Historical details on the practice of karezza (by various names)

Marnia's picture
Submitted by Marnia on
Printer-friendly version

Here is a link to extensive notes collected by a man in Finland.

If you have time and like history, you may enjoy reading about those who recommended this practice through history, including Muslims, early Christians and others. It begins with a lot of material about the Catholic Church's condemnation of Karezza.

Link to notes

Courtly coitus

I have ordered these books:

Had to order used:
Wilhelm Fränger: The Millennium of Hieronymus Bosch
René Nelli: L'érotique des troubadours
Paul Chanson: Art d'aimer et continence conjugale
Adam Exner: The Amplexus Reservatus seen in the History of Catholic Doctrine on the Use of Marriage.
Allen Edwardes: Cradle of Erotica

For me, this is a puzzle coming together. I wish I had happened to read that particular Aldous Huxley essay in the past when I was scratching my head over lack of info on western tantric sexuality! Now the essay was just another search hit while brutally googling for coitus/amplexus reservatus.

The quote in my notes discussing the statement by the Holy Office is actually not about condemning Karezza, but instead directed against Paul Chanson for advertising coitus reservatus. When the concept hit French press in a major way, the Church suddenly had a hot potato in its hands. For nearly 800 years theologians had discussed the matter and at least initially in a surprisingly positive way. I have to wait for the Exner book for a more complete picture.
Isn't it also "funny" that the theological discussion started around the time Cathars were practicing their curious amorous ways, 1187 or 1190? I feel coitus reservatus should be brought back to the table in Christianity and presented fairly by pointing out the medieval positive opinions.

The statement by Holy Office had no justification and the later attempts to interpret it sound ridiculous, but it all seems to boil down to the sin of Onan.

I remember reading in Contemporary Moral Theology Volume 2: Marriage questions something about the general problems of extra-vaginal ejaculations. Like, it wouldn't be a sin, if a newly wed couple were having problems with the husband losing control before even penetrating his wife, if he was sincerely motivated to avoid these sorts of premature emissions. Now, the interpreters of the Holy Office statement basically found their idea on the concern that coitus reservatus would be hard to learn, quoting a reservatus proponent saying only one third were capable of doing it succesfully (one third were not interested btw.). And failures would in their mind result in coitus interruptus and sinning. Oh well, if they could only relax a bit with their fussing about Onan and not be so harsh on beginners..

One online review said Cradle of Erotica contains some made up material, so I don't know about the bit with Mohammed.

I mention the term asang in my notes. Another word used is asag without the "n":
Don't know (yet) which is the correct one.. suspect without the "n".

Please ask your local Islamic scholar about Beni Udhri/Udhra and udhrism and report here.

Eventually all this will appear on Wikipedia in some form.

Thanks to Marnia for reppin' the reservatus crew and providing this database of sacred sexuality!

Elutherian Gnostics

I saw a reference to them in your notes, but can't figure out who they were, or when they date from. Are they what I thought of as the "Elutherian mystics?" They weren't the Christian Gnostics then, as they predated them.

I once read that the ancient Greeks had temple priestesses and brothels at the same time, and surmised that the temples may have taught karezza as a spiritual practice, while the brothels dished out the usual fare. Wink Perhaps my guess wasn't so far off. If so, referring to the priestesses "temple prostitutes" (as historians have) was quite far from the mark.

Also, thanks for reminding me about Huxley's essay. I had read it in the back of one of this books, but didn't know it was now available on the Web. Great find. I've put it up: http://www.reuniting.info/aldous_huxley_tomorrow_appendix


The reference is from The Great Book of Tantra by Indra Sinha. Usually Eleutherian refers to the Adamite sects of late Middle Ages (free love). I don't know if Sinha is jumping through millennia here, as 'acclivity' also tends to get used when talking about Adamites, for example in the Bosch book by Fränger. The gnostic Peratae certainly talk about the upward flowing Jordan, but I didn't find anything about open marriage, when I just searched.
"The Philosophumena of Hippolytus is our only real source of information on their origin and beliefs"

Well, now I actually found a reference to the mysteries of Eleusis..

The Ophites, even in the early times of Hippolytus,
boasted that they of all men were the only real Christians,
because they alone comprehended the real nature of the Saviour.
At the same time, they diligently attended the celebration of
all the ancient Mysteries, notably the Eleusinian and the
Phrygian, declaring that through their knowledge they had
gotten the key to the hidden meaning of the whole ceremonial,
which by types and figures foreshadowed the coming of the


The OCR on that document really hasn't been spellchecked.. Do CTRL-F on the page for jordan and eleusi. I don't know how that djvu-link opens for you, but from Google I was taken to plain text.


I asked a local professor about the hadith and he had never heard of it and said that at least it isn't a canonical hadith. Sounded BS to him.. but here is the quote from The Cradle of Erotica:

The celebrated Arabian traditionist Jabir bin 'Abdallah, a disciple of Muhammed, sets
forth the following tradition:

When the Most Manifest Book El-Quran was being revealed to our Apostle by the archangel
Gabriel, Muhammed abstained, during sexual commerce with his wife, from the spermatic
ejaculation into the genital organs of Lady Khedijeh.

Muhammed, rather than practicing coitus interruptus ('azil or "withdrawal"), never
ejaculated at all (coitus reservatus, imsak or "withholding"), but purposed in saving
his semen to preserve his vital strength and have it flow into his bloodstream for
aiding and invigorating mental power. Jabir adds that the Prophet practiced "keeping it
in" or "holding back the sperm" for several hours. Feeling refreshed, he would then
retire to his mountain retreat for inspiration.


The professor also said 'Udhri love is really like courtly love and there is no ground for interpretations that it included coitus reservatus, like is claimed in "Body Magic". Hmm.. the author is still alive (95 yrs): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Walker
I'd better email him soon!

Feel free to contact more professors, everybody, and report here!

I have to emphasize that it is also pure speculation that the Free Spirit heretics practiced coitus reservatus. Aegidius Cantor's pal William of Hildernissen gave a statement to inquisitors and it is of course very intriguing. It can be found here: http://www.archive.org/stream/corpusdocumentor01fruoft/corpusdocumentor0...

9. Item dictus Aegidius habet modum specialem cooundi, non tamen contra
naturam, quali dicit Adam in paradiso fuisse usum. Qualem modum praedictus
frater Willielmus non sequitur.

10. Item sibi invicem idioma fabricantes, actum carnalis copulae vocant
delectationem paradisi vel alio nomine aclivitatem. Et sic de tali actu libidinoso,
aliis non intelligentibus, bene loquuntur.


Here's some more on the Free Spirit heresy:

The Earthly paradise Authors Regina Psaki, Charles Hindley

The Heresy of the Free Spirit. Cohn, Norman 1957 The Pursuit of the Millenium , Paladin, Granada, London.

The Heresy of the Free Spirit in the Later Middle Ages 1972 Robert E. Lerner

The Heresy of Self-Love: A Study of Subversive Individualism
Paul Zweig 1968 Princeton University Press, Princeton

I should note that Fränger's speculations on Bosch have been met with scepticism. Bosch was a member of the Brotherhood of Our Lady http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_Our_Lady
I know Bosch has been suspected of mushroom use: http://www.entheomedia.org/eden4.htm

I wonder if Noyes really spontaneously came up with the idea of coitus reservatus. Can some one tell me more about the Familists/Family of Love - why are they mentioned as practicing c. reservatus?

And Marnia, is this passage from The Gospel of Philip available online untranslated:
Seek the experience of the pure embrace [also translated as "undefiled intercourse"]; it has great power.

Fascinating, as always

I looked high and low for something from Islamic sources...and yet found nothing as direct as this. I realize it's not proof of what the Prophet did, but it does show that someone in that tradition has stumbled on the benefits of this approach. It'll take me time to read through all this. I loved reading about Walker, though. Sounds like he could have written my book better than I did, although he might have enjoyed learning the brain science behind it. If you connect with him, I would love to be in touch, too, if he has any interest.

Meanwhile, here's a source you'll like. It gives you the actual Coptic of some Nag Hammadi codices as well as the translations into several languages.

For example, here's one page, the one that talks about the "pure embrace" (or, as I once saw...somewhere...and lost the source, or never copied it..."undefiled intercourse"). Here the translator translates the key phases as "This is how one is made to exist in a mystery: the Sacrament of Marriage is grand. For the world is complex— [the system] is based upon mankind, yet [mankind is] based upon matrimony. (Therefore) contemplate the Pure Mating, for it has [great] power! Its imagery consists in a defiling [of bodies]." http://www.metalog.org/files/ph_interlin/ph064.html

Here's the home page (you have to download the Coptic alphabet if you want to see it): http://www.metalog.org/

Here's the Gospel of Philip: http://www.metalog.org/files/ph_interlin.html


Thanks for the Gospel!

"Undefiled intercourse".. I found something:

In this rather messy page is a passage from the Gospel with the translation to undefiled intercourse:

The source mentioned:
From The Gospel of Philip, GNOSIS: THE MYSTERIES AND CHRISTIANITY (An Anthology of Essene, Gnostic & Christian Writings ), with an introduction by Andrew Welburn, Floris Books, 1994

Also this Online Book Initiative http://theobi.org/Religion/ has Gospel of Philip in a strange bin.Z-format, which should mean an old excecutable file, but if you open it first in a file archiving program like 7-Zip or whatever (.Z is a compressed package), and then edit the .bin in a text editor you get something readable:

19)¦ Great is the mystery of marriage! For without it the world would not exist.
20) Now the existence of the world depends on man, and the existence of man on marriage.
21) Understand the undefiled intercourse, for it possesses a great power. Its image consists of a defilement of the form.

Couldn't find in the text where it's scanned from, though.

We have to find the original source hadith for the Muhammad bit. It might be difficult, if it's not from a canonical hadith. Worst case is the authors simply invented it themselves.

Notice the transliteration of the names vary:

Still, we have Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi with apparently the first mention of coitus reservatus in medical literature.
What about sexual imsak, then? Imsak usually means "abstinence".

Howard Hughes, Author: Darwin Porter
Weird stuff..

I bumped into a sexual sacrament called "Christerie" practiced among anabaptist Blood Friends, but it seems it didn't involve c. reservatus:
Lutheran Reformers Against Anabaptists, Author: John S. Oyer

I have almost read this article on the Chanson affair in French (photocopied from a library):
L'affaire Chanson (1950-1952): continence conjugale ou érotisme catholique? = Chanson's Case (1950-1952): Conjugal Continence or Catholic Eroticism?
Auteur(s) / Author(s)
Revue / Journal Title
Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique ISSN 0035-2381
Source / Source
1993, vol. 88, no2, pp. 439-483

It is a very good presentation and I recommend it to all of you French readers. The author went through letters and even interviewed people. The article explains the Holy Office was deliberately vague in condemning the spreading of information on c. reservatus, because it couldn't just dismiss the long line of respected theologians who saw the method as licit.

It's a shame the Chanson affair isn't that well known in non-French speaking countries. This leads to interpretations that the Holy Office was referring to Karezza, like in this Wikipedia article: