Your lost (and found) tradition of sacred sexuality
May 23, 2019
“The truth is that we isolate a particular kind of love and appropriate it for the name of love, which really belongs to a wider whole.”
― Plato, The Symposium
I have been following my academic hunches and psycho-spiritual yearning back to the origins of eros. I first came to know this relentless impulse through the living of my life as it has stalked, moved, frightened, inspired and enraptured me since my earliest memories. I remember the aliveness that I felt in my body as a four-year-old laying on our purple, velvet couch on a warm and lazy afternoon watching the glittering dust particles dance above me in streams of sunlight slanting through the window. This was a sense of knowing, and of communion, that delighted my entire being. Looking back I might call this a moment of the sacred speaking to me—or through me.
The concepts, words and meaning-making have followed the direct and disorienting transmissions of eros. Through my graduate work I have continued to pursue this curiosity and to come to know—with deeper intellectual structures—what resources and capacities eros might offer us. I traced eros back to ancient Greece and the modern west’s foundational writings of mythology and philosophy. What I found is that those of us from European descent have our own tradition of mysticism and sacred sexuality. This spiritual orientation was imbued in pre-Christian cosmology and practiced through the initiatory path of alchemy in the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Greece.
I have often wondered about contemporary western culture’s complex relationship with east Indian tantra which includes appropriation, projection and objectification. I know for myself there has long been a need to sacralize sexuality and the primary maps that have been available for this have been based in eastern traditions. Yet, personally, I have bumped up against feelings of inauthenticity and a sense of incompleteness in my attempts to fit into or adapt these traditions.
In returning to the earliest teachings on eros and alchemy I am being affirmed in my inclinations that life itself can be a sacred evolutionary path and that our sexuality belongs to something bigger—the source of primordial love, creativity and connection.
It is a choice to experience the world as a crucible for soul growth. It is an art to extract the magic from the mundane. These capabilities lie dormant in all of us. Perhaps contemporary western culture’s recent allurement to the spiritual traditions of America’s indigenous peoples and eastern traditions (ie. the boom of plant medicine ceremonies and yoga) is pointing to the longing for our own indigenous sacred path and wisdom tradition.
The continued repression and vilification of the erotic seems to have the effects of stunting our growth in western civilization. We have become severed from, not only the generative powers of sexuality, but also mutuality in relationship and the maturity, or gold, that comes from living the fullness of an awakened, alchemical life.
As indicated by Plato’s quote above, eros as primal love, resides in the wholeness of being and all things. We come to know and embody eros through relationship. This includes coming into relationship with what we have repressed and turned away from—grief, death, rage, pain and primal urge. Eros has something to teach us about pleasure but we have to think differently to receive these teachings.
Contemporary western culture has distorted pleasure into something that is fleeting, escapist and numbing. The pleasure that eros guides us toward comes with being disturbed by a force greater than oneself and then surrendering to be shaken and stirred at the core. From this place of confusion and doubt one becomes available to sacrifice the identities and beliefs one has previously resurrected in service to vitality. Eros guides us to the holy pleasure that comes of fully feeling while giving ourselves over to the mystery of being awakened, dissolved and re-shaped. This is a deep, embodied, life-affirming pleasure that both includes and transcends sexuality.
It is inevitable that eros will knock, the question is, will you answer?