by Richard A. Smith1
It arrived in Monday morning's post and I started reading it, fittingly, in bed. You know that phrase about not being able to put a book down? It was literally true. Peace Between the Sheets was so much on my wavelength, so much what I wanted to hear, so entrancing and so full that I sat there absorbed until turning the final page at 2.20 p.m., having read it thoroughly, from cover to cover. I wonder if that's some kind of record? :)
The author has understood so much, and while our understandings overlap and are complementary I hope it's not arrogant to say it was like looking in a mirror, a feminine mirror. I first encountered and learned about Karezza, intimate intercourse without orgasm, as part of a magical system in 1975, under the name Dianism which my teacher and his teachers had adopted from the writings of Ida Craddock.
The years went by, and after early experiments and five years of blissful practice and the rewards of peace and harmony in our home and relationship, I consented to start a family with my wife, who dearly wanted children.
Unfortunately, from that time onwards, it felt as if I was being dragged at the chariot wheels of my wife's awakened reproductive urge. Our lives started to revolve increasingly around it. She paid me the compliment of saying she loved me so much that she wanted more of me in the world, which was good for my genetic fitness, I guess, but not so good for our relationship. She liked having children so much it seemed she couldn't stop!
And when our relationship virtually collapsed around the time we had our fifth, we didn't seem to be able to rejuvenate it, although we both tried hard at different times, in different ways.
Had we known about this book and practised the 'Ecstatic Exchanges' religiously every night, I am convinced we would have succeeded.
There are so many wonderful things in Peace Between the Sheets that if I wrote about them all this review would end up as long as the book itself. So I will just mention the things that struck me most strongly, in order of impact.
The loving, generous personality of the author pervades the book:
... when I made love with a man who was a virgin. My attention was not on myself. I was focused entirely on making him feel safe and loved so the experience would always be a warm memory of loving intimacy. From that encounter onward I have been very orgasmic. And even though I avoid orgasm because of the hangover, I still find that making my partner feel comfortable and adored is a sure turn-on for me. (p 32)
How touching! And what a lucky guy. I was extremely fortunate myself to be initiated at twenty by a beautiful, highly educated Irishwoman. When I admitted to her afterwards it had been my first time, she was kind enough to say, "I'd never have guessed", which true or not, set my sexual confidence up for life.
Later, having the privilege of initiating two virgins myself, both of which became long-term partners, I can confirm that a tender concern for the feelings and well-being of an inexperienced partner is returned with interest.
The next thing that struck me forcefully was the concept of 'two paths' one can take in sex, and the idea one can choose consciously which to take. The path of dopamine arousal, the orgasmic peak followed by the inevitable crash, or the oxytocin path, the non-orgasmic gentle, slow climb to peaks not of orgasm but of intimacy, of union, with no depressing aftermath, but a numinous glow which lingers and comes to pervade the whole life of the couple in intimate soul communion, their days as well as their nights, which I remember so well and has always been my highest value and most desired state. For although I have followed several individual meditative and personal development purported paths to transcendence, from the time I came to adult awareness it has always seemed to me that spirituality and sexuality are the most beautiful, wonderful and powerful aspects of human existence. I have always believed that Spirituality and Sexuality should not be separated as they so often are, with spirituality often accompanied by celibacy exalted, and sexuality denigrated and viewed as bad or sinful, of the earth and matter.
I was very fortunate to encounter a teacher at the age of nineteen who believed that sex is divine, holy, and the most powerful and best route to transcendence and union with the higher Self or Divinity, under whatever name or form you believe.
Unfortunately, not having the 'missing piece' of the puzzle that it is orgasmic sex, inevitable for reproduction, which forces men and women apart, forces them to remain the serial monogamists that evolution seems to have selected us to be, I was unable to sustain the high and loving communion and relationship I valued more highly than anything in my life. Peace Between the Sheets holds out the promise to me of recapturing that bliss, and extending it indefinitely, even to the end of life. All I need is a similarly inclined, compatible partner.
The next aspect I found profoundly useful was the concept of sensing and redirecting energy flow between the two partners, the Fish/Food metaphor of Ecstatic Exchange 11 (p 217-221) I had come across some of the Ecstatic Exchange exercises before, in a book I have had for many years, Transcendental Sex by Jerry Gillies (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1978), but this was new.
It's like the between the sheets version of the advice all male and female seducers are given, to not come on too strong, to not be too much of a pursuer, to take the pressure off, be relaxed and receptive and leave space for the object of your amorous affections to pursue and come to you.
Marnia, in Exchange 11, provides many valuable techniques for defusing and balancing the tendency on behalf of either partner to be either too passive or too forward, such as reversing roles, letting the more passive partner be the active one.
I mustn't neglect to mention the wonderful idea of the 'valley orgasm' as the Taoists call it. For anyone who feels they may be losing out or missing something by denying themselves the muscular spasm and neural jolt of conventional orgasm, with its short-lived afterglow (if you're lucky!) this kind of extended, blissful experience I can confirm is so much higher, more transcendent and literally divine that it makes conventional orgasm seem little more than a sneeze by comparison. And a sneeze that carries a nasty, divisive infection, too. If medical science identified a virus that had the effect of causing disaffection and rifts between otherwise perfectly blissful and committed couples who are deeply in love, you'd do your best to avoid contracting it at all costs, wouldn't you? Well that, essentially, is what the nervous and muscular spasm of conventional orgasm, with it's accompanying addictive dopamine rush and crash, actually is. It's Nature's way of separating a couple once they've had the opportunity to sate their reproductive urge, making them 'go off' each other so they will move on and bear more children with other partners, giving the more diverse mix of their genes greater range of response to different environmental conditions and thus greater chance that your genes in at least some offspring will survive and proliferate into the future. 2
The pages of Peace Between the Sheets are spiced with a dash of humorous quotations which I think is an important element, in sex, too. Where spirituality or sex is concerned, we can often be guilty of taking ourselves a bit too seriously. Marnia doesn't.
I was also totally in agreement with a point Marnia makes about the advantages of scheduling one's bedtime togetherness, scheduling sex:
The easiest way to establish a new pattern is to plan your encounters consciously. It is unfortunate, but spontaneous sex is risky sex. It invites your primitive brain to take over. Happily, planned encounters offer some surprising rewards. When you plan in advance to make love there is a pleasant, but temperate, sense of anticipation. It also makes the encounter a special celebration...
Too often lovers snack whenever hungry where sex is concerned. This can only make experiences more ordinary, but is also likely to leave you in a state of constant craving. After all, without a schedule, you do not know for sure when you will be fed next, so one of you (at least) will feel obliged to initiate sexual activity constantly...
This hungry mindset is not harmless. It leaves the most eager partner dissatisfied much of the time, while the other partner feels increasingly drained... It is better to take command of your primitive programming by choosing ahead of time when you will make love. When you know, with certainty, that you will have a feast of lovemaking on a set occasion, you can more calmly turn your attention to other aspects of your life in the interim. (p 229-230)
This is so true, and the breakdown of our regular bedtimes together, precipitated by the fact my wife always had our currently youngest child in bed with us, was probably the crucial factor in the break-up of my 24 year marriage. After the birth of our fifth, I rejected my wife's advances for three years, even neglecting to put a bolt on the bedroom door of our new home (to create privacy), because I was so traumatised by the thought of her somehow getting pregnant again. Then when I finally came round, things reversed and I found myself in the role of pursuer. I tried to pin her down to a regular schedule but without success, and I believe we essentially grew apart and parted as a result of not preserving and constantly renewing our reuniting space.
I now need to just search the text for a quite subtle point which was absolutely brilliant and is on the tip of my tongue... Ah! here it is -
The ancient wisdom of the Chinese Taoists, the Indian Tantra practitioners, the earliest (pre-Roman) Christians (as revealed by the Gnostic Gospels), and even Plato suggest that behind the illusion of separate male and female egos there is only one cosmic being, pulsating with current. That current flows between two poles, one male and one female. The two poles are not separate. Indeed their union is so dynamic and powerful that it's potential is beyond our current ability to imagine for as long as we feel separate.' (p 14)
I have always suspected as much. Last year, I undertook a series of guided visualisations by one of my favourite psychologists, David Feinstein, founder of the school of Personal Mythology, in conjunction with Stanley Krippner. The exercises are called The Mythic Path ( http://www.themythicpath.com/ ) . One of the exercises involved meeting one's inner shaman. When I got into the visualised cave where he or she was meant to dwell, I was surprised but thrilled to find my shaman was not an individual but a Shiva-Shakti tantric pair in union as often depicted on Hindu temples.
Another thing I'm wholly in agreement with: Emphasis on Love and the Heart Chakra.
I believe, as do Doreen Virtue, Stephane Hemon and many other modern sages and light workers, that we are currently in the time of the natural opening of the Heart Chakra. So this passage and many like it were 'music to my ears':
As we make it safe to love, our hearts begin to generate powerful electromagnetic fields that extend our perception beyond the physical, and synchronise easily with other open hearts. ( 215)
Exactly! (my reuniting.info user name happens to be 'an open heart' : ) I am feeling that, as I undertake Chakra cleansing and Chakra opening exercises every morning, which I highly recommend as preparation for the Peace Between the Sheets experience, I am opening up more and more and expressing the love I feel in my heart for those who are struggling on a similar path. Given the flawed, primitive model of love and sex that the world and the media present, it can be a real struggle and involve real suffering to persist in the face of that, fight through that and still hope, still retain one's ideal and belief in a high, fine, pure, transcendental conception of love and sex that brings us closer to God or our highest Ideal, however we conceive or label it. We all need to make ourselves available, reach out and support our fellow idealists and aspirants who sense that there is something more, but have not yet found it or found each other, as we have now been fortunate enough to do. I envisage and strongly support the promotion of this path, perhaps by means of 'spiritual marketing', and the formation and growth of a magnetic chain or 'net of pearls' in which we can mutually reflect and support each other's spiritual practice, on what is, in my humble opinion, this most holy of paths and endeavours, long neglected in favour of solitary, individual spiritual practices. This neglect is due, I believe, to the prejudice against seeing sex as a spiritual path and in fact the most powerful and complete route to transcendence available. For those reasons of prejudice and ignorance, the western version of such paths, sex magick, has been forced to hide away and conceal itself in secret orders and cryptic textual metaphor, and I believe similar prejudices and persecution exist in the east against sexual tantric paths to enlightenment, known as the Vama Marg.
At the other end of the process, I believe that there is room for the inclusion of recent psychological advances in the identification of truly compatible life partners, one's 'complementary opposite' using the KWML system of psychiatrist Dr. Paul Dobransky. A short free provisional test to undertake one's 'type' may be undertaken here: http://www.kwml.com/
More comprehensive information is available in Dr. Paul's recent book, The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love (Plume, 2007). Dr. Paul uses the 'three brains' model and I believe his system for finding and falling in love with compatible partners in such a way as to provide the greatest likelihood of a successful long-term relationship is fully supportive of and compatible with Peace Between the Sheets. I come out as having exactly equal parts Magician and Lover personality types: 38.5% Lover, 38.5% Magician, 15.4% King, and 7.7% Warrior
This means that my ideal complementary opposite turns out to be - Warrior Queen! Quite a scary thought, but kind of attractive, too. I do have a crush on Liv Tyler as Arwen in Lord of the Rings, who is very close to portraying that archetype. 'Where am I going to find a Warrior Queen in 2007?', I emailed Dr. Paul on 29 May 2007. He is a really kind, lovely guy, and his system seems amazingly precise. I received this reply:
Ha. Easy. You find her working at all the law firms there as an attorney, and attending social functions that attorneys like attending! Go to hartford, stamford, new haven, etc., and of course the best of all the LIRR to NYC! Sent via BlackBerry from Cingular Wireless'
I live in the UK, but I got his drift...
I believe that in Dr. Paul's case, genius that he is, his missing piece as in my own case is Marnia's finding that orgasm ultimately torpedoes even the most promising marital yacht, as it did mine. So we all have something to contribute, parts of a comprehensive new vision of the man-woman mystery that will, I believe, when put together, bring the closest thing to heaven on Earth both to individuals, couples and wider society, which is sorely in need of it. The major barrier we need to overcome, it seems to me, is the total revolution in sexual practice represented by sex without orgasm.
Finally, while I could go on and on - this review has really written itself - I think it's fitting to apply my last point about 'the struggle' to the author of Peace Between the Sheets.
Men and women, she and I, as torchbearers or in my case a would-be torchbearer for such a high and holy re-visioning of love and sex, have clearly encountered different problems. An attractive woman will never lack suitors and therefore potential partners, but I can just imagine the challenge it must have been trying to communicate and get male partners to see and adopt her vision. We hear quite a lot about it in her book, and for a woman to persuade a man of this very revolutionary and high conception of sex is quite a tall order, requiring all the patience, kindness, love and wisdom of which a woman is capable. Peace Between the Sheets, written from the feminine perspective, reflects this experience, addressing in all possible ways, methods to help a male partner see the light and give up the traditional male thrusting drive for pleasure and orgasm for the much higher pleasure of intimate union. How hard she has striven all these years to get it through our thick male (and some female) skulls! I'm so glad she found a sympathetic and compatible partner in Gary Wilson at last, who has added such a telling and important plank to her arguments, in the form of neurochemical data, I understand.
My problems as a man on essentially the same quest have been different. Not so easy to find suitable partners, but once I had them 'between the sheets', particularly if they were inexperienced, it was much easier, I imagine, to get them to follow my lead and accept my conception of sex and intimacy, at least initially. The bliss of lying naked embracing my future virgin bride all night for three months before we actually had sex is something precious I will always remember and underlines how much greater is the joy of intimacy than simple orgasmic sex.
Sad that I never understood the terrible danger of triggering the female reproductive and maternal urge which forced us apart in the end. Still, I am forewarned for the future. In five years time I fully expect to be blissfully happy, deeply in love, with the added assurance that the indefinite extension of our blissful love is in our own hands
- 1. Mystic, Magician and former UK Health Service Psychologist
- 2. I suggest that, in essence, the Taoist 'valley orgasm' is very similar if not identical with the goal of the western system of sex magick I know and love, the attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of one's Holy Guardian Angel, or even Union with one's Angel, where the H.G.A. is conceived as an intermediary or transmitting agency between Divinity and one's little conscious self. Other names for the H.G.A. being one's Self, Soul, Higher Self, Overself or Over-soul, one's Holy Daemon, Daimon, Psychic Being, Jiva-atman, Chaitya Perusha, deva, devi, devata, dakini, daka, sky-dancer, khandroma, khandro, pawo, ging, k'ung-hsing fo-mu, Emin or Augoeides; one's Divine Lover, Divine Genius, Jinnie, Jeannie or Genie; the All-Knower, the True Ruler, Adonai, Indwelling Spirit, Aumakua, and many another name in different cultures throughout time.
I first wrote an extended article on this entity on realising that I had such a guiding, guarding and tutelary spirit as early as 28 September 1975. On consulting the Oxford Universal Dictionary (1959) I was gratified to see the congruence between the definitions of entities I came to see as synonymous, that is, Angel, Daemon and Genius. E.g.
'Angel a. :A ministering spirit or divine messenger; one of an order of spiritual beings superior to man in power and intelligence, who are the attendants and messengers of the Deity. b. Any messenger of God, as a prophet or preacher.'
'Daemon a. : A being of a nature intermediate between that of gods and men; an inferior divinity, spirit. Often written daemon for distinction from demon. b Sometimes, an attendant spirit; a genius. In Homer, there is scarcely any distinction between gods and daemons GROTE. b. 'O Anthony!... Thy Daemon, that thy spirit which keepes thee is Noble, Couragious, high, unmatchable. W. Shakespeare, Anthony and Cleopatra II
Daemonic 1662: b. Of, relating to, or of the nature of Supernatural Power or Genius = Ger. dämonisch (Goethe) (Usu. spelt daemonic for distinction) 1798.
I. D. delusions 1738. 2. The Daemonic DICKENS: as pure an instance of genius as ever lived FITZGERALD.
'Many times had I decided to follow a certain course of action (or even thought) I have been diverted from it by my Daemon.' C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
'He who has once passed through the transforming experience of inward surrender can never again be the same man. His centre of selfhood shifts, his circumference of outlook expands. The more the Overself works through him the less does he feel the heavy burden of contemporary living. When its presence becomes a settled thing in his heart; when he feels the Overself within him as a consecrated Living Force at every moment of his existence; when he lets himself become a submissive and sacrificial instrument for this inner rule of his personality, then he may confidently go ahead into whatever activity his will decides upon for he finds at last the secret of inspired action.' Paul Brunton, Wisdom of the Overself, 1943, p 369.
'The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-soul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which ever more tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one...
What we commonly call man, the eating, drinking, planting, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, would he let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins, when it would be something of itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims, in some one particular, to let the soul have its way through us; in other words, to engage us to obey.' R.W. Emerson, The Over-soul, Essays, First Series, 1841.
(Please assume inclusive language intended in the passages by the last two, pre-feminist writers.)
In my 1975 journal entry I concluded the following scheme:
'1. There is us; physical men (and women) with bodies, emotions, minds and personalities.
2. There is God - infinite power, untouchable, invisible, unknowable (directly)
3. There are the daemons or angels, powers and beings intermediate between us and God, who may or may not have formerly been human, and whose task is to act as a Transmitting Agency of the Will of the Almighty to us on the physical plane. They come when asked, and dwell with us and in us, guarding, protecting and guiding us. When we have one, as I have, we become, in the true sense, a GENIUS; One who has a Geni. '
--extracts from my personal journal IV, entry 28 September 1975, p 94-108
It is this transmitting agency or intermediary which I believe was responsible for my going on, on the basis of a very mediocre school record, to get two first-class honours degrees in different disciplines in five years, a feat which mystified the examining authorities almost as much as it mystified me. I also have evidence of genius level creative achievement on the part of my previous partner, in the form of an Epic poem in perfect verse of 14,152 lines, longer than Homer's Odyssey. This was the same partner with whom I practised the nightly ritual of invocation of and union with one's Angel for five years. Significantly, her creativity stopped and she wrote no further poetry after we stopped sleeping together.
As a former orthodox health service psychologist, I know that it is possible to translate all the foregoing ideas into alternative psychological terms that do not require the postulation of mysterious spiritual entities or the existence of God, but still posit and explain the interpersonal generation of high levels of bliss, self-transcendence and side-effects such as greater self-actualisation and high-level creativity by novel but valid extensions of psychodynamic concepts. But the central point I want to make in this digression is that the spiritual or psychological state of 'Divine Union' aimed at by the methods prescribed in Peace Between the Sheets is perfectly congruent, in my experienced opinion, with the highest ideals of the western occult tradition, and furthermore adds important neurochemical supporting information which may prevent the kind of shipwreck I experienced recently in my marriage. The male or female partner provides the perfect manifestation in living flesh for one's Divine Lover, that aspect of Divinity or the Overself etc. that is not too powerful to access, know and commune with consciously, and various techniques are available for attaining a state of consciousness in which such an experience can become subjectively or psychologically real. And as philosophers and sages from Kant to Nietzsche and Jung have pointed out, our subjective, psychological reality, our Psyche, is the only reality we can ever really know, so to experience something in this way is as real as anything can be, and was the aim of Magic, and I believe, Alchemy, both of which were related precursors of modern depth psychology and the science of Union of which both my own endeavours and Peace Between the Sheets are, I believe, related parts.