A comprehensive illustrated guide to sex and spirituality.
Sacred sex presumes that male and female essence underlies all existence. Their union, a marriage of flesh and spirit, body and soul, is the path to sexual enlightenment, bringing spiritual wholeness to material life. The Sacred Sex Bible, a comprehensive illustrated guide to sex and spirituality, looks at historical and cultural currents in sexuality and the influence of Western and Eastern traditions, from pagan to Tantra. Cassandra Lorius includes examples of sexual practice and rituals along with exercises on breathing and visualization as pathways to sacred sex, or blissful union with the divine.
The book features:
The Sacred Sex Bible is a practical resource for sacred sex teachers, therapists, students and practitioners, holistic practitioners and professionals (such as yoga or meditation instructors, homeopaths), pagans, Tantrics, Shamanists, Daoists, Eastern spiritualists and those exploring a new level of sexual fulfillment.
Cassandra Lorius, MA, PGDip, is a couples' sex therapist and homeopath with a background in meditation, Tantra and Eastern spirituality. She is widely published on these subjects, including The Tantric Pillow Book. She lives in London, England.
Sacred sexuality is a powerful concept that has endured for millennia. The idea brings together two primal motivating forces within us, establishing that something so primal -- sex -- can also be deeply satisfying on the more profound levels of our being.
Sex and the sacred in the modern era have for the most part been separated and opposed, particularly with the rise of monotheistic religions and throughout the Christian era. In contemporary culture sex is treated as anything but sacred. In fact, it can be considered sacrilegious to use the language of the sacred in relation to the passions of the body.
The notion that sex is about little more than physical gratification severely limits the capacity that it offers for exploring a more profound connection between two people. While, as a practising sex therapist, I agree that it's good to develop love-making techniques, the focus of most self-help books on achieving satisfactory orgasm ignores the other levels of experience -- emotional and even spiritual -- that great sex can offer. Descriptions of sexual satisfaction are not shy of using terms like 'heavenly' and 'blissful' -- qualities often connected to deep, respectful and appreciative partnerships, in which trust between lovers is paramount.
There is a great desire in contemporary society to reclaim the 'holy' and make love-making truly divine. In making love with a sense of the sacred, your body becomes a temple and your partner's body a shrine. You use your bodies to worship one another and sex becomes a means of opening up to the sacred dimensions of life as a whole. In sacred sex, touch becomes precious; sounds and smells heighten your sensitivity and sensuality. The world of the senses intensifies your connection creating a shared experience as well as a mutual inter-dependence. Tried and tested techniques associated with spiritual awakening, such as yogic breath and visualization, are incorporated into love-making to create a multi-dimensional experience of sex as communion.
Physicists and mystics alike are united in describing the universe as a dynamic field of vibrating energy, and practitioners of sacred sex call this field of energy 'bliss'. Regardless of their religious affiliation, many people describe the ecstasy that can arise out of deeply bonded love-making as a mystical union, which creates a lasting sense of oneness or peace in its wake. Among sacred sex practitioners, bliss describes a way of experiencing reality, rather than a goal of sex and orgasm. Sacred sex refers to both the context and the content of sex: couples approach their bodies as a temple permeated with the divine and their sexual union as a sacred form of union. They celebrate love-making and may see it as a gateway to blissful communion, in which they meet the divine in one another. These couples may choose to work at their relationships until there is a level of awareness, appreciation and trust that allows them to go deeper in exploring their sexuality. Other couples seek out and use techniques gleaned from older traditions, in which ritual sex was part of a different, and perhaps more personal, understanding of the realm of the sacred. Trying out such techniques can offer a glimpse of sex as something much more satisfying than past experience may have provided, and this can inspire couples to explore sacred sex traditions. As we shall see in this book, such ideas have been around since the beginning of human history.
The notion of reverence in the realm of sexuality might seem like a new-age phenomenon, but the roots of sacred sex stretch back into the earliest history of humanity, where the worship of the divine was not separate from the realm of nature, including the processes and cycles that link and separate the material and spiritual realms. Goddesses were probably also metaphors for core aspects of cosmic consciousness -- the idea that the universe is an interconnected network, with each conscious being linked to every other -- as opposed to our individual, temporal, human identity. Goddess worship was doubtless about more than guaranteeing the ongoing fertility of nature in early agrarian communities, although ensuring the harvest was, of course, key to survival, for if crops were abundant, the community would flourish. Among Neolithic and Paleolithic cultures, an aspect of goddess worship appears to have been worship of nature and the propitiation of nature spirits in plants and the natural environment, along with mysteries of sex and the relationship between female and male principles.
Sex and society
Because our own culture too often treats sex as either prosaic or profane, it may be hard to imagine how it could once have been central to a culture in which sexuality was a defining feature of the Goddess. However, these early beliefs appear to have survived in the form of present-day Tantric teachings and practices within the Indian traditions. The mystics of Eastern traditions, in which sacred sex has played a crucial part, were remarkable in using sexual rites as a pathway to a deeper form of ecstasy, seen as the goal of spiritual awakening (see page 176).
Our ideas about religion and sexuality reflect the kind of society in which we find ourselves living, where for thousands of years the majority of people have tended to channel anything we might call 'spiritual' into established religious forms of expression. Mystical traditions throughout the millennia, whether as trends within mainstream religions or as discrete cults, have emphasized personal experience as the gateway to a more personal relationship with the divine. Over diverse areas and historical periods, many sects and groups of practitioners appear to have explored religion through direct experience in ways that were not included or recorded by mainstream religions. Once religious hierarchies became established, they tended to repress difference or dissent in their need to consolidate their power. The majority of these sects were successfully wiped out, especially in Europe.
For the last few thousand years, the dominant world religions have largely treated sexuality as a distraction from the spiritual path. Christian saints were ideally celibate, and in his hugely influential 4th century autobiographical Confessions, Augustine decried relationships with women as the ultimate distraction -- despite his 15-year relationship with a concubine, with whom he fathered a son. Augustine cemented the split between sexuality and spirituality that characterized mainstream Christianity, which was to become much more severe over the next two millennia. In embracing the freedom from social pressures offered by a celibate lifestyle, he went much further, positioning sex as a fundamental barrier to spiritual freedom. He characterized the conflict between sex and sexuality as 'the lust of the flesh against the spirit'. This was a radical shift from the broadly positive attitudes towards sexuality among pagans and Jews that had existed until a couple of centuries after the death of Christ.
The Sacred Sex Bible examines historical and cultural currents in sexuality and the influence of other traditions incorporating ritual sex. Scholar Howard Urban refers to the current new-age tendency to mine Tantric traditions, creating a version of sacred sex that is stripped of religious and cultural baggage, as a re-imagining of such practices. By the same token many practitioners in India and Tibet also engage in reimagining some of the rituals of their own traditions.
Even if rituals have great antiquity, in using them for personal practice we inevitably customize them and reshape them to our own needs. This book provides an imagined exploration of sacred sex, while drawing on some of the research and thoughts of philosophers and academics, as well as contemporary teachers of sacred sex.
Inside The Sacred Sex Bible
Chapter 1, Goddess Worship from the Ancients to the Alchemists, explores early goddess worship, high priestesses as sexual initiators, rites in ancient Greece and Hermetic beliefs inspired by Hellenistic and Egyptian writings. The great goddess was represented as Lover, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Wisdom and Holy Spirit, providing an image of the Divine Feminine reflected at the human level. Spiritual practice may have incorporated sexual rites as a potent means of accessing wisdom and we look at the persistence of sacred rites and the inspirational power of goddesses, or the priestesses and sybils who stood in for these goddesses. The emerging theme is the spiritual belief in the perfectibility of the person -- through union between men and women and the union of earthly with divine.
Chapter 2, The Sacred Feminine in Christian Traditions, illuminates the central importance of the figure of Wisdom from pre-Christian traditions, which was incorporated into the early Christian sects known as Gnostics. The figures of Sophia, Eve, Lilith and the serpent, and the Judaic mystical tradition of Caballa are all examined. In the early centuries of Christianity notions of piety and chastity led to unusual practices, possibly inspired by the age-old institution of the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage ritual, in which the sexual union of mother and father gods was reenacted.
Chapter 3, Western Thinking: Sin, Sex and Freud, examines aspects of sexuality in the West from the Middle Ages through the Victorian era, and the rise of the medical model of sexuality that is influential today to Freud and Jung who brought psychological thinking into the mainstream.
In Chapter 4, Eastern Approaches to Sex and the Spirit, we see how modern physics offers us a world view that has much in common with ancient Eastern traditions, and we look at the ways in which bliss is defined. We explore the spiritual paths of yoga, meditation and the Hindu, Buddhist and Daoist traditions, and look at the importance of techniques such as mindfulness and the role of subtle energy bodies (such as the chakra system) in awakening sexual energy.
Chapter 5, Tantra Deities and Practices, explores the ways in which Tantric strands within Hinduism and Buddhism incorporate unique methods to achieve union with the divine and remind us of the sacredness of sexuality. We look at the practices and deities associated with Tantra and the influence of dynamic forms of meditation and sexual freedom, spawning the current popularity of Tantra.
Chapter 6, Making Sex Sacred, looks at the ways in which sacred sex traditions can be incorporated into your own relationship, offering techniques for cultivating compassion, presence and good communication, as well as explicit sexual practices drawn from Neo-Tantra (or Tantra in the West), which expand your awareness of the sacred in sex to open the doorway to ecstasy.
The glossary explains some of the terms used in discussions of sacred sexuality and their derivation in the original Sanskrit, Tibetan and Greek. It can be referred to when reading the book.