The following is a brief excerpt from “Sexual and Religious Ecstasy”, in James Hewitt’s brilliant 1977 work The Complete Yoga Book: Yoga of Breathing, Yoga of Posture, Yoga of Meditation.
” When Marghanita Laski, in compiling her study of ecstasy, questioned people who had experienced it in their lives, she found that art, nature, and sexual love were the three main triggers, scoring close together. Religion was the next most frequent trigger. In all ecstasies, whatever their cause, the ego sense is weakened and dissolves, and there is a sense of ‘homecoming,’ of finding Reality. There may be physiological concomitants: Miss Laski’s ecstatics experienced flashes of light, electrical tinglings in the spine, feelings of inner warmth, and the like. Similar sensations are reported by Tantric Yogins.
Sexual love offers the possibility of ecstasy. In this sexual age great numbers of men and women make sex a substitute for religion and find in it a way of catching momentarily something of the non-duality, timelessness, and ego-obliteration experienced by the mystics. It is worth pausing to consider how the orgasm blots out both ego and time – two aims of esoteric psychologies. If men and women were granted the experience of orgasm only once or twice in their lives, one could well envisage a world religion being based on it.
Accounts of sexual and of religious ecstasy are unsatisfactory for the same reason: in either case an attempt is being made to describe the ineffable…
The ecstasy on the face of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82), as portrayed in white marble by Bernini, could be sexual rather than religious; and she described her visions and raptures in imagery and language so erotic as to embarrass the Church. She had a vision, she said, in which an angel appeared carrying a long, golden spear with a fiery tip.
‘[He] plunged it into my deepest inward. When he drew it out, I thought my entrails would be drawn out too and when he left me I glowed in the hot fire of love for God. The pain was so strong that I screamed aloud, but simultaneously I felt such infinite sweetness that I wished the pain to last forever. It was the sweetest caressing of
the soul by God.’…”
“The erotic element in Bhakti (devotional) Hinduism is direct and unselfconscious. For millions of Indians the love story of Krishna and Rhadha embodies Bhakti emotion}. Bhakti kirtans or song-poems (like this by Vidyapati, translated by Coomaraswamy and A. Sen), can be erotic and at the same time exquisite:
‘She cries: Oh no, no, no! and tears are pouring from her eyes. She lies outstreched upon the margin of the bed. His close embrace has not unloosed her zone. Even of handling her breast has been but little… When Kanu lifts her up to his lap, she bends her body back Like a young snake, untamed by spells.'”
Until next time,
P.S. Find out how to open up ecstasy in your own meditations!
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