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Circumcision Bans Are Unhealthy, Unholy And Unwise For All Males

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

People who hate religion in general, or Islam and Judaism in particular, often attack circumcision as a cruel, barbaric ritual lacking any positive outcome. Others attack circumcision for hidden political reasons of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

And some attack circumcision on secular humane grounds as a needless, cruel procedure. For example, in September 2011 the Dutch Medical Association discouraged the practice of circumcision, calling it a “painful and harmful ritual.” (This advice as we shall soon see, was unwise medically.)

So it is good news for Jews and Muslims that on October 1. 2015 PACE-The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe nullified its earlier recommendation that European countries ban ritual circumcision, when it passed (73-6) a resolution on religious freedom.

PACE did not reverse its earlier recommendation due to recent scientific discoveries which explained the health benefit of circumcision; but due to the active political pressure of an alliance of Jewish and Muslim organizations.

Yet in the last two decades several major medical studies have shown the positive effect of circumcision; and this led the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support male circumcision procedures for male newborns and teenagers in the US, according to federal guidelines released 12/2/2014.

Clinical trials and observational studies have found that men who are circumcised are less likely than their uncircumcised peers to acquire sexually transmitted infections during vaginal sex. Being circumcised reduced the risk of infection with HIV from a female sexual partner by 50% to 60%. It also reduced the risk of getting genital herpes by up to 45% and of getting cancer-causing strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) by 30%.

Studies have also found that sex with circumcised men is safer for women. They are less likely to become infected with HPV, bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis, the CDC guidelines state.

The CDC also states that the risk of adverse events from circumcision is low, and that minor bleeding and inflammation are the biggest problems. The CDC also says minor complications arise in less than one-half of 1% of newborns and about 5% of adults. So being uncircumcised is unhealthy and unwise for all males.

As I stated above Muslims and Jews do not circumcise their children for medical health reasons. For Jews and Muslims ritual circumcision is a sign of communal loyalty and acceptance of God’s will. Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach that circumcision was already practiced by Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims to this day.

Christians do not believe circumcision is still a required observance. But, even during Medieval times, Christian governments never prohibited ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims living under their rule. Equally, Jews and Muslims never tried to force Christians to circumcise their children.

Only pagan governments like the Greeks and the Romans, or anti-religious secular governments like Communist Russia, have done this.

These governments are led by people who believe that their own humanistic, rational philosophy is on a much higher level than what has been taught by traditional religions, which they do not believe in.

For Jews, the ritual dates back to God’s covenant with Abraham. The Torah declares:
(Genesis 17:7) “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…

(17:8-11) “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

(17:12) “You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,”

Jews have observed this commandment for almost 4,000 years. More than once, attempts to prevent Jews from circumcising their sons led to resistance. In 132 CE a revolt was started by Simon bar Kochba, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian forbade circumcision.

For Muslims, circumcision is connected to Allah commanding Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to follow the religion of Ibrahim (peace be upon him). When Allah says (Qur’an 16:123)  “Then We inspired you: ‘Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith’.” And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.

Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God’s will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad said: ” Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe.” (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)

Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons: Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th day. Day.(Related in al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

Another Hadith also demonstrates further the importance of male circumcision: The Prophet told a man who had just embraced Islam, “Remove the hairs from the time of disbelief from you and get yourself circumcised.” (Related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for future generations. For Muslims it is a sign of their close connection to Abraham, which is also celebrated each year at the annual Hajj ceremonies.

For both Muslims and Jews, ritual circumcision is a sign that one who submits to God’s commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. But when endured for the right reasons, duty to God’s commandments always leads eventually to great spiritual, and even physical benefits. This is true wisdom.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is:

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What exactly is Feminism today anyway?

Originally posted on Cynic No More:

First wave feminism I understand. Second wave feminism I understand. Once we get into the modern era of feminism, I get very confused.

What exactly does the modern feminist stand for? Can’t figure it out. I’ve read feminist blogs and they only served to confuse me more. Contradictory ideals. Comments on the blogs from women also claiming to be feminists saying the blogger had no idea what they are talking about. Still can’t figure it out.

There’s such radically different ideologies under the feminism banner. I’ve watched interviews with sex workers and pornstars. They say sex is freedom of expression. They are in control of their bodies and sexuality. They love their work, it’s a lot of fun. They consider themselves feminists. But then you’ll have other women who say that porn industry encourages objectification and violence towards women. They can’t both be feminists, can they? So who is right?…

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Did I Just Commit Adultery in My Dream?

Dream by Erathic Eric via Flickr

By Mark Virkler

Sexual dreams happen, even to Christians and even to happily married Christians. Sometimes those dreams include someone other than that Christians spouse. So, is it adultery if you dream about having sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse?

Why do we have sexual dreams?

First we need to understand the reason we are having the sexual dream. There are a few reasons. Some can indicate sin, but others do not. So, why do we have sexual dreams?

1. The Bodys Natural Rhythms

Our bodies go through sexual cycles. This is not just women and their menstrual cycle. Both men and women will have times of increased sexual desire and decreased sexual desire due to hormonal changes in their bodies. What the body goes through physically can be reflected in our dreams. This is natural and not an indication of sin.

2. The Incubus and the Succubus

Demons are real and they can attack in our dreams. Throughout church history and still today there are records of people being attacked by demons we refer to as an incubus (a demon that takes male form) and succubus (a demon that takes female form). This, as well, is not a sexual sin, but rather a spiritual attack.

3. Symbolism

Not everything in a dream is to be taken literally. In fact, our dreams are filled with symbolism. The Bible has numerous examples of people having symbolic dreams which needed interpretation. Sometimes the sexual nature of our dreams has nothing to do with sex. The sexual nature of the dream is actually a symbol for something, possibly the unification of two things in our lives. In this case, since the sexual imagery is just a symbol, it is not sinful.

4. Sin

Dreams are often influenced by our conscious lives. If we are thinking about adulterous activities during the day, its not surprising that we would dream about them at night as well.

We’ve examined several different reasons a married person may have a sexual dream. Three of those reasons are not sinful, but the fourth reason is. If we are reading or viewing pornography or otherwise fantasizing about illicit sexual encounters, then we are likely to dream about that. However, the truth is that we committed adultery long before we had the dream. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus tells us, But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If that is why you are having sexual dreams, then you need to repent and ask for forgiveness. But there is good news. In 1 John 1:9 we are told, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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About the Author

Mark Virkler is with Christian Leadership University. CLU is an Online Bible College offering Christian education and college degrees including a Christian counseling degree and Masters of Divinity.

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Jews Lead Nation Accepting Gay Marriage

Same Sex Marriage

Same Sex Marriage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released (2/26/14) a new study of a decade of changes in attitudes on LGBT-related issues which revealed a 21-point jump in support for same-sex marriage from 2003, when one-third (32%) of Americans supported same-sex marriage, to 2013, when a majority (53%) of Americans did.

The PRRI study, “A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues” found that of all the identified religious groups in the poll, Jews are more supportive of same-sex marriage than any other religious group.

Thus, 83% of Jews favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally compared to 73% of those with no religious affiliation, 62% of white mainline Protestants, 57% of Catholics, 46% of Hispanic Protestants, 35% of Black Protestants and 27% of white evangelical Protestants.

Moreover, 58% of Jews strongly favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry (a full 22 points higher than the next highest category, the religiously unaffiliated).

Amazingly, Jews are only 3 points behind LGBT Americans in their own support of marriage equality (86%).

Even more amazingly, only a quarter of Americans believe Jews are friendly toward LGBT people, a third believe we are unfriendly and 41% do not know or refused to answer the question.

Jews are perceived by non-Jews to be only 1 point friendlier than evangelical Christian churches and 6 points less friendly than African-American churches; when in reality Jews are much more friendly than those two groups.

The size of the gap between Jewish support for gays and these two church groups is a giant 56 points when compared to evangelical Christian churches and 48 points compared to African-American churches.

The Union of Reform Jews was the first national religious organization in the U. accept a LGBT congregation as a member.

Rabbi Maller’s web site is:

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Humans and apes on the same page when it comes to sex?


Alchemy, Egypt and Shamanism

articles_shamanism5© Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls, 2012. All rights reserved.

In alchemy, or the changing of one substance into another, there are seven steps.

1. Calcination – the heating of a substance in a crucible over an open flame until it is reduced to ashes.

In Shamanism we have calcination as the destruction of our ego and our attachments to the physical world. We take the challenges and experiences of life and learn humbleness as we ignite the fire of self introspection and burn away those elements that never worked for us anyway.

The fire of Calcination tunes the body, burns off excesses from overindulgence and creates a lean mean fighting machine. First chakra, Fire, Red.

2. Dissolution – it is the dissolving of the ashes from Calcination in water. In Shamanism is is a further breaking down of the artifical beliefs we have been given or have adopted by opening the floodgates of new energy and new concepts, new beliefs and ideas, allowing new energy to enter our systems. Dissolution can be felt as the bliss of being well used and actively engaged in creative acts without traditional prejudices, personal hangups or established hierarchy getting the way.

It is the opening up of the kundalini channels in the body to elevate every cell, second chakra, water, blue.

3. Separation – it is the isolation of the components of dissolution by filtration and removing any unworthy material.

Yup'ik shaman exorcising evil spirits from a s...

Yup’ik shaman exorcising evil spirits from a sick boy. Nushagak, Alaska, 1890s. Fienup-Riordan 1994: 206 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Shamanism this is the rediscovery of our essence and the reclaiming of dreams and visions previously rejected by imposed beliefs that this was somehow irrational. Separation is letting go of self inflicted restraints and allowing our true selves and our true experiences to shine through. Separation is controlling the inflow and the outflow, the body and the breath to give birth to new energy. Third chakra, air, orange red.

4. Conjunction – it is the recombination of the saved elements from Separation into a new substance.

In Shamanism it is the empowerment of our true selves. Walking with one foot in this world and one foot in the Inner worlds, finding ourselves in a new belief system or causal consciousness. Alchemists call this the Lesser Stone and with it the adept is able to clearly discern what needs to be done to achieve union with the Overself. Often synchronicities begin to occur showing that the path is correct. Using the body’s sexual energies for personal transformation takes place in the heart. Earth, Green, hearth chakra.

5. Fermentation – is a two stepped process that begins with the Putrefication of the “child” from the Conjunction resulting in its death and resurrection to a new level of being. In alchemy it is the growth of a ferment, (bacteria) in organic solutions such as fermenting milk to make cheese.

Egyptian alchemists created a drink called “Liquor Hepatitis” which means Liquor of the Liver. They beieved the liver was the seat of the soul. It exudes a wonderful fragrance and the alchemists made a perfume of it called “Balsam of the Soul”.

In Shamanism the fermentation process starts with the inspiration of spiritual power from Above that re-animates, energizes and enlightens the seeker. Out of the blackness of putrefication comes the yellow ferment, the golden wax flowing out of the foul matter of the soul. Its arrival is seen as a display of bright color and meaningful vision called the “Peacock’s tail”.

English: Sami shamanic drum in the Arktikum mu...

English: Sami shamanic drum in the Arktikum museum, in Rovaniemi, Finland. Suomi: Saamelainen shamaanirumpu Arktikumissa Rovaniemellä (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fermentation can be achieved through impeccability, through practice, experience with awareness. Fermentation is living inspirations from something totally beyond us and yet deep within us. Fermentation is the rousing of chi, living energy, in the body to heal and unify. It is expressed as vibratory tones and spoken truths through the fourth chakra the throat, It is the base of mystical awareness. Throat chakra, sulfur, turquoise.

6. Distillation – the boiling and condensation of the fermented solution to increase it purity, such as the distilling of wine to make brandy.

In Shamanism it is the agitation and sublimation of psychic forces that is necessary to ensure that no impurities from the ego or id, no valueless beliefs are incorporated into the next and final stage. It is using introspection to weed out any last misbeliefs, any preconceived notions, any persevering thoughtforms that are not for you. It is raising the content of your psyche to the highest level possible, from sentimentality, totally in control of your lower bodies, free from their controlling you, cut off even from one’s own personality or personal identity. It is the purification of the unborn self – all that we truly are and can be. It is raising the life force from the body into the brain, known by Oriental Alchemists as the “Circulation of Light” where it eventually becomes a solidifying light full of power. Distillation is said to culminate in the Third Eye Chakra. Mercury, deep blue.

7. Coagulation – the precipitation or sublimation of the purified ferment from distillation. Alchemists called this final product, “Powder of the Sun”.

In Shamanism, coagulation is first sensed as a new confidence that is beyond all things, a Second body, an oversoul, a permanent vehicle of consciousness that embodies the highest aspirations and evolution of mind. Coagulation incarnates and releases the Ultima Materia of the soul. The alchemists referred to this as the Philosopher’s Stone. Using this stone, alchemists believed they could exist on all levels of reality. Could this be your atmic self?

Goldes shaman priest in his regalia

Goldes shaman priest in his regalia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Shamanism it is the release of intentions for healing into your body, brain and psyche. And yet it is more than intention, it is like a brain ambrosia or heavenly food that nourishes and energizes the cells without any waste products being produced. It is both physiological and psychological as a process that creates the Atmic body which emerges through the Crown or gold Chakra. It is the living wisdom in which everyone exists with the same light of evolved consciousness and knowledge of the truth. It is the return to the Garden of Eden.

According to the Emerald Tablet, “Thus you will obtain the Glory of the Whole Universe. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the greatest force of all powers, because it overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing.” Crown chakra, salt, violet.

Write me your thoughts on alchemy and Shamanism. How do they correlate to the system of chakras as you know it? How is it that the Emerald Tablets, written over 3,500 years ago show us the same things Shamanism does? Is that just a coincidence? Can your atmic self be realized in this lifetime? What is required before you can reach your atmic self?

About the Author
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Re-member the old ways with a Shaman Elder. Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls offers an introductory course starting with the history of Shamanism around the world. We learn about healing herbs, finding your totem, what Shamanic ecstasy is and how to achieve it without drugs, how to meditate and many actual visualizations to help improve one’s skills. You will build a medicine wheel, meet your totem animals and spirit guides, create a place for visions, learn to interpret your dreams, learn ceremonies for celebration and healing and so much more!


Celibacy, Sex and Spirituality


Celibacy: verypurpleperson via Flickr

Sex is the biggest nothing of all time
—Andy Warhol

Sex sells. We’ve all heard the phrase. And to a large extent it’s true. Amidst countless mixed messages in the media, one thing seems almost certain. People tend to buy products associated with attractive models and the implication of having sex.

We see it in all sorts of ads—car, travel and even soft drink ads. We’re also bombarded with sex in so-called ‘reverse psychology’ ads where a voice dryly tells us we won’t get a date with a sexy person by buying a product.

But reverse psychology ads speak to the same reality as blatantly sexual ones. Human beings are, for the most part, obsessed with sex. And if suppressed, sexual motifs usually crop up in dreams or express themselves in distorted, harmful ways.

After all, sex is fundamental to human nature.Scientists say we’re pre-wired to want and think about sex because our species simply must reproduce to survive. Another reason for the primacy of sex, perhaps equally important, is the desire to conquer loneliness or, perhaps, boredom through physical intimacy.

In a landmark study the psychologist Harry F. Harlow demonstrated that test monkeys prefer cloth covered instead of bare, wire frame surrogate mothers.And human beings are remarkably similar. People want more than mere physiological survival and most don’t enjoy being alone for extended periods. Also, studies indicate that sex is good not just for emotional but also physical health.1

If sex is essential to the well-being and continuation of humanity, why would anyone in their right mind take up a life of celibacy? To try to answer this question, I’ll offer some insights from psychology, the sociology of knowledge, world religion and mysticism.

The following observations are based on an ongoing holistic approach that combines textual and multimedia studies, scheduled and unscheduled group and one-on-one discussions, participant-observation,2 intuitive impressions, analytical reflection and prayer.

This method might not please some old-school thinkers. Similarly, some might object to the mention of prayer. But prayer is an important methodological component to what I’m writing. And it would misleading to conceal this study’s holistic approach or to outline, after the fact, a linear-conceptual method that never existed.3

For expedience the discussion has been organized into six potentially overlapping types of celibacy. Each type should be taken as a hypothetical construction designed to stimulate debate.


With this type of celibacy a person finds it too painful or shameful to recognize their sexual urges and desires. At some point in their development a significant other (or others) may have ridiculed them or parts of their bodies. During adolescence, for example, a young teen’s growing breasts, pubic hair, first menstruation or orgasm might have been ridiculed or likened to something negative or unclean.

Brian De Palma’s horror film Carrie illustrates this when a fanatical religious mother calls her daughter’s breasts “dirty pillows” and wants to burn the high-school prom dress that reveals them.

Quite possibly the repressed celibate was raised in a Victorian-style atmosphere where anything below the waist and above the knees is taboo and closed for discussion.

The person may be a victim of prolonged ritual abuse. Alternately, they might have unconscious bisexual, gay or lesbian impulses that they can’t come to grips with or don’t wish to accept.

Whatever the causes, psychologists maintain that repressing the sex instinct takes a great deal of mental energy. The brain literally shuts down neurological pathways which otherwise connect sexual impulses to consciousness.

Rightly or wrongly, repressed, neurotic celibates are often described as brittle, rigid, frigid, distant, edgy or standoffish. It’s important to remember, however, that repression is a defense mechanism, and not necessarily unhealthy. In fact, repression can be beneficial. Consider the sexually abused child who represses their sexuality in teen and adult years to avoid feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Later in life they may feel comfortable in expressing their sexuality—providing they’ve been working through their original psychological injury.


Hypocritical celibacy minimally falls into four subtypes. The first occurs whenever individuals publicly preach the merits of celibacy yet unashamedly have sex with adults or themselves, or sexually abuse minors.4These individuals may also condemn pre- and extramarital sex while engaging in it themselves.

As to what goes through the minds of hypocritical celibates, the remaining three subtypes are not quite as one dimensional as the first.Due to their complexity they’re arguably less and, in some instances, not hypocritical.

The second subtype, in particular, might not be hypocritical, although it’s unlikely that everyone would see it this way. This subtype is found in individuals who truly believe in their religious preaching and regard their own sexual behavior as a personal, uncontrollable “weakness.”5 Although they rarely practice what they preach, this person nevertheless believes that the teaching, itself, is good and valuable.

Some would argue that if a sexually active Catholic priest, for example, emphasizes everyone’s human imperfection and ‘tendency to sin’ in his homilies, he is not being hypocritical. He’s simply stating the human condition from his Church’s standpoint, which he has internalized into his own belief system.

Others view this scenario as personally and institutionally irresponsible, especially when involving pedophilia.

The third subtype differs somewhat. Here, the individual might be unsure about their Church’s teachings on celibacy but preach it for expedience and, perhaps, because they believe in the overall necessity and value of their Church. All Catholic clergy must publicly preach the correct teachings from the Vatican to avoid being reprimanded, marginalized or possibly excommunicated. You’re either “in” or “out,” especially when it comes to highly visible moral issues pertaining to sex. However, it’s difficult to believe that free and apparently ‘originally sinful’ human beings emerging from diverse psychosocial backgrounds would agree with everything their superiors say, not only in Catholicism but within any human organization.

Along these lines, the third subtype wouldn’t regard their sexual activity as a weakness. They’d have privately thought things through and be living in accord with their own moral judgments, albeit secretly or, as suggested by B. A. Robinson, among a percentage of like-minded individuals that is difficult to ascertain for obvious reasons.

A fourth subtype would alternate between the second and third subtypes. This kind of person sometimes regards their sexual activity as a “weakness” or “sin” to be overcome. But at other times their conscience is clear because they’ve thought things through and formed their own private opinion and related modus operandi. In other words, they rationalize their behavior but every now and then they feel guilty.

Before the sex abuse scandals shook the Catholic Church, many might have thought that hypocritical celibacy was rare. But from the sheer number of allegations and lawsuits there seems to be a grave systemic dysfunction within the Catholic Church that has yet to be adequately addressed by its all male cast of characters.


Voluntary celibacy has at least two subtypes. The first is found in individuals who simply don’t like sex, not necessarily for ethical, repressed or neurotic reasons. These persons prefer to redirect sexual energies to their jobs and other commitments. For them, sexual activity is too distracting, a distraction they’d rather avoid.

In Freudian terms, this subtype represents the healthy sublimation of the libido. The author of A History of Celibacy (1999), Elizabeth Abbott, describes herself in these terms and, among many others, seems to fit into this category. Likewise, several pop culture notables say they find sex boring, overrated, and, for the German philosopher, Schopenhauer, it’s repugnant and disgusting.

The risk of sexually transmitted diseases (HIV/AIDS, syphilis, herpes, etc.) may also be a factor in voluntary celibacy.

The second subtype is found in individuals who choose to abstain from sex primarily for ethical reasons. These people may have sexual desires but redirect, suppress, ignore or deal with them in some other way because they believe it’s morally wrong to have sex. Ethical celibacy involves a reasonably healthy psyche, making it different from repressed and hypocritical celibacy. And this subtype of voluntary celibacy relates to two main scenarios:

a) unmarried, divorced and widowed individuals who believe that sex out of wedlock is ethically wrong

b) individuals with same-sex desires who believe that their sexual yearnings are ethically wrong


This is similar to voluntary celibacy, but here one’s optimal functioning demands abstinence. The element of choice is not absent but it is strongly influenced by a perceived necessity. Sex isn’t rejected for ethical or traditional reasons. Nor do necessarily celibates simply choose to avoid being distracted or to skirt something they don’t like.

Here we find the gurus, yogis, yoginis, shamans, mystics and seers who simply cannot afford to expend their energy on sex. These figures claim that sexual energy is transmuted into spiritual energy, sometimes through and, other times, independent of personal meditation. And these celibates also say that the transmuted energy is indispensable for their spiritual work. For instance, the Hindu guru often claims to cleanse disciples’ bad karma picked up through the alleged mechanism of ‘karma transfer.’6 And he has to remain celibate to do this effectively.

Other examples of this subtype are abundant.

Sri Aurobindo (Ghose) and the Mother (Mira Alfassa), for instance, lived celibate lives,7 as did Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. In shamanism some alleged healers remain celibate and others practice periodic abstinence to attain the mystical state required for their transformational work. Not unlike the guru, the shaman apparently is temporarily spiritually wounded to help a sick person become well. As the Unitarian Reverend Dr. Marilyn Sewell puts it:

It is important to note, though, that the shaman is not only wounded but also has effected a process of self-healing, and only then can begin to help with the transformation of others. By dying in life, he has tasted immortality and therefore is not threatened or put off by the pain of others. He laughs easily. “The faces of many shamans are riven with suffering and lined with laughter.”8

Necessary celibates may, in fact, enjoy sex but believe they’re called to sacrifice it for the good of others and, ultimately, for themselves—that is, for a greater spiritual reward. In the realm of Catholicism, the former Jesuit Fr. Malachi Martin told the Canadian journalist Tom Harper on Vision TV that “celibacy is essential.” This points to the idea that Catholic celibacy isn’t necessarily an unfortunate outcome of institutionalized brainwashing. Rather, it’s believed that celibacy is necessary for pastoral work, contemplative prayer and intercession. In extreme cases where celibates apparently suffer predominantly for the good of others, some Catholics describe these individuals as holy ‘victim souls.’

Celibacy as a Charism

This mostly Catholic usage means that celibacy is a gift from God. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines charism as “an extraordinary power (as of healing) given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church.” Catholic bishops apparently discern whether potential priests are worthy of this charism so that no one is forced into celibacy. Sadly, these discernments have been flawed on more than one occasion.

Some Christian saints claim to have received this charism, along with an inner vision where an invisible spiritual “belt” appears around the genital area. A good example is the Polish St. Faustina Kowalska, who wrote in her Diary that sexual urges no longer “bothered” her once she had received the gift of celibacy. Unfortunately, Faustina’s Catholic superiors were a bit slow to recognize her purity.

But I tried as best I could to do everything with the purest of intentions. I could see that everywhere I was being watched like a thief: in the chapel; while I was carrying out my duties; in my cell. I was now aware that that, besides the presence of God, I had always close to me a human presence as well. And I must say that, more than once, this human presence bothered me greatly. There were times when I wondered whether I should undress to wash myself or not. Indeed, even that poor bed of mine was checked many times. More than once I was seized with laughter when I learned they would not even leave my bed alone. One of the sisters herself told me that she came to observe me in my cell every evening to see how I behave in it.9

Meanwhile, the Eastern Churches require celibacy for bishops but not for priests. Married men may be ordained as priests but priestly celibacy is also honored.


Celibacy (Photo by Jesse Gardner via Flickr)


This refers to married couples practicing celibacy not because they don’t believe in contraception nor enjoy children. Matrimonial celibacy is seen as a calling.

In Hinduism we have the above mentioned example of Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Sarada Devi. Sri Ramakrishna wrote that prior to marrying Sri Devi he prayed that the goddess Kali would “root out” all of his future wife’s sexual desires.Likewise, Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov and Paramahansa Yogananda advocate if not absolute matrimonial celibacy, a significant redirection of sexual energy to artistic, creative and spiritual endeavors.


Celibacy involves a diverse and potentially complex range of beliefs, attitudes, processes and behaviors. All too often celibates, in toto, are stereotyped as psychologically repressed and neurotic. Scientific studies usually indicate that celibacy provides no real benefit. And medical doctors often say that the benefits of celibacy are “all psychological.” In fact, there’s little if any scientific evidence to suggest that celibacy may, in some instances, be necessary or divinely ordained. But it seems unwarranted to suppose that scientific CATscans, PETscans, EEG’s and blood analyses can measure the subtle workings of the spirit.

As Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D. notes:

[Rudolf] Otto’s famous theory of “numinosity” is about a property…but which in an important way is not a natural property, since it is invisible to science…So is there mysticism? Of course, since there actually are mystics, most of whom are clearly sincere and deeply moved or transformed by their experiences.10

Otto and others like Carl Jung and Mircea Eliade tend to agree that contemporary science cannot measure all aspects of mysticism. Scientists may quantify and map changes in brainwave and neuronal firing patterns during states of meditation. They may also suggest that “meditating actually increases the thickness of the cortex in areas involved in attention and sensory processing, such as the prefrontal cortex and the right anterior insula.”11 But the interpretation of these observations is often biased by research parameters and experimenter bias, making the discussion of experimental results woefully inadequate.

A common fallacy, particularly in recent times, is to equate quantifiable energy with spirit. Also, the discussion section of clinical meditation experiments usually homogenizes spiritual experience among subjects. This is scientifically invalid because there is no way to confirm that similar empirical data (including descriptions such as “I feel peaceful”) point to identical inner experiences among individuals. Nevertheless, overzealous researchers often imply or state that subjects displaying similar brainwave patterns and neurological activity experience similar grades, qualities and intensities of numinosity. And again, this just isn’t good science.

Scientific researchers also tend to ignore the first-hand accounts of mystics, even though these accounts point to a great diversity of inner experiences. Granted, by their very nature inner experiential differences are difficult to verify and reliably categorize. But this doesn’t justify glossing over them and making unjustified generalizations.

Responsible science doesn’t fabricate reality. Instead, it clearly states its limits. Also, scientific findings are always subject to revision. Unfortunately, this crucial point is often overlooked in professional and popular talk about celibacy, sex and spirituality.

1. Keeping in mind here that other forms of exercise and intimacy could be just as beneficial.

2. Not necessarily in a preconceived but in an actual, lived sense. The notion of the preplanned participant observational study, so popular in anthropology, arguably is a contradiction in terms. How can a researcher be part of a group if they’ve decided at the outset what to look for, how often they’ll sit in, etc? This approach seems artificial and preconceived biases would likely taint results.

3. In The Double Helix James Watson recounts a holistic method in the discovery of the DNA model, challenging stereotypes often associated with scientists and their research.

4. The turn to mandatory celibacy in Catholicism was a gradual one, developing over the centuries. Conservatives say this is evidence that God’s will is eventually being fulfilled. Liberals counter that Mankind’s cultural biases have gradually obscured and regimented the free expression of the Holy Spirit.

5. “Weakness” is a term that has entered Catholic discourse but which requires examination. It seems to legitimize dishonesty and abrogate personal responsibility. God may love us in our weakness. But this doesn’t provide an excuse to stop trying to better ourselves.

6. This is not the notion of a soul’s karma passing from a past to a present life, but the idea, articulated by the Indologist Wendy O’Flaherty, that karma transfers among persons, animals and deities. Most Indian gurus say that bad karma transfers from a student to a teacher. That is, karma flies from less to more pure souls. This transfer is psychologically experienced in different ways. Spiritual “pollution” is a metaphor used by some contemplatives and poets (see, for instance, Kálidása’s Shakuntala) to describe the mystical transfer of impure spiritual elements. Sri Ramakrishna (1836-86) says that his subtle body (an inner, spiritual body) became festered with sores after receiving spiritually impure visitors. Ramakrishna believes he took others’ karma onto himself. It seems some gurus, eager to exalt themselves as “great souls,” rarely if ever consider the possibility that they too might benefit from subtle, spiritual connections with their disciples. We find something similar to karma transfer in Christianity, particularly non-fundamentalist versions, where saintly “victim souls” are said to suffer with Christ to assist with the work of salvation by taking on the sins of others.

7. While in Nepal in the early 1990’s this author’s flight was delayed for 24 hours due to bad weather. The airlines provided a hotel room that I shared with a Catholic priest and an saffron-robed swami of the Ramakrishna order. Talking about celibacy and sex, the swami said that highly contemplative men “crash” when they have seminal emissions. This might relate to the Indian belief in Chakras. Having mastered the lower chakras, yogis and yoginis say that the conservation and transformation of sexual energy is necessary for functioning at higher chakra centres.

8. Reverend Dr. Marilyn Sewell, The Wounded Healer. First Unitarian Church Portland, Oregon. January 26, 1997.

9. See » The Divine Mercy Diary of Sister Faustina M. Kowalska, Second edition. Stockbridge MA: Marian Press, 1990, p. 71.

10. See » Intuition and Mysticism in Kantian Philosophy.

11. See » Meditation Builds up the Brain.

Celibacy, Sex and Spirituality © Michael Clark, All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is not a medical nor legal document. Those with mental or physical health issues are advised to consult an appropriate and licensed health professional


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