Scottish Dualism

Huge MacDiarmid, possibly the greatest Scottish poet of the 20th century, made a great point when he noted the ‘Caledonian antisyzygy’. By this he meant the Scottish taste for dualism, opposites and extremes in dispute. His famous words “I'll ha'e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur extremes meet” from his poem A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle, seems to sum this up.

This got me to wondering if this is why I struggle so much with the sexual-spiritual union? Maybe I am just averse to any kind of union? Or maybe it’s the lingering hang-over of Scottish Puritanism since the Reformation?

Either way, sex and spiritual practices still create conflict for me, and I find myself oscillating between the highly erotic and the totally non-sexual.

On the one hand sexual-spiritual practices can take us to ecstatic or blissful altered-states. That has certainly been my experience. However, if, as so many of the spiritual teachers I so admire are correct, then we can never reach our permanent natural state via temporary altered states. Likewise, sexual-spiritual practices simply keep us locked into our bodily experiences, and the need for gratification gained through more of these experiences. This is counter to the neti-neti process of letting go, before coming back via iti-iti.

However, on the other hand, Rupert Spira in Being Myself says “And just as it is not necessary to undress in order to feel our naked body, it is not necessary to change the content of experience in any way in order to be in touch with our innate peace and happiness.” So, having sex or having a cup of tea or a walk (all our contents of experience) simply happen. We have no need to change them, we just don’t get caught up in them. We recognise them as simply our manifested experiences and not our true nature.

Many spiritual teachers I’ve spoken to say the practice is not as important as the intention. Is the intention for the practice to be sacred or devotional, to raise our consciousness or awareness? Is it for sexual gratification and grasping for the bodily experience? Or is there some place where these two seemingly opposing practices fit? Like the paradox for the drunken man looking at the thistle?

It would seem to me there are choices to make in how far we wish to progress on our spiritual path. From experiencing healing as part of the cleansing process, to some or many temporary altered states, through to one permanent natural state. Many people will be grateful for their healing. Others content with heightened experiences and altered states. Others will desire something more permanent.

It might be worth reminding ourselves that classical tantra was, and is, predominantly non-sexual, other than the Kaula lineage (utilizing sexual energy as our life-force). Sexual practices were reserved for one of the 5-M’s, thought only really related to the Union Ritual and practices in preparation for this – the union of Shiva/Shakti, masculine/feminine, Self with Oneness.

Neo-tantra on the other hand utilises explicitly sexual energy and sexual practices, for healing, to become multi-orgasmic, and to reach altered states. The belief being that these temporary altered states act as the gateway to our permanent natural state.

There are benefits of taking a non-sexual route. It can be more peaceful and takes away the pressure to ‘perform’. Although the down side is that in our ‘fast paced’ time it can be frustrating for some, too slow, and often appear as if nothing much is happening. But classical tantra has a clear lineage and recorded history of leading to spiritual awakening.

Likewise, there are benefits of taking a sexual route. It is pleasurable and exiting, and can take us to multi and whole body orgasmic states, ecstasy and bliss. The down side is that these experiences can become addictive and so we can become ‘stuck’ in our body (no bad thing if we are looking to get out of the head, but can be a hinderance if we are looking for spiritual awakening).

Bringing it all together

As I mentioned in my last Blog The Journey of Self-Discovery this is the age of Kali, often called ‘the age of the body’. It seems highly appropriate then that we bring the body central to our spiritual awakening practices. My preferred route, therefore, is a mixed approach, which is why I spend so much time on things like ritual undressing, breathwork, meditations and kriyas.

So, predominantly non-sexual but with sexual aspects (a form of normalisation, tension or trauma release, and embodied spirituality) aligned to a clear ‘intention’ of stepping back from our attachment to the gratification, an attempt to be as conscious (raising our awareness) of I AM, our essence, as possible during the practice. This is where our experience does not eclipse our essence.

And so, the further along the spiritual path we travel, the more open and then selective, it would seem to me, our sexual practices will become as we expand and contract. Or at least that is my experience so far. But that might just be my way of holding what I’m perceiving as my extremes in dispute.

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See my personal development / personality profiling book DISCover the Power of You published through John Hunt Publishing Ltd, 2017. ISBN: 978-1-78535-591-2

And for those who enjoy historical fiction, stories of underrepresented life’s, see my first novel Fermented Spirits published through Austin Macauley Publishers, 2022. ISBN-13: ‎978-1398437159