I'm not trying to pull a Christopher West here and slap a suspect quasi-spirituality on to sex. I'm saying that sex has much more to do with who we are as total persons than it does with pleasant feelings in our naughty bits. And while the physical aspect of sex has the potential to overwhelm us, the way a loud horn section can drown out a whole orchestra, there are themes of a richer and deeper subtlety being played by all the insturments, even when we can't hear them.
Let's call this the "psychology of sex", that aspect of sex that has to do with the psyche rather than with the soma - for the somatic aspect of sex is merely the tip of the iceberg. All of us know the psychology of sex intimately and could give examples of it, even though all of us tend to make the mistake of thinking that sex is more about bodies than it is about souls. The "psychology of sex" is that part of sex that seeks not so much the physical pleasure of orgasm as the psychological pleasures of attention, validation, power, control, intimacy, communion, recreation. Note that this is a jumble of things, some of which are potentially trivial, some potentially dangerous, but all of which are far more "spiritual" and complex than mere biological desire.
Here's a video of a Protestant psychologist who treats people suffering from the ravages of sexual sin and addiction - pornography, adultery, and so on.
His name is Harry Schaumburg, and what strikes me about him are two main things. First, his realization that true intimacy is a far cry from false intimacy; that we are fallen people who tend stubbornly to choose false intimacy over true intimacy; and that false intimacy is an attempt at control, a building of what I would call an Unreality, a (seemingly) Controllable-Substitute-for-Reality that avoids the anxiety of following God's will and design in our lives, replacing it with our own short-cut to bliss. A "short-cut to bliss" is another way of saying "sin". Schaumburg seems to understand the anatomy of sin quite well, especially the sin of false intimacy, and he also understands what the alternative to this false intimacy looks like.
His articulation of the alternative is the second thing that strikes me about him and his insight. True intimacy, Schaumburg tells us, consists of a kind of maturity. This maturity is most evident in (of all places!) the daily and hourly hum drum of married life. In fact, Schaumburg tweets ...
True love and authentic intimacy are built, not found! So start building spiritual, relational and sexual maturity.
And in his interview he alludes to what are certainly the most neglected parts of the New Testament in the Catholic Church of the 21st century - the 5th and 6th chapters of Hebrews, which are about the obligation to become spiritually mature and to be weaned from the infantile nature of our current and rather insipid form of happy-clappy emotion-based worship, progressing to an adult level of understanding Christ, of thinking with the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16), and of living with the heart of Christ (see Ez. 36:26).
But nobody wants to be told to be mature and to grow up - even though St. Paul elsewhere tells us his goal in preaching and evangelizing, paid for by stonings, shipwrecks and imprisonment, is "so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." (Col. 1:28) Dear readers, when is the last time you could characterize anything that happens at Mass (other than the sacrifice itself) as "mature" (especially the pre-adolescent quality of the music), or as tending toward any sort of maturity, of building up the Body of Christ in any serious way?
Note as well that Schaumburg, in calling for a True and Mature Intimacy, is diametrically opposed to what the Pop-Theology-of-the-Body crowd calls for. Schaumburg rightly defines the apex of true intimacy as a healthy loving marriage (i.e., a family), while the Westians pour forth a kind of puerile sex talk that titillates and that implies the identification of spiritual ecstasy with orgasmic ecstasy, almost never mentioning what I have called the daily and hourly hum drum of married life (see also the Holy Family for a hint of what abides hidden and holy in the hum drum).
At any rate, it is good to see that there are some Christians out there who get it, and who understand that sex is not the meaningless physical activity that the secular liberals keep telling us it is, nor is it a kind of occult tool that the neo-Gnostics tell us it is, but that it is, in fact, a key to developing the fullness of our beings in communion with our spouses through sacrificial love. St. John Paul II, of course, said this a while back, though his message, and his awareness of how this is analogous to our communion with Christ, has been either ignored or misinterpreted ever since.
Meanwhile, when it comes to sex and intimacy, we could all do a bit of growing up.
|... see the Holy Family for a hint of what abides hidden and holy in the hum-drum|