- 1 Welcome to the world of Spiritually Incorrect where there are no words that cannot be spoken.
- 2 Spiritually Incorrect
- 2.1 Sex is the Answer:
- 2.2 The Four Noble Truths of Eros
- 2.3 Eros Everywhere
- 2.4 Levels of Consciousness
- 2.5 The Four Noble Truths of Eros
- 2.6 The Ten fold Path of Eros
Welcome to the world of Spiritually Incorrect where there are no words that cannot be spoken.
Too often in relationship, in families, in communities, in nations, there are words that can’t be spoken, the hidden truth that no one will claim or recognize. They are words that are not part of the party line which holds the power.
Spiritually incorrect is about speaking truth to power with laughter, delight, integrity, and outrageous love.
Sometimes a controversy erupts in the world and it looks like there are victims and perpetrators. But sometimes you look more closely and it looks like the victims are the perpetrators, which is called the Drama Triangle in Psychology, but these are words that can’t be spoken.
And then there is Sexually Incorrect. Classical monogamous relationship is the best option for most people most of the time, but not for all people all of the time. Probably most monogamous couples are miserable. Monogamy doesn’t solve the problem. There are actually a thousand “deadnesses” that are hidden.
When people compare monogamy to unconventional relationships, they often compare the worst forms of post-conventional relationships to the best conventional relationships. But this is a level/line fallacy. You are comparing the highest level of one line to the lowest level of another. It’s not spiritually incorrect; it’s spiritually incorrect to point out that truth.
Each world has its shadows, and the spiritually incorrect move recognizes a variety of possible forms – celibacy is one, post-conventional polyamory is a second, monogamy is a third, moving between different forms of those is another. To be spiritually incorrect is to face everything and avoid nothing.
It is not about being shamed, it’s about being accountable. Or we can distinguish between toxic shame and authentic shame. Toxic shame is about being bad as a being. Authentic shame is to acknowledge when you don’t live up to your potential. You have to be willing to be displeasing to yourself.
You must be able to meet shadow, to speak the words that can’t be spoken. When in a tribe there are challenges that can’t be spoken, words that can’t be said, those shadow words become the driver of everything that is happening.
Spiritually incorrect speaks the words that can’t be spoken.
by Marc Gafni
This article, written in 2007, represents a small elaboration on my thinking in the book The Mystery of Love. There is much more to say―which I will do, God willing, in a full-length book―but for now this small offering will suffice.
Our general way of thinking suggests that sexuality is the light and relationship is the vessel.
This is the correct way of conventional thinking. It is filled with much wisdom and depth and is clearly how we should―for the most part―conduct our lives. It is what is called in the teaching of Izbica Hassidism Living, “According to the Way of Joseph.”
There is, however, a post-conventional possibility: what the Baal Shem elliptically refers to as Hamtaka, Sweetness.
(About the relationship between the Baal Shem levels of consciousness and those of contemporary developmental levels of consciousness is a topic that I have been teaching and thinking about for several years. I have written a full-length book which deals in part with this issue in great depth. The topic of the book is Evolutionary or Integral Kabbalah.)
In the vision of post-conventional spiritual possibility, the guiding mantra is one that is central to the careful reader of a certain strain in Hassidism. The mantra appears in different forms.
“Higher is the source of the vessels then the source of the lights.”
In this version, it appears in Habad Kabbalah. In a different version it reads, “Higher is the thickness of the vessel itself than the light within the vessel.”
(I have written of, and will share, the deep energetic, psychological and spiritual implications of this mantra more fully in an upcoming book called Spiritually Incorrect. For the time being let the following suffice. The sexual itself contains all wisdom.)
While it requires a vessel it also is a vessel.
The vulnerability and open heart of sexuality invites us – nay demands from us to keep our heart open even in the face of fear and pain. To practice loving even when covered with the wounds of love. This is the “way of Judah” in the teaching of Izbica.
WHEN YOU LIVE OUTSIDE THE LAW YOU HAVE TO BE HONEST.
So we were reminded by Bob Dylan forty years ago.
The way of Judah is filled with danger even as it is the way of healing and wonder.
Sex is the Answer:
Is there anything else that so grabs our rapt attention, incessantly pursues us, occupies our daydreams, fantasies and yearnings? The mystics are just stating the obvious, God is trying to GET OUR ATTENTION. HELLO…OVER HERE…PAY ATTENTION…Now I am not talking about the God who sends good people to burn in hell because they slipped up on one of his impossible demands. Nor even the Grandfather in heaven who hands out chocolate to do-gooders. Forget that God. The God you don’t believe in doesn’t exist. Rather, the God that exists for us is the personal erotic life force that courses through reality. The God we believe in is the vitality of Eros. The God we believe in is the force for healing and transformation in the world. God is the Tao who knows our name. God is the Erotic who invites us to live in Eros and the instruction manual for living in Eros is no less then – yes – you guessed it – SEX.
Sex is the answer.
When religion splits us off from our sexuality, we correctly intuited that something is deeply askew. But sex is not a panacea. Sex is not a drug that will soothe away the lurking feeling of ennui that this cannot be all there is. Good orgasms will not a good life make. Rather, sex is the answer as a model and not as the sum total of all Eros, holiness and wisdom. Sex, if we will but listen, is a great master of the spirit – better than any guru, psychologist, rabbi or priest. Sex can teach us how to reclaim the erotic in every non-sexual aspect and element of our lives. For Eros is not sex. The Sexual models the erotic, it does not exhaust the erotic.
The Four Noble Truths of Eros
Sex is not Eros. The failure to understand the relationship between the sexual and the erotic lies at the root of much of our confusion and pain around both. The proper relationship between the two set out by both the kabalistic masters and Joseph Smith in his more esoteric teachings was perhaps best captured as by the Zen master Ikkyu in the following verse.
Rinzai’s disciples never got the Zen Message:
“But I, the blind donkey know the truth:
Love play can make you immortal.
The autumn breeze of a single night of love is
Better then a hundred thousand years of
Sterile sitting meditation.”
And just in case he was being to subtle and to avoid being piously misinterpreted, Ikkyu continues:
Stilted Koans and convoluted answers are all monks have
Pandering endlessly to officials and rich patrons.
Good friends of the Dharma, so proud, let me
A brothel girl in gold brocade is worth more
Than any of you…
Enter a brothel and great wisdom will
Explode upon you.
Manjushri should have let Ananda enjoy
Himself in the whorehouse…
Now he will never know the joys of elegant
Sex stands as the ultimate symbol, both signifying and actually modeling the sacred wisdom which needs to animate and guide all areas of life. The goal of life is to live erotically in all facets of being, and sex is the model par excellence for sacred erotic living in all of the non sexual arenas which make up most of our lives.
The sexual is in the hidden teaching of the spiritually incorrect masters, is the ultimate spiritual master. Thus, deep understanding of the sexual is the ultimate guide to accessing the spirit in every dimension of our reality.
The sexual models the erotic. It does not exhaust the erotic. The exile of the erotic into the sexual is what the Kabbalists referred to as the exile of the Shechina, the incarnation of the feminine goddess principle said to dwell wherever men invited her in. What this might actually mean is the topic of this essay. We will explore the faces of the Shechina, of Eros and through that exploration understand more deeply the deep intention of our assertion, the Sexual models the Erotic. But again, What does it actually means that the sexual models the Erotic?
Clearly when we talk about the sexual modeling the Erotic we are not talking about the merely sexual. The merely sexual involves a few pathetic grunts, maybe an occasional kiss and nice word, the titillation of the narrow section of the genitals for a few minutes at the most and a brief fleeting please at climax.
If you are lost in mere sex then your will never receive and never be penetrated.
When we talk of sex we speak of heart. We all know that titillation of the sexual instruments feels good. That is not what the erotic sexual is all about. At least we hope not. Feeling good is for people who are afraid of the full divine power of the erotic sexual. Sex is not a path unless it cracks you open to the divine.
People cling to the outside of the sexual, to breast and pallid orgasm because they are afraid to open up to her full power. It is the fear of bliss that keeps most people fixated on pathetic titillation. Sex invites us to be open as love. There is only love. The Kabbalists teach together with Ikkyu that the universe in every second is always making love. The Kabbalists call it Zivug. In this world that incarnation of the divine movement called Zivug, the perpetual divine love making, is sex. Enter into the inside of sex and you will find God, the sacred lover and gorgeous divine slut of the Kosmos.
Levels of Consciousness
It is this level of sexuality that the Hebrew Kabbalist known as the Baal Shem Tov referred to when he talked about the consciousness of Hamtaka, best translated as the interior sweetness of being. For the sexual appears different at every level of consciousness. Let’s look for a moment at the levels of consciousness as outlined by the Baal Shem as they relate to the sexual.
At one level of consciousness, referred to by the Baal Shem Tov as Hachna’ah submission, the urge for momentary release and pathetic pleasure – which none the less shimmers with higher promise-drives all of being. At this pre-conventional level of consciousness, we submit to this drive that Freud called libido; it very literally drives everything we do.
At a second level of consciousness, which the Baal Shem called Havdalah, distinction, we domesticate this drive harness its pleasure to the ethical yoke of commitment and the creative yoke of culture. At this conventional level of consciousness we deploy law, culture and taboo, to sublimate the sexual and then redirect its force to support our committed relationships. We further invest its power as the animating force in our cultural creations. At this level of consciousness we feel the correct need to construct contours of commitment which are sufficient to hold the raw anarchic power and seductive beauty of the sexual.
At the third level of consciousness however, the sexual transcends itself into the model of Eros and all that is holy. Deeper still, at this third, post conventional level we realize that the Erotic and the Holy are one. At this level of realization, what the Baal Shem referred to as Hamtaka, Sweetness, we experience the sexual itself, when manifested in honest and authentic contexts, as spiritual practice par excellence, as its own self validating and self containing vessel.
The sexual encounter itself – held privately between two individuals – who have clearly stated their intention to each other – is itself the holy of holies. When held in authenticity, the sexual, in its radical breaking of boundaries – in its total shattering of hierarchies of power – becomes the holy of holy itself. It is to this that the Hebrew sage referred to when he said about the biblical book, Song of Songs, “All the books are holy – the song of songs is holy of holies.” The song of songs which speaks in explicit terms of gorgeousness of passionate sexual union between lover and beloved – this union is itself the holy of holies. In the holy of holies of the sexual it is in the very occlusion of boundaries born of pettiness and illusion, that the vessel of the sacred is created.
However for the sexual to be the holy of holies it is not merely the boundaries of convention which must be broken; that would merely be the first level of pre-conventional consciousness, a pathetic submission to the vagaries of desire, but rather the shattering of the boundaries of the superficial, the breaking of the boundaries of the skin encapsulated ego which sits apart and against all that is not self. What must be shattered are the false asymmetries of status and the petty yet desperate posturings of power.
It is the full and open sexuality of this level three, post conventional consciousness, which is the infinite sweetness that course through and is all of reality. It is it is this sexuality, which transcends and includes the sexuality of Havdala, that models the erotic which is the holy.
So again we ask, what do we mean when we say the sexual models the erotic?
What is the consciousness of Hamtaka?
The Four Noble Truths of Eros
The Sexual Models the Erotic in four major ways. In each of these ways a major face of the eros is modeled in the sexual. The goal of tantra, which in Sanskrit literally means to expand, is to expand these qualities in our lives beyond the merely sexual into every arena of our lives. The goal of tantra is to live erotically in all of the non sexual dimensions of being.
The first is the way of interiority. It is in the sacred positions of the erotic sexual entered and received as the highest form of practice, embraced as surrender to love, that all the false positions we covet in life are revealed as the paltry fare of pseudo Eros. A fare which leave the soul parched and desperate for true nourishment. It is in the erotic sexual that we are most obviously invited to fully abandon the superficial games of fractured ego and fragmented identity, enter the interior castle of reality. It is only on the inside of reality that your heart is set free and you are able to see deeper then the flatland of surface vision. Eros is Interiority modeled by the sexual.
The second is the way of Presence. The erotic sexual invites us to a realm which we do not recognize easily in our daily struggles to prove that we exist. In the erotic sexual existence is a given. We feel beyond feeling to the deepest feeling where our existence is radiant and alive- obviously not in need of explanation. It simply and joyously is. Eros is our opening to the fullness, alive and alove presence, that always is, always will be and always is. This opening is modeled by the sexual.
God is Shechina. Shechina in many Zoharic passages means Presence or Eros. Eros is Presence. The Shechina is always present, alive in and as everything. Most people never enter the healing expanse of the Shechina which is all around and in them because they are contracted into false hopes. They are building edifice complexes to the survival of their brand. They are lost in the superficial pleasure which is mere sex.
One can have sex one’s entire life and never ravished open to Shechina. So people settle for a family and white picket fence not as manifestation of Shechina but as protection against the emptiness of a life in which they are never lived by God. One can either die open to God, to Ayin, to Sunyatta, in the fullness of the erotic sexual and in every minute of existence, or spend life running from your petty death which can never be outrun. Life means to be fully present without clinging to past, resisting the present or grasping for the future. In such a life eternity is realized.
You can either be present as love or be absent and suffer. In Hebrew mysticism, exile is called “Egypt.” “Mitzrayim Egypt” literally means the place of narrowness, the place where you heart closes. When you close you suffer. Israel is called Merchavim, the wide place, the vast expanse, the place where you open. Redemption is opening in love. It is the sexual that models this opening for us. There is really only one choice to make, to open and live or close and die. Openness is presence. Closure is absence.
If you close, if you clench your fist to hold on to your comfort you will be betrayed. Everything you know as your life will one day disappear. To have is to close. To be is to open. To be or not to be is to open or to close. To be a human having or a human being. To be always and ever alive or already dead.
Can you feel it as you read. You can, can you not. The love and openness pouring through you, arousing you to cry out in rapture. And you must do this even as you suffer; and at some point the suffering will yield to tears and then to bliss. “I am open,” you must cry out. Take me God. Take me now.
Let yourself open all the way and know that only then, in your radical openness and vulnerability are you safe. Protect your balls and they will be crushed. Again the sexual models the erotic which is the holy.
If you get lost in Egypt, in the narrow images of your constructed reality you will never touch joy and never experience rapture. You can either die to Shechina in ecstatic pleasure moans of ecstasy, or whimper, die and rot in the earth. Teaches the Hassidic master the Maggid of Mezritch, late in this life, revising his earlier ascetic dharma, ‘If you only feel the Shekina in the arousal of your sex then you are already dead. If the arousal of your sex ravishes you open to God you are being born.’ Sex models the fullness of presence. The lover in Psalms says to the God who is the all, in what for the Kabbalists is understood as a blatantly sexual moment, “Open for me your gates…I will enter them…I will moan your praise.” The sexual models the erotic. Love is beyond limitation. Limitation is death and love is death to be born. Love without limitation and be surrender absolutely and your will be born to your true ecstatic nature.
In the erotic sexual we show up, we are present in ways we barely even imagine possible in the routines of our daily pettiness. Every gesture, every caress, every shiver of our body, every fleeting touch is invested with the infinite love fullness of alive presence.
The third way is the way of wholeness. In the erotic sexual we realize that we are so much more then pathetic egos encapsulated in skin which will one day rot under the earth. We realize that invisible lines of connection weave of in an awesome and gorgeous tapestry of wholeness which is holiness. The wholeness of reality expressed in the interconnectivity of being glimmers in the fabric of our sensual couplings. Subject and object laugh when they remember their apparent alienation. In the sensuality of their laughter which embraces all paradox and nullifies all illusion, wholeness is achieved as subjectivity and objectivity dissolve into oneness which is love. Eros is the realization of wholeness modeled by the sexual.
The fourth way is the way of yearning. In the erotic sexual we are invited, even driven to taste of the sweet nectar of this wholeness which heals all of the painful splits, through the magic of yearning. We yearn to merge with other knowing that it is in the union that full rapture and ecstasy wait. Eros is the participation in the yearning force of being seeking to realize itself for the sake of itself. Once again the sexual models the erotic.
The Ten fold Path of Eros
These are the four faces on the chariot of Ezekiel, the four elements and the four noble truths of Eros. From these four qualities of the erotic modeled by the sexual, interiority, fullness of presence, wholeness and the yearning force of being, flow ten other major qualities of Eros, all incarnate in the erotic sexual practiced as spirit’s dance and play. In Hebrew spirit this might be the eight days after the birth of a baby which lead to the birth of human consciousness in the human being. In Buddhist nomenclature we might call this the eightfold path of Eros.
In the erotic sexual returns we are invited to the sanity of pleasure, to the realization that the world is not indifferent to us but actively and even desperately seeks our deepest pleasure. To be sane is to know reality. Insanity is a rupture with reality. The erotic sexual remembers us to the infinite pleasure which is the truth of all that is. Love is the only way to live that is not insane. Everything in your life will always betray you. The only way through betrayal is to totally surrender to be lived by God as God. It is not enough to be loved by God. God’s love still leaves us lonely. It is only when we are lived by God that the crisis of our identity is solved. There is no place devoid of the divine. God is the place of this world appearing as all and in all and through all. Anything less then total surrender is a painful denial of reality. Not to surrender is not only brutally painful. It is insane. It is just this very erotic surrender that is modeled by the sexual.
Pleasure is not comfort. Comfort is pseudo Eros. The false homes we hide in and the castles we build on the shifting sands of pain and betrayal. Seeking comfort comes from fear. We seek to be comfortably numb so that we can forget our death. The only way to realize pleasure is to let go of comfort. To die to fear until you know in your heart that your pleasure is so much larger then your fear. The Buddhists called it “Big Mind” and “Big Heart.” The Kabbalists called it “Big pleasure.” It is so big that you cannot even feel where it stops. You need to feel farther then your small pleasure to enter large pleasure. Infinite bliss and grace is already here. The sensual opens us to die in that bliss and live in that grace. How pathetic and sad it is when we get lost in the several pathetic thrusts of sex with the spastic release they offer instead of breathing through sex into the endless love that is always there and desperately awaits our presence. So often we use relationships not to crack us open but to hide in comfort and the illusion of safety and protection. Relationship is merely another form of bondage if you love is not larger then your cult of comfort. Most people call commitment that which is only a contract of fear.
For Its own Sake
In the erotic sexual we need no reason or rationale to reach for summit of fulfillment. We act not to gain some vaunted empty prize, rather we act for “its own sake.” For the very sake of the erotic sexual itself. There is no distinction in the sexual between means and ends. They collapse into one in distinct realization that they were actually never distinct at all.
Giving and Receiving
In the erotic sexual giving and receiving cease to be two separate movements. Giving and received are revealed in all of their wondrous glory to be one and the same. The mystics sometimes called this the secret of the kiss, for in the kiss the false dichotomy between giving and receiving, indeed between giver and receiver, is exploded in the rapture of ecstatic union.
The greatest gift is the fullest openness of receiving. In the erotic sexual we receive other so deeply that our heart is touched opened wider then widest expanse we could ever feel.
It is in the erotic sexual that we learn that love is giving and that flames of passion emerge from the depths of giving. In the original Hebrew the word for love, ahavah, is also the word for ecstatic passion and giving. To be a lover is to be a giver. And being givers turns us into lovers. The great lover is not only who knows how to receive pleasure but the one who is radically to the full pleasure and opening of his sexual partner. The gift of the lover – the gift of making love – is to ravish your partner open to God even as your partner does the same to you.
It is the erotic sexual that we not only are aflame and alive with love which is giving, but we also understand that to give is to give up control. We loosen the reins which we once thought would fix everything that is so painfully broken as we realize that everything is already fixed, that grace is always alive and available and that everyone is doing what they need to do.
To truly give is to give up control. In the erotic sexual we do not settle for the paltry comfort of a shivering clitoral orgasm. Rather we reach for full and radical openness. You must be willing to open your entire being, to surrender your heart as your entire soul is given over to be ravished by God.
There is only one thing that a man or woman truly desire, underneath it all and after all other wants have been filled. The human being wants to taken by God. The Hebrew mystics teach that when man and woman merge in the full radical consciousness of total opening to the God, they make love not merely with each other, rather they experience the ultimate penetration as well as the infinite embrace of the Shechina. When we make love we spread our partners’ heart open to God through the depth of our own surrender. It is this opening of her total being to God through the joys of flesh that is man’s basic obligation to woman. According to the teachings of the Hebrew mystics, a woman loves a man who opens her to God, and a man loves a woman who opens him to God.
“Come may darling that I may die with you” writes mystical poet John Donne. Only if we are willing to die open to bliss and infinite pleasure do we find ourselves in the ultimate surrender modeled by the erotic sexual. To love is to give yourself totally and give up everything. It is only when you give up everything that you realize that everything is you. The only freedom is in total surrender.
You can only be truly alive when you let go of everything. It is only when you surrender everything that you receive anything. To give it all up to God is to receive it all in return. You must penetrate fear so completely that you are willing to let go even of your life. In Hebrew the word for intimate and sacrifice are the same. Intimacy, modeled by the sexual, is only realized when you sacrifice yourself to the unlimited unbounded and infinite. You only find personal love when your give yourself up to the largest of loves. Are you willing to “die wide open as love.” If you are then you will be born again and again and again. How do you feel when you die into love. You are alive, shivering and shimmering with pleasure, pulsating with God’s heart beating wildly in your breast. You scream to God. Take me, take me, take me now.
You say to God:
Here I am…
I am yours…
Do with me as you will
I come empty…I surrender…
My heart is in your hands
Even if all is taken from me
In my heart
Your voice is heard
From the pain
You will raise me
With your Love.
When you give all of yourself to the Shechina she throbs inside you filling you with a pleasure beyond all boundaries. To be filled with the divine phallus and received in the divine garden is to be pleasured open into bliss. It is this surrender that is modeled in the sexual. In the free fall of utter surrender all claims of ownership must be relinquished. The primate impulse, sanctified in the conventional to proclaim ownership over other through an exclusive contract of control on their genitals is for many doomed to failure. Whenever we rely on the contracts of fear the Shechina can never truly be present.
It is in the erotic sexual that we are released from the deadening clock of biological time and initiated into times that stands still and holds us in her embrace. It is in the sensual that we meet the timeless time and placeless place. In ordinary reality orgasm represents a timeless moment. This is only the experience that makes the time transcendent accessible to most people. In the erotic sexual we know that this moment is “as god as it gets.” We realize that only place we can sink deeply into the embrace of home is the infinity of the moment in which we rest. The present moment is our only home.
Unless you surrender to the divine ravishment in every moment life will always abandon you and you will never feel like you are home. You can ravish the moment open in the same way you ravish a man, a woman. In Hebrew time means literally invitation. The moment waits to be split open into eternity by the thrust of consciousness that breathes the living force of love into its heart. The present moment is beyond and the source of all time and all place. Mordechai Lainer of Izbica teaches that to be a lover is to receive the invitation that is issued anew and differently in every unfolding moment. There is no certainty out of the moment. In Hebrew the word for moment is Rega. This very same words also means deep peace and tranquility born of the radical certainty of one’s own infinite worth adequacy and dignity. Radical certainty, teaches Lainer is only available in the infinity of the present moment. All healing derives from the present moment. We are sick because we are never present in the moment which always contains all the healing we require. The sexual models the erotic embrace of eternity in the present moment.
It is in the erotic sexual that we realize that we are not merely homosapien but also homo imaginus. We understand that every deep crisis we face is at its root a crisis of imagination.
We access the quality of fantasy and imagination modeled by the sexual to imagine a world into existence in which every human being is alive and alove to his own infinite specialness even as she melts into the big mind and big heart of the divine who is all and manifests as all.
Masculine and Feminine
It in the erotic sexual where the rupture of the primal masculine and feminine is healed as line and circle once again penetrate each other to create worlds of goodness and beauty. It is in the sexual that we recreate the big bang, the ultimate divine erotic act from which flows forth all that is good. And God saw that it is good.
The entire world including body and mind is a realm of opposites. In the teaching of Mykonos “She always comes in twos…Your thoughts and the rest of the world arise in opposite pairs. She loves me she loves me not and you know both are true.” The integration of the dancing duality of opposites into a larger whole is ultimately pleasurable, utterly necessary and infinitely creative.
This merging of the twos into a larger one is modeled for all of Eros by the sexual.
The core of the Spiritually Incorrect tantra is the realization that the sexual is more than a force to be merely controlled or merely indulged. Rather the sexual in all of its intense pleasure is the model for all spiritual wisdom. The goal of spiritual living is to become a lover and to engage all of life erotically. Sex is our most important guide, offering glimmerings of guidance which pave the way to illumination. Illumination, is achieved when one lives erotically in every facet of being. It is the sexual when lived ethically, in its ultimate fullness that teaches us how to do that. In their ultimate expression the erotic and the ethical are one. The sexual is in the hidden teaching of the spiritually incorrect masters, is the ultimate spiritual master. Thus, deep understanding of the sexual is the ultimate guide to accessing the spirit in every dimension of our reality.