Sacred Sexuality: The Erotic Spirit in the World's Great Religions

Sacred Sexuality: The Erotic Spirit in the World's Great Religions

by Georg Feuerstein Ph.D., PH. D. Feuerstein

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A historical, cross-cultural survey of sexuality as a sacred spiritual practice

• Examines sacred sexuality in the world’s religious and mystery traditions

• Explores contemporary “sexual stress syndrome” resulting from the absence of the sacred in sexual practice

• Reveals how to find the sacred in the ordinary

This book examines the history of sexuality as a sacramental act. In spite of our culture’s recent sexual liberalizations, sexual intimacy often remains unfulfilling. Georg Feuerstein instructs that the fulfillment we long for in our sex lives can only be attained once we have explored the spiritual depths of our erotic natures.

Feuerstein delves into a wide variety of spiritual traditions—including Christianity, Judaism, goddess worship, Taoism, and Hinduism—in search of sacred truths regarding sexuality. He reveals that all of these great teachings share the hidden message that spirituality is, in essence, erotic and that sexuality is inherently spiritual. From the erotic cult of the Great Mother and the archaic ritual of hieros gamos (sacred marriage) to the institution of sacred prostitution and the erotic spirituality practiced in the mystery traditions, Feuerstein offers a wealth of historical practices and perspectives that serve as the bases for a positive sexual spirituality suited to our contemporary needs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780892811267
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 01/28/2003
Edition description: 2nd Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., was the author of over thirty books, including The Yoga Tradition, The Philosophy of Classical Yoga, Holy Madness, Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy, and Lucid Waking. He was the founder-president of the Yoga Research and Education Center (

Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 3:

The following self-report shows that the feeling of love, as it thrives between young lovers, is a powerful means of slipping through the eye of the needle into the bright world of joyous communion with another person. Monica is a pretty, petite woman in her late thirties. She has lived an active spiritual life for many years and has experienced a variety of meditation states.

I was sitting at the edge of my bed waiting for my lover. As I was thinking about him and how much I loved him and valued his love, I grew determined to just love him that night, to be concentrated in loving rather than allowing myself to be distracted about worries about our future.. . .

My lover arrived shortly after I had made my resolution, and for some reason it was not difficult at all to focus on that feeling of love. As we were making love, I remember looking into his eyes and being "undone" by the love and naked vulnerability I saw in them:

All of a sudden I felt no separation between us. I was startled by that and wanted to draw back. But realizing that I was cutting myself off from him and the love that we were feeling for each other, I continued to look into his eyes and to simply be present with him.

I "fell" into the fullness that had arisen in and between us. It was so uncomplicated and natural, and my mind was amazingly calm and quiet. A simple joy! And our love-making wasn't passive either. In fact, it got rather boisterous and passionate.

I have had the experience of losing myself a few times in meditation, but this was the only time it happened during lovemaking. That day I was undoubtedly emotionally more open than usual, but also his depth of feeling seemed to draw me into a deeper feeling. Afterward he asked me whether I had noticed anything different and nodded in agreement when I told him what I had felt. He said that for him it was as if we had been encased in a large bubble of energy.

The bubble of energy experienced by Monica's lover probably represents a far more common experience than is assumed.

from Chapter 10:

The Secret Circle: A Story Set In India Around 1200 A.D.
They met every fortnight. The house belonged to one of the wealthiest merchants in town. Unbeknown to most people, he also happened to be the guru of the small group that had come together for an important celebration; today, a new member was to be initiated in the Tantric art of sexual union. There were twelve of them—six men and six women, all in their early to late twenties, and perfectly nude. They sat in a circle on a thick carpet. The guru, much older, was seated in the center of the mandala with his own partner, a young girl of exquisite beauty and poise but barely of marriageable age.

The master, an accomplished Tantric adept, had been sitting perfectly still for well over an hour already. . . .His partner, seated on his left, likewise had not stirred for a long time.

This was the third and final day of the puja, or ceremony. Any moment now the master would signal the participants to begin the ultimate ritual. To prepare themselves for this occasion, they had fasted for twenty-four hours, had chanted sacred sounds (mantra) thousands of times, had invoked and made offerings to the deities and protective spirits, had consecrated the room, had meditated for many long hours in the graveyard to overcome fear, had bathed and anointed each other's bodies, had duly honored the guru and his chosen partner, and, not least, had over many years cultivated their ability to retain the breath for prolonged periods so that they could control the movements of the mind.

Earlier in the evening, they had smoked hemp together in a ritual fashion, and then they had participated in the solemn ceremony of consuming the four forbidden substances-wine, fish, meat, and parched grain, all of which were thought to have an aphrodisiacal effect. Men and women alike felt a heightened sensitivity and alertness, which even the heavy fragrance of sandalwood burning in the bowls at the four corners of the room could not dull. The room, which was the group's temple, was charged with an indescribable energy. The space was filled with a vibrancy that exerted a curious pressure on the body and that would certainly have scared unsuspecting visitors. It was almost as if the air were humming with electricity.

At last the master stirred. Thrice he intoned the precious invocation Om rzamah shivaya, "Om, obeisance to the Lord." The signal to begin the final ritual had been given. Careful to avoid any disturbing noises, each man turned to anoint his partner with a reddish paste while muttering holy mantras over her. With great reverence he smeared the paste on her forehead, throat, breasts, abdomen, hands, feet, and, last, the pubic mound. Then each woman did likewise to her partner. Only the guru was not anointed in this manner. His young partner was the new initiate. Thus men and women turned themselves into gods and goddesses for the purposes of the climax of the ritual-sexual congress (maithuna).

Unused to the mounting energy in the room, the guru's partner made involuntary cooing sounds, and even some of the more seasoned celebrants moaned slightly. Again, the guru—now looking utterly transfigured—invoked the Divine. Then he firmly grasped his partner, a virgin, and drew her onto his folded legs. In one swift motion he entered her.

There was no pain, or if there was it was swallowed up by the wave of bliss she felt rippling through her, even as her awareness was instantly lifted out of her body into regions of unspeakable luminosity. The girl's eyes rolled back in ecstasy, and her head flopped backward...

Table of Contents



Part I. Contemporary Sexuality: Its Failures and Possibilities

1. Taking Stock: The Sexual Wasteland
The Age of Sexual Bewilderment
The Sexual Stress Syndromes

2. Tracing the Roots of the Modern Sexual Dilemma
Guilt: The Feeling of Being Found Out
Shame: The Feeling of Being Unworthy
Our Heritage of Sexual Guilt and Shame
The Denial of the Body
Guilt, Shame, and Ecstasy
Sexual Addiction as Avoidance of Bliss
The Quest for Transcendence
From Sexual Malaise to the Loss of the Sacred

3. The Hidden Window: Spiritual Breakthroughs in Sex
Sex, Love, and Transcendence
The Power of Love: Erotic and Spiritual Breakthroughs
Sex: The Hidden Window

Part II. Sacred Sex Through the Ages

4. Sacred Sex and the Goddess: Ancestral Wisdom
The Erotic Cult of the Great Mother
An Erotic Flashback to 20,000 BC.
Sex, Magic, and the Life-Force
The Sexual Tragedy of Agriculture
The Goddess and Her Lover

5. Sacred Marriage and Sacred Prostitution
Hieros Gamos: The Sacred Marriage
The Phallic Principle
Phallic Worship
The Rule of the Phallus in Greece
Sacred Prostitution in Ancient Greece
The Sexual Servants of Mesopotamia and Egypt
The Temple Prostitutes of India
The Story of Sunta
The Contemporary Reappraisal of Sacred Prostitution

6. Erotic Spirituality in the Mystery Traditions
The Mystery Cults of the Ancient World
The Corn Mother Demeter and Her Votaries
Dionysos: God of Wine and Ecstasy
The Phallic Orpheus
Pan: The Lusty Goat-God
Cybele and Attis
The Mystery Cult of Isis and Osiris

7. Spiritual Eroticism in]udaism
Sex, Power, and the Goddess among the Ancient Hebrews
The Hebrew Sexual Heritage

8. The Eclipse of Eros in the Christian Tradition
The Christian Sexual Heritage
Mary: Virginal Mother and Bride of Christ
Eve, the First Man, and Guilt

9. The Medieval Love Mystics, East and West
The Resurgence of Eros in the Middle Ages
The Troubadours: Erotic Idolators
The Lover Within: Bridal Mysticism
The Mystical Eros in Islam and Judaism
On the Nuptial Couch with Krishna: The Hindu Version of Bridal Mysticism

10. The Jewel in the Lotus: The Lessons of Tantrism
The Secret Circle: A Story Set in India Around 1200 A.D.
Tantrism: The Historical and Cultural Context
Maithuna: The Love-Play of God and Goddess
The Serpent Power and the Transmutation of Sexual Energy
Tantric Eroticism and Freudian Sublimation

11. The Sexual Tao: The Chinese Way of Circulating Life-Energy
Tao: The Nameless Way beyond God and Goddess
The Tao of Sex: White Tiger and Green Dragon

12. Sexual Magic and Neo-Paganism
Sex Magic and the Magic of Sex
The Magical Power of Semen
The Reawakening of the Goddess in Neo-Paganism

13. The New Erotic Christianity
Alan Watts and Incarnational Theology
Toward a Nonpuritan Christianity
Matthew Fox and the Erotic Christ

Part III. The Challenge of Sacred Sex Today

14. Sex as Energy and Communion
The Sexual Threshold between the Secular and the Sacred
The Erotic Implications of Einstein's Theorem
Psychiatric Interlude: From Freudian Libido to Reichian Orgone
Sex and Evolutionary Energy
Spiritual Work with the Psychocosmic Energy
Sexual Communion

15. Toward an Erotic Spirituality for Today
Coming Down to Earth
Finding the Sacred in the Ordinary
God, Goddess, arid Intimacy
Ritual Beyond Neurosis


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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"An informative and uplifting read that reveals secrets of the sacred."

"Feuerstein offers hope that erotic spirituality is once again beginning to be embraced as a path to true ecstacy."

“A remarkably complete book stocked with the knowledge of esoteric Asian traditions never before seen by Western eyes.”

“A massive compendium, furnishing just about everything you always wanted to know.”

“An intriguingly illustrated, thoroughly researched collage designed to enhance sexual consciousness.”

“Georg Feuerstein is a scholar and practitioner of the first magnitude and an extremely important and valuable voice for the perennial philosophy.”

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