‘[D]id we really believe we had discovered
everything there is about the erotic universe?
[T]he fleshy basis of all spiritual yearning
that only an ever-deeper passion might awaken?’
As a non-yogic myself, I have to confess my initial – and inherently reflexive – skepticism that the many thrills of sex existed on more than just physical and emotional dimensions. Even in its kinkiest, most impassioned, and romantic forms, haven’t we all been taught the magic of how sex kindles our senses with euphoric ignition and melts our worries with quivering ease? Portrayed intercourse as the impressive pinnacle of puberty? Orgasm as the Holy Grail of the hook-up generation? Subtle or shoved in your face, the saucy secrets of sex thrive in our modernized culture. Sex serves both as a force of selling – that which propels us to buy – and as a force of consumption – that which urges us to emulate – because being ‘sexy’ has remarkable appeal. With such a great track record, could we ask any more, in the lyrics of Neutral Milk Hotel, of when we “lay and learn what each other’s bodies [are] for?”
In his latest book, Advanced Spiritual Intimacy, Dr. Stuart Sovatsky drives a compelling argument: We have failed to appreciate and embrace the more tantric and rejuvenating aspects of our sexual endeavors, contrary to the belief that our society is a liberal one. Drawing from a range voices including Michel Foucault, author of The History of Sexuality, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sovatsy constructs a satisfying case about sex’s current state of affairs and the enlightenment of embracing more Eastern-based practices of our lifelong puberty and ever-maturing eroticism.
The essence of Sovatsky’s book centers on the Foucaultian ideas of the ars erotica and the scientia sexualis. The former derives truth from pleasure, the experience of which is measured purely in terms of pleasure itself – its intensity, its duration, its “reverberations in the body and the soul.” The ars erotica is like a mastery of the body, such that sex and its experiential pleasures are revered for the flourishing pleasure in and of itself. The latter reveres truth before pleasure, tying sex to moralistic eroticism, the function and grading of an orgasm, differentiations and separations of sex, gender, orientation, and so on. The scientia sexualis is like the scientific compartmentalization, analysis and fragmentation of the erotic into often impermeable boxes of labels and ‘the known’.
If the ars erotica and scientia sexualis exist as polar opposites on a spectrum, then Sovatsky’s Advanced Spiritual Intimacy serves as both an understanding of where society sits on this spectrum and a guide for the direction in which it needs to shift. Right now, the situation sounds as though more westernized societies are placed and pushed further along the scientia end of the spectrum. Sex is fastened to niche compatibilities of intercourse and identity, rippling as an undercurrent through arguments of wealth and power struggles, and damaging issues which span across communication, addiction, depression, and abuse. Sex is seen as reckless in youth, taboo amongst adults, and non-existent for the older generation. Perhaps, however, in a world of constantly overwhelming stimuli barraging and manipulating our senses, it might be helpful to take an analytical approach which boxes in and blocks out our ever-expanding surroundings. To help us cope with and comprehend our daily bombardment of information, it makes sense to code our multiple sexual preferences, categorize our optimal style of learning, or refine a rainbow of infinite colors down to seven.
Has modernity pushed us too far towards the scientia, blinding us from the vibrant mastery of tantric pleasures in narrow reverence of scientific truth? Indeed, once adorned with a label like ‘mentally ill,’ ‘too young,’ ‘too old,’ or ‘LGBTQIA,’ particularly when not self-identified but imposed, we are seldom given room to shake or shift between the categorical boxes an ‘authority’ or the majority has placed us in. Has reductionism blinded us in our search for the truth through the scientific?
Although a radical and potentially deviant question, Advanced Spiritual Intimacy responds by advocating for a balance, starting with a shift toward the ars erotica. By embracing pleasure for pleasure itself, Sovatsky narrates some of the deepest surges of passionate stimulation which stir along our spines and cascade to our fingertips. For the non-yogic reader, this may require a shift beyond conventional, ‘lateral thinking,’ toward an all-encompassing, embracing, harmonizing, and reverent perspective on the erotic. Thinking back to my own adolescent activity and abstinence – and here I invite you to consider your own – it seems unlikely that our cohorts of young adults had decoded their unique sexual tastes by their graduation from adolescence. It is as if we are expected to have ‘figured it out’ by the time we step away from school and into society.
“Looking at our modern state of advertising, entertainment, and social media, it seems that we have now placed the entirety of human psychosexual maturation and lovemaking practices on the foundation of the puberty of the teen years.”
Instead of developing along societal expectations of linear and restrictive sexuality, Dr. Sovatsky proposes that we exist along a lifelong, developmental path of maturation (urdhvaretas) of erotic-romantic love. Our puberty is ongoing in our discovery of pleasure, a complete blossoming (urdhva) of our inner seed potentials (retas), flourishing in worship of the erotic cosmos within and outside of ourselves.
Although the title suggests an advanced, well-versed understanding of yoga and its accompanying spiritual psychology, Advanced Spiritual Intimacy is accessible to even the most analytic or least tantric person you could imagine. Sovatsky’s account is both personable and relatable, exploring his personal journey from the cusp of puberty’s unknowns, witnessing the failings of the scientia through his profession as a relationship counselor, right along his ever-growing maturation toward the impassioned yogic. Alongside Sovatsky’s narration are his own illustrious kavi – poetry of the yogic tradition – to lyrically captivate our deeper tantric pleasures and the erotic rhythms of blossoming lovers.
An expansive work which illustrates not just the theoretical but the practical and reviving qualities of yogic healing and exercise, Advanced Spiritual Intimacy is abundant with vivid instructions for comforting breathing techniques and awakening chakra meditations. The perpetuating climax of Sovatsky’s perspective-expanding dialogue elucidates a worshipping and shared outlook on gender, explores our harrowing emotional scars which resist spiritual intimacy, encourages the healing embrace of divine tantra, and enriches the erotic potential residing in our most intimate relationships. Indeed, our deepest and most complete passions may not reside in or between the physical or emotional dimensions of our love-making but balanced with the spiritual – the third dimension of our romantic yearning. In order to give impassioned loving a chance, Sovatsky shows how the spiritual dimensions of our essence should not be blocked but bolstered toward the ars erotica before being consumed by the scientia sexualis.
“The inequities between the genders, currently discussed as the history of patriarchal dominance and sexism, cannot be reversed merely through scholarly research, as some might hope, nor through political initiatives, as many demand. Spiritual problems, even if they also foster material inequities, require spiritual solutions.”
Advanced Spiritual Intimacy invites you to indulge, celebrate, transform and release your sexual energy along an erotically spiritual path, your urdhvaretas, toward romantic and deeply intimate fulfillment. Sex and the erotic are not static, not confined to one generation above others, but timeless, without age, and embraced for pleasure itself.