Bloch on Sex and Religion

Ivan Bloch (1872-1922) worked with Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany’s  Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first institution advocating for homosexual and transgender rights. In his book The sexual life of our time : a complete encyclopaedia of the sexual sciences in their relation to modern civilisation, published in 1907 Bloch declared:

“Homosexuality – love between man and man (uranism) or between woman and woman (tribadism), a congenital state, or one spontaneously appearing in very early childhood – I consider a ‘riddle’ because, in fact, the more closely in recent years I have come to know it, the more I have endeavoured to study it scientifically, the more enigmatical, the more obscure, the more incomprehensible, it become to me.

“I must recognise that true homosexuality constitutes a special well-defined group… among thoroughly healthy individuals of both sexes… there appears in very early childhood, and certainly not evoked by any kind of external influence, an inclination, and after puberty, a sexual impulse, towards persons of the same sex ….

“They are just as healthy and normal as are heterosexuals. For me there is no longer any doubt that homosexuality is compatible with complete mental and physical health.”

He quotes a 32 year old gay physician:

“My love is as great, as holy, and as pure, as heterosexual love; it is capable of self-sacrifice. Believe me, for a loved one who fully understood me in every respect, I would gladly go to my death… Ah! how painful it is to us when we are regarded as debauchees or as sick persons!”

Also in this work Bloch summarised the deep connection between sexuality and spirituality felt by humanity for most of its history, something that is little understood a century after he wrote this work and still likely to shock people today:

“…throughout its history sorcery in all its forms remained associated with the sexual impulse.

“All sorcery arise from rutting” said an old (Brazilian) Indian..

“Sorcerers and witches are, above all, experienced in the sexual province.”

“…sexual excesses are throughout the world found in association with religion…

“…Among primitive peoples, and in ancient times, religio-erotic festivals first gave an opportunity for the manifestation of this religio-sexual mysticism….

“This sexual religious mysticism meets us everywhere – in the religious festivals of antiquity, the festivals of Isis in Egypt, and the festivals of imperial Rome, both alike accompanied by the wildest sexual orgies; in the festivals of Baal Peor, among the Jews, in the Venus and Adonis festivals of the Phoenicians, in Cyprus and Byblos, in the Aphrodisian, the Dionysian, and the Eleusinian festivals of the Hellenes; in the festival of Flora in Rome, in which prostitutes ran about naked; in the Roman Bacchanalia; and in the festival of bona dea, the wild licence of which is only too clearly presented to our eyes in the celebrated account of Juvenal.

“In India, the sect of Caitanya, founded in the C16, celebrated the maddest religio-sexual orgies. Their ritual consisted principally of long litanies and hymns, stuffed full with unbridled eroticism, and followed by wild dances, all leading up to the sexual culmination, in which the ‘love of God’ (bhakti) was to be made as clearly perceptible as possible. Even worse were the Sakta sects (the name derived from sakti, force, that is the sensuous manifestation of the god Siva). They gave themselves up with ardent sensuality to the service of the female emanations of Siva, all distinctions of caste being ignored, and wild sensual promiscuity prevailing. Divine service always preceded the act of sexual intercourse.

“Ancient Central and South America were also familiar with wild outbreaks of a sexual-religious character. In Guatemala, on the days of the great sacrifices, there occurred sexual orgies of the worst kind…

“Sexual mysticism also found its way into Christianity. When the renowned theologian Usener, in his work ‘Mythology’ writes in relation to these matters, ‘the whole of paganism found its way into Christianity,’ we must point out that in our view what ‘corrupted’ Christianity was not ‘paganism’, but the fundamental phenomena of primitive human nature, the primordial connection between religion and sexuality, which by a natural necessity manifested itself in Christianity not less than in other religions.

“In the 4th C of our era, the Jewish-Christian sect of the Sarabites concluded their religious festivals with wild sexual orgies, which are graphically described by Cassianus. This sect persisted into the ninth century. The later history of the Christian sects is full of this religio-sexual element. Religious and sexual ardour take one another’s place, pass one into the other, mutually increase one another…. the religio-erotic orgiastic festivals of the Nicolatans, the Adamites, the Valesians, the Carpocratians, the Epiphanians, the Cainites and the Manicheans. Dixon, in his ‘Spiritual Wives’ (1868) has described the sexual excesses of recent Protestant sects, such as the ‘Mucker’ of Konigsberg, the ‘Erweckten’ (‘the awakened’), the Foxian spiritualists of Hydesville, etc.

“… in the Greek Church also sexual mysticism gives rise to the most remarkable offshoots. Leroy-Beaulieu gives an account of the Russian sect of the ‘Skakuny’ or ‘Jumpers’ who at their nocturnal assemblies throw themselves into a state of erotic religious ecstasy by hopping and jumping, like the dancing Dervishes of Islam. When the frenzy reaches a climax, a shameless, utterly promiscuous union of the sexes occurs, of which incest is a common feature.

“The oldest heathen cults were familiar with the idea of love unions as a representation of the union of man with God; and in the New Testament the ideas of the bridegroom and the marriage feast play a leading part. Christ is the ‘bridegroom’ of the Church, the Church is his ‘bride.’ Pious maidens and nuns are happy to call themselves the brides of Christ. This ecstatic union has always as its sub-stratum a sexual imagination. Augustine says, “Like a bridegroom Christ leaves His bridal chamber; in the mood of a bridegroom he bestrides the field of the world.”

On the religious battle with the sexual impulse:

“Weininger expressed the opinion (‘Sex and Character, 1904) “the renunciation of sexuality kills only the physical man, and kills him only in order, for the first time, to ensure the complete existence of the spiritual man”; but this is entirely false, and proceeds from an extremely deficient knowledge of human nature. For the ‘renunciation of sexuality’ is, in truth, the most unsuitable way of securing a complete existence for the spiritual man.”

Bloch believed a future humanity would embrace SEXUALITY as a means of expressing LOVE the core essence of life, without shame, fear or prejudice.

“We must recognise love as the spiritual force of life. Love, like the artist, like the man of science, has a right to the peculiar, original activity of its own poetic force, to the production of new spiritual values. The more perfect race that is to come must, in the fullest meaning of the words, be brought forth by love.

“I am ardent advocate of ‘free love’ by which I understand sexual union based upon intimate love, personal harmony and spiritual affinity, entered on by the free resolve of both parties…”

Published by shokti

i am shokti, lovestar of the eurofaeries, aka marco queer magician of london town. i explore the links between our sexual-physical nature and our spirits, running gatherings, rituals and Queer Spirit Festival. i woke up to my part in the accelerating awakening of light love and awareness on planet earth during a shamanic death-and-rebirth process lasting from January 1995 to the year 2000, and offer here my insights and observations on the ongoing transformation of human consciousness, how to navigate the waves of change, and especially focusing on the role of queer people at this time.

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