Comments on customs
Philosophy approaches the subject of sex, marriage, love, and celibacy in a perfectly sane and rational way, but without the limitations and without the ignorance of a merely materialistic rationalism. Consequently, it grades the counsels which it gives on two levels.
It is not concerned with the average man who is not particularly interested in more than an average good life within the fold of conventional aims and needs.
The first level is for the beginning quester who has set his aims and needs somewhat higher than the average man and who is willing to undergo a moderate discipline for this purpose.
The second is for the more advanced quester who seeks to attain the highest possible standard and who is willing to pay in self-denial and self-training the corresponding price.
The beginner's counsel allows him a disciplined sex life, with the extent of the discipline being set by himself, for no general rule which would cover the widely varying circumstances, responsibilities, obligations, and characters involved can possibly fit them all. It explains the nature of the sex force and then leaves it to him to decide how far and how fast he wishes to go with its control.
The second grade counsel is almost monastic in its disciplinary demand for it bids him refrain from the sex relation altogether, save for the purpose of having children, whose number must be limited and proportioned strictly. In the case of the unmarried, there will then be a complete chastity.
No counsel can be given to the attained philosopher, for since he is able to reabsorb the sex urge successfully, completely, spontaneously, and unconsciously there is no urge, desire, or passion felt in this direction at all. Consequently, there is no need here for any kind of discipline. Nevertheless if, being married, he should decide to have children there is equally nothing to stop him from entering into the sexual act for this purpose. When that happens it will not be at the bidding of any lower urge, but out of willingness to provide a physical vehicle for the high-grade ego or egos he, and his wife, expect to attract.
That Nature put the hunger instinct into man and animal alike primarily to preserve the life of the physical body and not to satisfy the palate, nobody could rightly deny. The enjoyment of food is subordinate to, and intended to make more inescapable, the instinct required for this highly important necessity of sustenance. Yet man, blinded by his desires and passions, fails to see that the same situation prevails to explain part (not all) of the sexual instinct. Nature is not interested in his individual pleasure so much as in the continuance of his species. She has given him the one for the sake of the latter. Man has in thought, belief, and practice today reversed this order of importance. The result is a totally wrong view about the possibility and value of continence. From this view stems a host of moral, nervous, and physical maladies which are plunging his life into confusion and disaster. Diderot, the French thinker and encyclopaedist of the eighteenth century, in his anti-religious writing drew attention to the harm caused by emotional repression to nuns; what he particularly had in mind was sexual repression. The mystic has sometimes used erotic images when describing his experience. In the case of nuns this has been interpreted by modern sceptics, and especially by psychoanalysts, to indicate frustrated sexual desire. Such a condition must have been true of some nuns but cannot possibly have been true of the more advanced ones. For a certain part of the mystic experience during deep meditation does correspond in several details to the sexual experience. There is, in these moments, a surrender of the attitude of being in control of oneself, a conscious recognition and acceptance of another entity which is allowed to take possession and work on oneself. In consummated sexual love, the feeling of union is an intense one, but it is a union of two unlike entities. In realized mystical experience, the longing for union between the ego and what is beyond it is equally intense, and there is likewise here a marriage of two unlike entities--the passive willing ego giving itself up in ecstasy to the mysterious and impersonal higher power.
Nature has her rights, it is true, but before we can justly grant them we need to inquire as to what they really are. Her instincts in us are often perverted.
We have to enquire why it is that most religions severely judged and deprecated the sexual instinct, and why they recommended its subjugation to their elite of priests and monks. It is the strongest of bodily instincts, the supreme expression of physical life, and therefore the possible gateway to a complete surrender to materialism. Materialism achieves its greatest triumph in the inflamed and total self-identification of man and woman with their material bodies. In this absolute ecstasy of interlocked flesh there is no thought or place for the spirit, no care for memory of its existence. The infatuated man, who finds his beloved immeasurably desirable, will be restless or even tormented until he can achieve union with her. Absolute asceticism and rigid monasticism were set up as preventives against such a surrender. Only by sheer flight from temptation, it was believed, could there be any possibility of successful subjugation.
Gandhi demonstrated in his own person the foolishness of the belief that absolute continence leads to mental disorder. He was sane enough to lead his countrymen to freedom. He also demonstrated the falsity of the belief that it was impossible. For forty years he practised it successfully. He said: "The ability properly to conserve, assimilate, and transmute the vital fluid comes with long training. It strengthens the body and the mind." His spiritual career further indicated that mastery of sex by those who have experienced it is more likely to be real and lasting than in the case of those who have starved it.
In India the traditional view has allotted women a role inferior to that of men. It is generally held that fewer women than men have ever attained the higher goals. Indeed, in some of the sacred works which have come down from ancient times and which still govern much of the thinking upon the subject today, the spiritual aspirant who has obtained a male birth is regarded as being much more fortunate than one who has obtained a female one.
One of the major reasons why women have been assigned a lower status for so long a time has been, aside from the selfish social exploitation of her physical weakness, the asceticism which belongs to the mystical stage of development. Such asceticism has often taken an extreme and unbalanced form with the result that the values and virtues of monastic celibacy have been overrated and the dangers symbolized by women have been exaggerated. On the philosophic level the balance is restored, extreme fanatic views are dispelled, and the natural relationship between the sexes seen in its true light. Philosophy has no use for mere asceticism although it has plenty of use for self-discipline. According to this teaching there are three states of spiritual development: first, religious; second, mystical or metaphysical; third, philosophical. In the first stage, women are overwhelmingly ahead of men. In the second stage, women and men are roughly equal in the success of their attainment. In the third and final stage, it is mostly men who succeed. A brief explanation why this is so appears in Chapter 5 of The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga [see last paragraph before "Give up the Ego!"--Ed.].
This said, all souls are of equal importance before God. The soul, in the sense of the true self, has no sex whatever. Personalities, which are its projections, may vary their sex from birth to birth, if we accept the theory of reincarnation, and therefore the important thing is not the sex to which we belong, but the inner mental being that we are. Of great importance are the evolutionary changes through which mankind in general has been passing during recent centuries. Women have been exploited and subjected by men for ages past and it is only within recent times that they have begun to come into their own and claim the rights and privileges which are their just due. In the coming age, balance will be restored and woman will take her rightful place alongside of man in the leadership of the whole race.
To sum up, it is no longer a question of what the ancients believed about women or how the modern Indians regard them, but a question of accepting the evolutionary trend of things which is bringing the human race closer and closer to enlightenment and thus making it possible for every woman to claim and receive what is best in life if she wishes.
These animal desires belong to the body. What are we? Are we that or a mind using a body? Or Mind using a mind and a body? This last is indeed the truth. When we find it out for ourselves, and hold to it through the years, how long can these desires keep their strength? We may be assured that they dwindle and go.
This divineness of its origin disproves the slurs cast on sex by those ascetics who wrongly regard it as an evil. It is the lack of proper control and knowledge or the abuse and misdirection of sex that turn it into an evil; but until man slowly evolves into awareness of his true self, it will continue to provide him--along with Art and Nature--with feelings of happiness which relieve the gloom of earthly life. Yet, in contrast to the happiness gained from Art and Nature, and much more to that gained from spiritual awareness, there are heavy penalties for the abuse, misdirection, or lack of control of sex force.
In the creative sublimation of the passions--especially lust and wrath--lies the source of impressive spiritual energy leading to satisfying achievement. Only by personal experience can it be rightly judged how valuable is the practice of storing up the innermost essence of sexual force by creative and informed abstinence, and then transforming this force into positive qualities, and how greatly it develops the power of will. This does not necessarily mean a surrender to absolute asceticism, although that is perfectly possible and beneficial if carried out in the right spirit, but it does mean periods of relative asceticism.
This co-operation of mind, will, and breath to redirect the sexual energy is its true transformation into a non-sexual kind. This is completely different from, and superior to, the alleged sublimation into art, work, or intellect proffered by psychoanalysts, or into sport and physical exercise proffered by educators. These may reduce the strength of sex urges, or diminish their frequency, or cause them to vanish altogether, but such a result will hold for a time only and will not be a lasting one. For it is attained by a process which temporarily exhausts the urge but does not confront and conquer it at all. A peasant who is too tired after a very heavy day's toil to attempt intercourse has not sublimated his sex energy in any way and may even indulge in imaginary acts of intercourse while he lies physically fatigued. The case of the sports enthusiast or gymnast is not too dissimilar from the peasant's. Nor is the case of the intellectual or artist, although on an entirely different plane, really different in principle. When the intellectual work or artistic activity comes to an end, what is to stop the man's mind working in a sexual direction if his tendencies are strongly that way?
The philosophic method of sublimation comes to the problem by looking sex in the face, understanding its place and purpose, and dealing with it on mental and psychic as well as physical levels. The aim here is not mere repression, not deceptive pseudo-sublimation, but full mastery.
The man who struggles with the passion of sex within his nature and conquers it, not merely physically but also mentally, finds that his very nature becomes bi-sexual. For he finds within himself the woman whom he had formerly sought outside himself. She who was to complement his mind and companion his body, and whom he could only find in an imperfect form or not find at all, is then discovered within his own spirit, in that which is deeper than body and mind. The mysterious duality which thus develops corresponds to the last stage but one of his mystical progress, for in the last stage there is absolute unity, absolute identity between his own ego and his Overself; but in the penultimate stage there is a loving communion between the two, and hence, a duality. Such a man is in need of no fleshly woman, and if he does marry it will be for reasons other than the merely conventional ones. In achieving this wonderful liberation from the drawbacks which accompany the delights of sex and from the shortcomings which modify its promises, he achieves something else; he enters into love in its purest, noblest, most divine, and most exalted state. Thus his nature is not starved of love as shallow observers may think or as the sensual-minded may believe, but only he, rather than the others, knows what it means. Seemingly he stands alone, but actually he does not. He is conscious of a loving presence ever in him and around him, but it is love which has shed all turmoils and troubles, all excitements and illusions, all shortcomings and imperfections.
It is hard to overcome sexual desire, and neither ashamed repression nor unashamed expression will suffice to do so. Hunger and surfeit are both unsatisfactory states. The middle way is better, but it is not a solution in the true meaning of this term.
At the time when a child is conceived, two factors contribute powerfully towards its physical nature and physical history. They are the state of the father's thinking and the mother's breathing.
The sex urge, bodily urge, physical attraction, animal urge--is often covered with romantic or sentimental tinsel and called love.
That most human beings make their paradise depend on the mere friction of paired bodies is something for a planetary visitor to marvel at.
Overpopulation has increased the poverty of the underdeveloped world. Overpopulation is due to oversexed activity. The belief that sex is here solely for pleasure is universal. The belief that it is here solely to produce wanted children with sex thrown in as an inducement is usually rejected. But the second belief is the correct one. Man has abused his sex instinct so that only its exaggerated continued act is considered normal and proper!
The standpoint from which the question of sex is best approached was explained in my book, The Wisdom of the Overself. It is neither pro-ascetic nor anti-ascetic. The man who is called to the spiritual quest is also called to engage in a battle with his animal instincts. If they are to rule him, he will never know peace. And sex being one of the most powerful of such instincts, it must necessarily be brought under control and disciplined. This is true of all its three phases: mental, emotional, and physical. It is quite possible, healthy, and natural for a man to live a perfectly continent life for many years, the sperm being re-absorbed into the body, provided his mental life is kept equally pure. This is achieved by constant reflection upon the matter from the standpoints of experience, observation, and idealism, as well as by deliberate sublimation when passion is felt. Those who say the sperm must be got rid of are merely making intellectual concessions to their own moral weakness. But on the other hand, it is equally true that if a man does not feel able to rise to such a standard, he may live a normal married life and yet make spiritual advancement provided he disciplines himself firmly, keeps constantly in view the limited nature of sex satisfactions, nurtures the incessant yearning for and love of the Soul, and especially seeks to purify his thought-life. There are different requirements about the extent and nature of sex discipline at different stages of the path. Your own innermost promptings are the best guide here for they come from the higher self. But they need to be separated from bodily impulses and emotional broodings, which is difficult to do. It is immaterial for the adept whether he lives a celibate or married life. The attitude toward sex will always depend upon individual circumstances.
A celibacy reached through insight and not by institutional behest, or an asceticism practised within marriage--in both cases as immaculate in thought as in deed--shows its value in peace and strength. But for those who cannot arrive at this admittedly difficult condition, there should be periods of temporary withdrawal from sex activity ranging from a few weeks to a few years. For single persons and dedicated married ones it is a voluntary inner self-discipline.
Under the urge of sexual passion men will form undesirable relationships which bring mental and emotional sufferings, or fall into unpleasant habits, or behave quite ridiculously under the delusion that they are finding happiness.
To gratify the desire of the moment without thought about its possible distant, but undesirable, consequence, is the act of a child. If a man wishes to become truly adult he should cultivate the needful qualities.
The price of excess pleasure has to be paid in the end. It is paid in unwanted children, unhappy castaways, unpleasant diseases, lost health, and premature ageing.
Strength is squandered in undisciplined sexual activity.
If he is to lift himself above the improper beguilements of sex, this is not to say that he is to lift himself above the proper functions of sex.
The passage from D.H. Lawrence to Brother Lawrence is the passage from a mysticism that exaggerates sexual desire to a mysticism that ignores it. Either attitude is ill-balanced. A philosophical mysticism must revolt against both Lawrences, for it cannot risk the madness which shadows the modern one, nor be satisfied with the incompleteness of the medieval one.
When the mating urge descends on men or women, they develop a temporary but immense capacity for glorifying the beloved person, seeing beauties and virtues which may be quite slight or even non-existent. With the eyes so widely out of focus, nature achieves her purpose with ease.
So long as the animal, with all its passions unruled, reigns over the man, so long as the body holds him captive, he will lack the strength to turn the mind far away from it and to concentrate his attention deep enough to get his release. The animal is honourable; it has no higher duty than to be itself, its natural self. So far as man has a body too, he shares this same search for repeated but fleeting physical and pleasurable sensations. But he alone has the faculty of higher abstract and metaphysical thought, with the sensitivity to feel intuitively the presence of a divine soul. Their development is his duty too.
In their inordinate desire to follow their own desires and to claim freedom from parents and other authority, too many among the young give themselves up to sexual intercourse, whether promiscuous or not, whether they use contraceptives or not, to an inordinate degree. In the end they become too irresponsible. When they marry the relationship is more likely to fall apart, the children to feel insecure and to become problem cases.
Unfulfilled sex tends to stir up new problems or affect old ones.
It is a stiff and saddening problem, this of the many people to whom a right opportunity for marriage has not presented itself. Yet it is saddening only so long as they fail to understand and master the sex forces involved; so soon as this poise is established and balance found within the self, there will be peace too.
The philosopher can find wisdom only in total abstinence because that best suits his own character. The man who has built a balanced nature finds such temperance a saner and safer path.
Just as Nature has hidden the mind's deepest secret and sublimest satisfaction in the centre of its being, so has she hidden woman's most mysterious function and joyous activity in the centre of her body.
The overwhelming emotion of romantic love subsides with time and then only does reason get a chance to be heard.
Sex is an ancient primitive impulse. But today science has put at its disposal certain devices for its satisfaction without some of its undesired consequences.
The Freudian tenet that sex force is convertible into artistic creativeness arises out of a misunderstanding. The energy saved from disciplined sex strengthens the rest of the human personality, physically and mentally, but does not automatically turn itself into artistic power.
If the mere repression of sex impulses could turn an ordinary man into a genius, why have so many ascetics been intellectually or inventively sterile?
There are those among both sceptics and believers who equate the mystical experience of bliss with the sexual orgasm, but it is a poor equation.
There are troublesome opposing forces which will resist if you fight them, but serve if you use and redirect them with enlightenment. To some extent sex is one of these forces.
The reckless entry into marriage under the influence of physical passion is a sign of juvenility, of surrender to adolescent urges, whether the person is eighteen years old or fifty. He has not the patience to wait for a fuller mating nor the prudence to investigate to what he is really committing himself.
So-called romances do not necessarily concern love in its basic meaning, for possessiveness and jealousy may accompany them, or they may really belong to animal physiological attraction.
Most women who aspire to the Divine look for, and find comfort with, the idea or the image of a Personal God. For them the path of devotional love is more attractive than any other path. The strength of their emotional nature accounts for this. But male aspirants are generally more willing to take to the various non-devotional approaches. Their intellectual nature and their power of will are often stronger than those of women. It is easier for them to comprehend, and also to accept, the idea of an Impersonal God. For these, and for other reasons, although there have been many successful female mystics in history, there have been few successful female philosophers.
While the animal nature is the ruler, aided by human cunning or shrewdness, do not expect loftier aspiration to be forthcoming.
A man who has reconciled himself properly to the celibate state finds a freedom, a peace, which is his compensation.
Is it possible that out of a bodily embrace between two creatures this remarkable entity can be born--the human mind with all its qualities and attributes and spiritual possibilities?
Sexual union not only is something operative on the physical plane, but also on the psychic plane. This psychical union may be harmful to the higher-bred person of the two who are engaged in the intercourse.
The forty-eight or in some editions sixty-four postures described in the Hindu book on sex love called Kama Sutra, now widely translated and published in the West, are simply forty-eight or sixty-four ways for a man to lower himself to purely animal status. In fact several of them are given animal names by the author.
As villages, cities, countries, and whole civilizations grow in size their problems grow with it. The more people, the more problems. Today a fuss is being made about the dangers of the population explosion. But the only kind of remedy which the world considers seriously is mechanical or chemical birth control, the use of some kind of contraceptive. It does not seem to occur to most people that the root of the matter lies in their enslavement to sexual passions and that only a voluntary sex control arrived at by their own inner growth can deal with this problem without creating adverse or harmful side effects--whether personal or social--as the contraceptives are causing.
The desire to avoid the sufferings of pregnancy and childbirth may become so strong in a woman that in a further rebirth the sex may be channeled into desire for the safety of intercourse with a person of the same sex.
Woman should set out deliberately to cultivate those qualities traditionally considered masculine and which men have acquired partly through a different physical organization and partly through conflict with the world and conduct of its affairs. That these qualities are latent in her is shown by the numerous cases of career women who have successfully established themselves in fields of action uninvaded before the nineteenth century. For instance, positive self-reliant character and rational practical judgement traditionally belong to man while a gentle character and emotion-swayed faith are traditionally feminine. She has acquired the latter for reasons of her own physical constitution and by caring for the family and tending its home. Man must set out to cultivate these two characteristics also and yet take care not to lose his more reasonable and logical way of thought while doing so, since this is needed to correct them. Both sexes must learn to let the impersonal intuition and impartial conscience control all the other functions and keep them in equilibrium. Neither sex is to lose those outward qualities which mark and distinguish the sexes from one another and render them attractive to each other. He is to remain manly, she to retain her femininity. The change will show itself mostly in reaction to others and in response to the world.
It is difficult for most women to carry out all the obligations of marriage and motherhood, and, at the same time, find the leisure and freedom for spiritual studies. Nevertheless, quite a number find it possible to do so. If real effort is made, and if it is accompanied by earnest prayer for Divine assistance, the higher self will see that the way gradually becomes easier.
It is true that many inhabitants of monasteries and convents allow the fear of sex to become dominant. But this is certainly not true of the philosophic mystic. The latter knows that unless an individual feels strongly impelled to discontinue physical relations, sexual abstinence may do considerably more harm--mentally and physically--than spiritual good. Therefore, the general attitude toward sex should be one of acceptance--but certain disciplines and ethical standards must, naturally, accompany it.
It is not necessary to try to kill out all sex desire before one can experience spiritual rebirth, but it is necessary to discipline it. Marriage is permissible, but the animal nature must be controlled by the higher Will.
Sometimes one asks whether it is right to indulge in sexual promiscuity because of urgent desires and thus to get the thing out of his system, as it were. The answer is given in The Voice of the Silence, which says: "Do not believe that lust can ever be killed out if gratified or satiated, for this is an abomination inspired by Satan. It is by feeding vice that it expands and waxes strong, like to the worm that fattens on the blossom's heart." Such methods of gratification never get it out of anyone's system. There are more effective and safer ways.
Meanwhile, meditation may help by mentally retracing premarital or even extramarital experiences of sex, but to see them this time from the ugly and repulsive side, with all the sordid little details and low principles, the risks and confusions, the futility and disappointment that mark the end, and thus get the other side of the picture. This kind of meditation is to be analytic and reflective. It is intended to create certain associative thoughts which will immediately manifest themselves whenever the desire itself manifests. Some attach too much importance to physical asceticism such as fasting and not enough to following out the evil consequences of sex desire by repeated thoughts and imaginations, until they are etched into his outlook.
Sexual promiscuity is dangerous for many reasons. This is so because: (1) The aspirant's karma becomes entangled with the other person's. (2) One becomes psychically infected with low thought-forms hovering in the other person's aura. (3) Philosophy requires its adherents to consider the effects of their actions upon the lives and the character of others. We are to help their evolution, not their retrogression. (4) Intercourse with many unevolved types gives a special shock to the nervous systems of those who practise meditation and disintegrates something of their achievements each time.
It is quite correct that there was a separation of the sexes in the far past but that was for evolutionary purposes, and belonged only to the lower levels of existence. Hence Jesus rightly explained that in heaven--the higher level of existence--there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.
You have the good fortune or misfortune to be attractive to men and so long as you remain unmarried you may expect that they will importune you. It is of course a matter for you to decide how you are to react in every case; but whether it is necessary to yield in order to get on in practical life, I would reply that many women do yield and do get on in consequence but it is not necessarily the only way to get on. It is the easier but a slippery and dangerous path and I would certainly advise you to try the harder way even though you may not get on so well in consequence. Every rose on the easier path has a thorn concealed beneath it. It is not that sex in itself is a sin, for at a certain evolutionary level it is a natural function, but that self-respect demands it should be an expression of something finer than mere barter. It is more satisfactory in the end to establish yourself materially through determination and courage than to yield to temptation. Another point is that promiscuous sex not infrequently leads to disagreeable entanglements of karma which have to be disentangled at the price of suffering. That is one of the several reasons why marriage has been laid down as the normal path for humanity.
From a certain time onwards, greater asceticism may be necessary. Dietary changes, with which the individual may experiment, are one step in the right direction. He should strive to improve his whole general condition. All matters involving self-restraint where diet, drinking, smoking, and so on, are concerned should be watched and inner promptings carefully followed. It is also advisable to have regular periods of complete chastity--partly to exercise and develop the will and partly to prepare oneself for the practice of higher meditation. Although a philosophic discipline rejects permanent and exaggerated forms of asceticism, it both accepts and uses occasional and intelligent ones.
It remains merely an animal act, an expression of the body's lust, and nothing more. The reasons are obvious and have prompted many spiritual aspirants, both Asiatic and Christian, to become celibates and monks. These reasons may not be so obvious to those who are obsessed by sex, as so many modern writers have been who have influenced the younger generations, who are stupefied by the sense-pleasure of it, who are slaves to its recurring habit-forming urges and understand nothing of the need for its discipline. The philosophers have long known that there is a higher view of sex, and some among them know that there is even a higher practice of it which eliminates the spiritual obstacle and raises it to the level of spiritual co-operation. This is brought about by substituting stillness for passion. Such a change cannot be achieved without the practice of physical, nervous, emotional, and mental self-control. Just as the high point of meditation provides its glorious result under the condition of a thought-free stillness, in the same way raising sex to this immeasurably higher octave requires the condition of an inward and outward immobilization. That this can be reached, that the coupling of the two sexes could possibly have any relationship with the higher development of man, may seem incredible to those who know only its passional side.
That inferior tantrik sects have eagerly used the teaching to make their sexual desires appear as holy aspirations is quite true. This is part of the danger in such methods and why they are held in ill repute by many Indian authorities.
The dragon of sex must be fought. It may be conquered, but its strength differs at different stages of the fighter's life.
Krishnamurti: "Chastity is a mind that is completely free from all image making, all the pictures, sensations, which thought has built in its search for pleasure through sex. Then you will find an abundance of energy."
Man and woman, having the power between them to create another human being, may use this power either in submission to animal urges or in consonance with their highest ideals. In the former case, only physical or social penalties will keep them from being unrestrainedly self-indulgent. In the latter case, only the serious decision by both parties to provide a bodily vehicle for a higher type of reincarnating ego will bring them together in the procreative act. Children will then owe their birth to the serious act and deliberate purpose of two calm, mature persons, not to the chance union and ungoverned passion of two drifting ones.
A substance so valuable that it can create another human being, must be used in accordance with its value, not squandered in unthinking indulgence.
History gives enough evidence to show that too many stern attempts to impose celibate ways of living unloosed some of the lusts they seek to bind. They could not be enforced on the unready.
If sexuality is an attribute of animal and human life, sexual love is an ordinary fact of human nature. Why should it be regarded as suspect, why should it be treated as anti-spiritual? If the answer is that the passions of sex drag man down into the mud, philosophy shows how they can be sublimated so as to lift him up to heaven. They can be brought to dismiss their ancient enmity towards spiritual aspiration, to unite and work together for man's redemption, his enlightenment, and his salvation.
Tolstoy took long cross-country walks and bicycle rides in the early period when he tried to eradicate all sex desires. Those who have no desire to go to the extreme length to which his highly ascetic turn took him, may nevertheless find cycling a helpful and healthy exercise.
When this process of balancing the two forces comes to an end, the male-female consciousness of the real human being will be established at last.
There is a hidden teaching on sex in the Orient. This is known as tantrik yoga. The full teaching has usually been unavailable to the general public because of the dangers of misunderstanding and misuse should it fall into the hands of the unready or unworthy. The other systems of yoga generally favour an ascetic and stoical attitude toward sex whereas the tantrik system does not. In this modern age when so much of the hidden teaching has been revealed so widely, there is no reason why the tantrik teaching should remain completely hidden. If properly placed in the setting of a system of self-discipline and self-development, and if properly expounded with reasons, causes, and effects made quite clear, if kept free from all the entangling symbolism which has grown around the teaching during the centuries, it may have something useful to contribute to modern knowledge and modern living.
The physical methods used by the early Christian desert ascetics to crush sex were not bad, although incomplete in themselves, and have been tested by time since then. They included fasting, abstinence from alcohol and meat and cooked food, sleeping on the floor, and running until exhausted.
The biological need of sex which is satisfied by marriage, must be respected even by the man who has renounced it. He ought not fall into the error of one kind of ascetic who denounces it in vituperative language or of the other kind who tries to ignore it in repressive silence. It is a perfectly natural function which becomes evil if man degrades it, noble if he elevates it, changed if he sublimates it.
The sex craving expires in giving birth to its transformation--the spirit-fire energy.
Where excessive erotic thinking accompanies physical continence, the result may be mental disorder or bodily sickness.
The children who would be born to parents whose matings are few, whose minds are pure, and whose hearts are aspiring, would be markedly superior in every way.
An enforced chastity, which is the product of rigid circumstances or lack of temptation, is not the philosophic chastity.
In these matters of sex, alcohol, and smoking we simply place the inner psychic and spiritual facts about them before the aspirant and and tell him that it is essential for the use of them to be a disciplined one. How far he should discipline them is entirely a matter for his personal decision. He may go only 5% or he may go all the way into 100% total abstinence, or all the range of points between.
The power of sex to make or mar happiness or equanimity is formidable. Left to run amok in savage lust it harms and degrades a man but, redeemed and transmuted, it serves his best interests.
He knows, by theory and practice, logic and experience, that chastity may conserve energy--physical and mental, emotional and spiritual. But he knows also that it creates undesired and undesirable effects in mind and character.
Chastity is not the same as purity, although the two are often confused. The one is a way of outward life; the other a state of inner life.
Such chastity cannot be avoided if the energies needed for mastering the mind are to become powerful enough. In most men sex is the largest diversion of these energies.
The true union between man and woman is tantrik. But it cannot be brought about without developed qualities on both sides.
Sex, which ought to be a natural controlled urge, has all-too-often become a disease, a fever, an obsession.
Those physical and passional conditions which pass for love among the young--with their uncontrollable sensuality, their total unconcern with higher values, their puppet-like copulation--all show that they have still to outgrow the close ties which they still have to the animal stage of evolution.
The idea of sexual pleasure is derived from, based upon, the pair of opposites--masculine, feminine. Like all other ideas it has to be transcended; like all other pairs of opposites, it has to be brought into equilibrium.
In the wild, ungoverned, unhealthy, and irresponsible atmosphere of sexuality which covers the younger generation's world today, we may find some explanation why it was regarded with suspicion, or opposed altogether, not so long ago.
They turn away from the passionate desires of the flesh; they seek an existence devoid of its animality. But, lacking esoteric knowledge, without understanding how spirit and body are interwoven, too often they suffer defeat.
So far as psychoanalysis confirms the demands of sexual craving without putting upon it the basic disciplines which health, character, and self-respect require, so far does it cease to be a therapy, and become an injury.
The enchantment and glamour in which lovers find themselves are too often false and deceptive, mere preliminary devices used by Nature to get them together and thus fulfil her larger purposes. The ancient Greek or Roman thinker who likened their condition to a form of madness was not so far wrong as he seems. But too often also it is subject to change; the glamour goes or is transferred elsewhere or, worse, is transformed into repulsion. And where sex is not the hidden operative factor, one of the two is a victim of--or possessed by--some other force: ambition, economic need, vanity, the power complex.
Sex polarity provides the force bringing the bodies of men and women into intermittent attractive relation, but mental polarity provides a more lasting one.
The strict discipline to which sex desire was subject in the earlier stages is abandoned in the later ones, for all lusts and wraths fall away of their own accord as his own growth, with the touch of grace, sets him free.
As the sex energy is transmuted by will and mentally distributed throughout every part of the body, it bestows physical strength and resistance to disease.
Where fate forces the practice of complete abstinence it should be accepted philosophically and its compensatory benefits recognized.
Lust rises like a fever, rages along its course, and then subsides. But between start and finish much of a lifetime may pass away.
When adolescent boys and girls are able to rush from one pleasure to another, from one emotional entanglement to another, without a thought of the consequences involved or of other persons concerned, except what contribution they can make to selfish enjoyment, when all this is done in the name of modern self-expression, then a state of moral danger can be said to exist. The Buddha suggested a philosophical way of controlling the animal passions in man. He affirmed that if we will think often of the inevitability of our own death, if we will remember that the upshot of all our activities is the funeral-pyre, the burial grave, we will begin to realize how pitiful, how ultimately worthless, and how immediately transient are all our passions. How will the animal passions appeal to the man lying on his deathbed? The thought of death even to those who are still very much alive will thus diminish the strength of lust, greed, hate, and anger.
The force which men spend in ungoverned sexual desire keeps them imprisoned in their lower nature. This same force can be sublimated by will, imagination, aspiration, prayer, and meditation. When this is done, the Overself can then instruct them for they will be able to hear its voice.
Few are willing to surrender sex; yet, because it is such a tyrant, it must be conquered completely if the Overself is to rule.
When this bipolar nature of sex is understood, when it is seen that the opposite pole is always contained in every being, the question arises whether marriage is needed any longer to achieve the balance of these two poles. The answer must be that so long as the need is felt, so long is the sex force still not sublimated and the development of the other pole within oneself still incomplete. Marriage will continue to be indicated until this completion is attained.
When men are asked to deny totally and permanently their sex instinct, they are asked too much. The force of human nature would overtake them in the end. An ideal which is unrealizable is useless as a working ideal, however lofty it seems as a theoretical one.
If the seed is expended then nerve energy is lost, the mind is debilitated and its power of upward contemplative flight reduced. But this does not necessarily lead to the consequence of a prohibition against marriage or to a refusal of its consummation. It leads to a discipline of marriage and to a change in its consummation. If philosophy rejects the ascetic view in this matter, it also rejects the common view and the common practice. More cannot be written in public print but let it suffice that both the finest relationship between the sexes and the highest purity in sexual ethics are attained only among the philosophical adepts. Theirs is not only a moral achievement but a magical one. The retention of semen is a practice in such circles as also in Indian yoga and Chinese Taoism.
The act of reproducing the human body can be made a sacred one or left an animal one. The monastic celibates are not the only persons who live what they call a "pure" life. Any married couple can do the same, provided they limit their physical relations to reproductive purposes alone and even then limit the number of their children to what reason and intuition direct. This means that they will refuse to dissipate the generative energies for mere pleasure, but instead will deliberately seek to transmute them. Thus marriage is redeemed by the few who can rise to this lofty ideal, as it is degraded by the many who insist on keeping to their kinship with the animals.
If the seminal secretions of the sexual glands are conserved and if the sexual desires are mentally sublimated, the man will become self-possessed in speech and action. He will experience a joyous feeling of mastery over the animal in him that weaklings never know and cannot understand.
The soul-mate is really the Self within. He will find his true soul-mate when he finds his inner Self, when he yields himself completely and lovingly up to it.
The sexual need is an expression, in its grosser passion-swept form, of the unconscious belief in the reality of the physically sensed world. But in its subtler form it is an expression of belief in the reality of the ego. This becomes evident, however, only when a man transcends the ego in actuality, for then the need wholly falls away because the impulse behind it falls away.
I do not mean by chastity the mere compulsory celibacy of unmarried persons, for this can still be accompanied by--and often is--mental erotic indulgence or emotional erotic craving. I mean a state physically free from need of passion and emotionally secure from disturbance of fantasy.
Few escape being assailed by sex urges. Most rule them physically alone, and then only so far as a limited morality, prudence, or position requires. Few seek mental victory over them or even want such a victory. Since the battle is usually hard and long, these attitudes are understandable. But the Quester has no other option than to fight for self-mastery here as in other passional spheres.
The passion for the particular muscular or acrobatic exercise which is for most men their attraction to the opposite sex, is their inheritance from the animal evolution to which their bodies belong. It may of course be accompanied by higher attractions, admirations, or affections, or even covered up and masked by them.
To allow sex unlimited freedom is to destroy the possibility of higher attainment. There are physical, mental, and emotional disciplines to bring it under control. But to defeat it, the constant looking away, with joy, at the divine beauty, and frequent surrender to the divine stillness must complete them.
Sex is love only in a crude, groping, and primitive way. The experience it yields is but a faint distorted echo of love. The confusion of the original sound with its echo leads to delusion about both.
Sex wants to possess its beloved, even to enslave her. Love is willing to let her stay free. This is not an argument against marriage, for both sex and love can be found inside as well as outside marriage. It is an attempt to clear confusion and remove delusion.
Are there not dwellers in monasteries tempted, tormented, wrestling with phantoms created by their lust?
The love of the sexes will pose a hard problem for him. Along with physical regimes, he must find his solution by cold reasoning, austere disciplining, trained imagining, deep meditating, and devotional aspiring--a solution which must free him from the common state of either unsatisfied or over-satisfied desires. Only by probing to the very roots of this love and these desires, can he hope to bring them into accord with the philosophic ideal.
When the disciple has reached a certain stage, he will become clearly aware that the feeling of sexual lust, if it arises from time to time, is at times something out of his own past, not out of his present state, or an inheritance from parental tendencies impregnated in the body's nervous structure, or at other times something unconsciously transferred to him by another person. He will perceive vividly that what is happening is an invasion by an alien force--so alien that it will actually seem to be at some measurable distance from him, moving farther off as it weakens or coming closer as it strengthens. Therefore he will realize that the choice of accepting it as his own or rejecting it as not his own, is presented him. By refusing to identify himself with it, he quickly robs it of its power over him. The Buddha indeed gave an exercise to his disciples to defend themselves against such invasions by asking them to declare repeatedly, "This is not I. This is not mine."
The man who prefers the freedom but loneliness of celibacy to the companionship but chains of matrimony is entitled to do so.
The shame is not in sex but in abuse of it. Every man is loath to part with the sex relation and enter into the monastic state. Only sufficiently weighty counterbalancing forces will make him do so. We ought, therefore, to respect that state even if we feel no personal inclination to take the vow of chastity or see no theoretical necessity to do so.
In that moment of supreme sexual ecstasy, the most spiritually impoverished man gets a faded and fleeting glimpse of the love which inheres in the very nature of his higher Self. But whereas this glimpse merely torments him by its brevity and tantalizes him by its limited, faulty character, that higher impersonal love is eternal, unlimited, and supremely satisfying: it is indeed perfect love.
Since the first origin of the sexual instinct is ultimately traceable to the cosmic energy and since mystical joy immediately derives from contact with this energy, the conservation of one by the man who transmutes his passion, and the uprisal of the other, when he sends his forces in this direction, not only cancels all sense of loss but substitutes the divine for the animal. Both directions lead to ecstasy yet how rare and ethereal the one, how common and gross the other!
A truly philosophic attitude is neither ascetic nor hedonistic. It takes what is worthy from both--not by arithmetical computation to arrive at equal balance but by wise insight to arrive at harmonious living. It respects the creative vitality of man as something to be brought under control, and thereafter used conservatively or consciously sublimated. In this way the extreme points of view associated with fanaticism are rejected. The ridiculous results of such fanaticism can be heard in the nonsense talked equally by those who measure a man's spirituality by his monastic celibacy as well as by those who consider all celibacy unnecessary.
In our description of man it is not enough to mention his intellect and feelings, his intuition and will; we must not leave out his instincts and impulses. The sexual instinct, particularly, is of paramount importance.
He who can keep his chastity in thought and feeling not less than in conduct has reached a worthwhile achievement. He need not be ashamed of it nor hesitate to preserve it because of contrary counsel. It will do him no harm but can provide him with the power to sustain his highest endeavours. Not many can do this, it is true, and those whose physical continence is continually sapped by mental and emotional unchastity, might do better to follow Saint Paul's advice and marry rather than burn.
The feminine component in the psyche is the passive, the inert, the element which yearns to be taken over and subjugated by another power. The male component is the active, the outgoing, that which aggressively drives out for release from its tensions.
The confusion between sexual pureness and sexual continence is widespread, fostered by the monastic traditions which interlace most religions. That we could be perfectly pure in mind without being perfectly chaste in body--that is, while yet remaining married--is not a conventional view.
There is something terrifying in the mesmeric spell cast by sex, this vast universal power which lets the individual keep an illusion of personal initiative when all the time he is merely obeying its blind will.
If some cases of homosexuality come from the predominant carry-over of qualities brought from the opposite sex of the previous incarnation, others are an attempt by Nature at correcting the exaggerated development of those qualities, by birth in a body unable to express them properly.
The disillusionments about sex as it reveals the pain behind its pleasure, the ugliness behind its beauty, and the degradations behind its refinements mean nothing to the ordinary mind but must create a retreat from its urges in the superior mind.
All indulgence of the sexual instinct, beyond that needed for the deliberate procreation of wanted children, is really overindulgence. Every such expenditure of semen, which is the concentrated essence of physical life, is a wasting one.
A low-protein, raw food diet diminishes desires associated with the reproductive organ, but the result will last only as long as the diet lasts. A deliberate attempt to transmute these forces, made along mental, emotional, and spiritual directions, is also needed for more durable results.
The necessity of satisfying sexual lust--so prevalent in the ordinary man--disappears in the liberated person.
Lao Tzu said the man of Tao is free from the consciousness of sex.
If being and becoming, the world's inner reality and its outer appearance, are indeed one in the final ultimate view, then how can we cast out some functions of Nature as evil and yet retain others as good? Why should the passionless celibate be put on the highest grade of spirituality and the married man denied any entry if both are judged not by sexual activity or inactivity but by capacity to immolate the ego upon its funeral pyre?
If through the mystical Glimpse, God finds Himself temporarily in man's mind, through the creative act of love He finds Himself momentarily in man's body. Although this is but a poor echo of the other and higher discovery, muted and distorted and raucous by comparison, still it is in deepest meaning the union of self with Overself. In this lies its perpetual lure. But because it is a substitution, it is beset with miseries, frustrations, perils, and repulsions. And however often it is satisfied, neither the man nor the woman ever feels really fulfilled. This is because the inner need is ignored, the higher purpose not even thought of.
The five ascetic rules which Patanjali ordains for the yogi include, as their fourth item, brahmacharya. In India this term is usually taken to mean "abstinence from sexual intercourse; chastity," and is so translated into English. But the original esoteric and philosophic meaning is "restraint of the sexual forces." These two definitions are not identical.
Parenthood is not the only way for a man to express his creativeness. He may find other and useful channels for it. He may build a business or invent a machine, write a poem or help nature grow food or flowers.
If it is unwise for a young man who does not belong by nature to the strong-willed to embrace complete chastity, it is equally unwise for him, a quarter-century later, not to embrace it.
He who conserves his creative energy for the purpose of realizing his higher identity, will not at any time feel that he is suffering loss, privation, or torment. On the contrary, he will feel the gain of freedom, strength, and mastery.
The Sutra of the Forty-Two Sections (Chinese Mahayana):
Buddha said: "Of all longings and desires none is stronger than sex. Sex as a desire has no equal. Rely on the (universal) Oneness. No one is able to become a follower of the Way if he accepts dualism." The translator, "Chu Ch'an," comments: "The Buddhist argues that distinctions between this and that are really void and that fundamentally everything is one. Sex is an extreme example of the negation of this theory, since it depends entirely upon the attraction between opposites."
Buddha said: "To put a stop to these evil actions [unceasing indulgence of sexual passion] will not be so good as to put a stop to [the root] in your mind. If the mind desists, its followers will stop also."
His choice between celibacy and marriage must not only be circumstance-decided but, even more, intuitively guided. There are chaste persons who need to remain so. There are unchaste ones who need to become chaste. The sublimation of sex energy is the best ideal for both these classes. The first is set apart for this purpose by nature. The second must become strong enough to set themselves apart by deliberate decision. But the deep inner voice must be their counsel in this matter. For there are others who need the experience of married life, the subjection to its disciplines and temptations, the chance it offers to move away from egoism or to fall deeper into it.
The ascetic disciplines are often useful and necessary phases wherein to get rid of attachments to undesirable habits, remove impeding blockages, and get out of unhealthy conditions. But they are only phases of the quest, only means to an end. If they are overdone, or their place magnified and misunderstood, they create new blockages, attachments, and new cages from which the ascetic will later need to seek liberation. To condemn the human satisfactions, to reject pleasures, to brush aside the arts as irrelevant, is too sweeping, goes too far, and makes for unreasonableness.
If my earlier statements on sex seem to be contradicted in the later ones, the change must be admitted. For beginning as far back as The Spiritual Crisis of Man, I had stopped looking at the subject with the youthful rebellious eyes with which I had also looked at conventional society and religion. If Freud contributed to the earlier phase, it need not be thought that puritanism has done so to the later one.
The sex problem can only be settled by reference to the degree of evolution the individual has attained. To ask for complete celibacy from the beginner in the quest, however enthusiastic he may be, is to ask for confusion, unbalance, and possible disaster if he is still young and vigorous in body. It is better for him to pass through and outgrow what the ancient Hindus called "the householder stage" before he ventures into the saint's. Only the exceptional man can proceed direct to the higher stage and yet maintain his progress undisturbed.
It is unfortunate for such people--they are so numerous--but we are not here merely to be entertained, especially by sex; there are cosmic issues at play also.
A man may live celibately for years and be none the worse for it. Indeed he may be all the better. The effects will depend on his mental attitude, the kind of thoughts he has about it.
The body is not polluted by the presence of sexual organs as our ascetic friends seem to believe. Nature is wiser than they are. She knew what she was doing when she evolved them.
He need not make the reform in his habits of living until he is not only intellectually convinced of its need but also inwardly feels that the right time, the psychological moment, for it has arrived. In that way it will be unforced and natural, while its course and results will be lasting.
No woman can give man what she has not herself got. He can find perfect love only in the Overself which is above the fragmentariness of sex and completely whole in itself.
The Hindu religion put celibates on high-ranking pinnacles and admired those who practised asceticism. The Hebrew religion condemned celibacy and produced no ascetics. Yet both religions claimed divine inspiration.
The tantrik practice has been distorted in Northern India where, under the name of sahaja, a childless woman may approach a sadhu and request him to father her child. If he does so without seeking to experience pleasure, he is considered to be as moral and righteous and sinless as before!
The man who says, "I love you," too often means, "I want your body."
It is partly because women tend to be passive and receptive that they are more ready to believe in religion and more open to intuit mysticism than men are. But the price they often pay is to be less rational, less critical, more gullible. Hence they more easily become dupes of charlatanic or absurd cults.
Sex must be brought to heel, the illusions engendered by it must be exposed for what they really are. He will have to choose between abject unreflective surrender to a biological urge, grotesque over-evaluation of a glandular excitation on the one hand, and freedom, peace, and security on the other.
Trapped as they are in the limitations of this body, they seek compensation in freedom of the mind. But too many among the young have sought it wrongly--through the use of drugs, the abuse of alcohol, the forgetfulness in dissipated sex.
The romantic exchange of tender words between two young persons, whether still adolescent or a little older, with its stirring physical hormones and with or without gushing sentimentality, will be seen in a truer light after Nature has realized its purposes in them.
Some are called to chastity (which is a separate condition from celibacy). Others, uncertain, may try for it, and if unable to maintain it, acknowledge honourable defeat and are content with aspiration toward the lesser goals. Clearly a marriage for affinity and companionship, platonic, without physical love, is more difficult to realize but more suited to those who do not wish to forfeit the higher goals.
The pattern of succumbing to this overwhelming lust after a period of mounting tension and then feeling shame, regret, or revulsion, is a familiar one.
Whether freed from the demands of sex by the coming of old age or by the fulfilment of spiritual aspiration, he who enjoys this freedom can turn his mind more easily to the Peace within.
As regards sex, he should remember that if he is called by the Quest to give up everything for a time, or even for all time, it is only that he might receive something infinitely better in exchange. The Quest calls for renunciation of earthly desires, not to make him miserable, but to make him happy.
Outside of politics, on no subject about which it is possible to write is there likely to be so much criticism on the one side, and so much support on the other, as on the subject of sex. Sometimes a daring writer ventures to suggest that it is possible to advance by degrees in the inner life, and that it is not essential for the aspirants who are already married or for those who hope to get married eventually, to forswear the bliss and risk of wedded union. He is immediately corrected by rigidly chaste ladies and gentlemen in the West as well as not a few brown-robed monks in the East, who will sternly inform him that he has perverted the spiritual teaching and led these aspirants astray!
The Indian who remains a householder while following yoga, is expected to prepare himself before becoming a father, by four years of chastity.
The mere suppression of sex power does not lead to illumination but the redirection of it to a higher level may contribute, as one powerful factor, to such illumination.
All the forces of a man have to be mobilized in the search for higher consciousness. He cannot leave sex-force out, for example.
If they have a genuine vocation for the celibate life, they must honour it. But the young do not always know their own mind and sometimes this vocation is only an imaginary and false one. A temporary test will be helpful in finding out the truth of their fitness or unfitness for it.
There is but one end to such sensualism--unless it falls into still deeper self-deception--and that is disillusionment. The dancer Isadora Duncan's tragic cry before she died is instructive: "I have had as much as anyone of that sort of thing which men call love. Love?--rot! In the flesh there is no love."
Chastity will have been attained when he feels himself ready to take the sacred vow, not in response to some external bidding but rather to a strong internal one.
The end of these disciplines comes when both physical lust and emotional desire leave him completely. Their very root has then been destroyed. From that day he is useless to members of the opposite sex seeking either to make love or engender romance.
Whatever disciplined sex relation in marriage the Quester has allowed himself should itself be brought to an end when middle age is reached, for the practice of chastity is then as advisable both spiritually and physically as it is in youth. He needs to begin to untie himself from the worldly life and little by little withdraw into a more solitary, a more studious, a more abstemious and more meditative period.
The adolescent or the adult in whom this passion rises and seeks expression, will unavoidably be subject to mental conflict. It will not be ended without a struggle, often a protracted struggle which ceases only with the natural ebbing of energies that comes to the elderly or the sick. More rarely, it ceases when the man takes to the Quest and attains a far enough advancement on it. Some who pass through life without experiencing the struggle have either achieved the victory in earlier lives or have special physical causes to account for it. But where the struggle exists, one end result is to lead either to the enfeeblement or to growth of will.
The uprising of sexual desire is not due to sin but to Nature, which requires every being to balance the sex force. But where both the animal and the average man seek to do this through the body of a female, the illumined man is able to do it by sublimating the force inside himself.
Man attempts to complete himself in the momentary gratification of animal sex, or in the more lasting magnetic pairing of lifelong marriage.
Is chastity an indispensable condition for the quester? Celibacy, a virtue to Catholic priesthood, a vice to Muhammedan doctors of religious law, is neither to the Quest.
A Chinese gentleman who belonged to a high official's family in the pre-Communist regime and who went to Tibet in search of wisdom and a master, spent eight years in a famous monastery in the latter country. He lived as a monk, studied and meditated under the advanced teachers, and was honoured with a title for his excellence in Buddhist learning. But in the end he left Tibet, got married, and had children. He told me that he felt there were weaknesses in his character which had to be worked out in a householder's life. He was honest and truthful. But how many monks did he leave behind in the monastery who had taken the vows, as he did, in their twenties and were now struggling with their sexual thoughts in secret?
Emmett Fox, who wrote some widely circulated little books on positive thinking, was able to fill Carnegie Hall, New York, to capacity whenever he lectured there. He was a tall good-looking man and attracted the admiration of women, but he kept himself aloof and reserved from them. One of his followers, an unmarried lady in her late thirties, became infatuated with him to the point of complete helplessness. Finally she had to confess her love to him. He stood up behind her, placed one hand on her hand and the other on the back of her neck. She felt kundalini force being drawn up the spine to her head. Thereafter she was free of this sexual obsession.
The biological attraction of the sexes normally has its zenith and its nadir. This statement is true despite that it seems belied by today's facts. For the exceptions arise either from artificial stimulation and deliberate suggestion through modern arts or through the perversion of Nature--including its surgical perversion--or possession of the body by disincarnate spirits or the use of practices which are little known and perilous.
Washing the organs concerned with cold water once or twice a day helps to get free from the congestion of blood in the vessels there.
The titillation of a gland joined to the stimulation of a number of nerves is pleasurable and tempts men to repeat the experience. If this repetition is pushed to excess, they become stupefied and fall into a pit dug by their own hands.
It is not all sects of tantra which seek either to delay the act of ejaculation or to prevent it altogether, but it is certainly the higher ones. There are others who have brought all tantrism into disrepute because of their debased practices.
The act of union is not in itself a polluting one, for it is part of Nature's process. But pollution sets in when the act is abused, misused, degraded, or perverted. Where pollution does not exist, discipline or rejection of the act is enjoined because of the tremendous immersion in, and concentration upon, the physical body, which it causes.
The snake crawling on its belly is as close to the earth as any animal could get. As a symbol this creature stands in ancient scriptures for earthly pleasure. And since there is no pleasure so intense as the sexual one, it has come to stand for that particularly. The snake rearing its head and holding itself upright stands for the overcoming of sexual passion. It is not only a symbol of such mastery but particularly of the power arising from its being diverted toward spiritual knowledge and aspiration.
Explain the original single-sexed nature of the human being, what the division into two sexes entails, why the problems of sex become more complicated with the evolution of the human being, and the impossibility of giving a satisfactory rule for sexual behaviour to all seekers and why it must be adjusted to the varying stages and circumstances of individual seekers. State the ultimate goal which all have to attain eventually. Point out (a) the dangers of premature monastic celibacy so far as it affects the next incarnation, and (b) the dangers of overstimulation of sex in modern civilization. Explain how those who seek to curb or control sex desire may get help from the physical disciplines. Breeding children is a duty which cannot be prescribed for all but depends upon individual circumstances, natural inclination, and evolutionary stage.
The seeking of pleasure through sex necessarily brings him close to the edge of an enfeebled will, a sinking in physical being, and an entanglement in mere animality. More than this, the energies thus spent or lost are the concentrated essence of his human being--bodily, emotional, and mental. If these energies are controlled, directed, and uplifted to a higher plane altogether, they become the source, no longer of spiritual degradation, but of spiritual development.
Can men and women love each other only pornographically? Can their two egos find no better point of contact than the one which makes them no better than apes?
The lustful libertine, whose prayer is, "Give us this day our daily bed," will shrink with horror from any such discipline.
In this mutual surrender and ecstatic merger of one individual to another that is sexual love, we may see both a reflection and a symbol of the higher union of the ego with the Overself.
The desperation with which they fight this inescapable part of their nature in the struggle for a pseudo-virtue, the enormous physiological and spiritual ignorance in which such fighting is usually involved, leads to a lot of needless suffering.
The monkish outlook which deprecates the life of a householder and exaggerates the necessity of strict celibacy, is expressed in a large part of mystical literature. But this is only because the authors were monks and nuns themselves, or lay persons trained by monks and nuns, or old men and women who had little sympathy with the feelings and needs of younger ones. Such antagonism towards sex is all the more confusing since it is as much justified by some of the facts as it is refuted by others.
The Buddha pointed out that giving reality to an illusion so powerful as the sexual force makes men see as attractive what, to reason, is repulsive. It is a magical force.
That aspirant has attained purity who no longer desires any human being but only pure Being itself. Thus he passes from the personal to the impersonal, from passion through penitence and self-discipline to utter tranquillity.
The minority which is able and willing to practise complete chastity and finds its way into convents and monasteries shows by its smallness how hard and how unattractive that virtue is.
It is not necessary to limit sex-transmuting only to kundalini-raising exercise. The mind can be directed toward affirmations of sex control when doing most of the stretching and bending exercises.
Flirt before forty, if you must, and philosophize after it, would seem to be a rule followed by too many modern people. Fortunately, some will find better things to do in a better age than to spend their swift-passing years in seeking to attract amatory attentions. They may then be able to pause and think for a while as to why they incarnated. Flippant flirtation is certainly a pleasant mode of passing time, but it is not an activity that can be continued into the sixties and seventies of one's life. And those who become aware of this certainty in advance will not find life becoming an unutterable and unbearable bore as they become older, as do the others.
Sex is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand it may bring the keenest enjoyment, but on the other the keenest pain. Therefore, it is to be wielded prudently, carefully, sanely, and with understanding.
There are periods in an aspirant's life when he is called to the discipline of utter chastity--and such a period may last for years or a lifetime, depending on each individual's particular circumstance. But until the call comes, preceding periods need not be so tightly disciplined. In short, his life will follow a rhythm of cycles. There are some who are called by their nature to an entire lifetime of utter chastity. It is easy and natural and right for them to be monks. But they are few. The others will do better to enter the marriage relation and are so formed by nature to need it. Both groups should avoid the fanaticism which wrongly insists on demanding that all others conform to their particular type. But this said, the ultimate ideal must still be left in view. It is always advisable in this Quest to discipline sex passions so as to become eventually independent of them. At a certain stage, complete chastity has to be observed and firmly established. Until then, anything he can do to make his emotional nature as pure as his strength will allow helps in every way. He should let all his longing and desires gradually converge on this single longing and desire for union with the Overself. He can utilize odd moments for kindling and rekindling this one yearning. The stronger it becomes, the greater will be the descent of Grace at the initiation periods.