Relationships and Celibacy

Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female . . . then you will enter the kingdom.” (Gospel of Thomas

He seems to have wives, concubines, and waiting women, yet never sullies himself in the bog of the five desires. (Vimalakirti Sutra)

The following is based on the Wikipedia entry about Satre’s Being and Nothingness:

The View

The mere possible presence of another person causes a person to look at himself as an object and see his world as it appears to the other. This is not done from a specific location outside oneself, but is non-positional. This is a recognition of the subjectivity in others.

This transformation is most clear when one sees a mannequin that one confuses for a real person for a moment. While one believes it is a person, one’s world is transformed. Objects now partly escape one’s control; one has attributes that belong to the other person, and that are thus unknowable to one. During this time one can no longer have a total subjectivity. The world is now the other person’s world, a foreign world that no longer comes from the self, but from the other. The other person is a “threat to the order and arrangement of your whole world. . . . Your world is suddenly haunted by the other’s values, over which you have no control.” When one realises it is a mannequin, and is not a subject, the world seems to return, and one is again in the center of a universe.

Being for others

Sartre states that many relationships are created by a one’s attraction not to another, but to how the other makes one feel about oneself: this makes a person dependent on the other’s view. This is a state of emotional alienation whereby one avoids experiencing oneself as a subject by identifying oneself with the view of the other.


Sartre explains that “the view” is the basis for sexual desire, declaring that a biological motivation for sex does not exist. Instead, “double reciprocal incarnation” is a form of mutual awareness which Sartre takes to be at the heart of the sexual experience. This involves the mutual recognition of subjectivity of some sort, as Sartre describes: “I make myself flesh in order to impel the Other to realize for herself and for me her own flesh. My caress causes my flesh to be born for me insofar as it is for the Other flesh causing her to be born as flesh.”

Even in sex, men and women are haunted by a state in which consciousness and bodily being would be in perfect harmony, with desire satisfied. Such a state, however, can never be. We try to bring the beloved’s consciousness to the surface of his or her body by use of magical acts performed, gestures, but at the moment of orgasm the illusion is ended and we return to ourselves. There will be, for Sartre, no such moment of completion because “man is a futile passion” to be the ens causa sui (to be his own cause), to be God . . .”

Lester Levenson:

Q: I’ve read in so many writings that the state of celibacy is necessary for realization. Is this true?

Lester: This thing we call happiness is merely the infinite Beingness that we are experiencing to more or less of a degree. The real Self we are is infinite joy. And if we would take it only directly from where it is, that’s all we would have. But we miserly take it in tiny amounts through external means by assuming that we need something; we are not whole; we are not complete; we need something out there to make ourselves complete. And we create a want, a lack, which, when we fulfill it, the thoughts for it drop away, and when our thoughts drop away we remain at that moment more in our real Self, and that’s what is called happiness, joy.

Any time we are seeking joy in the world we are fooling ourselves into thinking it’s out there, creating a need for it, satisfying it and feeling a bit of pleasure, which is only a relief from the agony of a desire; but we are trapping ourselves into thinking that the thing out there gave it to us. What we did was to still the thoughts for it, create enough mental quietude to allow the Self to be a little more, and that’s what happiness is. Now we have to give up all that seeking for joy externally. So it is not only sex, but it is everything out there that we credit as giving us happiness. Point one.

Point two. Giving it up and intensely wanting it can be as mentally disturbing as having it. What we have to do is let go of the desire for it, which seems impossible for most of us. So the best thing to do is, rather than fight it, be moderate and keep digging for the truth until someday we get the understanding of what that joy was that we were experiencing in sex. And then we see that we are always in a state of joy that’s higher than anything that sex ever gave us, and it’s no problem to let go of it. Then, if you try to experience joy through sex, instead of it giving you joy, it takes a bit of it a way, because you’re limiting it through the sex act. So the main thing is be moderate as much as you can. Stay away from it as much as you can, and as you get your realizations you’ll get to a place where you’ll let the whole thing go because you’ve got the joy all the time that you were trying to get through sex.

Now the pleasure we get from sex is merely being more aware of our Self by the stilling of the thoughts. There are more suppressed desires and thoughts over the many lifetimes on sex than any other thing in life, so that when we satisfy ourselves sexually, we still the greatest number of subconscious thoughts. Eventually you get to the place where you can drop the whole remainder of the mind.

To sum it up, celibacy does not give realization; however, you won’t get realization without it and also the dropping of all desire. . . . The thing to do is to attain the desireless state. No desire, no needs, and then you are in the happiest state. (1993, p. 57)


Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Sedona Institute. (download)

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