After twenty-five years of Tantric practice,
the essential unity of sex and spirit seems so obvious to me that
I almost forget the rest of the world doesn't necessarily see
it that way. The Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan said, "Love
is the sign of Spirit," and in my mind this always included
erotic love. Recently, when a friend invited my teaching partner
and me to give a talk on Sacred Sexuality at his Church, I realized
I would have to find a way to explain myself that would make sense
to the uninitiated. Here is what I said.
is sex sacred? The dictionary defines sacred as "made or
declared holy, dedicated or devoted exclusively to a use, purpose,
or person worthy of reverence or respect."
The word itself comes from the Latin, sacra meaning "sacred,
holy, consecrated," that is, blessed or revered. The noun
(singular) is sacrum, meaning a holy thing or place.
patriarchal religions have defined sacred and spiritual as being
separate from the body, from nature, and certainly from sex, the
ancient roots of our language imply a different understanding.
It is no coincidence that the word sacrum is also the anatomical
term for the triangular bone at the base of the spine, the very
place which Tantra tells us is the seat of the sleeping kundalini
or Shakti energy. When aroused through Tantric practice, the kundalini
rises up the spine to awaken the spiritual centers in the brain.
our language suggests that once upon a time, Western Civilization
understood the sacred nature of sex. This wisdom was lost during
the Inquisition, in fact, one might say that this was the purpose
of the Inquisition: To create a cultural shift from sex as sacred
to sex as sinful, as the movie, Dangerous Beauty, beautifully
demonstrates. Now it is time to return to the ancient wisdom of
worshipping life rather than death. Or as we
said in the sixties, "Make love, not war."
is understood differently in indigenous cultures where the concept
of sacred is one of relationship rather than edict. In native
cultures, humans, animals, plants, and especially the Earth herself
are sacred because we are all part of the Whole. No one and no
thing have to be proven worthy to be considered sacred.
All of creation is inherently sacred because it is part
of the interconnected web of ecology that sustains life.
In this worldview, Earth is not only seen as
sacred but as a living being.
Sacred is a kind of awareness, not a function of ego, of
the logical mind, but more of an intuitive or direct awareness
of patterns running through everything around us. This is sometimes
called synchronicity, or the Tao.
Just as the love of the Mother and the love of the Father
are complementary, the Western and the indigenous understanding
of sacred are two sides of the same coin.
Sacred Sexuality, or Erotic Spirituality, as
I prefer to call it, is a part of virtually every spiritual tradition
around the world. In the
pre-Christian view, sex is sacred simply because it's part of
life. In the Christian
view sex must be shown to be deserving of reverence. No problem!
Here's why it's worthy!
1. First, Sacred Sexuality, implies an awareness
that sex is the inception of life, of all that is. Without the
sexual act, none of us would exist – at least not as incarnate
bodies. Sacred Sexuality
acknowledges that our life force and our sexual energy originate
from the same source. It's an expression of awe and wonder that
transcends any particular culture.
2. Sex is sacred because of its role in bonding.
Mutually satisfying sexual exchanges naturally intensify bonding,
but sex can take place without bonding if we're careful to keep
our hearts closed. Sex opens the heart only if we bring the energy
up. The Tantric attitudes of slowing down, awakening all of the
senses, tuning in to subtle energy, letting go of judgment and
blame, expressing gratitude for the gift of life, and savoring
the present moment are wonderfully supportive tools for intimate
To bond with someone is to form an enduring connection
-- to feel a strong sense of mutual caring, intimacy, and appreciation. Bonding satisfies our need to belong and can
occur in the absence of sex whenever a powerful shared experience
creates a feeling of kinship. Not only is bonding critical to
survival for many species, it supports health and happiness. People
live longer and have fewer problems when they have a family-social-community
context. Sex helps bring people together and keep them together.
could motivate us to overcome the difficulties
we encounter in intimate relating?
Love making is more fun and more readily available than
natural disasters, war, and other life threatening situations.
3. Sex is sacred because of its role in accessing
peak experiences of love, oneness, and healing. Humans have an
innate need for peak experiences of bliss, merging, and ecstasy.
We have a deep longing for the (re) union of sex and spirit,
for union with the Divine. When
we access expanded states of consciousness through sex we validate
our intuitive sense that sex can be worship and that worship can
be erotic. Tantra and other paths of Erotic Spirituality teach
us to embrace and honor the body as a temple of Spirit, rather
than trying to deny our natural sexual impulses.
So when we bless, purify, or honor the body as
part of a sexual encounter, when we bond more deeply as a result
of lovemaking, or when sexual union catapults us into higher consciousness,
we make sex sacred.
Deborah Anapol, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology,
is the author of Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits and producer
of the video Erotic Spirituality. She is offering a workshop on
Erotic Spirituality July 7-9 on the Oregon Coast.
For more information contact her at 415/507-1739 or visit