- Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, introduction, Hugh B Urban
Magia sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism.
University of California press
Introduction (page 1 till 20) Sex Magic, Modernity, and the Search for Liberation , Hugh B. Urban
Surprisingly the Victorian era, with its rather restrictive attitudes toward the human body and sexuality, gave birth to a large body of literature on the subject of magia sexualis.
Since the nineteenth century “for the first time we see not just the use of erotic symbolism to describe the nature of spiritual union but, more specifically, the use of physical intercourse and genital orgasm as a source of magical power believed to have real effects in the material world.” (p. 2)
In this text, Urbin analyzes the profound transformation of sexual magic from a terrifying medieval nightmare of here and social subversion into a modern ideal of personal empowerment and social liberation.
Sex magic is based on the belief that the most powerful moment of human existence is the orgasm. The logic behind this: “For if ordinary, natural, undirected sexual intercourse can give birth to a new living being – a fairly miraculous thing in itself – then it is not terribly difficult to imagine that ritualized, intentional, willfully directed intercourse might give birth to effects of a supernatural, magical, divine (or demonic) character. As Crowley put it, “the root idea is that any form of procreation other than normal is likely to produce results of a magical character.” (p. 4)
Main point of the text:
The literature on sexual magic is neither a silly aberration of legitimate religious practice nor a superstitious throwback to a kind of premodern, prescientific form of thought. On the contrary, the literature on sexual magic that emerged from the mid-nineteenth century onward is distinctly, even intensely ‘modern’ in form, and expresses in an unusually acute way some of the most important themes that we typically associate with ‘modernity’ in the West.
Modern ideals: Habermas:
Going back to the eighteenth century and the project of the Enlightenment => objective science, a universal morality, and law with the goal of human emancipation and liberation from the irrationalities of myth, religion and superstition. Key: belief in the value of the individual self and the possibility of progress toward a free but well-ordered society. “Modernity is individualism, the effort of individuals to remake themselves and to remake society to allow design and free choice” (p. 5).
Four Modern character of sexual magic:
1: “The literature on sexual magic typically places supreme emphasis on the individual self and the power of the individuall will as the ultimate creative force in the universe.” (p.6) Crowley: “Each individual is the centre of his own universe, his essential nature determining… his proper course of action;” thus the philosophy and practices of true magic “avows and justifies selfishness; it confirms the inmost conviction of each one of us that he is the centre of the cosmos” (p.6)
2: The literature on sexual magic also identifies sex as the innermost secret or “hidden truth” of the self, the most powerful force in human nature, and the key to understanding the mysteries of human existence. (Orgasm blabla)
3: Emphasis on science, namely the the most appropriate and effective means to uncover the hidden secrets of nature and the human self. Crowley: “sexual magic is a scientific secret, one that requires years of study and experiment, and one that when mastered, holds the ultimate technological power to produce anything the magus desires.
4: Search for radical freedom and an extreme, often utopian form of liberation on all levels – sexual, religious, an political alike. Crowley: saw sexual magic as a key part of his vision for a new era in human history – the age of Horus – governed by his new Law of Thelema, or “do what thou wilt”. (p.7)
The idea of sexual liberation as integral to larger social and political liberation was an underlying theme in radical and romantic theories since the early nineteenth century and became central to both the counterculture and New Left moments for the 1970’s.
With authors like Crowley and Randolph “sex now becomes not only the most powerful force in life and the secret of human nature but also the most intense source of spiritual power and the key to superhuman abilities.” (p. 10). “With the rise of net-paganism and modern witchcraft, we see sexual magic increasingly fused with a powerful feminist agenda, an environmentalist reaction against industrial capitalism, and a severe critique of the entire white male establishment. (p. 12)
The author doesn’t want to romanticize this magical tradition purely as a noble force of resistance fighting against a repressive patriarchal regime. On the contrary, he argues that throughout all of these sexual magical traditions, there is a profound tension between the ideal of social or political liberation and the ever-present reality of the exploitation of sexual desire. As Dennis Altman points out, one of the sobering lessons learned from the naive enthusiasm of the sexual revolutions of the 1960’s and 1970’s was the “extent to which sexual ‘liberation’ could be co-opted by commercial consumerism. … the hope that freedom from sexual restraints will lead to revolutionary change seems increasingly utopian.” (p. 12)