Sacred Sexuality by Georg Feuerstein Book Review May 2018
Posted On May 7, 2018
Sacred Sexuality The Erotic Spirit in The World’s Great Religions Georg Feuerstein
Georg is an indologist who has specialised in studying Sanskrit literature and Hinduism. He puts forward the idea that Sacred Sexuality is a gateway which allows us to experience and re-connect with our true nature, which is bliss.
“Sacred Sexuality is about love – an overwhelming reverence for all embodied life”
The author looks at whether the sexual revolution of the 1960s has really helped us to overcome the “sexual malaise”, arguing that as a culture we are still experiencing what he calls the “sexual stress syndrome”. According to him, “sex can be a healing event”, and something which in older traditional cultures was welcomed and celebrated. Although many of us in the current culture are pre-occupied with sex and sexuality, “routine sex” is very common and generally short in duration and unfulfilling, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction.
“Sexuality and spirituality are perfectly compatible”
He argues that the mass media use sex, what he calls “sexploitation”, to sell us products, whilst at the same time our cultural legacy of the Christian doctrine is to feel “guilt and shame” about our bodies and sexuality. This can lead to us tensing up and having difficulty in allowing us to feel pleasure in the whole body – something Wilhelm Reich called “body armouring”.
“Guilt and shame block our path to sexual and emotional wholeness”
Once we are able to allow that pleasure in, it can lead to the feeling of boundaries between our physical body dissolving, leading to the feeling of Oneness with all that is. This “hidden window” to the Divine was celebrated in ancient cultures. There is evidence that they worshipped the “cosmic female”, and that men and women were more egalitarian.
“In the mystical state (unio mystica) self and other are merged into a single whole”
“The symbol of the Great Mother” appears in many cultures around the world. With the rise of agriculture, the gender balance shifted to a more male-dominated society, leading to the gradual “subordination and denigration of women”, along with Goddess worship and the fertility celebrations associated with it. One such ritual was the annual “hieros gamos”, or “sacred marriage”, in which “the holy intercourse between God and Goddess was re-enacted on the human level”.
“The Great Mother, or magna mater, was celebrated as Inanna, Ishtar, Anath, Astarte, Isis, Nu Kua, Freya and Kunapipi”
The cultures who “worshipped the Goddess and her lesser male counterpart” were overrun by more aggressive people who brought with them their own “religious beliefs [that]… the male God reigned supreme”. Women became more suppressed, and profane prostitution more widespread – as opposed to sacred sexual worship as practised in the temples of antiquity, which was a “transformative ritual” of “sacred sexuality”. Women who engaged in sacred sexual worship in the temples were well respected and often of high standing in society.
“Those who intuited and longed to experience the great mystery and sacred power behind sexuality went to the temple”
With the rise of a male-dominated culture, the priests wanted to eradicate the links between women, sexuality and the divine. This led to the suppression of “women expressing their sexuality”, and the attempts to wipe out Goddess worship and its “fertility cults”. Some of these traditions managed to survive in some form by going underground and contributing to what is known as the “mystery cults”. Symbols of the Goddess, such as the serpent, became considered evil.
“The snake was clearly associated with the fertility goddess and symbolically represented her. Thus, by God’s command, the free and open sexuality of the fertility-goddess was to be forbidden”
“During the era of Christianity”, a sex-negative culture took root, with celibacy being viewed as a spiritual ideal. “The writings of the Christian patriarchs… ring with a deathly fear of the flesh and women”. St Augustine was “one of the most influential of the church fathers”, who viewed sex as a sinful activity. This change in culture contributed to the “mass psychosis” of the Middle Ages which saw centuries of prosecution of ‘heretics’.
“During the era of Christianity, sex became more closely linked with sin and the Devil”
Occasionally the underground streams of sacred sexuality traditions would show up, such as with the troubadours and the Cathars in the twelfth century. Islam, Judaism and Hinduism all had within them similar underground currents of preserving more ancient beliefs which managed to survive in some form outside of the main religion.
“The Christian patriarchs confused holiness with asceticism and celibacy”
Tantrism in India and Taoism in China were two traditions in which sacred sexuality was able to be expressed more openly within the main culture. Both traditions were interested in using sexuality as a means to transcend ordinary reality. The author also speaks about the “long joint history” of “human sexuality and magic” and the notion that sexuality is a means of connecting with our life force energy which in different traditions has been called “prana, chi, od, mana” and more. It is this energy which is the “bridge between sexuality and spirituality” which helps us to experience the merging with the Oneness of existence.
“The further back we go in human history, the more we encounter a life philosophy that was distinctly affirmative of both sex and God or Goddess”
This book also answers some interesting questions, such as…
Where does the word guilt come from, and what is the difference between guilt and shame?
What did Giordano Bruno think about eros, the sacred life force?
What did the Tantrics and Taoists think of semen retention techniques?