Sex has been part of enlightenment since ancient times and yet it has long been thought that lustful desires and actions run contrary to spiritual development. This apparent contradiction exists because most people are unaware that sex can both facilitate and harm spiritual development, depending on how it’s used.
Some lustful desires can literally take a person to ruin and yet sexual energy has long been used for enlightenment in an exercise that’s been referred to in many sacred texts and teachings: as Tantrism in Hinduism and Buddhism, alchemy in medieval Europe, HeQi (which means “joining energy”) in the Taoism of ancient China, and the bridal chamber in early Christian texts.
Alchemical symbols can be found throughout religious artwork, and in every genuine esoteric teaching. For example, the sexual energy that is raised up the spine is known as kundalini in Hinduism, and is depicted as a serpent in ancient Egypt crowning the forehead of the Pharaohs. The spiritual bodies created in alchemy are referred to as “bodies of gold” in ancient Egypt and “wedding garments” by Jesus. The hermetic glass of the alchemist and holy grail are symbols of the feminine womb and sexual organs. The sexual energies were often symbolically referred to as water and wine, and have been alluded to as “the waters of life” and baptism. Depictions of couples in spiritual intercourse can be found throughout medieval alchemical texts, and in Buddhism and Hinduism. Very few of these references are overt—most are symbolic and only suggestive, which was done to protect this sacred and intimate practice known as “the Holy of Holies”, usually only given to those who had proven themselves pure enough, from abuse and persecution by the profane and sexually degenerate.
It’s important to mention that this spiritual alchemy is a practice strictly to be used by couples who are either married or intending to get married, as it’s effectiveness is based on love and does not work and is even harmful if attempted in non-monogamous situations. For this reason it was usually taught in secret using symbols so that it would not fall into the hands of those who would profane it.
The following quotes from early Christian, Taoist, and Hindu texts refer to the practice of alchemy:
If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated.
~ The Gospel of Phillip from the Nag Hammadi Library
Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber.
~ The Gospel of Phillip from the Nag Hammadi Library
O Mother [Kali], he who, being a controller of his passions, eats haviṣyānnaṁ [pure ritual food], and, being proficient in meditation on Thy feet, rightly recites Thy mantra a hundred thousand times by day, and he who afterwards naked at night, when united with his Śakti [spouse], rightly recites Thy great mantra another such hundred thousand times, becomes on earth like unto the Destroyer of Smara [who is the god Shiva].
~ The Hymn to Kali
To achieve the highest levels of life, one must continually combine new levels of yin and yang… Because higher and higher unions of yin and yang are necessary for the conception of higher life, some students may be instructed in the art of dual cultivation, in which yin and yang are directly integrated in the tai chi of sexual intercourse.
~ The Hua Hu Ching
In alchemy the creative energy, through the transmutation of forces, builds spiritual parts within and enables the higher aspects of consciousness to merge with ordinary consciousness in the process of enlightenment.
Without alchemy there’s little change in the nature of one’s sexual energy and so the same kinds of sexual desires continue to exist. While becoming celibate leads to a repression of desires, which still exist in the subconscious. A Taoist text states that the practice of alchemy is key to any kind of spiritual progress:
“This is the reason that all the sages began their work at the germinal vesicle in which outflowing [of sexual energy, which is orgasm] had ceased. If one does not establish this path, but sets up other things, it is of no avail. Therefore all the schools and sects which do not know that the ruling principle of consciousness and life is in this germinal vesicle, and which therefore seek it in the outer world, can accomplish nothing despite all their efforts to find it outside.”
~ The Secret of the Golden Flower
Fire is fought with fire, by using the sex to convert the base sexual energy within, into spiritual energy with alchemical transmutation:
“Those that are desirous of acquiring virtue practise diverse kinds of rites according to the dictates of the scriptures. They do not, however, succeed in attaining to Emancipation… That which is called Brahmacharya [chastity] is regarded as the means of attaining to Brahma [God]. That is the foremost of all religions. It is by the practice of that religion that one obtains the highest end (viz., Emancipation)… Brahmacharya is exceedingly difficult to practise. Listen now to the means (by which one may practise it). That regenerate person who betakes himself to it should subdue the quality of lust as soon as it begins to manifest itself or as soon as it begins to be powerful.”
~ The Mahabharata
Although we can learn much about sexual desires by studying within, this alchemical practice enables us to overcome sexual desires that can otherwise be an overwhelming force that are difficult to deal with.
On the surface, lust is a natural process that contributes to the reproduction of the species, but the process of enlightenment runs under the surface—it is hidden and esoteric. So too are the processes of sex when it comes to spirituality. The energy of the spirit, of consciousness, is sexual in its nature, but its energy is different to that of lustful desire.
“Arjuna asked: My Lord! Tell me, what is it that drives a man to sin, even against his will and as if by compulsion?
Lord Shri Krishna: It is desire, it is aversion, born of passion. Desire consumes and corrupts everything. It is man’s greatest enemy.”
~ The Bhagavad Gita
“The gates of hell are three: lust, wrath and avarice. They destroy the Self. Avoid them. These are the gates which lead to darkness; if a man avoid them he will ensure his own welfare, and in the end will attain his liberation. But he who neglects the commands of the scriptures, and follows the promptings of passion, he does not attain perfection, happiness or the final goal.”
~ Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita
So to reach to the things of the spirit, we have to sacrifice lower lustful states, but that is not to be celibate, as spiritual energies are the result of a conversion of basic sexual energy in alchemy, in which the basic energies of sex are converted into clean, pure spiritual energy. While they are lustful, their energy feeds desires, taking their own shape and form, multiplying and enslaving pleasurably.
“The Yellow Emperor addressed a question to Su Nu saying: “If I were to refrain for a long time from intercourse, what would be the result?” Su Nu answered: That would be a grave mistake. Heaven and earth have their opening and closing, and yin and yang their activities and transformations. Man must conform to yin and yang and follow the four seasons. If you were to abstain from intercourse, your spirit would have no opportunity for expansiveness, and yin and yang would be blocked and cut off from one another. How could you thus strengthen yourself? You must cultivate your ch’i through frequent practice and “eliminate the old while absorbing the new” to improve yourself. If the “jade stalk” does not stir, it dies in its lair. So you must engage frequently in intercourse as a way of exercising the body. To be aroused but not ejaculate is what is called “returning the Ching.” When the Ching is returned to benefit the body, then the tao of life has been realized.”
~ Su Nu Ching
To create the spiritual within, the nature of the energies is changed and purified by alchemical transmutation. Then, as their nature is different, they create the inner person anew, rather than being used in their usual form to create physical bodies, or to fulfill sexual fantasies.
“The energy of the kidneys is under the water sign. When the desires are stirred, it runs downward, is directed outward, and creates children. If, in the moment of release, it is not allowed to flow outward, but is led back by the energy of thought so that it penetrates the crucible of the Creative, and refreshes heart and body and nourishes them, that also is the backward-flowing method. Therefore it is said, The Way of the Elixir of Life depends entirely on the backward-flowing method.”
~ A description of Tantrism from the Taoist text The Secret of the Golden Flower
“The seed of your body need not enter the body of woman to create life; for the power of the angel of Earth can create the life of the spiritual within, as well as the life of the body without.”
~ Jesus, The Essene Gospel of Peace
One night in the astral plane I met a spiritual Being, one who was helping me along my spiritual path. We were on a beach, and I asked him, “What can you tell me about lust?” He held up his hand and then turned it over and opened it; it was full of grains of sand. When I saw this, I understood that there are lots and lots of lustful desires. I had asked about lust as one thing, but there are so many different lustful desires, just like grains of sand.
The understanding of sex is part of a greater spiritual work to reach enlightenment, it does not exist in isolation from it. To reach enlightenement is to return to source consciousness and for this, you must keep sight of the real goal, which is to create yourself anew. Creation was through sex; enlightenment is that process in reverse, and the return to oneness is also through sex.
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
~ Jesus, in John 3:1-7 from the Bible
The following quote beautifully describes the spiritual nature of alchemical union:
A person’s approach to sexuality is a sign of his level of evolution.
Unevolved persons practice ordinary sexual intercourse.
Placing all emphasis upon the sexual organs, they neglect the body’s other organs and systems. Whatever physical energy is accumulated is summarily discharged, and the subtle energies are similarly dissipated and disordered.
It is a great backward leap.
For those who aspire to the higher realms of living, there is angelic dual cultivation.
Because every portion of the body, mind, and spirit yearns for the integration of yin and yang, angelic intercourse is led by the spirit rather than the sexual organs. Where ordinary intercourse is effortful, angelic cultivation is calm, relaxed, quiet, and natural.
Where ordinary intercourse unites sex organs with sex organs, angelic cultivation unites spirit with spirit, mind with mind, and every cell of one body with every cell of the other body.
Culminating not in dissolution but in integration, it is an opportunity for a man and woman to mutually transform and uplift each other into the realm of bliss and wholeness.
The sacred ways of angelic intercourse are taught only by one who has himself achieved total energy integration, and taught only to students who follow the Integral Way with profound devotion, seeking to purify and pacify the entire world along with their own being.
However, if your virtue is especially radiant, it can be possible to open a pathway to the subtle realm and receive these celestial teachings directly from the immortals.
~ The Hua Hu Ching
From an online talk in December, 2009