where it is emitted in its gross physical form as semen, or it can move upward through the spinal cord and into the brain, in its subtle form known as ojas. Hindus regard the downward movement of sexual energy and its emission as semen as enervating, a debilitating waste of vitality and essential energy. Of all emotions, it is said, lust throws the physical system into the greatest chaos, with every violent passion destroying millions of red blood cells. Indian metaphysical physiology maintains that food is converted into semen in a thirty-day period by successive transformations (and refinements) through blood, flesh, fat, bone, and marrow till semen is distilled – forty drops of blood producing one drop of semen. Each ejaculation involves a loss of half an ounce of semen, which is equivalent to the vitality produced by the consumption of sixty pounds of food.
    [E]ach act of copulation is equivalent to an energy expenditure of twenty-four hours of concentrated mental activity or seventy-two hours of hard physical labour. ...
    If, on the other hand, semen is retained, converted into ojas and moved upwards by the observance of brahmacharya, it becomes a source of spiritual life rather than a cause of physical decay. Longevity, creativity, physical and mental vitality are enhanced by the conservation of semen; memory, will power, inspiration – scientific and artistic – all derive from the observation of brahmacharya. ...
    These ideas on semen and celibacy ... are a legacy of Indian culture and are shared, so to speak, by Hindu saints and sinners alike. ...
    The notion ... that sexual urges amount to a creative fire – not only for procreation but, equally, in self-creation – is indeed compelling. [14]

    Hindu teachings state that sexual excitement has an equally negative effect on females, due to the drain on vitality and nervous energy.

    Kakar also observes that, 'Whereas, on the one hand, there are a number of sages in the Indian tradition (Gandhi is only the latest one to join this august assemblage), who are admired for their successful celibacy and the powers it brought them, there are, on the other hand, also innumerable folktales detailing the misadventures of randy ascetics.' The following is a tale about the fall of a Japanese sennin, or 'man of the mountains':

Kume-no-Sennin lived an ascetic life in the mountains near Kume-dera, a Buddhist temple, and had developed the ability to feed on air and to fly through it. One day when he was winging through space, enjoying his heavenly freedom, he saw a woman washing clothes in the river beneath him. Then he noticed her white feet gleaming in the water and flew nearer, mesmerized. As he hovered in the air above her, his lustful thoughts neutralized the power that had kept him aloft, and he came crashing down to earth.
    The sennin was not injured by his fall, but he never regained his powers. He did, however, gain a wife and descendants. [15]

    There is a story about a young man who went to Socrates to ask whether or not he should marry. 'It doesn't matter much one way or the other,' Socrates replied. 'Whatever you do, you'll regret it!' There is at least a general consensus that the most stable and satisfying personal relationships are those based on mutual love, commitment, trust, and respect rather than fickle and ephemeral desire. As Henry Edge writes:

Personal love, the theme of poetry and romance, is compact of Love and passion. The latter, like fires in general, flames up fiercely and then dies down; and, if there is nothing more, the result is disillusionment and sorrow. But, if the divine element has entered into the feeling, then the true Love remains after the passion has subsided. But personal love, however sublime it may seem, is still a limitation, and but a stepping-stone to universal Love. True Love does not desire to possess its object, for it does not seek personal satisfaction. This may seem a high ideal, but it is true; if it is too high for you at present, yet seek not to deny it; follow whatever is best in you. Step by step we climb. [16]


References

  1. Elizabeth Abbott, A History of Celibacy, New York: Scribner, 2000, p. 426.
  2. Ibid., pp. 384-6.
  3. Gabrielle Brown, The New Celibacy: A journey to love, intimacy, and good health in a new age, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 1989, pp. 6-7 (see 'Chastity links').
  4. Rosalyn M. Meadow and Lillie Weiss, Women's Conflicts about Eating and Sexuality: The relationship between food and sex, New York: Haworth Press, 1992, p. 75.
  5. A History of Celibacy, p. 22.
  6. First-person accounts of celibacy, [www.glandscape.com/celifirst.html].
  7. Liz Hodgkinson, Sex is Not Compulsory, London: Sphere Books, 1988, pp. 8-9, 11.
  8. The Celibate FAQ, [www.glandscape.com/celibate.html], http://stason.org/TULARC/sex-relationships/sex-celibacy/index.html.
  9. What is Enlightenment, no. 13, Spring/Summer 1998, pp. 88, 150 (www.wie.org).
  10. Franz Hartmann, The Life of Paracelsus and the Substance of his Teachings, San Diego, CA: Wizards Bookshelf, 1985 (1887), pp. 91-2fn.
  11. Raymond Bernard, Nutritional Sex Control & Rejuvenation, Mokelumne Hill, CA: Health Research, n.d. (see 'Chastity links').
  12. Mantak Chia, with Michael Winn, Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating male sexual energy, Santa Fe, NM: Aurora Press, 1984, pp. 120-4.
  13. Sri Swami Chidananda, The role of celibacy in the spiritual life, www.sivanandadlshq.org/download/celibacy.htm, What is Enlightenment, no. 13, Spring/Summer 1998, pp. 102ff (see 'Chastity links').
  14. Sudhir Kakar, Intimate Relations: Exploring Indian sexuality, New Delhi: Penguin, 1990, pp. 118-22.
  15. Rodney Charles and Anna Jordan, Lighter Than Air: Miracles of human flight from Christian saints to native American spirits, Fairfield, IO: Sunstar Publishing, 1995, p. 82.
  16. Henry T. Edge, 'Love', The Eclectic Theosophist, no. 112, July/August 1989, p. 5.


8. Chastity links

The following links offer an antidote to the constant outpouring of sexual messages from the mass media, cinema, popular music and literature, advertising, etc. The material represents a variety of viewpoints.

Books and articles:

  • A humorous look at love and relationships

  • Edwin Flatto, Warning: Sex May Be Hazardous to Your Health

  • Gabrielle Brown, The New Celibacy

  • Raymond Bernard, Science Discovers the Physiological Value of Continence

  • Raymond Bernard, Nutritional Sex Control & Rejuvenation

  • Buddhist sexual ethics: two views

  • A.L. De Silva, Homosexuality and Theravada Buddhism

  • Sri Swami Chidananda, The role of celibacy in the spiritual life

  • Sri Swami Sivananda, Practice of Brahmacharya

  • Sant Shri Asaramji Bapu, The Secret of Eternal Youth

  • An aryurvedic view of masturbation

  • Donald E. Tyler, The Other Guy's Sperm: The cause of cancers and other diseases

  • Liz Hodgkinson, Sex Is Not Compulsory

    Websites:

  • Celebrating celibacy, celibrate.org

  • Sexually transmitted diseases: information and images, healthac.org

  • New life habits, newlifehabits.com

  • The Celibate FAQ, glandscape.com/celibate.html

  • Antisexual stronghold, antisex.info/en


  • Sex and sexuality: contents

    Sex: theosophical quotations

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