Monday, June 9, 2014

Illumination

By Lisabet Sarai


I've always believed that flesh is holy.

Having met others who were not so fortunate, I understand how lucky I was to grow up in a family and religion where sex was not considered a sin. My mom, in particular, was a lusty woman who would sometimes dress provocatively and flirt outrageously. I was never taught to be ashamed of my sexuality.

At the same time, from my earliest years I was fascinated by things of the Spirit. I've written before about my Catholic girlfriend who intended to be a missionary nun. I was her first “convert”, when she baptized me at the tender age of seven, after having been well-schooled about the saints and the sacraments. Later, I was exposed to Hindu mysticism through an aunt who was the disciple of an Indian guru. My few experiences with psychedelics convinced me that, as many Eastern traditions teach, the material world is a thin skin spread over a limitless ocean of spiritual energy. I saw for myself how passionate imagination could shape “reality”, crystallizing new truths out of the formless potentiality of Infinite Mind. Many times in my personal experience, the so-called real world has twisted and reformed itself in response to my heartfelt desires.

For me, sex seemed to confirm the existence of the soul. In many sexual encounters, I felt a sense of connection with my partners that extended far beyond the physical. Perhaps I conflated sex and love, shallow pleasure and deep joy, but regardless, those experiences changed me. During what I like to call my “sex goddess” period (others might simply label me promiscuous), I was simultaneously fucking people right and left and experiencing daily spiritual revelations. As I wrote in my journal during that period:

Where will this all end? Can there be such a thing as living too much in the moment? Have I no “will power”?

How ridiculous! It suddenly occurs to me that tonight's events with E were in fact a straightforward manifestation of my own will, an expression of numerous daydreams, night-dreams and fantasies....

Or am I just an addict? God is giving me what I need. This I must believe. Lord knows I needed G (in the sense: needed for my growth). E too has something to teach me. (And I him.)

I am willing, open to it.. but it is just too much!

Nothing taught me as much about Spirit as my initiation into BDSM. In my early scenes with my Master, I came to a new understanding of faith and trust. When I completely let go of myself, allowing him to take total control, the rewards were limitless. Not just pleasure but true bliss, a sense of deep communion, an acute awareness of the power we wielded together when our bodies, minds and spirits were attuned. It was just a step from here to the notion of submitting to a non-physical Higher Power, because in some sense we are all manifestations of underlying Spirit.

A poem jotted in my journal, from the same era:

Take me, lord.
My hands outstretched,
eager for your chains.
Head bowed,
Long hair hiding my breasts
(only so long as you will it)

Take me.
Let me be
consumed in your flames
of mercy and desire.
Soul of the priestess within me
Naked upon the altar.

Faith incarnate.
Surrender.
Power.
Peace.

It's hard to explain this if you've never experienced it yourself, but these feelings are not unique to me. In 2006, S.F. Mayfair and I edited an incredible collection entitled Sacred Exchange: Stories of Transcendence and Spirituality in Dominance and Submission. The book is out of print now, but if you can find a used copy, you'll get fresh insight into why I feel that submission can be a sacrament. My contribution to that volume (“Communion”) was explicitly religious, the tale of a fourteenth century nun restored to her lost faith through being scourged and sodomized by a renegade priest. She pays dearly, but gladly, for her illumination. Here's the first paragraph:

When the first flames taste my flesh, I feel no pain. Eyes closed, I attend to the summer dawn: blossoms mingling with the wood smoke, birdsong greeting the sun. Ecstasy wells up inside me even as my robe ignites. Grace, gratitude, glory. I open myself to the agony, let the pain wash over me as the Master taught me.

These themes of surrender and redemption run through much of my erotica. (They're too serious for romance readers.) Here's a bit from another of my short stories, “Higher Power”, about the true nature of magic.

He turned away for a moment, then returned with a leather blindfold. "This will help you to concentrate," he said. I nodded, not daring to speak. I blushed again at my reaction to his brief touch as he slipped the blind over my head. Everything turned velvety black, black as his curtains and his eyes. Now there was nothing but darkness, darkness and his luminous voice.

"Myra, I want you to relax and trust me. Listen to me. Focus on me. Let me fill your consciousness, until you know nothing but me." As he spoke, I thought I felt his fingers, dancing lightly over my body. Yet I could tell from the sound that he was standing several feet away. He began to chant in some language that I did not recognize. His musical voice rose and fell in a soothing rhythm. I felt a stirring of air around me. Little by little, the tension leached from my body. Warmth flowed in like honey to take its place, thick and sweet, coalescing into a dampness between my thighs. I could not understand what he was saying, but his intonations gradually took shape in my mind, whorls and eddies of vibrant color that held me spellbound. I hardly realized it when his incantation ended. Then I smelled sulfur and heard the snap of a match bursting into flame. My fear flared in response.

"Myra," he said softly. I could tell that he was closer now, right beside the chair. "Trust me. There will be no pain." I felt intense heat against the skin of my forearm, smelled paraffin and singed hair. Yet he spoke truly. I felt no pain, only exquisite warmth that began in my extremities and raced toward that swelling center below my belly, which seemed to have become the center of the universe.

"I choose you," he intoned. "I anoint you. I consecrate you to my service." With each phrase, he sprinkled burning wax onto my skin as if it was holy water. I smelled the incense of my childhood, and felt the ancient awe. Yet at the same time my whole self hummed with lust. I was aware that the evidence of my desire leaked from me, staining my business clothing and scenting the air. I did not care. Shame had left me. I hung on to his voice, rising and falling, eagerly awaiting the next blissful, fiery benediction.

Complete bliss. That was what I felt. Then suddenly, there was a giddiness, a disorientation. My body was moving, floating upward. A shard of terror threatened to rend my joy, but his voice knit up the fabric of my concentration. "I choose you, I anoint you. Trust me. Yield to me. I am the One, the One you seek, the One you crave."

I was suspended in his net of words. I understood with new wonder that my body hung unsupported in the air, mysteriously buoyant. I was literally flying. I could still feel the embrace of leather on my wrists and ankles, yet somehow, irrationally, I knew that I hovered several feet above the seat.

Suddenly I comprehended the reality of his power. This was no illusion, no hypnotic suggestion. I knew, with total conviction, that magic truly lived in this man's voice. "Yield to me," he said softly, and touched me between the eyes with one delicate finger. A fireball of an orgasm seized and consumed me. I swear that I smelled burned flesh as I convulsed blindly in the air.

The next thing I knew, I was crying. He was brushing my hair back from my face and speaking some soothing nonsense. I looked into his eyes, excitement flooding through me. "It's real, isn't it? The tricks, the magic? The power?"

He smiled enigmatically. "As real as your submission. As powerful as your concentration." He handed me a glass of water, and my skin tingled at his brief touch. "In any case, Myra, you've got the job." There was mischief in his eyes. "That is, if you want it."

I should mention that I had trouble getting both these stories published. Mixing religion and sex tends to make people nervous, even before you throw BDSM into the mix.

I have to speak and write my own truth, though. For me, sex has been a path to spiritual knowledge. And surrendering to my Master has bestowed on me the paradoxical power to accept and embrace whatever comes, as expressed in this one last excerpt.

Ritual

To GCS

They meet, infrequently, to perform the ritual. She waits for him to arrive, heart slamming against her ribs, stomach twisted with nervousness. When he enters, they embrace, awkwardly. It has been so long. She attempts lightness, a joke, a jibe, pretending that she does not know why she is here. Then he gives the sign - a mere eyebrow, arched in a question - and her protective humor slips from her along with her clothing.

The ritual demands much of them, the steps choreographed, but always with room for improvisation. First he binds her, with rope, or silk, or leather, ceiling-hung with thighs spread, or splayed across the bed, or bent double over a hassock. Sometimes he will position her limbs and bind her to stillness with his command alone.

Then he teases her, dabbles his fingers in her wetness, lovingly mocks her sluttishness. She melts at his slightest touch, sinks liquid and helpless into the ritual spirit, moaning just as he intends. She could drown in his rich voice, nuanced and full of power. He pinches her nipples into aching peaks, captures them in clothespins, or cinches them with rubber bands. All the while he strokes her pussy, calls her his pet, muddles the pains and the pleasures besieging her.

Next, he beats her. Here the ritual has many variants, but all with a single purpose: to invoke the purity of her surrender. She writhes under the lash, twists away from the hairbrush, whimpers as his bare palm reddens her buttocks. She does not wish to resist him; her only thought now is to please. But the pain is difficult to endure. Breathe, he says, soothing, encouraging, even as he scourges her. Open yourself. Yield yourself to me once again.

His voice is the key that unlocks her. Some barrier shatters and she floats free, each stroke of the whip an ecstatic kiss. His mind moves with hers now, sharing her agony and her joy. His breath comes in gasps like hers. His organ is granite. Now, come to me, my love, he whispers, entering her front or rear or spraying her marked thighs with his burning seed. She obeys, sliding into climax as he slides inside her, white hot fringed with red streaks of the pain.

Transcendence. Communion. Completion. They do not speak of it as they dress. There is no need for speech when the ritual is complete.

They meet infrequently. Sitting alone, on the plane or the bus taking her homeward, she savors the gaping, twitching sensations in her rear hole, the sharp echo of her stripes as she shifts in her seat, the slickness, still, in her sex. His voice echos in her mind.

Theirs is an old love. She thinks of him daily, imagines his life, her chest swollen with bittersweet aching. He thinks of her less frequently, but when he does, he gnashes his teeth, driven almost to madness because he cannot possess her. Then he recalls her sweet pliancy, her willing debasement, and his lips curve in a smile as he strums on his cock.

The ritual renews them. When she lies in a dentist's chair, or on the surgeon's table, when she wakes in fear in the night, she remembers him. Breathe. Open. Surrender. She relaxes into the fear, trusting as she trusts him.

She is sure that she will think of him, that way, when she surrenders herself into the arms of death. And then, perhaps, their meetings will be more frequent, and the ritual will be perfected.


8 comments:

  1. Lisabet:
    I don't know how many times I have complained on ERWA that I don't "get" BDSM.
    I get this. Very well stated and it comes through in your stories.

    Nothing taught me as much about Spirit as my initiation into BDSM. In my early scenes with my Master, I came to a new understanding of faith and trust. When I completely let go of myself, allowing him to take total control, the rewards were limitless. Not just pleasure but true bliss, a sense of deep communion, an acute awareness of the power we wielded together when our bodies, minds and spirits were attuned. It was just a step from here to the notion of submitting to a non-physical Higher Power, because in some sense we are all manifestations of underlying Spirit.

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    1. I admit that I get a bit melodramatic about all this. But it really changed me.

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  2. I will agree with Spencer that I don't always 'get' BDSM stories as they are presented, and have never indulged in real life to any degree, except for maybe a slap on a pink ass every now and then. (And maybe some tying up. :>) But I do like reading about it. I'm happy to say that I bought that book you co-edited 'Sacred Exchange' before I knew you. The stories are transcendent, beyond what is usually encountered, and put concepts in perspective a lay person can understand. Can't go on much further or I'll use up my material for next week.

    The 'Ritual' clip came off as something you dashed in one solid run of passion, Lisabet. The way that passage accelerated and sustained itself, it seemed to take possession of the keyboard.

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    1. You actually *bought* Sacred Exchange? I'm thrilled. I really wish I could republish that book now, but anthologies are nearly impossible to recreate because some of the authors simply disappear.

      I have to say that I don't identify with a lot of stories that label themselves as BDSM. I don't find what I'm looking for in them.

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  3. I have your "Sacred Exchange" book on my bookshelf next to "Fire". Permanent collection.

    You've always had a great deal to do with spirituality in your stories. We're had wonderful noodles about the nature of reality. I think in fact your experiences as a submissive were at their base spiritual experiences because it was about trust and about letting go. I often think that if I hadn't been such a casualty of bad religion that door might yet be open to me. But you know how trust can go wrong. If I can't trust God, how could will I ever trust another person?

    I'm thinking about what Fiona said in another comment about being a Druid. We have modern pagans in my church among others. I need that spiritual home, I need that trust which is so healing. Sartre said "Hell is other people" but in my experience it is the opposite. Hell is the abscence of other people. That's the situation where the darkness comes out in you.

    Garce

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    1. Garce, you are my one true fan. I feel as though I have to work really hard to be worthy of that.

      In "Communion", the nun discovers that being cut off from God is an illusion - that the separation she feels is something she manufactured, out of pride and fear. I think that's the truth - that Spirit is always available if we open ourselves. And that's what BDSM is about, for me - opening up to experience whatever the dominant bestows, willingly and without fear.

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  4. Here a bit late in the week, but I enjoyed this post. Thanks for the excerpts, and I'm sorry the book is out of print. I'm particularly excited by the journal excerpt you included. I'm always eager to get that sort of window into a person's secret life.

    As always, thanks for giving the topic an excellent kickoff!

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    1. Thank you, Annabeth. Going back to one's old journals can be pretty embarrassing at times, but they can also give you clues as to where you came from.

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