It is a common understanding that developing higher consciousness means, among other things, transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy. This is one reason why in many spiritual traditions, celibacy is considered an important factor in spiritual growth. However, this idea is only a half-truth, and like all half-truths, is, well, only partially true. It is at least equally, and in fact mostly, untrue–even though it has important practical value. Sound confusing? Read on…
Relative truth and ultimate truth
Before we dive into the idea of transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy, let’s take a quick look at “truth.” Then we’ll be able to understand what’s really going on when it comes to energy.
There is ultimate truth and there is relative truth. Ultimate truth is THE ultimate reality, known fully only by those who have realized the highest possible perspective encompassing the wholeness of existence. In other words, it is a fully enlightened view of a matter of ontological import. Relative truth is circumstantial: it depends upon your position in time and space and your state of knowledge, development, and consciousness. Relative truth may be true for one person and entirely untrue for another. It may even prove ultimately false, even though it may serve a highly useful purpose at some states of development. Let’s look at an analogy to understand this.
Relative truth = practical falsehood
If I say that “the sun will rise at 6:15 am today,” and it does indeed rise at 6:15 am, I have spoken the truth. Yet I have not spoken an ultimate truth but a relative one. Why? Because the sun doesn’t rise at all. The “ultimate truth” (in this analogy) is that the earth spins on its axis as it revolves around the sun. To those on the surface of the earth, this gives the appearance of the sun rising, gradually moving across the sky, and then setting each day. Saying the sun rises at 6:15 am serves to inform and may be quite accurate experientially. It may be useful, but it is a relative truth. In fact, from the perspective of ultimate truth, it’s pure nonsense.
So you can see there is quite a difference between relative truth and ultimate truth. These two statements are based on two entirely different paradigms of understanding the earth’s relationship with the sun. One paradigm is practical yet distorts the actual reality, and the other arises from a holistic and ultimately truer perspective (and yet may allow for the practicality of the distorted view).
Useful nonsense: transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy
Now let’s consider the idea that to grow spiritually, you need to transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy. This concept suggests that sexual energy is somehow more basic than spiritual energy, that it is the “stuff” from which you, with all your efforts to grow, somehow generate spiritual energy. How absurd! Was the universe born of sexual energy? Clearly something is amiss in this concept.
Yet, from the perspective of a person embarking on the spiritual path, this view may make sense and even be quite useful. If you’re feeling distracted from your spiritual practices and ideals by sexual thoughts and desires, it may make total sense to say you need to transmute that seemingly potent sexual energy into spiritual energy. And as you continue to grow on your spiritual path, the concept likely jives with your experience. Through meditation and other spiritual practices, gradually, the wildness of those sexual impulses may seem tamed as your spiritual experience deepens and intensifies. You may feel you are able to live your ideals with more integrity. You may also notice that when you expend sexual energy, there is a dip in your inner, spiritual experience. Indeed, it seems sexual energy IS being transmuted into spiritual energy, and that it is important to conserve sexual energy for that purpose. It is a relative truth that is valid and useful at a particular stage of development, a certain state of consciousness. It is also utter nonsense from a higher, more holistic viewpoint.
The ultimate truth of energy
Simply put, the ultimate truth of energy is that ALL energy arises from and within consciousness, as an aspect of its nature. Silent, unbounded, infinite, pure consciousness—the One, the Pure, the Immutable substrate of all existence—your inmost higher Self, pure divine Spirit—stirring within itself is energy, Prana. Most Tantric systems I am aware of view Prana as an inherent inseparable potentiality of consciousness. Primordial Prana is Shakti, as in the Tantric concept of Shiva (silent wholeness of pure awareness) – Shakti (the creative energy/potentiality of consciousness). The concept of Shiva-Shakti does not convey two, but rather the nature of the One. That is, creative energy is inherent in consciousness.
Further, Shiva-Shakti is within you. Shiva, pure consciousness, the Self of all, is your inmost Self though hidden by a veil of ignorance. Likewise, Shakti, the primordial creative energy of the universe is within you, also in latent form due to the veil of ignorance (and the obstructions in your energetic or pranic body). Yet, as you can realize your higher Self, so Shakti, the creative potentiality of consciousness, can fill and course through your being unrestricted, as immeasurable, pure, creative energy. Again, this is only a manner of speaking. Shiva-Shakti are not two, but one. When consciousness if FULL, energy is FULL and vice versa, because That is one and the same.
Energy and the chakras
Now we can begin to understand the relationship between sexual and spiritual energy. Sexual energy is not the primordial energy from which spiritual energy is created. Rather, spiritual energy, Shakti, gives rise to sexual energy. Sexual energy is a certain vibration or expression of Shakti. In fact, sexual energy is a vastly diluted and diminished expression of Shakti. Sexual energy is Shakti, as it “shines” through the lower chakras.
Your energy body or pranic body (pranamaya kosha) is said to consist of the chakras and some 72,000 nadis or subtle channels through which prana or shakti flows. Yet in most of us, that system of chakras and nadis is constricted, clogged, and obstructed by the results of living out of balance, in violation of life’s subtle laws of nature, due to ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion, and fear. As a result, we experience only a minute fraction of our potential consciousness and energy. That universal consciousness-prana (Shiva-Shakti) that is our own nature is squeezed into nearly unrecognizable form, shining dimly through the lower chakras as limited ego-mind and limited energy.
What really happens with energy as you grow spiritually
So rather than transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy, what is more accurately happening in the process of spiritual growth is the nadis and chakras are clearing. This allows more of your innate consciousness-energy to shine through your mind/body complex. Gradually, as you purify through spiritual practice and begin to live more in balance, in greater harmony with your nature and life’s laws, the nadis and higher chakras are cleared and opened (that is what purification is, energetically), and the light of Shiva-Shakti shines more brightly within you.
As that primordial spiritual consciousness-energy shines through the higher chakras, the baser impulses are “purified” or more accurately, brought into their proper perspective and place in the wholeness of life. Higher values of heart and mind open naturally. Your energy and vitality increase immensely. Some think sexual energy is powerful. Yet it is but a minute bit of Shakti. As the nadis and chakras clear and open, universal consciousness-energy seems to awaken within you. This is impossible to convey except by analogy. It is like the difference between a candlelight and the sun. In the beginning of the spiritual path, the energetic body is so constricted and clogged, it is like the light of a mere candle. With years of spiritual practice, opening the nadis and chakras, the full, immeasurable glory of the sun shines within you. The difference is incomprehensible. (And by the way, as sexual energy is but a candle light compared to the sun of cosmic energy, so sexual pleasure is but a candle light compared to the unbounded bliss of cosmic consciousness.)
Still, just as there is practical value in saying the sun rises at a certain time, there is practical value in conserving and “transmuting sexual energy into spiritual energy.” The concept serves, even though based in a perspective that is ultimately untrue (that sexual energy is the basis of spiritual energy). But please note that if you merely conserve sexual energy by celibacy, you are inviting trouble…
The ultimately practical takeaway
The reason mere conservation of sexual energy (celibacy) invites trouble is because it is roughly based on the same half-truth: that celibacy will transmute sexual energy into spiritual energy. How does conserving energy by celibacy transmute sexual energy? It doesn’t. It merely suppresses that energy. Hidden within sexual energy is the immense power of cosmic energy, Shakti, and Shakti is not easily suppressed. In fact, this simple, hard reality has taken down many a religious leader–not just Catholic priests, but Buddhist monks, Hindu swamis, and any who would attempt to forcibly suppress the cosmic energy within themselves.
So what actually “transmutes sexual energy into spiritual energy”? Remember the ultimately true view that sexual energy is but a flicker of cosmic, spiritual energy (Shakti) in the body, as if shining through the lower chakras. For that cosmic energy-consciousness to blossom to its full value in your life requires that the chakras and nadis be opened and cleared. Then Shakti flows to fill the entire, miraculous energetic system within you. Your individual experience of Consciousness-Prana becomes whole and balanced, and all the higher chakras are activated and the higher values lived. That is the meaning of “transmuting” sexual into spiritual energy. Sexual energy is not transmuted at all. It just assumes its proper perspective in the wholeness of life.
So the ultimately practical takeaway? Spiritual practices that open and clear the nadis and chakras are critical to balanced spiritual growth. Some practices do this directly, and others indirectly, but they must do it. As for how to do this directly, efficiently, in a balanced way, please see my upcoming course, Deep chakra work: a transformational 12-week online course.
Allow divine consciousness-energy to fill you and transform your consciousness, energy, and experience of life. Then to integrate this change, live in balance and harmony with the subtle laws of nature. (And that is another blog.)