Theosophy on Sex and Sexuality

Like many spiritual systems, Theosophy has a particular position on the subject of sexual relations.

What that position is, however, has been known to have the effect of putting some interested enquirers off Theosophy as well as making numerous existing students of Theosophy feel a sense of either guilt, failure, being judged, or being “sinful,” when they find that the Theosophical stance on sex is something they are unable to live up to without it causing them internal problems, stress, or distress; or they think to themselves, “Why on earth should I give up the pleasure, enjoyments, and benefits, that I feel I receive from my sex life?”

So what actually is the Theosophical teaching about sex? It can be summed up in these words:

“Creative powers in man were the gift of divine wisdom, not the result of sin. … Nor was the curse of KARMA called down upon them [i.e. the Atlanteans] for seeking natural union, as all the mindless animal-world does in its proper seasons; but, for abusing the creative power, for desecrating the divine gift, and wasting the life-essence for no purpose except bestial personal gratification.

“The seed of … lust, bruised the head of the seed of the fruit of wisdom and knowledge, by turning the holy mystery of procreation into animal gratification; hence the law of Karma “bruised the heel” of the Atlantean race, by gradually changing physiologically, morally, physically, and mentally, the whole nature of the Fourth Race of mankind, until, from the healthy King of animal creation of the Third Race, man became in the Fifth, our race, a helpless, scrofulous being, and has now become the wealthiest heir on the globe to constitutional and hereditary diseases, the most consciously and intelligently bestial of all animals!” (H. P. Blavatsky, “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 410, 411)

In short, Theosophy presents the view that the process of procreation – which of course involves sexual relations between a man and woman – is “the gift of divine wisdom,” a “divine gift,” and a “holy mystery,” and that engaging in sex for reasons other than this “natural union” – i.e. having sex for purposes other than trying to become pregnant and bring about the re-embodiment of another soul – is abuse of creative power, a desecration of the divine gift, a wasting of life-essence, bestial personal gratification.

As has been observed and acknowledged by some Theosophists, this view seems even more puritanical and restrictive than those held and propounded by even many religions!

In her article “Misconceptions,” HPB writes:

“Esotericism has never proscribed sexual or marital functions created by nature herself. Esotericism works in, with, for nature, and condemns but immorality, abuse and excess. Moreover, of all the animals, man is the most animal in his excesses; the beast has its seasons, but man has none.”

This seems to be of the same perspective as the quote from “The Secret Doctrine,” implying that deliberately non-procreative sex is more animal than human and that it goes against the Laws of Nature. This was echoed by the Master K.H. in one of his letters from the 1880s in which he referred to a certain book which had attracted serious scandal in Victorian England for its endorsement and advocating of contraception or birth control:

‘The Fruits of Philosophy’ is infamous and highly pernicious in its effects whatever and however beneficent and philanthropic the objects that led to the publication of the work. … I have not read the work – nor ever will; but I have its unclean spirit, its brutal aura before me, and I say again in my sight the advices offered in the work are abominable; they are the fruits of Sodom and Gommorah rather than of Philosophy, the very name of which it degrades. The sooner we leave the subject – the better.”

Theosophists of the 21st century can hardly be surprised if readers consider this an extremely puritanical reaction on the part of the Mahatma. “Liberty to love according to the impulse of the senses,” said HPB in her article “Modern Apostles and Pseudo-Messiahs,” “is the most profound slavery.”

What are we to make of all this?

For one thing, it is important to mention that Theosophy does not encourage or even recommend a life of complete abstinence from all romantic relationships for its adherents. In “The Key to Theosophy,” HPB answers questions about this.

Where she speaks of marriage and marrying, we can also include living together as unmarried partners, which, although very rarely done during her lifetime, has now become commonplace, largely due to it being recognised that an external and “legal” marriage does not necessarily cause two people to be truly married, in the inner sense, and that some couples who choose not to get outwardly married are much more truly inwardly bonded to each other than some who do. Surely no Theosophist is so fixated on externals that they would look askance at an unmarried couple living together as partners.

She says that if a Theosophist, “an ardent worker for our cause, still has ties and wishes which bind him to the world [and] does not feel that he has done for ever with what men call life, and that he desires one thing and one thing only – to know the truth, and to be able to help others – then for such a one I say there is no reason why he should not marry, if he likes to take the risks of that lottery where there are so many more blanks than prizes. Surely you cannot believe us so absurd and fanatical as to preach against marriage altogether? On the contrary, save in a few exceptional cases of practical Occultism, marriage is the only remedy against immorality.” (p. 262)

That last sentence is key. She is saying that apart from exceptional practical occultists – and who amongst us can claim to be one of those? – getting married (or having a partner) tends to be the only prevention against ending up falling prey to immorality.

She goes on to say that in the study and training of practical occultism, celibacy and chastity is essential. Some of the reasons for this are hinted at in what is explained about the pineal gland and Third Eye in “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 295-296. But Theosophy, as given by HPB and her closest colleague William Q. Judge, does not claim to be practical occultism but rather theoretical occultism, touching in certain places upon the theory of practical occultism, but not becoming practical occultism itself.

Thus for a student of Theosophy and even for those who entered the Esoteric Section that was started by HPB, a life of celibacy and chastity is not and was not recommended. She said (p. 263) that it “does not apply to the members of our Inner Section. . . . Most, if not all of those who join our Inner Section, are only beginners, preparing themselves in this life to enter in reality upon that path in lives to come.”

With that out of the way, the question of sex still however remains. HPB’s words seem very clear and if we happen to believe that she was indeed the “Direct Agent” of the Masters of Wisdom and that “The Secret Doctrine” is, as those Masters wrote, the “triple production” of two of Them with HPB, it is difficult to say, “Theosophy is right about everything except sex.” Could that really be the case? If HPB happened to get things right in other areas, why would she happen to get things wrong in this area?

Whatever one’s opinion may be, it is interesting to note two things:

(1) HPB wrote many thousands of pages but it is only that one statement, quoted above, from “The Secret Doctrine,” in which Theosophy specifically, clearly, and directly, presents the teaching that sex is solely for procreation. A Theosophist who for whatever reason may not have read every single page of “The Secret Doctrine” (and many haven’t!) would never know about it. If it was really such a vitally important and ethically obligatory teaching as some Theosophists believe then wouldn’t it be mentioned in most, if not all, of HPB’s books?

Wouldn’t it be so pervasive that all Theosophists could not help but be aware of it? And those of Mr Judge? He does not present it in any of the books or articles which he published; only in one or two private letters, which were published posthumously in “Letters That Have Helped Me.” Whilst it is true that Indian Theosophist B. P. Wadia wrote very strongly against deliberately non-procreative sex and therefore also against birth control, it is also true that the United Lodge of Theosophists considers HPB and WQJ to be the “Teachers,” and others – Mr Wadia included, although he is highly respected in the ULT – to be students of those Teachers.

(2) Having known quite well numerous fellow Theosophical students, we are able to say that it appears that only a very small percentage of Theosophists – devoted students of the original teachings of HPB and WQJ included – practise permanently in their life the principle of engaging in sex solely for procreation and abstaining from all sexual activity if they have no wish to have children. A very few allow themselves to feel guilt about this and to think of themselves as being sort of spiritual failures, whilst others adopt the attitude “I realise I’m not ready to stop having a sex life, so I will continue to do so whilst living as beneficial and altruistic a life for my fellow human beings as I can.” This certainly seems a healthier attitude and approach than to beat oneself up and end up with guilt complexes or repression issues akin to those sometimes found in followers of restrictive religions or amongst priests, monks, and nuns. One of the aims of Theosophy is to do away with religious fear and self-condemnation; let us be careful not to adopt an attitude towards our own – or, even worse, others’ – sex life that rivals that of fundamentalist religionists and puritanical dogmatists!

It is sometimes asked what Theosophy has to say about same sex relationships. The answer is very simple: nothing! Nothing is said about homosexuality or bisexuality in the Theosophical literature. This is probably partly because such things were hardly ever written about or even discussed at that time, i.e. the late 19th century. There have been, are now, and will continue to be, gay Theosophists.

It is also interesting to note that with the exception of the Bonobo ape, which is considered a close relative of the human species, human woman is the only female for whom it is possible to have sex without automatically becoming pregnant every time as a result. Some writers on spiritual themes have taken this to suggest that “sex for pleasure” is therefore not against the Laws of Nature after all but rather is part of evolutionary development and experience. Whatever the case may be, HPB tells us, “Man has fallen to so material a level that it is impossible to suppress sexual passion – but its exaltation is manifestly his ruin,” (“Modern Apostles and Pseudo-Messiahs,” emphasis added).

In today’s world and society, the Theosophical teaching about sex being solely for procreation appears appealing and practicable to only a very few people and usually those who by choice or force of circumstance are already living a celibate life.

For better or for worse, times have changed since the late 19th century when the modern Theosophical Movement was inaugurated. Sex is now a central part of modern life and far more openly acknowledged and discussed than it was even fifty years ago. For the majority of people, feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, and taboo, are no longer associated with it. This latter fact can surely only be a good thing.

It thus stands to reason that if Theosophists do wish to discuss what Theosophy has to say about sex, they will need to do so in a way that non-judgmentally and compassionately takes into account the ways that life and society has changed. The way the subject was approached in Victorian times is no longer applicable to 21st century life. But this does not mean that we should deny or attempt to brush over the very clear statements on the topic from the pen of HPB and her Adept Teachers, for if we are to let the world know what Theosophy teaches this is something that has to be said, but the way in which it is presented and handled is important.

Other people’s sex lives are absolutely none of our business and there are surely other parts of the Esoteric Philosophy which are of far greater importance to promulgate and popularise than this one, which for a long time to come is likely to remain controversial and problematic, not only for enquirers examining Theosophy but also for many Theosophists themselves.

BlavatskyTheosophy.com

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AN INTERESTING STATEMENT FROM WILLIAM Q. JUDGE

“Under certain conditions and at a certain time celibacy is a great aid, but if the student is wedded then it is his duty to continue in that condition, and instead of proving a barrier it will be an assistance to his progress if he rightly comprehends its significance. All the lessons which are taught the true occult student are given in daily life and through nature’s laws. The celibate loses some of these lessons – lessons which he must inevitably learn – because he violates a great law of nature. The result of celibacy is that the student works by intellect alone. It is necessary for true occult work that the heart be used also. One of the greater of the “mysteries” can never be learned by the celibate, for he never stands as hand in hand with God, a controller of a creative force.” (“Answers to Questioners,” William Q. Judge Theosophical Articles Vol. 2, p. 451)

(This may appear quite contradictory to other things said in Theosophy but, if anything, it shows that the Theosophical perspective on this subject may not be quite so fixed and rigid after all.)

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