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Stuart SovatskyStuart Sovatsky (AB, Ethics/Psychology, Princeton University; PhD, CIIS), a forty-year intensive kundalini tantra yogi, he was first choice to co-direct Ram Dass's "prison ashram" and first in the US to bring meditation to the homeless mentally-ill in the 1970s that led to being selected to the 1977 Princeton University Outstanding Alumni Careers Panel. Copresident of the premiere professional organization for spiritually-oriented psychologists in the US, the Association for Transpersonal Psychology since 1999, he was a board trustee for the California Institute of Integral Studies for 20 years and in 1999, recipient of its Most Outstanding Alumni Award 1978-2008. His other books include Words From the Soul, a Buddhist-impermanence critique of psychoanalysis and Wittgensteinian study of suicidal linguistics (also recommended by Ken Wilber) and Your Perfect Lips, a poetic exploration of bhakti-tantra (endorsed by John Welwood). See his website and Facebook page.

Book fragment posted with permission of the author.

Advanced Spiritual Intimacy

Prologue: Urdhvaretas - Yoga's Path of Complete
Maturation of Ensouled, Engendered Bodies

Stuart Sovatsky

A whole new post-Freudian psychology is needed that revives the heart and soul of romantic-erotic love itself.

As a juvenile probation officer, social worker, and marriage and family therapist since 1972, I have worked with three generations of individuals, couples, and families, from tragically locked-up teens going awry in the sad chaos of broken homes (both wealthy and impoverished), to thirty- and forty-year-olds spreading their hopes for love among two or three simultaneous, polyamorous or serial-monogamy partners, to the ever more numerous and grayer, fifty- and sixty-year-olds on their third go-around, living alone, away from their “previous families” and skittishly Internet dating, having real or Facebook affairs with married persons or laptop relationships with “live” porn stars.

Stuart Sovatsky
Stuart Sovatsky

Thus, over these past forty years, I have seen ample evidence of a widespread need for more holistic approaches to human sexuality and intimate relationships than what Freud and his scions gave to my profession and to all us “moderns.” Indeed, a whole new post-Freudian psychology is needed that revives the heart and soul of romantic-erotic love itself.

I found just such a psychology in the yogic, lifelong developmental path known as urdhvaretas—the complete blossoming (urdhva, up-growing) of all human seed potentials (retas)—an ancient yogic tradition with abundant offerings that speak to many aspects of our modern distress, especially in the realms of our most important relationships.

Urdhvaretas is the living infinity of life’s wild genetic diversity. It offers depths of meaning and feeling and consciousness so profound, ecstatic, and creative that only Sanskrit terms can truly name them. The tradition of urdhvaretas encompasses tumescences and orgasms unknown even to us liberated moderns, and loves and marriages that easily last a lifetime or two or three—the kind of relationships that support unbroken family lineages generation upon generation. With urdhvaretas, there is always another realm of seeds-within-seeds-within-seeds.

Urdhvaretas began when we each were merely “a glint of passion” flashing in the first attractions between our parents-to-be (and in their parents and in theirs). This up-growing passion became more embodied through their erotic union, more so via our conception and gestation, and even more so via the fertility-bestowing puberty of our own adolescence. But in the urdhvaretas developmental schema, the maturation of body-mind-heart-soul continues at the same dramatic level of intensity through a lifelong series of adult puberties. As with teenaged puberty, they transform identity, sense of life purpose, and erotic bodily capacities for lovemaking. These adult puberties are as yet unmapped in the West, with “kundalini[1] awakening” just beginning to enter the wider Western discourse. The maturations within this complete “up-blossoming” of the seed potentials include bodily secretions, tumescences, and modes of orgasm, not only beyond Freudian sex-liberation theories, but largely unknown even within the “neo-tantric sex” scene.

Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault

In his book The History of Sexuality the brilliant social historian Michel Foucault (1926–1984) makes a distinction that offers a useful key to understanding the blissful urdhvaretas possibilities, open to us all, revealed in this book. He identifies “two great procedures for producing the truth of sex”: ars erotica and scientia sexualis. Ars erotica is “the erotic art” that numerous societies—“China, Japan, India, Rome, the Arabo- Moslem societies”—endowed themselves with. Scientia sexualis is the term he uses to refer to both the Roman Catholic Church’s moralistic, marriage-only, rhythm-method-only type of erotic “truths” as well as the “scientific truths” and psychoanalytic theory of the sex drive, the function of the orgasm, and so on, and the sexual liberation made possible by safe contraceptive/abortion technologies. (The images on the following pages provide a visual comparison of scientia sexualis versus ars erotica.[2]) Foucault elaborates the transforming truth to be gained from ars erotica:

In the erotic art, truth is drawn from pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience; pleasure is not considered in relation to an absolute law of the permitted and the forbidden, nor by reference to a criterion of utility, but first and foremost in relation to itself; it is experienced as pleasure, evaluated in terms of its intensity, its specific quality, its duration, its reverberations in the body and the soul. Moreover, this knowledge must be deflected back into the sexual practice itself, in order to shape it as though from within and amplify its effects. In this way, there is formed a knowledge that must remain secret, not because of an element of infamy that might attach to its object, but because of the need to hold it in the greatest reserve, since according to the tradition, it would lose its effectiveness and its virtue by being divulged. . . .
The effects of this masterful art, which are considerably more generous than the spareness of its prescriptions would lead one to imagine, are said to transfigure the one fortunate enough to receive its privileges: an absolute mastery of the body, a singular bliss, obliviousness to time and limits, the elixir of life, the exile of death and its threats. [Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 57–58.]
Scientia sexualis immediate sexiness
Scientia sexualis immediate sexiness

My professional work in the realm of relationships has convinced me of the limitations and failures of our “sexually liberated” scientia-sexualis culture as well as affirmed the benefits of applying the insights and practices of ars erotica. I have spent tens of thousands of hours using various ars erotica insights and practices to untangle complicated and embittered relationships—including blended-family and cross-cultural coparenting situations; ambivalent tensions regarding compatibility, marriage, and polyamory; and endlessly reverberating arguments on money, power struggles, communication issues, affairs, substance addictions, domestic violence, grief and depression, suicidal and psychotic episodes, the impacts of living with HIV, and in-law and traumatic childhood issues.

Ars erotica profundity combining fertility-lust-love-holiness
Ars erotica profundity combining

As a yoga mentor since 1974, copresident of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology since 1998, and director of the first “spiritual emergence service” in the world, the Kundalini Clinic (founded by Lee Sannella, M.D.) since 1984, I have also guided thousands of people worldwide in the unsettling experiences of kundalini awakening and urdhvaretas maturation. Questioning the past-oriented, scientia sexualis therapies of Freud, et al.,[3] I looked to yoga from the beginning of my career. Nearly forty years ago, I received the first federal grant to bring healing yoga and kirtan[4] to locked-up juveniles, as well as receiving other first-ever grants to provide yoga-based help for the halfway-housed mentally ill. Indeed, many of the social and clinical problems that I have been arduously handling one by one for decades now seem resolvable or even preventable en masse, if only we were to live within a mature ars erotica culture.

As an instructor and twenty-year trustee for the California Institute of Integral Studies, the first East-West Spirituality graduate school in the United States, I oversaw training programs for thousands of “spiritually oriented” marriage and family therapists and co-created my own government-approved Sovatsky Method Couples Counseling trainings in Russia. I presented on grihastha (the stage of life devoted to marriage and family) in Indian colleges, including the University of Pune, to attune students to their own traditions of Divine Mother (ironically, this was just as Freudian Indologists were psychoanalyzing them away). I went on to lead retreats on urdhvaretas yoga and to give trainings on grihastha and pariyanga (boudoir yoga), in Europe, India, and South Africa, where I also led chanting gatherings with sangoma African shamans experienced with kundalini-type energies. In 2004 I helped produce Awe to Action, a conference-scale celebratory critique of the Burning Man Festival, and in 2008 I initiated a forty-country world conference in India supported by the office of the Dalai Lama with the goal of deepening the West’s understanding of yoga and deepening bonds within the “world family.”

Now, toward the end of my clinical career, I have reached new conclusions about the importance of yoga’s ars erotica path and wanted to share these new insights by updating the first and second editions of this book. Entitled Passions of Innocence (1994) and Eros, Consciousness, and Kundalini (1999), those editions focused on the little-known ars erotica foundation of all Indian yoga known as brahmacharya, the “sublimative tantric celibacy” practice that is so different from the scientia sexualis priesthood celibacy of the Catholic Church.

Advanced Spiritual Intimacy
Published by Inner Traditions / Bear & Co
Buy at Amazon

This third and greatly expanded edition, retitled Advanced Spiritual Intimacy, focuses more on how yoga practices, reenvisioned as ars erotica, can enrich marital intimacies and support lifelong marriages. I have also expanded my guidance regarding the charismatic-energized yogic intimacy with God and the cosmos: kundalini awakening. Advanced Spiritual Intimacy is a journey from our current scientia sexualis world into the ars erotica of hatha yoga, the naturally creative lifelong marriage of grihastha, the conjugal all-puberties eroticism of pariyanga, and the inner marriage union within the body-mind-heart of yogis of all times.

The book also extends the incisive cultural critiques of Michel Foucault, Herbert Marcuse, Adam Curtis, and others regarding our unsustainable, desires-gone-rampant, family-broken modern world. We are living in a “global warming” of human bodies and romantic relationships brought forth by the well-meaning Freudian-Reichian-Burning Man overcorrections to the church’s body-negating teachings. These critiques are essential to free us from the negative impacts of both the moralistic scientia of Western religions and limited liberational scientia sexualis. This negativity started with biblical claims of an innate enmity between men and women, that the conception of new life is “the original sin” with maternal labor being a punishment for a primordial “fall from grace” and fleshy pleasures depicted as a slippery path to hell. Then, as a way out of that path to hell, came the popularization of psychoanalysis’s bizarre map of fundamental Oedipal childparent sexual longings and accompanying murderous animosities and a “sex drive” that the “institution” [sic] of lifelong marriage compromises.

Following this, a cavernous realm of “what’s love got to do with it?” cyber porn was created alongside campaigns for less objectification of women and growing liberal concerns regarding a “porn problem,”[5] all happening within a mix of those decrying the looseness of promiscuity and others railing against legalizing gay marriage. Add to this tormented soup a psychoanalytically defined “sex drive” that has fourteen-year-olds “hooking up, because oral sex isn’t really sex,” an unswerving “drive” that must cut itself off contraceptively from the fertile seed powers (the Foucaultian elixirs of life) in order to be “orgasmically healthy,” a theory proposed by Wilhelm Reich in his biophysics of human love.

Looking at our modern state of advertising, entertainment, and social media, it seems that we have now placed the entirety of human psychosexual maturation and lovemaking practices on the foundation of the puberty of the teen years. It’s no wonder that a twenty-two-yearold Monica Lewinski was able to nearly topple the most powerful leader in the world via a series of adolescent-like hookups.

Ars Erotica

In contrast, yoga’s ars erotica offers a lifelong path of urdhvaretas maturation, in which the seed-infused eroticism of pariyanga tantra and creative grihastha lifelong marriage and family life unfolds for all of us to enjoy and pass on to our children and they to theirs and they to theirs, ad infinitum. A simple yogic lifestyle nurtures the natural development of such maturity when no church or sex-liberation scientia is there to distract the teenager and young adult, as was the case in precolonial India for millennia.

Just as the global map of the earth radically transformed the preceding flat-earth maps of yore, the yogic urdhvaretas globe describes the possibilities of identity-and-pleasure-expanding development far more physical and throbbing than Freud’s flat-earth, closed-dynamics idea of sublimated “idealizations” and more fully mature than his “final stage of the genital primacy ego,” always struggling with its problematic superego and with family members and others. We have twelve-cylinder engines but have directions for only two or three, so we sputter along, breaking down over and over. This, we have been told by ego psychology, is “life.”

Beyond the edge of the scientia sexualis map, the tantric ars erotica describes maturity (consisting of what can be understood as a transformative continuation of the teen puberty) as involving the entire cerebrospinal core and endocrine system, from perineum to pineal gland, which is capable of the “oceanic feelings” of love and oneness that Freud criticized as mere womb-regressive delusions but that the ars eroticas see as the most matured enlightenment of consciousness itself. Indeed, when the whole body is moved by these spinal awakenings, the asanas (positions) and mudras (gestures) of yoga become urdhvaretic—seed-infused tumescences of the Great Mother Kundalini that have barely anything in common with scientia sexuality or its repression or sublimation. We enter a whole new world.[6]

Nascent signs of these deeper retas (seed potentials) ripple throughout the charismatic (“being physically moved”) spiritual traditions of all times, worldwide:

  • Shaking of Shakers
  • Quivering of Eastern Orthodox hesychasts
  • “I got the Holy Ghost” shaking in Pentacostal and gospel congregations
  • The throb of all-night, nature-entranced shamanic, African sangoma, thxiasi num awakened energies of the Bushman, South American Vodou trance dancers, and ancient Greek Dionysian revelers
  • Esoterically undulating Middle Eastern belly dancers
  • Inspired spinal-rocking Judaic davening and Sufi Islamic zikr
  • Uju kaya, “ars erotically, blissfully tumescent spine” hidden in all still-sitting meditative paths, such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and all contemplative Judeo-Christian traditions
  • The ars eroto-yogic paths of pariyanga tantra
  • The urdhvaretas-inspired sahaja or “spontaneously tumescent” performance of asanas that live quite outside of the standard yoga-studio scene of guided positions

Also noteworthy here are the 1950s gyrations of Elvis (the Pelvis) Presley, seeming like “purely musical-dance gestures,” but genitally centered (and in public!), which initiated sixty years of youth-centric rock-and-roll world culture. Indeed, consider the now common, crotch-grab dance “move.” Concurrently, Afro-American rhythmand- blues “soul music” carried the gospel vibes from their purely spiritual contexts into the then-developing cultural exuberance of scientia sexualis, with no little controversy and much loss of Holy Ghostcharismatic powers. Likewise, Westernized belly dancing lost its ars erotica core and became merely a scientia sexualis entertainment.

The vibratory energetics of uju kaya were often translated and (literally) sculpted out of Buddhism and other still-sitting paths, as they became formalized. For example, stone-sculpted yogis with ithyphallic penises were seen by European missionaries through their moralistic eyes as lustfully blasphemous and were commonly defaced, as were nipple-engorged breasts of goddess sculptures. How ironic that these ars erotically celibate or deified tumescences were misunderstood by the scientia missionary priests and even many modern (scientiaembedded) art scholars. (See the work of Thomas McEvilley for more on Western bowdlerizations of tantric and Buddhist art.)

Of all traditions, Indian Shiva-Shakti paths of urdhvaretas yoga have traced the unfoldment of charismatic (literally, “gifts from the divine”) bodily awakenings in the most exquisite detail, which can be summarized as four main types of physical-spiritual maturation:

  • The first type of unfoldment is that effected by practices involving the perineum and spine, in the form of both kundalini awakening and the more controlled, upright-sitting, spinal-energy-flowing meditation, which is found in Buddhism and other contemplative paths.
  • Second is the path of the heart, grihastha: lifelong, compassionate, devotional, unbreakable marital-romantic and whole-lineage familial love, wherein procreation (and adoption) uplifts each human pair to godlike awe regarding the inherent meaningfulness of creating and caring for life itself.
  • The third, pariyanga, is that of fully matured, “naturally entheogenic”[7] and pineal-orgasmic, conjugal eroticism (most of which has not yet entered the popularized neo-tantra[8]).
  • The ultimate divya sharira, “divine, whole-body, inner marriage puberty” maturation arises from nirbija (nir, fully exhausted or heatedly up-grown; bija, seed, a synonym for retas) samadhi (allattention-spellbound-at-the-Source), also known as nibbana or nirvana. In India the resulting supremely happy inner marriage (with or without a partner) has been the sine qua non criterion for fully matured enlightenment for at least five thousand years.

We see it manifested in whole-world-loving saints such as Buddha, Christ, Rumi, St. Francis, Teresa d’Avila, Adi Shankara, Amma-ji, Aurobindo and the Mother, Meher Baba, the Dalai Lama, and millions of others. Without such manifested maturity, no claims of enlightenment have ever been made in that ars erotica–steeped culture.

Within the ever maturing glandular chemistries and capacities of urdhvaretas, lovemaking emerges from a “perineum to pineal” neuroendocrine maturity of natural entheogens, our own urdhvaretas-matured secretions: versions of melatonin-serotoninoxytocin- dimethyltryptamine-endorphin-semen-ova-androgen-estrogen-FSH- estrogen-testosterone-pheromones-vasopressin-dopamine- norepinephrine-ptyalin-lachrymose-erythrocytes and more.

Where does the maturing and consciousness-expanding power come from that can transform our bodily “elixir chemistries” (glandular rasas, “mood-essences”) into inner “foods of the gods” (entheogens)? From untapped maturational potentials within the siddhi-seed-fertilities of life itself.[9] Why “untapped?” Because moralistic religions failed to fully explore their own charismatic sects and the massive scientia sexualis told us their truths were “final” and only needed amplification via repetitive expert claims and endless media messaging. Indeed, many mature and less-than-mature ars erotica visiting gurus since the 1960s were swept away into the “anything-goes” mega-currents of scientia sexualis culture or their ars erotica teachings were misconstrued within the scientia spell. Those who weren’t swept away show the way: a merging of lustlove- consciousness-reverence-fertility that also transforms each of these five terms from current scientia sexualis understandings to ars erotica embodied maturity.[10] Thus, too, the term, “tantric sex,” like “ars erotica scientia sexualis,” is a perfect oxymoron.

For example, all “semen-retention” neo-tantra practices should be considered as no more than learning-stage, mechanistic techniques within scientia sexualis–trapped bodies, while whole-spine-matured urdhvaretas bodies can entheogenize seed-related chemistries toward endless ecstasies, siddhis, lifelong loyalties, and lila (endless erotic play) far beyond the joyful or to-be-avoided “point of no return.” And likewise, all contraceptives that make sex “safe from pregnancy” should be seen as no more than compromising training wheels en route to these same realms of wildly devotional love and lifelong, ever new explorations. While every moment of yoga or meditation practice is a deeper step into urdhvaretas, in our current stage in the East-West cultural transmission this progress can be immediately neutralized by the gargantuan power of one hundred years and hundreds of trillions of dollars of scientia sexualis cultural momentum. “Liberated” nude yoga classes, for example, have less than nothing in common with—are in fact the exact opposite of—the clothingless ars erotica liberations of naga yogi ascetics of all times.

I have written Advanced Spiritual Intimacy to guide your traverse from the scientia sexualis and its global warming of bodies, souls, relationships, and families to the depths of ars erotica sustainable erotic ecology of urdhvaretas. As the Indic “Song of God” personified the ars erotica: “I am that passion (kama, longing-desire) in beings that is in harmony with the eternal cosmos and leads to the complete maturation of each.”[Bhagavad Gita 7.11, as interpreted by the author.]

In chapter 1, “Everything Will Change,” I tell the story of my yogic awakening forty years ago, “when yoga was fab.” Then, in chapter 2, “Entering the Mystery,” I trace a path from today’s scientia demystifications and despiritualized cynicism back to our original openness, curiosity, and innocence, and then to spiritual intimacies that are ars erotically matured and afire with the melted-together love-lust-fertilityprofundity entheogenic elixirs.

Chapter 3, “Shared-Gender Mystery,” reveals the reverberating “ecology of shared-gender mysteries” outside the current tumult of the scientia sexualis of commodified selves and too-oppositional “Mars- Venus” gender differences. In chapter 4, “Purposeful Urdhvaretas,” I review some reasons people take up couples or solo urdhvaretas lifestyles for a time.

Chapter 5, “Yogic Anatomy and Transformation of the Ars Erotica Body,” presents the seven chakras, the nonphysical energy centers that regulate the physical and the more subtle bodies, each with its own tonalities of passion. In chapter 6, “Commitment and Marriage as Grihastha Mysteries,” the exploration of the lifelong retas mystery of couples and families focuses on the ars erotica commitment that is the very nature of human relationships as well as on the mystery of hidden potential and veiled union. The natural wonder and awe we feel when we approach the mystery of procreation is invoked in chapter 7, “The Passions and Mysteries of Fertility,” particularly in the included meditation, “Retas Mysteries,” which unlocks numerous yogic secrets as it guides you from conception through gestation and birth. The chapter also includes a section on the ars erotica “facts of life” for teenagers.

Chapter 8, “Within the Intimus,” opens sixty-four of the many consciousness spaces of erotic-romantic sharing in which intimacy deepens and ars erotica awakenings can flourish. Then chapter 9, “Communication Yoga,” offers twenty-one verbal asanas of creative communication and problem solving for couples.

Chapter 10, “Relational Worship,” describes ars erotica practices that nurture the spinal puberties and lifelong love. In chapter 11, “Hatha Yoga as Ars Erotica,” both individual and partnered ars erotica yoga practices are presented.

In chapter 12, “Sringara Rasa,” the “Heaven Realm” of ars erotica, provides an alluring glimpse into naturally entheogenic conjugal eroticism. For those few who are “called,” please know that the mystical solo brahmacharya urdhvaretas (the sine qua non of being an “advanced yogi”) of chapter 13, “Brahmacharya,” should be at least as esteemed for its ecstasies and wisdom as those of the “adults-only” conjugal pariyanga of chapter 12. Indeed, the legendary (and mostly scientia sexualis in its mentality) Kama Sutra “sex manual” closes with its own bow to brahmacharya.

As you journey with me you will discover that you already hold the “key” to these profound mysteries right where Mother left it at the base of your spine after she formed your body in utero. In fact, there are tiny charismatic keys moving within every cell of your body and major keys throbbing in your perineum, tingling in your genitals, longing in your love-creating heart, quivering under your taste-of-truth seeking tongue, and culminating in the center of your brain-mind, capable of entheogenizing consciousness—like a thousand-petaled lotus radiating ecstatic seed-keys everywhere!

Ars Erotica
In pariyanga, man and woman are entheogenic food for one another, beyond the context of liberated desire, infused with the (long-banished) matured, fertile, seed forces of life itself.


[1] Kundalini is intelligent Mother energy that guides all embryological body-creation and then “goes to sleep” at the base of the newborn's spine, but—with the requisite practices— can reawaken to fully embodied enlightenment. This and other Sanskrit terms used in the book can be found with their definitions in the glossary at the back of the book, for your ready reference.

[2] For a gallery of additional images that accompany the text, please see:

[3] For my complete critique, see my book Words from the Soul: Time, East-West Spirituality and Psychotherapeutic Narrative.

[4] Kirtan is call-and-response chanting performed in India's bhakti devotional traditions.

[5] See Cindy Gallop's “Make Love Not Porn” TED Talk ( /12/02/cindy_gallop_ma), one of the “most talked about presentations” at the 2009 TED conference, on the negative effects of hardcore porn having become a main source of male sexual “education.”

[6] Interestingly, European discovery of India's spice and silk treasures was catalytic to shifting India's then-predominant wealth to struggling medieval European coffers and to the massive Eurocentric colonialist search for quicker sailing routes that helped reveal this global Earth. As irony would have it, it was Indian sailors who taught Columbus et al. the navigational methods they used to sail to (and typically exploit) numerous ars erotica cultures worldwide for hundreds of years.

[7] Entheogen (literally, “generating the divine within”) is the more spiritually attuned name for consciousness-enhancing chemistries such as LSD or psilocybin.

[8] According to Robert Thurman of Columbia University, only some 5 percent of the Indo-Tibetan archive has so far been translated and, I would add, typically without personal experience of the retas phenomena that is “lost in translation.”

[9] Indeed, the ancient lore known as rasa-yana has always included ethically guarded “sacred botanicals” such as Amanita muscaria and ephedra, as in the Rig Vedic era communal rituals and other laboriously prepared precious mineral and plant “elixirs of immortality.”

[10] All five—lust-love-consciousness-reverence-fertility—are implicitly merged and transformed in the untranslatable Sanskrit terms, bindu, lingam, and yoni, nearest cognates, respectively, for the medical terms, semen, penis, and vagina, and even slang terms like cum, cock, and pussy.

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