September 21, 2012

A Life of Celibacy—Revelation, Suffering or Gateway to Higher Experience?

Flickr: Jennysteam

I’ve been celibate (and single) for most of my life.

I don’t claim to be different from other people. Yet, perhaps I am? I can’t seem to avoid that thought.

It’s not that I feel I’ve completely missed out. I’ve felt love and friendship…even lust.

Romantic love has multiple levels. Once you surrender to it, it’s amazing where you can go with it. Love doesn’t require a partner. Something deep and intrinsic to life is the yearning to commune with the Divine. It’s the mystic’s ultimate devotion to God that keeps him from attaining sexual liberation. He is tasked with being liberated from his sexual drive by cleaving to God.

There are two opposites of spiritual experience—those spiritual ecstasies reached via excess and those via deprivation—sometimes including extremes of suffering, as experienced famously by John of God and Theresa of Avila. The unbearable can take us as far away from God as we can imagine, and yet somehow it takes us closer to the flickering flame of God that burns. Not that celibacy is ever that intense.

James Walsh

What could be more purifying than devoting oneself to God in a life of prayer and devotion? John of God famously went through the experience of spiritual desolation and feeling rejected by God (as he was relentlessly tortured) even whilse devoting himself to God. Yet, his faith remained undimmed.

Naturally, most people are not saints; they are emotional beings who get caught up in the material world.

Madonna so famously put it; “I’m a material girl living in a material world.”  

Where we experience the contrasts and potentiality of life being intensified, is in the melting pot of relationships. Sex is a big part of that.

(Most) people yearn to feel warmth, love, passion, pleasure, feeling received or met, and an unquenchable desire to be completed by another—to feel all these feelings, tightly wrapped within one orgasmic expression.

So why am I celibate?

The thought of sex excites me. However, beyond the veils of sexual illusion, there is something deeper going on, and that is what intrigues me and yearns for liberation. On the other side of sex is the spiritual warrior or prisoner. Within sex is the soul seeking another in orgasmic communion. Both are richly rewarding paths, which can be liberating too.

I did experience some years of religious devotion to a Jewish orthodox God, which I came to reject. In that context, spilling “seed” was unacceptable outside of the confines of marriage, and since I never came close to that, I was actually in an “uncomfortable” comfort zone of chastity.

Before I found God, I was celibate too. And what was my excuse? I found many people hide behind religion and use it as a crutch. It protects them from experiencing their true fears and vulnerabilities. Some defer responsibility…God becomes omnipotent in their lives. Or, they find a religious leader to follow.

Celibacy has been my crutch. When I left the religious world, the only thing I didn’t leave behind was my self-denial. I held on to that tightly. Safely.

Then I had an experience. One night, I met a crazy girl. She seduced me with wine. Then she seduced me with her body.

Although she could never meet my soul, or share my spiritual depths, she offered me her pussy. This was the first (and only) time this has happened to me.

I indulged for a time, felt a lingering and perpetual guilt that I couldn’t share myself with her, and a continual sexual longing for her, that almost broke me in half. I compartmentalized. I tried to escape my desire. I tried to control or sublimate my sexual urges. I tried to avoid her every way I could. I came to understand the addictive nature of sex and the cords of attachments that sex creates, and I was clinical too.

Eventually I managed to break away from her, feeling like I had liberated myself from a very draining experience, and feeling unconscionably guilty for not having loved her, for not having given her more of myself.

Yet, how could I? She was exhaustingly needy, seemed to crave drama and had an addictive personality. I came to see her as a gift from God, an invitation to explore my physical desires.

Did we both steal from each other? I went to energy healers, and therapists to “cleanse” myself of her. God knows, perhaps she needed to be cleansed of me too.

I’ve had difficulty reconciling my sexual urges with my experiences of the world. I’ve felt more comfortable being celibate. I’ve craved companionship, and not been able to go out and get it. I’ve protected myself, shielded myself. I’ve felt safer in the realms of spirit than in sex.

Photo: h.koppdelaney

Truthfully, it seems that most people don’t have such challenges.

Yet, in my day-to-life I often find myself being too serious and intense. Sex may have given me a sense of “relief”—grounded me in this material reality.

In admitting celibacy, am I revealing too much?

If sex is a human need, then is it needy to admit to craving it? Is it indulgent to wonder what happens to people who don’t get it? In a world crazy on sex, could celibacy be the new sexy?

In denial of sex, do we learn something different about ourselves and perhaps suppress our true selves? Or, is the world within (introversion) an excuse for getting outside of ourselves through the “discomfort” of sex?

I’ve grappled with many paradoxes and illusions, and ultimately, I’ll tell you this. Celibacy is safe; sex is messy. There are times for both. Summer. Spring. Winter. Autumn.

Surely, if we deny any part of ourselves, then we are denying God.



Editor: Brianna Bemel


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