Richard G. Petty, MD

Sexuality and Spirituality

The talk shows and multiple Internet sites have picked up on a story about a controversial website  that is pulling a great many people to a progressive church in Granger, Indiana. Some people have been getting very hot under the collar, and saying that there’s no place for frank advertising and for discussions of sex in a church, or a church-based website.

To be honest, I fail to see what all the fuss is about. It is self- evident that no two people are ever going to agree about everything to do with religion. And just as obvious that there are some clearly different schools of psychological and spiritual development. Some are by their very nature sexually repressive while others, and I am thinking here primarily of Tantric and Taoist traditions, have actively used sex for spiritual enlightenment. But there has also been an important study that has shown that many people who are not following any particular spiritual tradition have spiritual, mystical or transcendent experiences during sex. This is reported in a very fine book by developmental psychologist Jenny Wade.

In the introduction to Jenny’s book, the philosopher Ken Wilber makes an important point, that leads us straight back to the controversy over the website. He asks why so many people laugh at or snigger about sex? And his answer is superficially astonishing, but, I think, quite correct. He says that we laugh at sex because it can kill us.

Many psychologists and philosophers have examined the basis of laughter, and have all, in their different ways come to the conclusion that it has something to do with an event that we find unnervingly significant. I think that is was Freud who pointed out that laughing when someone slips on banana peel causes laughter because it is a reminder that anybody can fall victim to the same thing.

So what does Ken mean by that statement? He means that sex can kill the “everyday you,” your normal personal ego, and sometimes enable people to experience the depths of their own spirituality. And that can be very scary. Clinicians still see a great many people who have developed problems because of conflicts over their own sexuality and their beliefs; In particular their religious beliefs. Yet here is the paradox: sex may not be conducive to religious belief but it can be highly conducive to spiritual experience. Yet Jenny Wade’s study also showed that 80% of the people who had these experiences never told a single person about them. Presumably because they fear that they will be laughed at.

For the people who felt upset about the Church in Indiana, I think that it’s important to realize that sex is not going to go away. Everybody knows that sex sells, and if people are drawn into hearing a balanced message to help them re-establish their moral compass, isn’t that a good thing?

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About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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