Saturday, November 11, 2006

Why Do Pagans and "New Agers" Have All the Sacred Sex?

As part of my continuing research and reflections on Paganism, Burning Man, and "alternative" cultures in Western post-modernity I am constantly reminded of the significance of sexuality. This topic, along with the related issues of nudity and gender identity, were major issues in workshops, personal expressions and experimentation at the Burning Man festival that I attended earlier this year.

Within the contexts of Paganism, the New Spirituality, and the Burning Man subculture sexuality is often refered to as "sacred sexuality." I found this label of interest and did a Google search on the topic. To my utter lack of surprise I discovered that while this is a popular label and topic for great numbers of spiritual people in the West, I couldn't find an exploration of the topic in terms of a connection between the sacred and sexuality by traditional Christians. Cornerstone Festival addresses this topic, and one of my friends and colleagues, Jon Trott, addresses this on one of this blogs, but it doesn't seem to be a topic that a lot of traditional Christians tackle.

The reader might be scratching their heads wondering what I mean by all this. After all, don't evangelicals constantly speak out against what they consider to be abuses of sexuality in the form of pornography, prostitution, and the need for sexual fidelity in marriage? Of course we can find lots of discussions like this, but in my take the emphasis in all of this seems to be on the negative, stating all the things we're against rather than a broader treatment that addresses the positive aspects of sexuality, and which connects this to the sacred and to the divine.

After all, isn't God the Supreme Lover who brought creation into existence through the Spirit as the ultimate expression of love and creation? And didn't he bless the human race with the gift of sexuality and the intimacy of physical "knowing" in the Hebraic sense before our expression of sexuality became yet another facet of human existence that is broken by our alienation from the Spirit as the source of life? When husband and wife come together in sexual union is this too not a part of what it means to reflect the nature of the creator, the male and female aspects in union for pleasure as well as pro-creation? Is there not a sense then that our discussion of sexuality should move beyond its reserved expressions akin to Victorian or Puritanical stereotypes in order to embrace a positive and holistic sense of sacred sexuality from a Christian perspective? I don't know that I have any profound theological insights to offer on this topic, and I know that to raise it for conservative Christians is to risk shock and offense, but perhaps Pagans, New Spirituality adherents, Burners, and others articulating sacred sexuality have something positive to say to evangelicals. At least it's worth considering.


Anonymous said...

Denying that we are sexual beings, denying that we all have sexual urges, is denying a gift that God or the Gods have given to us.

You will find that most Pagans view sex as another ritual tool, which it is. And abusing that ritual tool is deemed improper in the Pagan community, and frowned upon. Misusing ANY ritual tool, which also includes drugs used in shamanic rituals, is looked at as improper Pagan conduct and the offender is soon set straight.

Sacred sex is having that special bond between two people, gender need not apply here, that respect each other, and in using this gift of the Gods, can be an instrument of the God/Goddess to heal another soul from past pains of, rape, incest, etc..

This is the role of the Priest or Priestess, sometimes there is actually no sex involved in sacred sex, touching, by itself is a healing modality.

Blessings on your Path,
Luna Aileen.

John W. Morehead said...

Luna, thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective. I figured this topic would be one that might pull readers in and be controversial at the same time. Glad to see that this topic is attracting comments from Pagans and Christians alike.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if a Christian response may not be to shift the emphasis from sacred sex to sacred romance? John Trott seems to make this move in some of his writings and I think there may be something in that.

PS. That's not to denigrate sex of course, its just to put it in a wider relational context.

John W. Morehead said...

Matt, I think you are correct that the issue needs to include a broader context beyond the physical coming together of bodies in sexual procreation or recreation. An appropriate view of romance needs to be taken into account. I suppose my query was probing a little deeper in that while Christians certainly produce books and other resources that address the romance perspective, as well as the appropriate understanding and expression of sex as God's good gift to humanity, it doesn't seem to have the strong connotation of sacred sexuality that we see in other religious traditions. Is there a place then for this and how might the way this is framed in alternative spiritualities serve as a positive corrective for a Christian perspective?

Jeff said...

This interview with Peter Jones on Sexuality & Spirituality might be of interest. Jones is the author of the recent The God of Sex: How Spirituality Determines Sexuality.

KathleenLundquist said...

Hey, John - I just now stumbled across this thread.

I'd like to direct your attention to the late Pope John Paul II's great work on this subject, The Theology of the Body. He first began his work on this subject in the late 1970s and presented it in speech form at his Wednesday audiences through the 1980s. They've been collected and published, and there's a brand new translation available (from his notes in Polish, rather than the addresses in Italian) that will greatly reward careful study. Visit for a one-sheet and reseources. I recommend Christopher West's work on this subject as well, especially his 10-CD "crash course" series - available for order dirt cheap at about $5.

Seriously, man, this stuff will blow your mind. Really.

KathleenLundquist said...

Hi, me again - here's a link to that 10-CD crash course in JPII's Theology of the Body - and I was wrong - it's only $3.90 for the whole set!

Cheers, Kathleen