Later, in a great epilogue to the story, Moses is building the tabernacle in the desert. The tabernacle is essentially the first temple, replete with the Ark, cherubs, and Holy of Holies. Everyone is to bring his or her own special contribution toward the building of the tabernacle. The women bring the mirrors of desire that they used to arouse their partners. Moses is furious! Why are the women bringing sex toys for the building of the temple?
A divine voice intervenes: “Moses, these mirrors you would reject–take them and build the tabernacle with them.”
In this story, Moses plays the moralist who is afraid of the subversive power of the sexual. He sees families ruined, loyalties betrayed, and lives unhinged. This Moses voice has an important place in the texts of our lives. Ultimately, however, the divine voice must triumph. The temple where God dwells is the home of Eros. It is the temple with sexually intertwined cherubs at its epicenter. It invites us to embrace the sexual as our spiritual guide–modeling for us the erotic in every area.
A young man walks in on Master Baruch and his wife in the midst of a heated argument. Startled, he quickly turns away. Baruch responds with a wink. “You don’t understand. You have just witnessed a discussion between God and the Shechinah.”
To really touch on what the ancient mystics meant when they so deeply linked the sexual, the erotic, and the sacred, we need to go one final step further. The Holy of Holies is understood as the marriage bed, while the Ark and its tablets respectively represent the male and female sexual organs. Well, whose marriage bed is it anyway? And to whom does all this sexual anatomy belong? To human beings or God–whatever that might mean?
The texts intentionally blur the lines on this issue, for the point is that human beings and God actually share the same bed. That is to say, the cherubs are the symbol of the great marriage between the divine masculine and the divine feminine. Between Shiva and Shakti in Hindu lore, between Kudshah Brik Hu and Shechinah in the Kabbalistic storehouse of symbolism. Kudshah Brik Hu is the masculine divine energy and Shechinah the feminine divine energy. When the Shechinah dwells “between the cherubs,” the divine masculine and feminine meet in erotic union. But here is the major new teaching of the mystics. That union is not only modeled by but is actually initiated by human sexual merging.
When the relationship is real, when there is commitment and mutuality and love, then human sexual union not only models the erotic in all facets of life; it also participates in and affects union in the universe. It becomes an agent for healing and oneness, even and especially within God. It is in this regard that the great lover and mystic Akiva says that when man and woman join in sacred union, then “the Shechinah dwells between them.”
This is the same phrase the biblical text uses to describe the Shechinah that “dwells between the cherubs.” Between the cherubs and between the human lovers is the same place! For the mystics, then, those cherubs symbolize the masculine and feminine, both in the human and in the divine realm. At the apex of sexuality, humankind touches, participates in, and heals divinity. This is the potential for world healing implicit in the sexual, which models the erotic and the holy.
Erotic fulfillment is reached when you expand the realm of Eros beyond the sexual to embrace all of your existence. Indeed, the root of the Sanskrit word tantra–tan–means “expansion.” True Tantric energy expands into all realms of life. This expansion is the goal of Kabbalistic Tantra.
The Zohar weaves this esoteric teaching into a seemingly innocent passage. The original quotation is so striking that I decided to leave it virtually intact. Read it slowly, almost as a Tantric meditation.
Every person must find himself in sexual union [of male and female] . . . For in that way the Shechinah never parts from him. And if you will say that for one who travels [and is separated from his partner and therefore separated from sexual union] the Shechinah departs from him, come and see. Before a person begins his journey, he should organize his prayer–from a place where he is in sexual union–in order to draw the Shechinah down on him before he sets out on his path. Once he has learned the order of prayer and the Shechinah dwells in him through his sexual union, he should set out on his way, for the Shechinah can now remain with him . . . in the city or in the field.
As long as he is on the way, he needs to be mindful of his path in order that the higher union, the Shechinah, not part from him. Even when he is not in sexual union . . . this higher union does not leave. When he arrives home, he should rejoice [be sexual] with his partner . . . for she is the one through whom he accessed the higher union with the Shechinah.
This passage, part of the cherub mystery tradition, makes the merging with the Shechinah dependent on sexual union. Clearly, then, they are not the same thing. The goal is “higher union with the Shechinah.” The higher union takes place when one has been able to move beyond the bedroom to transpose the sexual to that person’s broader world–to greet the Divine at every doorstep, every crossroad, in every sparrow along the way. When the traveler returns, he is instructed to make love with his partner again in order to recast his life once more in the model of the sexual. In this way, sex leads him to the Shechinah.
It is in the move through the sexual to the erotic that we achieve the ultimate goal of the spirit: higher union with the Shechinah, erotic fulfillment in every arena of living. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke aptly wrote of the ability of love to travel with us: “Believe in a love that is being preserved for you like a heritage, and trust that in this love there is a strength and a blessing which you are not bound to leave behind you though you may travel far!”
A Return to Eros: On Sex, Love, and Eroticism in Every Dimension of Life, from Drs. Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, reveals the radical secret tenets of relationship between the sexual, the erotic, and the holy. They reveal what Eros actually means and share the ten core qualities of the Erotic, which are modeled by the sexual. These include being on the inside, fullness of presence, yearning, allurement, fantasy, surrender, creativity, pleasure, and more.
A Return to Eros shows why these qualities of the erotic modeled by the sexual are actually the same core qualities of the sacred. The relationship between the sexual and the erotic becomes clear, teaching you how to live an erotically suffused existence charged with purpose, potency and power.
To be an Outrageous Lover–not just in sex but also in all facets of your life–you must listen deeply to the simple yet elegant whisperings of the sexual. This book will forever transform your understanding and experience of love, sex, and Eros.
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