I have been slowly making my way through T. Thorn Coyle’s Kissing the Limitless as of late. Her Evolutionary Witchcraft influenced the early development of my practice and led me to an interest in Feri witchcraft (a tradition that I am still interested in). While I hold some very different opinions on mysticism (and reading her work has helped me better understand my own approach to spirituality and identify stronger with the term ‘polytheistic mystic’), I have usually enjoyed her work. I find it useful and engaging, and it always offers me a chance to delve into my own soul.
A problem I’m running into with her work, though, is her focus on sex.
If we do not have a strong connection to our sex lives – by which here I mean sensual pleasure and genital sex – other aspects of our lives are likely to become out of balance. This does not mean that we have to have any sexual partner outside of ourselves. What it means is that if we are not willing and able to be open to pleasure, we can end up being in denial about certain emotional states or mental assumptions. Lack of physical sex and sensual pleasure also makes running energy cleanly and clearly far more difficult. All of this is a hindrance to spiritual and magical work. (Kissing the Limitless, pg. 61)
My relation to sex is usually a dull interest to why it brings pleasure. I may find it an incredible topic to read about, especially the many sexual practices that exist, and I don’t shy away from writing about it or discussing it with friends. My approach to sex is lacking shame or embarrassment; I don’t find sex to be something to be ashamed of and enjoy learning about how people relate to sex and what they believe about sex and its purpose. This is usually because it is such an important part of many people’s lives and a focus of a great many stories.
But I do not need sex to be in balance, because I am not a sexual person. I can and have had sex. For me, being in balance with sex means not having it.
When I first began realizing that sex was not something I wanted to engage in or an act I wanted to perform, I had a lot of guilt surrounding that. I refused to believe I could be asexual or anywhere near that spectrum. It was something I could not be because I simply couldn‘t, was my reasoning. I was aware of asexuality but denied that I could be a- or non-sexual.
I was so afraid of accepting my own sexuality that I completely shut down even the possibility that I could be asexual. I had to do a lot of questioning and wondering what was going on in my brain and agonizing over who I was before I could even whisper to myself, ‘Maybe I’m asexual’. Though some of that involves societal ideas about sexual behavior equaling sexuality, a lot of it came from the idea that I would like sex ‘eventually’ or with enough ‘practice’. When, the truth of it is, sex isn’t going to be that for me.
Self-understanding is vital to mystical practices, yes. I wasn’t happy with my sex life because I wasn’t happy about having sex at all in the first place. I didn’t think about it a lot because I am not a sexual person. (Referring to: “If we are not happy in our sex life, or are so shut down from it that we hardly give it a second thought, now is the time to look at our energy, to our connection to God Herself…” pg. 61) If this were not a larger problem within Pagan mysticism I would perhaps brush it off with no comment. But assumed sexuality is a problem, and it’s part of why I left the label and call any work I do with Pagans interfaith. From simple comments such as, “Everyone likes sex,” to authors (not just Coyle) who basically hail sex as the next best thing or vitally important to every spiritual practice, it ain’t so friendly to non-sexuals. We are a typically invisible group, yes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t actually exist.
The problem comes not from other people being sexual or having sexualities and behaviors that are vital to their practices. It comes from the promotion of such experiences as universal, which is actually my larger problem with most mysticism. Even for some sexual people, sexuality is not going to be an important part of their practice. It’s joked by many Pagans that they worship sex, isn’t that just great? Which helps to erase practices that aren’t rooted in sex at all as well. What this continuous attitude among Pagan writers perpetuates is basically: “I like pie, and if you don’t like pie then you need to re-evaluate your life because everyone likes pie and pie is important to everyone and if you don’t like pie you are shutting parts of yourself off/are scared of [x]/not going to be a good mystic.”
Though I plan to discuss polytheistic mysticism in a later post, the concepts I talk about are tied in here. Attempting to make your personal into a universal doesn’t work. It attempts to erase any trace of the Other and so becomes stunted in its ability to actually discuss differences between people that shape their lives. Coyle is a wonderful social justice activist and has displayed good sense through most of her work concerning the differing situations and life experiences that change people and influence who they are, but when you write that, “Every being relies upon our awakening. Every being rejoices in our work, even those who resist it…“ my flags start getting raised. This perspective has threaded through the rest of the work, which brings me much disquiet, as it seems to completely ignore that people can resist something because it is not good or wanted for them. At that, I believe, is the heart of my issue with monistic mysticism and Coyle’s approach to sexuality.