Sunday, June 5, 2011

Transcendence vs Lust

A passage from my book, in progress.

However, in the midst of our emphasis on the physical body, we have come very close to making a a common, but highly significant error, and as a consequence, missed out on the entire potential of chastity and virtue. We have spoken of love, lust and sex purely in terms of our physical bodies. The problem is, (while everything we spoke about it was quite correct) if we think of sex and romance purely in terms of so many cuts of meat and buckets of hormones, we have a hard time rising above that. And yet, of all physical creations on this earth, we are the capable of the most. I will call it intimacy, though I struggle to emphasize that I mean this in both the emotional-bonding sense, and in the electric “wall-socket sex” sense of the word.

When we operate purely on the level of hormones, the most complex part of our brain is at the mercy of the least complex. Humans are not the only species with a developed neocortex, but ours is certainly the most highly developed. The neocortex is the part of the brain devoted to rational conscious thought, perception, spatial reasoning, and motor commands. In humans it takes up 76% of our brain. Our unique neocortex gives us something that, like language or conscious thought, no other animal has the same degree of – intimacy. And again, I use intimacy in both senses of the word.

It should not surprise us that sexuality is so closely tied to spirituality. But, just as sexuality is a complicated and complex thing, and spirituality likewise, the union of the two is no less.

There are two major levels of spirituality when it comes to sexuality. The first level, or the lower level, is need based, which is where we typically start off at. We hunger and thirst for sexual intimacy from a position of emptiness and physical need.

But the universal mistake is, this emptiness does NOT stem from a lack of sex, but is actually, contrary to what we expect, a spiritual emptiness. That is why people who have trouble with pornography or other violations of the law of chastity do NOT find their problems solved by marriage, no matter how good their intentions (or how hot their wife is). Many people, both in and out of the church, think that a good marriage (or even a good relationship for that matter) is what they need. Yet to their shock, they continue to struggle no matter how sated they are sexually. This is because our sexuality and our spiritual condition are not fully separable.

When we assume that sexuality has nothing to do with spirituality, that is only has to do with our bodies and what 'turns us on', then we have a more difficult time understanding struggles when they come and reaching the potential we are capable of. When we struggle from a position of emptiness (and that is more common than the alternative), then we may think that our problems will be fixed by what we yearn after, but no matter how correct the context, but the fundamental problem remains unfixed. The modern world, as a whole, does not understand what is necessary for a healthy marriage and too often, without thinking and without realizing, we absorb the same attitudes that lead to the marriage and divorce rates we see these days.

One of the great warnings of the Law of Moses was that “ye shall eat, and not be satisfied”. (Lev. 26:26) In contrast to that, we are promised, “the Lord will satisfy thy soul in drought”. (Isa. 58:11) The scriptures repeatedly relate keeping the commandments with satisfaction (Isa. 66:11; Ps. 36:8; 22:26; Prov. 19:23), and disobedience with hunger and not being satisfied. (D&C 56:15-17; Isa. 9:20; Ezek. 16:28-9)

When pursue because we hunger, we are spiritually 'needy', and like as in emotional relationships, our position is inferior and is not simply solved with abundance. It is actually these circumstances that are prime for addictive behaviors.

The second level, is characterized not by hunger and neediness, but by fulness and abundance. We do not pursue to quench our lusts, but to give out of our abundance. Many of us have never considered a sexuality based on anything other than our own lusts, on what turns us on. We resist thinking about it in any other way, yet as marriage therapist David Schnarch relates, we can only reach our most potent intimacy after we move beyond the biological imperatives and are not slaves to them. Or in the words of Sebastian Moore, “We are willing to be slaves to beauty, rather than sharers in beauty”. It is no exaggeration out of context to quote the scripture, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. (John 10:10)

Spiritual enlightenment ultimately is marked by greater joy, happiness, desire and enjoyment, not the ascetic destruction of all desire. God is the author of all these things.

He has declared,

“the fulness of the earth is yours”


"And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments". D&C 59:16, 20-21

He is not the enemy of human desire and passion, but it is always on his terms. He teaches us the best way, in order to bless us.

When we think of sex as so many pieces of meat and techniques, we also send our kids a double message. Whilst we are telling them to not have sex, we are also suggesting they are missing out on the best sex of their life. In our zeal we speak of the beauty of sex, as though that beauty were in sex itself, instead of in the person you are with.

Thus, sex at this level requires a kind of personal maturity and not just physiological reflex. It more about how much of yourself can you really bring into it? It is far more than mere technique and physical stamina.

This requires a certain transcendence of self, and the biological model of sex. But there will be no transcendence without either giving things up, be that temptations or false ideas. Nor can we receive this transcendence without the Spirit of God and the rebirth of the spirit.