religion

A discordant thought in a recent dream caused me to pause. The dream text is as follows:

I am on my way to work. It is about 8:30 in the morning. I decide to stop off at a nearby synagogue to say morning prayers. I worry about being late for work. I am the only person in the synagogue and I feel exposed. I see the rabbi and I feel he is judging me. I am uncomfortable. I take a seat and the synagogue fills up. I begin to feel better that I am no longer alone. I am seated next to an attractive girl in her twenties. I think: “She’s way too young for me.” The cantor sings in Hebrew. There was a feeling of unease throughout the dream.

The dream thought, “I am seated next to an attractive girl in her twenties. I think: ‘She’s way too young for me’ ” seems oddly out of place in the religious context.

Perhaps it’s useful to look at other examples of the mingling of religious and sexual themes in my writings.

The Emerald Archive contains the following chapter:

https://dailstrug.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/the-teenage-ben-attends-yom-kippur-services/

Significant Moments contains the following passage:

One evening I was invited to meet an older (perhaps forty-five) professor of Indian philosophy who was visiting from India. She had something of a following in India and was even considered a kind of guru. Somehow the discussion turned to spiritual matters. This woman said she had never felt sexual desire in her life because her mind was filled with spiritual thoughts. There was simply no room. As the guests were leaving her apartment, she asked me to stay a little bit, as there was something she wanted to tell me. When we were alone she said: “You looked as though you did not believe what I was saying. Is that true?”
“Well, actually I don’t, no,” I replied.
“You don’t believe I am free of sexual desire?”
“No.”
“I will prove it to you. Touch my breasts.”
I did as I was told.
“See, I feel nothing. Now touch my thighs.”
I did as I was told.
“Again, nothing. Even if you enter me with your penis, I will feel nothing. Do you believe me?”
“No.”
“Try.”
I did.
“See, I feel nothing. The whole time this is going on I am thinking only about the higher self, the atman.”
J. Moussaieff Masson, My Father’s Guru.
To whom else should one offer sacrifices, to whom else should one pay honor, but to Him, Atman, the Only One? And where was Atman to be found, where did He dwell, where did His eternal heart beat, if not within the Self, in the innermost, in the eternal which each person carried within him? But where was this Self, this innermost?
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha.
Where was it? Where was it?
Robert Ludlum, The Parsifal Mosaic.
It is not surprising that the very word for asceticism, tapas, is . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . insidiously related, tied to, and involved with . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . a word commonly associated with . . .
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.
. . . seemingly opposite things—
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
. . . with virility, with sexual prowess, especially with increased potency (evidence for this is found not only in the Sanskrit texts, but in the observations of many travelers in India). The myths of Siva show such connections in detail. It is not surprising that the concern with incontinence would lead to fantasies about the powers inherent in semen; we can see this attested to in the ancient stories containing oral pregnancy fantasies (a ubiquitous theme in the Mahabharata: e.g., Kasyapa, Rsyasrnga’s father, lost his semen at the sight of Urvasi, and it was swallowed by a female antelope who subsequently gave birth to Rsyasrnga—hence his name “Antelope-Horned”).

These sexual fantasies of immense prowess are of course only the other side of the coin from constant fears of sexual depletion. Such concerns, universal and timeless, are particularly well documented in the case of the Indian villager.
J. Moussaieff Masson, The Psychology of the Ascetic.

Another section of Significant Moments contains the following passage:

The themes of innocence and purity, sexual indulgence and suffering, remorse and sexual renunciation are treated in Parsifal with a subtle intensity and depth of compassion that probe deeply into the unconscious and make the opera in some ways the most visionary of all Wagner’s works.
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (“Richard Wagner,” by Deryck V. Cooke and others).
Parsifal provides another glaring association of the maternal with the erotic. Describing [Parsifal’s mother’s] love for her son, Kundry asks, “Then, when her frenzied arm embraced you, were you perchance afraid of her kisses?” Nowhere else in pre-Freudian literature can one find such an overt reference to sexuality in early childhood.
Martin Gregor-Dellin, Richard Wagner: His Life, His Work, His Century.
He has been much criticized for this strongly personal treatment of a religious subject, which mingles the concepts of sacred and profane love; but in the light of later explorations in the field of psychology his insight into the relationship between religious and sexual experience seems merely in advance of its time.
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (“Richard Wagner,” by Deryck V. Cooke and others).

 

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