In one of the preceding essays, I said that a totally committed couple, in the moment of mutual orgasm, may “feel the edge of the ecstasy of a full enlightenment.” In a full enlightenment or awakening, the barrier between the ordinary self and the Deep Mind (I think that’s a more accurate name than “collective unconscious”) vanishes: one feels one’s immortality, one’s eternal safety, and the ecstasy, an order of magnitude greater than that of the ecstatic couple, that I think is the continual state of the Deep Mind.
Aquinas argued, if I understand him rightly, that the ecstasy of the Earth’s guardian angel is again an order of magnitude greater than that of the Deep Mind. The next angel “up” from him feels ecstasy that is again an order of magnitude greater. and so on up the ladder toward, but never reaching, the infinite ecstasy of God. (This insight is related to his deduction of what is equivalent to the Pauli Exclusion Principle as he contemplated the nature of purely spiritual beings.)
In the early 1980s I heard a young priest, Father Tom, deliver a sermon in the Oakland cathedral, with the full approval of Bishop John Cummins, saying that the mystery of sexuality goes to the heart of the Trinity, that human sexuality is one of the most fundamental gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that our sexuality even at its best is only an infinitesimal reflection of the sexual ecstasy that rages between the persons of the Trinity.
Of course, Catholics, and many other Christians, are hampered in grasping all this (among the other problems) by thinking of the Trinity as three MALE persons, and of Mary as the Perpetual Virgin. The concept of the Virgin Birth (which Mark and John never mention), and especially of the Perpetual Virginity (for which there is no scriptural basis), was also, I think, a symptom of Aphrodiphobia: Jesus could not have been free of sin if he had been conceived sexually, right? No, Jesus was free of sin because his will was free; sex had nothing to do with it.
The duotheism of the Wiccans, Mormons, Christian Scientists, etc., makes it easier to think of divinity as sexual. Genesis says, “Let us make man to be like us . . . Male and female he created them.” If God’s “likeness” is both male and female, then could the mystery of gender be an ultimate reality as well?
Perhaps you see where I’m going. Sexual intercourse is not only the sacrament that preserves the human race, but it can also be the first step toward understanding our true nature, realizing our divinity, working out our salvation, and ascending into Heaven. Aphrodiphobia destroys that first step for almost the entire human race. That is the incredible spiritual calamity that we collectively are trapped in. If sexual ecstasy is our best path toward enlightenment and salvation, then it stands to reason that the forces of evil (if there are any aside from human weakness and illness) would want to destroy our ability to fully enjoy sex. Hence in hating sex, churches and The Church have served evil itself. Not comfortable to think about. But we must think.
To recapitulate, the Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church argued that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong because it may easily damage the ability to form a total commitment to one’s spouse, and that strict monogamy is therefore the only moral form of marriage.
Am I agreeing to that? No, I’m not. It is a sensible argument. It is a prudent argument: sex is both precious and fragile; don’t risk damaging your capacity for enjoying sex. But it is still an argument intended to defend an obsolete morality, an argument that ignores the objective facts about human needs and behaviors, the most obvious being that strict monogamy itself damages the sexual capacity of persons who have no innate talent for being monogamous.
The exact location of the border between science and religion has long been disputed. One resolution of the problem is known as Gurdjieff’s Partition. (I suppose other philosophers may have offered similar proposals, but I learned it in reading about Gurdjieff.) It proposes that if a statement could be confirmed or refuted by any conceivable fact, whether that fact is already known or not, then the statement falls in the province of science, not religion. In contrast, a genuine religious doctrine must be inherently nondisprovable.
A person’s ability to maintain a long-term commitment can be measured, at least roughly. Research can establish whether there is a reliable correlation between sex before marriage and a reduction of that ability. Hence the Constitution’s assertion about sex outside marriage is not a theological argument at all: it is a scientific hypothesis, not a revealed doctrine. Current researchers have established that there is a “monogamy gene,” or at least a genetic complex that produces a strong inclination toward that behavior—but only about 10 percent of the population has it, which certainly accords with statistics about marriage and divorce. The point I am reaching toward is that the sacramental merging of personalities can and does take place outside of monogamous marriage.
The year 1963 was the end of the Fifties and the beginning of the Sixties. It was the year of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, the year when Bob Dylan invented electric folk rock, when Chet Helms took the format of Kesey’s Trips Festival and reinvented the rock dance. It was the year when Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Quicksilver Messenger Service first performed together in public. It was the year of the Beatles. And it was the first year of a window that gave me and my friends a glimpse of paradise, a window that lasted less than two decades, because it was the Year of the Pill. For the first time people, especially young people, could enjoy sex freely with no fear of pregnancy—and we did. The STDs of that decade could all be cured by antibiotics, and we could live out our dreams of ecstasy, of plural marriage, of communal sex, of polyamory. Few of us would have used the word “sacrament,” but belief that sex could and should be sacramental was common ground for us, even more than radical politics was. In many ways, still chafing under the Catholic brainwashing that formed my conscience, I was more inhibited than almost anyone else in our network of hundreds of friends.
Our search for an adequate way of life was a good part of what led me and my friends to create the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, at first as a “Pagan occult study and dancing society,” which then evolved into a new Wiccan tradition. It was based on what we could find out in 1967 to 1969 about Gardnerian practices. (That story is available, on Kindle, in my “Hippie Commie Beatnik Witches.”)
It is known throughout the Craft, especially in its pre-Gardnerian forms, that a sexual initiation is traditional. It is never required, but for those who desire it, it is always an option. It is the most powerful and transformative type of initiation. It is also the characteristic of the Craft that most panics the Aphrodiphobes. They will, of course, insist that it must be immoral, exploitative, and so on. No, it’s not. Carried out by two people who are mature and secure enough, it can be an astonishing rite of passage, holy, sacramental, with the merging of personalities I have been describing. So next I will share a story about the woman I named Lilith, and you will see why this whole train of thought belongs on this Pagan Channel.