Is Sex a Private Matter?

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Over 2000 years ago, Daoist Master Laozi is said to have advised that a person's approach to sex is a sign of his level of spiritual evolution.1 For those who aspire to the higher realms of living, there is "angelic dual cultivation," which allows every portion of the body, mind and spirit to meet its yearning for the integration of yin and yang.

Angelic dual cultivation is sexual intercourse in which highly evolved individuals join the subtle inner energies of yin and yang in the light of spiritual understanding. Instead of following the biological impulse, lovers refine their fire upward. In short, lovers forego fertilization-driven orgasm in favor of ever-deeper merging and relaxation.

By contrast, ordinary intercourse places all emphasis upon the sexual organs, and whatever physical energy is accumulated is summarily discharged. The subtle energies are also dissipated and disordered. "It is a great backward leap," says Laozi.

So why is angelic dual cultivation advantageous, and why might it have spiritual significance in our return to wholeness, oneness, and primordial androgyny?

Cupid's Poisoned Arrow

Modern neuroscience is beginning to confirm Laozi's claim that ordinary sex (with orgasm) disorders the subtle energies. Deep in a primitive part of the brain known as "the reward circuitry," orgasm equates with a mighty surge of a neurochemical called dopamine. It's the "I've got to have it" neurochemical that urges us to do things that furthered our ancestors' material plane survival, and above all, pass on genes.

It makes us feel like Superman or Wonder Woman when it surges. Indeed a Dutch scientist reported that brain scans of people having orgasm resemble those of people shooting heroin.2

However, just like a drug high, it does not lead to lasting feelings of satisfaction. Dopamine drops immediately after orgasm, and other neurochemical shifts adversely affect dopamine levels for days.3

In some lovers this shift accounts for the "roll over and snore" phenomenon, often followed by days of emotional detachment. However, the neurochemical changes may show up as neediness, irritability, mood swings, feelings of scarcity and defensiveness, harsh judgments, hyper-activity, a "need for space," cravings for (addictive) substances (or more orgasms) that temporarily raise dopamine in the reward circuitry, etc.

In short, the natural neurochemical shifts that accompany mating behavior radically shift how we see each other during the days and weeks after a passionate encounter. We see an angel with wings and a Venus taking Cupid's arrowhalo when our dopamine is at healthy levels, but when it drops we think we see Medusa or Mr. Hyde. We often feel defensive, discouraged, betrayed, overburdened, and uneasy. These feelings interfere with our spiritual perception (more on that in a moment).

Most animals have rigid periods of estrus controlled by hormones; humankind can have sex whenever the urge arises. However, our hormones, too, regulate us. Unfortunately our version is like starting and stopping in heavy traffic. This natural biological mechanism is the poison on Cupid's arrow. It encourages us to find a mate with whom we experience sexual satiation increasingly irritating, and, sooner or later, move on to a new one. (This process of getting fed up with with a mate with whom we frequently exhaust ourselves sexually is called "habituation.") This brutal biological imperative increases the genetic variety of our offspring.4

Defensiveness or Oneness?

So why not just adapt to biology's commands? Apart from the heartache of churning relationships, this course of action may be an anchor that dims our spiritual perception. The neurochemical aftermath of orgasm disturbs our subtle energies. It leads to a temporary sense of lack, which manifests differently in everyone. If it registers as a sense of depletion, then others will seem exhausting. If it feels like emotional neediness, others will seem selfish and uncaring. If it feels like scarcity, others will seem greedy. If we feel uneasy, others will seem threatening. No wonder love is tangled up with fear among humankind.

Earth yin-yangMetaphysics teaches that our thoughts, feelings and expectations create our experience of the physical plane. Perhaps you begin to see how the natural neurochemical roller coaster of conventional sex can cause humankind to operate on beliefs of defensiveness and scarcity.

In short, it may matter how we use our powerful sexual energy. Do we use it to create feelings of abundance, wholeness, optimism, and stable affection? Or do we use it to create recurring feelings of defensiveness, disillusionment, and aching neediness? However private the act of sex, its repercussions shape our collective experience.

Overcoming Dual Perception

The act that recycles us through matter (fertilization-driven sex) may also be the act that anchors us in dual perception. Great masters tell us that we must dissolve the ego to move beyond dual perception — passion-bound couplebecause the ego is the defensive part of us that believes we are mere vulnerable physical bodies, ultimately separate from others and from our Creator.

Can it be that if we would learn to make love without this built-in biological perception shift we would be able to love without fear? And welcome oneness with all? Certainly Laozi suggests this possibility. He says that the cords of passion and desire weave a binding net around us: the trap of duality. We cannot experience liberation in this state, perhaps because we cannot perceive wholeness while feeling unwhole so much of the time. Yet,

Through dual cultivation (union without orgasm) it is possible to unravel the net, soften the rigidity, dismantle the trap. … Free of ego, living naturally, working virtuously, you become filled with inexhaustible vitality and are liberated forever from the cycle of death and rebirth. Laozi, c. 300 BCE5

Metaphysical sources from around the globe assure us that we were created in the image of our creator: immortal and androgynous, or whole.6 Gender and the birth/death cycle were somehow our idea. Perhaps angelic dual cultivation is a means of experiencing our primordial wholeness again by dissolving the age-old uneasiness between the sexes born of biological sex.

A Bridge to Reunion

Imagine a stable relationship in which the psychic link with your lover is so powerful that you feel like two hands of the same body, your interests perfectly complementary, your ability to serve Spirit unhampered by emotional drama in your intimate relationship. Can this deep sense of peace be the key to aligning us once again with the wholeness of the Divine? Could it restore our spiritual vision so that we welcome the oneness that lies behind the illusion of separation?

Here's how a very psychic friend 'saw' her sexual energy:

solar flareI feel like the energy is very uncontrollable ... like a sputtering ball, that doesn't really 'want' to stay in the form of a ball ... it wants to bleed off, and shoot stray bands of energy in all directions, undirected, and unfocused, without purpose or intention ... and ends up harming everything around it, in its furious energy. I felt like maybe part of my "job" was to hold the ball together. I imagined my hands wrapping around the ball, holding the energy in the form of ball, as if I was providing an invisible barrier, or force field, to keep the energy focused and concentrated.

Surely no one should dictate to another how to make love. Yet it is possible that we can all educate ourselves as to the full ramifications of our choices in the bedroom, and endeavor to raise our sights.

Incidentally, Laozi was not talking about a fleeting tantric high, followed by a desire for emotional detachment. This mutual transformation requires time and discipline.7

Understand this if nothing else: spiritual freedom and oneness with the Tao are not randomly bestowed gifts, but the rewards of conscious self-transformation and self-evolution.

Soaring dovesWhat would be the rewards of using this powerful, creative force carefully and consciously? According to Laozi, angelic sexual cultivation is an opportunity for a man and woman to mutually transform and uplift each other into the realm of bliss and wholeness. Ultimately, the subtle integration of yin and yang refines gross, heavy energy into something ethereal and light, leading to immortality.

There could be much at stake in our intimate unions.