Soul of Sex: Cultivating Life as an Act of Loveby Thomas Moore
In our age of science and psychology it's tempting to think of human sexuality in terms of biology and interpersonal relationships. But this new book by Thomas Moore regards sex as an experience of the soul and emphasizes the themes of fantasy, desire, meaning, and morality. In The Soul of Sex, Moore turns especially to religion, mythology, literature, rites/b>
In our age of science and psychology it's tempting to think of human sexuality in terms of biology and interpersonal relationships. But this new book by Thomas Moore regards sex as an experience of the soul and emphasizes the themes of fantasy, desire, meaning, and morality. In The Soul of Sex, Moore turns especially to religion, mythology, literature, rites, stories, and visual imagery that see in sex some of the most profound mysteries of life. He finds spirituality inherent in sex and at the same time explores the many ways in which spiritual values can sometimes wound our sexuality. He recommends chastity and celibacy for everyoneas aspects of sexuality and not only as literal lifestylesand presents them as a means of developing a sensuous spirituality.
The Soul of Sex also establishes the principle that one can't have a fully satisfying sex life in a world that is asexual and antierotic. Thomas Moore recommends many ways in which society could tone down its moralism and create a public life that is erotic, one that affirms desire and pleasure. He sees widespread attention to sex in the media as a symptom of our failure to find a positive place for sex in the culture, and he spells out an Epicurean way of life in which the simple, deep pleasures of good food, friends, family, home, and intimacy with nature provide an appropriate erotic base for a fulfilling sex life.
This is a book for any individual of any gender or lifestyle who is trying to integrate sex into the rest of life. It is also a tool for couples, helping them to explore their sexuality with honesty, appropriate emotional complexity, civility, and comfort. Moore argues that sex should be at the center of life and at the top of our priorities and if we don't give sex its due, it will haunt and consume us. But when sex has a soul, deep pleasure and meaning find a common home, and in that sense this book is a sex manual for the soul.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- 5.62(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.09(d)
Read an Excerpt
The Nymph of Sex
Divine Eros and Human Sexuality
We have a habit of talking about sex as merely physical, and yet nothing has more soul. Sex takes us into a world of intense passions, sensual touch, exciting fantasies, many levels of meaning, and subtle emotions. It makes the imagination come alive with fantasy, reverie, and memory Even if the sex is loveless, empty, or manipulative, still it has strong repercussions in the soul, and even bad sexual experiences leave lasting, haunting impressions.
In general, we treat the body as though it were a skeleton wrapped in muscles and stuffed with organs. When illness comes along, we go to a doctor and expect X rays, pills, or surgery. We don't talk about the way were living, strong feelings that may be related to the illness, or whether life has meaning. We separate the body, mind, and emotions as though they were properly contained in individual and unrelated compartments.
The philosophy characteristic of our culture, in which the body is treated as unrelated to our emotions, our sense of meaning, and our experiences, has deep implications for sexualiry. Not only do we deal with sexual problems mechanically, we may well approach our lovers mechanically -without the deep engagement of the soul and spirit that would give sex its depth and humanity.
Against this point of view, the eighteenth-century poet William Blake, who used his power of words to fight against the rationalistic and mechanistic thinking of his own time, made a statement that could fittingly be printed at the bottom of every page of this book:
Man has no Bodydistinct from his Soul for that calldUnless we have lost imagination completely, when we look at the body we are seeing the soul, and when we have sex, we experience the body as a way to the most penetrating mysteries of the soul.
Body is a portion of Soul discernd by the five Senses, the
chief inlets of Soul in this age.
It may be tempting at times to imagine sex as purely physical. Then we might not have to deal with feelings, personalities, and repercussions. We may try to avoid the complexities that always appear in relationships and look for liberated sex in "free love." How pleasant it would be, we may think, to have sex without strings attached, without all the painful emotions and partings and reunions. But the soul has its own life and its own will. It won't submit to our manipulations. The attempt to have sex without implications may backfire, and through a meaningless sexual fling we may find ourselves in the biggest emotional mess of our lives.
This human body that we have been conditioned to see as a system of chemicals, pulleys, pumps, and plumbing is an expressive entity of great subtlety and nuance. This subtle body is alive, diaphanous, full of meanings, poetic, expressive in every organ and part, intimately connected to emotion and feeling, and, by no means least, beautiful. This is the body that engages in sex, a body with so much soul that any attempt to deny its layers of meaning will likely come back to haunt us.
Obviously, the body can be appropriately studied, measured, and treated at a merely chemical and physiological level. But at the same time the body is infinitely more, and to grasp its sexuality we have to go far beyond the scientific imagination. We can appeal to artists, poets, and mystical writers, and to the rites and images of religion to get a fuller picture of its sexuality and to glimpse the myriad of ways the body can be sexually expressive.
The key to going any further in this book is to set aside our habit of looking at the body and its sexuality materialistically and to realize, as fundamentally as we can, that there is no such thing as a human body without emotion and imagination. The larger part of human sexuality is inaccessible to the materialist's viewpoint. Beyond it lies a whole world of sexual meaning. By looking at the sexual myths we live out, and at our spiritual attitudes, however developed and conscious they may be, we will find the roots of our desires and the sources of our satisfactions, Here lie secrets critical to our problems and unfulfilled hopes, here a way to educate the young in their sexuality, and here the means of reconciliation between sex and morality and between the body and the spirit.
The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, an ancient story about sex, describes what I believe is the key to keeping the "human" in human sexuality. Zeus, to the Greeks the divine governor of life, wants to make certain that immortals and humans interpenetrate. This great mystery, related in Christianity to the incarnation, addresses the human condition, in which spirituality and ordinary life go together to complete our humanity We are made up of spirit and body, with an animating soul in between, and any embodiment of spirit is an incarnation. The story begins with Zeus instilling in Aphrodite, goddess of sex, a desire for a mortal man.
As the story opens, Aphrodite goes to her temple at Cyprus, takes a bath, oils her body, and clothes herself in beautiful garments and golden jewelry, Then she finds Anchises, a young shepherd, and disguises herself as a youthful virgin. Taken aback by her beauty, Anchises suspects that she may be a goddess, but she says no, she is the daughter of the ruler of Phrygia. Hermes snatched her from her home, she says, to be the wife of Anchises and the mother of their children...
Meet the Author
Thomas Moore was a monk in a Catholic religious order for twelve years and has degrees in theology, musicology, and philosophy. A former professor of psychology, he is the author of Care of the Soul, Soul Mates, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, The Education of the Heart, The Soul of Sex, and Original Self. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.
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I have read the Soul of Sex several times, and each time, I have derived some fresh insight into my life. If you love the arts, especially visual arts and literature, you will find this book enchanting. If you don't love the arts, you might find yourself becoming more interested in them after reading this book. I found it hard to plow through it, only because I wanted to stop and reflect on my life, or how I could apply the ideas and feelings evoked by reading this. Thomas Moore shows his incredible intelligence, sensitivity and comprehensive approach to life as a wonderful journey, filled with awe and learning experiences. I found the effect on myself and my outlook toward life, love, sex and sensuality quite profound, and recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who feels like his/her life is lacking in some way, as in feelings and romance in everyday life. I highly recommend it as a read-aloud book for couples. It sparks lots of ideas for writing and discussions, and is a wonderful example of positive thinking.