Clarity of mind brought about by dependence upon what is right can transform the world and perfect it….When pressures mount, don’t become explosive. Instead, work quietly and diligently to alleviate them. At times of high energy, don’t throw yourself away in undisciplined euphoria. Work toward making the best use of the energy to enact new ideas and further your goals. When energies subside, use the time to rest and gather your strength instead of exhausting yourself with useless struggling....Synergetic interactions will provide ideas and inspirations, generate surplus energy for continued growth, and refine communications and perceptions. Hexagram 30, I Ching [trans. R.L. Wing]
This passage from the I Ching, an ancient Chinese oracle, reveals the essence of Taoist wisdom on the subject of lovemaking. Make love, but do it carefully, without throwing yourself away in undisciplined euphoria. In so doing, you make the world a better place. This hexagram also highlights the value of synergy, of aligning yourself with another for the benefit of both.
I was therefore astonished by Chia and Abrams’ recent book The Multi-Orgasmic Woman. Although it claims to be a Taoist handbook, it casually dismisses the concepts of careful lovemaking and synergy. Abrams assures her readers that the benefits of orgasm are so great that one should disregard the Taoist wisdom that orgasm causes feelings of depletion and relationship disharmony. Indeed, she asserts that female ejaculation gives women energy, and alleges, without solid evidence, that the Taoists recognized female ejaculate as one of the three waters that flow from women.
Abrams does admit that Taoist wisdom advised that orgasm should not be the focus of lovemaking. She also acknowledges that it is possible to benefit greatly from Taoist sexual practice by channeling one’s sexual energy without ever having an orgasm. However, she then dismisses such notions. "Orgasm," she improvises, "should not be the only focus of lovemaking." Next she completely turns the purest Taoist wisdom on its head. Instead of addressing how one can move sexual energy through the body in lieu of conventional orgasm, she focuses on how "enhancing your sexual energy and being able to move that energy through the body is vital to experiencing orgasm." [emphasis added] Most of her book, in fact, focuses on how to have more orgasms - of any and all types.
According to Chia’s earliest works, Taoist Secrets of Love, and Healing Love through the Tao, the Taoists taught a very peaceful, ecstatic, extended, merging experience they called "the valley orgasm." It cannot be forced. It is a state of deep union and emptiness into which one falls. Science is likely to discover one day that this experience is a not a high-dopamine event. Certainly the Taoists distinguished it from "the peak orgasm" of conventional sex, during which one rushes to the summit and collapses into a need for recovery - as one’s dopamine also peaks and crashes.
Although Abrams gives lip service to the wonders of Taoist valley orgasm, her advice to readers on how to become multi-orgasmic is strictly mundane. She advises a woman to heat herself up any way she can - for example by means of sexual fantasy, erotica, and/or vibrators. After achieving orgasm, the woman should start stimulating herself again, freely using whatever turns her on. When she forces an additional orgasm.…bingo! She has become "multi-orgasmic."
Upon making this discovery, I wondered what venerated Taoist sage Lao Tzu would think about Abrams’ advice. Would he be angry at its distortions? No. Wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, he would likely congratulate Abrams on her beautifully executed "backward leap." According to the Hua Hu Ching he taught that:
A person's approach to sexuality is a sign of his level of evolution. Unevolved persons practice ordinary sexual intercourse. Placing all emphasis upon the sexual organs, they neglect the body's other organs and systems. Whatever physical energy is accumulated is summarily discharged, and the subtle energies are similarly dissipated and disordered. It is a great backward leap. Section 69 of the Hua Hu Ching
Humor aside, there is a disturbing element to Abrams book. It repeatedly emphasizes solo over synergy. She advises women to "self-pleasure" even if they have a lover, and if they don’t have lovers, no problem. "Now I can be a woman whose sexual energy is fully activated even without a man….I [can] have constant orgasms all day long," says one of her sources. The concept of balancing the polarities of yin and yang for a higher end is missing from this work.
True, the Taoists had traditions of solo cultivation for women (as they did for men). But these traditions did not advocate cultivation of orgasm. Indeed, the texts on solo cultivation that I have read in translation insist that the woman avoid erotic thoughts during cultivation of the sexual energy (through breast massage and energy circulation). Certainly sexual fantasy, vibrators and erotica had no place in this practice.
Abrams is not the first to confuse ordinary sex with the highest forms of Taoist cultivation. The various ancient Taoist treatises are themselves inconsistent about orgasm. Yet as you read them, you recognize an interesting pattern: a movement away from mutual benefit toward sexual vampirism. Most Taoists acknowledged that women lose energy through orgasm, but eventually some believed that the man could absorb the "lost" energy during sex - to the woman’s detriment and the man’s gain in health and longevity. They most definitely encouraged women's orgasms. Clearly, such small minded advisors had also left the path of deeper wisdom alluded to by Lao Tzu, who saw dual cultivation as a mutually beneficial spiritual practice:
Where ordinary intercourse is effortful, angelic cultivation is calm, relaxed, quiet, and natural. Where ordinary intercourse unites sex organs with sex organs, angelic cultivation unites spirit with sprit, mind with mind, and every cell of one body with every cell of the other body. Culminating not in dissolution (separation?) but in integration (oneness?), it is an opportunity for a man and woman to mutually transform and uplift each other into the realm of bliss and wholeness. Section 69 of the Hua Hu Ching
Abrams warns that the practices she advises should be done in a calm balanced state of mind, as they tend to amplify emotions - anger and frustration, too - but she does not recognize that the emphasis on orgasm may itself trigger intense mood swings. Instead she explains that women needn’t worry about the after effects of orgasm because they don’t lose sperm either during orgasm or - as she happily points out - through female ejaculation. She thus perpetuates the error that many Taoists unwittingly make: assuming that sperm loss accounts for the sexual hangover. In fact, orgasm causes an energetic hangover in both sexes, although it may take days to manifest, and show up differently as a whole range of unwelcome feelings, projections, and behaviors. Sperm are irrelevant. As Lao Tzu observed earlier, the real issue is that orgasm dissipates and disorders the subtle energies. This is reflected in the neurochemistry of sex, which consists of a roller coaster of highs and lingering lows.
Abrams does list the many neurochemical benefits of sex (with orgasm), but seems oblivious to the fact that the Taoists reported those same, and greater, benefits for sex without orgasm. She implies that orgasm is a cure for depression because of the PEA (a natural amphetamine) produced during orgasm. PEA is the neurochemical that triggers that uncomfortable racy feeling during early romance. Injected into mice, it causes them to bounce around like popping corn. It’s not clear that blasts of this neurochemical benefit wellbeing in the long-term. (Incidentally the PEA in chocolate is not available to our brains, as she suggests; it is excreted in the digestion process.) In any case, she seems to overlook entirely the gains in wellbeing that come from achieving harmonious, affectionate balance with a lover without the neurochemical roller coaster ride of orgasm.
Abrams lives in Santa Cruz. As an American educated in the West, she can be forgiven her pro-orgasm obsession. Chia’s endorsement of her effort, however, is chilling. He has moved 180 degrees away from his earliest works on sex. Perhaps when he jettisoned his wife, he also abandoned much of his wisdom. In any case, it appears that he either did not read this book he lent his name to, or he has "lost the plot" as far as sacred sexuality goes. We cannot cultivate sexual energy for higher ends by "self-pleasuring" with forceful means, but only by achieving inner balance.
In the words of Lao Tzu:
To cultivate the mind, body, or spirit, simply balance the polarities. If people understood this, world peace and universal harmony would naturally arise.