God and Sex: Now We Get Both, Understanding Sexual Abuse and the Societal Solution. Jimmy Savile: the tip of the iceberg | Mark Whitwell

The latest Netflix blockbuster ‘Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story’ explores the horrific sexual abuse committed by Jimmy Savile over his entire career in British broadcasting, from 1955 until 2005, most of which was against children and teenagers. The first episode explores how Savile managed to trick — “like a conjurer” — much of the nation by hiding, as it were, in plain sight. The second episode charts his fall from the absolute heights of social power into total disgrace.

The film does a great work in representing the tragedy of what happened over those five decades, but sadly, it does little to explain why any of it occurred. The underlying causes of Savile’s behaviour remain untouched — for one, the patriarchal conditions of the modern world in which sex has been made deeply dysfunctional for all people. Savile is cast simply as a ‘monster,’ an eccentric pervert, or ‘pure evil’ — an outlier, in other words, to the everyday world we live in.

By now it is obvious though to everybody that a figure like Savile is not an outlier. This heartbreaking reality is shown by the statistics around sexual abuse and rape among the general population — showing how sexual abuse is normal; and normal too among the rich and powerful: as the long list of celebrity sexual abuse cases attests to, including Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter, Michael Jackson, Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell and Harvey Weinstein.

¹ At the beginning of this year, police forces in England and Wales together reported the highest number of rapes ever over the period of a year numbering over 60,000 — with 5 in 6 women not reporting their experience to the police, meaning the number is much higher. 1 in 5 women have suffered sexual abuse, 1 in 6 children, and 1 in 20 men.

We need to ask why sexual abuse is so prevalent in our world. Because unless we reckon with the underlying causes, the illness will remain. I feel deep compassion for all the victims of Jimmy Savile. I honour the brave stand that his victims have taken. Savile’s criminal actions should have been held to account long ago, and not covered up and denied by those in power. Let’s take his actions as a spur to initiate a positive change for humanity as a whole.

Alongside a deeper understanding of the causes of sexual abuse, humanity needs an actual, practical way to transcend the imposition of patriarchal culture. There are plenty of impassioned and sincere calls for positive change out there. I wholeheartedly stand with these calls. But alongside alternative visions, we need the practical means to turn these ideas into an embodied reality.

I want everybody to know that there is a practical way forward through this mess into a completely sex-positive life. Through understanding and then actual practice we can carve out a life of intimate connection to ourselves, our loved ones, and the entire cosmos. This is every person’s birthright, no less and is well within our grasp.

What is the Underlying Cause of Sexual Abuse?

The root cause of sexual abuse and relationship dysfunction in modern society is the imagined separation of God and Sex. Indeed, modern civilisation has been built upon this very division. God — the name sometimes given to the essential intelligence, beauty, and harmony that is our cosmos — has long been imagined as “other” to the ordinary conditions of the planet. Religious doctrine has for millennia imposed the idea of a future heaven upon the globe, an idea which inherently implies that the present-time condition of the earth is lesser, a bland materiality devoid of radiance, matter without spirit. Humanity’s attention has been turned away from the wonder our of born condition and transfixed on fantasies of a future heaven.

In my life of exploration in the cultures around the world, I saw that it was universally true that the idea of God as ‘other’ was making everybody miserable. To feel separate from Life (from the Truth) causes literal pain in the body and mind. It is abusive to the living organism. In reaction to that pain and the promise of a future salvation we get seriously busy seeking to change ourselves, to find something we feel is missing. Humanity finds itself now at the tail end of this long history of Life-Denial as species that is almost completely dissociated from the Power of Life Itself, from the substance of Reality, instead presuming this is absent and needs to be found. “Man’s idea of heaven has created a hell out of this abundant paradise,” my teacher U.G. was fond of saying.

The principle means of getting to God as ‘other’ has for centuries been to try and conquer that which is ‘lower’; for example, the natural world, the body, women, and sex, and childbirth. We find the form of a hierarchy between God and Sex across both European and Eastern traditions. For example, the Hindu and yoga obsession with attention rising above the three lower chakras has created a deep social impression that denies human function at the life level. It is socially imprinted that it is “lower” or less valid to have needs and fulfillments that are natural to “animal” imperatives. Similarly, the notion in Christianity of the virgin birth is a denial of the sexual function and our organic existence. The obsession with being “born again” dismisses the first birth and all its wonder. Buddhism too has the notion that the Buddha was born from the side of his mother, rather than coming through the birth canal. These religious concepts have all been developed from each other in the same vast cultural assumption that denies the born condition. These ideas are probably the reason behind the incalculable disregard for life that has existed throughout history.

A vast imagined hierarchy known as the medieval Chain of Being was developed and imposed upon the world. This thought-structure defined all of life in a vertical hierarchy of value descending down from God, the king, and the aristocracy and clergy, down through professionals, traders, and peasants, through to animals, plants, and minerals.

Within the chain, the human being is caught in the middle ground, sharing some traits with the angels and Gods above and others with the animal, plants, and terrestrial entities below. Higher status was associated with mind and spirit; lower status to the body, sex and lust. Because women were associated with the earthly aspect, they were a lower link on the chain. It was this ideology that suppressed woman and restricted them from the priesthood. Man was associated with God and a woman with Sex, and never the twain shall meet — except to procreate and produce more men to preach the doctrine and go to war for it.

Religious doctrines of celibacy, renunciation, the transcendence of desire, and the suppression of our ‘animal’ instincts — all imply the logic of this ancient hierarchy. Whether we are medieval people programmed to humbly accept our place in the chain, or modern people programmed to work our way up it through career, sport, politics and money, the sense of going beyond our fundamental sexual nature remains.

We may feel that religious ideas no longer affect us, but these doctrines have sunk deep into our collective psyche. They have gone so deep into the way we live that we do not see them. They are axioms of the social mind and affect our life. We are witnessing the fallout from this history of sex-denial like never before. The widespread presence of pornography reduces sex to mere stimulation or stress relief orgasm, or worse: an expression of violence and outright sexual abuse, denying the profundity of whole-body intimate connection with another; men have been taught that sex can be separated from their emotions and that hard aggression is an appropriate approach to relationship; religious institutions and spiritual cults still promote the ideal of celibacy as a higher state within their hopeful search for a future heaven that never comes, despite the constant outbursts of sexual abuse that arise within their communities; everywhere, an atmosphere of sleaziness, negativity and danger pervades our culture’s psyche around sex.

When sex is not honoured as a completely natural, lawful and honest activity, when it is not empowered to become the heart’s activity — an expression of love between two people who mutually decide to form a partnership — then it is relegated to the realms of unconsciousness and abuse. To be clear, sex is the heart’s activity. It is the union of opposites without by which the source of opposites — God, if you will — is felt. Sex is the principle means by which we participate in our Reality. This is why the entire world is obsessed with it. It is Mother Nature’s most powerful means of regenerating itself.

When this powerful and natural force is suppressed, vulgarized, and given no framework around it to participate in it, then it invariably comes out as sexual abuse or unfeeling relationship.

Jimmy Savile represents the apex of this long-standing civilisational dysfunction. He climbed to the top of both secular and religious power structure and was celebrated by both Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and the Pope. His life represents the complete failure of both of these social structures to provide humanity with any kind of wisdom around sex and intimacy. He was steeped in a Catholicism in which sex was explicitly denied as ungodly activity. And he was the product of a secular media world in which the non-sacred status of sex was furthered: reduced to a commodity, a casual matter, something sleazy or negative.

The Healing Power of Yoga

In 2022, it is clear that we need a completely different framework to understand and practice human intimacy. Sex must be restored as the heart’s activity — the mutual, honest, and lawful expression of love between two people who freely choose one another. Sex must be brought to our understanding of God. And God to understanding of Sex. Then both words will be purified and restored to their useful place within a human life. How do we do this?

There have existed in the past non-patriarchal cultures in which God and Sex were seen as one and the same activity; specifically, the tantric cultures that flourished in Asia between the 5th and the 14th century. These cultures beheld all of the cosmos as One Reality: a unity condition in which everything that is happening was beheld as part of a single magnificent, integrated totality: the stars, sun and moon, the green realm and the water, the animals, the air, and the body. There was no division of one part against or over another. Everything that existed was the Radiance, already.

Within these cultures, Yoga sadhana was shared as each person’s direct participation in the unity condition — the nurturing flow of Reality itself; a way of yielding or integrating the body and mind with everything that existed. To be clear, everything is already integrated! But if there was any patterning in the mind or trauma that presumed separation, yoga was compassionately given so that the natural state of oneness could be enjoyed.

Now, what kind of Yoga are we talking about here? Certainly not the physical workout that it has been reduced to in modern times, and nor was it any kind of spiritual or religious gymnastics. Our ancestors figured that by the merging all the opposites of our embodiment via a simple breath-based practice then the source of all opposites is spontaneously revealed to the mind — the hridaya heart, the portal between our finite body and the eternal cosmos. Yoga was simply the union of opposites within: the merge of ha/tha, sun/moon, above/below, left/right, inhale/exhale, inner/outer, strength/receptivity.

Intimate embrace of body and breath, together with the inherent understanding of that human begins existed in a prior unity with all of creation, facilitated an egalitarian social order of intimacy, collaboration and respect. As a result, sex was understood as another way of participating in the divine cosmos. It was regarded as the union of opposites without — the union of the male/female polarity that is the nature of Reality Itself, a natural extension of a life of intimate connection in all directions.

Hope for Humanity

I do not wish to romanticize past periods in human history, but simply to show that another way of life is possible and has been there as widespread public activity. Secondly, the understandings and the practices that formed these cultures have actually been preserved and is completely applicable to our modern lives. For what our ancestors realized was not a cultural ‘point-of-view’ but a clear recognition of how Reality Itself is functioning — and Reality has not changed! Clearly, the cosmos has and will always be a singular wondrous totality that is beyond understanding. Humanity and all other ‘objects’ arising have and will always be an integrated part of this awesome unity. The body is the cosmos.

In 2022, we heal the imagined rift between God and Sex when we behold our body, our spouse, our children, our deity, our guru, our mother, our father, our God, and all of our intrinsic relatedness with the natural world as the One Reality. No longer reaching for anything as if something is absent. No longer presuming that there is a more amazing reality to get to, somewhere else. We see and then drop the search that has been put us by patriarchal culture.

Specifically, it is each person’s daily embrace of their body and breath that will enable this cultural change. Via the embrace of our inhalation down the soft feeling front of the body we engage our natural receptive aspect — indeed, the front of the body is exquisitely soft and receptive; by engaging the exhale from below we enact the life-quality of strength. Participation in the union of opposites allows us to feel our hearts. The patriarchal culture of hard-heartedness dissolves into a whole-body feeling of unity and love.

In my life as a yoga teacher, I have seen thousands of ordinary people take up a practice and quickly fall out of the life-denying thought-structures of patriarchal culture. Practitioners come to feel the union of opposites in their own system — strength that is receptive — through daily practice, and dissolve the painful inheritance that has turned this world into a hell. Most of all, they are empowered in their relationships, beginning with their own breath, they find a natural intimacy seamlessly enters their partnership. Sex becomes a truly receptive event, participation in the unity and divine harmony that is already, inherently given, the heart’s activity.

This is why I have dedicated my life to communicating this simple practice and understanding. Real yoga for real yoga is what I want to urgently offer to the table of cultural recovery. When a person is fully intimate with their own embodiment, and their body’s inherent connection to Source, there is no urge within them to go looking for connection by abusing another. In this way, yoga is a direct intervention into our culture of sexual abuse. Beyond being an urgent solution to sexual abuse and predatory behaviour, yoga lays the embodied groundwork for an entire culture of utterly sex-positive relationship to flourish. We are turning culture on its ear.

I know so many people who are falling into a state of despair over the mess that the world is in. I feel great compassion for all people out there who are doing their best to help each other. I want you to know that there is a practical way for you to become intimate with life and the power of your own reality. May everybody receive this technology rapidly so that humanity can continue to survive and enjoy our Reality.

  • Join us in the new heart of yoga online studio for regular classes and discussion on how to practice and live the yoga that is right for you.

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.