Saturday, December 21, 2019

Some notes on sexuality, part I

Capital from L'Abbaye Fontevraud
Photo by the author

God is in all things as being, as activity, as power. But He is fe­cund in the soul alone, for though every creature is a vestige of God, the soul is the natural image of God. This image must be adorned and perfected in this birth. No creature but the soul alone is recep­tive to this act, this birth. 
Indeed, such perfection as enters the soul, whether it be divine undivided light, grace, or bliss, must enter the soul through this birth, and in no other way. Just await this birth within you, and you shall experience all good and all comfort, all happiness, all being and all truth. If you miss it, you will miss all good and blessedness. 
—Meister Eckhart, Sermon 2

Henri Trachol mentioned that travel through airports is a good time to study yourself. One is “in suspension,” so to speak, so one’s inward vision of oneself may achieve a clinical separation which is less available in the ordinary course of events. Of course this is an arguable proposition, but for myself I find it to be true, at least overall.

Foreign travel on business trips extends that separation; one lives in a bubble. China has consequently functioned, in my own case, as an inner laboratory for many years. Each trip seems to reveal some new aspect of my Being worth examination. 

This trip I’ve been noticing the action of sex center. Now, aside from blanket statements about sex center—which usually take the form of quotes from Gurdjieff and variations thereon—Gurdjieff people don’t seem to discuss it much. I can count on the fingers of one hand, for example, the number of times I’ve heard someone bring this subject up in over 30 years of working in Gurdjieff groups. The Buddhists don’t seem to discuss it much, either; nor do Christians, except (as is usually the case) when they are telling folks to abstain from it. 

As if.

This seems odd, because sex is a tremendously powerful force (arguable the most powerful force affecting the day to day operation of the human psyche) and it ought, in my opinion, to be given far more scrutiny within legitimate inner spiritual contexts. 

Sex, unlike other our unsexed features of the psyche, has two distinct manifestations, male and female, and despite the many intermediate flavors it may come in, it seems safe to say that men will never fundamentally understand sex from a woman’s point of view, and vice versa. This means we are, as sexes, doomed to never understand more than about 50% of the question. Confessing this deficiency, I’ll proceed to investigate the question from the male inner territory I'm familiar with, admitting that I can’t bring much of the woman’s point of view to it, aside from a certain intuition which has informed me from an early age. 

Let me explain that. Since I was very young, I’ve always found it much easier to form friendships with women than with men. I don’t know how to explain this other than to say that I always felt when I was growing up that men acted too much like children, and that men are basically crude; unrefined idiots of one kind or another (I suspect this is a new class of idiot, or, at least, one Gurdjieff forgot to mention.) I regret to report that recent experiences with men I’ve known for many decades, who are otherwise good friends, and even good men in so far as that is possible (there are limits to it) underscore the fact that men don’t change much over time. You would think we’d grow up, but for the most part we don’t. These particular pals—who are all, like me, in their 60s—act like little children when they get together, wisecracking and making inappropriate remarks about women and other people in general, and for the most part lacking the emotional gravity that’s needed to navigate life in an intelligent way.

Although during the course of these social events I quickly determined some strictly defined limits as to just how much time of this particular low-grade, adolescent male quality I prefer to spend with folk, I love these men anyway. But they-—I—can’t quite overcome being male; and that quality of being male, unless it undergoes a quite precise inner development, always has this unfortunate aspect to it. This is why I often tell younger women that they should wake up to the fact that they are superior to men, and that the emotional and intellectual future of the human race ought rightfully to be handed off to the women, who I feel sure would be doing a better job than we men are. 

Admittedly, this is a sexist point of view, but I stand by it. I think women are superior to men in most ways.

In reaching these conclusions, I’ve had to investigate my own maleness, and of course this particular aspect of my being is deeply rooted in my sexuality. Whether we like it or not, sex is the central motivating force and power in much of ordinary being, and its roots run so deep that it’s impossible to pull them up. They nourish the plant; and the plant needs all its roots. They can’t be pruned selectively in order to get a good tree. If that’s done, you end up with a bonsai tree; and while bonsai trees are aesthetically pleasing, they are weak, tiny things that can’t possibly fulfill the role that nature gave them, which is to grow large and strong and function in a forest community.

In other words, we absolutely need our sexuality; and yet it has a disturbing quality to it that seems to cast it in opposition to our spiritual nature and the nature of the soul.

On this trip, I’ve been reading Meister Eckhart, who is in my eyes still the nonpareil on matters of the soul and its development. (It may come as an insult to devotees of Gurdjieff’s writings, but in my estimation he can’t hold a match  to Eckhart, let alone a candle.) Even Eckhart does not mention sex directly, but only in terms of his perpetual theme of the rebirth of the soul in God.

When other Christian mystics (I’m mostly thinking of the women mystics here) mention it, it always appears in the form of lust, coarse bodily functions and desires, all of which are to be avoided at all costs. It is, in other words, somehow cast in the role of the enemy of God and spirituality. In traditional religions, everything of the flesh is suspect.

To be fair, not all medieval spiritual masters thought of it this way (for example, Robert of Arbrissel, who founded the important Cistercian Abbey of Fontevraud.) And we know quite well that not every religious discipline believes that extinguishing sex from the equation will have good results. There are, for example, Tantric practices that make it central, though we have to admit that within the traditions these are far from majority opinions.

None of this, however, is of much practical value in trying to examine the day-to-day function of sex within the psychospiritual context of my own, or another ordinary person’s, life. In order to do that there need to be some practical observations about its day-to-day functions; and this is what I’ve been coming up against in my own life on this particular trip.

An additional note to readers:

A new series in the continuing essays on Metaphysical Humanism and the Laws of Being will start publishing in this space on January 11, 2020.

May your heart be close to God, and God close to your heart.


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