Better Than Sex (excerpt) from ‘The Disappearance of the Universe’ by Gary Renard
I had noticed many things in my life about sex. Three of the most interesting were:
- Although sex was as “natural” as anything in nature could be, people were always trying to make other people feel guilty about having it.
- People kept doing it anyway, even if they did feel guilty.
- Although one wasn’t supposed to point it out in a sexually obsessed society, sex didn’t really make anybody happy.
As a musician, I had known quite a few people who engaged in an unusually large amount of sexual behavior and were still miserable. Sex was a very transitory experience. People assumed that other people who got a lot of sex were happier as a result, but that wasn’t really true. If someone seemed content, it was because they had some kind of internal happiness that was not ultimately dependent on temporary gratification.
One of the things I liked about the Course was the fact that sex wasn’t even an issue. There was no judgment made about behavior. The only question was: Does the student want to have the body or spirit for an identity? If one chose the spirit, that didn’t mean one couldn’t have sex. To insist on celibacy for yourself or anyone else would be a judgment rather than forgiveness, yet it would be perfectly appropriate for someone to choose celibacy if they wanted to. Not having the body as their identity simply meant that at some point students should remember who they and their partners really were. For those in love, sex could be used as a symbol of joining and an expression of their love. The key was an awareness — even if that awareness was temporarily forgotten in the heat of the moment — that their partner was not really a body but Christ. In turn, how they thought of the other person is what established their own identity in their mind. (ACIM: T667)
A powerful advantage of A Course in Miracles is that instead of merely telling you to believe you are not a body, it actually gives you the means to experience something beyond — and better. Most people have no idea of how good they could really feel. A chief goal of the Course is to lead the student to an Identity, and associated experiences, that are not of this world. These non-intellectual experiences, which are paradoxically the result of intellectual processes, are in fact the forerunner to the Holy Spirit’s permanent answer to this world. Most people would hesitate to give up the world, but would they be so hesitant if they were given a clear taste of the alternative? Given an authentic spiritual experience, they would find the material world a cruel joke compared to what’s available.
All experiences, including sex, are mental states — even if the illusion is that they take place in the body. I remember visiting a church in Boston to hear a lecture by two Buddhist monks who grew up near the border of India and Tibet. After the lecture, people in the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions. Most of them were the nice “spiritual” questions people usually ask. Then one woman had the courage to get up and ask the monks how they could go so long — in one case, thirty years — without having sex. The monk who had been celibate the longest, and who spoke English as well as the Dalai Lama, thought for a minute and then surprised the audience with his reply: “When you’re coming all the time, it doesn’t make any difference.”
From the vantage point of my new experiences, I could now see that happy monk’s answer in sync with the Course’s answer to the dilemma of giving up the changing, illusory universe. What the Holy Spirit offered was constant, compared to the precarious and unreliable experience of each seemingly separated mind. The eternal Word of God could not really become temporary flesh, except in unreal dreams, but the flesh could be brought to the truth.
Given my desire to talk about the subject of sex during our next meeting, it was with happy anticipation that I would go into my living room in April of 1999, each time hoping for Arten and Pursah’s next expected appearance. Then, late in the evening of what New Englanders call Patriots Day, I received the visit I was waiting for.
ARTEN: Hey Gary. PURSAH: Hey Gary. GARY: Hey guys. I’m psyched! Thanks for coming. It seems like so long since I’ve seen you. PURSAH: We’re always here; you just don’t always see us. Speaking of a long time, after this visit our last three appearances will all be in December — the next three Holiday seasons — ’99, 2000, and 2001. You already know enough to forgive, and we know you’ll continue with your chosen path. At this point we’re just coming to support you and add a few observations for your benefit. Since sex is part of what you call life, and since we already know you want to talk about it, where would you like to begin? GARY: Good old Pursah; always right to the point. You already talked about how the Course teaches that temptation wants to convince me I’m a body, so I guess the question is: How do I live the normal life you said I could live, practice the Course, and still not feel bad about that body identification part of my dream life? ARTEN: By remembering what it is and forgiving it at an appropriate time. A dream is nothing, and sex is nothing. But I wouldn’t recommend that you turn to your partner after making love and say, “That was nothing.” GARY: I knew I was doing something wrong. ARTEN: However, you can realize what the truth is whenever you want to. For example, the Course says very early on,
…Fantasies are a means of making false associations and attempting to obtain pleasure from them. But although you can perceive false associations, you can never make them real except to yourself. You believe in what you make. If you offer miracles, you will be equally strong in your belief in them. (ACIM: T15)
GARY: So it’s all a fantasy, and the sexual part of it is an attempt to derive pleasure from a false association. I take it part of that would be the fact that we’ve made a false idol out of the sexual feeling — like a substitute for God. PURSAH: Yes. Listen to this quote from the section of the Text called “The Anti-Christ.” J is talking here about different kinds of idols, and sex would certainly be considered one of them.
Let not their form deceive you. Idols are but substitutes for your reality. In some way, you believe they will complete your little self, for safety in a world perceived as dangerous, with forces massed against your confidence and peace of mind. They have the power to supply your lacks, and add the value that you do not have. No one believes in idols who has not enslaved himself to littleness and loss. And thus must seek beyond his little self for strength to raise his head, and stand apart from all the misery the world reflects. This is the penalty for looking not within for certainty and quiet calm that liberates you from the world, and lets you stand apart, in quiet and in peace. (ACIM: T619)
GARY: Now you’re really getting me in the mood. PURSAH: Fear not, dear brother. As J tells you,
This course does not attempt to take from you the little that you have. (ACIM: W245)
It merely puts you in a position where you can claim your natural inheritance, which is far greater than any bodily feeling you can conjure up. GARY: You know, before the Course I wouldn’t have thought so — but the Holy Spirit is actually offering me something better than sex. In fact, it’s not even close. PURSAH: That’s correct. At the same time, He doesn’t seek to deprive you of what you temporarily perceive to be your desires. Speaking of your desires, Karen isn’t here tonight? GARY: Nope. She went to New Hampshire to do some shopping with her mother. She’s spending the night there with her. PURSAH: A likely story. GARY: Funny. You know I was telling her a few weeks ago about when I was a teenager and I went to a dance at a Catholic church hall. I was dancing a slow dance, really close to this girl. All of a sudden, a nun came running over and stuck a ruler between us and said, “Now kids, let’s leave enough room in there for the Holy Spirit.” I always got a kick out of that. ARTEN: Yes, most religions have always sought to repress sexual expression — until it’s time to get married and make more bodies for the church, of course. Telling people to repress their unconscious, pre-programmed desires is like telling a bird not to fly. Do you remember that self-righteous minister at the Baptist church when you were in high school, who used to speak out against the evils of sex — all the while he was going after half the women in the congregation? GARY: Oh, yeah! We called him “Old bless ’em and undress ’em.” ARTEN: So when you’re in high school and you’re helplessly horny, how likely are you to listen to a hypocrite like him? GARY: Not very. ARTEN: No, which leads us to a subject that isn’t funny, but which we should cover briefly. For the first 750 and some odd years of the church’s official existence, from 325 to around 1088, there was no such thing as a requirement for priests’ celibacy. Then Pope Gregory, who had no sense of humor, insisted on all priests being celibate — even the ones who at that time were married! Of course that begs the question, what could Gregory’s decision possibly have had to do with J? GARY: Ah, nothing? ARTEN: Precisely. So for the last 900-plus years, priests have had to be celibate. In some cases that’s fine, but in other cases it has led to instances of sexual abuse that would not otherwise have occurred if only the priest had a legitimate outlet for his sexual desires. The illusory universe is a place of tension and release. That’s duality. You see it all through what you call nature. You even find it in music. It is not natural to make someone give up certain kinds of behavior until they themselves are completely ready to, nor in the case of most priests is it necessary anyway. And yes, there are child abusers who shouldn’t be priests no matter what the rules are. Now with the Course the tension is released by forgiveness, but until someone is very proficient at it they shouldn’t be expected to give up most earthly desires. That’s something that comes naturally with the maturity of a mind that is advanced in the ways of true forgiveness. Even J was not always celibate, and though he didn’t need sex the last few years of his life, he was married for the final fifteen years. GARY: Excuse me? ARTEN: Today, you find that idea to be unusual. Yet if you were there two thousand years ago, what would have been very unusual was a Jewish man of J’s age to not be married. It wasn’t until over a thousand years later that the Pope decided you had to be celibate to be a priest. Only because of your warped view of history, along with centuries of projection of unconscious sin and guilt onto sex, do you now see the idea of J being celibate as a necessity. GARY: Hey, I don’t give a rat’s ass! Somebody else might. ARTEN: Then let them know the way it really was. The whole idea about sex being a bad thing never came from God and it never came from J. If you think there’s something wrong with sex then you may as well think there’s something wrong with eating food. They are both normal activities for a body, and any idea to the contrary is completely made up by people, not spiritually inspired. Yet it’s perfectly appropriate for someone to give up sex if they themselves feel inspired to do so as an expression of what they really are….