Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Sexual Morality

I saw an article the other day by a well-known Christian philosopher in which he said that such things as pre-marital sex, adultery, the practice of homosexuality and abortion, in other words all those things given the green light by the sexual revolution of the 1960s, were wrong because God said so through Holy Scripture or the church. I disagree. It may well be the case that these things are wrong but it just isn't enough to put it like that nowadays. We are no longer children. Now we must ask that if God says so, why does he say so? If he said the opposite (obviously impossible in reality but theoretically possible), would we just change our ways on that basis? I don’t believe that God wants us to obey him as though he were a tyrant and we his subjects, not the Christian God anyway though some other versions of the divine personage might fall into that category. Above all, he wants us to join him in understanding why right is right and wrong is wrong. And it’s not just because he has ordained it so. Or rather it is, but there is a reason.

It isn't good enough any longer to give a rule without giving the reason for that rule, and if we are told to give up a seeming good we are entitled to ask if this is because of a greater good. In this instance that is precisely the reason. Our Creator is not a spoilsport or puritanical misery. He wants nothing but our good and our happiness, but he knows that our real good lies in spiritual things and this means that we must learn to identify our true nature with the soul, our spiritual being, not personal desires of mind and body. These are not illegitimate because, of course, the mind and body are part of what we are. However they need to be seen in their correct place and very often, in our marred post-lapsarian world, their expression, you might say, their unnatural expression, conflicts with the requirements of the soul and prevents a proper understanding of it.  This is quite apart from any societal breakdown an unrestricted sexual morality might bring in its wake.

Sex is the most powerful force known to us and that is not surprising since it is the source and means of creativity.  It is the result of splitting original unity into two, a necessary split if the unmanifest was to become manifest and creation enabled to take place. However, without being controlled in some way, it can destroy a civilisation. It can certainly derail it from any spiritual achievement, and it seems all cultures have recognised this especially in the periods of their building up. In the period of their decadence and decline it's quite another story, and the examples of past history should be a warning to us.

The more you allow yourself to be dominated by your worldly mind and physical body, the more you will be identified with these aspects of your being and the less you will be able to respond to the soul which is the spiritual component of your being.  The more you act in a way that contradicts truth, the more you will separate yourself from truth until there will come a point at which you will cease to even recognise it and deny its very existence.

As sex is the strongest force there is it needs to be controlled and managed, and the best way to do this is through fidelity to one partner in marriage in which the physical aspect of sex is viewed through a spiritual prism as a reflection of a higher truth. And this is the point. Physical sex is the reflection of a higher truth and if the physical aspect is over-emphasised then its higher aspects will not be able to make their appearance in the individual’s mind. The mind will be too taken up with the lower (lower because relating purely to the physical body) aspects. This is not some kind of Gnostic denial of the body but a recognition of the hierarchical nature of man’s being. Man has many levels to his being and focusing too much on lower levels will block access to higher ones. This is why sex unconstrained by love will dull perception and cloud spiritual vision, and why an over concern with physical pleasure will deaden receptivity to the inner soul and its intuitive faculties.

At the same time it is true that sometimes when a person begins to open himself up to higher levels of being through the creative imagination the downpour of energy will over-stimulate to the point that the sexual nature is also stirred up excessively. We can often see this in the lives of poets, artists and the like. However this is a preliminary phase and a more developed understanding and response will bring about stability. There will still be an increased sensitivity to beauty and a yearning towards union but it will be spiritual rather than physical union that now takes precedence.

This gives us a clue as to why the current sexual over-emphasis and stimulation must be viewed in a negative light. It is quite simply that the sexual and spiritual forces in man are one and the same which is why energy, if directed into the lower channel, cannot go into the higher. Celibacy is not necessarily required. That could cause more trouble than it’s worth if it leads to an inner frustration in which the mind gravitates to thoughts about sex more than it would in the context of a healthy expression. But discipline and control and recognition that the sexual impulse belongs to man’s animal nature not his angelic side are. And, of course, in an naturally ordered world even the physical expression of sex should diminish once an individual goes past the point of having children, something that our current attitude, which encourages even elderly people long past child bearing age to carry on having sex, would completely reject. But these people are at an age when they should be thinking more and more about their spiritual growth, and it is a poisoned society that encourages them to neglect this and attempt to prolong their youth.

So the philosopher was right in the moral position he took but I think that the reasons he gave for it were insufficient. It is surely better to understand why we should behave in a certain way than just to be told that we should with no explanation given.


Nathaniel said...

It is a very sad loss to our culture that older aged people aren't seen as having a unique opportunity for spiritual progress and so wisdom, but rather are simply less functional economic cogs, or pathetic in their finished youth and sexuality. Very strange indeed.

William Wildblood said...

Yes. I believe it's supposed to be one of the signs of the end of an age that the young no longer have any respect for the old and the old try to imitate the young. Of course the constant change in the world, aided and abetted by technology, encourages that.

Nathaniel said...

It seems that sexual dysfunction (I think that may be the most appropriate definition) is an early or definite sign of decline. We are now at the stage of extreme dysfunction being normalized and considered even superior to normal sexuality - but I think you are right that it starts simply with adultery and the wide acceptance of simple pre-marital sex. It is a big difference between saying sins will happen and forgiving them, to demanding that no one criticize or oppose them - that speaking out against them may even be illegal.

As a Catholic I am rather saddened that the current Pope has taken this step in what we might consider the earliest form of the breakdown in sexual relations (essentially normalization and acceptance of divorce and cohabitation).

It seems to be getting more and more difficult to find a church that simply expresses the same Christian morals that lasted for two thousand years up until the last 50 years!

Nathaniel said...

Good point. For many our hope and faith has turned towards technological progress, (mine was largely until a few years ago) or progress of any kind.

William Wildblood said...

Your point that sexual dysfunction is now considered almost superior to normal sexuality is very true and very telling. It shows how far we have departed from reason never mind spiritual understanding. But it does all start and stem from the separation of sex and marriage.