Bennett on the Relationship between Sex and Spiritual Development (Part Four)

I wonder if the title of Bennett’s fourth chapter, “Negative Sex” may not have been influenced by Ouspensky’s idea of infra-sex (see chapter XII in A New Model of the Universe). Bennett’s opening idea is that, like our intellectual faculties, the sexual can be prostituted, so that rather than being a force for our uplifting, it works for our degeneration (23). Bennett’s next important comment strikes me as one of the very few self-evident statements which really say something: “We should be able to see for ourselves that any kind of undue interest in sex is harmful” (24). The question is, what is “undue”?

He then states that those who do not work on themselves find it hard to prevent the sexual impulse “degenerating into fantasy”. This seems to tie in with something else I have been considering, that perhaps the way to work with our sexual energies is simply to work on oneself, especially on stopping thought and not making excessive use of formatory thought (with a corresponding abstinence in the feeling centre).

Bennett states, very strongly, that it is “sacrilege” to speak about our sexual function as if it were now already what it could be, “the seat of our creative power” (24). That power needs, he says, “a challenge which corresponds to its own force …” (25) Again, what would be such a challenge? Bennett will come to that later in this book, but for now, he wishes to show what does not correspond, which was also Ouspensky’s method of procedure, and may be a good one: first we must clear away misunderstandings, as even to do this, one must inculcate some correct ideas.

The next significant point is that if our feeling life is not integrated with the rest of our nature, then it disorders everything, including our sexuality (26). As an example of a degeneration or abuse of sexual energy, Bennett offers “when either a man or a woman seeks to dominate over the other” (26). This desire to dominate also perverts the creative energy, so that rather than a pure impulse using that energy, one sees an obsessive drive to be a success (26). On re-reading this, I thought of the unbalanced some people have for stardom, even suiciding when it eludes them. But Bennett’s example is actually more interesting: he takes that of people who strive to climb Mount Everest. In these cases, he says, the sexual energy which they possess in abundance can inspire others, but sometimes they lead to “senseless imitation”, a false pride in human superiority, and without achieving any constructive purpose.

“Sexual energy can be destructive,” writes Bennett, “It is possible to go from the desire to dominate to the urge to destroy … war and sex have a strong affinity” (26-27). But that affinity, he makes clear, is the result of the degeneration of sex, due to “the power of imagination in us” (27). This imagination is associated with the Piandjoëhary which arises within us.

Gurdjieff says that the substances of Piandjoëhary are definite “higher being-active-elements, which are concentrated in the cerebellum (Sianoorinam”, see Beelzebub 790-791). He states that there is a danger associated with these substances: they can produce opposite results in us. Gurdjieff does not explain what he means by that, but as we shall see, Bennett does. However, Gurdjieff adds that these substances pass from the cerebellum through the spine, the breast and are concentrated in the male testicles and the female ovaries. There, it is transformed into Exioëhary, which he calls our “most sacred possession” (791).

I have gone into all this, because, if I understand correctly, then what Gurdjieff and Bennett are saying is that imagination is dangerous when linked to the sexual energy, because the substances which we use in imagination are precisely the substances which, at the very next stage of the alchemical laboratory which is man, are due to become the sacred Exioëhary (sperm in males). Hence Bennett gives an eloquent description of the value of the true power of imagination, a power of vision, wherein we are inspired by not mere mental images, but “forms that can have a real effect on ourselves and on events” (27).

After some valuable comments about feeling and thought interfering with each other, producing coldness and indifference or else irrationality and partiality, Bennett says that when the sexual energy invades other centres, we are given to feverish activity, to hallucination, to believing “that we can think our way to God”, or to states of hysteria, all equally and dismally useless (28).

Homosexuality is Bennett’s next topic. In the first stage of conscious transformation, he avers, there is little difference between hetero- and homosexual people provided that they do not bear too great a burden of either guilt or a feeling of superiority (29). Perhaps both these qualities are aspects of a heightened self-consciousness. Incidentally, I note that he says nothing about asexual people. Bennett adds this, which is interesting given comments attributed to Gurdjieff and Ouspensky which would seem to contradict him: “The attraction between people of the same sex is not unnatural and even the desire to have sexual contact is not unnatural, thought they are not of positive value in self-perfecting as the relationship between man and woman can be” (29). It is the first part of this which I think is inconsistent with Gurdjieff’s comments on “middle-sex”. However, Mr Adie once told me a story. He had me promise not to disclose the details of the story, but the lesson was quite clear: he agreed with Bennett’s comments in full. However, even if a certain attraction and desire is not unnatural, there may yet be some which is, in all sexual relationships (e.g. the infliction of pain or humiliation, the use of force, chastisement, drugs or asphyxiation, even if consensual, to take but six clear examples).

At a later stage of the work, says Bennett, a homosexual may have the advantage of understanding his own nothingness, but if he cannot control powerful sexual urges, may have to await that time of life when the sex drive weakens (29-30). Incidentally, I am not sure if Bennett means that he sees his own nothingness just because he is gay, or whether because he sees how he was conditioned to be so. I am fairly sure, but not certain, that Mr Adie thought the latter.

Bennett’s next comment applies to all people, hetero- or homosexual: “… perhaps the central consideration and the most practical touchstone for the right working of sex in all of us (is that) there should never be any feeling that we are special … Sex is a cosmic act in which we participate …” (30). And that, surely, would be a privilege.

Addendum to Part Four

At the start of this chapter, and again in a question at the end, Bennett returns to Gurdjieff’s comments about the elimination of waste products (which has been mentioned in previous posts). Answering the question, he adds that the elimination of waste products via sexual activity is purely instinctual. The instinctive centre will do the work itself (31-32)

One of the comments posted by a reader concerning an earlier article in this series reminds me that in the talk titled “Sex”, from 1923, Gurdjieff spoke of two possible forms of elimination: through sexual activity and by will, but added that, as we are, the latter is beyond us. This is basically what I had said, although I used the word “being”. I had forgotten that Gurdjieff had made this comment, although I had the gist of it available to me. However, with regard to Gurdjieff’s statement, what is beyond us today may not be completely beyond us, and possibly not at all beyond us tomorrow. I fundamentally reject Gurdjieff’s proffered solution, which was taking the men to Paris to engage prostitutes (first, it is immoral; second, it will stifle conscience; and third, it is just plain unsafe – the incidence of sexual diseases, many of which are incurable in an increasing number of cases, is horrifying. Besides, what was his solution for the women?)

Joseph Azize, 20 January 2018

3 comments

  1. Dear Joseph,

    With regards to:
    “At a later stage of the work, says Bennett, a homosexual may have the advantage of understanding his own nothingness, but if he cannot control powerful sexual urges, may have to await that time of life when the sex drive weakens (29-30). Incidentally, I am not sure if Bennett means that he sees his own nothingness just because he is gay, or whether because he sees how he was conditioned to be so. I am fairly sure, but not certain, that Mr Adie thought the latter.”

    Is the phrase “conditioned to be so” referring to being conditioned to be gay, or as a gay man being conditioned by the society within which he lives to see and feel himself as “nothing”. For some reason all of that is unclear to me.

    The foregoing brings to mind a discussion I had many moons ago with an older neighbor and dear friend of mine.

    ‘Larry’, a gay man, 17 years my senior suddenly said to me one day:
    “Do you know why I have you over for tea and a chat regularly as I do? It’s because you have something to talk about — because you are broadly interested in all kinds of things. All my gay acquaintances — my lover and my friends — they are preoccupied with one thing and that ‘one thing’ is the next piece of ass”

    I chuckled and said “Well, that’s a lot of men in this world, generally”
    He responded “That’s GAY men, in particular — I’m 63 years old: I KNOW’

    With respect to ‘Larry’ and his personally acquired knowledge, I would hesitate to describe ALL gay / bi / straight men as exhibiting one form of behavior. Nevertheless, I’ve thought (and observed) about what my friend described to me down through the years.

    Two things have always been clear to me about my make-up in this life: Since I can remember, I’ve always had a strongly present sex drive / force and I’ve always equated that energy with my strong love for God. Even though the designation “God” didn’t come until a bit later, I really don’t remember a time in my life those dynamics weren’t there.

    I was blessed early on with an exceptional ability and imperative to create: to paint paintings, draw, act and dance. Those activities made me happy and those activities were clearly to me the result of a reciprocal exchange with This God. I didn’t intellectualize it, I FELT it.

    That known personal truth much later informed my developing sexual expression and while it often – sometimes painfully — limited its manifesting arena it was of no point of regret.
    Happiness existed in my inner equilibrium not in a variable something/someone “outside”.

    If, as ‘Larry’ told me, that a certain gay men lives in ‘constant carnal pursuit’
    Then no one knows
    As that certain gay man arriving at His Self knows
    the inner void of NOTHINGNESS and the abysmal nature of that singular depth.

    And that would go for anyone of any orientation looking for self-realization through the ever-shifting mirror of chronic outward sexual pursuit

    Concerning gay identified men, I’d like to wait until we know more concerning a sexuality which has only until quite recently been allowed to rise publicly into some visibility and light. Clearly — as with women and various ethnic and racial groups — “they” still have much left to tell “us” about “them” if they so choose. And if they so choose, we will have the privilege of relatedly knowing that much more about Ourselves.

    Joseph, I don’t remember much in any of the Gudjieff or Gurdjieff-related literature related to asexuality or the celibate mode of life – it just doesn’t really seem to be there, does it?

    +

    With regards to the presented person described as “GI Gurdjieff”: I’ve never cared much for him or his actions since my initial introduction to him nearly fifty years ago, and I care even less for him as time moves on. Too little can really be verified concerning who the man actually was, under who/what aegis he worked, and what genuinely motivated him. Was this HIS teaching or is it simply the thing he obediently taught for some other else?

    To me he has always seemed to me an angry psychopathic mob-boss off his rails with little regret and next to no conscience or remorse. Misogyny and treating people generally ‘less then’ were the (poorly) “spiritually legitimized” order of his day

    I don’t think so . . . ANY of it.

    Ditto, many — if not all — of “The Followers” who did / did not see what was going on in front of their faces and did nothing about it. The posthumously set-up organizations and societies SEEM to reek of little other than involutionary power-mongering to boot. And the there’s the vituperative Bullying and Haughty Livid Hatefulness reported expressed within its ranks. Even, when “Good Intentions” are present they can unfortunately sometimes not be enough.

    Maybe the truly unappetizing fact is that the men he was taking to the Parisian Prostitutes never stood up to him and said “NO”. That small thing speaks volumes.

    Contrariwise, The Main Book, (the . . . um . . .DOOR-STOP ???), The Teaching Exercises and much of the individual literature has had the uncanny ability to aid unearthing my Hidden Human Treasures and to elicit healing of my individual predicaments like little else. I’ve experienced more than a few miracles.

    It’s prerequisite? The ongoing stand facing what I take to be My Owned Self.

    Some of it I keep—some of it I most certainly DO NOT.

    I am perfectly well-settled with the dichotomies of all of the “above”.

    +

    Yesterday, I received my recently ordered Bennett Sex and Spiritual Development book and opened directly to:

    “We should be able to see for ourselves that any kind of undue interest in sex is harmful”
    and then, as these things often go with me, I arrived at this post here on your site.

    I am remembering my first and only reading of this important-for-me book 34 years ago. . . .
    I am apprehending slowly — slow, slow, slowly — the personal progeny of its seeds planted in me
    “way back then”

    With best of wishes,
    Gregory

  2. A couple of things I would like to expand on here that somewhat touched something in myself…

    The idea of what is in our constitution that causes abnormal sexual behavior.

    The idea of sexual energy in relation to digesting a substance which includes
    -The idea that all we are is a mechanism to refine sustances which coud be either be for ourselves or for the enlarger worlds of the megalocosmos.
    -The idea of Piandjoëhary, where the substance that enters into us is at a point where it can evolve or involve.
    -The idea of where sexual energy needs to have something that confronts it.

    All these points for me are linked in someway.

    In the first case we could say abnormal man is always in a state of involving, it is only when we work apon ourselves that we get to a point where we can evolve, which I agree with the statement that only by working on oneselve is there a way out.

    In the early draft of Beelzebub tales, the 1931 transcript, Beelzebub speaks of how the substances refined by our first food passes seven centers of gravity which pass through our spinal brain which Beelzebub says contains the effects of the kundabuffer, these effects are now in the phyisical organ of this brain. We can liken these effects to the seven deadly sins which we must purge. Its interesting to look at this, I have 5 children and seeing them all grow up I can savely say I have verified that these effects are real, children naturally are vain, self centered, greedy envious, etc. In fact with no proper upbringing kids are just basically cruel animals, there of course is a spectrum to this, each child being different, but these effects are there.
    Then there is the influence of life on a person, did they in some way experience some kind of trauma, sexual abused and such when a child, did they have a negative influnce while grewin up, certain attitudes acquired that are unhealthy.

    All these different things sexual energy can attached itself to, making them even more pronounced, amplifying them. Then of course the feeling of guilty about them when a moment of conscious hits, its actually quite horrifying if we think about it, this is the condition of man and this just happens to a man without his desicion. This is his prison. There is no escape but one, the salvation is through working on ourselves, meaning gaining a teacher who understands all this. This sheds light on a statement for me, when Jesus said he is the way, but I think that way was lost just because the fact abnormal man got their hands on it. Distorting it. Just my opinion.

    This leads us to the next point, that all a man is is a transforming substance machine, in involution he transforms substances for the intake of larger machines, larger worlds of the megalocosmos, organic life serves this purpose.
    When he starts down the path of evolution, this we could say is for the man himself but also we could say this is the help God needs, yes strange to say God needs help.

    I disaggree with Bennet that organic life was created for man so he could evolve, too self centered. too vain to think. In fact Beelzebub teaches organic life was created to add certain substances to the solar system to harmonize it. Mans evolution was just a by product of the laws conducting organic life but then when God saw this he made use of this too, he thought this element could help him govern the megalocosmos, see the idea of, Ilnosoparno, Iraniranumange and the idea of the holy planet where Gods sees this as help. For some who dont know there is a beelzebub term cloud online that helps finding page references and stuff, very useful.

    I hope this isnt to much for a post here, I dont want to step over the main posting. I would like to add the rest in a later post. Sorry if it is too much I would just like to share the thoughts the main post brings these question.

    Cheers.

  3. (edited) In my thinking all this leads to the seeing of man has a substance transforming machine … One of the mysteries that I find in digestion is the idea of the fifth center of gravity which is called, Piandjoëhary, it is where a substance can evolve or involve, the substance splits into two parts, one for the maintenance of the planetary body and the other for further independent evolution of the substance.

    Beelzebub in the 1931 copy calls this substance the salt of essence, the quintessence, what meaning Gurdjieff used for these term is not certain to me but looking up the word quintessence was interesting in Wikipedia. … In the 1931 transcript it talks about Will attached to sexual energy, he says that the sexual energy can be transformed with that of pure reason or pure will as he calls it, this is from the chapter holy planet.

    … One of the problems is that man is almost vacant of both the affirming force and neutralizing force, he (is) almost all denying force hence being abnormal. See Okidanokh, Beelzebub states this directly.

    … I would say that sexual energy being an aspect of our denying force needs to be made to have contact with our affirming force. …

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