“As sexual beings we are capable of establishing beautiful relationships of mutual dependence and respect, but we are also capable of reducing another person to an extension of ourselves, creating excessive dependence because we need to control. It is precisely as sexual beings that we are most vulnerable to the desire to possess another person and to reduce him or her to the object of our desire. Peck (1993) refers to this as the “illusion of romantic love.” Gerald May (1982) warns that because the raw energy of passionate sexuality can be compelling and overwhelming, one must be careful not to channel all one’s sexual energy into spiritual expression. This leads to confusion because then humans could establish a very human love affair with God. When this occurs one would not be loving God but loving one’s image (illusion) of God. Erotic fusion with a romantic image of God is unrealistic.
Eros, the passionate nature of love, appears to be a basic human need. Although rooted in attachment styles of childhood, eros enables a lover to risk giving of oneself intensely and creatively; therefore it requires ego depth and strength (Livermore, 1993). Although it has been stated that eros transforms sexuality into spirituality (Coleman, 1994), intimacy—a more mature component of Steinberg’s (1988) model of love—becomes a path for the unfolding of personal and spiritual development (Welwood, 1990).
The intimacy of love does not have to be consummated in the intimacy of sex, but they are profoundly related (Levine, 1991). Intimacy provides the groundwork for people to become lovers. Sexual intimacy depends on the intimacy of love to develop more completely.
The potential of sexual intimacy is the theme of the “Quantum Model of Sex” promoted by Schnarch (1991), a renowned sex therapist. According to Schnarch, human capacity for intimacy, what he believes is quintessentially human about human sexuality, enables a person to have profoundly transcendent communion with another human. Schnarch’s approach changes the focus of intimacy from the other person to oneself. In his view, true intimacy is a self-reflective process that involves self-confrontation and self-disclosure in the presence of a partner. “Self-validated” intimacy encourages a person to develop so that novelty and growth can be part of relational intimacy.
Schnarch’s (1991) “self-validated intimacy” promotes experiencing sex at the limits of one’s potential. This spiritual dynamic of sexual intimacy produces mystical experiences that include: time stoppage, loss of pain awareness, laserlike focusing of consciousness, age shifting, and lack of separation between partners. Schnarch believes the “eye-opening” potential of spiritual sexual intimacy is incumbent upon a shift in the nature of desire, from desire out of emptiness to desire out of fullness. People who desire out of fullness discover they are already emotionally satisfied. They seek out their partner not for purposes of reassurance or validation but to celebrate what they already feel. Even though the body is satiated, the soul and the spirit continue the celebration.”
Taken from C M MacKnee’s PhD dissertation (UBC, 1997)