Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spirituality and Sexuality

There is an "other worldliness" associated with spirituality. Even though we know that E=MC2 and that Jesus was fully human and fully God we still maintain a kind of dualism that says this body is at war with my soul or spiritual self. This is especially true with "bodily thoughts", especially "desires" and worst "lust". Lust immediately raises the horrid sexual spectre of the two backed beast but in reality it can also refer to any passionate activity such as 'he lusted to kill the man". Indeed any extreme 'feeling' has at some time been 'banned' or 'censored' by the religious, who ostensibly were the 'spiritual' until recent times when distinctions were made. These distinctions were made mostly because the "spiritual" weren't quite ready to join in groups of people who might insist on 'disembodying' them. I frankly believe that I am a 'spiritual being travelling through a material experience." St. Francis would say in later years that he would go somewhere "Brother Ass" willing. It was common to describe walking in olden days as 'travelling by shank's mare". The body was a loved and cherished friend and vehicle for the soul. Clearly there was a 'shell' present when a person died and people had experiences of spirits departing from bodies as well as all the other inter dimensional extrasensory experiences associated with 'ghosts' and 'spirits'. Part of the 'dissociative' experience is to 'deny' desires as one's own and blame them on 'brother ass'. "I didn't want the extra piece of cake," cries the glutton, "My body made me do it." The 'double minded' person of the Bible often mixed up with the Twin Spirited person of native tradition is a person who is 'ambivalent' and caught between two prepositions. In relationship with God one becomes 'clear minded' and 'single purposed'. It is a difficult time faced with a 'dilemma' and refusing to choose as if one can have their cake and eat it. The history of church and passions has been varied and extensive. Jesus doesn't talk about sex per se but celebrates life and food and wine and lives a most bohemian lifestyle compared to the 'respectable' of his day. He's actually deeply critical of those who live their lives by rigid and multiple complex laws. In raising Lazarus he appears to demonstrate that no 'laws' of the world are above the transcendent laws of God. He says, "Follow him", often today meant to mean 'be like him' when 'to follow' means much more in some ways. The Jews in general at the time were a passionate lot. Love of food, company, wine, a good argument, song and dance are all part of the Biblical past. The Bible emphasizes the association of Jesus with David and David was every bit a man. He danced in the street. Sex with his wife was celebrated but he only seems to have gone wildly astray when he wanted another man's wife to the extent that he sent the husband into battle to be alone with his mistress. This story, like the story of Moses murdering, is usually seen as evidence that man can be 'redeemed'. It doesn't matter how far astray one goes because as the story of the prodigal son tells, God is always waiting at home for the return of his children. The Essenes were a semi monastic, some say, cult like order at the time of Jesus. He's thought to have come from this group like John the Baptist. Monks and nuns have long rejected the external pleasures of the world to live more simple and contemplative lives in the most basic of communities. In the Bible the story of Martha and Mary Jesus says that the contemplative way is indeed the better way but clearly, given his evident love of Martha and Mary, not the 'only' way. The early Christian church was attractive to the upper and lower classes. The lower classes tend to have less opportunity for 'pleasure' and make a virtue of necessity. The upper classes however have greater opportunity for pleasure and the means. Augustine who has left us his journals gives a rich account of his passionate relationship with his mother and his difficulties with managing a wife and mistress. I know the King James Bible was written by the English and the English are known for their "cold blooded" "stiff upper lips" but it's not the only way to be "Christian" as the southern climes produce as many 'hot blooded' Christians. Even Israel had it's difficulties early in the course of it's development mixing the local Mediterranean Jewish population with the incoming northern European Jewish populations. Even today the Christian church globally struggles with the 'intellectualism' of the northern European and North American and the 'southern flavour' of worship and understanding. Mozart and Black Gospel music appear opposite but are equally true in their highest renditions. There are many ways to embrace Christianity. Neo platonism was a part of the early Christian church when the ideas of ancient Greece fulminated with the early Christian Jewish traditions. The rational formulaic aspects of very Jewish St. Paul are contrasted with the much more colourful teaching of St. John of Revelations written in the Greek Islands. In the Greek tradition there is a struggle between the main themes of the schools of Stoicism, Epicureanism and Hedonism. Marcus Aurelius's journal gives a clear idea of the stoic and indeed this somewhat "warrior religion' has throughout history appealed to the combative and indeed paranoid. It's commonly seen in the monasteries that arose in reaction to the barbarism that dominated the so called 'dark ages' when political violence and war made no 'peace on earth' possible except in far away places protected from the chaos of the mobs and gangsters of the day. Epicurianism remains today in the ideas associated with 'fine living' and not normally associated with Christianity in the modern sense. Yet it was the kind of thinking that permeated the renaissance to a large extent and was embraced throughout history by multitudes of leading Christians. Today it could be likened in some sense to the "Yuppie" Christians and the movement just recently of the 'educated Christian' sets that rose out of the 50's and 60's with the 'good life' and 'love of Christ'. Hedonism has got a bad rapt today but in many ways the hedonists were superior by today's standards to the epicureans. Neither were however terribly 'other worldly' like the 'stoics' who at the extreme end are the Sado massochists of today involved in anorexia, floggings and all manner of rejecting of the body. St. John of the Cross, famous for his single word "nada" no doubt fasted but when he wasn't fasting like Jesus, enjoyed a good meal. There seems in this sense a place for both activities. I am concerned about those who speak as if they are certain they know what is "God's" plan and 'desire' because I am a Christian in the truest sense and have studied the Bible and Christianity and see that sexuality is not the opposite of the spirituality. The Christian spiritual path embraces sexuality and wants the sexual to be Christian. Like all things spiritual though the direction of activity needs to be towards God and not away from God. As a Christian I am, I believe, to give all to God and to this end I give my sexuality and all the feelings and desires associated with this sexuality. I don't want to be a eunuch for Christ unless of course that is the path I take, like Origen. But frankly I'm not there yet and I think there's a 'lie' in the church, a prudish sentimentality, that deprives it of the robustness of religion in general, which refuses to celebrate the 'creativity' of 'spirituality'. Spirituality, especially spirituality, doesn't need to be sterile or castrate to be alive.

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