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 desires which are unnatural and harmful 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 one sees his own nothingness just because he is gay, or whether because he sees how he was conditioned to be gay and cannot change it by wishing. 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