The two seemingly unrelated topics of spirituality and sexuality have more in common than meets the eye. To get started on the right foot, let’s briefly untangle spirituality from religion. Boiling it down to simple terms, in religion we believe God is outside of us, and we go somewhere—to a church, a temple, or a shrine—to find God. Often, someone else talks to God on our behalf.
When we embark on a spiritual journey, we begin the work of finding God within. Often, there will be a period of atheism or agnosticism in between, after we pull away from well-travelled roads of organized religion but before we’ve found a path leading inward.
Regardless of the part of the journey we’re on, what we’re all really seeking is connection. For what we’re all up against is the grand sense that we are separate: from God, from others, and perhaps most notably, from ourselves. The work then of finding and transforming the negative, split off, destructive aspects within ourselves—which are the root cause of our feelings of separation—is what spirituality is all about.
The problem is, we are blind to the nuggets of negativity in us. We hide our wrong thinking and raw feelings from ourselves, and refuse to see how we are actually the cause of our own troubles. That’s why God saw fit to make the world and the people in it our mirrors.
As such, all the disharmonies in our lives are nothing other than a reflection of the places inside ourselves where we are not in truth. For the fundamental reason for any disharmony is a lack of alignment with truth. Said another way, if we were completely in alignment with the truth—if our will was in complete alignment with God’s will, to the core of our being—all our inner parts would be unified and we would be at peace.
To be spiritual, then, means to become whole again. We must gradually grow and heal until there are no longer any fragmented parts; we must create oneness within. So our spiritual journey must, by definition, bring sexuality into alignment with spirituality. For true spiritual union can only come about from union on all levels, which of course can’t leave out the physical, sexual connection.
The Fine Art of Admitting without Acting Out
The reason we struggle to unify spirituality with sexuality, even conceptually, is due to the fact that our unhealed issues manifest through our sexual expressions. This led, for many centuries, to teachings that theorized that sexuality hinders our spiritual development. And in fact, long ago that may not have been so off-target. People, back in the day, were pretty rough around the edges, acting out brutality through their sexuality.
So for long periods of time, edicts about sexuality were issued from the pulpit to harness these bucking-bronco instincts. On the one hand, people got their ducks in a row and spiritual development proceeded. On the other hand, it temporarily thwarted natural drives. Thankfully, we are now strong enough to look at our hidden instincts—so we can purify them—without danger of acting them out.
We are now strong enough to look at our hidden instincts—so we can purify them—without danger of acting them out.
Note, the widespread prevalence of low sexual drives and other sexual problems cascade from hemming in our negative life force because we didn’t know how to deal with it safely. We may have found stagnation or numbness preferable to facing our inner distortions, but this often results in unbearable yearning that ends up creating more short circuits and unsatisfactory, split-off sexual experiences.
Be careful here. There’s a fine line between safe, honest expression in which we admit negative material, and destructively acting it out. Everyone who hopes to walk a spiritual path must learn the all-important art of making this distinction.
Yes, this we must do if we hope to unify our total selves, liberating everything by safely bringing out all of it, including the sexual drive in whatever way it now manifests.
Having across-the-board satisfying relationships then is a barometer for the degree of our inner unification. For if we can’t find union with others, we must be in disunity within ourselves.
Adapted from The Pull, Chapter 7: The Spiritual Symbolism and Significance of Sexuality