So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

14 August, 2007

Sex and God

    Your hope in my heart is the rarest treasure
    Your Name on my tongue is the sweetest word
    My choicest hours
    Are the hours I spend with You --

    O God, I can't live in this world
    Without remembering You--
    How can I endure the next world
    Without seeing Your face?

    I am a stranger in Your country
    And lonely among Your worshippers:
    This is the substance of my complaint.

-- Rabi'a al-'Adawiyya, trans. Charles Upton

Sure, there's loving God. And then there's, y'know, loving God, wink wink, nudge nudge, saynomore, saynomore.

Which falls in a weird sideways place somewhere rubbing up against madness. There are all kinds of frameworks for divine ecstasy, but along with ecstasy being sort of marginalised and out of fashion, expressing it in that whole sexual/romantic/kinked vague direction is a good way to get weird looks. At best.

This kind of direct sexuality does not seem to mix well with a lot of people's image of religion. (And I think about Tantric practice, which seems to me in the West to have first been limited to its sexual aspects and then separated from the whole embodying-the-Divine bits.) When people refer to a nun as a "Bride of Christ", they're probably not thinking in terms of Jesus's cosmic polygynous harem (except if they're easily amused warped literalists like me). (But somehow I bet there are a few nuns out there somewhere who have some level of mystical consummation of their marriages.)

WordK wrote "Since YHWH's interaction with humans is often of an erotic character (and I dare anyone who has read the prophets or Song of Songs to try and tell me it isn't)..." Hmmm:

    Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth--for thy love is better than wine.

    Thine ointments have a goodly fragrance; thy name is as ointment poured forth; therefore do the maidens love thee.

    Draw me, we will run after thee; the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will find thy love more fragrant than wine! sincerely do they love thee.

-- Song of Songs, Chapter 1

Well, I'm not going there.

There's this whole section of the clawing towards the experience of oneness with the divine that just doesn't get talked about, doesn't get seen. And that doesn't make it go away -- there are still the quiet voices of the people whose dreams are filled with their gods, who aspire to some sort of partnership with something in the Unseen world. As well as the noisier voices of the ones who are less circumspect.

And it scares some people. I know of people who simply cannot deal with the concept of a god as a lover -- perhaps because it's hubristic, perhaps because the material and mortal is thought of as something immiscible with the transcendent and divine, perhaps because 'god as parent' is so strong in that mind that 'god as lover' becomes abuse, creepiness, some sort of warped perversion of family. (I've seen all of these.) And this doesn't stop there being stories of the heroes who came from crossbreedings between lines (though their mortal parents often had a really bad time of it), or mortals raised to godhood, or that so-political office in ancient Egypt, God's Wife, intended to keep the daughters of a rival line chaste and without mortal offspring -- but did the God appreciate His Wife? In a culture with seductions between the god and the mother of the king painted on its walls?

And it's the edge of madness, this concept of reaching for the divine in this way, and it's hard to talk about without being mad. Impossible to respond to a sneering, "Why would anyone worship such a god?" when the answer has at least two tendrils rooted in this emotion. And there's the whole question of whether the madness is the madness of ecstasy, or just being in need of a straitjacket.

And none of that means that I'm not hoping to find a ritual scourge at the Fetish Flea. Not because my liege asked it of me; because Neb.y asked it of me.

    I want to fuck you like an animal
    My whole existence is flawed
    You get me closer to god

- "Closer", Nine Inch Nails


Unknown said...

But somehow I bet there are a few nuns out there somewhere who have some level of mystical consummation of their marriages.)

There is, in fact, a whole set of late medieval and Renaisance stories about this one.

(I had to read one for the Renaissance history class that eventually got the tag of "Don't you people ever want to learn about ordinary white adult males?" because we kept being interested in all the sub-community groups.)

If you're really interested in references, nudge me in email, and I will see what I can dig up.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Have you ever seen Bernini's St Teresa in Ecstasy?

She was pierced by the sword of an angel in a vision she called THE TRANSVERBERATION. She said it felt exquisite and painful and beautiful all at once.

Daisy Deadhead said...

Check it out!

Notable: the look on her face and her submissive physical position, the angel's obvious expression of pleasure, the angel's androgyny, etc.

It's really something.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

*has a look through Google*
What a fascinatingly powerful statue and story to go with it.

Thank you for directing me towards her.

WordK said...

Ah, I have been reading through a feed and missed the new, pretty layout!

Amongst my throughly random and potentially unobtainable goals in life, preaching a sermon based in Depeche Mode's Songs of Faith and Devotion as an example of a relationship with God. The more I muck about in religion, the more I'm coming to realize that God as Lover is currently the metaphor/model that works best for me (perhaps, I should take this as further reason to become a nun of some strange sort).

On a funnier note, regarding the Brides of Christ -- in St. Jerome wrote to a young nun that if she was pious enough, when she goes into her chamber at night, Christ will come to her, and "touch" her.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I am slowly working on tweaking the layout into something that I find satisfying. Also blue. Though the original one was blue too. All about the blue things here.

Piety, eh? Is that what they're calling it nowadays?

I have to say I wasn't expecting this many people who had a positive response to god-as-lover as a concept; most people I've met in the past seem to run screaming instead ...

Dw3t-Hthr said...

So someone over on LJ posted a link to their Free Will Astrology horoscope for the week, and I said 'What the hell and looked at mine.'

It was:

"Are you unsure about whether you should leap into a lasting bond with a certain numinous creature you've been fooling around with? If so, you might be interested in obtaining a Sacred Certificate of Short Duration Marriage. It's available at This convenient license can provide you with the security of knowing that your commitment doesn't have to be forever. Maybe that will free you to hurl yourself headlong into the experience. It's just a suggestion, Aquarius. Do you have any other areas in your life where you'd like to achieve maximum combustion while maintaining a sense of safety and security?"

Somehow that seems ...

Well, I'm still laughing.