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in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

Questions and Answers

But sex is natural. How can you deny that?

Outline of the Answer
• The Natural
• Life and Death—and Reproductive Sexuality
• The Childhood Roots of the Expansive and the Intoxicating
• The Supernatural

 
I can’t deny it. In fact, I agree with you. Sexual pleasure is natural. And being “natural,” bodily pleasure can come from anyone or anything. And God knows, some people have tried anything. Literally. That’s the real underlying philosophy to the Marquis de Sade’s writings, for example. It all comes down to saying, “Anything goes if it serves your pleasure. Any body—man, woman, child, or animal—is as good as any other body.”

So there’s the natural for you.

 
Life and Death—and Reproductive Sexuality

The problem with sexuality, from the Catholic perspective, derives from the difference between life and death. Because of mankind’s fall from grace in Original Sin, we became subject to death, and, consequently, sexual reproduction became our only connection to continuing life. As a result, both men and women constantly feel the natural physiological urges of their reproductive organs.

Now, the sexual union between a man and a woman serves the holiness of life when the reproductive act is expressed within the context of Holy Matrimony through an intimate bond of love that guarantees a child a secure family in which to grow in love for God.

But when the sex act is stripped of its reproductive nature and turned into the sporting pleasure of pagan eroticism, it perverts the holy ecstasy of life into the demonic ecstasy of death.

The lack of a consecrated bond between a man and a woman breeds broken families, single mothers, missing fathers, and—as the ultimate defiance of the holiness of life—abortions.

Children not conceived in consecrated holiness will struggle with spiritual emptiness throughout their lives.

Children who are not wanted are vulnerable to abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual) and abandonment.

Adults are demeaned when treated as mere sexual objects, and they are vulnerable to falling into the belief that they do not deserve any dignity.

Adults who find their identity as sexual objects open themselves to the danger of being seduced by evil.

Therefore, because of these dangers, we simply cannot manage our natural sexual urges without holy discipline. It’s a bit like realizing that a firearm, if not kept locked up, can cause terrific damage in the hands of a child.

In fact, with respect to bodily pleasure, we are all children—psychologically.

 
The Childhood Roots of the Expansive and the Intoxicating

The experience of lying naked and helpless during dressing, feeding, bathing, etc. arouses profound and complex emotions of pleasure in any infant: seeing and being seen, touching and being touched. In some individuals, these experiences can be intensified through fantasy, masturbation, sex play, or outright sexual abuse.

During middle and late childhood this erotic bodily awareness tends to fade into the background until it emerges again in adolescence. But, oddly enough, just as all adult eroticism grows from the roots of early infantile experiences, adult eroticism holds within itself deep fantasies harkening back to its infantile origins. Making oneself seen through seductive clothing or through nakedness, being touched freely and intimately—it all becomes a heady, expansive intoxication.

This yearning is expansive because the infant’s bond with a caretaker hints at the spiritual communion with God that we crave—but have lost—through Original Sin. And it’s intoxicating because the desire for pleasure can become so intense that we neglect even life itself to keep the pleasure going. 

  

In the 1950s, psychological researchers began to experiment with the intensely pleasurable effects of electrical stimulation of the brain on animal behavior.[1] One study [2] allowed rats to press a lever that stimulated the pleasure area of the hypothalamus; the rats pressed the lever continuously, several thousand times per hour, even to the point of collapsing from fatigue. Another study [3] found that female rats would abandon—and even trample underfoot—their own newly born pups for the sake of the brain stimulation.

  

 
The Supernatural

Divine revelation, therefore, has told us that our bodies are more than objects to be used for personal pleasure and that we have souls destined for everlasting life—or everlasting death—in the spiritual realm. When God calls us to be holy, then, He’s calling us to give up our natural infantile fantasies and take on the supernatural ways of divine love as the only path to genuine spiritual life.

  

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.

  

—Galatians 6:7–8

 

Who wrote this web page?
 

Notes

1. Olds, J., & Milner, P. (1954). Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of the septal area and other regions of the rat brain. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 47, 419–428.
 
2. Olds, J. (1958). Satiation effects in self-stimulation of the brain. Journal of comparative and physiological psychology, 51, 675–678.
 
3. Sonderegger, T. B. (1970). Intracranial stimulation and maternal behavior. APA convention proceedings, 78th meeting, 245–246.
 

 


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