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The Sacred Fire, by B.Z. Goldberg, [1930], at

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THE immediate causes of religious revolts are many and various. Often they lie outside the field of religion. They may be rooted in politics, economics, or social conditions, but invariably they come to assume a theologic aspect. The passions of a people that cannot be aroused by political controversy or economic strife will yield to the religious appeal. Invariably also, there will be indulgence in sex during or following the rebellion. Whatever the object of the revolt and the theology of the sect, the new group will be found to concern itself primarily with the exercise of the sexual function. The sect may liberate the love impulse from the chains imposed upon it by the parent religion. It may also add to the chains, throwing love into the dungeon. The religious insurrection may be positively or negatively charged with sex, but charged it is bound to be.

Out of the rebellions against Moses grew the orgy of worship to Baal Peor. Out of the concept of renewed revelation came a system of polygamy and heavenly marriages. Out of the desire to return to man's original state of purity and sinlessness came the sexual liberties of the Adamites. Out of the Gnostic movements concerning the godhead came orgies of overwhelming eroticism. In fact,

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almost every new sect has brought in its wake a wave of sexuality. Even the hard, dry Protestant Reformation, with its economic causes rooted in the Peasants’ War and in the rise of the Third Estate, and its theologic struggle with the papacy, still contained the seed of a new attitude toward woman and the sexual that only later crystallized.


What is it that has given an erotic phase to every revolt in religion? Here again, there may be many and varied causes, inherent in every case. But there are also basic reasons, rooted in the psychology of the people constituting the sect and in the character of the rebellion. The man who leads in a religious movement is generally a highly sexed individual. He who starts a religious revolt or who immediately falls in with the rebel is necessarily of a deeply religious nature. He is the emotional type, the kind of an individual who finds no satisfaction in his drab life and who seeks an escape through ecstasy.

Sex is an emotion very closely associated with the state of ecstasy. The religious type is also the sex type. And just as the religious leader, or the apostle of the leader, must have an outlet for his emotions in general, he is particularly in need of an outlet for his sexual emotion. For the highly sexed man is never satisfied with the sexual outlets provided by society. He will ever seek such experiences as lie beyond the field of ordered sex life. The religious will seek communion and ecstasy by way of the sexual impulse.

We therefore find most religious leaders definitely engrossed in sex to a degree not met with in ordinary individuals. Every religious leader must pay his respects,

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his tax to the sexual question. Like Mohammed or Brigham Young, he is concerned with justifying his own sexual appetite, or like Paul, he is seeking to uproot the sexual impulse in the hearts of his followers. Again, he may open the floodgates of sexuality for all, giving free vent to the emotions of man on the basis of sex, as did the founders of the Gnostic and various other esoteric sects. They who follow the leaders in such religious revolts are made of the same stuff. Theirs is the restless, emotional spirit. Theirs is the inner lack of satisfaction and the persistent pang of sex hunger never fully satisfied. Theirs is the overwhelming desire to flee from the drudgery of life and to lose themselves in the boundless waves of ecstasy.

Yet another reason exists for the eroticism found in every esoteric religious movement. It is inherent in the mechanism of the movement, in the force that is driving it ahead into the world and into the heart of man. It is the trend of the revolt. Every appeal against the existing order in religion is an appeal against the additions of time and a return to the original, basic state of the faith. Jesus came, not to break the Law, but to fulfill it. Luther posted his theses upon the door of the church, not to sever his relations with Christianity, but to save it from the falsifications of late-comers. He called his followers to the very basis of Christianity, to the Bible itself. The Adamites wanted to go back over all the steps of civilization since Adam. The newer the sect, the further back it goes to seek for fundamentals. And the further it explores, the closer it comes to the faith of Old Anthropology Adam, to the religion of the primitive man, the religion that was saturated with sex.

The sect, then, is an attempt to return to the origin of

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religion, which is so intimately bound up with love. And as the sectarian descends the ladder of religious evolution, he also descends the steep pathway of erotic symbolism. While he is removing layer after layer of theology, dogma, and precept, digging down to the core of his faith, he is also removing the fineries that the love sentiment has added during its sojourn in the sacred shrine. Coming down to fundamental religion, the rebel is also descending to frank sex, the inseparable companion of primitive religion. The sect is, in consequence, a reversal to type, a return to the primitive state of sexuality in faith—sex, free, open, unashamed, and boundless, for the joy of man and the exaltation of his god.

A Gnostic gem
A Gnostic gem

Next: Chapter III. The Revolt Against Religion