Spirituality of the Sexually Charged Landscape
Exploring Sexuality and Spirituality – Chapter 1
Edited by Phil Shining and Nicol Epple
Brill Publishing, 2020
Divinity might be in nature all around us; even so, not all landscape is created equally. Throughout the spectrum of spiritual traditions, landscapes endowed with sexuality are among the most honoured of pilgrimage destinations. Uniquely appearing as a distinct form in space, or a distinct space surrounded by form, the sexually charged landscape offers opportunities for highly charged transactions with spirituality. The physical features and natural processes that mark their spiritual significance also stand as prime examples of excellent design.
This chapter is not a sweetened, sanitized investigation of the Mother Earth metaphor. Rather, it’s an inquiry into the grounding and depth of the multi-layered, profoundly personal relationship between people and the sexually charged landscape. Hear: – Mind as Sex; Sex as Landscape; Landscape as Divinity; Divinity as Sex – Links geomorphology with psychology, human psyche with landscape psyche, landscape with divinity, and divinity with libido. Better read as an inquiry, not as a manifesto, this chapter is a trajectory of provocative exoteric, exotic and esoteric questions: how and why landscape is so designated, what is felt about them, why feelings are felt, and how they can be used. Curious how it unfolds – naked, unbridled, a gritty container of worms and holes. Guaranteed, you’ll never look at landscape the same way again.
Flights more than fancy, the sexually charged landscape invites liaisons with erotic forms and spaces remarkably similar to human sexual organs: caves and crevices conspicuously sculpted like vaginas, shrub-covered valleys like mounds of pubic hair; smoothly sloped mountains rising like prominent breasts and rock obelisks like erect penises. Throughout history, these landscapes have charged spiritual practitioners with inspiration and affected where people live. This raw sexual power: the play of male and female consorts of cosmic consciousness and natural process exciting me in ways I don’t quite understand.
Setting terms on the table – with the intent to incite riotous questioning –, let us regard Spirituality as unbound wonder, inquiry and reverence coupled with thoughts and actions to benefit all animate and inanimate things and species. Spirituality as the operative work of the searcher, the searching and the object of the search, as one. Derived from Latin’s spiritus, ‘the breath of life’, Spirituality as the totality – outer, inner and secret – of life, itself.
In this context, Spirituality does not segregate actions and thoughts of everyday life, considered ‘profane’, from invocations to seek ‘higher states of consciousness’, ‘numinous transcendence’, ethereal emanations and experiences usually considered ‘sacred’. Segregating these essential parts of our lives negates the spiritual richness and beauty of the world in which we live – our home.
Spirituality and Divinity is spoken in the same breath. Divinity an expression of Spirituality, a totality in all aspects, the Operations of Nature and the Spirit of Consciousness. As a totality, Divinity makes room for graven images produced by mind and hand, such as depictions of a strong white bearded heavenly male creator and vibrant mother goddess surrounded by numinous angels, both constructed images integral to spiritual awakening. By the same token, Divinity also regards that unable to be expressed; “The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal Name.”
“If only our mind is truly pure, this historical world of actualities, just as it is, immediately becomes the pure land right here and now, or more precisely, it originally is the pure land. Contrary to the common belief, heaven or the pure land is not outside our actuality. This world, just as it is, is the pure land; the pure land, just as it is, is this world.” – Hisamatsu Shin’ichi
In viewing landscape’s geological structure as rock layers and masses of animate and inanimate forms of which it is composed, and the unobstructed areas enclosing or enclosed by such geological structures, Landscape cannot be spoken as merely geological phenomena. Expansively, let us regard Landscape as the lands, waters and skies of the earth coupled with its species of animate and inanimate inhabitants with which it intimately engages – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
More expansively, let us regard the Sexually Charged Landscape as a place providing potential for highly charged transactions with spirituality whose qualities and characteristics intimately induce, arouse and excite one’s primal, raw outer, inner and secret naked essence.
The Sexually Charged Landscape is bound through a naturally erotic, male-female sexual binary, charged by four principles –
1) The evolution of landscape according to cosmologies establishing the arising, abiding and dissolution of form and space informed by the alternation of movement – which is male – and rest – which is female – such as the Taoist Chinese Feng-Shui and Vajrayana Buddhist Kalachakra Tantra systems.
2) Elementary biological and physiological functions in which birth depends on the binary of primal production and introduction of the male sperm and elementary reception by the female egg.
3) Visual expressions of esoteric teachings, such as phenomena of ‘self-arisen’ landforms that physically appear as emanations of ‘female’ spiritual wisdom and ‘male’ spiritual cultivation.
4) The naturally erotic engagement of complementary pairs – of male and female landscapes – expressed as visually distinct and expressive patterns of topographic and morphologic relationships – the complement of form and space; of verticality and horizontality; of projecting and embracing; of probing and revealing; of supplying and receiving. Of paths of wisdom and paths of compassionate metamorphosis.
“Whether we consider eros to be divine, angelic, intellectual, psychic or natural, we must understand it to be a unifying and binding power that moves superiors to provide for the weaker, moves equals into a communion with one another, and moves inferiors towards the return to those that are greater than they and placed beyond them.” – Dionysius Areopagite .
Landscape addresses itself as neither cisgender, multigender nor otherwise. Landscape is neither inhibited nor distracted by gender dysphoria, gender identity disorder or gender expression. Landscape possesses no ego. Landscape is comfortable with its appearance, as is. Landscape is merely landscape.
Even so, change over the natural male and female tendencies of the universe composing the ‘binary boundary’ is intrinsic to landscape, having nothing to do with gender identity, expression and presentation. Landscape is a continual evolution through ‘long-term’ geological events, transforming a) its structure, b) through processes, c) over aeons of time. For example, thrusting male granitic intrusions can and will erode over time and transform into receiving female valleys; and extinct volcanoes, having spent themselves, will become lake-filled calderas.
Like the Cenozoic evolution of the female Tethys Sea – about sixty million years ago – when its coral communities compressed by the migrating and merging Indian and Asian sub-continents forced the oceanic mass to rise tens of thousands of feet above sea level, and eventually transform into the male limestone peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. Concurrently, the Tethys beach sand would harden, re-harden and re-form under intense heat and pressure; and geological aeons later, transform into the base of Mt. Kailas, the emanation of female wisdom and male compassionate metamorphosis in tantric embrace.
Not all mountains are simply male; not all lakes and valleys are simply female. For instance, Painted Rock in the California Carrizo Plain, the Paps of Jura in Scotland, Cerro Churequella in Bolivia and Kamakhya in India arise as female mountains. Female features also appear on male mountains, like vertical clefts, gorges and waterfalls, deftly creating incisions into the sides of buttes. Then there are male lakes like Manasarovar in Western Tibet and male caves like those in India dedicated to Shiva. In comparable Indigenous two-faced landscapes, female desert arroyos of the high desert plateau landscapes are produced by torrential short-lived male thunderstorms. All forms of life are charged by both male and female forces in varied degrees.
Chinese concepts of Feng-Shui suggest that the visual expression and the performance of landscape may not be consistent. Crossing the male-female binary, it might be desirable to abide in the vicinity of male landscapes’ performing as female and female landscapes’ performing as male. This is explained by saying: – Though the expression of water is to be dormant [female], its desirable performance may be to flow, dynamic [male] in nature. Though the expression of a mountain is to be active [male], its desirable performance may be motionless [female] in nature. In other words, rivers are more amenable when flowing and mountains are more amenable when neither eroding, land sliding nor volcanically flowing. Poetically, apart from all, remain Japanese Soto Zen Eihei Dogen’s mountains that “ride the clouds and walk through the sky.”
Ideas and concepts of sexually charged male and female landscape and its correlative cosmologies in Eastern and Western cultures certainly aren’t new. Hesiod’s eighth century BCE Greek Theogony saw the birth of female Chaos followed by broad-breasted female Gaia (Earth). In turn, Gaia gave birth to starry male Ouranos (Sky). Mother and son coupled, giving birth to deep salt water male Okeanos (Ocean) and the lovely fresh water female Tethys.
There’d be sexually charged activities of the cosmos, imaginatively developed through Feng-Shui divination in Chinese Taoist traditions, and compiled into texts approximately three centuries before the Christian era. Accordingly, it would depict the operations of nature in this manner: – The pure potential of T’ai Chi produces movement. Movement produces yang, manifestation of fundamental male operations. Movement reaches its limit and T’ai Chi produces rest. Rest produces yin, manifestation of fundamental female operations. Female rest reaches its limit and male movement ensues. Male movement and female rest alternate. Relying on each other, neither is dominant nor recessive; neither is capable of existing without the other. Their alternation is the expression of Chi, the vital energy, or life force animating all animate and inanimate things.
Male yang means sunny side. The heavens, the sun, mountains and height, summer and heat, the south, aridity, motion, growth and life are expressions of yang. Female yin means dark side. The earth, the moon, valleys, rivers and ravines and caves, winter and cold, the north, moisture, stillness, decay and death are expressions of yin. Expressions of male yang and female yin apply to geological landforms, stone compositions in gardens and paintings on canvas.
“Certainly, every aspect of life is reflected in the male/female partners of creation; it’s the mechanism driving cyclic renewal of night and day, winter and summer, wet and dry, hot and cold, dark and light. Rain from the sky falls like semen from a celestial god to fertilize earth. Pools and springs connect to the womb of earth. Woman’s figure is mapped onto an image of the earth from where she creates and consumes life. The landscape takes form as her genitals and breasts, charged with the transforming power of creation; caves provide access into her body; springs and pools take us to her fertility.” – E.C.Krupp.
Is this pareidolia, the recognition and placing of familiar forms and spaces in seemingly random formations? Is it all delusion? Here the Buddhist Compendium of Ways of Knowing questions the validity of objects that appear to consciousness. Hence, Georgia O’Keeffe responded to her critics’ fantasies: – “My paintings erotic? No way! That’s something you yourself put into them. When you read erotic symbols into my paintings, you’re really talking about your own affairs.”
“Surely, you jest!” you snicker.