Experience of the subtle realms:
8. Intimacy in two worlds
relation between sex and psi needs to be set in the wider context of intimacy.
In its basic form, human intimacy is you meeting me meeting you, which
also means, of course, that at the
same time I am meeting you meeting me.
It is full reciprocity; we encounter each other encountering each other.
And there are only two ways, in this world, that this occurs: through
mutual gazing and through reciprocal touching.
we look into each other's eyes, I project my gaze while receiving yours, you project
yours while receiving mine, and these four events occur simultaneously.
When we clasp each other's hands, I give my touch as I feel yours. You do
likewise - and it all happens at the same time and in the one shared deed. For
us embodied human beings, there are just these two basic forms of encounter, of
radical meeting - when each person gives and receives in the same act.
Each person simultaneously receives what the other person gives, which is
impossible in the alternating exchanges of conversation.
bedrock of human encounter is thus two persons gazing into each other's gaze at
the same time as embracing each
other. A classic celebration of
such intimacy is found in John Donne's poem 'The Ecstasy':
hands were firmly cemented
a fast balm which thence did spring;
eye-beams twisted, and did thread
eyes upon one double string.
belief is that human beings have at least three basic intimacy needs: soul
needs, nurturance needs, and sexual needs.
Needs of the soul are for the subtle interpenetration of soul energies,
for a direct exchange of presence, for reciprocal sharing of the qualities of
personhood. Mutual gazing, above all, though not exclusively, fulfils the
consummation of such needs. They
are also met by the enjoyment of common interests and values through dialogue
and shared activity.
needs are for the exchange of love and affection through physical contact,
through holding, caressing, kissing and touching.
There is no necessary connection between nurturance and sex.
Naked embraces may consummate nurturance needs without any sexual
arousal. Sexual needs are for
erotic arousal and consummation centrally through genital communion and
peripherally through pleasure for all the erogenous zones of the body.
is a kind of healthy and normal progression in the meeting of these needs.
The satisfaction of soul needs can lead over into the satisfaction of
nurturance needs, which in turn provides the context for the satisfaction of
sexual needs. And sexual pleasure
always seems to reach true fulfilment when set in the wider, more ambient
pastures of nurturance and soul. So
new lovers go through the classic stages of gazing into each other's eyes, then
holding each other tenderly and caressing each other, then making love.
itself is to do with a certain kind of loving: the kind that wants to give and
receive in a relation of closeness with one other person, or a small number of
persons. Such loving is a celebration of both identity and difference:
rejoicing in feeling at one with the other, while at the same time delighting in
the other's difference, their uniqueness and distinctness of being.
And the three sorts of intimacy I have mentioned all in their special
ways partake of the complementary pleasures of identity and difference. They are
also, in my experience, essentially mediated by subtle energy - at the subtle
and subtle body level - interfusing physical activity.
have already discussed mutual gazing in sections 4 and 10 of Chapter 5. When two
persons truly open themselves to the process of intimate gazing, without
speech, and without anxiety or embarassment, then they are in the domain of
mutual clairvoyance, tacit in their eye contact.
other's gaze is not the same thing as their eyes, is not inferred from their
eyes, and is not seen by one's own eyes - but by one's gaze using one's eyes.
Gazing is subtle seeing focussed through physical eyes.
When we look at physical things we tend to lose awareness of the subtle
nature of the gaze as such: we identify with the physical content of visual
experience at the expense of noticing properly the process of seeing.
But when we look into someone else's gaze, we are not peering at their
eyes just as physical objects, we are gazing at the gaze-light shining through
their eyes. Then we discover the
doubly incarnate nature of everyday perception.
if two people let this mutual gazing continue to deepen, let go of egocentric
distress and perturbed emotion, then they can exchange immediacy of soul - in
the way that the rest of Donne's poem so elegantly describes. The clear-seeing
of the gaze-light is truly intimate to soul, and beams forth the qualities of
personhood - its modes of intelligence and feeling and choosing.
is also intimate to that subtle, inner space that is the form and expression of
consciousness in the other world, the first world of human incarnation. Hence
two people can space out on the shared consciousness of mutual gazing.
They can expand their awareness into akashic domains through the shared
mediation of the gaze-light (section 4, Chapter 5).
Try it and see.
gazing is ruled by the triple fork of Neptune.
The basic staff is a celebration of soul, of the mutuality of personhood,
as in Donne's poem. This can branch into shared nurturance, into shared
eroticism, and into a shared journey through the domains of inner space.
Celebration of soul is the central stem from which the other three
spring. But all four experiences
are not mutually exclusive, and can interpenerate and enhance each other.
can touch the skin of another person and you can touch their touch - which is
not the same as their skin, or their flesh, or the warmth of their body. Their
touch is a subtle energy full of
their intent of soul. It is
mediated by their skin, flesh and muscle, but cannot be identified with these
bodily components. Again, you do
not infer the quality of another person's touch.
You encounter it directly in and through your own touch.
There is a subtle body to
subtle body contact that goes along with the purely physical sensations. The
tactile sense mediates a subtle energy - and a psi sense that is responsive not
only to physical textures of skin and flesh but also to the subtle energy of the
not only hands and fingers can manifest this 'balm';
any part of the body can be moved by, and express, the subtle energy of
touch. The intent of this energy, at its own level, is to touch a
person, never just a body.
in mutual touching, the physical bodies of two persons are in contact, but also
and primarily their subtle bodies, their subtle energies and subtle
sensitivities. A naked
embrace is a poignant intimacy between doubly incarnate beings, and is
especially, therefore, the home of shared tenderness, care and loving affection:
it is touching in the other sense.
this central ground of shared affection, touching, too, can move in one of two
directions. It can mediate transcendence, affiliation with inner space, an
attunement to subtle dimensions of being: two persons are in physical and subtle
contact and their shared awareness goes a long way back into the other world.
it can mediate sexual arousal and sexual activity.
And sometimes it can mediate both these together, so that sexual
experience is combined with an expansion of consciousness in subtle space.
At other times sexual experience may lead over into transcendence: then
the post-orgasmic state is one of great openness to the other world.
I develop these themes in the next two sections.
skin with its supporting flesh is a window on the other world, like a great eye
of vision spread out over the surface of the body.
More literally, it is a boundary zone, an edge, the horizon of the body,
and like the horizon of the planet has tangent planes that access inner space.
can think of your skin, in the ordinary way, as the outer edge of the animated
matter that fills up the physical space of your body. Or you can expand your
awareness into matrix space and think of manifold interacting tangent planes
that encompass the skin from without, forming it from the other world.
You then feel your body
suspended in the matrix universe, shaped by its subtle planar forces. With the eye of inner vision you see your physical form as
materialising out of far reaching spaces and powers.
two skins mingle, as when two people are in a naked embrace or are caressing,
then there is a double charge on tangent planes;
and each partner can lead the other out into inner space. This can occur
in a deeply relaxed and meditative way
in nurturant, non-sexual skin
contact. The partners expand
awareness together on tangent planes, being both very near in physical space and
subtle space and also very far away in subtle space all at once.
there is a sexual charge on tangent planes the spacing out effect can sometimes
be very dramatic. You may have the
experience of falling way back into inner space, of being de-egoised in a
spatial nirvana that is deeply within and beyond and behind the physical space
of the body. Or the experience of
orgasm may throw you out climactically along a tangent plane, as if shooting
into an ecstatic orbit in the other world.
effects are important, enjoyable, valuable - and illuminating.
They inaugurate the yoga of intimacy, sexuality and togetherness.
And they undermine once and for all the conspiracy theory of the skin and
its flesh: the theory that the skin conspires to seduce you away from the
light. On the contrary, the skin
is, to inner vision, a luminous membrane between the worlds.
Live in the tangential reality that shapes it - and at the immediate
limit of your physicality you have instant access to the other universe.
The skin is a veil and a
trap only if you insist on remaining exclusively inside it.
yoga of intimacy also affirms the spatial value of pleasure: sensory pleasure,
sensual pleasure and sexual pleasure.
satisfactions between two people are the very caress of inner space, shared
course, if humans are made to feel bad about the pleasures of the skin, then
their guilt contracts their awareness inside
the body so they become prisoners of it.
longing to expand into that matrix space that shapes the contours of the skin
from without is frustrated and denied. This subtle frustration is then displaced
into compulsive lust - which drives them into the very behaviour that seems to
explain their guilt. And so the
whole vicious circle is locked upon its irrational course.
antidote to all this improper guilt is spatially expansive pleasure.
effect of the sexual charge on tangent planes is the release of inner vision.
The post-orgasmic person may be suffused with symbolic images,
clairvoyance of other worlds, of presences and powers.
I remember such a vision in which I had a vivid picture of being one of
a large party of persons being conducted by a civic dignitary among the
collapsed walls of Jericho, a city famous for its palms and gardens of balsam.
intimacy, I believe, is primarily
about attunement of soul and nurturant affection.
Sexual activity is the celebration of this prior intimacy. But it can add
something else: adoration at the frontier between flesh and spirit, worship at that place where the person emerges into physical
is an ecstasy in the dance of creation, where the manifest physical universe
out of its subtle matrix. I found
that interface of blissful coming
into being on the slopes of Agung-agung in Bali, as I described in the last
chapter. And that same
verge is found between the physical body and its generative subtle matrix.
Sex in the subtle energy mode is a shared dance of delight in this
exuberant zone of the emergence of the flesh.
energy, mediated by the whole body as well as genitally, is a pure subtle energy
which can communicate intimately with the person of the other in that ineffable,
inner space where their flesh
first appears in form. And in that space in the other, each partner finds the
mirror of the joyful generation of their own flesh from its subtle matrix.
thus worships the other in a sacred zone between body and soul - subtle matrix
space. They celebrate person-to-person intimacy,
Janus-faced at the congress plane of flesh and spirit, whose mysterious
unity they enjoy with such ecstatic bafflement.
And each adores the profound context of the other.
For the physical dance and energy dance of sexual activity joins the
cosmic dance forever afoot within their bodies.
Sexual excitement becomes at one with the subtle surge of more
universal pleasure and delight. It participates in the wider reaches of
continuous creation, the one seamless whole
coming into being. And
sometimes, of course, it may have procreative power.
is each person making love with two bodies at once, the physical body and the
subtle body. And it is making love in two spaces at once, physical space
and inner space. But it is the
subtle activity, subtle awareness and subtle joy that deeply mediates and
consummates the intimacy.
practitioners of Tantra, of course, have known all about the fusion of sexual
congress with the cosmic congress of spirit and matter, of inner and outer
universes. And they have known that
sexual activity conducted with subtle awareness gives very direct and immediate
access to the ecstasy of continuous creation (Mookerjee, 1982).
But they have also fallen foul of the problems of transcendental sexual
the Tantrikas made a virtue of it. Such
alienation occurs when the purpose of sexual union is
to celebrate person-to-person intimacy - attunement of soul and nurturant
affection - but simply to participate in the bliss of cosmic creativity.
Hence the Tantrikas were not concerned with any kind of personal
relationship with their partners, but deliberately chose a succession of
relative strangers, who however were equally proficient in the sexual
disciplines and meditative rituals of the cult.
could, of course, be argued that there is a reverse kind of alienation: when two
people make love to celebrate their person-to-person intimacy always to the
exclusion of any more extensive sacramental ecstasy. Because of a permanent
closure in their awareness they never include divinity in the congress.
own view is that the primary pleasure of making love is the celebration of
person-to-person intimacy, and that one way of doing this can be shared worship
at the conjoint internal shrine of continuous creation.
But it is only one way. For
the charm of human life is that it can properly affirm its autonomy, its
relative independence of the subtle worlds: sexual union can be a celebration of
human passion and affection, of delight in personhood, of the elegance and
ease of the human animal, of physical beauty, of dance and movement, of sheer
desire, of the comic and the absurd - and this without any conscious reference
to a transcendental context. Living
awarely in two worlds means sometimes living in one, sometimes in the other, and
sometimes in both.
a woman, orgasm is independent of the working of the gonads, the ovaries.
Her sexual climax is, as such, nothing to do with reproduction.
The cycle of ovulation and menstruation is geared to a monthly rhythm,
and the physiological mechanisms of orgasm are quite separate from it.
Levels of sexual arousal may vary with the monthly rhythm, but the climax
of arousal does not involve the gonads.
can be multiple without the need for a refractory period.
man, sexual climax is everything to do with reproduction at the physiological
level. Every orgasm involves an
emptying of the gonads, the testes, of their accumulated sperm.
Excess of sperm can precipitate spontaneous orgasm as in nocturnal
emission. Orgasms are single and
need a refractory period.
simple physical differences spell out certain psychological and spiritual
in sexual attitudes. Female orgasm
is more celebratory, abundant, joyful,to do with pleasure for pleasure's sake:
free from direct pressure from the gonads, it has more space to
well up from attunement of soul, from the satisfactions of affection and
orgasm is more performance and production oriented, more to do with control and
measure and pacing of the release of the gonads.
And if it is not this, then it becomes tense, urgent and evacuatory or
precipitate. Attitudes get caught up in the hydraulics - of straight pipes and
pressure on valves.
emptying the gonads can be followed by temporary depression.
In a woman, pre-menstrual (i.e. post-ovulation) tension is not a
product of sexual intimacy. But in a man, post-coital depression
can occur in the immediate context of such intimacy and wreak havoc
with its emotionality.
can ejaculate fluids copiously, have great sexual potency for orgasm, and have
procreative power in their wombs. Men cannot ejaculate semen as copiously, have
less sexual potency for orgasm, have no procreative power in their bodies to
make babies, although of course great power to make semen.
lower physiological status of men - in terms of sexual and procreative potency -
has been, in my view, a deep source of anxiety to them.
And this anxiety is usually repressed, denied and then displaced into a
whole range of distorted and compensatory behaviours, often involving the
oppression of women.
way, among many, for men to relate to the greater orgasmic abundance of women is
to cultivate the energy orgasm. As
the tide of his excitement rises toward ejaculation, the man transfers the
energy of that excitement into sound.
result is uninhibited and sustained vocal ejaculation, the experience of a
subtle and potent energy orgasm, and no seminal ejaculation.
The energy orgasm is found just below the peak that would otherwise lead
over into physical discharge. As he
hovers below the peak, the man effects the subtle transmutation through vocal
power used with subtle intent.
use of a crescendo of sound (not words) can shift the man's sexual charge from
physical release into a subtle suffusion of pleasure at the subtle matrix
level. The sound itself may enhance the arousal and orgasm of the woman, which
is already more at the subtle level because of its functional separation from
the release of the gonads.
this way a man can have repeated and multiple energy orgasms, to fuse and
with the coming of his partner, while retaining a high level of continuous
physical excitation. For it is only
the final ejaculatory charge that is transfered by the power of erotic sound to
the subtle level.
language, of course, hints at this possibility.
The word 'ejaculate' means not only 'to eject semen from the body', but
also 'to utter suddenly words especially of prayer or other emotion' (Concise
Oxford Dictionary). Now the vocal ejaculation of which I am writing does not use
words, but pure sound only. And
this sound, while powerfully erotic, does have something of the quality of both
prayer and praise.
prayer is a prayer to effect the shift - from physical to subtle orgasm.
And the praise is praise for the joy of sexual union with the surge of
continuous creation: a woman and a man lifted up to that exalted frontier where flesh and spirit tumble into each other with
course this is only one way of celebrating the interesting differences in
physiological and energy status between women and men. There are many others,
and I just pick this one out since it bears on the two worlds theme of this
book. When it is being used, there
is still the question for the man of the ratio between energy orgasms and
physical orgasms: how many of the former in relation to the latter.
In China, the ancient Taoist sex manuals recommended that the younger the
man the greater the frequency of physical release; while the older man would
make love many times, celebrating subtle intimacy, with only the occasional
physical orgasm. However, I doubt
whether any formula has relevance in such matters.
It is a matter of art and preference.
two human beings lie naked together in bed, there are many kinds of intimacy
they can share, as described in this chapter so far.
Attunement of soul.
They enjoy each other's presence, which may not involve any physical
contact at all, only the exchange of subtle energy through mutual gazing or
simply lying side by side.
They enjoy tenderness and affection through embracing, caressing,
enjoy a deeply relaxed, non-sexual, going out into subtle space: mediated
either by mutual gazing, or by tangent planes at points and lines of mutual
touch, or by both these at the same time.
Erotic celebration of
They enjoy sexual intimacy to delight in attunement of soul and nurturant
Erotic celebration of
enjoy sexual intimacy to delight in physical form, desire and movement.
Erotic celebration of
They enjoy sexual intimacy to delight in spacing out on tangent planes,
falling into inner space.
Erotic celebration of
They enjoy transcendental sexual intimacy in the ecstatic context of
there are all the various possible combinations of these.
Our culture does not alert us to this enjoyable range of possibilities,
does not prepare us for them, nor
help us with mismatches of need and state that can obviously occur. So
intimate partners need to grasp the repertoire, to learn the cues in
themselves and in each other that
indicate which sort of choice is on top, and to communicate and negotiate
openly when any kind of mismatch is afoot.
in our culture may confuse sexual arousal with non-sexual spacing out, entirely
within their own being. This is
because there are two qualitatively different kinds of erection: one mediates
sexual excitation, the other expresses deep relaxation and readiness to space
out. If a man doesn't have these
two concepts, he may drive every erection along the sexual highway, and thus
frustrate the dual propensity of his nervous system, and his subtle needs.
Sometimes, of course, both kinds of experience may combine.
once knew an Australian psychiatrist who came to England to explore both the
Christian and Judaic roots of his culture.
For some months he was celibate and resident in a strict orthodox Jewish
community in Golders Green in London. One summer evening he lay naked on his
back on the top of his bed, engaging in sustained high prayer.
This transcendental activity drew out of him a powerful erection and an
intense ejaculation. He was still
astonished when he told me the
word 'shekinah' comes from the Hebrew verb 'sakan' which means 'to rest, to
dwell'. In Judaism, the shekinah
was the visible glory of God, specially thought to dwell over the mercy-seat of
the ark in the temple at Jerusalem; or seen in other natural or supernatural
phenomena. Its form of a cloud of light was suggested by Exodus 40:34.
the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament talks of God dwelling in a place,
the later Aramaic translation or paraphrase talks of God causing His shekinah to
dwell there: the shekinah being some kind of luminous intermediary between God
and man. But let me take this
notion of the shekinah and set it in the context of a change of theological
when there is talk of the divine dwelling in the world, resting within phenomena
and everyday human experience, then in my universe such immanent divinity is of
feminine gender, the Goddess - the great womb, the cornucopia of being out of
whom matter, time, life and soul emerge. And the shekinah is the subtle light, scintillating and
effulgent, that attests to this inward residence of the Goddess.
making love with intensity and love, and with a continuity of passion lifted up
beyond itself into things holy and sacramental, yet empowered by that very
encounter to plunge into new depths of imaginative desire, lovers may find the
shekinah, the power of iridescence that bears witness to the indwelling presence
of the divine. They may see with their
flesh the coruscating, glittering lights, like a treasure trove of jewels,
that are the very spirit of the very body of their union.
Experience of the subtle realms: