“… sexual feelings and sexual relationships are potentially a key to transcending the prison of the discrete and separate self…”
— Charles Eisenstein
I love Charles Eisenstein.
The man is a genius cultural physician expertly diagnosing the pathologies of the global Western-consumerist monoculture.
I’ve previously written of the indispensability of his book, The Ascent of Humanity, his bone-chillingly accurate articulation of the alienating nature of modern life, and his perfect summation of what America needs to do to heal in a post-Trump world.
Today I’m eager to share more of his wisdom—this time, on sacred sexuality.
Charles Eisenstein on Rediscovering the Sacred and Soul-Unlocking Nature of Sex
This passage is found in Charles’ paradigm-shattering book, The Ascent of Humanity. I’ll pass the mic to Mr. Eisenstein:
“No discussion of the monetization of human relationship would be complete without mentioning sex, whose commodification is so widely condemned as to be almost a cliché. Prostitution is only the tip of the iceberg; equally significant is the use of sexual associations to sell product, as if sex itself were for sale. Pornography, too, is a reduction of that most sacred of human interactions into a commodity. Reduction is the operative word, because sexual feelings and sexual relationships are potentially a key to transcending the prison of the discrete and separate self, as well as the means to create new life. I can’t think of anything more sacred than that! Yet, the images of advertising and pornography suggest that no, sex is but a matter of tits-and-ass, getting hard, getting laid, getting off.
The metaphors of “having” and “getting” so commonly applied to sex bespeak the degree to which it has been commodified. Why do we usually not speak of “giving sex” or “sharing sex”? Even in the absence of any outright financial transaction, quasi-economic concepts of loss and gain infuse our culture’s thinking about sex. It is unavoidable, written into our self-definition as separate, discrete beings. Yet precisely because its deepest spiritual function is to melt the boundaries that enforce this separation, sexual love, more than any other relationship, is diminished and debased by its commoditization. For the same reason, sex has an enormous subversive potential. The sharing of self it involves explodes the very basis for the world of separation in which we live, and its associated pleasure hints at the ecstasy awaiting us when we throw off separation’s shackles.
Perhaps that is why repressive political regimes typically exhibit great hostility toward sexual licentiousness—a form of repression that George Orwell identified as a key feature of totalitarianism. Our own society takes a different, more insidious approach to defusing sex’s explosive revolutionary potential, attempting to excise its transcendental core. The husk that remains is, depending on the context, an inconsequential pleasure, a biological function, rank animality, obscene temptation, or a frightening taboo. None of these honors the sacred dimension of sex, which ancient Taoist and Tantric practice saw as nothing less than a gateway to the transcendence of cosmic polarities. Potentially a touchstone for reconnecting with the true unity behind our all-consuming play of individuation, potentially a secret window through the veil of our illusory separateness, sacred sexuality has been reduced to a fuck.
Of course, whatever we pretend to make of it, sex is far more than this. Its soul-shattering and life-creating potential remain despite the cultural pretense that it is a casual commodity. The result of this delusion? Heartbreak, emotional wounding, guilt, rape, abortion, and a feeling of betrayal stemming from the inner knowledge that we have ‘bought in’ to something infinitely inferior to what life can offer. Hence the near-universal acknowledgment of casual sex as spiritually vacuous and emotionally unsatisfying. The same could be said, though, of any relationship that has been depersonalized.
Thankfully, our culture’s attempts to tame sexuality have never been completely successful, and sex remains a potent force capable of smashing apart the most secure fortress of self, the most ordered life, the most tightly controlled personality. In college my male teammates and I spoke of sex in the coarsest imaginable language of having and getting, but this was mostly a pretense. Our youthful forays into sexual love were no less shattering. Alone with our girlfriends it was a different matter entirely. Our outward casualness could not insulate us from the wrenching, liberating, shattering power of sexual love to open a door to the soul. I wonder if any of my girlfriends from that time will read this? If so, I want you to know that even if I then seemed a hopeless cad, your love turned deep invisible keys in my soul. Your heartbreak was not in vain. What you gave me, I needed for my future opening.
Typically, it is we men who explore the farthest reaches of separation. Like Theseus in the Labyrinth, we would probably wander in it forever were it not for the lifeline Woman provides. Of course these male and female principles exist in all of us; in each man and woman there is both the yin and the yang. The feminine principle in all of us—intuitive rather than logical, organic rather than analytic—brings us back from our journey of separation toward wholeness.”
For more, I emphatically recommend reading The Ascent of Humanity.