Comments on Peace Between the Sheets

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Hi Marnia -

As I make my way a second time through your excellent book, a few topics keep cropping up that might be interesting to discuss. Note that I bring these things up not as a critique of your book but rather as an attempt at gaining a more clear and complete picture of human sexuality and its potential.

There is one recurrent theme in the book upon which all arguments hinge. This theme is that GENETIC STRATEGY AND HEALTHY COMPANIONSHIP ARE AT ODDS (your words).

I can see that different parts of the brain have different functions, and were developed at different times, and so therefore can seem at odds. The lobes of the brain that were developed earlier have a very deep-seated influence over newer developments in brain function.

There's no denying that a pleasure-reward center does exist, or that it has huge influence. The sheer speed of technological progress and the immediate gains it has been able to provide us in prolonging life, ample opportunities for sugar and fat intake, and more frequent opportunities for sexual encounters - has definately led to addiction. We are still operating from an outdated model, consuming these things in excess as though they were still hard to come by.

But there is a part of me that intuitively feels it may not be true that genetic strategy and healthy companionship are at odds. I bring this up because I hope to both successfully reproduce someday AND have healthy companionship with the same person. I realize you’ve opted out of having offspring, but not all of us will choose to make that decision, and I’d like to think I’m not automatically doomed to misery because of it.

I think organisms are complete systems, designed optimally for coherent functioning, and there is no reason - when considering the insane amount of intelligent design in every facet of our being - that we would be designed in such a way that different parts of ourselves would be at WAR with each other --- UNLESS, of course, it was through this process of conflict that we were meant to reach a more coherent level of functioning and integration, which may be what is going on here.

And if this is what is going on, evolution must be defined in a way that is much broader than mere biological success. It’s clear we can’t define it in these terms anymore, since our current insane level of biological success may be our demise.

As individuals, reproduction is not even one of our basic needs for survival. Montagu points out that "The raw sensation of touch as stimulus is vitally necessary for the survival of the organism. In that sense it may be postulated that the need for tactile stimulation must be added to the repertoir of basic needs in all vertebrates. . . . Basic needs, defined as tensions which must be satisfied if the organism is to survive, are the needs for oxygen, liquid, food, rest, activity, sleep, bowel and bladder elimination, escape from danger, and the avoidance of pain. It should be noted that sex is not a basic need since the survival of the organism is not dependent upon its satisfaction. Only a certain number of organisms need to satisfy sexual tensions if the species is to survive. However that may be, the evidence points unequivocally to the fact that no organism can survive very long without externally originating cutaneous stimulation."

I bring this all up because I’ve noticed that as compelling as the argument for the biological drive is, my own reasons for finding nonorgasmic sex worthwhile do not hinge on trying to avoid this supposed divide between genetic strategy and healthy companionship. Rather, my reasons for wanting to explore nonorgasmic sex have more to do with an interest in going deeper into exploring the increased receptivity, energy, playfulness, affection, nurturing and mutual generosity that seem to blossom from this approach. And, orgasm seems to have in it an inherent grasping quality to it that leads people often to use one another as mere tools for reaching this goal. But it may be possible for human beings to reach such a state of connection and unity that they could simultaneously have an orgasm without any striving or grasping or objectification at all. I wouldn’t mind conceiving under those conditions, and I wouldn’t feel doomed to a fate of separation virus and alienation if I were to experienced that occasionally (and I mean VERY occasionally – as occasionally as I chose to consciously integrate my biological drive into my life).

In your book, you describe the considerable gains in health, enjoyment, and fulfillment that companionship provides. The benefits are similar to what Montagu has described as the necessity of tactile stimulation for wholeness. Why would biology be unable to see these gains as being positive factors leading to biological success? I think that biology and fulfilling companionship could actually be ideal bedmates, so long as they are in balance and one is not overriding the other.

Apologies dear Hotspring

I did not find this post until today. Thank you for raising this point. You are right that my book assumes that we have an inherent conflict. I believe that we are programmed to mate and then distance ourselves from our mate...and pursue a new one. I believe that fertilization-driven sex is the mechanism that leads to separation. I think one can counter that biological program to some degree by choosing a balanced approach of the type you foresee. But I'm not sure it can ever be countered completely.

I have great respect for you, and I know that you do not share my views. Not only that, I wish you well in your search to combine the two.

There's a larger point behind my position, and I seldom mention it because some of the most wonderful people I know are parents, or would-be parents. Years ago when I explained to my mother how orgasm created emotional alienation between partners, she actually understood what I was saying and could see examples of it in her own and other marriages. But then she said, "but we need sperm, Marnia, because how else could we make babies?"

I decided to sit down and ask my inner guidance where procreation fit into the picture. The answer initially floored me. It was, "you don't need to make babies." *gulp* As I recovered from my initial shock and kept asking, I realized that if we are spirit traveling through matter, and our goal is to Awaken or transcend our limited experience/awareness as earth-plane denizens, then babies are the very last thing we DO need. They simply pull others into the limited awareness of this plane, where they are quite likely to fall for the urges of their reward circuitry, earn unpleasant karma, and keep the whole illusion rolling.

Not only that, I could see that the urge to make a baby is as much an earthly, brain-chemical induced drive as the urge to pursue sex for the purpose of orgasm. (This may be why I see such a similarity between a woman having a child over her partner's objection and a man raping a woman based on equally primitive, fertilization-driven impulses.)

I could also see how a relationship devoted to sacred sex could, if it produced powerful enough feelings of wholeness, soothe both cravings without anyone feeling deprived in any way.

I wondered if I was making all that up, but soon I stumbled upon some pretty powerful spiritual sources that said the same thing. For example:

Excerpt from 'Being Peace' by Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk

[By bringing a child into the world] you continue the cycle of suffering. Aware that having more children in his society would be to make them suffer, the Buddha urged the monks not to have children.

And, then I ran into the Gnostic gospels, which say that Jesus taught the very same thing. That's mind boggling given the Catholic and fundamentalist preoccupation with untrammeled procreation, but in fact, even the New Testament we inherited has precious little suggesting that Jesus was pro-family. It's always the Old Testament God who was howling about the need to multiply and plant seed in the womb.

The Gnostics believed the Old Testament "creator" god is not, in fact, the "real" God. The real God is behind ALL of creation (while the other guy is a sort of Luciferian fallen-angel type who only hangs out "here" making slaves of mankind), both male and female, entirely beneficent, not vindictive, etc. - and wants us to awaken to our full co-creator status rather than hang out as slaves. That resonates deeply with me, as you see in my work. For more on the anti-procreation topic from the Gnostic Gospels, see, for example,

I would never suggest that a topic of this importance could or should be settled by intellectual argument. Clearly it's a matter of inner listening, a purely personal endeavor.

As a result of years of inner listening, my impression is that there is an Earthly Feminine energy and a Divine Feminine energy. One is concerned with fecundity on this plane and the lessons that it teaches. The other is concerned with union of male and female for the purpose of giving birth to our enlightenment, which various traditions describe as a sort of "spiritual baby." I think this is actually what the 'immaculate conception' was about. The Taoists called it the "holy fetus."

Who knows? Whatever you choose, I wish you much happiness and fulfillment.

There's another split in

There's another split in this line of thinking here "if we are spirit traveling through matter, and our goal is to Awaken or transcend our limited experience/awareness as earth-plane denizens, then babies are the very last thing we DO need."

The argument hinges on dichotomy - in this case spirit and matter seen as two separate things, rather than two parts of the same thing. I am not convinced this dichotomy is real. How could spirit exist without matter? Opposites define themselves in dynamic dance with eachother.

I have watched countless friends have their worlds opened and expanded with the introduction of a new spirit in the form of a child into their lives (which is not to say they are not challenged by the little devils - but how can we Awaken if we are not challenged?).

And, I happen to very much like being on planet earth. I don't in any way see being bound to the earth as limiting or stunting the growth of my spirit. The material world is the world through which my spirit can grow and express itself, or - at the very least - is the current form that my spirit is growing in. I'm sure the options are endless depending on which plane of reality you look on.

So, if there are other astral levels of spirit growth that your inner guidance has told you about that make the earthly level look like a hassle in comparison, please let us know. Until then I am not convinced because I don't reside there - I reside here, on earth, in my body.

Once you have let go of your body, your spirit goes through various bardo realms reflective of aversion and/or attachment before being able to recognize itself as clear light. THEN (according to Buddhist cosmology), you either merge with this unity that you already are (and I would assume you stop awakening then since you have reached full awakening), or you go back to life to help others out. I do believe in the holy fetus by the way, but I am not convinced that having a literal earthly fetus would necessarily be the antithesis of the holy one.

Of course I do feel grateful to those who are sane enough to know they do not want to bring children into the world.

I guess my point is simply that it is all spirit. Even the pain and suffering that Hanh speaks of is spirit. That is what I have been learning the most recently, in my journey with spirit: its all just the same thing. When I feel pain in my back, my initial impulse is to transcend it ( I think - "This is painful"> therefore not spirit, which I associate with freedom and absence of pain). But only through really feeling it and experiencing it can I be touched by spirit, and only through being with the pain can it move. This is not a martyr syndrome, only a willingness to be fully human in all of its mesyness and to know IT IS STILL SPIRIT, even in the mess. This ability to be present with the full phenomenon of earthly experience without aversion is central to buddhist thought. If we know that our spirit is more than our pain and pleasure, if we are able to bask in this true knowledge of ourselves because we are in touch with our "holy fetus", then no amount of earthly life situations should be able to derail us.

I simply don't believe that truly knowing our spirit NECESSARILY requires any kind of withdrawal from any aspect of life. That is not to say that full immersion in every aspect of it is just as likely to lead to enlightenment. But it is all of a part, everything tied up in everything else. There is as much danger in surgically removing important aspects of ourselves for our so-called enlightenment as there is in being a typical human. The potential for insanity or enlightenment seem to be about equal from both sides, depending on that person's spirit and ability to keenly navigate the sitaution at hand.

Thanks for a lively discussion, Marnia!

off the top of my head, as a father of five gorgeous children :)

I always felt, out of respect, that each individual woman had the right and should be accorded the right to do with her own body what she wished, or at least that men had no business interfering or attempting to dictate. We've done enough of that.

I also believed that when one enters into binding intimate partnership with another human being, the correct mindset and philosophy to hold was of mutual unselfish love and generosity that should have no conditions whatsoever. One should dedicate oneself to facilitating one's partner's happiness.

I think with the knowledge Gary and Marnia have discovered and made available, those who feel it is their destiny to have children should be able to 'tip toe around' their biological urges by resuming and sustaining a strong foundation of sacred, non-orgasmic, oxytocin producing sex before, during and after their fulfilment of their wish to have children. I think. We're all experimenting here.

But I think that on the evidence that my partner and I managed to sustain a relationship for 23 years through the extraordinary stresses of five births, nursing periods and home education of five children, and a severe psychosomatic illness on my part which began the first month we tried to conceive. For the first seventeen of those years we were in pretty much perfect accord, and were able to get over major hiccups in the form of significant life stresses. We just grew complacent, pushed the envelope too far, as I always cautioned was a danger, that we should 'quit while we were ahead' - everyone has their limits, even us.

Heavy Stuff - but perfectly true

I have long believed that what is considered to be the 'external world' in our Anglo-American, Empirico-Rational culture is actually a symbolic projection in our own minds. This may seem strange, but if you consider that the electrical impulses the senses deliver to the brain are all we know of the outside world, and that 'knowing' takes place mentally, it is actually a truism.

This has always been the Eastern view, that the passing show of the world is Maya, a kind of 3D film projected from the light of our own souls. It's the view of continental philosophy, too, broadly. Following Kant and Nietzsche it is hard to argue with the logical conclusion that all we appear to be perceiving or projecting as 'out there' is actually a construct woven from percepts we receive through the limited sense organs which deliver or project a very limited range of frequencies, like little letterbox slots onto some unimagined, unknown universe. We make easy, common sense assumptions that we know far more than we actually do, in point of fact. We really could be plugged into something like 'The Matrix' as I was surmising in 1991, long before the film trilogy was ever thought of. We have no way of knowing what is on the other side of our own mind. As Kant so wonderfully encapsulated, 'We can take our spectacles off, but we can't take our Minds off!'

For what it's worth, the latest genius in this line of thinking, who I think would agree with your philosophical and theological analysis, pretty much, HS, is Don Cupitt, former dean of Emanuelle College, Cambridge, another total 'off the wall' maverick, but absolutely brilliant:

Now, while Marnia may appear to be more of a traditional spirit-matter dualist in theology than either Cupitt, you or myself, HS, I've found in my discussions with her that when we go into things more closely, our views are closer than it might seem at first. I'm a monist, I guess, as you seem to be. Where some people deny the existence of any Spiritual world, you Spiritualize Matter, which I do, too. But I bet if we asked Marnia, she'd say that she too believes that the body is spiritual. The renegade theologian Matthew Fox, who fell foul of the current Pope when he was head of the Inquisition (I was amazed they have the gall not to have abolished such an office) and was booted out of the Dominicans for exalting the Divine Feminine, says that he is a Panentheist, he believes that Spirit interpenetrates and inspires Matter at every point. I suppose I'm more of a Pantheist, because there are good scientific reasons to believe that two realms of totally differentsubstances can never communicate or interact with one another. Any substantial realm is a 'closed system'. Which means that everything in any realm such as the one in which we exist must ultimately be reducible to one substance, Energy. Hence 'monism', belief that all that exists are subdivisions, creations or projections from the 'One Thing', as it is called in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. It has also been called, simply, Love. The first Ancient greek scientists used different metaphors for this One Substance or Substrate. Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of my favourite writers, understands this One very well, and explains it beautifully:

[quote]Fortune, Minerva, Muse, Holy Ghost, — these are quaint names, too narrow to cover this unbounded substance. The baffled intellect must still kneel before this cause, which refuses to be named, — ineffable cause, which every fine genius has essayed to represent by some emphatic symbol, as, Thales by Water, Anaximenes by Air, Anaxagoras by Mind (Nous) , Zoroaster by Fire, Jesus and the moderns by Love: and the metaphor of each has become a national religion. The Chinese Mencius has not been the least successful in his generalization. “I fully understand language,” he said, “and nourish well my vast–flowing vigor.” — “I beg to ask what you call vast–flowing vigor?” — said his companion. “The explanation,” replied Mencius, “is difficult. This vigor is supremely great, and in the highest degree unbending. Nourish it correctly, and do it no injury, and it will fill up the vacancy between heaven and earth. This vigor accords with and assists justice and reason, and leaves no hunger.” — In our more correct writing, we give to this generalization the name of Being, and thereby confess that we have arrived as far as we can go. Suffice it for the joy of the universe, that we have not arrived at a wall, but at interminable oceans.[/quote] R.W. Emerson, Essay on 'Experience'.

The 'vast-flowing vigor' of Mencius we know better today of course, under the name Tao. As Emerson has no qualms about suggesting that what the Christian calls the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, and Jesus calls Love, the Chinese sages call the Tao, I have no such qualms either.

Last week I went to see a wonderful film, The Golden Compass first of a trilogy based on Phillip Pullman's teen novel trilogy, His Dark Materials which I was recommended to by a young friend and read with great enjoyment a year or so ago. The 'Golden Compass' is a kind of mechanical I Ching, and the film also reminded me that in some cultures one's Daemon (a word central to the film) is visualised as an animal spirit, totem or atavism. I have always had a strong affinity for the Wolf, choosing it as my 'superhero identity' and painting a wolf's head on a shield when I was eleven. But according to the test on the films site, my daemon, it says, is a whippet! Interestingly they comment in the instructions that a person's daemon ( a term first used by Socrates) is usually of the opposite sex, and that 'we in this world may also have a daemon, but an invisible one'. All this is highly suggestive of what I have been describing.

If you select your language and are patient for a minute, you will see a little link appear towards the bottom right of the screen which will allow you to take the 'daemon test'. :

bye all,



The only thing I would add

is that maybe it would be wise if we all tried to set aside our (albeit noble) principles such as women's-right-to-choose, loving support of a mate's objectives, philosophical considerations or population-analysis, and "asked" within before choosing to engage in fertilization-driven sex (for recreation or procreation). Like anopenheart, I have found that there is Something that provides the most amazing insights when asked. I think of it as "the conductor of the ideal orchestra." My sense is that, if we can improve our inner-listening skills, we could get the complementary scores that allow us to move forward as a group in a way that fulfills us, awakens us and brings us into harmony.

I confess I think of sacred union as a way to improve our "hearing ability." Maybe, or maybe not because "our lover is a manifestation of the conductor." I like that image, though, and perhaps it all comes down to the same thing - as we try to strengthen our spiritual vision of each other for a higher end.

Incidentally, I see everything (all of creation in its multi-dimensional, infinite splendor) as imbued with Spirit...and imagine that some adventures are more harmonious than others. I admit that I see our current adventure as needing a correction that will have to come from without our (now) limited awareness.

I think the healed result may well be "multi-dimensional" consciousness that permits us to "vacation" in the beauty of physicality - without losing our full spiritual awareness and falling asleep in the damned stuff! So in that sense I'm not "anti-physical," but "anti-limitation and limited awareness." Clearly we aren't awake yet; clearly we are suffering a lot.

Who knows? Perhaps how we use our life force energy is indeed the "drug" that keeps us snoozing in limitation as a soul group - or wakes us up to using passion for other types of creativity. Might be worth trying to tune in before making decisions about how to use sex...instead of assuming sex is harmless or trivial or sacred if the intention is clear, or whatever. I'm in the lab, myself.

In the lab! Hah! I like

In the lab! Hah! I like that.

I also really resonate with what you say about the need to develop our "hearing ability."

I'm at a stage where I hear Spirit, I just don't always listen. I have much more lab time yet.


but you're still one of the wisest goddesses I've encountered. It's lovely having you around to raise sticky questions and take us to task when needed.

well said, that woman.. :)

I think a listening attitude to the voice or voices of that mysterious something which we've come to believe, independently, exists and is much wiser than our little selves, in whatever way we can, is always good advice. For me the primary function of Sacred Sex is to become more intimate with that Higher force and purpose through being intimate with another in the most pleasant way imaginable. Ultimately if HS and Will and you and I and everyone else does that, each will find our own respective True Paths. Hopefully.

Interesting Discussion!

You've certainly provoked an interesting discussion here, HS. I read Marnia as philosophically a Panentheist, I think, like Matthew Fox, which is a 'cutting edge' version of Christianity, which has been dualist since at least the Council of Nicea. You sound, from what you say, as something of a Nature loving Pantheist, (philosophically monist), a believer in the Divine Oneness of everything, like me. Is that right, do you think? Most modern Neo-Pagans are Pantheists, and I guess as a worshipper of the Goddess through her fleshly incarnations, if I'm anything at all coherent theologically I guess I'd be something along those lines. More Hindu, though, maybe (if it were possible), as I wouldn't want to exclude Christianity or Islam, much as they'd probably shrink from my insistence on believing in their truths, too.


~ For I am divided for Love's sake: for the chance of Union ~

What is wrong with makin' babies?!


I like you, but really I wouldn't enjoy a world without humans in it. I also believe life (this spiritual plane) can be and is beautiful; when it is not (bad) people are to blame. I don't agree with what you said, sorry. What is wrong with life on Earth? I look forward to 100 more lifetimes myself. :)

;-) I like you, too

I don't think we need to worry about a world without humans in it for a very long time...except for the very real risk that we will make it uninhabitable for our own and many other species with our short-sighted choices (stemming, indirectly, from how we use our life-force energy?).

Your question reminds me of something I once read that said mankind's spiritual awakening is kind of like a child becoming an adult. Would a child want to remain a child forever? And even if s/he did, would that be a good thing? What if we have hidden potential that we can't tap unless we're willing to give up our current preoccupations?

Having already experienced unexpected benefits from cultivating sexual energy differently, I admit I'm intrigued by the larger possibilities hinted at in various esoteric sources. As I said, I don't think of it as "giving up life on Earth" as much as I think of it as expanding our awareness beyond a single plane and its predictable concerns.