James Powell's "Energy and Eros"

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"Radiant Gardens of Energy"

Energy & Eros coverEnergy and Eros,[1] a short book by James N. Powell, not only eloquently distills an essential component of various sacred sex traditions, it also offers practical advice for tapping physical intimacy’s greatest benefits.

What is the essential component of sexual alchemy? In Powell’s view, it’s a bioelectrical energy exchange, which charges up both partners with or without intercourse. In his final chapter, "Fields," Powell (citing Von Urban) describes the sexual habits of various cultures, whose lovers often had sex less than twice a week, and emphasized long, slow foreplay and prolonged intercourse with periods of stillness.

The inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands in British New Guinea mock the sexual technique of white people. They amuse mixed audiences with caricatures of Western lovers. In the experience of these islanders, Westerners perform sex too hurriedly. Trobrianders believe that love should proceed slowly. They say that "after one hour the souls of the ancestors awaken and bless our union." The long duration of lovemaking is for them a sacred duty....


The position of many South Sea Islanders assume in lovemaking is also instructive. The idea is to be completely free from any strain or pressure. The body should be entirely relaxed. Therefore, the man never lies on top of the woman. During the long sexual encounters of these people, such a position would be unthinkable. Even if the male were to ease his weight by supporting himself with his arms, he could not be relaxed.sandy feet

On those nights when no sexual intercourse takes place, couples sleep together at opposite ends of a sleeping mat. Their two open pairs of legs fit together like two pairs of scissors. In this way the sexual organs come into closest possible contact without actual penetration of the vagina, thus allowing the tensions in the organs to subside.

On days of intercourse, all forms of lovemaking including kissing, biting, embracing, rubbing, etc., are considered essential. On other nights, however, no tender caresses are allowed. Although a couple may lie close together, body to body, naked, and find themselves deeply relaxed in the morning, they do not kiss or excite each other. By observing these rules, they create a love life that overflows into their daily living, and they are practically free of neuroses.

His description of Karezza is very similar:

Karezza is characterized by prolonged, motionless union. In about a half-hour, a subjective but very real and delightful sensation begins to be felt, usually lasting as long as the embrace is maintained, which might be for several hours. The two partners may then simply fall into a deep, refreshing, dreamless sleep. The following day they experience a state of exaltation and relaxation that may last for days. Usually the couple feels a deepening love for each other and for the world about them.

The free flow of the streams of energy, which build up this magnetic charge, or field, between the couple depend on love and a willingness to surrender, to allow the boundaries between bodies and souls to disappear. Emotions of fear, hurt, or excessive sexual hunger can, therefore, block the flow. Indeed, Powell advises that:

virginity is a great asset, for a virgin’s vital energy has not yet become accustomed to being short-circuited and expressed through the genitals…. Virginal energies can flow easily and naturally into expressions of profound emotion and radiant whole-body pleasure when one is in an intimate embrace.

Alas, as he points out, it is natural:

flying loversfor innocence actively to seek its own loss, especially when it is bombarded with the propaganda of conventional and not-so-conventional…intercourse. Seeking to become "experienced," innocence gladly throws to the wind a disposition for which it may later yearn.

Still, with a gradual approach, time to heal, and lots of love, it is evident that more experienced lovers have also found this ecstatic field of energy.

Powell does a masterful job of explaining how passion works against the goal of surrendering and relaxing the entire body and heart in loving communion:

Passionate, romantic love thrives on obstacles, jealousies, partings, brief reconciliations, anxieties, fantasies, idealizations and fiction…. Such "relationships" become a dual mirage, a mutual nonrelational dramatization of separateness, doubt, jealousy, and fear…. The acute sense of separation and doubt such love favors demands release through repetitive, passionate sex and orgasm - through a nonrelational, momentary, genitally localized oblivion that serves as a kind of fleeting sexual-political asylum.

Indeed, Powell’s first chapter is devoted to explaining how the West has set itself on an impossible quest by seeking undying (and unattainable) passionate romance. He blames the tradition of courtly love for this fundamental error in direction. To preserve the feature of never-ending yearning in their romances, courtly lovers practiced their chaste (in theory, at least) sexual arts with others’ spouses.

Powell also suggests that "relationship, communication, and commitment" can "overcome self-absorbed, manipulative erotic strategies."

If a couple persists in their openness, conventional orgasm as a means of release from feeling separate will become much less necessary. It will be replaced by the pleasure of prolonged, general, diffused conductivity of the life force, profound caring and relational intensity.

As he points out, modern Tantra seldom solves the problem of relationship, because lovers often unite only for rituals between "god" and "goddess." In fact, this tradition has created fear and depreciation of women because traditionally, semen is equated with light and spirituality…and women tempt men to lose semen.

tired loversPowell notes that both Tantric and Taoist traditions teach that women, too, can deplete their vitality through excessive orgasm:

These traditions view excessive, conventional...orgasm as degenerative for both sexes, therefore they developed styles of sexual intimacy that amplify and harmonize vital energies without expending them. In a contemplative embrace, the vital and emotional fields interweave and finally merge, causing an orgasm of the entire being that involves genital pleasure while transcending genital discharge. In this way sex serves a regenerative function, nourishing the entire nervous system.

If you want to try a magnetic exchange, Powell offers a technique that is not based upon control, but upon closing your eyes and allowing the energy streams into your hearts, heads and genitals as they form a complete circuit between you. Here are his specific tips:

  • Bathing before sex enhances the exchange of bioelectrical energies.
  • If you are tense, you will not fully feel the flow of vital energies, but will instead use the encounter to throw off tension via conventional orgasm. Take time first to stretch, meditate, engage in deep breathing, and massage one another (without heavy oils).
  • Alcohol and drugs will dull and distort your attention, as can heavy meals. Several hours after mealtime, or in the morning after eating some fruit or tea, is best.
  • Once relaxed, begin kissing and caressing very slowly...for at least half an hour. This stimulates streams of energy to flow between you.
  • If the energy is flowing too strongly to the genitals, stop and relax into the energy, using it to deepen your union, and allowing it to flow freely and quietly through your entire bodies, breathing and relaxing into it continually.
  • Avoid exploiting your partner as a means to your own private satisfaction.
  • Penetration is not absolutely necessary for a complete merging of energies, but as the woman becomes moist, the sexual organs can gradually come into contact and then full union.
  • Move only when the man feels that his erection is going to be lost, or when the woman feels a need for stimulation.
  • You can remain in this embrace for hours without throwing off vital energy through conventional orgasm.
  • After a few weeks, the tendency toward genital tension will lessen.

lovers in gardenForget about sex and submit yourself to the flood of warmth. Merge into it. Remain centered in it, and then radiate this feeling to your lover. The submission, merging, and radiation will dissolve your hearts, liquify your beings, and make you feel as if you are falling through limitless space. You will experience and ecstasy in which you are totally one with your lover....

Afterward you will feel deeply relaxed, vital and radiant....A feeling of aliveness will last for hours, or even days, and you will probably feel no need to repeat intercourse for a while.

  1. Energy and Eros, by James N. Powell, William Morrow and Company, Inc. (1985). James Powell’s web site.