Reflection on the Relationship between Transcendent Sex, Basic Perinatal
Matrices, and Spiritual Emergency
During The Pioneering Thought of Stan Grof conference, I was intensely fascinated by the COEX and BPM related experiences of Jenny Wade’s concepts of “Lost Twin” and of abortion narratives. Although I find these two narratives extremely compelling areas of further exploration, I wanted to tie in my own experience of spiritual emergence and the effects of its intertwining with transcendent sex I experience with my partner.
Systems of condensed experience,(known as COEX systems) are defined by Grof (2000) as a constellation of “emotionally charged memories from different periodsof our life that resemble each other in the quality of emotion or physical sensation that they share.” (p. 22). These COEXes are not only derived from one’s biographical domain, but also on the transpersonal level, such as including one’s karmic past. They can also include experiences on the “perinatal” (or around the time of birth) level. The four Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPMs) give a structure and a kind of postnatal mythic narrative to the perinatal experience.
Stan Grof (2000) describes the complexity and richness of birth and its relations to COEXes by noting that, “The experience of biological birth is so complex and rich in emotions and physical sensations that it contains in a prototypical form the elementary themes of the most conceivable COEX systems.” (p. 37) He also notes that COEX
systems go beyond biological birth into the transpersonal dimensions. I experience the cosmic, undisturbed BPM I Transcendent sex as described by Wade in her presentation, with my partner. Wade describes this as a state of primal union with the mother, with themes of Mother Nature, Heaven and Sky, a floating environment, underwater, and outer space. This leads to an undifferentiated merging with one’s partner. Grof (2000) describes BPM I as so, “During episodes of undisturbed embryonal existence, we typically have experiences of vast regions with no boundaries or limits. We can identify with galaxies, interstellar space, or the entire cosmos.” (p. 37). (That’s why I have referred to my sex with my partner and to friends as “cosmic sex”.) I experience these cosmic themes during sex with him. Grof also continues to describe themes of floating in sea and identifying with aquatic animals. I’ve been a porpoise, a turtle, a whale, sometimes the whole ocean and its undulating waves.
During spiritual emergence and emergency, I have navigated through all the thematic BPMs in waking, daily life (this is immensely challenging.) During recent sex with my partner while, I was already in a waking altered state of consciousness, I didn’t experience the desire of blissful union of undisturbed BPM I. It was much different. In
her chapter Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Us About this Before? The Dark Side of Transcendent Sex, Wade (2004) notes that there is frightening and shadow side to transpersonal sex. Wade writes, “When sex and altered states intersect strange powers and pleasures amplify the dynamics between partners at a time when personal boundaries are influx.” (p. 203).
In Wade’s book, in the section titled ‘Bad Endings’, she describes a case example of how the new, expanding, and unexpected awareness that came from transcendent sex (mixed with inner conflict) led one woman to feel that she was experiencing a psychotic break. I have had a draining amount of the medical model mental health paradigm drummed into my head. But I have shifted my paradigm a generous amount to the paradigm of spiritual emergence. In the soft morning light after transcendent sex with my partner that evening, while talking intimately, he described wanting to “chop his head off” (meaning, “start anew”, in my thoughts). I was able to dissolve part of his head like grains of sand washing away in my visual field, completing his own vision, in a creative, and compassionate way. I narrated what was happening with his head washing away, and he found this experience healing. This was a completely new experience for me, but since I have been experiencing altered states of
consciousness for at least 10 years, and had done a lot of inner work and transpersonally-oriented therapy, I had learned to expect the unexpected, and expect fluidity between inner and outer realities. In line with my experience, Wade, in this section, also strongly encourages that people who experience transcendent sex seek therapy from transpersonally-trained clinicians. (Wade 221-223)
“Intrusive intimacy can be damaging when the separate self erodes and as aspects of the partner invade personal boundaries”. (p. 223) This can happen, as another shadow aspect of transcendent sex. This ‘intrusive intimacy’ can involve feeling invaded by the sexual partner’s body energetic field. Generally during transcedent and non-transcendent sex with my partner, I feel very safe. But during a recent spiritual emergence, I could feel his energy field entering mine, several inches above my physical body, and it felt very invasive and unwanted, but it was hard to communicate that, even with firm (possibly, seemingly aggressive) verbalization and hand gestures, he still didn’t understand my reaction in the moment. I couldn’t set an energetic boundary during physical intimacy, and that scared me. This was damaging to our relationship, but we are working on repair around this issue. In the section on precautions on the dark side of transcendent sex, Wade writes for precaution #7, “Slow down. If you are aware of an unusual connection with a partner that either has led to transcendent sex or seems likely to, use good judgment, and if possible, slow down the level of physical involvement until you are reasonably sure that the level of physical involvement until you are reasonably sure that the relationship will be mutually beneficial and that the potential partner is not likely to engage in power games.” (p. 232). Slowing down, organically and harshly (how it was received by my partner), while I was going through my spiritual emergence. He did not comprehend that my energetic boundaries were being violated, and when I tried to slow things down, this catalyzed the sprouting of a seed of spiteful jealousy that had been planted before the spiritual emergence, by my flirting with other men. We had some reparative conversations during non-sexual periods, but I decided I needed to take my knowledge
and skills base on how to handle this delicate situation better.
Grof (2000) describes holotropic breathwork as a helpful, therapeutic modality. He also mentions, when working with holotropic states., other forms of psychotherapy can augment the therapeutic process. He mentions gestalt, bodywork, expressive arts, psychodrama, sandplay, EMDR, movement practices, yoga, and meditation. Since the issue with my partner, fundamentally, was maintaining boundaries with him during intimacy, I signed up for a somatics and boundaries workshop for couples. Since my partner and I were going through a crisis at the time, I brought a close friend instead as my workshop partner. My main takeaway from this workshop was that my body posturing on simple communications, such of those of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, generally (when not in an altered state), was not clear, or at least according to the generative somatics model and the attachment theories we were learning. I felt I was very firm with my body posturing during sexual intimacy in altered states, but perhaps because not just physical but very fluid and expansive energetic boundaries were involved, these communications were not clear. The discussions, I realized, and was advised needed to happen outside the context of sexual intimacy.
Just recently, after my non-ordinary states of consciousness started to integrate into my baseline reality, and after integrating the somatics and boundaries workshop, and my knowledge of visualization and energy work, and open and honest conversations with my partner D., the next time me and him had sex that felt cosmic, yet contained. There was no energy spillover. I visualized us creating a closed circuit of energy, a beautiful clockwise circle of revolving soft, ethereal but tight, white light.
I also experience archetypal energies of BPM III (though not as often) during sex with my partner in a fun, deviant, intense way, that of the prostitute and the energy of fire, and the phoenix rising (or more like a rocket ship blasting off), but certainly not as often as the BPM I sexual experiences in this particular relationship. Grof (2000) writes
that “sexual experiences that occur in the context of BPM III are characterized by enormous intensity of sexual drive, by their…exploitative, pornographic, or deviant nature” (p. 47). He also writes, “a classical transition from BPM III to BPM IV is the legendary bird Phoenix who dies in fire and rises resurrected from the ashes.” (p. 48).
This exploration of the relationship with the Basic Perinatal Matrices and sex, really fascinates me, and I believe in can deepen my sexual experience and my sexual intimacy with my partner. Since I continue to experience spiritual emergence growth spurts on a fairly regular basis, learning to communicate clearly about my safety, comfort, and desire needs around sex during this periods will continue to present an interesting challenge.
It was an honor to attend this conference. To apply wisdom gained from Stan Grof’s work, and those influenced by him, and integrate it into an understanding of my sex life, is refreshing and exciting.
Wade, J. (2004) Transcendent Sex: When lovemaking opens the veil. New York, New
York: Paraview Pocket Books:
Grof, S. (2000) Psychology of the Future: Lessons from modern consciousness
research. .Albany, NY SUNY Press