How do contemplatives deal with their sexuality?
As I grow deeper in my prayer and interior life, I find that it also releases bursts of energies which I cannot totally just channel to my work and creative life, so this bothers me, given my Catholic upbringing; it also makes me seriously wonder and question, given my own seeking of authenticity, acceptance and forgiveness, both of self and others.
It’s interesting to note that there are few resources on the Net which directly and thoughtfully answer this question. I find many resources on the use of sex a as an approach to living the contemplative life, but what I’m looking for is what actual contemplatives do with their own sexuality and sexual drives.
Then, I come to this —
Secular” society is by its nature committed to what Pascal calls “diversion”, that is, to movement which has, before all else, the anaesthetic function of quieting our anguish. All society, without exception, tends to be in some respect “secular”. But a genuinely secular society is one which cannot be content with innocent escapes from itself. More and more it tends to need and to demand, with insatiable dependence, satisfaction in pursuits that are unjust, evil, or even criminal. Hence the growth of economically useless businesses that exist for profit and not for real production, that create artificial needs which they fill with cheap and quickly exhausted products. Hence the wars that arise when producers compete for markets and sources of raw material. Hence the nihilism, despair and destructive anarchy that follows war and then the blind rush into totalitarianism as an escape from despair.
In the sacred society, on the other hand, the person admits no dependence on anything lower than himself, or even outside himself in a spatial sense. His only Master is God. Only when God is our Master can we be free, for God is within ourselves as well as above ourselves. He rules us by liberating us from our dependence on created things outside us. We use and dominate them, so that they exist for our sakes, and not we for theirs. There is no purely sacred society except in heaven. (8)
The problem is that it is painful to face this letting go of our illusions. To face this area means facing our own inner doubts, our own fears. our own anguish. And yet- -such is necessary in order to enter into contemplation or even into true life. Merton says:
The truly sacred attitude toward life is in no sense an escape from the sense of nothingness that assails us when we are left alone with ourselves.
On the contrary, it penetrates into that darkness and that nothingness, realizing that the mercy of God has transformed our nothingness into His temple and believing that in our darkness His light has hidden itself. Hence the sacred attitude is one which does not recoil from our own inner emptiness, but rather penetrates it with awe and reverence, and with the awareness of mystery. This is a most important discovery in, the interior life.
Merton applies this to the coming to final integration. Following Dr. Arasteh he speaks of this Breakthrough in the language of Sufism and calls it “Fana”, annihilation or disintegration, a loss of self, a real spiritual death. This leads us into the traditional way of seeing contemplation as a sharing in the Paschal Mystery of Christ: His death and resurrection. The Scriptures constantly remind us of this theme. “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jo 12:24). “to live is Christ; to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). This dying and rising is part and parcel of our very Christian life. But it is particularly an essential part of entering into the life of contemplation. Merton says:
This change of perspective is impossible as long as we are afraid of our own nothingness, as long as we are afraid of fear, afraid of poverty, afraid of boredom – as long as we run away from ourselves. What we need is the gift of God which make us able to find in ourselves not just ourselves but Him: and then our nothingness becomes His all. This is not possible without the liberation effected by compunction and humility. It requires not talent, not mere insight, but sorrow, pouring itself out in love and trust.
It does not directly answer my question per se, but it does provide me with a deeper insight and understanding into what it means to live the contemplative life authentically.
Then, this, too —
The Fathers frequently say: “God became man in order that man might become God”. Christ became man in order to reveal to us our own true nature and to empower us to live as children of God. Contemplation is simply living out this mystery, not only in prayer, but in our whole life. Merton says:
If the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost”, this was not merely in order to reestablish us in a favorable juridical position with regard to God: it, was to elevate, change and transform us humans into God, in order that God might be revealed in Man, and that all people might become One Son of God in Christ. The New Testament texts in which this mystery is stated are unequivocal, and yet they have been to a very great extent ignored not only by the faithful but also by the theologians. The Greek and Latin Fathers never made this mistake! For them, the mystery of the hypostatic union, or the union of the divine and human nature in the One Person of the Word, the God-Man, Jesus Christ, was not only a truth of the greatest, most revolutionary and most existential actuality, but it was the central truth of all being and all history. It was the key which alone could unlock the meaning of everything else, and even the inner and spiritual significance of the human person, of his actions as an individual and in society, of the world, and of the whole cosmos.
As Merton says: “the very first step to a correct understanding of contemplation is to grasp clearly the unity of God and Man in Christ, which of course presupposes the equally crucial unity of man in himself.” (ibid. ) This, however, remains as the fundamental problem. For we are not in unity within ourselves. As a result of the fall of Adam and its effects on all humanity through all time, we find ourselves divided. We are much more aware of that “false self” which is identified with all our efforts at situating ourselves in a hierarchy of power, prestige and greatness (“like unto God” (Gen. 3:5). This “false self” is preoccupied with whatever will make us “look better” in the eyes of others and of ourselves.
Hmmm. Food for thought over the next few days and weeks.
(Any thoughts or helpful links to similar resources would be most appreciated.)