Our sexual energy is our spiritual energy. It is part of the soul’s ‘Serpent Power’ that encompasses the totality of Creation, the sacred force that can be used at one level for the creation of a human being, at another level for creativity in the arts and sciences, in business, and in human relations, and at the highest level for the re-creation – the rebirth – of a human soul.
‘The Serpent’ has been given many meanings in the world’s mythology. It has been the symbol of wisdom and the symbol of evil, the symbol of God and the symbol of sin. In its ability to shed its skin and be ‘reborn’, it has been a symbol of resurrection and, hence, a symbol of Christ. Corresponding to this association with birth and rebirth, it has been the symbol of sexuality and the symbol of healing. It has referred to the world of the senses and the world of the spirit. It rises to the heavens as a phallic symbol, an emblem of power, potency and enlightenment. It encircles reality and swallows itself, indicating wholeness and completeness and Oneness. It dives into the earth, eating dust and signifying death. In all of this, as it extends its infinite presence from the ‘Above’ to the ‘Below’, from the highest to the lowest, from God to the Devil, it represents the totality of the Spirit of the Creation, hovering everywhere, encompassing everything, crossing all thresholds and communicating with every Level.
In Greek Mythology, Charon (the Boatman who takes the souls of the dead across the River Styx) represents the nethermost aspect of this Spiritual/Emotional/Sexual energy that permeates the Creation, the force which acts in the Creation through the Logos (Holy Spirit), Eros (Love), and Thanatos (Death) – the threefold ‘Messenger’ of God who enacts His Will. He hovers here over the lower waters of the River Styx (as Charon), just as he hovers “upon the face of the waters” (as the Logos, the Holy Spirit) at the highest level of Creation.
In the Hebrew Bible, at a time when the Israelites (like us) are still grumbling in the wilderness, God sends seraph, which means fiery serpents, against the people. “They bit the people and many of the Israelites died.” These serpents, of course, represent the Serpent Power, the Will of God – but at the lowest level on the scale of Creation, the same level in which the serpent of Eden “bites our heel”. This is precisely how most of us die: bitten by the serpent, poisoned and mesmerized by the realm of illusion, and aimlessly descending into the nothingness of meaningless death.
But others of the people came in desperation to Moses and asked him to intercede with the Lord. God then told Moses he must build a great Serpent of Copper and mount it on a high pole: “And if anyone who is bitten looks at it, he shall recover.”
This supernatural decree is startling in a document that, in general, looks down on ‘magic’. But we must remember that the great sexual symbol, the serpent, represents the all-encompassing Will of God that crosses all Thresholds and traverses all levels. In its lowest aspect, this is Thanatos, Death, the seraph, the serpent of Eden that brings death to the soul. But in its highest aspect it is simultaneously the Logos, the Spirit of God that “hovers above the waters”. So God is telling Moses that if the Soul will open its inner Eye and look up at the serpent rather than down, if it will turn its attention to the ‘Above’ and put its full faith in God, then it will be healed of the lower serpent’s bite and it will be able to cross the Threshold (with the serpent’s help) and enter the realm of Spirit, the realm of Pure Being, the “Promised Land”.
In a related story in the New Testament, when Jesus is teaching Nicodemus (who wants to understand the teachings of Christ based only on what he sees with his physical eyes and grasps with his literal mind) that we must not take everything literally but must learn to ‘see’ with an awakened inner eye, he says: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”
Again, sexuality is an aspect of the soul’s (and the cosmos’) spiritual power. Sex is not ‘evil’ or lowly. According to the Kabbalah, a married Jewish couple, on the Sabbath, is required to engage in and appreciate sexual relations. (This also, of course, reflects the union of Heaven and Earth, and the Kabbalah says that if this is done, and the Sabbath is properly observed, a higher level in our soul awakens for as long as the Sabbath continues.)
The reason the Bible says sexual activity makes one “unclean” (which is not a sin – it simply means that one is temporarily not in an appropriate state for entering God’s Presence) is that it expends a good deal of life force, and before we face God we had better recoup that energy so that we can withstand the power. (This is why menstruation, touching corpses, etc., also leave one “unclean”. Remember, this is not a bad or pejorative term.)
In the Qur’an we learn that Omar’s brother-in-law, Uthman ibn Mazu, was the most ascetic of the Muslims. He was so determined to conquer his earthly desires, that he had once asked the Prophet for permission to make himself a eunuch. Muhammad forbade him from doing any such thing. He reminded him that the body has rights, just as the family has rights. Muhammad himself had sexual relations with women; he fasted, but he also broke the fast and ate; he prayed at night, but he also slept. God had given us life and senses and emotions so that we would be thankful, not so that we would despise these things. He used to say, ‘Do for this world as if to live forever, and for the next as if to die upon the morrow.’