In our last Spirit column, we explored the esoteric concept of the sacred marriage of opposing energies, best represented through astrology with Sun and Mars on the masculine side and Moon and Venus on the feminine. Now it’s time for the honeymoon. Our soundtrack is the 1983 New Wave hit “Sex” by the band Berlin.
In the pop duet, the female singer refers to herself as a virgin, goddess, bitch and geisha, while the male singer simply repeats the same response: “I’m a man.” Whether purposefully or not, the lyrics thus express a fundamental teaching of the wisdom tradition, which distinguishes between two dimensions of reality: the world of being and the world of becoming.
The world of becoming is considered feminine and to it belongs birth and death, changes of season and everything pertaining to the sphere of nature and human events. In contrast to this dynamic playing field was posited an unchanging metaphysical reality ruled by a Sky Father, be it Zeus in Greek mythology, Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism or Allah in Islam.
In Hinduism, the goddess Shakti represents the feminine principle, or everything that is dynamic energy within the world of becoming. In contrast, her celestial consort Shiva enacts the male principle of immutable power, just as a stone in a creek causes the current to flow fastest even though the stone does nothing but simply be there. Shakti’s changeability, shape-shifting as in the song lyrics from one feminine guise to another like the phases of the moon, is drawn to Shiva’s steadfastness like steel to a magnet.
A curious difference between East and West is that European civilization created the scientific study of sex, but never produced a sacred handbook such as The Pillow Book from China or Kama Sutra from India. Is it possible Westerners have misunderstood the dynamics of sex for millennia?
The classic Tantric sexual position known as the lotus places the woman, embodying the goddess Shakti, in the lap of the man, who sits cross-legged and plays the role of Shiva. In their divine embrace, Shakti gyrates with her dynamic energy while Shiva’s role is to sit like a stone in a creek—or a king on a throne—and “hold the center” or “do without doing,” acting as the fixed axis around which the sexual energy turns. In this dynamic fusing of being and becoming, we may say that the female role is actively passive while the male role is passively active.
After voicing their opposing parts in the cosmic union, the singers in our ’80s New Wave tune intone the final line in unison: “And we make love together.”
Christian Chensvold blogs about the world’s wisdom traditions at trad-man.com.