Category Archives: Sexuality

Excerpt: spirit as metaphor for sex (and vice versa)

Continuing to post selections taken out of context from large amounts of unfinished material collected for The Constellation of Man, a work of literature planned for three volumes. Some compositions are unrepresentative in style, subject, or themes. All remain under development, subject to change. All selections were written by me since 2010. —CPB

It is too literal to believe that the cilice is worn no longer [by modern and secular people]. It is too literal to believe that penitence, or mortification to suppress the concupiscence to commit acts of sin, are obsoleted when these words are left to grow unfamiliar and antique.


Die Jungfrauen by Gustav Klimt, 1913

Of all acts of desire formerly proscribed by religious authority, and forms of hedonism still censured in spirit, lust troubles most intimately. Even after the most diligent corruption of the youth to mistrust the body has passed from common instruction, the taboo body lingers, and puberty makes it a stranger. One generation passes shame, secrecy, and silence to another. The next passes awkwardness and avoidance to another. Overcoming schooled inhibition requires touching again and again, talking again and again, practicing again and again.

Some of the most immodest or promiscuous remain firmly in thrall. To want to prove that transgression of a taboo is possible proves also that the taboo holds—at least enough to tempt, and has not been thoroughly overcome. To transgress compulsively, to reduce sex to mere performance of acts, is to forget the tabu indicates sexual physicality is holy, not merely forbidden. Along this line, we can learn more than an error from those who still condemn lust as a sin.

The dangers of leaving desires to seethe unreleased, leading to unintended perversions of libido, have been extensively described. Indeed, religious modesty hides more than flesh. Suppression perpetuates undercurrents of fiendish attention to sexuality, as well as anticipating sin from such preoccupation. It forbids an appetite and fulfills an expectation, a guilty loop.

But more than cultivating obsessive attention, it also encourages another species of attention: a conscientiousness surrounding sexuality, hinted at by the concepts “purity” and “innocence,” an aura easily left behind when sexuality is rendered common and taken for granted. A purely utilitarian, matter-of-fact attitude toward sex would dispense with shame, anxiety, and bashfulness, and Eros too.

To actually encourage being present in the sexual act goes too far for those who worry about participation. Inhibited by shame, they are generally unable to obtain the fruits of such cultivation. These fruits are spiritual in a metaphorical sense of spirit, while the facilitating practice for present sensual, erotic, and ecstatic experience is—outwardly and physically—foreplay, sexual intercourse, and orgasm. They are too timid about that ritual to enter the temple’s Holy of Holies. No one can meet the god from a distance, performing self-conscious sex without abandon. No one honors Eros without fucking.


Danaë by Gustav Klimt, 1907

Yet religious sanctity is of a kind with presence in the act, and not in total opposition. Those who still identify sex with sin at least intensify attention to sex, even though—and partly because—they are not supposed to. They know at least to impart significance to sex, and not demote a potentially profound neurogenic experience to a material interaction, or a biological drive. Preoccupation or obsession does heighten experience, despite unfortunate condemnation of the means of fruition and deemphasis of method. So do the various, overlaid religious frames treating sex as a profound, spiritual matter and not a mundane one.

Whereas, the alternate error of those called licentious is always to harvest, never to cultivate; that is, not to impart a neurogenic halo to the sexual acts, but to expend these occasions without reverence, and without intent to “set the mood” for any meaning beyond the obvious. This potentially reduces pleasure to expending the heightened senses of physicality, without attuning the senses for a broader neurogenic significance while they are heightened. Opportunities for peak experiences are lost.

That would also be the cost of coming to see sex as “simply biological,” the urgent need which one simply discharges, and gets back to something more important. One forms utilitarian relationships for this purpose, without emotional or spiritual attachments. One is too rarely struck, as by a lightning bolt, by an orgasm with meaning. One is too rarely shocked. Perhaps not at all.

It might be better not to lose the long-taught memory of shame, if this must be the price. Fortunately the price is paid unnecessarily by those who do. The mystique of sexuality need not be lost because the shame is lost, and because the moralizing has been, in its turn, lectured at, judged, and rejected.


Pan Periastral

To continue on the theme of mythological imagery in poems, the poem below is without a doubt one of my favorite examples of this that I ever wrote.

Pan Periastral was an erotic love-and-sex poem I wrote in December 2006 for a special occasion and a very special person, and a philosophical statement as well. The title—with its compound meaning for Pan, including 1) the randy god and really the whole amorous pantheon (Aphrodite, Eros), 2) a Brahman-cosmological “everything,” and 3) metonymy for physical Nature—was chosen in part to refer to the strong assertion in the poem of the inseparable expression of the ethereal, symbolic, and idealized (LOVE) in the actual, immediate, and sensorial (SEX). I felt that there was no need to separate this dichotomy, because through the latter you could experience the former—in fact, only through the animal could the transcendental be discovered.

You can also tell that I was influenced by the idea of Uranus and Gaea being in love, which you may remember from the same charming illustration in d’Aulaires’ Greek Myths that I do.

Pan Periastral

In celestial arms embrace
two worlds to float the firmament of heaven.
Orbits dance in brilliance
on twosome paths of starry night.

Sun-time melts in solar stillness
when the earth and sky adore.
On the surface senses stage
an ageless transcendental taction.
An atmosphere of touch
retells ethereal caress.

A feral huntress holds each breath
— a cosmos inhalation.
Her delicate advances move
through underbrush of wild ginger,
meanwhile hunger stalks with cyclopean manners.

Lepidoptera alight on limbs
and quiver concupiscent,
butterflies with tiger eyes
that fold to hold in storms.

Bumblebees brush desperate buds
and hum to dewy ocean flowers.
In the sibilance of sighing rushes
comes a thrum of nectar’s bliss.

Dolphins crash past rolling hills
in swells by curving
inlet shorelines,
wave crests cut by petrels
screaming tempest songs for gales.

Lured by lunar rhythm hard
against the bulwark shore the sea
of azured lapping lazuli now
beats to white-hot foamy flecks, and
Aphrodite’s born again
from copious delight.

A silver disc adorns the stillness.
The moon reflects on pools blood-black,
in tidal inkwell shadow
after calm receding light.

(dedicated to Evi Numen)