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The Eightfold Paths of BDSM and Beyond
By Lee Harrington
Mystic Productions PressCopyright © 2016 Lee Harrington and Mystic Productions Press
All rights reserved.
Exploring the Eightfold Paths
Accident, Tool or Truth?
We each come to Sacred Kink from different places on our journey.
Some of us have had a moment in the middle of delicious sexual exploration that led to connecting with the divine, or having had an epiphany about life that was far from expected. Others have been drawn to the possibilities of finding universal truths between the sheets or in the extremes of the dungeon for all of their lives. Some are aware that their bodies hold the key towards knowing their spirit, but don't know which doors of desire to unlock. There are those that are drawn by the academic possibilities in the crossover between sex and spirit. Still others have glimpsed the limitlessness of existence where they have been told that only debauchery lives, and are looking to go back for more. This and more is Sacred Kink.
This term comes from two concepts that are often thought of as opposites in the culture-at-large. By "Sacred," I am referring to the things we find holy, full of energy, spirit, passion or universal truth. It is the things our higher selves knows to be valid, true, useful or valuable. By "Kink" however, I am referring to the great big world of sexual adventure that lies outside of lights-off missionary-style sex. This includes voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishism, fantasy role-playing, cross dressing, erotic power exchange, swinging, "naughty sex" and BDSM. In turn, BDSM (sometimes called S&M) refers to a series of partnered concepts: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism, and erotic slavery and mastery.
This is a very broad list of concepts, and clearly, their intersections vary greatly. If these concepts are new to you, please find the glossary in Appendix 1 that will help guide you throughout this book. If these concepts had you nodding your head at every single one and recalled a happy memory with each — welcome home, my friend!
Wedding the concepts of Kink and the Sacred seems difficult for mainstream faith and sexuality, but Sacredness and Kink have been partners for much longer than most people are aware. The tools of Kink have roots that go back into Shamanism, Christian monasticism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religious/spiritual paths of seeking wisdom and faith around the globe. In turn, explorations of the Sacred have been loaded with sexuality in a wide variety of spiritual traditions, even if it is only alluded to.
Sacred Kink is an awareness of long-used tools and techniques used in sacred exploration that have been taken on by oftentimes unaware erotic adventurers. It is using modern tools of sexuality for exploring the spirituality and energy. It is the moments of glimpsing something more when we only expected getting sexy and sweaty. It is finding sexual awareness between the breaths of the prophets. It is anywhere the Kinky and the Sacred intersect.
There are many other terms for this work. These include:
* Deborah Addington, author of Fantasy Made Flesh, refers to this work as exploring Erotomancy.
* Qadishti BDSM is the terminology used by sexuality educators and pagan clergy Dan & dawn for incorporating sacred sexuality and energy work into your BDSM scenes, and the dramatic effects possible therein.
* Sado-Erotic Ecstasy was coined by Chris M. as a way to explore all that is spiritual and kinky.
* Leatherman and Metropolitan Community Church theologian Master Skip Chasey refers to this journey in many ways in his work, including becoming artists in PsychoSpiritual Energy and the calling of being a Priest in Black Leather.
* Shamanadom was the terminology developed by Sacred Marks Sanctuary for transforming sexual activity and BDSM into a practice that transcends the physical into the spiritual, and exploring the spaces in between.
* Michelle Belanger, author of The Psychic Vampire Codex, speaks of this work as Sado-Shamanism, where the Top or Dominant can act as a conduit for the energetic journey of their Bottom or Submissive using the tools of BDSM.
Do not be fooled. Though it may come in the forms of play, sensual exploration, and bliss, this is the work of our souls. This journey has the potential for turning the flax, the straw, of our beings into the gold of our potential.
True, not all explorers of Kink are looking for profundity in their sex games. Some are quite happy tying their lovers down to a bed for a night of strawberries and whipped cream, and others are there because their body hungrily calls for connections that make their cunts wet and cocks hard. But even in those interactions sometimes things happen, things we cannot explain. Moments of depth and delight that become a key to things we'd locked away. Thus, even the most fun of kink games has the potential for becoming Sacred Kink. If this has happened to you — breathe. It's okay. You are not alone.
Others are drawn towards Sacred Kink as a tool for personal exploration: a scheduled scene specifically built to dive into the self and come out changed or informed of something the universe has to offer. And then there are those who are called to this journey as a full path for their own life — those who have chosen Mastery as a way to serve the divine, those who have come to understand that channeling their archetypes in erotic exploration can empower them in their day-to-day lives, and use these tools as a full practice and for personal devotion.
All three — those who have found accidental sacredness in their kink, those who use the tools of Sacred Kink only on occasion, and those who are called to follow a specific path of sacred truth through their kink — will find information in this book that is of value to them. For those that are simply curious about what all the fuss is about, wish to examine the intersections from a theoretical framework, and are wondering, really, are people tapping into the universe and personal connections to spirit through erotic sex games ... Welcome! You may be surprised at what you'll find, and the tools used consciously and unconsciously that have existed since time immemorial.
How to Use this Book
In your hand is a tome. There is a lot of information in it, and it may not all match what you are looking for. It may seem overwhelming. Or you maybe excited to read every last page. Either way, remember to pause, process, and absorb.
There are many choices on how to read this book. You can flip through the whole book and find everything in italics at the beginning of each chapter — the erotica. Each path features an erotic teaching tale in three parts to help those who learn through erotica understand how the technicalities of what we are discussing applies to actual scenes.
Perhaps you are an academic and have no interest in such things. Each Path has a "Traditional Tools" section as well as a "Kink Tools" section, exploring techniques that have been used by classical sacred explorers and modern erotic adventurers in turn.
If you just want information on your subsection of desire, flip back to the table of contents and see which titles catch your eye. If you do this, please also make sure to read the first two chapters, as the discussions around negotiation, desire, and the why of what we do are incredibly important.
And you can, of course, read the book cover-to-cover.
For consistency of voice, some stylistic choices have been made in this book. This includes but is not limited to capitalization of all appearances of Top, Bottom, Master, Slave, Dominant, Submissive, Journeyer and Guide whenever they appear to differentiate between these labels and the nouns, adjectives or descriptors they resemble. In some cases, Slave has been written in lower case at the request of the individuals whose quotes appear in the text. The stylistic choices and definitions within this book are my own, and are not necessarily representational of the Kink community-at-large.
At the end of the book you will find a series of Appendices. Appendix 1 is a terminology and definitions guide for many of the major concepts brought up in this text, to explain how I am using some of these concepts in the course of this book. Appendix 2 is the essay by Raven Kaldera that inspired this project. Appendix 3 is an essay that I felt needed to be in the book but did not fit well inside the chapters that explores leather as not only a material, but a spiritual concept. Appendix 4 is a collection of places to go from here — more books to read, events to attend, groups to join, online discussions to explore and more. Appendix 5 is for all those who are classical students at heart — a series of essay questions for each chapter, to use for truly diving deeply into the book or forming a study group with your friends.
Now that you know better how to use this book, let's continue on the journey!
Why Eight Paths?
When exploring the multitude of routes that individuals use to find ways out of our day-to-day mind, it is easy to see why so many different systems have been created to understand the variety of experiences we have. "Sacred" means many things to many people, and in examining the Sacred, we are each striving to create a lexicon for that which is beyond words. It can be a very difficult task. How do we explain our experiences after we have come back from a place where words were no longer necessary?
In Hinduism, the experiences of the sacred are often broken down into the triadic approach of the Trimurti. We gaze into the eyes of Brahma and see creation manifest. We thank Vishnu in all his magnificence for maintaining the structures of our world. We praise Shiva, fearful lord of the Ganges, for being the power of destruction in the world that in turn allows creation to come anew. Triads can also be found by looking at the variety of experience with Christian tradition — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for example.
Some prefer exploring our sexuality in the number four — Earth, Air, Fire and Water play into Sacred Kink well — the Earth of boots and surrender, the Air of breath play and single tails, the Fire of wax and spanking, and Water of blood and piss. There are also the 4 S's of sexual slavery to consider — Submission, Seduction, Service and Surrender.
In the Feri tradition, brought to modern light by Victor and Cora Anderson, the Iron Pentacle is an amazing tool for breaking down discussions of sacredness, and is easily adapted to kink and alternative sexuality as well. Sex, Pride, Self, Power and Passion light up our bodies, laid out as a pentacle running in the direction of the waters in our veins. However, my examination is not about Three, Four or Five. These powerful numbers hold great meaning, but in the exploration of the sacredness found within the desires at the edge of social normalcy, the number that kept recurring for me was Eight.
Raven Grimassi in Wiccan Magick speaks of the Eight-Fold Path representing the traditional aspects of magickal and religious training that must be mastered in order to become a Magus. The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly known as the (historical) Buddha. Dr. Timothy Leary's Eight Circuits of Consciousness explore the ways we process the world through our nervous system, and how specific chemicals can affect our ability to access those circuits. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra from 200 C.E. explores an eight-limbed path that brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine.
But none of those eightfold paths called to me as I was exploring the varieties of sacred exploration we do in BDSM, kink, and adventurous sexuality. Then, an essay by Raven Kaldera came across my desk, The Eightfold Path to Altered States of Consciousness. (See Appendix 2). It struck a chord for me, even if I disagreed with some of the points he made. These notes of internal discord led me to something more valuable than being handed awareness. It made me go fishing for my own awareness. Thus, Raven's work made me start looking at my own thoughts on the issue.
In Kaldera's article, the order the paths that tended to manifest or be encountered within Northern Shamanism were:
* Path of Meditation (a.k.a. Path of Breath)
* Path of Ritual
* Path of Rhythm
* Ascetic's Path
* Path of Sacred Plants
* Path of the Flesh
* Ordeal Path
* Path of the Horse
In my own investigations, I have found that these eight major paths to altered states of consciousness appear not just in shamanism or magic as they are often discussed, but in almost every sacred, religious, mystical or esoteric path I have encountered. They just don't discuss it in this exact language. They see the eight paths through the filter of their own cultural primary path, including Asceticism in the Noble Eightfold Path, Sacred Plants for Dr. Leary's work. I take a peek at each of these other eight part systems at the end of each Path in turn. There are other paths that are not included in the above eight such as the Path of Madness, by which people obtain enlightenment through mental illness, or the Path of the Thief, by which gnosis or personal power is stolen from another, such as in the tale of Raven stealing the Sun. The large bulk of Sacred Kink experiences can be broken down into those eight paths, or in "Blended Paths" that combine major elements of each.
Altered States of Consciousness
Before we dive into each of the different paths, I think it is important to look at what an altered state of consciousness is, why we go into them, and what we do once we are there.
An altered state of consciousness (ASC, also known as "altered states of awareness," or simply an "altered state") is a state of consciousness that differs significantly from the baseline or normal consciousness. It is argued that an ASC is traceable by looking at the brain waves or brain states of the person experiencing them, but EEGs and MRIs are imperfect tools for such things: sneezing, coughing, being in a coma, and thinking about the color red will register as non-normative brain waves, as brain waves are what are registered by such machines.
Altered states can come about accidentally through such things as traumatic accidents, fever, meningitis, sleep deprivation, deep diving, and oxygen deprivation. Most of us have also experienced moments where we have missed an exit on the freeway or lost time because we were petting cute kittens (kitten trance), both forms of accidental ASC. But in the case of Sacred Kink, using altered states deliberately is of far more interest than those accidental states.
What is a baseline or normal brain state? "Baseline" or "normal" can be defined as having both a psychological sense of self, and that sense of self is identified with one's body. Thus there are two major categories of altered states of consciousness: those where we lose connection with our own body or perceptions, and those where we lose our sense of self-identity (going into nothingness, universal oneness, not being being "ourselves" any more, etc). There are other states of consciousness such as "being in the zone," hyper-focus, and more.
Every single path laid out here is a different route along the journey to altered states, a different way to reach the top of the mountain or the bottom of the well. But the real question is not how we get there, but why we want to get there in the first place.
Why the Quest?
Each person has their own reason for wanting to go into altered states of consciousness, but the overarching reasons can be broken down into a number of general categories. Understanding the reason why you or someone you are negotiating with wants to enter an altered state of consciousness will help everyone makes decisions involving how to explore Sacred Kink. Which Path should you take? What activities, kink or otherwise, do you want to engage in? How much investment will each person devote to the work? What is their perspective on the work?
"Ritual S/M is edge play directed to the purpose of attaining altered states of consciousness, of traveling beyond our habitual perceptual screens to another way of being in which everything becomes special, extraordinary, brilliant. Goals for such a scene might be a quest for guidance, or a vision, the pursuit of personal truth or understanding, or the experience of spiritual communion for its own sake"
- Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt, The Topping Book
By learning what we and our partners are looking for when exploring altered states of consciousness, we can also help craft the types of Sacred Kink explorations we want to go on together.
That's right! Some people enjoy exploring altered states because it's enjoyable. That's okay. In fact, for many of us, it's more than okay. Enjoying life is part of living. There are many ways and reasons to have a good time with ASCs.
* Hyper-focus on a sensation or experience
* Reaching Sub or Top space
* Fully engaging our neural network
* Having personal permission to feel emotions and sensations fully
* Enjoying a wild ride
How many of us don't get enough of that in our lives? The opportunity to lean back in a lover's arms, or drift off into nothingness and finally let our shoulders drop can literally be a lifesaver for the over-worked and overtaxed. For those that tend to go through life without direction or drive, altered states can provide the opportunity to focus all of life into the experience of a hand brushing along our thigh or a lash landing on our skin.
Excerpted from Sacred Kink by Lee Harrington. Copyright © 2016 Lee Harrington and Mystic Productions Press. Excerpted by permission of Mystic Productions Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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