The Eighth Principle Of Clarity (Parvati's Rule):

8. I will strive for purity in my sexuality.

Many, if not most, monastic traditions encourage or demand complete celibacy as part of their vows. We understand the reasons behind this. They are, in general:

  1. Sexuality can become an obsession, depending on the physical libido of the individual in question, and this can distract from the path.
  2. Sexuality is often bound up with emotions, including insecurity, need for love and physical affection, fears about physical desirability, parental issues, social values, the idea that it is "dirty" and that "dirtiness" makes it more desirable. These can taint its expression and create turmoil around its practice, which is something better worked out in non-monastic life.
  3. Sexuality brings one into close contact with the body and its needs, and most if not all monastic traditions are designed around a transcendent rather than an immanent world view, which sees the physical world and its attendant needs as a profane place to be escaped rather than a sacred place to be honored.

Our approach is somewhat different. First, although monasticism is a retreat from society's rules, it is not a place to run away from oneself and one's issues. Indeed, it often becomes a forum where those issues are brought up into sharp relief. The libido is fueled by the unconscious, and all too often the things that you relegate to the dark closet in the basement find a trap door up through the groin. Rather than closing it off in a desperate attempt at denial, that door can be a valuable window on where you need to clean things out, or where things are beyond cleaning and more drastic shadow work or monster work needs to be taken on.

We do place limits on sexual expression, however. Those limits have nothing to do with individual activities, of which all are technically permitted, or with whom you choose to do those activities, of which any consenting adult is acceptable. The limitations are more about the attitude and the circumstances involved. Sex (and we include any sexually arousing action, including masturbation, in that definition) is acceptable under three conditions:

There is one kind of sexual expression that is strictly forbidden: any sexual expression that pushes you into old negative patterns, outside of a deliberate and ruthless attempt to brutally confront them. For some people, especially those who are sexually damaged from past experiences and are incapable of sex without falling into self-limiting and self-harming patterns, this may result in celibacy by default, or a period of celibacy - even years - may be necessary in order to give them the space to deal with their issues. Others may feel that celibacy may aid them in their path to the Spirit; this is an honorable method, but care should be taken to make sure that they are not merely subconsciously rejecting their flesh as un-spiritual. Those who choose celibacy for whatever reason should make an effort to periodically indulge in nonsexual but physically sensuous activities, in order to bring them back into touch with their bodies.

The expression of your sexuality should be as clean as possible. By this, we mean that it should be unconflicted; you should not have any shame, or guilt, or feelings that what you are doing is dirty or bad in any way. You should not be having any kind of sexual activity that you are not wholly into with heart and soul; there should be no settling for unsatisfactory sex. If you can't do it cleanly, don't do it.

Lay members can follow a lesser version of this principle, even if it is difficult. Start with eliminating all sexual activity about which you are ambivalent, not wholly enthusiastic. Then think about what sort of sex you are having that makes you feel worse about yourself, and/or sexuality in general, and eliminate that. Then eliminate sex that is not satisfying to you. If there is anything left, you can go from there, and either stay at this level (which is acceptable for a lay member), or go further and eliminate anything that is not sacred sexuality, sexual service, or sexual catharsis work.

[Order of the Horae]