Day and night, sun and moon, from earth's north and south poles to the positive and negative attractions of atoms, there are two currents of the supreme creating the universe, holding it together and dissolving it away. The Chinese call them yang and yin, in tantra they are Shiva (consciousness - static energy) and Shakti (power - dynamic energy), and in the realm of the human they manifest as man and woman. Just as our essential being is the spirit indwelling the temple of the body, this primal energy is essentially spiritual energy and unites us with the universe and the divine. In essence, primal energy is the expression of our innermost and highest being yet it also has to do with procreation and physical relationships. Primal energy is at once grounded in the body and aimed at altering consciousness.
It is because they are unaware of this that many aspirants are disturbed by sexual visions and feelings that come to them during meditation. They often experience feelings of fear, shame, disgust and wonder from what secret lair this 'disgraceful weakness' has emerged. Sexual sights and sensations during spiritual practices are neither uncommon nor are they something to be ashamed of. They are simply a manifestation of primal energy in its gross form, and are natural landmarks in the exploration of the unconscious.
Delving into the unconscious during therapy, psychologists have found that the first manifestations are inevitably sensual desire and negative feelings like anger and aggression. This is also true on the spiritual path. As we make progress in meditation these impulses and instincts emerge in the form of pictures and symbols, often accompanied by strong emotions and bodily sensations. If you are full of anger, anger will come up; if you are full of fear, fear will come up; if you are full of passion (and we all are), passionate scenes and feelings will emerge. Some of these visions might be explicitly erotic, almost pornographic, leaving no doubt as to their significance. Others might be more symbolic- snakes, tunnels, caves, trains, guns, swords, various animals known for their virility, perhaps some unique personal image arising from your past. The meaning of these symbols is less obvious, but they frequently stimulate sexual feelings of greater or lesser intensity. Even great saints and siddhas have been through this phase. In Chit Shakti Vilas, Paramhansa Muktananda of Bombay writes:
"Sex, sex and sex! I could think of nothing else. The only saving grace was that my meditative posture was not disturbed; my legs remained firmly interlocked. My whole body felt the stirring of lust. It is difficult to describe the agony of my organ. I tried to reason it out with my mind but could not succeed. As I closed my eyes I saw a ravishing naked maiden within the red aura. I tried not to see her, but seeing her was all I could do."
Such experiences are definitely nothing to be ashamed of for they are part of what it means to be human. If denied they will continue to haunt us one way or another until our fears and conflicts are resolved.
In yoga also, the first manifestation of the unconscious is ferocious and terrible. It is symbolised by the black and bloodthirsty Kali, who represents the unruly passions, violent impulses, and irrational fantasies we suppress in daily living. These unconscious elements have the power to subdue the individual spirit completely, just as Kali dances on the body of Lord Shiva. They must be eliminated from the personality in order that we may develop spiritual understanding and discrimination. The means to do this is through karma yoga combined with regular meditation.
If erotic urges and visions in meditation cause us distress, it is only because of our own erroneous notions and guilty preconceptions. We must abandon our wrong thinking on this point if we are to make progress. It is the innate psychic structure that allows man to have experiences of this kind- they are natural and necessary. As energy moves up from mooladhara chakra and swadhisthana is pierced, sexual impulses are aroused in order to give us knowledge and control over them. We must be familiar with, and unafraid of, this energy in all its guises so that we can manipulate it for consciousness expansion.
Once these visions and symbols have been released from the unconscious, the energy behind them moves us into realms of higher consciousness. Ultimately Kali becomes calm, quiet and tranquil. She not only carries a dagger and the severed head of our grosser nature, but her two right hands are raised in abhaya mudra (dispelling fear) and vara mudra (bestowing blessings). Kali gives us her blessing and Durga emerges triumphantly mounted on the lion of subdued animal passion. Kali is potential primary energy in mooladhara chakra and Durga is the release of power from mooladhara - the ascent of primal energy towards the glory of super consciousness. She is the symbol of the benign unconscious and the giver of power and peace.
As we explore this aspect of the unconscious, we begin to realise that many distinctly sensual images have wide ranging psychological significance as symbols of wholeness and integration. Like yoga, Jungian psychology has realised that our deepest intuitions and complexes are encoded in the unconscious in the form of graphic images called archetypes. They make themselves known through dreams, fantasies and visions in meditation. Among the most prominent of these symbols are the animus (ideal man) and the anima (ideal woman). At one level, these images are representations of parts of our personality that are somehow out of keeping with our conscious idea of ourselves, and which possess certain attributes of the opposite sex. If not recognised and thoroughly understood, these images may be projected outward onto a real man or woman. This causes us to misperceive that person's true nature and leads to confusion and complications in our personal relationships.
Further, for a woman, the animus is a manifestation of the masculine elements in her make-up, a complement to her feminine personality. In the same way, the anima represents the woman in every man and she is the complement to his masculine personality. In acknowledging and accepting these symbols we are able to integrate the male and female elements in our character, uniting Shiva and Shakti on the psychological dimension of our being.
Although the anima and animus are personifications of erotic desire, they are also felt to possess age-old wisdom. This is better understood when we recall that it is through their experience of the sensual that most people become acquainted with 'passion' and value of emotion. Meaningful integration of these unconscious erotic symbols can open the door to a world of experience and insight that is not necessarily or wholly erotic. We are put more directly in touch with our inner nature and move that much closer to our goal of wholeness.
Under the benevolent influence of Durga, overtly sexual images are likely to recede, being replaced by universal symbols of consciousness and harmony such as the ankh and shiva lingam. The ankh is the ancient Egyptian and occult symbol of eternal life and resurrection. Esoterically it is a representation of the male organ (vertical line) united with the female womb (horizontal line and oval). The ankh is the symbol of eternity perpetuated through the sexual activity of mankind. 'Lingam' itself means symbol or sign, and is the potent sign of masculinity. It represents Shiva, consciousness, and is embedded in the circular 'yoni patra' - the universal womb of Shakti. The shiva lingam represents the achievement of supreme consciousness through union of the universal opposites in all spheres of existence.
Coinciding with these more abstract symbols may be strong bodily sensations of pleasure akin to sensual enjoyment. Sometimes these too are disguised, for we will not admit them freely to conscious awareness. In such cases we might experience swimming in an ocean or lake, an exciting feeling of flying or falling blissfully from a great height.
Some people experience spontaneous moola bandha, a psycho-physical contraction of mooladhara chakra. Moola bandha sends a rush of primal energy through the body, experienced as a thrill of pleasure that may vary from mild to blissful in its intensity. This may or may not be accompanied by physical signs of sensual arousal.
Once again, many aspirants become confused and guilty about these experiences. There is a belief that we can only grow through suffering and pain. This is totally erroneous but, unfortunately, very widespread. Tantra is renowned as the path to liberation through enjoyment, and many scriptures- from the 'Kama Sutra' to the 'Ananda Mimamsa' (hierarchy of pleasure) in the 'Taittiriya Upanishad' are very clear on this point.
This pleasure should not be suppressed, but neither should it be indulged. It is essential that you do not become attached to these sensations. Dependence on these experiences will only leave you angry or depressed if they should weaken or stop altogether. Do not let them become the sole reason for your practice.
It is most important that you look upon all you see, whether 'good' or 'bad', as the body and mind responding to the play of primal energy. It is at the same time sensual and spiritual. Whatever you see or feel from time to time, whether high or low, noble or ignoble, pleasurable or painful, is the expression of primal energy and it is for your advancement.
The human mind is an amazing wonderland, but we must not become so frightened or fascinated that we lose our way. It is absolutely essential that you do not lose awareness of your practice. You must maintain constant awareness of your breath, mantra or psychic symbol in order to train the mind to be undisturbed by sensual experiences.