This post has a related follow-up
The question of how one integrates sex and A Course in Miracles in their living matters. We have the form of sexual beings for whom sex is generative, both in terms of reproduction and happiness. But sex invokes the body on very specific terms which can present a conflict for folks who believe the course obligates them to deny or otherwise restrict their bodily existence.
Thus, much like the question of food and A Course in Miracles, sex brings to the fore our relationship with the body – both our own and the bodies of others. It asks us to clarify what the body is for but also, what is A Course in Miracles – and, by extension, spirituality generally – for?
Three principles underlie my thinking in this area.
1. It is natural to express our sexuality;
2. It is natural to experiment with the expression of our sexuality, especially as it relates to our spirituality; and
3. It is natural to change our mind.
These principles – especially the third – effectively guide this analysis. They function as suggestions that can modulate our thinking about sexuality (and the body more generally), allowing us to remember the peace and unity that together are the love that is our fundament.
That is, they remind us that sex is a natural expression of the body, and the body is a neutral expression of our self and can be a means by which to remember love, which is our inheritance, and not contingent on bodies.
Or, simpler yet, we are learners and our curriculum sometimes includes sex.
A Course in Miracles is largely silent about the role specific behavior plays in our practice. It does not mandate vegetarianism or celibacy. It does not tell us we can’t be police officers or work in the military or otherwise carry weapons. It does not obligate us to resist capitalism. You don’t have to wash your feet before doing the daily lesson. There are no uniforms or secret handshakes or passwords.
We aren’t obligated to resist or amend or restrain or modify our sexual appetites.
This is an important and often overlooked aspect of A Course in Miracles. The healing methods it teaches and the inner peace it contemplates do not happen at the level of the body. Their effects may appear at the level of the body but their enaction is at the level of mind. At that level, there is no division or separation, the realization of which is our liberation from suffering.
In this way, the course aims at what we might call clear seeing or thinking, which it characterizes as forgiveness. “Forgiveness is the healing of the perception of separation” (T-3.V.9:1). We come to peace around sex not because we are doing something particular with respect to sexuality, but because we understanding more clearly the relationship between being and sexuality. It is – like all other appetites the body has and which the world appears to either serve or not serve – a means by which to learn we are not separate from God (or love or nature).
This is another way of saying that when sexual relationships are seen as means by which to bring forth love, rather than a means by which to derive only physical pleasure or ego security, and when it is seen that in this way sex is not different from any other aspect of our living, then our ability to be loving – both in terms of accepting love and extending it – expands exponentially.
This expansion is our function as students of A Course in Miracles. Thus, sex fits neatly into the curriculum. But also, the curriculum does not suffer if sex is not included in it. Since the course meets the student where the student is, the student determines the scope and range of the curriculum (often without fully recognizing they are doing so). Thus we invoke Krishnamurti: be a vegetarian or don’t be a vegetarian, but get on with it.
Our goal is to be clear with ourselves about what we are and how sex relates to what we are. This means being honest about our desires, fears, guilt, lust, shame, boredom and overall confusion about our experience of embodiment and how that experience involves our brothers and sisters in various ways and to various degrees.
Honesty – especially when paired with patience and a willingness to be guided, rather than insisting on personal prerogative – allows that sexual expression will assume the form for us in which we are best able to bring forth love in our living and learning.
Indeed, the form will not be distinct from the love that is brought forth through it.
Our bodies are neutral (W-pII.294). They bring forth a world particular to their structure, and that world reinforces their structure. We have the form of human beings – mammalian bipeds for whom sexual union is both the means by which the species propagates, and a means by which we elicit joy, unity, ecstasy, and relief from stress. It is a means of communication, a sharing that can be deep or shallow. This is not a problem! This is not a fact that we have to do anything with. We simply have to give attention to it and learn what is there in it to learn.
But what does it mean to “give attention?” What does it mean in this context to “learn?”
In general, the gift of attention is a prayerful attention to what is happening, without trying to exclude anything or judge anything. Thus, we can ask: how does sex appear to us? Does it make us forget our calling to be patient and gentle and sensitive to others? Does it embarrass us? Shame us? Delight us? Who do we want? Who do we believe we should want? Who are we scared to want? How does this change? Who helps us understand it better?
By prayerful I mean inquiring into these questions in the presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, according to the meaning and value those terms have for you. Enter the quiet stillness of communion with God and raise to the light of inquiry the full welter of your sexuality. What do you see? What do you learn? Where do you see love, which is to say, where do you think the way God would think? And where do you see ego, which is to say, where do you think in ways contrary to God’s thoughts?
Note that in this context, “see” is synonymous with “intuit.” It is a felt process.
Of course, the answer to these questions is necessarily deeply personal. What works for me will not work for you, and vice-versa. This apparent differentiation is not a cause for alarm. It’s not a sign of spiritual compromise. We aren’t trying to achieve uniformity of sexual expression but rather of healing, and healing is not at the level of the body but of the mind. So long as bodies appear, differences will also appear and they will bring forth miracles – shifts in thought away from fear and towards love – accordingly.
The miracle excludes nothing – not even sex.
In my own living and thinking, generally speaking, it seems that sexual expression requires consensuality. That is, the parties with whom it is enacted should agree to be present to the enaction, agree with the form the enaction takes, and have an unqualified right to amend their choices with respect to the enaction.
Consent matters because it recognizes the freedom that inheres in our living: equality is our shared fundament. Therefore, we cannot take anything from another that is not freely given, and we cannot force the other into postures of giving they do not also choose.
Like most of the body’s appetites, sexuality does not happen in a vacuum. It evokes other bodies – both the one or ones with whom we are having a sexual relationship and others who are not present. The effects of sex, like the effects of living generally, are not merely local; they reach well beyond the site and moment of their enaction. Friends and family, past and future lovers, colleagues and pets, bodies of water and starlight are all touched, however subtly, by our sexuality and its varied expressions.
It is not unlike food. The decision to eat and shop locally has ramifications that radiate well beyond our kitchen and dining room. Being aware of these rippling effects is fundamental to the expression of love. It is no different with sex. When we assume forms of sexuality that are most suited to bringing forth love, all life goes with us. Hence the importance of going slowly, patiently, cooperatively, kindly . . .
This means that we are called to be aware of the inclination to insist on forms that secretly most appeal to us but perhaps do not fully encompass the broader community to which we are inevitably and naturally conjoined. I can choose to eat food that relies on chemicals which kill bees, but that does not make my choice loving. I can choose sexual relationships that jeopardize my marriage and family, but that does not make my choice a loving choice.
Naturally, the specific application of these principles varies for all of us, according to our learning. Over the course of our sexual lives, as our learning both deepens and simplifies, the application may shift, often in dramatic ways. New relationships appear, others fade. New desires arise, or old desires return. This is okay. It is more than okay. It is altogether consonant with our experience as learners, and as students of A Course in Miracles. It is all grist for the mill of attention, the working of which begets love.
Thus, in an important sense, ACIM may not affect our sexuality and its expressions at all. Making love might not change in the least when we become course students. Or it might change a little. And, yes, it might change a lot.
But as course students, we understand those changes as arising not because of sex but rather because our mind is healing with respect to our understanding of our unity with God and this has observable effects in form. The less meaning the separation has for us, the more our sexual relationships will soften and open and become natural conduits for an all-inclusive love, without our effort or intention.
The only rule A Course in Miracles observes for behavior is the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (T-1.III.6:4). I am better off when you are better off, so making my living about your wellness naturally redounds to my own benefit.
In this sense, our sexuality and the way in which we enact in our worlds, is not really the point. We could as easily go for a walk or share a cup of tea or simply think happily about one another in the quiet before dawn. The form that love assumes is necessarily variable, be it sexual or otherwise, but love itself is not.
Giving attention inevitably shifts from form to content until eventually we realize that content is all there is, and all the content is love.
Thus, the guilt that often inheres in traditional Christianity around sex and sexuality, need not be manifest in our study and practice of A Course in Miracles. Love and do what you will, in quiet consultation with the Teacher of your choosing. Making love is neither more nor less important than anything else that we do. The work is to do it attentively, ever remembering that we are not separate from God or nature, and that love is forever our fundament.