Love, Sex and True Intimacy

If God is love, the universe is grounded in love and exists by and for love. Love is the purpose of the universe.

    It was out of wanting to share love that God created the universe in such a way that matter intrinsically heads towards spirit. Through evolution creatures became more and more capable of love. Four billion years ago, Earth was rocks and water. Now there are human beings. Things have gone from pre-personal to personal and are heading towards the super-personal where all are filled with God and love God in return.

    This fits with Jesus saying the greatest commandments are to “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as you love yourself” (Luke 10:27). Or as Eugene Peterson has it in The Message: “Love God with all your passion, prayer, intelligence and energy, and love others as well as you love yourself.”

    Ilia Delio, a Franciscan nun, wrote in The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution and the Power of Love in a chapter titled “Love, Sex and the Cosmos” that sex is basically spiritual. It is the sacred life-force that drives the universe moving us from within with unitive desire. We all want union as intimately as possible with another human being. Sexual intercourse is the zenith of the personalization process of the universe, meant by God to be part of the way we find personal fulfillment.

    Making love, in a broader sense, is the primordial “sacrament” that is the primordial “visible sign of God’s invisible love.” Making love underlies the seven church sacraments: baptism, reconciliation, communion, confirmation, marriage, holy orders and healing the sick. By “making love” I am not referring here to “sexual intercourse,” although intercourse could also be considered the primordial sacrament as God’s first words to humans were “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Without intercourse there would be no human race, religion, church or sacraments. 

    Given all this, how did we end up with a widespread culture of sexual abuse and rape, as the “Me Too” movement testifies?

     One explanation is that, as Martin Buber, the great Jewish theologian, wrote in his spiritual classic I and Thou, there are two basic ways of relating to everything: I-Thou and I-It. The I-Thou way sees everything as full of the presence of God. Everything is a sacred Thou, including humans, animals and all of nature.

    However, in a technological consumer culture we tend to relate to everything as an It, that is as a thing to be used for our own self-centered purposes. We tend to use nature and humans as if they were things divorced from us.

    A young woman once said “I am getting married because I got fed-up with the ‘hook-up’ culture where you are expected to have impersonal sex on the first date. It is easy to bare your body and have sex; it is hard to bare your soul and make love. I want true intimacy not fake ‘intimacy,’ a code word our culture uses for sexual intercourse.”

    Sexual intercourse is for the few, but anyone can make love in the sense I am using it here, that is, opening up your soul and sharing who you really are with others. Vowed celibates and single people can make love in this sense. William Johnston, a Jesuit and leading writer on Christian mysticism, describes in his autobiography Mystical Journey how he and Amy Lim, a Japanese nun, had a decades-long intimate but non-sexual relationship when he lived and taught spirituality and theology in Japan.

    For more information on how to make love in the spiritual sense, I would recommend Embracing the Beloved: Relationship as a Path of Awakening which describes a Buddhist way of intimacy as a “tandem inner journey towards spiritual realization.” Or read Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” as popularized by Christopher West.

    At this Valentines/Family Day time of year, may we all learn to make love, that is, love one another as well as we love our self, opening our soul to our partners, family and friends and thus continue the universal personalization process initiated by God.

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage coach and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com 

3 Big Ideas for May 29, 2019

  1. Teilhard de Chardin’s insight into love-energy as the core energy of evolution – evolution always moves towards creating creatures with a greater capacity for love (from invertebrates to vertebrates to mammals to humans) – this gives a new perspective on the nature of cosmic reality. If everything is internally related by love, nothing is autonomous or independent. For any creature, to “be” is to “be-with” or to “inter-be.” We are all “interbeings.” Everything depends on everything else. For you to exist, you need clouds and rain and seeds and soil and farmers. Whatever we are doing to the Earth we are doing to ourselves. This awareness has to be our new foundation: the Earth is us and we are the Earth.
  2. Any student of comparative mythology knows that, throughout the ancient world, there are common themes of death and resurrection and overcoming our mortality with immortality. Osiris and Mithra and Adonis are supposed to have achieved this. However, in Jesus the Christ, the myths became reality. God entered history and changed it forever.
  3. In God’s plan, the Cosmic Christ, who becomes incarnate as a human being, has universal primacy and universal meaning in human history. He becomes the arrowhead that points us towards our next stage of evolution: to become divinized human beings. Of course, we can only do this if we get our egos out of the way and let God’s Spirit fill us to the brim.

3 Big Ideas for May 9, 2019

  1. The cornerstone of spirituality is that God, in a plan of sheer goodness, created humans to share in God’s own blessed life. Love is therefore the principal energy in the universe, and the direction of evolution is towards greater wholeness and consciousness, toward greater love.
  2. Contemplation of God is not ecstasy, trance, enthusiasm, or mystic frenzy. These things are not the work of thedeep self.” They are the flooding into consciousness of the dionysian emotions of the “id” from the subconscious. Spiritual practice is also not about accomplishing, winning, or losing. It is about stopping struggling and relaxing with reality, accepting reality as it is, not making it the enemy.
  3. Henri Nouwen is the Kierkegaard of our generation because like Kierkegaard he has taught us Christian existentialism: how to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while being restless, to be at peace while being tempted, to feel safe while still being anxious, to be surrounded by light while still in darkness, to love while still doubting.

3 Big Thoughts for March 12, 2019

  1. The more one pursues spirituality in the teachings of world religious leaders like Jesus, Mohammed, Lao Tzu and Buddha, the more one experiences oneness, interconnectedness and less separation.
  2. The new cosmology (the story of the origin and development of the universe and our place in it) that science is showing us: – things develop from matter (big bang, galaxies, planets) to life (plants) to sensitivity (animals) to thought (humans) – demonstrates that the whole universe is heading in a spiritual direction – the whole universe is moving inexorably towards more life and consciousness. This new cosmology can heal the former split between science and religion. Matter intrinsically moves toward spirit. The whole universe is bound for enlightenment!
  3. Contemplation does not kill your pain and anguish. In fact it increases your awareness of the false faith in things that most “normal” people put their trust in: money and possessions. Once you start to grasp the folly of this – the cultural trance or sleepwalking that is the status quo – it increases your grief for the all those who are trapped in it. You shed tears of compassion for your fellow human beings. “Compassion” means “to suffer with.” Contemplation leads to suffering with and for others.