KAREZZA: VICTORIAN TANTRA

by David Haenke and catherine yronwode

[Reprinted from New Age Magazine, July 1977, pp. 68-69]

(Note: This was the first short article i wrote about Sacred Sex, and one of the first about the subject to appear in a national magazine during the 1970s. My co-author David Haenke and i more or less took turns writing paragraphs, so you will see rapid shifts of writing style throughout. I would also like to note that there are many contraception methods far more effective available at this time than the one mentioned here. However, as a first attempt at writing about the subject, are the age of 29, i still find it readable. Enjoy this piece of old Hippie culture!
-- cat yronwode, May 2006)


The illustration on this page is a Copper Marriage Milagro from Peru
from the pages of the Lucky W Amulet Archive.

The longing for the genital embrace is profoundly expressed in the belief in a "universal spirit," in "God," the "creator."
-- Wilhelm Reich, "Cosmic Superimposition"

Until recently, it was possible to read many volumes on the subject of Tantra Yoga without realizing that sexual energy was its central motif. over the thousands of years during which this complex philosophy, religion, and science of sexual union has evolved, its central source often remained hidden.

Today a number of spiritual teachers will show anyone with the time and money the actual practice of spiritual sexual union. Still, the essence of what they impart is shrouded in the terms of the teacher's particular religion, and subject to their sometimes tyrannical control. New Age revelations of Tantra's ancient central secret still leave the seven veils of belief and dogma intact.

Has anyone ever tried to remove the veils, to lay down simply and clearly, without intermediaries or the trappings of any particular religious trip, the essential lpractice of sexual spiritual union?

In the last half of the nineteenth century Alice Bunker Stockham, one of the first woman doctors in the U.S., did just that. In her book, "The Ethics of Marriage" (available from Health Research, Box 70, Mokelumme, CA 95245), she promoted women's rights and equality of the sexes, urged the prevention of "wedding night rape," and advocated a safe, free method of birth control through a practice she termed "karezza" (pronounced kar-ET'-za), from the Italian "carezza," or "caress."

In essence, karezza is just conscious, slow, gentle sex without orgasm for either man or woman. (In Tantra, which Stockham had studied during travels in India, the man remains still and does not come, while the woman is allowed movement and orgasm; the man gathers spiritual/sexual energy as the woman feeds him shakti through her release. Stockham felt this practice, though it purported to "honor" the woman, would actually lead to her spiritual detriment.)

Couples who practiced karezza on Stockham' suggestion began to report intense spiritual experiences, such as holy love for their partners (after years of boredom), feelings of total union, the presence of spirit beings, a glow of blue or golden lights, and pure bliss lasting for hours, both during and after amazingly long periods of lovemaking.

Apparently, hundreds of people experienced spiritual sexuality through karezza, but Victorian prudery prevented this practice from spreading too widely at that time: karezza remained mostly underground. Surely the world is ready for it now.

Some Suggestions for Practice

Like the various forms of Yoga, karezza takes practice. Bearing in mind that any standards of perfection will be your own, here is the actual technique.

You may want to create a religious atmosphere (incense, flowers, etc.) or meditate before actual sexual union. Begin by lying quietly together, caressing and touching lightly, looking into one another's eyes, feeling perhaps the magnetic sensation of sexual energy building up between you.

Once the magneticism (or "streaming"," as Wilhelm Reich called it) has been established, begin to make love, doing anything that pleases you, but slowly, consciously, and not in pursuit of orgasm. And then? Just continue with more and more (and more) of the same.

There are two ways to practice karezza: traditional and radical. Traditional karezza warns against coming too close to orgasm, preferring to ride slowly with the energy. This is more a meditative than a powerfully ecstatic mode. Stockham's image is of a quiet pool just before a waterfall. She recommends swimming around only in this pool, and avoiding the waterfall, which is orgasm. Radical karezza involves hanging out at the edge of the waterfall, moving extremely close to orgasm and then easing back. Ecstasies are intense as orgasm can continue for hours if desired, but there is a greater chance of losing control and going over the edge. For this form of karezza, you need strong mental and physical control, based on a deep knowledge of both partners' preorgasmic spaces. You learn to go just up to, but not past, the point of no return prior to orgasm. First one partner, then the other, may approach the edge, lovingly watched and protected from the excess of orgasm. The energy flow is from the lover (the magnetizer) to the beloved (the magnetized), who bathes in the radiant glory of sexual energy. As the magnetizer, you must be careful not to misuse your power -- it's easy to drive that beloved so crazy with sexual energy that control is impossible. Guard your friend as you would be guarded at the edge of the waterfall.

When karezza is practiced regularly, anxieties about orgasm -- both preventing it and achieving it -- disappear. Various "aids" to heighten or sustain sexual energy (such as pornographic mental images) are no longer necessary. Sexuality becomes natural, loose, slow, and high. Strangely enough, when it is not sought after, orgasm becomes much more accessible to both partners, should they desire it. "Coming together" is very easy for those doing karezza.

Some men may be concerned that prolonged sex without orgasm will lead to testicular ache. Moderate karezza should not cause this: any initial discomfort will disappear after karezza has been practiced for a while. Individuals should determine their own physiological reality. If there is physical stress, a couple may wish to alternate karezza with orgasmic experience, in whatever proportion suits them. Or they may want to do so anyway, even if there is no problem. Karezza points out a path but does not dictate how it should be traveled.

Karezza and Natural Birth Control

The combination of karezza and natural birth control represents a holistic approach to human sexuality. (Karezza was in fact first promulgated as a form of birth control, and Stockham was at one point arrested on that charge.) Although modern research indicates that it may not be "safe" because preejaculatory fluids can escape and cause pregnancy, it works well for many people in combination with ovulation detection through observation of basal temperature and / or mucus. The use of additional forms of birth control during the fertile period is a matter of choice.

Tuning into the woman's body cycles can result in a heightened awareness which somehow makes the karezza even more precious. The woman may experience her ovulatory urge to become pregnant more fully and gently defuse it if she wishes; she may have more desire for orgasm at this time and of course may indulge that desire. As always in karezza, the aim is not the repression, but the spiritualization, of desire.

Through the practice of karezza, it becomes clear that sexual union is in itself sacred and does not need to be cloaked in mysticism or dogma. If the name "karezza" seems to cloud this simple nakedness, cast it off, and with your lover, give it another name. Or let it speak for itself, through the personal religion of your united selves.

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