Sex and spirituality – abstention?

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to blog about in one form or another – but I’ve been unsure as to HOW, because it’s so darn sticky.

Let’s start with the main world religions. Each, excepting Islam, has abstention as an ideal in one form or another. Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism all have the institution of monks (and nuns) who are expected to stay celibate.

Following Martin Luther, who left the monastery behind, Protestant Christianity knows neither monks nor celibate priests – so the issue has become sort of moot there. In Hinduism there are traditions of celibate monk-like figures who are literally homeless, but there are also sanyasins who are married. Hinduism is in fact such a varied tradition that to approach it as one tradition seems very simplistic. Buddhism has traditionally had monks and nuns who aren’t married and are supposed to be celibate. But some Buddhist traditions also have priests or lamas who can be married (in some Zen and Tibetan Buddhist traditions).

Psychology has made it clear in the last century that for most people (science always looks at the average more than the exception) celibacy is not a good idea. Starting with Freud, who saw many neurotic problems as based in sexual issues, suppression of the sexual urge has been seen as unhealthy. It’s now known that in fact a sexual relationship is, when it’s a good relationship, actually emotionally and physically good for both partners.

This doesn’t really solve the issue, because so many relationships are in fact not good and many people (like me) are single.

Forcing abstention on teens is also clearly not working in the USA. Teen pregnancies are actually, in most countries, related most to education. An educated woman is, world wide, less likely to get kids – at all. That is: the more educated she is, the more likely she is to postpone having kids. And we all know that postponement leads to (ultimately) not having kids at all.

For teens the obvious solution is that they need to be educated about sex. By biology teachers. They need to know the consequences of sex. They need to know how to prevent pregnancy and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. And abortion should – especially for teens – be available. It’s really that simple in my opinion. It should be available mainly because legal abortion is so much more likely than illegal abortion to lead to a healthy woman afterwards. I’m on the fence on women over 25 and abortion for non-health issues, but being on the fence really means: please let them decide for themselves.

I’m afraid this was a rambling post. But the subject of sex is central to most peoples lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Does this lead anywhere? Is abstention still a valid spiritual ideal? Or is it a mirage that never worked for anybody? Any thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Sex and spirituality – abstention?”

  1. I’ve had good sex, bad sex, sex that wasn’t too terrible and gawd-awful leaves a rotten taste in your mouth sex. I haven’t had sex now in I can’t remember how many years. Many. Like four or five or something like that. I am focussed on other things that please me greatly. I’m not aganst sex. I just don’t have the time, energy or desire and haven’t for awhile. I need sex in a relationship and I don’t seem to be up for that. I don’t miss the sex, that particular kind of relationship, or anything. I like my life. I think I’m healthy.

    But this just sort of “happened”. It’s not a pledge to celibacy, at least not consciously. However, if a person had all the things that I have, perhaps celibacy would be a possible choice.

    But it isn’t really a choice if you don’t know what you’re choosing. That might mean that you have to have good sex, bad sex, sex that isn’t too terrible and gawd -awful leaves a rotten taste in your mouth sex before you can choose celibacy. That would mean sex ed would be an awfully good idea.

    My niece had an abortion this week at 16 weeks gestation. She said if she was ever pregnant by accident again (heaven forbid), she would choose to proceed to birth. Not because she wants a child or has any way whatsoever of taking care of one. But because the experience was painful and de-humanizing. Hmmm.

    Love your blog! Glad you stopped by mine.

  2. I think it would be wrong to force celibacy-this is what organised religions try to do with disastrous results. I thinks that if one is following a truly spiritual path then one gradually develops a preference for something higher and sexuality becomes dull and inconsequential -the fact that we are so obsessed by it merely shows that we have not experienced the higher joys of the Spiritual life and therefore need this lower mind and body stimulus. For married couples sex should be a sacred special thing and not merely a source of pleasure.

    Children should be given moral education, rather than sexual. Again by morals I don’t allude to the constricting morals of most religions, but by teaching children spiritual values and responsibility to help them towards forming healthy relationships and therefore living a happier life. Virginity , once prized, is now a source of embarrassment to most-which is a reflection of the times.

    Spiritual values from the standpoint of non dogmatic Theosophy is what is needed. Sex needs to be taught intelligently but subservient to Spiritual and moral values otherwise it is given an erroneous importance in the scale of human evolution. It has its place but a relatively minor one. It is erroneous also to believe that tantric sex can lead one to a Spiritual state of being. HPB often told us that Spirituality can’t be achieved by physical processes. It may lead to other states of consciousness-probably astral-but never to Spiritual.

  3. Sex is partly physiological. Which means that if I don’t deal with it, it will manage to adjust by itself. If one doesn’t get rid of stored sexual energy it will flow by other means (like wet dreams). As a personal experience I can say that celibacy (including not masturbating) can give more stability, more capacity to concentrate. But only until those days in which the sexual urge is so high that either one does something or one explodes. (Am I clear?) For the moment I rely on wet dreams to see if the periods between sexual highs can grow larger. But I’m a male, I don’t think the same is for women. Ok, that’s it. Thank you for such a nice blog, Katinka!

  4. Katinka… the subject of sex, spirituality, and practice of celibacy no doubt is sticky as you state but if we understand the meaning of spirituality and celibacy… all becomes clear!

    The definition of spirituality can be best understood in Hinduism! Spirituality simply means every living form primarily is spiritual… a spiritual being… a cosmic essence that manifests the cosmic system! As detailed in various sacred scriptures of world… our soul atman… the spirit within is absolute master and controller of body and not vice versa!

    As per Bhagavad Gita meaning of spirituality means diving deep into inner self and realizing our true identity… our soul atman… the spirit within! It is only through path of spirituality human beings gained enlightenment (kaivalya jnana) and finally salvation (moksha). The stage of enlightenment can never be reached via path of religion… path of rituals!

    Celibacy is just not what people in west presume it to be. The sexual abstinence amounts to hardly 10% of the job. 90% celibacy is practiced mentally. Observing absolute purity of thought is what celibacy is all about! The day invocation of sensual thoughts stops forever… one practically reaches end of celibacy.

    It is only by practicing absolute celibacy for minimum period of 12 years in continuation human beings finally reached stage of enlightenment (kaivalya jnana)! Not a single lapse is permitted on path of absolute celibacy. We have to negate inflow of negative thoughts to our brain in totality… this does require a minimum period of 12 years!

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