Rainbow Serpent of the Toltecs

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Photo of TunneshendeThe Toltec-Mayan traditions of Mexico and the Southwestern USA have their own lore about the careful cultivation of sexual energy. A few years ago, Merilyn Tunneshende described their practices in Don Juan and the Art of Sexual Energy.1 Most of the book is devoted to spiritual practices celibates can use, although the sages in her book clearly have great respect for the synergy between the polarities of male and female, and even the possibility of a profound celestial union between soul mates.

Let's look at some of the insights Tunneshende gained.

Her teachers explain that while human sexual relations are not unclean in their highest expression, they create energy entanglements. Approached in the usual manner, they also 'use up' the energy of the lovers. Therefore someone who sincerely desires to serve his (or her) community seeks to cleanse his sexual energy of draining entanglements and refine and concentrate the energy. This process expands his spiritual, or Dreaming, awareness and empowers him to help others. The descendants of the Mayans required that their healer-priests abstain from sexual relations when serving their community in extraordinary capacities, as on important occasions. This enabled them to see and bring through energy in a pure form.

As the sexual energy is refined, it naturally grows upward toward life, service to others, and greater awareness - and away from physical exhaustion and death. Someone who has mastered this process can then share the concentrated energy with other sages who have refined their energy for energetic evolution. If it is a love relationship, even greater mysteries are possible.

Teachings for men

Indians of the desert were taught to conserve sexual energy by observing the example of the rattle snake. As it reaches adulthood, the snake learns to conserve its venom for animals small enough to consume, and will often 'dry bite' a larger aggressor instead of expending rattle snake venom.

According to Tunneshende's teacher, Don Juan, rattle snakes enter a relaxed trance state by rolling their eyes up into the back of their heads. Men, too, can learn to master their sexual energy by focusing on the top of their heads and pulling the sexual energies and fluids up through the body via the spine, using the 'Fire Breath' (see below). This is the 'secret of the dry-bite.' This enhances longevity and wisdom. It also enables a man to make love as much as he wishes, and leaves him energized the next day even if he has not slept. The sexual act remains pleasurable and always evolves, rather than becoming dull and repetitive. According to tradition, when this conservation principle was common knowledge, the result was long-lived, wise men and women who did not overpopulate their homelands (or attract invaders from Europe?), yet enjoyed their intimate relations.

However, as another of Tunneshende's teachers explained, too often, male energy is 'indolent.'

Some individuals just want to expel the sexual energies to relieve themselves of pressure. This angers the serpent [sexual energy] in both males and females and can cause trauma.

Also the man is likely to fall into a 'death slumber' after making love. Moreover, while some illnesses deplete sexual energy, it is usually the other way around. Someone with depleted sexual energy is more likely to fall ill.

Therefore, beginning in early adulthood, a man is wise to view his sexual energy as a treasure. He should focus on quality, not quantity, as he can discharge power during conventional sex. Ideally, a man will develop the capacity to draw the sexual energy up his spine to replenish himself and generate energy, even if he is without a partner. He may also learn to engage in energetic intercourse. (More on that in a moment.)

Thoughts on gurus - Her teacher also warns her that it is possible for those who have learned to control their sexual energy to misuse their power. Unsolicited sex with an apprentice builds the abuser's power while draining the apprentice. The more powerful the abuser looks in the eyes of his apprentice, the more the apprentice is likely to give away further power in hopes of gaining power and importance. However, one reason the abuser looks so charismatic to the apprentice is that he is "wearing" some of the apprentice's "stolen" energy. This may account for the many abuses by gurus through the years. Another way that masters can abuse their power is by using a dream body (energy body) to engage in energetic intercourse while an apprentice is asleep in order to bind the apprentice's sexual energy to the master's service.

The proper etiquette for a shaman/apprentice relationship is a feeling of sisterhood and brotherhood so that no one would ever dream of violating the sacredness of the connection.

Teachings for women

Women in this tradition are taught that they have both a physical womb and a celestial womb, or 'spiritual lake,' which resides in the heart and is a great mystery, symbolized by the chalice. This empowers women who tap it to create on other levels rather than giving birth to physical children.

According to this wisdom, women must also learn to experience orgasm – but not the ordinary kind, which is life-denying, destructive and weakens them. The true orgasm is an experience of ecstasy, which when handled properly is pulled up an energetic column in the core of her body, "like going up a flight of stairs." The energy can continue upward until it reaches and fountains out the top of her head, only to be recirculated and then sent back up.

In order to have the energy move in this way, some women must first work through emotional traumas to rekindle their capacity for ecstasy. Others may choose to do a clearing process, known as recapitulation. In this process a woman returns to her ancestors any attitudes about sex that do not serve her, and retrieves from her adult children energy she lent them while they were growing up, so that she does not unduly influence their futures. Then she looks at how she has spent, and possibly misused, her own sexual energy. She offers symbols of these entanglements to the flames, thereby recalling to herself energy that was formerly entrapped in them.

natural ecstasy The ideal form of orgasm for a woman is not dependent upon physical stimulation; it is an energy body orgasm – pure ecstasy, which may call forth tears of joy. It is a manifestation of inspiration. It can, for example, be a product of an exquisite experience with nature, with moving music or some other powerful work of art. It is a spontaneous blessing, which cannot be forced, taught or faked. It is the product of highly evolved sexual energy.

Tunneshende's teachers explain that this orgasmic energy can be retained in the body if it is pulled upward. Otherwise it is wasted, and creates problems such as exhaustion and imbalance by remaining in the sexual center. Casual sex with orgasm will not increase energy; it will only increase sexual desire. When employed wisely, sexual energy is used with the right intent and circulated throughout the body.

When refined, the sexual energy ignites a central column in the body, which embodies both male and female energies. This rising energy, resonating with purity, truth, love, beauty, strength and wisdom is necessary for the highest spiritual revelations to occur. It fuels both service to others and humility.

Refining Sexual Energy

Too often people are taught that asexual celibacy or marriage (and procreation) are the only choices when it comes to sexual energy. In fact, however, the energy can be cultivated even while single to great benefit. According to Tunneshende, circulating sexual energy is cleansing, healing and restorative. The basic practice for both men and women is called 'Fire Breath.' (This practice closely parallels this advice from India on transmuting sexual energy.)

Stretching the spine frequently and dancing both help to raise the energy. Always one should be respectful of sexual energy, asking its permission and using it with integrity. According to Tunneshende's teacher, "Once the energy is above a certain level, once it becomes celestial, then it becomes very selective." If it is misused, it can strike like a snake. But if invited respectfully, it can also be employed beneficially, as for example, to energize the hands of a healer who needs to locate and correct disturbance in the energy field of a patient.

Bringing the serpent energy back down to its nest at the base of the spine and in the sexual organs is as important as awakening it. This returns and stabilizes the replenished energy. Her teacher tells her always to bring it down the front of the body, releasing any tired or sick energy during the exhales, and store it behind the navel.

True sexual ecstasy is not the energy of the physical body alone; it is also an expression of the sexual energy of the energy body. When both merge, sexual energy can fuel spiritual evolution, rather than merelyrepresentation of the rainbow serpent, also present in Aboriginal tradition making possible procreation.

The ultimate goal is to prepare for conscious entry into another realm of the highest vibration by trading one's physical body for one's energy body of 'blazing rainbow light.' The 'rainbow serpent' has shed its physical skin, while retaining its wisdom and longevity. Only the truest intent and purest attainment make the conscious transformation possible. Refined sexual energy, described as a 'pearl,' is what fuels this transition.

Energetic intercourse

The book explains that penile penetration is not necessary for union "beyond the body" between mates who have learned to work with their energy bodies. It alludes to physical intimacy between energy workers, but contains no examples of it.

In fact, although this book has a greater flavor of equality between the sexes than Tibetan Buddhism, it is somewhat reminiscent of the Tibetan practices in which 'celibate' holy men cultivate their energy for many years on their own, and then engage with a (usually much younger, less knowledgeable) consort – not in an equal relationship, but rather in ritual encounters. Tunneshende, too, has an intense encounter with her much older, adoring male teacher, although it doesn't include physical sex.

It is perhaps significant that her older female teacher apparently does not have a consort. Dona Celestina's teachings are primarily about sexual self-sufficiency. It was, however, refreshing to see that a team of two men and two women collaborated on some ritual energy work for the purpose of furthering Tunneshende's growth.

The book suggests that ecstasy may result from an intense desire on the part of either sex to be one with a beloved. It includes a 'Merging Meditation' to help foster feelings of oneness.

Cover of Tunneshende's bookHere is the account of her merging experience with her teacher Don Juan. He first explains that as a young man he went on a vision quest with the goal of seeking the power of abundance in order to become wealthy and renowned and attract any girl he might choose. Ultimately a shimmering deer appeared before him. It was female, and said,

I have heard your cries and have taken pity on you. I can give you a taste of that power you seek, that which is most valuable in creation, but once you have tried it nothing else will compare to it and you will be fated to seek it always and everywhere.

He accepted, and she transformed into something even more beautiful and luminous. He was touched to the core of his being. He felt a love beyond the bounds of the desire for the worldly power he sought...and then she disappeared. The experience fueled his life-long quest for self-transformation as he searched for her even on the spiritual plane. His material plane goals fell away.

Near the end of his life, seeing the light of this spirit deer in Tunneshende's eyes, he gently leaned forward, touching the crown of his forehead with hers. She reports:

In that moment I felt the most incredible, indescribable feeling of peace and love, beyond anything I have ever felt. Everything vanished and, beneath my closed lids, we and all around us were one, and filled with golden white light.

The book goes on to recount experiences of spiritual vision in which Tunneshende and her teacher Don Juan are temporarily transported beyond the physical plane into a realm where everything is luminous and holographic.

Carving on Indian temple

Ancient History

Tunneshende observes that the Nagual shamanist practices about the inner fire, or serpent, appears to have its roots in the same knowledge pool that fed the pre-Tibetan and Siberian shamanic traditions, more than 40,000 years ago.

Knowledge of the Rainbow Serpent fire is found in pieces within the tradition of Kundalini Yoga, in the Tibetan development of the Rainbow Body, within Taoism as the immortal body, and among the Sioux and other native peoples as the Spirits of the Rainbow World. The Australian aboriginals refer openly to the Rainbow Serpent as the primordial life energy and have many ancient rock paintings representing the energy.2

This potential has existed in human beings for a very long time.

  • 1. Bear & Company (2001)
  • 2. Don Juan and the Art of Sexual Energy, p. xv