History of Sacred Sexuality
Ancient Practitioners of Sacred Sex
(Excerpt from: Sacred Sexuality–A Manual for Living Bliss by: Michael Mirdad)
Although humanity has often struggled with sexuality and similarly related issues, there have always been arts and sciences devoted to honoring the sacred, sexual self. In fact, the universe and its origins are steeped in a fusion (or intercourse) of creative forces in cosmic and human forms. All sacred thought systems contain concepts of male and female aspects of this Creative Force. Additionally, every major religion and philosophy has a sect devoted to mysticism. Each sect of mysticism has a faction devoted to understanding and exploring the deeper concepts behind sacred sexuality and the practical integration of spirituality and sexuality.
The practice of sacred sexuality dates back to an ancient culture known as the Lemurians. Although there are no known written records of their sexual practices, their methods were kept alive through their descendants, such as the people of the Hawaiian Islands. The Lemurians combined creativity, vibrational healing, aromatherapy, and spirituality. They lived in harmony with body and soul and honored the creative and feminine aspects of life. They were also the originators of the healing art known as Reiki, which was preserved by their descendents in Tibet and surrounding regions. All other ancient arts of sacred sexuality are remnants of those founded by this original race.
The oldest arts of sacred sexuality that have been preserved in a relatively complete form are those of Tantra and the Taoist arts of sexology, estimated to be several thousand years old. The western mystics who explored sacred sexuality in the concealed form of alchemy or energetic transmutation came much later. Nevertheless, whatever the name of the sacred art or the time in which it was practiced, the goals have always been the same. The arts of sacred sexuality have always been practiced with the intent of transforming mundane thoughts, feelings, and energy into a higher, spiritualized, personal experience of oneness, or union, with all that exists.
Tantra is arguably the oldest known art of sacred sexuality practiced today. The true story of the origins of Tantra is obscure, to say the least. The various versions of its origins include Tantra as being a well-organized system from some factions of Hinduism. Others say it came from Buddhist sects. Still others say it gradually developed from communities within small East Indian villages.
Some people believe that Tantra evolved from the practice of yoga, which, like Tantra, is about liberation and joining. In fact, many of the physically challenging sexual positions of Tantric lovemaking are actually yoga postures used for personal awakening.
Tantra is a Sanskrit word of two parts. The prefix, tan, means “to expand, join or weave.” The latter part, tra, means “tool.” Therefore, the definition of the term Tantra has a two-fold meaning—“a tool to expand, liberate, and bring together.” What is known about Tantra is that the most common form is preserved through such writings as the Kama Sutra (probably written around the time of Christ) and the Ananga Ranga (a collection of erotic works from around 1100 A.D.) The purest form of Tantra was not passed down in writing, but only by way of initiations and personal instruction.
The Kama Sutra was written by a noble man who saw life as consisting of dharma (spiritual substance), artha (financial substance), and kama (sensual substance). Kama is said to be “the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses…assisted by the mind, together with the soul.” Although Tantra might appear to be an art of sexual pleasuring and the Kama Sutra a manual of sexual positions, the real goal of kama is to cultivate love and reverence for the person with whom the Tantric pleasure.
Although most spiritual disciplines insist on evolving into higher states of consciousness by controlling or denying the senses and lower states of consciousness, Tantra teaches that you cannot experience complete personal and spiritual liberation while restricting a part of your being. Tantra is a profound form of active meditation that expands consciousness using the senses to take you beyond the realm of the senses. It teaches that sacred sexuality is a way of deepening intimacy and expanding consciousness, a way to achieve freedom from limitations and to join with the Divine.
Observing a Tantric experience, you might assume you are simply witnessing “great sex.” But if you could see the experience clairvoyantly, you would witness an amazing dance of energy and color, not unlike a fireworks display. Furthermore, if you could see into the hearts and souls of the participants, you would observe a consecrated joining of loving intent.
Valerie Brooks, author of Tantric Awakening, summarizes the stages of the Tantric lovemaking experience as follows:
1. Physical: total concentration on the physical pleasure in the moment.
2. Emotional: immersion in loving thoughts and worship of your partner’s divinity.
3. Spiritual: feeling yourself and your partner as a single unit that is connected to Spirit, or God.
Just as some of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers have said that Heaven cannot be accurately described in words, the essence of Tantra cannot be captured in either oral or written words. To truly understand Tantra, it has to be experienced.
In addition to cosmic, mystical experiences, Tantric masters are also interested in having deeply personal experiences with other people and the world in which they live. When a deep interconnection is established, the formerly perceived space between any two people or objects becomes filled with the light of Spirit. This spiritual presence activates and excites the etheric energy within and between the two, joining them as one. That which was contracted and separate is now free to expand and unite. This is Tantra!
True Tantra is a spiritual path and is practiced with an air of sacredness. Since Tantra is practiced as a spiritual ceremony, as with all forms of spiritual worship, there is an acknowledging and honoring (worshiping) of a Divine Being. However, in Tantra, this deity is reflected and honored in your partner, rather than in an intellectual concept or vague image. Therefore, Tantra is not an abstract form of spiritual practice, but a practical one, wherein the experience with the Divine is brought down to the very realm of the senses. Of course, this is not to say that the tantrika (practitioner of Tanta) cannot choose to practice other forms of spirituality and worship. It’s just that Tantra challenges lovers to see the Divine Presence of God in and through each other.
Tantra has two distinct paths of training, a left-hand path (vama-marga) and a right-hand path (dakshina-marga). The left-hand path practices a more literal form of Tantra that usually involves intercourse. The right-hand path, on the other hand, practices a symbolic form of Tantra that views intercourse as an allegory. The left-hand path of Tantra practices the maithuna ritual known as “The Five Makaras.” During an evening gathering, several practitioners join to partake of the five symbols of pleasure, which are madya (wine), matsya (fish), mamsa (meat), mudra (parched grain), and maithuna (sacred sex).
In Tantric writings, a woman’s sexual and spiritual energies are often referred to as shakti. In Hindu traditions the goddess Shakti represents the female principle or energy. Although the female force, or shakti, exists in both women and men, women are seen as the “guardians” of the shakti energy. According to ancient Tantric writings, the power of the shakti is limitless. Once awakened, this spiritual, energetic, and sexual force can be channeled creatively.
Upon awakening, Shakti rises up the spine to meet Shiva, her male counterpart. Together their merged energies create an alchemical fusion of bliss. Thus in Tantra, the coupling of a man and woman serves to represent this greater, universal creative process, as the intercourse between a couple simulates the creation dance of Shakti and Shiva.
Tantra is not to be confused with other arts of sacred sexuality, including Taoist sexual practices. Tantra (from India) and Taoism (from China) are similar, but are also quite different. Both involve balancing the male and female energies. What Tantra calls the dance of Shakti and Shiva, Taoists call the balancing of yin and yang. Both systems have a goal of total physical and spiritual union. Tantra and Taoism are each an ancient form of sacred sexuality. Also, in both traditions, sexuality is practiced in a spiritual context.
Nevertheless, the differences are very distinct. For example, Tantra uses more ceremony and ritual, while Taoism is more scientific and focuses on the body, its meridians, and energy systems. Tantra is an art, while Taoist sexology is a science. In Tantra there is less emphasis on “controlling orgasms” by “constricting specific muscles.” Instead, in the art of Tantra there is emphasis on relaxing into the orgasmic sensations, rather than tensing in any form. On the other hand, in the Taoist sexual systems, control and muscle constriction are at the very heart of the techniques and principles. Tantrikas may not agree with all Taoist concepts of ejaculation control. Taoists have developed their principles of sexuality into a science that has worked for thousands of years. Taoist masters, who are commonly known to live in vibrant health for well over a hundred years, attribute their semi-immortality to their sexual practices of ejaculation control and in-jaculation.
Because of the differences between Tantric and Taoist sexual practices, most practitioners of any ancient system of sexuality follow only one of these two paths. Few practitioners have learned to reconcile, synthesize, and integrate the two. Nevertheless, the key to successfully practicing sacred sexuality is to use both techniques at precisely the right moment.
Although Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism), as a philosophy or religion in China, developed later than the Hindu religion of India, both traditions embraced some form of sacred sexuality. The Chinese sexual arts were developed by the Yellow Emperor (Huang-Ti) and his “three immortal ladies” long before Taoism, which means that although Hinduism is older than Taoism, the Chinese sexual arts are still as ancient as Tantra.
Like Tantra, Taoism has many facets, sex being only one of eight “spokes to their wheel.” Royalty often consulted the wise and respected Taoist masters on issues related to philosophy, health, life, and sex. Some of these teachings were preserved and are known as “Canons of Wisdom.” The most common set of ancient writings on Taoist lovemaking is called the “pillow books.”
The primary purpose behind Taoist lovemaking is the transformation of sexual energy into healing energy and vitality, resulting in better health and potential immortality. The primary Taoist technique to achieve these healing effects is called the inward orgasm (in-jaculation), whereby the orgasmic energy rises up the spine, stimulating the endocrine glands, energy systems, nervous system, and organs. Taoists teach that an inner orgasm (in-jaculation) stimulates life and vitality, while the outer orgasm (e-jaculation) brings death or loss of health and vitality. An in-jaculation is the most effective tool for transforming a physical orgasm into an energetic orgasm. Of course, there are even higher levels of orgasm as well, including a soul-level, total-being orgasm.
Taoist self-transformation exercises are designed to bring the practitioner to a state of immortality by cultivating what they refer to as the three energies, or “Three Treasures.” The first is ching (sexual and physical energy), the second is qi (etheric and breath energy), and the third is shen (mental and spiritual energy). Only with sufficient ching can the body produce sufficient qi. Then, with sufficient qi, a balance of shen is restored. These three essences must be restored and refined to their optimum level and balance to attain the gifts of the “Three Treasures,” or the “Elixir of Immortality.” Practitioners of Taoist sexuality believe that sexual energy is the most powerful human energy and that the use of sexual rejuvenation and in-jaculation techniques are the most effective and efficient way to revitalize and develop these “Three Treasures.”
Taoists use imaginative, and sometimes humorous, metaphors to illustrate their concepts about sexuality. For example, they regard man as fire and woman as water. Fire, once started, burns fast and can burn out, when, on the other hand, the woman (or water) is just beginning to boil (or get hot). Therefore, the man must control his fire to prolong his climax (and erection). Then he can help the woman reach her natural stages of warming up toward orgasm, thus enhancing the experience for both partners.
Again, Taoists say that the male is like fire and the woman is like water. The man’s fire (penis or lingam) boils the woman’s water (her womb or yoni). If the man is not trained in the art of lovemaking, her water will extinguish his fire. Thus, the soft and yielding (yin) can conquer the hard (yang), just as the proverbial flowing river conquers the hardest of rocks.
Taoists do not merely teach exercises to enhance the pleasure of partnership. They also encourage self-mastery and self-awareness for improved health and vitality. They clearly teach the importance of drawing in the sexual energy and experience, rather than focusing on sexual organs and external stimuli. Any focus on the sexual organs is used only to introduce the practitioner to more advanced concepts. Taoist master Mantak Chia says that the goal of Taoist sexual practices is like that of making chicken broth: If you boil a chicken in water and extract the vital essence into the water, which is more valuable, the chicken or the broth? Clearly, the Taoists believe the valuable energy generated during lovemaking is more vital to one’s well-being than the stimulation to the organs.
In the Taoist tradition, sexual energy is nurtured and valued for its role in the overall well-being of the body, mind, and spirit. It is the water of life, or life-giving essence, for all that exists in the material world. Taoists see sexual energy as the fuel behind the body’s chi (energy, vital essence or life-force). Stimulation of the sexual organs and sex glands enhances this life-force and thereby encourages the secretion of hormones from the other major endocrine glands (adrenal, thymus, thyroid, pituitary, and pineal). Therefore, Taoist sexual exercises assist in the production of potent hormones and stimulate the healthy function of the endocrine glands, the master controls of the body.
Taoists are emphatic about the value of semen retention, or in-jaculation. The ancient Taoist masters referred to a ten-day process that procured the invaluable results of ejaculation retention. In one ancient text they wrote:
“If a man has intercourse once without spilling his seed, his vital essence is strengthened. If he does this twice, his vision and hearing are made clearer. If three times, his physical illnesses will begin to disappear. The fourth time he will begin to feel inner peace. The fifth time his blood will circulate powerfully. The sixth time his genitals will gain new prowess. By the seventh his thighs and buttock (muscles and meridians) will become firm. The eighth time his entire body will radiate good health. The ninth time his life-span will be increased.”
–Canon of Taoist Wisdom