By Deane Juhan
Let me begin by remarking that there is no such thing. One can hardly expect to stir the second chakra, second only to the life force itself, without significant consequence.
Sex is as old as the onanism of the amoeba, and as new as every virgin trembling with intense and unformed desire. It is at the root of things, the ancient compulsion that quickly ignited from the primal will for survival itself. For every living thing sex is the ritual that both ensures the future and promises the most complete gratification to be had in the helter-skelter involved in preserving life--this life, my life, now. Even celibates ritualize the recurring tension that twitches between yearning and relief, as does the most indiscriminate roue. We all ritualize it in one way or another, precisely because the twitch will never come to permanent rest, and because it repeatedly cries to us to give expression--even if that expression is denial--to its convulsive fits and starts. And perhaps the deepest spiritual endeavor, the ultimate resolution of duality and the neutralizing of all desire, is the most elaborate ritual of all.
For each of us the inner intricacies of sexual desire and consummation are among our most private and guarded domains; and yet there is no means of accessing them for ourselves unless they are in some way exposed and shared. The brutal rapist bears every bit as much of his soul as does the most gifted tantric partner, and each trembles, whether with rage or shame or expectant joy, before the same two witnesses. In the act that inherently requires another, we all stand revealed, our riches or impoverishment open to view, our confession aways falling upon whatever ears we have chosen to utter and enact it. In every coupling we drag our nugget or our coin across this or that touchstone, and must submit to a judgement as to its worth. And because the stone and the assayer’s scales cannot lie, we protest, deny, bargain or exaggerate in futility.
Our second deepest fear, squatting just this side of death itself, is that of aloneness. Not just loneliness; this ache can after all have its own romantic and stimulating qualities to be suckled and savored. But a deeper shudder “that is the despair of every life, not the loneliness of in the lack of someone to share with, not the vulnerability when sharing is not enough, not even the fact that a shared life concludes in a solitary transition, but the deep aloneness that even sharing does not penetrate. The feeling of utter aloneness is an intimation of the true condition--the boundless solitude--of life.” [Jason Brown, The Self-Embodying Mind]
It is this aloneness, this all-but-impossible-to-contemplate premonition of the full catastrophe of solipsism, that we grapple with in our loins, that we symbolize in the interpenetrative swirling of yin and yang, that we slide back and forth with in negotiations between lingam and yoni, that we ribaldly try to embrace our way out of in the tumblings of the beast with two backs.
It is simply not possible in any genuine way to take these libidinous wrestlings of the soul lightly. The very attempt to trivialize them merely tricks out in tinsel and confection the depth charges that we know are beneath them; and we conspire with ourselves to be tittilated by the tinsel and the candy for the very reason that in our wildest imaginations (so helpfully lulled by the tamed conventions of “sex appeal”) we hope to somehow stumble, somewhere between the alluring pageantry and the anonymous dark, upon the rending explosion of real passion that the seductive advertisements promise.
It is this ache for a tangible union, a penetration into and an outflowing from our self’s aloneness that is at the heart of all our seductions and surrender. And it is the terror of exposing the vulnerability that is embodied by that very ache that so elaborately structures the dramas of our attempts to jump the gap that surrounds us, the walls and moat that both protect and isolate our inner castle keep of intact survival. But--and here is the exasperating rub--that guarded treasure of our life can have no expansive value until we find a means of liberating it and so expose it as an open currency for the exchanges without which our private survival is a dead end.
Sexual aggression--in all its gross and subtle forms--is merely a stark admission of that terror. As is rigid chastity. The spectral impoverishment of nothing truly ventured and nothing truly gained haunts them both. And every enduring couple discovers in their own way that the promise of gratification abruptly ends precisely where the fear of self-exposure draws its defensive boundary. The circumstances that allow for union and communion instantly bridle and disperse in the face of hedging or omission. Dishonesty is simply impotence. The paranoias of courtship--with all their fantastically baroque justifications--serve only to defeat the very thing they would seek to protect: the attempt to emerge from aloneness and the fragility of its ache. Nothing short of dissolving our deceptions can turn into solution the disparate elements each of us spoons into the common pot.
And so, no matter how safe or playful or casual (or abstinent) we may contrive to make sex in order to make it risk-free, we must in the end come to speak of the dangers of love. Love is the glowing nimbus with which we surround our most precious self and that of another (or others--family, tribe, country, humanity), the cocooning contract of attraction and commitment that is indispensable for sustaining the process of learning to tolerate our own naked needs and those of the other, and to negotiate the mutual means of meeting them. Shells must be broken, scabs must be peeled, crevasses must be traversed, trials and errors must be made, forgiveness must be tendered, ice must be melted, wounds must be washed, conflicts resolved, ground must be broken and young golden shoots must be coaxed toward a more robust green.
The initial allure of mistiness and wonder of love obscures for us these travails in order for us to step toward them. We are first presented with the joyful discovery of “another me!” so that we may be able to endure the further discovery that it is exactly everything that is “not me” which must be understood and accepted if “I” am not to be irrevocably alone. First-love is the dawn’s haze that enchantingly cloaks the forest that we would never dare enter if we were to see its vastness and the extent of its perils at the outset. Between the desire and the thing the world lies waiting.
There is no substitute for this necessary illusion, which is why we speak of “falling” in love, that fateful step beyond the boundary of our own private domain into the thin air of the unknown, that leap into life’s abyss whose bottom we can never divine beforehand. It requires something evidently casual, something unlooked-for about it in order for it to become causal of everything we must learn about our lives. The first joy is the not-knowing but only feeling. The second is that of telling another everything we want them to know about us. The later, more dubious but more enduring joy is that of allowing love to lure out of us everything about ourselves that we could not admit, letting it be seen and accepted. And finally, if love has lasted and courage has not failed, and if the trust in one another’s motives is at last secure, we can be shown everything about ourselves that we have desperately not wanted to know. Then we may, in moments together, own the fullness of things--within our castle keep, behind the walls and the moat, and outward into the world we equally meet and create.