Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Off And Running Monday: The Role of Sex in the Trinity

Body, mind, and spirit.
The father, the son, and the holy ghost.
All are one.
Mystery novelist and religious author Dorothy L. Sayers, writing of the trinity as a literary device in The Mind of the Maker, said that some books are mind or spirit dominated and neglect the body, while others are body or spirit dominated and neglect the mind.  She shows how "some books are Father-dominated, some Son-dominated, and some Spirit-dominated."  She calls for a balance in fiction between body, mind, and spirit--and as she further unpacks the concept, "as Idea, Energy, and Power."

In life as in art, we should not neglect one part of the trinity for another.  Living the life of the mind, we should not neglect the body.  The body contains the sensuous and the sexual, and unfortunately, the sexual too often becomes dominant, neglecting the mind and spirit.  Camile Paglia, in her mammoth study, Sexual Personae (1990), argued that "Sex is the point of contact between man and nature, where morality and good intentions fall to primitive urges."

In this work, Paglia argues in favor of the Marquis de Sade and says that Freud's Oedipal Theory dominates our sexuality and our lives.  Her arguments are worth reading, but the book consists mostly of interesting inferences drawn from false premises.  Sexual desires are indeed repressed (more so in puritanical times than in the United States today), but by far the most significant thing that is repressed is our knowledge and fear of nothingness and our own inevitable personal deaths.

Paglia is well versed in Freud's writings, but she writes like she hasn't considered nor even read the writings of those brilliant psychologists who came later such as Eric Fromm, Otto Rank, and, most importantly, Ernest Becker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his brilliant study, The Denial of Death.

Yet the body is the temple of being, and sex is a part of life.  Buddhist David Guy, author of Autobiography of my Body (pictured above), tries to sort out the role of sex versus spirituality in The Red Thread of Passion: Spirituality and the Paradox of Sex.  Wendell Berry, in Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays, like Dorothy Sayers, argues for a balance.
Wendell Berry says, "The breath of God is only one of the divine gifts that make us living souls; the other is the dust.  Most of our modern troubles come from our misunderstanding and misvaluation of this dust....This madness constitutes the norm of humanity and of modern Christianity."

The problem of unbalance exists at all levels, personal relationships, community, society, ecology.  To mistreat the body for the sake of the soul "is not just to burn one's house for the sake of the insurance," nor is it just self-hatred of the most deep and dangerous sort.  The problem is that we so often value the material over the spiritual and the life of the mind over the life of the body.  What we need is balance.

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