"Oh, what a catastrophe, what a maiming of love when it was made a personal, merely personal feeling, taken away from the rising and the setting of the sun, and cut off from the magic connection of the solstice and equinox! This is what is the matter with us, we are bleeding at the roots, because we are cut off from the earth and sun and stars, and love is a grinning mockery, because, poor blossom, we plucked it from its stem on the tree of Life, and expected it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table."

--D.H. Lawrence [1]

Sacred Sex, Sacred Land, and Relationship

By Dolores LaChapelle

We're all "bleeding at the roots" because we're all suffering from the effects of treating sex as a substance. In fact the biggest "substance abuse" of all is monogamy. One person will satisfy all your needs forever! You don't need anyone else or the earth or the sun or the stars! When put this clearly it's obvious nonsense, but this is precisely the real meaning of the concept of "romantic love" and its supposedly "correct" outcome of monogamy. The present fad of "serial monogamy," where one marries and then divorces and moves on to marry another etc., is just as bad, if not worse. All the energy is continually devoted to trying to make this particular monogamous marriage "work" and then the next one and then the next. No energy is fed back into the whole of either the culture or the place. Of course that's one of the reasons for the monogamous "ideal": it keeps the economy of the Industrial Growth Society going very well. There's no end to the "things" needed to keep it going: new hair styles, new make-up, new fashions, new appliances, new furniture, and new house, to begin the "new life" one more time!

Too often, modern "love" proves to be another form of "addiction." Instead of a relationship where two people help one another to grow, within an ever larger context, we find that many relationships are based on a need for the security of having someone always there; which means "spending as much time as possible with someone totally sensitized to one's needs...the individuals [are] hooked on someone whom they regard as an object; their need for the object, their 'love', was really a dependency," according to Peale and Brodsky, in their book, Love and Addiction. [2] Julien Puzey provides still another level, when she points out: "Anytime anything becomes an end in itself it becomes addiction. When the sexual act in itself becomes the 'end' you're in trouble, and, as with any addiction it intensifies, and the returns are less and less."

It is important to realize that dependency is not an "attribute of drugs," but rather an "attribute of people." [3] This dependency extends to addictive love. Phil Donahue states it very strongly and clearly in The Human Animal: "At a neurophysiological level, 'attachment is essentially an addictive phenomenon involving opoids'." [4] Scientific research has found that "falling in love" causes the brain to produce substances called opoids, which are indeed similar to opiates. But fortunately, "romantic love" and sex are two different things.

Sex is really the most natural thing in the world! In all species of animals, sex is used to produce young to continue the species. In the higher primates it began to be used for bonding within the group as well. We humans inherited ritualized sexual techniques for bonding from our ancestors, the chimps; naturally, we have elaborated on these techniques. In most primitive cultures such sexual rituals have become integral parts of the great festivals.

World Renewal Festivals always include human sexual rites: the renewal of life cannot occur without sexual contact. It is important to remember that the hoped for "abundance" coming out of the sexual rituals within the World Renewal Festivals is not limited to the human participants alone, but is extended to all of life in the place, that all life in that place may "blossom" to is fullest.

"Every form of life has the equal right to live and blossom" is one of the most important objectives of deep ecology, as stated by Arne Naess in 1972. [5] Fifty years earlier, D.H. Lawrence used the same wording when he wrote that all living beings must "move toward blossoming." [6] Of his contemporaries, only the perceptive Scandinavian novelist Sigrid Undset grasped the importance of Lawrence's work. She explained: "Lawrence symbolized his civilization at the moment when it reached a crisis...of population and an economic crisis." [7] Writing just before the second World War, she continued: "Much of what is happening in Europe today and yet more that will doubtless happen in the future are the brutal reactions of mass humanity to the problems which the exceptional man, the genius, D.H. Lawrence, perceived and faced and fought in his own way." Even today, in our Eurocentric world, few see as clearly as Lawrence did, the sexual roots of the problems facing the world.

In most traditional cultures human sexual activity was part of the on-going whole of all of life in that particular place. It had specific effects on the whole: positive when it contributed to the overall fertility of life as humans added their sexual activity to the ritual "increase ceremonies" of animal or plant life in the place, and negative when humans failed to keep the number of children within the limits of what that place could feed without damage. In the latter case, naturally, humans destroyed the basis of their own on-going life. Few traditional primitive cultures did this for very long. They either died out or moved elsewhere or learned the rituals to enable them to stay. This is the basis of "sacred sex," Thomas Wright tells us that: "Western culture is the only one which has no on-going concept of sacred sex." Primitive groups all over the world, as well as Taoists, had the concept of "sacred sex."

Sexual strategies inherited from our animal ancestors

First of all, most of our sexual gestures can be traced back to care of the young as developed in birds and mammals. As Marge Midgley explains, "It provided an excellent repertory of gestures that could be used to soothe anger, to beg for help, and in every way to oil the wheels of society. Creatures that have to deal with helpless and demanding young must be capable of genuine kindness and tolerance. This makes it possible for fellow-adults to tap these resources if they behave in a childlike way." [8]

Courting birds approach each other with gaping beaks just as young birds in the nest gape for feeding. Kissing, according to Eibl-Eibesfeldt, developed out of the animal mother chewing up and passing food to the young. In his book, he has a modern ad for biscuits, showing a young man passing food to the young woman, lip to lip, which takes advantage of the sexual attributes of this action. Furthermore, flirting behavior patterns are nearly universal all over the world. Eibl-Eibesfeldt has photographed these patterns in cultures as different as Eskimo, African, and modern people. These behavior patterns are so nearly identical that he feels it is a biological pattern inherited from our animal ancestors. [9] The higher primates made the break-through from the usual mammalian pattern in which all the females come into heat at the same time of the year, thereby creating intense rivalry among the males during this limited time. Usually the dominant male secures a harem of females thus leaving the other males to wander alone or rove in "bachelor" bands. Such activity effectively breaks off any continuity of relationship among all the members of the herd or band. In the higher primates all of this is changed. With females coming into heat throughout the year, at any one time some females are always available; copulation thus becomes an on-going activity. In fact, Schaller says that gorillas show no sexual jealousy whatsoever. Mating becomes a year round possibility; therefore sexual activity becomes a method of creating closer bonding rather than a temporary breaking-up of society as in most mammalian species.

"Understanding Chimpanzees," the first major international conference on chimpanzees to include biologists, anthropologists, and psychologists, as well as primatologists, was held late in 1986 by the Chicago Academy of Science. From the point of view of how sexual encounters facilitate bonding between troops of chimpanzees, the discussion by Nancy Thompson Handler of Stonybrook was very useful. She worked with a troop of pygmy chimpanzees in Africa. On one occasion she was already at a certain spot in the forest when two different groups of pygmy chimps happened to encounter one another. They all climbed into a big fig tree and engaged in a mass copulation. She remarked: "If this is what a reunion is for pygmy chimpanzees I think chimps have a great way of saying hi." [10]

Among animals, styles of mating range from polyandry, through monogamy, to polygyny. Biologists are only recently beginning to understand the factors which favor one style over another for a particular species. Essentially it involves a complex interaction between basic genetic structures and the way that species gets its food and survives. For instance in birds, where the female carries the egg inside her body, it seems as if the male could just take off and go his own way to mate again if he wants. But in most species the male stays right there. The reason most bird species are monogamous--at least for one breeding season--is that the effort required to keep the eggs warm during the prolonged incubation time, as well as the constant feeding of the young birds in the nest, needs the cooperation of two adult birds.

For our primate ancestors, sex came to serve as a bonding mechanism within the troop. In early hominid society the females usually did the daily food gathering and the males did the occasional big hunt for meat. Since they carried over the primate use of sex as a bonding agent as well as for procreation, sexuality in general contributed to the bonding of the group. No one has explained the importance of this link between food-sharing and sexuality as well as Richard Leakey, son of the famous team of Mary and Louis Leakey who made the discoveries of early humans in Olduvai Gorge. He wrote: "Most probably, then, heightened human sexuality evolved as emotional cement...in the uniquely interdependent child-rearing bond of Homo sapiens. If our ancestors had not invented the food-sharing economy of gathering and hunting around three or so million years ago, we would be neither as intelligent as we are today, nor so interested in each other's sexuality." [11]

Ecosystem cultures and biosphere cultures

Now that I have "grounded" sex within its biological origins, I want to turn to a consideration of the two different strategies found necessary by different peoples as the earth became more populated.

First, it is necessary to briefly review the dynamics of this population expansion. Until quite recently, agriculture was considered to be an enormous step forward for the human race, one which vastly improved mankind's life; but, during the last few decades, new areas of research have made this idea seem very dubious indeed. Beginning with the 1967 conference on "Man the Hunter," [12] proliferating research has clearly shown the advantage of the hunting-gathering life over both the agricultural life and modern industrial culture. Until quite recently, modern hunting-gathering cultures in the most marginal land, such as the Kalahari desert, worked an average of two days a week to secure all their food, leaving vast amounts of leisure for the preferred human pursuits of dancing, music, flirting, conversation, and art. Recent research has proved that hunting and gathering provide both higher quality and more palatable food than agriculture; furthermore, crop failures cannot wipe out the entire food supply because that supply is so diverse. Only ten thousand years ago a few groups began agricultural practices, yet by two thousand years ago, the overwhelming majority of human beings lived by farming. What happened to cause this incredible shift to agriculture all over the earth in only eight thousand years? Although clues have been accumulating during the last half-century, not until 1977 did the answer become clear when Mark Cohen's book, The Food Crisis in Prehistory, was published. [13]

Drawing on more than 800 research studies, Cohen shows that human populations grew so large that hunters caused the extinction of great numbers of species of large mammals by the end of the Pleistocene, thus forcing large numbers of human beings to resort to agriculture. Some research points to the fact that climatic changes, during which living became more difficult for some animal species, also had a part in the extinction. Cohen points out that the only advantage that agriculture has over the hunting-gathering life is that it provides more calories per unit of land per unit of time and thus supports denser populations. [14] He explains that fifty species of large mammals were extinct by the mid-Pleistocene in Africa, [15] two hundred species in North and South America by the end of the Pleistocene, [16] and in Europe, the enormous herds of grazing animals were gone by about the same time. Mythologically, we can say that the hunters realized that the Mother of all Beasts no longer sent her animals among them for food.

To deal with this new situation, over a period of several thousand years, human beings developed several strategies--some of which led to "biosphere" cultures and others to "ecosystem" cultures.

One of these strategies, agriculture, required more work than hunting-gathering, thus encouraging larger families of children to provide more workers, which, in turn, meant more intensive agriculture and so on in an ever increasing spiral of scarcity, hard work, and destruction of soils. Eventually this led to enslaving other peoples as workers. These conquerors, the "biosphere" people, as Gary Snyder succinctly explains, "spread their economic system out far enough that they [could] afford to wreck one ecosystem, and keep moving on. Well, that's Rome, that's Babylon," [17] and every imperialistic culture since then, including the present Industrial Growth Society.

Biosphere cultures assumed that Nature was no longer the overflowing, abundant Mother, giving all that humans needed. She had withdrawn her plenty; the never-ending stream of animals was gone. Nature was not to be trusted anymore; therefore humans must take affairs into their own hands. Within the short time period of the last five-hundred years of the era encompassing the spread of agriculture, all the world's so-called "great ethical systems" arose, beginning with Confucius and Buddha (approximately 500 BC), through the Hebrew prophets and Plato and ending with Christianity, in the beginning of the present era (1 AD). What we really have here is the establishment of religious systems based on "ideas" out of the head of individual human beings--Buddha, Moses, Jesus, St. Paul, and others.

Turning now to "ecosystem" people, we find that instead of taking up agriculture these people moved off into marginal areas--high mountains, deserts, deep jungles, or isolated islands, and learned to pay attention--to watch carefully and to revere all of life, for it was their body, their life. They developed rituals which acknowledged the sacredness of their land, thus enabling them to remain aware of the sacred cycles of taking life to live but also of giving life back so that the whole of the land could flourish--not just one small segment of that whole, the human beings. Because their economic basis of support consisted of a limited natural region such as a watershed, within which they made their whole living, it took just a little careful attention to notice when a particular species of animal or plant became scarcer and harder to find. At such times they set up taboos limiting the kill. They began to understand that they could destroy all life in their environment by excess demands on it if there were too many human beings there; thus they came to understand that sex, too, was part of the sacred cycle. Misused it caused destruction not only within the human tribal group but on all life around them. Used with due reverence for its power it brought increased energy and unity with all other forms of life.

In the primitive cultures which developed out of the "ecosystem" way of life, based on "sacred land, sacred sex," much of the wisdom of the tribe was devoted to "walking in balance with the earth." Human population was never allowed to upset this equilibrium. Among tribal people, the birth of a child was not an "accident" left up to individual parents, but instead was regulated by ritual or contraception or abortion so that the particular child would not disturb the overall stability of the entire ecosystem--the tribe plus the rest of the community consisting of the soil, the animals, and the plants.

Sexual type of bonding in ecosystem cultures

For "ecosystem" people it is not possible to speak of the human being as being related to the universe, but rather of a universal interrelatedness. Humanity is not the focus from which the relations flow. For instance, Dorothy Lee, in her study of the Tikopia natives, found that "an act of fondling or an embrace was not phrased as a 'demonstration' or an 'expression' of affection--that is, starting from the ego and defined in terms of the emotions of the ego, but instead as an act of sharing within a larger context." [18]

To show how this works in the deeper, sexual sense, I will give three detailed examples: in the Ute Bear Dance, sex was used to bond the widely scattered hunting bands into the tribe as a whole; in the Eskimo game of "doused lights," sex was used as an emotional cathartic; and in the final example, a modern Odawa Indian shows that the sharing of sex can contribute to the bonding of the tribe.

During most of the year, the Ute tribe was split up into small kinship groups hunting in widely separated parts of the high Rocky Mountains. Once a year the entire tribe met for the annual spring Bear Dance. They waited for the first thunder, which they felt awakened the hibernating bear in its winter den and awakened the spirit of the bear within the people. A great cave of branches, the avinkwep, was built with the opening facing the afternoon sun. At one end of the cave a round hole was dug to make an entrance into a small underground cave. Over this area a resounding basket was placed with the notched stick resting on top. When played this made a sound like thunder "spreading out over the awakening land and rumbling in the spring air." The singers closed in around this thunder and the dance began. Because the female bear chooses her mate, the woman chose which man she would dance with by plucking his sleeve. For three days the dance continued. The spirit of the bear filled the avinkwep. From time to time a couple would leave the dance and "take their blanket up into the brush of the hillside to let out the spirit of the bear and the thunder of spring that had grown too strong in them." [19] Many healings took place during this Bear Dance. At noon of the third day the Dance ended and gradually over a period of days the big camp broke up as the small hunting groups went out into the hills. A woman who plucked the sleeve of a man during the Bear Dance might visit the bushes with him for an hour, or for the entire night, or might stay with him for the entire year's hunting until the next Bear Dance, or even for "many moons." Here ritualized sex served the function of putting the individuals together again within the tribe as well as back in connection with their land through their totem animal, the Bear.

Peter Freuchen tells of an Eskimo game, "doused lights," where many people gathered together in an igloo. All the lights were extinguished so that there was total darkness. No one was allowed to say anything and all changed places continuously. At a certain signal each man grabbed the nearest woman. After a while, the lights were lit again and now innumerable jokes were made concerning the theme: "I knew all the time who you were because..." This game served a very practical purpose if bad weather kept the tribe confined for such a long time that the bleakness and loneliness of the Arctic became difficult to face. The possibility of serious emotional trouble is ever-present because such weather can mean little food or an uncertain fate, but after this ritualized sexual game is over, when the lamp is lit again, the whole group is joking and in high spirits. "A psychological explosion--with possible bloodshed--has been averted," Freuchen explains. [20]

Wilfred Pelletier is a modern Odawa Indian who left his island reserve in Canada and became a success in the white man's world, but he found it lacking so returned to his reserve. He says that his own introduction to sex was provided by a relative. "I still look on that as one of the greatest and happiest experiences of my life. From that time on, it seems to me that I screwed all the time, without letup. Not just my relatives, who were not always available, but anywhere I could find it, and it always seemed to be there...On the reservation people were honest about their feelings and their needs, and as all the resources of the community were available to those who need them, sex was not excluded. Sex was a recognized need, so nobody went without it. It was as simple as that." [21]


Finding our way back into "vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos... through ritual" [22] (as D.H. Lawrence called for in one of his final essays) is just beginning in our country; therefore it is important to emphasize two things here. Traditionally a "world renewal festival" always includes a joyous free mingling of the sexes; but, with our Eurocentric emphasis on sex as "substance"--something to be willed and limited--we are not yet in a position where we can expect a ritual use of sex to be either "free" or "joyous." So probably for at least the near future, the sexual energy (which, by nature, is always there) will be shared in the form of dances, maypoles, flirting, and teasing (traditional ways of primitive cultures to handle the potentially explosive sexual energy between people who for kinship reasons are not allowed to marry). Each of these activities do share the energy and renew it just as well as full genital sex if the sexual energy involved is glorified, fully acknowledged, and, equally important, laughed with and at. Anyone who has been to a seasonal ritual at one of the pueblos knows how important the "clowns" are during the dance. Often they have a huge, mock penis or are dressed in the most ridiculous female attire, and they often catch an unsuspecting tourist and mime intercourse, outrageously. This is what we, too, must begin allowing to happen in order to keep the important sexual energy flowing within the human group and between human and non-human in the great festivals.

It's also essential to recognize the importance of ritualized birth control. Seasonal rituals have to do with the "increase" of all beings in the place--human and non-human--in a manner that keeps the balance within the ecosystem. This obviously involves controlling human births. The Guajiro, who live in Venezuela at the present time, have made this control of human births an integral part of their female initiation rites.

As soon as a girl notices the first bleeding of menstruation she is rushed immediately to a small separate enclosure. She is given a "medicine" in the middle of her first night of seclusion. This medicine, called huawapi, "is designed to control and space pregnancies so that she will have three, or, at the most, four children during her lifetime." During the first month of her seclusion she will be given this medicine, which is a local herb, three times a day. "Later, as a married women, when she gives birth, she will take this medicine again, for three days after delivery, but no longer, for if she does she will become sterile." [23]

The great seasonal festivals, as done in traditional primitive cultures, also balance out the male and female in each person. This is very important for preventing the difficult anima and animus battles between the unconscious of men and women. As described by C.G. Jung, the animus is the male aspect inside a woman and the anima is the female aspect inside a man. In our culture these other aspects are seldom given a chance to develop fully so that when the person reaches middle age there is a real crisis. "When a man is possessed by the anima he is drawn into a dark mood, and tends to become sulky, overly sensitive, and withdrawn." In a woman, the animus (her male aspect) "typically expresses himself in judgments, generalizations, critical statements." [24] In a marriage, what eventually happens is that these two unconscious aspects of the husband and wife take over and thus vicious battles can begin over the most trivial statement while neither of the conscious persons can understand why it happens. Traditional seasonal festivals allow balancing of these energies by such actions as the men wearing women's clothes or women wearing men's clothes and both groups doing humorous burlesques of one another's actions.

In traditional cultures neither sex is as locked into a role structure as much as our Eurocentric cultures demand. In traditional cultures, when a woman is through bearing her children she automatically becomes an elder who is consulted by all the tribe because she "knows." Likewise, a man as he grows older very often takes an even greater part in the ritual of the tribe, and thus his anima or female intuitional aspect has a chance to grow. Thus the individual becomes a better person and the tribe gains from the greater understanding of the elders--both men and women. If, instead of looking at sex as "substance," a thing done between two humans, we begin to look at it as relationship in the largest sense, then it grows and grows. Outside in nature, the sexual act may lose its limiting boundary of being "merely" between a man and a woman. It grows deeper until the power of the older "animal" brain is tapped and even the still older "reptile" brain. Out of this "extended identity" you feel your Self growing ever larger and ever deeper until the Self is "opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos," [25] as D.H. Lawrence experienced on his sacred land on Lobo Mountain. In your own life, as well, the power of your sacred land can lead to sacred sex where you, too, will experience "rapture of the deep."


1 D.H. Lawrence, "A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover." In Warren Roberts and Harry T. Moore, editors, Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished, and other prose works by D.H. Lawrence. New York: The Viking Press, 1968.

2 Stanton Peale and A. Brodsky, Love and Addiction. New York: New American Library, 1976, p. 10.

3 Ibid., p. 43.

4 Phil Donahue, quoting J. Panksepp, a scientist at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. In Dohahue's book, The Human Animal. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985, p. 128.

5 Arne Naess, "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movements." Inquiry (1973).

6 D.H. Lawrence, "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine." Philadelphia, 1925. Also in Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished, and other prose works by D.H. Lawrence edited by Warren Roberts and Harry T. Moore, New York: The Viking Press, 1968.

7 Sigrid Undset, Men, Women and Places. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1939.

8 Marge Midgley, Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978, p. 333.

9 Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Love and Hate: The Natural History of Behavior Patterns. New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1972, pp. 122-128 and p. 152.

10 Nancy Thompson Handler, as transcribed from a tape, ATC Series on National Public Radio, November 11, 1986, Segment #12, "Chimps I," available from NPR, Custom Tape Service, Audience Services, 2025 M. St., Washington, DC 20036.

11 Richard Leakey, People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings. New York: Avon, 1978, p. 204.

12 Richard Lee and I. DeVore, eds., Man the Hunter. Chicago: Aldine Publishing, 1968.

13 Mark Cohen, The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977, p. 8.

14 Ibid., p. 15.

15 Ibid., p. 100.

16 Ibid., p. 181.

17 Gary Snyder, The Old Ways. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1977, p. 21.

18 Dorothy Lee, Freedom and Culture. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1959.

19 Robert Emmitt, The Last War Trail. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954.

20 Peter Freuchen, Book of the Eskimos. Cleveland: World Publishing, 1961, p. 92.

21 Wilfred Pelletier, No Foreign Land, pp. 77-78.

22 D.H. Lawrence, "A Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover." London: Mandrake Press, 1930. (reprinted in Phoenix II, pp. 487-515)

23 Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke, "To Learn for Tomorrow: Enculturation of Girls and Its Social Importance among the Guajiro of Venezuela." In J. Wilbert, ed., Enculturation in Latin America: an Anthology. Lost Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publication, University of Los Angeles, 1976, pp. 191-211.

24 John Sanford, The Invisible Partners. Paulist Press, 1980, pp. 35, 36, 43, and 47.

25 D.H. Lawrence, "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine."

Excerpted with permission from Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep--Concerning Deep Ecology--and Celebrating Life by Dolores LaChapelle. Copyright 1988 Dolores LaChapelle. All rights reserved. To order call Kivaki Press, 1-800-578-5904, or write Kivaki Press, 585 East 31st St., Durango, CO 81301.

Dolores LaChapelle is an avid mountaineer, deep powder skier, T'ai Chi artist, leader of experiential ecology workshops, and director of Way of the Mountain Learning Center in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Her books include Earth Festivals (1976), Earth Wisdom (1978), Sacred Land, Sacred Sex: Rapture of the Deep (1988), and Deep Powder Snow (1993).


The Sacred as Relationship

The essence of "the sacred" is relationship. It has to do with conforming to the patterns (Chinese, Li) in nature because the patterns in nature are both within us (evolved through millennia) and without--in nature outside of us. In a good culture there is little dissonance between these two patterns. If such dissonance arises it is resolved through seasonal festivals. D.H. Lawrence, who spent his life exploring these relationships, says:

"The true God is created every time a pure relationship takes place...Blossoming means the establishing of a pure, new relationship with all the cosmos. This is the state of heaven. And it is the state of a flower, a cobra, a jenny-wren in spring, a man when he knows himself royal and crowned with the sun, with his feet gripping the core of the earth." (D.H. Lawrence, "The Crown," "Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine," in Phoenix II: Uncollected, Unpublished, and other prose works by D.H. Lawrence, edited by Warren Roberts and Harry T. Moore, New York: The Viking Press, 1968).

The Tao and Relationship

In the Chinese view of the world, all those individual things which in Western thought are named and thought of as separate are in no way so. From the Taoist point of view it is seen and recognized that each is a different manifestation of the whole and changing all the time as well. The Western world's concentrating on substance is similar to a person seeing a particular mountain peak from the main valley and studying each peak separately and accumulating massive amounts of data without ever having glimpsed the fact that each of these little peaks is part of the whole main mountain mass. The Chinese with their underlying concept of relationship were able to discern that it's all connected together and furthermore, that everything is always changing.

Language and Relationship

It's a well-known fact that the Eskimo have over twenty different words for snow. Less well-known is the fact that Polynesian peoples do not have one word for yam. They have instead, one word for a just-beginning-to-grow yam, one for a young yam, one for a green yam, one for a ripe yam, another for a yam used for one purpose, and still another when used for a different purpose. This is far from the word yam, as a substance, which is just yam. In the Polynesian languages each of the words for yam take into consideration the time of year, the length of the growing season, the time of harvest, the human uses of the yams and sometimes the needs of the yam itself. In other words, relationship. My colleague, Julien Puzey, in Salt Lake City, was trying to explain this to her class in deep ecology and getting nowhere; when suddenly an Indian in the back of the room, who had not said a word the entire quarter, spoke up and said: "The rain is on the yellow corn." And he said nothing more; he didn't have to. It was all there (for a tribal society): the season, the stage of growing of the corn (mature), the promise of food for the winter, and, or course, all the mythological connotations of corn and rain. Julien also has a new definition of genius: "Genius bypasses wasted motion and substance by directly perceiving necessary and sufficient relationship."

D.H. Lawrence on Human Sexuality and Nature

In a number of his works, D.H. Lawrence called for a new kind of relation between the sexes, even a new kind of marriage. In Women in Love, he has Birkin criticize stuffy--what we call "addictive"--love, and marriage: "the world all in couples, each couple in its own little house, watching its own little interests, and stewing in its own little privacy." Again, much later he wrote this about current marriage: "What a feeble lot of compromises! It's no good talking about it: marriage...will last while our social system lasts, because it's the thing that holds our system together. But our system will collapse, and then marriage will be different--probably more tribal...as in the old pueblo system..." (Women in Love. New York: Viking Press, 1960.)

Concerning sex itself Lawrence wrote: "It is no good being sexual. That is only a form of the same static consciousness. Sex is not living till it is unconscious: and it never becomes unconscious by attending to sex. One has to face the whole of one's conscious self, and smash that." Way back in 1908 when Lawrence was trying to work his way toward his "phallic vision," he wrote that most people marry "with their soul vibrating to the note of sexual love...but love is much finer, I think, when not only the sex group of chords is attuned, but the great harmonies, and the little harmonies, of what we call religious feeling (read it widely) and ordinary sympathetic feeling." (In Harry Moore, ed., The Collected Letters, v. 1, p. 374 and p. 23.)

2000* Talking Leaves
Winter 2001
Volume 10, Number 3

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