Consequently, it grades the counsels which it gives on two levels. It is not concerned with the average man who is not particularly interested in more than an average good life within the fold of conventional aims and needs. The first level is for the beginning quester who has set his aims and needs somewhat higher than the average man and who is willing to undergo a moderate discipline for this purpose.
The second is for the more advanced quester who seeks to attain the highest possible standard and who is willing to pay in self-denial and self-training the corresponding price.
The beginner's counsel allows him a disciplined sex life, with the extent of the discipline being set by himself, for no general rule which would cover the widely varying circumstances, responsibilities, obligations, and characters involved can possibly fit them all. It explains the nature of the sex force and then leaves it to him to decide how far and how fast he wishes to go with its control.
The second grade counsel is almost monastic in its disciplinary demand for it bids him refrain from the sex relation altogether, save for the purpose of having children, whose number must be limited and proportioned strictly. In the case of the unmarried, there will then be a complete chastity. No counsel can be given to the attained philosopher, for since he is able to reabsorb the sex urge successfully, completely, spontaneously, and unconsciously there is no urge, desire, or passion felt in this direction at all.
Consequently, there is no need here for any kind of discipline. Nevertheless if, being married, he should decide to have children there is equally nothing to stop him from entering into the sexual act for this purpose.
When that happens it will not be at the bidding of any lower urge, but out of willingness to provide a physical vehicle for the high-grade ego or egos he, and his wife, expect to attract. The enjoyment of food is subordinate to, and intended to make more inescapable, the instinct required for this highly important necessity of sustenance.
Yet man, blinded by his desires and passions, fails to see that the same situation prevails to explain part not all of the sexual instinct. Nature is not interested in his individual pleasure so much as in the continuance of his species. She has given him the one for the sake of the latter.
Man has in thought, belief, and practice today reversed this order of importance. The result is a totally wrong view about the possibility and value of continence. From this view stems a host of moral, nervous, and physical maladies which are plunging his life into confusion and disaster. Diderot, the French thinker and encyclopaedist of the eighteenth century, in his anti-religious writing drew attention to the harm caused by emotional repression to nuns; what he particularly had in mind was sexual repression.
The mystic has sometimes used erotic images when describing his experience. In the case of nuns this has been interpreted by modern sceptics, and especially by psychoanalysts, to indicate frustrated sexual desire. Such a condition must have been true of some nuns but cannot possibly have been true of the more advanced ones.
For a certain part of the mystic experience during deep meditation does correspond in several details to the sexual experience. There is, in these moments, a surrender of the attitude of being in control of oneself, a conscious recognition and acceptance of another entity which is allowed to take possession and work on oneself.
In consummated sexual love, the feeling of union is an intense one, but it is a union of two unlike entities. In realized mystical experience, the longing for union between the ego and what is beyond it is equally intense, and there is likewise here a marriage of two unlike entities--the passive willing ego giving itself up in ecstasy to the mysterious and impersonal higher power.
Nature has her rights, it is true, but before we can justly grant them we need to inquire as to what they really are. Her instincts in us are often perverted. We have to enquire why it is that most religions severely judged and deprecated the sexual instinct, and why they recommended its subjugation to their elite of priests and monks. It is the strongest of bodily instincts, the supreme expression of physical life, and therefore the possible gateway to a complete surrender to materialism.
Materialism achieves its greatest triumph in the inflamed and total self-identification of man and woman with their material bodies. In this absolute ecstasy of interlocked flesh there is no thought or place for the spirit, no care for memory of its existence. The infatuated man, who finds his beloved immeasurably desirable, will be restless or even tormented until he can achieve union with her.
Absolute asceticism and rigid monasticism were set up as preventives against such a surrender. Only by sheer flight from temptation, it was believed, could there be any possibility of successful subjugation. Gandhi demonstrated in his own person the foolishness of the belief that absolute continence leads to mental disorder. He was sane enough to lead his countrymen to freedom.
He also demonstrated the falsity of the belief that it was impossible. For forty years he practised it successfully.
It strengthens the body and the mind. It is generally held that fewer women than men have ever attained the higher goals. Indeed, in some of the sacred works which have come down from ancient times and which still govern much of the thinking upon the subject today, the spiritual aspirant who has obtained a male birth is regarded as being much more fortunate than one who has obtained a female one. One of the major reasons why women have been assigned a lower status for so long a time has been, aside from the selfish social exploitation of her physical weakness, the asceticism which belongs to the mystical stage of development.
Such asceticism has often taken an extreme and unbalanced form with the result that the values and virtues of monastic celibacy have been overrated and the dangers symbolized by women have been exaggerated. On the philosophic level the balance is restored, extreme fanatic views are dispelled, and the natural relationship between the sexes seen in its true light. Philosophy has no use for mere asceticism although it has plenty of use for self-discipline. According to this teaching there are three states of spiritual development: In the first stage, women are overwhelmingly ahead of men.
In the second stage, women and men are roughly equal in the success of their attainment. In the third and final stage, it is mostly men who succeed.
This said, all souls are of equal importance before God. The soul, in the sense of the true self, has no sex whatever. Personalities, which are its projections, may vary their sex from birth to birth, if we accept the theory of reincarnation, and therefore the important thing is not the sex to which we belong, but the inner mental being that we are. Of great importance are the evolutionary changes through which mankind in general has been passing during recent centuries.
Women have been exploited and subjected by men for ages past and it is only within recent times that they have begun to come into their own and claim the rights and privileges which are their just due. In the coming age, balance will be restored and woman will take her rightful place alongside of man in the leadership of the whole race.
To sum up, it is no longer a question of what the ancients believed about women or how the modern Indians regard them, but a question of accepting the evolutionary trend of things which is bringing the human race closer and closer to enlightenment and thus making it possible for every woman to claim and receive what is best in life if she wishes.
Are we that or a mind using a body? Or Mind using a mind and a body? This last is indeed the truth. When we find it out for ourselves, and hold to it through the years, how long can these desires keep their strength? We may be assured that they dwindle and go. It is the lack of proper control and knowledge or the abuse and misdirection of sex that turn it into an evil; but until man slowly evolves into awareness of his true self, it will continue to provide him--along with Art and Nature--with feelings of happiness which relieve the gloom of earthly life.
Yet, in contrast to the happiness gained from Art and Nature, and much more to that gained from spiritual awareness, there are heavy penalties for the abuse, misdirection, or lack of control of sex force.
Only by personal experience can it be rightly judged how valuable is the practice of storing up the innermost essence of sexual force by creative and informed abstinence, and then transforming this force into positive qualities, and how greatly it develops the power of will.
This does not necessarily mean a surrender to absolute asceticism, although that is perfectly possible and beneficial if carried out in the right spirit, but it does mean periods of relative asceticism.
This is completely different from, and superior to, the alleged sublimation into art, work, or intellect proffered by psychoanalysts, or into sport and physical exercise proffered by educators. These may reduce the strength of sex urges, or diminish their frequency, or cause them to vanish altogether, but such a result will hold for a time only and will not be a lasting one. For it is attained by a process which temporarily exhausts the urge but does not confront and conquer it at all.
A peasant who is too tired after a very heavy day's toil to attempt intercourse has not sublimated his sex energy in any way and may even indulge in imaginary acts of intercourse while he lies physically fatigued. The case of the sports enthusiast or gymnast is not too dissimilar from the peasant's. Nor is the case of the intellectual or artist, although on an entirely different plane, really different in principle.
When the intellectual work or artistic activity comes to an end, what is to stop the man's mind working in a sexual direction if his tendencies are strongly that way?
The philosophic method of sublimation comes to the problem by looking sex in the face, understanding its place and purpose, and dealing with it on mental and psychic as well as physical levels. The aim here is not mere repression, not deceptive pseudo-sublimation, but full mastery. For he finds within himself the woman whom he had formerly sought outside himself.
She who was to complement his mind and companion his body, and whom he could only find in an imperfect form or not find at all, is then discovered within his own spirit, in that which is deeper than body and mind. The mysterious duality which thus develops corresponds to the last stage but one of his mystical progress, for in the last stage there is absolute unity, absolute identity between his own ego and his Overself; but in the penultimate stage there is a loving communion between the two, and hence, a duality.
Such a man is in need of no fleshly woman, and if he does marry it will be for reasons other than the merely conventional ones. In achieving this wonderful liberation from the drawbacks which accompany the delights of sex and from the shortcomings which modify its promises, he achieves something else; he enters into love in its purest, noblest, most divine, and most exalted state.
Thus his nature is not starved of love as shallow observers may think or as the sensual-minded may believe, but only he, rather than the others, knows what it means. Seemingly he stands alone, but actually he does not.
He is conscious of a loving presence ever in him and around him, but it is love which has shed all turmoils and troubles, all excitements and illusions, all shortcomings and imperfections.
It is hard to overcome sexual desire, and neither ashamed repression nor unashamed expression will suffice to do so. Hunger and surfeit are both unsatisfactory states. The middle way is better, but it is not a solution in the true meaning of this term.