Book Review - Transcendent Sex: When Lovemaking Opens the Veil by Jerry Wade, Ph.D.

Transcendent Sex: When Lovemaking Opens the Veil, by Jenny Wade, Ph.D., 2004, Paraview Pocket Books, $14.00, pp. 321.

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Earlier I had reviewed a book which mentioned, only as an aside, that having sex could trigger transpersonal experiences. Since Alice Rose's Bonds of Fire, did not go into much detail about this attribute of sexual behavior, I was happy to learn about Jenny Wade's book on this subject. Transcendent Sex is both a statistical analytical and case study approach of the occasional transpersonal effects of sexuality. Unfortunately, she does not go into much detail about the personality characteristics of the person who is more likely to have these results accompanying their lovemaking.

At the very end of the book the author writes: ". . . (T)here is widespread speculation that certain types of developmental abnormalities and childhood trauma may predispose people to a capacity for adventitious nonordinary experiences." She continues: ". . . (T)he data presented in this study support the notion that the activation of primal psychological complexes sets up transcendent sex in some individuals." (p. 283) I assume that she also believes that childhood and earlier trauma is the ultimate cause of such experiences. But what are the commonly accepted theories of how an early trauma is translated into an unordinary consciousness experience? This is what I wished she had included in her ground-breaking book.

The author's study is based on interviews of 92 participants, and their testimony appears on just about every page of her book. Their observations are used to show examples of the particular type of transcendence which the author is discussing in that chapter. Dr. Wade is continuing her study on her website, where those who have had spontaneous altered state experiences during sex are invited to share their experiences.

Other than not analyzing the personality characteristics of the participants, she studies them from every other conceivable aspect, including, the type of romantic encounter involved (even rape can result in a transcendental moment!), the degree of spirituality of the person(s), how the transcendence may overflow into one's partner, and the religiosity of the moment . At times her participants claim that "beings from other realms" are drawn into these private moments. She quotes others who often describe the event almost in psychedelic (like in an LSD trip) terms. Indeed, the experience can be a religious experience of being one with God, or one with the cosmos. Orgasm is described by some as only a secondary goal. The search for a repeat of the transcendent experience or a deepening of the experience becomes the real goal. Often these experiences are never again recaptured. For many the experience results in the opening to a lifelong quest of increased spirituality but not necessarily an increase in religiosity.

Angels may descend and be with the lovers. Sometimes basic elements of Hinduism and Buddhism appear and become part of the experience. Loved ones who have died earlier may reappear during this time and become comforters and spirit guides. The love partner is oftentimes forgotten or ignored during these mystical encounters. The spiritual quest becomes more exciting than the orgasm. Shamanistic encounters, with identification of animals and creatures with divine powers can have healing abilities. Visitations from various deities of the ancient world such as Dionysius or Isis may occur. Some gods and demons are recognizable by one or both lovers; others are completely unknown. These deities can be seen, felt and heard. More frequently, their presence is intuited but often many sensory inputs are involved.They arrive bearing messages, signs and portents of the future. References are made to "the light" which usually brings a sense of a very clear ideation with accompanying bliss or ecstasy accompanied with the feeling of being loved.

Despite of the recountings of everything above, we have only covered to page 58 in Chapter II. Between that chapter and Chapter IX , Dr. Wade writes of additional aspects of transcendent sex, with encounters of mother Gaia, the spiritual connections with all of life on the planet and with the living earth itself, cosmic voyages to the netherworlds of creation, past lives, the nothingness of feelings of void common in eastern religions and the sexual partner in transformation, transfiguration and transcendence.

Chapter IX, is entitled Divine Union: One With God. Here Dr, Wade explores unio mystica, which for centuries was the ultimate goal of countless mystics. In the past, the proclamation of this joyful union with the godhead has had untoward consequences. During the middle ages proclaiming their insights of this experience cost some mystics their lives.

In the 10th century, the muslim mystic, al-Hallaj was put to death because he insisted that he and God were one. German theologian, Meister Eckhart, in 1329 was condemned as a heretic for the same reason. And yet in the following century, St. Catherine of Genoa, was left alone and later declared a saint despite her same insistence.

The 'unio mystica" state has long had sexual connotations. Being one with God was likened to sexual union with one's beloved. This was not the result of the mystic believing the union was sexual or seeing sexuality where it did not exist, but instead, it was the way the mystic herself described the experience. Here is how one of the great Christian mystics, St. Teresa of Avila (b. 1515) described the unio mystica in her spiritual memoirs, and how the sculptor, Bernini, between 1647-1652, executed Teresa's description of her mystical union with God.

"The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it -- even a considerable share." "Beside me on the left appeared an angel in bodily form . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest ranks of angels, who seem to be all on fire . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God."

One of Dr. Wade's subjects (Blake) describes part of his unio mystica in this way:

My awareness of her [becomes] intermittent. . . . It's as though I'm moving through her to something beyond her, beyond me. That's the religious part. She's a conduit, but then in that state, bodies become irrelevant, and in a way, she does, too, I'm embarrassed to say.

I'm actually opening myself to God and surrendering to God and feeling God entering into me. The energies are so strong . . . . It's something which is only articulated for me in the language of feeling. . . . This takes me beyond the edges of language. It's a combination of yearning, giving way to surrender, a tremendous joy, and it explodes into God in a way that doesn't even have any content. Feeling God's rays streaming into you, being lit up by that. (p. 183)

The remarkable insight which some mystics, both Christian and otherwise, have understood was that the face of God was in reality . . . their own face, their self-hood. Wade writes, "The same staggering realization reverberates throughout the reports of lovers during transcedent sex. . . . The moment of recognition for one man was ". . . the purest ecstasy and awakening." . . . "It's real he insisted ". . . I can embody all my spirit, and it is divine. . . . " "Was there a face to God? No. Or a presence? The presence was us. We were just there. It just was." (p. 189).

Like all mystical experiences, transcendent sex is not all thrills and fun. It has its darker side. The medieval mystics had their dark nights of the soul and the transcendent lovers have what Dr. Wade calls dangerous liaisons and overwhelming intimacies. The sexual relationships can be between types of person who normally would not choose to be together.

Attempting to recapture the high of the altered state becomes like an addiction. The feelings often turn out not to have been triggered by the lover. Yet, some seek out spiritual gurus; some initiates in this field seeking out those who produce this effect in them. As one woman described her problem, "It's like nectar, you know. You just drip with nectar, and people want to suckle. Doesn't matter if they're men or women, they want to." (p. 208) And some men just go around and seduce as many beautiful women as possible.

Sometimes the intimacy can just be overwhelming. This can happen to those who have not examined their personal history or psychology. It is interesting that the pathways to the divine can also be the pathway to uncovering our very early traumatic histories. Often a therapist who specializes in transpersonal psychology is needed to help those who get stuck in the cracks of their psyche - to help them resolve the material which has becomes uncovered for the first time.

A spiritual "sensitive" can find their abilities "both a blessing and a curse." Those blessed as sensitives can become so porous that they intuit other's repressed traumas even when they don't want to know about them. This ability is second nature to them. One described his situation as a choice of either being more "alive" or more comfortable . Some choose comfort! Others continue their sexual quests seeking that ultimate mystical union. One participant named Mike described his situation, "I can live without sex . . . but I cannot live without intimacy. . . (However,) sex in the right situation with a person is not just about sex, not about that moment, but about what's going on in their lives." (p. 228)

You're not a superior person just because you can have transcendent sex. "It's not about your holiness," (P. 232) opines Dr. Wade. Some who have this ability suffered severely from childhood trauma. An altered state experience may be just around the corner. But it's not an experience which you can force yourself to have. Is the experience the result of the repressed trauma seeking resolution? Is that why those with early repressed traumas have a higher probability of having these nonordinary states of consciousness? The author does not discuss this important question.

In the appendix to her book, Wade categorizes these transpersonal experiences which some lovers have under "The Varieties of Transcendent Sexual Experience." In a previous book, Wade had used the division made by Dr. Stanislav Grof (see Grof's listing of various types of transpersonal experiences in my article, The Varieties of Primal Experiences. ), but here Dr. Wade classifies the experience quality somewhat differently and also applies statistical analysis to her study. Her compilation lists experiences according to their frequency of occurrence in her study subjects.

  • Merging with the partner is mentioned more frequently than any other (47% females; 50% males). This is a great reduction of or an actual dissolving of each partner's bodies into the other but not with other physical objects in the locale.

  • Kundalani referred to in many mystical experiencers as the serpent power consists primarily of feeling particularly powerful energy fields (heat, light, being turned into liquid) based in and arising from the base of the spine. (38% F; 29% M)

  • The third presence is an invisible intelligent force field which develops between the partners seemingly arises "from their mutuality." It seems like the Holy Ghost or a state of grace and produces beatific feelings. (32% F; 26% M)

  • Past lives is a phenomena which I had not expected to read about in Dr. Wade's interesting book. Some believed that they had relived the lives of their ancestors. The earlier lives they experienced were often unhappy and they later were to feel that their present lives had similarities to the past lives. The visions and biographical elements were detailed. (21% F; 24% M)

  • Out-of-body experiences is characterized by surprise as one learns that they feel outside of their body. The view is usually from above one's body or it may be a change from the indoors to outdoors. Going through walls becomes a possibility. Most often this was felt after sex; not during or before. (25% F; 25% M)

  • One with nature The experiencer feels a sense of being united with all of creation, including all life forms and inaminate objects, such as planets, mountains and animals (22% F; 13% M).

  • Visions Other beings, other entities appear. Often they just felt a strong presence but 14% of the experiencers went beyond this and had actual visions. They were thought to be angels, demons or greater or lesser gods. (25% F; only 3% M).

  • Clairsentience is a feeling of suddenly becoming aware of an important truth, such as, having a profound insight or a spiritual or religious revelation. That is the origin of many new and old religions! It is clearly descending understanding of the reason of existence; the purpose of one's life, etc, but don't ask the experiencer to explain, as many of the truths cannot be put into words. Yet some can and do write down their detailed revelations; they feel compelled to do so. (6% F; 11% M).

  • Trepasso: Seeing another head or succession of heads (perhaps, inhuman) on the lover's body. (8% F; 5% M)

  • Deity possession: A feeling of being possessed by various deities ; some evil, some good such as Jungian archetypals. (6% F; 5% M).

These transendental experiences around sex resulted in the group reporting (in the order from higher to lower incidents of reports) spiritual awakenings, personal growth, enhanced relationships, understanding that there exists a greater reality than heretofore suspected, feeling that sex is sacred and surprisingly, at the very bottom of the list, healings.

An interesting observation by the author was that there was no relationship between having an orgasm (male or female) and altered states. Out-of-body experiences were one exception and occurred mostly after sex. Surprisingly, religious beliefs had no relationship to the production of altered states. Dr. Wade concluded that most participants believe that their altered state feelings were derived from spirit and that they led to "increase an individual's inclination to spirituality but outside the confines of most formal religious ideologies." (p. 285) As mentioned earlier, one may become more spiritual but not necessarily more religious.

Transcendent Sex is well written and scholarly. It makes for interesting reading, especially if you are, in any way, interested in spirituality or mysticism. It will hold no interest for the prurient.

Jenny Wade, Ph.D. is a graduate of the Fielding Institute and has written much about consciousness studies and how varied levels of consciousness help transform and heal. She is a faculty member of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Based in California, she also works with Fortune 500 companies with a goal towards optimizing employee and organizational performance.

Dr. Wade has also written, Changes of Mind, A Holonomic Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness, a book review of which appears on this website.

The author's website may be accessed at:

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