Mary Millerd is a spiritual director and teacher with a certificate in Family Systems Therapy as well as a certificate in Bodydynamics Shock Trauma Training Program. She co-authored The Spirituality of Sex (Wood Lake 2009).

The Spirituality of Sex

The Spirituality of Sex by Michael Schwartzentruber, Lois Huey-Heck, Mary Millerd, and Charlotte Jackson (Wood Lake $35)

Is spiritual sex an oxymoron? Not according to the four authors of The Spirituality of Sex. Charlotte Jackson, Lois Huey-Heck, Mary Millerd, and Michael Schwartzentruber make a convincing and energetic case for the many ways our spirituality is deeply embedded in sex and sexuality.

The tenth in a series of coffee table books including The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening and The Spirituality of Wine, this volume is an unabashed celebration of the communion of Eros and Spirit, a reclaiming of the essential goodness of sex.

Like most coffee table volumes, this is a book to dip into, perhaps to stumble upon a poem by Rumi, a quote from D.H. Lawrence, or the curious fact that Kellogg’s Cornflakes were invented to discourage youthful masturbation, “on the theory that bland foods dampen the sexual appetites.”

Augmented by lavish and sometimes graphic illustrations, and embellished with poems and quotes from sources as diverse as Anais Nin, Matthew Fox, Carl Jung and Alice Walker, to name a few, the text is a series of short takes in which the authors take turns musing on everything from Tantric sex to mystical religious traditions, to the mysteries of male and female sexuality, to the experience of falling in love, achieving intimacy, and preparing for that special romantic evening with your lover.

It’s almost everything you always wanted to know about spiritual sex in bite-sized pieces of 1000 words or less.

Don’t expect to find illumination on the dark side of sex here. There’s nothing kinky, nothing salacious; the authors don’t touch on sexual abuse, sexual perversion, on love’s self-destructive compulsions. It’s all about celebrating the “human and humane” dimensions of love and Eros, the benefits of long-term commitment and the healing powers of touch and sensuality.

You’ll find depictions of wholesome, healthy, loving sex—an antidote to the commodification of sex that permeates the current cultural milieu.

The quartet of authors come across as sincere and well-intentioned, earnest even, with a propensity for stating the obvious. We are told sex is better with love, that “great lovemaking has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves,” that the emphasis on external beauty keeps us from connecting with our inner beauty, that sex for procreation connects us to the wheel of life and death, and that when girls are told their sexuality is dirty it affects their relationships.

Truisms, all. Statements like these could be starting points for discussion rather than the content of the discussion, and addressed with a little more irony and humour.

To their credit though, the authors do manage to conjure some compelling glimpses into mystical sexuality in the Sufi, Taoist, and Judaic traditions, the mysteries of Tantric Sex, the ancient roots of goddess worship, and the Roman cult of the phallus.
As well, they aren’t afraid to come down hard on the anti-sexual bias in Christianity, describing how Saint Augustine’s loathing of his own sexuality has cast such a long shadow over the church, or highlight the frank eroticism of the Bible’s Song of Songs.

While the text is not exactly deep, the gems scattered across these pages offer a tantalizing look into the spiritual dimensions of what is perhaps life’s most mysterious and profound experience. 978-1-896836-90-9

-- reviewed by Sheila Munro

[BCBW 2009]