“Stay, Lady Soul.”

“What do you bid of me, Lord?”

“Take off your clothes.”

“Lord what will happen to me then?”

“Lady Soul, you are utterly formed to my nature

That not the slightest thing can be between you and me.”

“Lord now I am a naked soul

And you in yourself are a well adorned God.

Our shared lot is eternal life

Without death.”

Then a blessed stillness

That both desire comes over them

He surrenders himself to her

And she surrenders herself to him.[1]

Mechtild of Magdeburg 13C

 

This essay will explore sexuality of the mystic to show its vital role in mystical experience. Mysticism is a subset of religious practices and is orientated towards first- hand religious experience of the ultimate goal, which for Christians is God and for Taoists it is “the nothingness” or “the one”.  The method chosen to carry out this exploration will be to compare Christian mysticism to Taoist mysticism. Making comparisons with another religion is an opportunity towards improved understanding and practice for both traditions.

 

Pope John Paul II said:

A great spiritual impulse leads Indian thought to seek an experience which would liberate the spirit from the shackles of time and space and therefore would acquire great value…In India particularly; it is the duty of Christians now to draw from this rich heritage the elements compatible with their faith, in order to enrich Christian Thought.[2]

 

However rather than India I have chosen the mystical tradition of China – namely Taoism. It is well noted that, “China and India gave and received mutually from early times...”[3] The Taoist and Indian sexual techniques for spiritual enlightenment were very similar[4]. Further reasons for reinstating the role of sexuality in mysticism, is as one author states, “the decline of religion in the West may have begun when the experience of sex became more powerful than the spiritual experience offered by religion in prayer or fellowship".[5]

 

Restoring religion in modern society may entail bringing back the “sacred” into the sexual arena. The latter was another reason why Taoism was preferred to Hinduism as the compared tradition, for use of sexual feelings and  imagery in Taoist practice is simpler and more unified than the more disparate and varied approach of the Hindu religion. Further reasons for exploring mysticism is that the author believes that mysticism or direct experience of union with God, is given only low priority in modern Christianity; academic theology, ethics and parish numbers seem to be given more weight. Finally, mysticism offers the possibility of a universalism, where all religions can be regarded as one. Each religion has a special approach to experience God.

 

The first section of this essay enumerates the positive and negative aspects of sexuality within each tradition.

 

Each tradition has multiple positions, for Christianity can vary from perceiving sexual expression as evil to perceiving love as a symbol of the divine human encounter and as a major pathway to experience God. This essay will predominantly focus on the Roman Catholic position, since it is the largest group in modern Christianity and its position is clearly enunciated through the Magisterium.

 

Taoism[6] in general provides a systematic and practical approach to the final union with the Tao. Its negative aspects can be described as indulgent and hedonistic; a vampiric based tradition that preyed on young girls in the search for long life.  It is the intention of this essay to compare the positive aspects of the Christian’s use of sexuality to the positive use of sexuality in the Taoist system, as it would be non-productive to compare the positive aspects of one tradition with the negative aspects of the other.

  

The second section of this essay will explore celibacy in the two traditions. The Catholic tradition considers celibacy to be a manifestation of the kingdom of God here on Earth. Taoists, however, believe that celibacy can be a retardant towards both long life and mystical experience.

 

The third section explores some fundamental aspects of sexuality in the adept: This will include the role of masturbation in the celibate adept. In Christianity masturbation is considered a sin, while in Taoism masturbation without ejaculation is an important aspect of single cultivation.[7] What is the place of sexual fantasies? In those adepts or priests who have a partner, are there specific techniques of coitus that enhance religious experience? In the Christian tradition marriage may only be seen as an outlet for concupiscence while in Taoism the partner may offer the required essence to help find the “one”.

 

The Fourth Section looks at meditation practices or inner experiences of prayer that involves sexual feelings and images. These include raising sexual energies, self-intercourse and orgasm. These will be viewed as preparation for the final mystical experience. The Taoist system formalises the above while in the Christian tradition there is no such categorisation of sexual meditations. Surprisingly however, upon further scrutiny of testimonials of Christian mystics, there is a marked similarity to Taoist descriptions. This section also explores the role of sexual energy in the final mystical experience of God or the Tao. Both systems claim the finals goal in similar terms. For the Christian it is the final union with God while for the Taoists it is the copulation between heaven and earth.

 

SECTION ONE: VARIATIONS OF POSITIONS ON SEXUALITY WITHIN CHRISTIAN AND TAOIST TRADITIONS

 

Christianity

 

The Christians have had a dogged and varied approach to sexuality. In the Old Testament, which was written approximately 1000 years before Christ, we also find various positions on sexuality. The Old Testament attempted to control the behaviour of its followers and set its people separate from other Canaanites, such as the mother goddess cults that shared Palestine.[8] Its views varied from the earthy, natural views as seen in the Book of Ruth to the sex for procreation use only in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

 

Given the difficulties of survival in those times it made logical sense according to Darwin’s principles to promote procreation so that the chosen religion would be passed on.  In Deuteronomy there were harsh penalties of stoning and extradition for straying from the rules of marriage and sexual relations. There were prohibitions of mixing sexuality with religion, with bans on men having relations with “temple women”[9]. In Leviticus there is prohibition against nakedness – with its obvious implications that sex is an offense against God.[10] Strangely, there was little discourse on the pleasures of sex except the Song of Songs for King Solomon. Here there is glorification of the flesh, romantic and erotic love. This type of love was used by Christian mystics such as St John of the Cross, Teresa D’Avilla, Bernard of Clairvaux and Mechtild of Magdeburg.

  

In the New Testament there is even less dialogue on the role of sexuality and certainly the role of sexuality within mystical experience. For obvious reasons, future Christian Mystics would aim to find the way to God by emulating the life of Jesus. Right from the beginning, Christians are told that Jesus was born through “immaculate conception”. According to Joseph Campbell,[11] the deification of certain prophets, heroes and kings has been enacted through this myth. While Jesus is worthy of such accolades, this promotion may be more destructive to adepts who choose to emulate him because by taking away sexuality from the birth of the Son of God, this makes his state unachievable by men born of mortal conception and removes sexuality from the experience of God.

 

Throughout the Bible there is little description of the inner life of Jesus. There is no mention of how he overcomes the trials of chastity. Certainly it is not recorded if he used abundant sexual imagery or sensations in arriving at his state of union with the “father in heaven”. All there is to rely on, are the handed down spoken words of his apostles. St Paul communicates his ideas on sexuality in a reaction to the sexual freedom of the Romans. This was similar to the reaction of the Old Testament against the goddess cults of the Canaanites. Paul also believed that the end of the world was near and was no setting for bringing children into the world. Nevertheless he does say, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” And, “Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every women have her own husband”[12]. This may be reasonable advice for the average lay person leading an everyday life but what about the true adept seeking religious experience? Have devoted Christians of the future been misled? Here the sexual urge is seen as a troublesome force, which leads to sin. Even touch, the basic tool for healing is potentially taken away.

 

Further reaction against sexuality occurred in reaction to the spread of Christianity through European countries that practiced pagan religions. Christianity took a stronghold as it revealed the pitfalls of licentious behaviour.  Origen of Alexandria (185 -245 AD) may have been misled and felt that the only way he could seek union with God was to castrate himself.[13] The Gnostics regarded the sexual urge and fornication as sin[14]. Saint Augustine’s prior Gnostic position, as well as his mentor the Ambrose of Milan, influenced his morality and attitudes. Ambrose also saw sexuality as evil.[15] Augustine was promoted to the status of Bishop and “Doctor of the Church” and markedly influenced the Church and its standing on sexuality. Sexuality took a further downgrading in the 16th and 17th centuries with the spread of syphilis and gonorrhoea, perpetuating the belief that these diseases were a manifestation of God’s punishment for those that indulged in their sexual desire.

 

The Christian Church like all longstanding religious institutions has been open to the destructive forces of power and control. Leaders who seek dominion over the masses rather than assisting the people find God[16] have infiltrated the Church’s structure. This includes the persecution of mystics and the preaching of false beliefs – that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who die and cannot be experienced now[17]. There is also denial of simple human sexual pleasures. William Blake a Christian Mystic quite openly ridicules the priority of chastity in Christianity with, “The Eternals Laugh at us when, a Man dare hardly to embrace his own Wife for the terrors of chastity that they call by the name of Morality.”[18]

 

All this would have negatively influenced adepts seeking mystical experience. These probable negative attitudes towards the sexual impulse would have been detrimental to both the celibate devotee, as well as those choosing marriage. However, there were some that broke through these falsehoods and were still able to find union with God. Christian mystics that allowed sexual imagery and sensations, such as the Beguines of the 13Cand the Spanish mystical school - found their way, despite the odds.

 

In the modern Church there has also been a further attempt at sexual healing, with such works such as Pope John Paul II’s, Theology of the Body and Pope Benedict XVI’s, Deus Caritas Est. In the Theology of the Body the sexual drive is labeled as positive as it strives to find “one flesh”.[19] This union is symbolic of the communion of man and God. Sexuality is definitely positive and is the deepest expression of God’s desire for fulfilling a state of communion. The body has also been pardoned and now seen as sacred. For the body, created in God’s image, is made flesh. The shackles of shame of the body have been cast off. The Pope reminds us that the purpose of being incarnate is that man was created so that he could discover the creator. The redeemer – Jesus Christ, facilitates the ultimate union back to the original state. In Deus Caritas Est -  the force of this ultimate union is  a combined love. This combined love is the descending “agape love” uniting with ascending, “erotic love”[20].

 

So in the last 30 years, there is movement towards approval of the body, sexual desire and reinstatement of the final aim of mysticism, which is to be, “one with God.” Nevertheless as positive as this is, it is still presented in academic theological terms, rather than practical ways for the adept or spouse to find God through prayer. Some would criticize the Church as being shrouded in academic theology and having lost the practical meditation approach to religious experience.[21]

 

Taoism

Taoism is a religion, which was initially heavily influenced by the Hindu understanding of duality and non-duality. It was largely an anti-establishment tradition that was in opposition to the State, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Nevertheless, there were times throughout Chinese history when the emperor or local Lord embraced it. Taoism could be described as a mystical earth-based, feminine, shamanistic tradition, which included much scope for sexual freedom. Using the “yin yang” metaphor to describe its position, Taoism is Yin and the orthodox State/Confucian/Buddhist traditions are yang. This may shed some light on Christianity in its response to the mother Goddess cults of the Canaanites before and around the time of Christ as well as the pagan traditions since then. In some respects this essay is recreating this opposition by confronting Taoism with Christianity. Religions like human beings may also need to seek wholeness by embracing the other half.

 

The dark side of Taoism is partially described by Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est, where he claims some participants are treated as prostitutes and mere vehicles for arousing “divine madness”.[22] Taoism can leads to erotic addiction, sexual vampirism[23] and illegitimate children[24]. To the adept it can lead to a hedonism and perverted attachment to youth and long life. To the poorly taught the sexual mystical practices can lead to madness akin to what is described as Kundalini psychosis[25]. Furthermore the practice of combining internal alchemy with ingested heavy metals led to many unnecessary deaths of adepts and even emperors.[26]

 

The positive aspects of Taoism are that its writings are predominantly centred on mystical experience. Taoism was not concerned with ethics or morality it was able to focus on adepts finding the way. 

 

Taoism believed that disordered behaviour both within the adept and society would correct itself through experience of the Tao[27]. Sexual drive was seen as a positive healing force that was to be enjoyed and channeled into meditation and final experience of the “one”. Adepts were allowed a certain freedom to choose celibacy, marriage or a mixture of both according to the needs of the time. Meditations and visualisations were not regulated, which allowed adepts to give permission for neurotic drives to heal rather than regard these tendencies as shameful. Rules and regulations for adepts were kept to a minimum as trust was placed in the individual to eventually find “the way”. Taoist history is noted to have hundreds of successful immortals[28] that have achieved similar status and achievements to Jesus Christ. Individuals could choose from different sects, which had varied methods and accomplished immortals.

 

SECTION II

CELIBACY:

 

The Christian position on celibacy is varied. In the western Catholic tradition it is compulsory for all priests, while for their eastern counterparts it is only obligatory for bishops. For Protestant ministers there are no restrictions. The first Pope, St Peter was married. These multiple positions are a reasonable argument against infallibility regarding the Catholic Churches position on celibacy. Many believe that the Catholic Church maintains this position because of issues around nepotism and simony.[29] There are recent pressures to change celibacy rules, given the destructive sexual acts by celibate priests. Celibacy is encased in certain rules quoted in  the catechism which include not only prohibiting masturbation but also sexual fantasies,  for example:   “…by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God's commandments: "Appearance arouses yearning in fools."”[30] The latter could have a destructive influence on the priest who restricts a disordered sexual impulse because of the shame of releasing it – even in the sanctity of prayer or meditation.

 

In the Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II explains that celibacy is a manifestation of the kingdom of heaven existing here on Earth and mutually balances marriage as the sacrament[31]. This could be seen as the celibate priest revealing heaven and marriage revealing God in the earthly flesh. There is some limited freedom for priests within the catholic system to resign and return. However to be a virgin and celibate would be considered more successful.[32] However for the successful Christian mystic celibacy comes naturally, for St Theresa states: “In this state of ecstasy occur true revelations, great favours and visions – I find strength and courage to give up everything for God's sake.” [33] This implies that in order to gain the strength to commit to celibacy, it is important to get this through ecstasy. Certainly for Theresa ecstasy included orgasmic sexual feelings.[34]

 

The Taoists position on celibacy was also varied.  There were many sects that disapproved of celibacy. Needham summarises Pheng Tsu’s position (a legendary Methuselah between the 4th and 1st century BC) in the Su Nu Ching with,  

“…celibacy and chastity were considered injurious and unnatural…Thus sexual activity is here considered more important than any other exercise tending to health and longevity.” [35]

 

The Taoists believed that a long life was important for allowing both the time and physical demands of achieving immortality.

 

Another glorified Taoist Ko Hung who reputedly lived for more than 300 years wrote around the 3rd century AD:

Those who take chymic elixirs

And guard the primal unity

Will come to stop from living

Making the sperm return

Breathing like a babe in the womb

They will lengthen their days in peace

And blessing, world without end. [36]

 

Here we find emphasis on not ejaculating rather than the need for defining a lifestyle of celibacy. Celibacy is conducive to not ejaculating but does not obligate it. Furthermore, not ejaculating is only half the technique with making the sperm return is the other. The latter will be discussed in the fourth section of this essay. Achieving the primal unity was not excluded from those choosing marriage or having a partner. Probably more important was that both partners were orientated towards the same goal. The Taoists regarded this as “dual cultivation”.

 

The rules for Taoist nuns varied. Masturbation was not positively excluded, though breast massage was considered very important. The aim for females was to convert the blood of menses into chi.  This would irrigate the brain with energetic nectar and achieve the mindset conducive to mysticism.[37]

 

In the East, like Saint Theresa, the celibate life would come naturally to those who were ready for it. It wasn’t forced or imposed. A Hindu practitioner “Pradipika” in 550AD who practiced the techniques described above states,

What need have I of any outer woman? I have an inner woman inside myself. He who has mastered this technique is called urdhya – retas, with semen flowing upwards. [38]

 

Through the process of comparison and contrast, the following points arise: for the male adept the abstinence of ejaculation, along with the appropriate meditation and for the female, the reduction in menses with a similar meditation technique, may be the crucial factor in successful pursuit of the mystical state. A consistent formal approach to celibacy was not found in either system, though celibacy seemed to come naturally to those who found bliss in their meditation. In the next sections deeper analysis of sexual techniques and meditations will be explored.

 

THIRD SECTION:

MASTURBATION, SEXUAL FANTASIES AND COITUS TECHNIQUES:

 

Masturbation in the Catechism is regarded as a disordered act:

By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved. [39]

 

 

In this definition there is no specific mention of ejaculation. However if the understanding of masturbation as a sin is traced, the original understanding is made clear, which was that semen is like seed and it contains miniature human persons. Therefore spillage of the seed as occurred with Onan of Judah,[40] was regarded as sinful because it resulted in death of a potential person.

 

In the Christian tradition there is the occasional reference to not ejaculating.  With St Hippolytus saying, "The teachings of the mysteries spoke of one single current with a double flow, symbolised by the great Jordan and the ocean, which flowing downward, leads to the generation of men and , flowing upward to the generation of Gods.” [41] This is very similar to the Taoist practice of making the semen return so that the Tao can be realised.

 

In the Christian tradition genital pleasure[42] is regarded as masturbation and hence negative. It is outside of marriage, certainly not condoned for its priests[43] and never associated with spiritual development. Conversely in the Taoist system there are multiple and varied guides to masturbation and self stimulation including again the Sun Nu Ching:

Therefore you should regularly exercise it (jade stalk) by masturbation. If you can erect it and yet have no ejaculation that is called making the ching return, and making the ching return is of great restorative benefit, fully displaying the Tao of the life force.[44]

 

Therefore on the issue of masturbation we have two seemingly opposite viewpoints. The only point of commonality is not ejaculating. Since the Magisterium is unlikely to help out here, to find further clarification of the correct path to the mystical state, the author will research descriptions of successful Christian mystics. Certainly, as encountered in descriptions of meditation experiences ( in section IV of this essay)  of certain mystics, there is a whole body, including genital pleasure in these – for example with Mechtilde, “I lay naked…” and “..surrender myself to him” quoted at the start of this essay.

 

Sexual fantasies as stated above, are also ruled out for celibate priests. This may have partial origin from the quotation from Mathew 5-7 in the Semon of the Mount, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

 

Yet it is found that Christian mystics do use of fantasy with Jesus or God as lover. These mystics included Teresa D’Avila[45] , the Beguines (who formalised Jesus as the “Divine Bridegroom”[46] ) and St Bernard de Clairvaux. St Bernard de Clairvaux confesses to, "being united to Christ the Lord in a holy kiss"[47] The latter statement raising the possibility that fantasies create a positive healthy outlet for concupiscence and even homosexual urges. In the Theology of the Body, Pope John Paul II suggests to curb the desire of Eros through the mystery of redemption.[48] This still seems to be a retrograde view, as this seems to be equating the sexual urge as an agony to be released through the pain of crucifixion rather than a pleasurable positive loving sensation. However there is, on a positive note have references for the sexual urge to be fused with the desire to become “one with the flesh of Christ”[49] though unfortunately it seems to be referring to marriage rather than celibacy.

 

In Taoism, there is freedom for channeling sexual drives and fantasies. In chapter 10 of the Tao de Ching, where it states, “Opening and closing the gates of heaven, can you play the role of a woman?”[50] Furthermore, within the prescribed meditations, there exist possibilities to commune with various animals, virgin children, and eventually all on earth and the firmament.[51] To commune with God or the Tao the mind must fuse with everything. It could be hypothesised that sexual offences as paedophilia, could be a result of this repressed drive to commune with the “inner child”. Therefore a potential healing point exists where adepts are given permission in their inner worlds to trust that their fantasies will take them to an experience of God. Obviously however, such fantasies are to be explored only in the inner worlds.

 

In the realm of marriage, Humanae Vitae states:

Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.[52]

 

Again Pope Paul II return to the beautiful possibility of marriage and its consummation through intercourse being the result of erotic and heart felt love working towards one flesh through Jesus to God. Nevertheless, it is seen only as the concrete reality of the above meaning, while celibacy remains above it and proclaims the kingdom of God.[53] In some respects the conscious inclusion of the kingdom of God is excluded.

 

In Taoism, it is implied that all participants may have this religious experience. So throughout the multiple and various manuals entitled, The Art of the Bedroom Chamber,  there is  advise on spiritual coitus. The spiritual aspect of these techniques is implied by their colloquial terms “morning or evening prayer”.[54] Several coitus techniques are advised including: “coitus thesaratus” and “coitus reservatus”. “Coitus Thesaratus” is re-routing semen into bladder using a point on the perineum.[55]  Coitus reservatus involves keeping the arousal below the point of inevitable ejaculation. Both partners absorb the sexual energy and have multiple orgasms. Each orgasm expands consciousness till eventually the Tao is realised.[56] This coitus technique enables even the non-celibate the privilege of religious experience.

 

Various positions for coitus other than the “missionary position” are encouraged for various healing and spiritual purposes.[57] Various parts and fluids of the body contain special essences, which would aid either partner on their journey to the Tao[58]. Unfortunately, the bedroom chamber manuals also supported polygamy and as stated in the introduction, this probably reflected the darker aspect of the religion with it taking on hedonistic, sexist and vampire like qualities.[59]

 

SECTION FOUR

EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION AND PRAYER:

 

The Christian tradition lacks formal description and guidance in the process of union with Christ or God. This is opposite to The Taoist Canon, which is prolific in its various approaches and techniques to aid adepts in their spiritual quest. This probably reflects the dominance of rational theology and ethical morality over meditation and mystical approaches in Christianity.[60] Therefore, this section of the essay will resort to biographical material from various Saints and compare these to Taoist meditations.

 

Ultimately meditation is a deviation away from the intellectual or rational mind and encompasses a new dimension of “energy” (chi) as the Taoists would define it. There is furthermore a withdrawal from images. St John of the Cross was against using images as these can easily become false statements used in God’s name.[61] Spong is critical of Christian meditation when he states “many believers think of prayers as adult letters to Santa Claus”[62]

 

Once the darkness of the energetic world is opened the adept responds to it as a lover.[63] This is typified by St John of the Cross in one stanza of his poem, The Ascent of Mount Carmel - The Dark Night - Stanzas of the Soul:

Oh God in night!

Oh night more lovely than the dawn!

Oh night that has united

The lover with His beloved,

Transforming the beloved in her Lover.[64]

             

Taoist practitioners prior to meditation would perform various physical exercises, which could include breast and genital massage.[65]  From there, blissful sexual feelings would rise up (energy from semen or uterine blood referred to previously). St Theresa would describe these as raptures:

“ ..a desire unexpectedly arises… penetrates the very depths of the  soul… soars upwards .. God causes me to be bereft of everything… nothing on Earth to bear company…[66]

 

These raptures eventually transport to a state of “nothingness” beyond the earthly existence. This is similar to the Tao and Hindu practices which raises the Kundalini, with “….the body contains the spark of life which through a meditative process can be made to flare up into a fire that destroys the duality of sex and thereby identifies the deity, making him one with the ultimate power of the Void.”[67]

 

Within these experiences there are sensations and phenomena that are akin to the stages of sexual intercourse that is: arousal, penetration, orgasm and finally release. Meister Eckhart reveals,   

“If I therefore I am changed into God and He makes me one with Himself, then by the living God, there is no distinction between us… Some people imagine that they are going to see God, that they are going to see God as if standing yonder and they here, but it is not to be so. God and I: we are one. By knowing God I take him to myself. By loving God, I penetrate him”.[68]

 

Meister Eckhart reveals the amorphous rather than the personalised deity as well as the sexual act of penetration. Following penetration and the oscillation of two separate phenomena (God and the soul, heaven and earth, light and dark) there is an orgasm. Here as Evola states, "climax and supreme ecstasy correspond to the rupture of the level of individual consciousness and the sudden realisation of the non-dual state."[69]

 

Saint Theresa talks of this climax of the final duality with, “…eventually no comfort comes from heaven, no earthly comfort, knowledge of God so wonderful, crucifixion between heaven and earth… threshold of death in union and rapture.”[70] St Bernard de Clairvaux gives his version stating, “When the beloved Soul shall have been perfected, the Bridegroom will make her spiritual marriage and they shall be two, not one in the flesh, but in one spirit.” [71] Mechtilde of Magdeburg gives her version of the final copulation of her soul with God at the beginning of the essay.

 

In Taoist immortality practice, it is quoted that “the supreme essences of the sky and earth will copulate and create the sacred nectar”.[72] The sacred nectar is the Tao or the Wu Wei. Mantak Chia a modern day Taoist grandmaster describes the final stage as the “reunion of heaven and man”. [73] In all cases the duality is reduced to the one through the power of the orgasm. [74]

 

CONCLUSION:

The essay began with an historical description of the positive and negative aspects of   sexuality and mysticism within the two religions. It is important to realise that the attitudes towards sexuality have occurred in response to religions that Christianity emerged from. In order to seek definition, Christianity needed to offer a point of difference - and solutions to the negative aspects of the other. Christianity defined itself in opposition to the mother Goddess cults of the Canaanites, the Pagans of Europe and the sexual behaviour of the Romans. It also took over many of the state or government functions, which were then lacking. Modern society has processes for generating and maintaining laws and ethics. Questions arise as to whether the church needs to duplicate this function.

 

Taoism however was a response to the state religions of Confucianism and Buddhism. Juxtaposing Taoism and Christianity may reveal some similarities to Christianity’s reaction to its endemic religions of old. Like the individual that seeks healing by encompassing the “other”, perhaps Christianity might evolve in the same way.

 

The process of compare and contrasting two varied traditions creates two results: commonality and difference. Since the most positive aspects of each tradition were chosen, commonality will likely reflect or reinforce the positive ground (infallibility in Catholic terms) of which both traditions contain. Differences will reflect areas that create an opportunity for further reflection and discussion within each respective tradition.

 

This essays conclusions on commonality and differences are:

 

The position on celibacy varies within both the Christian and Taoist system. It seems for many mystics that celibacy can come naturally without any enforcement or restriction. A core common feature within celibacy for men is the restriction of ejaculation and learning to channel this extra sexual energy into spiritual development. For women in the Taoist system, a reduction in menstrual bleeding was associated with spiritual development. Mystical experience, (the kingdom of God) is not privy to celibates alone. Adepts with sexual partners can also have direct religious experiences.

 

Masturbation is permitted in Taoism with provisos and condemned in Christianity without exception. Again ejaculation in both systems is a negative. In the documented experiences of certain Christian mystics, there is a certain whole body pleasure including the genitals in their meditations. Since both  Benedict XVI and John Paul II state that erotic love can produce agape,  then perhaps genital pleasure is a precursor to spiritual pleasure. Denying genital pleasure may be curtailing an adept’s spiritual development. If this is correct, then perhaps masturbation is positive if it is without ejaculation and oriented towards the spiritual?

 

Sexual fantasies are permitted in Taoism but not Christianity. Yet again we find some inconsistencies between the experiences of mystics where fantasies range from kisses to fornication with Jesus or God. Fantasies may provide an avenue for sexual healing and therefore further consideration about the consequences of banning it, should be considered.

 

There is still a marked difference in approaches to marriage. The Taoists teach couples to have direct experience of the Tao. In Christianity marriage and coitus is a sacrament, however religious experience is supposedly reserved for the celibate priests.

 

Meditation in Taoism is unashamedly based on the stages of sexual intercourse. The final union with God is preceded by orgasm, which takes the mind of the adept to direct experience of God or the Tao.  For the Christian mystics presented in this essay, it seems that they are no different.

 

This essay has provided some evidence and arguments to support a re-evaluation of the role of sexuality in mystical or religious experience and raises the following question: What is the future of the Church if they remain as a structure for providing ethical and moral teachings only and in doing so close off paths to mystical union of all persons with God?

 

To finish with a quote from William Blake:

 

For the cherub (inhibition)[75] with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life; and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas now it appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment[76]

 


 

[1] Fanning, Steven., Mystics Of the Christian Tradition, Routledge, London, 2002. pp. 100.

[2] John Paul II pp.72 Encyclical Letter, Fides et Ratio, Of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Relationship between Faith and Reason, 1998. available on line http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0216/_INDEX.HTM

[3] Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983 pp. 257.

[4] Gulik, R H Van., Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming period with an Essay on Sex Life from the  Han  to the Ching Dynasty BC 206 –AD 1644, Privately Published Tokyo 1951 pp. 83.

[5] Chia, Mantak., Michael Winn.,  Taoist Secrets of Love, Cultivating Male Sexual Energy, Aurora press, NM. 1984. pp. II

[6]“Today there are at least 86 sects of Taoism, including many lay societies that, apart from their religious beliefs, have a history of opposing autocratic or tyrannical rule.” Quoted from: Occhiogrosso, Peter “Creed of the Western Reform Taoist Congregation available on line: http://www.theharmonyproject.org/sacredpaths/taoism/index.htm

 

[7] Single cultivation or the “left hand path” is the pursuit of the Tao through a period of celibacy. Dual cultivation is the “right hand path” involving a collaborative approach with a partner.

[8] Kelsey, Morton & Barbara Kelsey., The Spirituality and Psychology of Sex, Amity House NY, 1986. pp. 96

[9] ibid pp. 96

[10] ibid pp. 96

[11] Campbell, Joseph & Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth,  Broadway Books, New York 1988. pp.106 &  173 -5.

[12] I. Corinthians 7: 1-2

[13] Gotz, Ignacio L, “Sex and Mysticsm”, Cross Currents, Fall 2004 pp.7

[14] Kelsey, Morton & Barbara Kelsey.,  The Spirituality and Psychology of Sex , Amity House NY, 1986.pp. 110

[15] Kelsey, Morton & Barbara Kelsey.,  The Spirituality and Psychology of Sex , Amity House NY, 1986. pp.109

[16] King, Richard. 1999, Orientalism and Region - Post Colonial Theory, India and the Mystic East, (excerpt on line), available from www.csp.org/chrestomatics/orientalism (Sep 2004) also published Routledge London.

pp. 2

[17] Campbell, Joseph & Bill Moyers.  The Power of Myth, Broadway Books, New York 1988. pp. 67

[18] Blake, William,  Morton Paley & David Bindman, Eds. William Blake Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion, The William Blake Trust/ Princeton University Press, 1991 New Jersey.   pp. 69:43

 

[19] Genesis 2:24 and discussed in Theology of the Body: April 14,21,28 May 5 1982   West, Christopher., Theology of the Body, Explained, A Commentary on John Paul II’s “Gospel of the Body”, Gracewing, Leominster, England, 2003. pp. 291

[20] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, Of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, To the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Menand Women Religious and All the Lay Faithful on Christian Love, 2005 available on line: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html, para. 7

[21] The other side of Silence, A Guide to Christian Meditation, Paulist Press, NY, 1976. pp.158

[22] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est, Of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, To the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Menand Women Religious and All the Lay Faithful on Christian Love, 2005 available on line: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html, para. 7

[23] Gulik, R H Van., Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming period with an Essay on Sex Life from the  Han  to the Ching Dynasty BC 206 –AD 1644, Privately Published Tokyo 1951pp. 11

Many of  Alistair Crowley’s sexual partners went mad. Crowley participated in similar Tantric practices of coitus.

Evola, Julius, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, The Metaphysics of Sex, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, 1991. pp. 266

Chung Ho, Secret Instructions Concerning the Jade Chamber, 4th : “The mother Queen or Goddess of the West who obtained immortality by nourishing the Yin within her. Whenever she had intercourse with a man he would immediately fall ill, yet she herself was of fair colour and form, glowing with a beauty and needing no rouge or fard, Feeding on nothing but milk, she played the five stringed lute, so that her heart was always harmonious, her thoughts composed and no other desires plagued her. Having no husband, she liked to couple with young men and boys…” quoted in  Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy, Cambridge University press, 1983 pp. 194

[24] Evola, Julius, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, The Metaphysics of Sex, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, 1991. pp. 218

[25] Evola, Julius, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, The Metaphysics of Sex, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, 1991. pp. 243

[26] Wong, Eva., Tr. ( Author Unknown ) The Teachings of Immortals Chung and Lu, The Tao of Health and Longevity, and Immortality, Shambala, Boston, 2000 pp.7

[27]  “And the rigid man uses laws, And if people don’t like it, force. If the true Tao is lost, then morality takes its place. If that fails we have “conscience”. When that fades we have justice. When that disappears, we have the status quo.” Quoted from chap 38 Lao Tsu, Tao de Ching, Tr Man Hi Kwok et al, Element, Brisbane Queensland, 1993

[28] Campany, Robert. Tr.  To Live as Long as Heaven and Earth A Translation and Study of Ge Hong’s Tradition of Divine Transcendents, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2002.pp.4.

[29] Kelsey, Morton & Barbara Kelsey., The Spirituality and Psychology of Sex , Amity House NY, 1986. pp. 62 -6.

[30] Catechism 2520 Also refer to Lust 2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. And Temperance 1809 “ To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one's heart, with all one's soul and with all one's efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence). Paul 11, John Catechism of the Catholic Church, Apostolic Constitution, available on line:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm, 1992

[31] Paul, Pope John II, Theology of the Body, April 14,21,28 May 5 1982 West, Christopher., Theology of the Body, Explained, A Commentary on John Paul II’s “Gospel of the Body”, Gracewing, Leominster, England, 2003. p 289

[32] These are they, which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the lamb whither so ever he goes Revelations 14:4

[33] Peers, E. Allison , The Life of St Teresa of Jesus - The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, Double Day,  NY, 1960 pp.208.

[34]Some modern critics have derided the semi-syncopal religious experiences as veiled orgasmic phenomena rather than spiritual encounters; in particular, the body posture and facial expression of St. Teresa have caused some to assign her experience as one of climactic moment”. From the “Ecstasy of St Theresa”, Wikepedia Free Encyclopedia, available on line,: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecstasy_of_St_Theresa

[35] Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983 pp. 190.

[36] Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983 pp. 200.

[37] The Ten Rules of the Mother Goddess, Queen of the West, Guide for Women Taoists along Right Road of Restoring Primary Vitalities,   quoted in Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press pp. 237-9.

[38] Gulik, R H Van., “Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming period with an Essay on Sex Life from the  Han  to the Ching Dynasty BC 206 –AD 1644, Privately Published Tokyo 1951. pp. 83.

[39] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Apostolic Constitution, available on line:  http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm, 1992 No. 2352

[40] Genesis 38

[41] Statement by Hippolytus in  Philos V i II (Saint Hippolytus of Rome was a writer of the early Christian Church. He was apparently elected as the first Antipope in 217, but died reconciled to the Church in 235 as a martyr, so now he is honored as a saint.) Quoted in: Evola, Julius, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, The Metaphysics of Sex, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, 1991. pp.217.

[42] In section 9 It is stated that there is real and serious fault only in the measure that the subject deliberately indulges in solitary pleasure closed in on self ( “ipsation” ). Discussed in :Seper, Franjo and Jerome Hammer Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith  declaration, “Persona Humuna”, Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, available on line: http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_df75se.htm , 1975

[43] Father Goergen states that, “Genitality will be satisfied only in exclusivity, marriage, superficiality,…Conscious sacrifice of  this need in order to serve others" quoted in  Kelsey, Morton & Barbara Kelsey., The Spirituality and Psychology of Sex , Amity House NY, 1986. pp.161.

[44] Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983, pp. 201.

[45] Katz, Steven T., Mysticism and Religious Traditions, Oxford U-P, Oxford, 1983.p11

[46] Fanning, Steven., Mystics Of the Christian Tradition, Routledge, London, 2002. P100

[47] Gotz, Ignacio L, “Sex and Mysticsm”, Cross Currents, Fall 2004 p7

[48] Theology of the Body, march 24,31, April 7, 1982 West, Christopher., Theology of the Body, Explained, A Commentary on John Paul II’s “Gospel of the Body”, Gracewing, Leominster, England, 2003. P281 and p 285

[49] ibid April 14,21,28 May 5 1982 West p291

[50]  Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Gia Fu Feng& Jane English (trans), Vintage Books, NY. 1972Verse 10

[51] Chia, Mantak., Fusion of the Five Elements I, Basic and Advanced Meditation For Transforming Negative Emotions, Healing Time Books, NY. 1989 pp. 113-122.

[52]Paul VI, Encyclical: Humanae Vitae available on line: http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_pa06hv.htm, 1968. sec 8.

[53] West, Christopher., Theology of the Body, Explained, A Commentary on John Paul II’s “Gospel of the Body”, Gracewing, Leominster, England, 2003.pp. 278.

[54]Chang, Stephen, The Great Tao, Tao Publishing, CA, 1985 pp. 322.

[55] “The manuals of the immortals describe the way of making the ching return to nourish the brain. During sexual Intercourse, when the ching has become very agitated and is on the point of coming out, strong pressure must be applied with the two middle fingers of the left hand behind the scrotum and in front of the anus, while at the same time the breath should be fully expelled through the mouth, none being retained ( in the lungs) and the teeth gnashed several dozen  times. Thus the ching will be emitted, but not to the outside world, for it will come back from the Stalk of Jade and mount upwards to enter the brain. This procedure has always been transmitted by the immortals to one another, but they who receive it swear a solemn oath sealed in blood not to hand on the method lightly, under pain of suffering calamity themselves”. Quote from, Important Matters of the Jade Chamber , in  Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983 pp. 199.

[56] “..the semen activated by the coitus reservatus is made to flow upwards along the dorsal column, adding that in the abdomen this “translated semen” is visualized as a red sun and a yellow moon  which are raised along the dorsal column till they have reached the ni-huan spot in the brain. There the sun and moon unite, and the text gives to understand that this union constitutes the final transformation of the “translated semen”, namely its changing into the Elixir of Life,” Sun Szu Mao an accomplished immortal physician in a Tang Text. Quoted and translated by:  Gulik, R H Van., Sex Life in Ancient China. A preliminary survey of Chinese sex and society from ca 1500BC till 1644 AD  pp. 339.

[57] “The various ways of sitting and lying together; the postures of stretching and opening the legs; the diverse ways of adjusting the body, and the methods for deep and shallow penetration, all these comprise the reason of sexual union and supply the rhythm of the five elements. Those who let themselves be guided by these rules will attain longevity” stated by Master Tung Hsuan  in the The Ars Amatoria quoted in Gulik, R H Van., Sex Life in Ancient China. A preliminary survey of Chinese sex and society from ca 1500BC till 1644 AD ,E. J. Brill,  Leiden, Netherlands 1961 pp. 125

[58] “The Elixir of Immortality resided in the “Original Femininity” Yuan Pin. This mysterious substance they described as concentrated, inactivated Yin essence, that could be extracted from the vaginal secretions...this substance could be tapped by performing the sexual act in a special way.”  Stated in: Gulik, R H Van., Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming period with an Essay on Sex Life from the  Han  to the Ching Dynasty BC 206 –AD 1644, Privately Published Tokyo 1951pp. 11.

 “Cavity under a woman’s tongue jade Fluid stores in Cinnabar field to make blood. Peach of Immortality white fluid from breasts for spleen and stomach. White head on Moon flower arrives at peak of orgasm and absorbed from penis with penis partially withdrawn.” From The Great medicine of the Three Peaks, by Cheng Chen, ibid pp. 118.

[59]Gulik, R H Van., Erotic Colour Prints of the Ming period with an Essay on Sex Life from the  Han  to the Ching Dynasty BC 206 –AD 1644, Privately Published Tokyo 1951p 11

 “Changing of Partners can lead to longevity and immortality. If a man unites with one woman only, the Yin Chi is feeble and the benefit small. For the Tao of the Yang is modeled on Fire, that of the Yin on Water, and Water can subdue Fire. The Yin can disperse  the yang, and use it unceasingly… so that the latter becomes depleted and instead of assistance to the repair and regeneration of the body there is a loss. But if a man can couple with twenty women and yet have no emission, he will be fit and have perfect complexion when in old age.” Quoted from  On Delaying Destiny by Nourishing the Natural forces, by  Needham, Joseph and Lu Gwei Djen,  Science and Civilisation in Ancient China, Vol 5 Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part V Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Physiological Alchemy  Cambridge University press, 1983 pp.193.

[60] Kelsey, Morton T.,  The Other side of Silence, A Guide to  Christian Meditation, Paulist Press, NY, 1976. pp. 128.

[61] Kelsey, Morton, The other side of Silence, A Guide to  Christian Meditation, Paulist Press, NY, 1976. pp. 160.

[62] Spong, John Shelby. 2001, A New Christianity for a New World, Harper Collins, San Francisco. pp. 190.

[63] Kelsey, Morton T.,  The Other Side of Silence, A Guide to  Christian Meditation, Paulist Press, NY, 1976. pp. 1A.

[64] Kavanaugh, Kieran. (Ed. & Tr.) 1973, The Collected works of St John of the Cross, ICS Pub, Washington.

[65] Chia, Mantak & Douglas Abrams Arava, The Multi Orgasmic Man, Thorsons, London,1996. pp.41.

[66] Peers, E. Allison , The Life of St Teresa of Jesus - The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, Double Day,  NY, 1960 pp. 192-3.

[67] sourced from Vajrayana, quoted in: Gulik, R H Van., Sex Life in Ancient China. A Preliminary survey of Chinese Sex and Society from ca 1500BC till 1644 AD. E. J. Brill,  Leiden, Netherlands 1961 pp.340.

68 Eckhart, Meister., quoted in Fromm, Erich,  The Art of Loving, Unwin Paperbacks, London, 1984 p 69.

[69] Evola, Julius, Eros and the Mysteries of Love, The Metaphysics of Sex, Inner Traditions International, Vermont, 1991. pp. 230.

[70] Peers, E. Allison , The Life of St Teresa of Jesus - The Autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, Double Day,  NY, 1960 pp. 194.

 

[71] Gotz, Ignacio L, Sex and Mysticsm, Cross Currents, Fall 2004  pp. 7.

[72] Wong, Eva. 1997, Harmonizing Yin and Yang, A Manual of Taoist Yoga, Internal, External and Sexual, Shambala, Boston MA.pp. 78.

[73] Chia, Mantak., Cosmic Fusion of the Eight Forces, Universal Tao Publications, 2002 pp. 31.

[74] Chia, Mantak., Michael Winn.,  Taoist Secrets of Love, Cultivating Male Sexual Energy, Aurora press, NM. 1984. pp.178.

 

[75] parentheses by Foster Damon: Damon, S Foster. A Blake Dictionary, Thames and Hudson, London, 1979. pp. 368.

[76] Blake, William. 1988, Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Geoffrey Keys (ed), Oxford UP, Oxford. Plate 14 pp. XXII.