II. Mysticism Meets Sexology Re: Spectrosexuality Survey

Survey data collection is closed as of March 18. Thank you.


Online dictionaries give simple meanings for the word “sexology.” Examples include “the study of human sexual life or relationships” and “the study of human sexual behavior.” What’s not often expressed is the recognition that sexology often requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Any given inquiry may include investigations into history, erotic arts and literature, medicine, physiology, psychology, anthropology, sociology, pop culture, religions and spirituality, law and public policy, and so on.

I’m realizing that in writing about this simple survey of Neopagan people who report one or more sexual or “emotionally intimate” encounters with spirits (aka “spirit sex”), I will quite likely address a number of different topics. This blog post will describe a few. But first, another word about the (non-scientific, confidential, voluntary) survey itself.

The Survey Has a Simple Premise and Limited Scope

Premise: Human beings can and do have sexual and/or emotionally intimate encounters with unseen beings (gods, angels, demons, ghosts, the Fae, elves, etc.).

This premise includes the assumption that unseen beings (besides microbes) do exist. I can base this assumption on widespread beliefs and reported incidents, such as those found in religions, neopagan and witchy practices, mythologies, etc.

It’s not that I accept all superstition, but as I mentioned in Part I, science is now strongly considering the idea that consciousness exists in all forms of matter. And since science also reports that we’ve got a lot of unseen matter in this cosmos it seems logical to wonder about the types of consciousness that might be intrinsic to dark matter and how that consciousness could possibly organize itself in ways that we recognize as sentient and communicative.

Limited Scope. I am focusing on the experiences and practices of neopagan-esque people who say this has happened to them.

Overlapping Perspectives

In Part I, I described my personal perspectives on the topic. Here are some others.

(1) Sexology

a) Spectrophilia as a fetish or kink

In sexological literature, sex with spirits has been considered a fetish or a kink. For example, in the Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices (1992), Brenda Love lists “spectrophilia” (pp. 269-270) and describes it as arousal by intercourse with a range of spirits. She says the union of the Christian God and the Virgin Mary provides one of the most famous examples of spectrophilia. I am not sure this is a good example as it falls more accurately in the category of spectro-sexual mysticism.

Seeking experiences with an incubus or succubus could be a better example of a fetish-like desire, as these beings aren’t known for a transcendental quality in their trysts.

In medical articles, night terrors are the explanation for adult incubus/succubus experiences.

Preliminary Survey Note: None of the survey respondents report “night terror” sensations in the comments sections, though many reported dream encounters with spirit beings.

b) “Psychic Masturbation” and “Mind-Gasms”

Sexual pleasure from a spirit sounds improbable. But sexologists have documented orgasms that occur without physical touch.

Sexuality in the Human Male (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948) found that only “three or four adult males” (out of 5,000 studied) were able to ejaculate purely from fantasy, without touch or physical stimulation (pp. 517-518). (Nocturnal emissions are another matter.) However two percent of “nearly 5,000” wide-awake women were able to achieve orgasm through “psychic stimulation”  (Sexuality in the Human Female. Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin & Gebhard, 1954, pp. 163).

In 1992, Beverly Whipple, Gina Ogden, and Barry Komisaruk compared blood pressure, pupil dilation, heart rate, and pain threshold in ten women who experienced orgasm (1) without physical stimulation and (2) with self-stimulation. In both sessions, the above physiological responses were approximately doubled during orgasm. In a later study Komisaruk and Whipple used fMRI to compare thought orgasms to physically induced orgasms. The only difference was a lack of amygdala activity during thought orgasms. Both studies were cited in The Science of Orgasm (Komisaruk, Beyer-Flores and Whipple, 1992. pp. 260-261).

Mary Roach describes an interview with a woman who learned a “hands-free” orgasm technique from sexologist Annie Sprinkle in the mid-1990s (Bonk, 2008, pp. 239-241).

Other people can achieve “hands-free” orgasms through hypnosis. With practice, this can be very effective. In 2014, I did a survey of 225 erotic hypnosis practioners. Fifty-five percent of 223 respondents said they were “very satisfied” with their “hypno-gasms.”

Preliminary Survey Note: some respondents are reporting the addition of physical sensation to enhance their encounters with spirits.

Close-up of marble statue--head of St. Teresa, leaning back, eyes closed. Wearing a head covering.
Ecstasy of St Theresa (detail), 1652, by Gianlorenzo Bernini. Cornaro chapel, Santa Maria Della Vittoria church in Rome. Photo by Nina Aldin Thune. Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5.

(2) Spectrosexual mysticism

An example would be the ecstasies of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), described in the Aras.org website as part of a tradition of “bridal mysticism,” a union with the Christian god.

Some ancient Tibetan tantra traditions include practices with an imagined and/or visualized partner. This could be a deity, dakini, or yogini. This is called jnanamudra (Miranda Shaw, Passionate Enlightenment:Women in Tantric Buddhism, 1994. p. 172). Judith Simmer-Brown describes the “creation-phase practice” of visualizing oneself as a “yidam deity” as “yab-yum in sexual union.” When done correctly, Simmer-Brown says this can generate “tremendous passion, communication, and connection” between the self-as-deity and the imagined partner deity (Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism, 2001, pp. 216-217).

Tantric buddha
Yab yum position.

Devoted and passionate god or spirit connections are also found outside Christian and Tantric Buddhist traditions. Modern variations of Norse Heathenry and Norse-inspired practices yield examples. Dagulf Loptson’s well-researched book contains expressions of devotion to Loki as his “deepest love…most influential teacher…dearest friend” (Playing With Fire: An Exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson, 2014, Introduction).

Other examples of spectrosexual devotion and mysticism can be found in The Jotunbok: Working with the Giants of Northern Tradition (Kaldera, Ed., 2006). This book contains many passionate prose essays and devotional poems addressed to Loki, Hel, Angrboda and others in the Jotun pantheon. I find Elizabeth Vongsvisith’s poem, “To Loki,” especially moving (p.276).

As an aside, it doesn’t seem fair that a young Lokean godspouse blogging their ecstasies on Tumblr is more likely to be trolled by an Incel than to have their mystic love immortalized in marble. As a mystic sexologist, I’m just sayin’.

Preliminary Survey Note: several respondents are reporting feelings of emotional intimacy as well as ecstacy and great pleasure when in union (sexual or otherwise) with a beloved deity or spirit.

(3) Beliefs and Narratives

The ancient Hawaiians believed in kane or wahine o ka po (male or female spirit lovers of the night) (Pukui & Handy, The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u, Hawai’i, 1998. pp. 120-122). These lovers could be ‘aumakua (ancestor) or a kupua (ghost or spirit) or even a deity or a nature spirit like a mo’o (lizard-like fresh water spirit). Sometimes human beings could become so attached to their spirit lovers that their will to live could be weakened. In such cases, help would be sought from a kahuna (priest or expert).

The Hawaiian belief in spirit and human intimacy is also reflected in their mo’olelo (stories). The Epic Tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele (Ho’oulumahiehie & Vogelmeier, 2006) begins as the goddess Pele falls into a dream. She flies to the island of Kaua’i, where she entices and seduces a handsome human chief, Lohi’au. Pele falls in love with him. When she awakes, she sends her youngest sister, Hi’iakaikapoliopele, to travel on foot and canoe from Hawai’i Island to Kaua’i, in order to bring Lohi’au back in the flesh. Quite a lot happens along the way. It’s one of the great epic tales of all time.

Keith Dowman’s translation of Lady Yeshe Tsogyel’s life (Skydancer: The Secret Life and Songs of Lady Yeshe Tsogyel, 1996) describes transcendent tantric rituals, magical actions, and a vast array of supernatural beings.

Greek and Roman myths, and myths from other cultures, also contain many examples of love and lust between gods and mortals. Some fairy tales contain these as well.

A.S. Byatt’s The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye (1994) is a fine example in contemporary literature. It chronicles the relationship of a middle-aged scholar (female) and a very sensuous Djinn. The sex is fabulous.

This supernatural “human-meets-spirit” plot line never fails to intrigue: even Marvel’s version of the Norse god, Thor, falls for an attractive human scientist and mopes when he can’t be with her. In fact, you can find examples of spectrosexual love just about everywhere you look–practically under every bush, burning or not.

(4) Witchcraft Persecutions

Witchcraft is still illegal and/or socially punished in many parts of the world. During the European witchcraft persecutions, sex with the devil and lesser demons played a huge role in trials. Confessions were obtained under torture. Plenty of salicious material was offered just to obtain relief from the pain. Walter Stephens blames the church’s “crisis of belief” (in supernatural realities) for prosecution insistence on such “evidence” (Demon Lovers, 2013). As a sexologist, I can’t help thinking the prosecutors were also getting off on the accounts of hot witch on demon sex. I believe it was an insistence based on prurience as much as theology.

William Naphy describes three 16th and 17th century cases of demonic sex and witchcraft (including two men so accused) and discusses the attitudes and beliefs of both learned and common people toward witches and their powers (Sex Crimes, 2002, pp. 224-232). According to Naphy, in the 15th and 16th centuries, educated men began to believe that witches really did have access to knowledge from preternatural beings: angels, demons, and other spirits (p. 228). Learned men were also in pursuit of such knowledge and power through studies of alchemy, Kabbalism, numerology, and so on (p. 228). Though their actions were heinous beyond belief, it is easy to understand the ire felt by such learned and pious men, knowing that witches could access such knowledge simply by courting the favor of demons through sexual transactions. This was, in essence, unfair competition and a threat to their status quo. That they could have courted demons in the same way seems to have escaped them…

I mention this topic as a counterpoint to the blithe assumption that such persecution will never happen again, that we–as privileged, computer-saavy Heathens, neopagans, and witches with cellphones–are now free to do as we wilt (even unto Instagram and Facebook). However, the American Satanic Panic had real casualties and the sequel, Son of Satanic Panic, could be just around the corner. Torture and death are still visited upon people suspected of witchcraft in many parts of the world. This even happens to children. Imagine being two years old and accused of witchcraft and demonic possession, then tortured by your parents and other adults. Not much of a life, is it? If you don’t die during torture, you’re likely turned out into the streets to die there instead. So let’s give a thought for those folks–those kids!–and do what we can, even if only from afar. (See Part I.)

I find it ironic (and tragic) that the same religion that asks us to accept a divine baby conceived by a Holy Ghost and a human woman has also been responsible for the above. Perhaps I can be forgiven for seeing human history since the advent of the “Common Era” as a two-thousand-years-old war between dueling systems of magic?

FYI: if you travel internationally, there are a few places where perhaps you won’t want to go if you’re “out” as a witch or a god spouse on social media…

(5) Sex Magic

Before I mention the plethora of books (not to mention YouTube videos) devoted to obtaining a spirit lover, it’s worth mentioning that some sexologists and psychologists have been discovering “transcendent sex” outside of any particular tradition of spirituality, religion, or magic. An example would be Jenny Wade’s book, Transcendent Sex: When Lovemakeing Opens the Veil (2004). Wade discusses a range of phenomena, from unio mystica to taking on an animal spirit during sexual “shapeshifting.”

Could it be that the “learned ones” are actually coming back full circle to where the witches, ceremonial magicians, and sexual mystics have been all along? If so, it’s an interesting time.

So getting back to demons and spirits and sex magic and stuff…

In late medieval Europe, incubi and succubi became “a plague” (Tannahill, 1992, pp. 272-273). Incubi were most worrisome, as they gave pleasure to women. Plus, if they took the shape of a succubus, they could get it on with a man, retain the semen, change into an incubus, get it on with a woman, and get her pregnant with demon spawn (Tannahill, p. 273). It’s not hard to imagine that in spite of such concerns, more than a few people would start to contrive ways to summon these spirits and others for spectro-sex.

In my own library, each of these books deals with some form of sex magic. The last three touch upon sex magic with spirit partners.

Anand, Margot. (1995). The Art of Sexual Magic. New York, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Connolly, S. (2006). The Complete Book of Demonaltry. USA: D. B. Publishing. (pp. 337-339).

Miller, J. (2015). Sex, sorcery and spirit: The Secrets of Erotic Magic. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books. (pp. 151-167).

U.D., Frater. ( 2001). Secrets of Western Sex Magic. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. (pp. 143-147).

Margo Anand’s book blends western sex magic with western neo-tantra but is focused on human relationships.

For precise information about spirit sex (as well as humor), I would recommend Jason Miller’s book over the other three.

Of course there are plenty of other books out there. These are just what I have on hand right now.

(6) A Word About Everyday God or Spirit Spousery

It’s not all transcendent fireworks. Many god/spirit spouses or consorts have reported sharing quite prosaic activities with their invisible beloved, such as sharing food, drink, and movies. There’s a quiet beauty in feeling your favorite god/dess is nearby as you wash dishes or rake the leaves. It brings “sacredness” into what is commonly called “profane.”

(7) Spectrosexual Cautions

Spirit-human relationships may be much more widespread and “natural” (or preternatural) than we realize. Even so, there are many complexities and cautions to keep in mind.

Respect is key. For an overall perspective on creating respectful interactions with spirits (whether with erotic intent or not), I highly recommend Aidan Wachter’s book, Six Ways: Approaches & Entries for Practical Magic (Red Temple Press, 2018).

Now, for the cautions.

The last thing anyone should do is plunge into a spectrosexual situation without preparation. It may be tempting to liven up a lonely Saturday night by summoning a succubus, but you know, it might not work out as you planned. Read, learn, talk to other magical people. Don’t just look a ritual up on the internet and make a blood offering to something you don’t even know. Get a lot of good advice and take it!

Learn grounding, warding, and protection skills before you do anything else.

Learn to court and cultivate a relationship with spirits and try to do it without a “one-track mind.” Make offerings. Be sincere and humble. These are ancient beings who could be valuable teachers and allies for you, not just an astral hook-up. Again, respect…

Don’t do this stuff until you’re an adult. Honestly, just don’t. You can’t cultivate a good relationship with a spirit being until you know yourself a little better and get some experience dealing with other human beings with courtesy and respect. You’ll need this with spirits too. If you’re a teenager already involved in a spirit relationship, don’t worry. You can always grow and learn, and you can always ask for what you want and you can always say “no.” You have that right.

Whatever your age, learn to negotiate consent and boundaries with other human beings. Know your hard and soft limits.

I am sure there is much more to say, and others might want to add their comments below.


 I hope to begin discussion of the actual survey results in Part III. Thanks for sticking with me as a reader!

 

Updated References

Anand, M. (1995). The art of sexual magic: Cultivating sexual energy to transform your life. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Connolly, S. (2006). The complete book of demonolatry. USA: DB Publishing.

de Quincey, C. (2005). Radical knowing: Understanding consciousness through relationship. Rochester VT: Park Street Press. 

Dowman, K. (1996). Sky dancer: The secret life and songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications. 

Grundy, S. (2015). God in flames, god in fetters: Loki’s role in the northern religions. New Haven, CT: Troth Publications.

Ho’oulumahiehie & Nogelmeier, M.P. (2006). The epic tale of Hi’iakaikapoliopele: Woman of the sunrise, lightening-skirted beauty of Halema’uma’u. Honolulu HI: Awaiaulu Press.

Kaldera, R. (Ed.). The jotunbok: Working with the giants of the northern tradition. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B. & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Company.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Company.

Komisaruk, B. R., Beyer-Flores, C., & Whipple, B. (2006). The science of orgasm. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Lacquer, T.W. (2003). Solitary sex: A cultural history of masturbation. New York, NY: Zone Books. 

Loptson, D. (2014). Playing with fire: An exploration of Loki Laufeyjarson. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.

Love, B. (1992). Encyclopedia of unusual sex practices. Fort Lee, NJ: Baricade Books, Inc.

Marsh, A. (2010). Love among the objectum sexuals. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. Vol. 13. 

Miller, J. (2015). Sex, sorcery, and spirit: The secrets of erotic magic. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books. 

Naphy, W. (2004). Sex crimes from renaissance to enlightenment. Gloucestershire, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd. 

Pukui, M.K. and Handy, E.S.C. (1998). The Polynesian Family System in Ka’u, Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: Mutual Publishing. 

Roach, M. (2008). Bonk: The curious coupling of science and sex. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Shaw, M. Passionate englightenment: Women in tantric buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 

Simmer-Brown, J. (2001). Dakini’s warm breath: The feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Stephens, W. (2013) Demon lovers: Witchcraft, sex, and the crisis of belief. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Tannahill, R. (1992). Sex in history. [No location]: Scarborough House.

Taylor, T. (1996). The prehistory of sex: Four million years of human sexual culture. New York: NY: Bantam Books.

Tedlock, B. (2006). The woman in the shaman’s body: Reclaiming the feminine in religion and medicine. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 

U.D., F. (2001). Secrets of western sex magic: Magical energy and gnostic trance. St. Paul, MN:  Llewellyn Publications.

Wade, J. (2004). Transcendent sex: When lovemaking opens the veil. New York NY: Paraview Pocket Books. 

Wachter, A. (2018). Six ways: Approaches & entries for practical magic. [No location]: Red Temple Press.

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