1. Reproductive diversity
2. Human evolution
3. Death and rebirth
4. Virginal reproduction
5. Intersex and hermaphrodites
6. Artificial reproduction
7. Pleasure at a price
8. Leaving sex behind
9. Chastity links
Asexual reproduction is found in the majority of living organisms, including unicellular organisms, most plants and fungi, and many lower invertebrates. Unicellular prokaryotic organisms (prokaryotic cells have no nucleus), such as bacteria, usually reproduce by binary fission: the parent organism splits into two identical ‘daughter’ organisms, each having the same DNA. In some cases, the cells thus formed may remain clustered together to form filaments or colonies. Eukaryotic cells (which have a nucleus), including eukaryotic organisms such as protists and unicellular fungi, duplicate into two genetically identical daughter cells through a process known as mitosis; most eukaryotes are also capable of sexual reproduction. Bacteria, fungi, and lower green plants (e.g. algae, liverworts, mosses and ferns) can propagate by shedding spores – reproductive cells that produce new organisms without fertilization.
Binary fission in bacteria.
Budding is an asexual mode of reproduction in which a small protuberance or bud forms on the surface of the parent’s body, increases in size, and finally separates and develops into a new individual identical with the parent. In many cases, buds only appear on specialized areas of the body. Budding is characteristic of a few unicellular organisms (e.g. certain bacteria, yeasts and protozoans), but it is also regularly used by a number of multicellular animals (e.g. hydras). Sponges produce internal buds known as gemmules.
A hydra budding.
Regeneration is a specialized form of asexual reproduction. The beating cilia and flagella that propel some single-celled organisms are capable of regenerating themselves within an hour or two after amputation. Some multicellular organisms (e.g. starfish, polyps, zebrafish, flatworms, newts and salamanders) can regenerate new heads, limbs, internal organs, or other body parts if the originals are lost or injured. Many plants are capable of total regeneration, i.e. the formation of a whole individual from a single fragment such as a stem, root, leaf, or even a small slip from such an organ (as in grafting). Among animals, the lower the form, the more capable it is of regeneration. Regeneration is closely allied to vegetative reproduction, the formation of a new individual by various parts of the organism not specialized for reproduction. The highest animals that exhibit vegetative reproduction are the colonial tunicates (e.g. sea squirts), which, much like plants, send out runners in the form of stolons, small parts of which form buds that develop into new individuals.
Regeneration in planarian flatworms.
Sexual reproduction occurs in many unicellular organisms and in all multicellular plants and animals. In higher invertebrates and in all vertebrates it is the exclusive form of reproduction, except in the few cases where parthenogenesis (virginal reproduction) is also possible. A number of unicellular organisms multiply by a primitive form of sexual reproduction known as conjugation: two similar organisms fuse, exchange nuclear materials, and then break apart; each organism then reproduces by fission.
Most multicellular animals and plants undergo a more complex form of sexual reproduction in which distinct male and female reproductive cells (gametes) unite to form a single cell, known as a zygote, which then undergoes successive divisions to form a new organism. In this type of sexual reproduction, half the genes in the zygote come from one parent and half from the other. Whereas asexual reproduction allows beneficial combinations of characteristics to continue unchanged, offspring produced by sexual reproduction inherit endlessly varied combinations of characteristics.
The somatic cells of multicellular organisms are diploid, meaning that they contain two copies of each chromosome – one from the mother and one from the father. Sex cells (sperm and eggs), on the other hand, are haploid, having just one copy of each chromosome. They are produced when somatic cells undergo a complex form of cell division known as meiosis, which reduces the number of chromosomes by half. Meiosis takes place only in testes or ovaries in animals and humans, or anthers and ovaries in plants. When a sperm fertilizes an egg, the egg becomes a zygote, a diploid cell with two full sets of chromosomes, which starts to multiply by mitosis. In humans, DNA in somatic cells is coiled into 46 separate chromosomes; sperm and eggs therefore contain only 23, one of which is the sex chromosome (X or Y).
In the case of plants, wind and insects carry the sperm (contained in pollen) to the stationary egg, or, in a liquid medium, the sperm swims to the egg. In lower animals, sperm and eggs are often deposited in water, but this method is haphazard as only a few of the many sperm discharged reach the eggs. In higher animals, the spermatozoa, contained in the seminal fluid, are deposited in the lower segment of the female reproductive tract. All mammals, reptiles and birds as well as some invertebrates, including snails, worms and insects, use internal fertilization. In many lower multicellular organisms and all higher plants, a sexually produced generation alternates with an asexually produced generation.
Human sperm meet egg.
After fertilization of the egg, the resulting zygote undergoes cell division and differentiation to form the embryo. In most higher plants, the embryo is enclosed in a layer of nutritive material surrounded by a hard outer covering, forming the seed. In most lower animals, the embryo, surrounded by the nutritive material of the former ovum, is enveloped by a leathery or calcareous shell and is extruded from the body of the female. Oviparous animals, such as birds, lay their eggs before the young are completely developed. Ovoviviparous animals produce eggs in shells that hatch within the mother’s body. Placental mammals are viviparous, i.e. they give birth to live young without forming shelled eggs; the embryo is implanted in the uterus and nourished by the mother until almost completely developed.
Parthenogenesis involves the development of an ovum without fertilization. It is common among lower plants and invertebrates, such as water fleas, rotifers, aphids (plant lice), stick insects, ants, wasps and bees. Some species reproduce exclusively by parthenogenesis (such as bdelloid rotifers), but most switch between sexual reproduction and parthenogenesis. In the aphids there is an alternation of generations: parthenogenetic development of eggs (while in the oviduct) takes place in summer when conditions are favourable, while in the autumn, with lack of sunshine and less abundant food, males appear together with sexual reproduction. Sometimes sex cells produce different kinds of individuals according to whether or not they are fertilized. For instance, among our common honey bees, a male individual (a drone) arises out of the eggs of the queen if the egg has not been fertilized, and a female (a queen or working bee) if it has. A few kinds of amphibians, reptiles and birds can reproduce parthenogenetically. There are no known cases of naturally occurring parthenogenesis among mammals in the wild.
All pond-living bdelloid (pronounced ‘delloid’) rotifers are females.
Hermaphroditism refers to the presence of organs producing sperm and ova in the same individual. It occurs in the great majority of flowering plants. Most hermaphroditic plants produce male and female elements at different times to ensure cross-pollination, but a few, such as the violet and the evening primrose, are self-pollinated. Hermaphroditism habitually occurs in many invertebrate animals, hagfish and tunicates, and a genus of sea bass. It occurs occasionally in other fishes, and in frogs, toads and certain newts among the amphibians. Hermaphrodite animals are rarely self-fertilizing; in most cases the spermatozoa and ova mature at different times, or the male and female external organs are located so that self-fertilization is impossible. Among the invertebrates, sponges, coelenterates, some molluscs, snails, slugs and earthworms are regularly hermaphroditic. Flatworms have a complete set of male and female gonads in each segment and regularly fertilize themselves.
Flowers are the sexual organs of flowering plants.
Stamen = male reproductive organ. Carpel = female reproductive organ.
True functional hermaphroditism is rare or absent in higher animals. Animals intermediate in form between males and females occasionally appear, but they are usually sterile, and, when fertile, do not produce both fertile eggs and fertile sperm. Such individuals are often called intersexes. Intersex humans also appear; this category includes all people born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia or internal reproductive systems that are not considered standard for male or female (see section 5).
Although scientists can now describe the physical processes involved in reproduction in great detail, fertilization remains one of the least understood of all fundamental biological processes. The mechanisms involved in parthenogenesis are not understood either. And the seemingly miraculous process whereby a fertilized egg develops into a full-grown organism raises even more questions. Genes do not explain this complex process, as they carry instructions for making proteins, but not for their arrangement into tissues, organs, etc. Something else appears to guide and coordinate embryological development. According to occult science, physical processes are organized and guided from subtler, nonphysical levels of an organism’s constitution; the template for the physical body is an astral (i.e. more ethereal) model-body.2
Explaining how and why sex emerged in the first place poses insuperable problems for orthodox evolutionary theory. The idea that all the intricate components of the male and female reproductive systems could emerge more or less simultaneously, in perfect working order, through purely random genetic mutations, is utterly absurd. Moreover, in the Darwinian struggle to pass on more of one’s genes to future generations, asexuality is twice as efficient as sexuality. This is because an asexual parent transmits all its genes to each progeny, whereas when a sexual organism forms sperm or egg cells, half the genes are removed. As Richard Dawkins puts it: ‘Sexual reproduction is analogous to a roulette game in which the player throws away half his chips at each spin. ... [T]he existence of sexual reproduction really is a huge paradox.’ Another Darwinist says that sex ‘does not merely reduce fitness, but halves it’, and should therefore be ‘powerfully selected against and rapidly eliminated wherever it appears’.3
Sexual organisms face various problems that are avoided in asexual organisms. In addition to the cost of evolving and maintaining the sex organs, there is the possibility of blood Rh factor incompatibilities and tissue rejection between mother and child. Because sperm and eggs are like foreign tissue due to their different genetic makeup, special mechanisms are required to keep the body’s immune defences from destroying its own gametes. Finding a mate, courting and copulating involve risks that place sexual organisms at a further disadvantage compared with asexual organisms. Scientists therefore admit that there is no convincing Darwinian history for the emergence of sexual reproduction.
In the case of asexual organisms, all offspring are essentially clones of the single parent, and differ from it only by new mutations. Sex, on the other hand, creates diversity. Sex shreds every genome in every generation, with the result that all offspring are genetically different (except in rare cases such as identical twins). Scientists acknowledge that it is difficult to identify any short-term individual benefit in diversity. They also believe that sex would tend to slow the evolution of a species rather than accelerate it, because it breaks up gene combinations with no regard for their adaptive value.
Another hypothesis is that the benefit of sex lies not in accelerating the spread of beneficial mutations but in more rapidly eliminating harmful mutations. Asexual lineages can acquire more harmful mutations but never less, whereas in a sexual population it is possible for offspring to have fewer harmful mutations than either parent. The problem with this argument is that Darwinism assumes that evolution cannot look ahead to the future; traits can only be selected based on their immediate short-term benefits for the individual. If sex primarily helps to maintain the long-term genetic wellbeing of species, it cannot have evolved by purely Darwinian mechanisms.
According to theosophy, our earliest protohuman ancestors in the present (fourth) round of the earth’s evolution began to develop about 150 million years ago in the mid-Palaeozoic. They were huge ethereal beings, with ovoid bodies, which very slowly declined in size and solidified, and increasingly took on a recognizably human form. The first race was sexless and propagated by fission: a large portion of the body separated and grew into a duplicate of its parent. The second race was asexual and reproduced by gemmation or budding: a swelling or bud appeared on the body of one of these entities, and eventually separated and grew into another individual similar to its parent. At about the midpoint of the second race, these buds increased in number, and became ‘spores’ or ‘seeds’.
The third root-race was initially androgyne. In the earliest stages, reproduction took place by budding, which developed into egg-laying: vital cells were exuded from the outer parts of the body, and collected together to form huge ovoid aggregates or eggs. To start with, the drops of vital fluid were exuded from nearly all parts of the body. Later a single large cell was exuded from a functional part of the organism, which was the root of the later reproductive organs. Hermaphroditism died out in the middle period of the third root-race, some 18 million years ago, by which time the human body was becoming distinctly physical. Individuals began to be born with the predominant characteristics of one or the other sex, until finally only unisexual individuals were produced. While the separation of the sexes was taking place, the awakening of selfconsciousness in nascent (and hitherto ‘mindless’) humanity was beginning to accelerate.2
Evidence that humanity was originally hermaphrodite is supplied by embryology and physiology. Sexual glands and ducts appear in the embryo in the second month of its development, but they are neither male nor female. Sexual differentiation starts in the seventh and eighth weeks and is fully complete by the twelfth week. It is said to be regulated by the sex hormones and control substances secreted by the newly forming ovaries or testes. It proceeds as follows:
The reproductive organs first develop in the same form for both males and females: internally there are two undifferentiated gonads and two pairs of parallel ducts (Wolffian and Müllerian ducts); externally there is a genital protrusion with a groove (urethral groove) below it, the groove being flanked by two folds (urethral folds). On either side of the genital protrusion and groove are two ridgelike swellings (labioscrotal swellings). ... If testes develop, the hormone they secrete causes the Müllerian duct to degenerate and almost vanish and causes the Wolffian duct to elaborate into the sperm-carrying tubes and related organs (the vas deferens, epididymis, and seminal vesicles, for example). If ovaries develop, the Wolffian duct deteriorates, and the Müllerian duct elaborates to form the fallopian tubes, uterus, and part of the vagina. The external genitalia simultaneously change. The genital protrusion becomes either a penis or clitoris. In the female the groove below the clitoris stays open to form the vulva, and the folds on either side of the groove become the inner lips of the vulva (the labia minora). In the male these folds grow together, converting the groove into the urethral tube of the penis. The ridgelike swellings on either side remain apart in the female and constitute the large labia (labia majora), but in the male they grow together to form the scrotal sac into which the testes subsequently descend.3
The top illustration in this figure shows the undifferentiated
internal reproductive structures in the fetus at approximately 6 weeks.
The bottom illustrations show the differentiated (male and female) reproductive structures at approximately 12 weeks.
This figure shows external genital structures in males and females as they differentiate
during fetal development, and also the typical appearance at birth.4
Fully developed male and female reproductive organs.5
The development of the embryo and fetus in the womb recapitulates the past development of mankind,* with the first four months corresponding in several respects to the first four root-races preceding our present (fifth) root-race. External genitalia appear in the seventh or eighth week but in a primitive, sexless condition; they become recognizably male or female only in the second half of the third month,6 corresponding to the later third root-race. The placenta is fully formed and functional only after the third month of uterine life.7
*Haeckel’s theory that the development of an embryo (ontogeny) is a condensed repetition of the adult stages of its evolutionary ancestors (phylogeny) went out of scientific fashion long ago. However, S.J. Gould, a proponent of the punctuated equilibrium version of Darwinism, stated that ‘no discarded theme more clearly merits the old metaphor about throwing the baby out with the bath water’; it is undeniable, he says, that ‘phyletic information resides in ontogeny’.8
That the awakening of selfconsciousness also took place in this period of evolutionary history is likewise corroborated by embryonic development. In the eighth week the brain begins to undergo explosive growth, increasing in size by millions of cells every day, until by the end of the third month it has grown to something like the 10,000 million cells it will eventually contain. For the rest of pregnancy and on into the first five years of independent life, each brain cell reaches out with networks of fibres and forges links with thousands, and in some cases a quarter of a million, of its neighbours.9
The formation of bones is likewise said to have taken place in the third root-race, as the human body became increasingly material. In the fetus, ossification (bone-forming) centres appear in most of the future bones during the third (lunar) month, once they are well formed in cartilage; ossification then continues for the rest of pregnancy.10
Sexual differentiation in the fetus does not lead to the complete disappearance of the reproductive organs of the other sex; rudimentary organs of the opposite sex remain.11 For instance, males have undeveloped, nonfunctional mammary glands, and also an undeveloped uterus and vagina, known as the prostatic utricle or uterus masculinus. The clitoris is a small, nonfunctional equivalent of the penis, and the ovaries correspond to the testes. The testes develop in the abdominal cavity but descend into the scrotum before birth, while the ovaries remain in the abdominal cavity. The testes and ovaries mainly secrete the male and female sex hormones respectively, but they also secrete small amounts of the opposite sex hormones.
Charles Darwin wrote:
It has long been known that in the vertebrate kingdom one sex bears rudiments of various accessory parts appertaining to the reproductive system which properly belong to the opposite sex; and it has now been ascertained that at a very early embryonic period both sexes possessed true male and female glands. Hence some remote progenitor of the whole vertebrate kingdom appears to have been hermaphrodite or androgynous.12
Modern scientists believe that during the early stages of evolution every animal was probably hermaphroditic. Theosophy denies that human bodies gradually evolved from animal bodies, and states that the earliest human stocks, like the earliest animal stocks, were androgynous.
Many myths and legends refer to the androgynous ancestors of present humanity, to the separation of the sexes, and to the first gods being double-sexed.13 Plato in his Banquet (§190) states that an early race of humans were globular in shape and bisexually formed. They were strong and mighty, but ambitious and wicked, so that Zeus cut them in two in order to curb their evildoing and diminish their strength. Since then all mankind has consisted of males and females. An Orphic hymn chanted in the Mysteries asserts: ‘Zeus is a male, Zeus is an immortal maiden.’ Pallas-Athene emerges from Jupiter’s head, and the younger Bacchus is enclosed in his thigh prior to birth. Some statues of Jupiter have female breasts, and representations of Venus-Aphrodite give her a beard to signify the same bisexual nature.
According to the Hindu Puranas, ‘The mighty power became half male, half female’. In one allegory, Brahma (the logos) divides his body into two parts, male and female, and in the latter (known as Vach) he recreates himself as Viraj. Many Hindu images are half male and half female, and have four arms. The ancient Persians taught that humans were the product of the tree of life, growing in androgynous pairs, till they were separated during a subsequent modification of the human form. The Egyptian supreme god Ra is represented as a perfect bisexual being, from which are derived the other gods (Osiris, Horus, Ptah, Ammon, etc.), representing Ra’s various attributes, or the powers of nature. Each of these lesser gods had a female counterpart representing the same individuality in its female state. Similar ideas can be found among the Chaldeans and the Assyrians. In the Hermetic books intelligence is said to be ‘God possessing the double fecundity of the two sexes’.
In the Hebrew book of Genesis, the elohim – usually translated as ‘God’, but actually a plural word signifying the creative powers of nature – first create Adam (early humanity) ‘male and female’, i.e. androgynous (Genesis 1:26-28, 5:1-2). Eve is later made from Adam’s ‘rib’ (the Hebrew word also means ‘side’ or ‘part’). Adam and Eve then eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (representing the awakening of selfconsciousness), and are cast out of Eden (the original, blissful state of unselfconsciousness), and take on ‘coats of skin’ (a reference to the fact that human bodies were then becoming physical rather than astral). Interestingly, the Hebrew word for ‘knowledge’ (daath) also means ‘sexual union’: ‘Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain’ (Genesis 4:1, also 4:17, 25).
Theosophy asserts that the sexual method of reproduction was adopted first in the animal kingdom and nature then introduced it in the human kingdom but ‘under protest’.14 This appears to be confirmed by several phenomena. H.P. Blavatsky contrasts the comparative painlessness of procreation among the animals with the suffering and danger it often entails for women.15 Women are among the few mammalian females who have a tough membrane, the hymen, that covers the vaginal opening to a greater or lesser degree. Its forcible rupture means that the first attempt at intercourse is sometimes a bloody and painful experience.
Furthermore, sperm must survive the acidic atmosphere of the vagina and avoid getting trapped in the compact mucus that fills the cervix, the gateway to the uterus. Entrance of sperm into the uterus is also hindered by its quick retraction and closure. Dr Raymond Bernard comments:
How different this is from the direct passage of spermatozoa from the penis to the uterus, which occurs in animals, where the elongated uterus reaches forward until it grasps the penis and aspirates a few drops of seminal fluid.16
Once in the uterus, sperm are attacked and destroyed by the white blood cells of the immune system. Their movement towards the ovaries, at up to 4 millimetres per minute, is also impeded by the downward ciliary current of the minute hairs inside the fallopian tube and the sticky mucus that covers its interior wall. About 100 million spermatozoa are deposited in the vagina, but only a million enter the uterus, and perhaps only 100 reach the ovum. The vast majority of surviving sperm are then screened and eliminated by a final molecular process. If a sperm succeeds in penetrating the egg, the egg hardens to prevent any more from entering. Only the head of the sperm actually penetrates the egg; it then releases its DNA, which fuses with that of the egg. Eggs that accept more than one sperm will form an embryo with too much DNA, usually resulting in a miscarriage. A couple has around an 18% chance that the man’s sperm penetrates a woman’s egg at her peak period of fertility.17
According to theosophy, the existence of two sexes in the human kingdom is not the endpoint of our sexual evolution. In the next root-race, which will flourish in a few million years, humanity will again become hermaphrodite or double-sexed, and in the final root-race during the present round we shall become completely androgynous. Children will be produced by kriyashakti, i.e. by will and creative imagination – passively in the sixth race, and consciously and actively in the seventh.18 The separation of humans into distinct sexes followed the awakening of selfconsciousness reflects the dual nature or bipolarity of mind. As the human race evolves and rises out of the lower mind into the higher, sex will disappear.19
These developments will be accompanied by inner and outer changes to our bodies. The sixth and seventh root-races will not have sex organs such as we now have. There will also be changes to our spinal cord. At present, there are two chains of ganglia, or sympathetic cords, on either side of the spinal column. Each is connected with a channel (or nadi) of psychovital force: the sushumna runs through the spinal column, while the ida and pingala are associated with the sympathetic cords. In the next root-race the ida and pingala will develop into two spinal columns connected by the sushumna. In the seventh root-race these two backbones will fuse into one, as our male and female aspects will be fully integrated.20 This will foreshadow the even higher evolutionary state to be reached in the seventh round, when we shall regain our original, divine state of sexless purity, but enriched with the wisdom gained through our selfconscious evolution in the realms of matter.
According to the church father St. Clement, Jesus was once asked when his ‘kingdom’ would come, and replied: ‘It will come when two and two make one; when the outside is like the inside; and when there is neither male nor female.’ G. de Purucker gives the following interpretation.21 ‘When two and two make one’ refers to a time when our psychological nature has become so refined that it coalesces with our spiritual nature. In terms of the sevenfold human constitution, the spiritual nature is the uppermost duad (atman + buddhi, or inner divinity + spiritual intelligence), while the psychological nature is the intermediate duad (manas + kama, or mind + desire). ‘When the outside is like the inside’ means that the dense, physical body will become more sensitive and refined, and therefore better able to express the spiritual faculties of the inner god. The phrase ‘when there is neither male nor female’ speaks for itself: sex is merely a transitory evolutionary stage and is destined to pass away.
Occult science, by contrast, recognizes that the physical body is ensouled by subtler ‘bodies’. The physical body dies when the connecting link with our higher centres of consciousness is broken. The physical body proceeds to decay on the physical plane while the astral model-body that holds it together during life, along with the higher astral form in which the lower mind is seated, decompose in different regions of the astral realms surrounding and interpenetrating our physical globe. The speed at which this happens depends on the quality of thoughts and desires in the life just ended. At the ‘second death’ the higher mind or reincarnating soul separates from everything below it and, enclosed within the aura of the spiritual-divine self, enters a blissful, dreamlike state (known as the devachan), in which all the unrealized spiritual hopes and aspirations of the last incarnation are fulfilled, and the noblest experiences of the last life are assimilated and woven into the fabric of our inner nature.
When the spiritual energies generated during the previous incarnation are exhausted, the devachanic dreaming draws to a close, and the attraction to earth life begins to reassert itself. The thirst for material life, the longing to return to familiar scenes and be reunited with past companions, causes us to incarnate on earth again and again. As the reincarnating soul redescends towards its native sphere, its former life-atoms in the astral realms reawaken and start to build a new astral form. The soul’s ethereal energies arouse aggregates of astral and physical substance into forming reproductive cells in the bodies of potential parents, these being people with whom it was closely associated in past lives, and who can provide it with a physical body and family environment suited to its karmic needs. Reincarnating souls may ‘precipitate’ reproductive cells in up to several dozen potential parents, and several different souls may be drawn to the same man or woman.1
If conception takes place, the egg is fertilized by whichever of the male sex cells has the greatest affinity with it at the time.
The human egos awaiting incarnation are exceedingly numerous, so that there may be scores of entities which could become children of any one couple, yet there is always one whose attraction is strongest to the mother-to-be at any specific physiological moment, and it is this astral form which becomes the child.2
If fertilization does not take place, or if it does but pregnancy is later interrupted by abortion, miscarriage or some other accident, the incarnating entity will be psychomagnetically attracted to other suitable parents.
A significant difference between the male and female reproductive systems is that whereas each ejaculation contains some 100 to 500 million sperm, only one egg at a time is normally released. And whereas sperm are produced continuously (about 1500 every second), ova are not. Females are born with about 2 million immature eggs (follicles) in their ovaries, but about 11,000 of them die every month prior to puberty. By then, only 300,000 to 400,000 eggs remain. After that, approximately 1000 die each month, with the rate accelerating after the age of about 37.3 Until menopause sets in around the age of 50, one egg matures and is released from its ovary every month and, if not fertilized, passes out of the body during menstruation. According to theosophy, reproductive cells in both males and females may be active or dormant, and a dormant sex cell is vitalized and activated when a reincarnating entity links itself with it.4
Whereas fraternal twins develop from two separate eggs that have been fertilized by two separate sperm, identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg (zygote). In the latter case, at a relatively early stage in its growth, the zygote splits into two separate cell masses which go on to become embryos; these embryos are genetically identical to each other and are always of the same sex. A zygote’s incomplete or late division into two cell masses results in Siamese twins. Triplets may be derived from a single zygote; from two zygotes, one of which divides; or from three separate zygotes. Similarly, quadruplets may originate from one up to four zygotes, and so on. The phenomenon of multiple births suggests that either more than one reincarnating soul can be associated with a particular egg or sperm, or a sperm and egg that fuse are connected with different reincarnating souls, or that one or more additional reincarnating souls may attach themselves to an egg after it has been fertilized.
In humans and other mammals, females have two X chromosomes while males have an X and a Y chromosome.* Since an egg can only carry an X chromosome, the sex of an offspring depends on whether the sperm that fertilizes the egg is X-bearing or Y-bearing. But contrary to what official biology claims, this is not a matter of chance. The sex of the offspring is determined by the lower emotional and mental tendencies and karmic needs which the reincarnating soul embodying in the growing embryo has brought with it from past lives. As a rule, several lives are spent in a body of one sex before changing to a body of the other sex, which happens mainly as a result of the strong attraction to the opposite sex during the last few lives.5 One can readily imagine that this changeover may sometimes be a time of some psychological confusion as regards gender.
*Although most males have XY chromosomes and most females are XX, there are exceptions. About one in a thousand men have XXY chromosomes, while a smaller proportion of women have only a single X chromosome. The most important male-determining gene on the Y chromosome is SRY (sex-determining region of Y). Between one in 9000 and one in 20,000 males have two X chromosomes and no Y at all. About two thirds of these XX males carry the SRY gene on one of their X chromosomes, while the rest have a closely related gene, SOX9. Although X and Y chromosomes are usually termed ‘sex chromosomes’, genes located on chromosomes besides the X and Y chromosomes contribute to sexual development, and genes related to nonsexual traits are located on X chromosomes.6
Nowadays, men and women who believe they are in the ‘wrong body’ can use hormone therapy and/or surgery to alter their external anatomy so that it looks like that of the other sex. However, a medical review found that there is ‘no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals, with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation’. Up to a fifth of people who have undergone sex change operations regret their decision, and up to 18% of them attempt suicide.7 Some later try to revert to their original sex. Studies show that 73% to 98% of children with gender dysphoria (the feeling that their gender does not match their biology) grow out of their confusion if untreated.8 Yet some are given puberty-suppressing drugs until age 16, after which cross-sex hormones may be given, followed by surgery after reaching 18.9 Transgender people suffer from serious psychological issues, and body-mutilating surgery may not be the best treatment. Walt Heyer comments: ‘If more people were aware of the dark and troubled history of sex-reassignment surgery, perhaps we wouldn’t be so quick to push people toward it.’10
The human embryo begins as a single cell. Nine months later it has grown to over a trillion cells. A question often asked, especially in connection with abortion, is: When does the embryo becomes a living being? Viewed theosophically, at no stage can the embryo or fetus be considered to be anything but alive; it is only the degree of manifest life (and consciousness) that changes. The connection between the reincarnating soul and the body-to-be is established in several stages. Even before conception takes place, a ray of energy from the incarnating soul activates the sex cells in potential parents. The union of sperm and egg marks the next stage, and the embryo then begins to grow, guided initially by the vegetative, vital-astral part of the reincarnating soul. The physical form is built around the astral form, and both attract atoms belonging to the soul in former lives.
Around the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy, the fetus moves for the first time, and this marks the first real entrance into it of the higher attributes of the reincarnating soul.11 By the end of the seventh month, the lower mind is said to be firmly ‘wedged’ in the brain and senses of the fetus.12 After birth, the brain cells do not increase in number but an intricate network of connections forms between them, enabling more and more of the latent mental powers of the human soul to be expressed – a process that can continue for most of a person’s life. Mind scarcely begins to function until the seventh year, but is not in full action until the person concerned is of mature age.13
[B]efore, and indeed for a number of years after, birth, the child is only overshadowed by the higher principles of its constitution, the lower principles being the most active in function and expression during the earlier years of life.
Yet at about fourteen or fifteen years of age, ... there occurs the first real entrance of the higher part of the child’s inner constitution into conscious functioning on our physical plane; and from this wonderful hour the enveloping of the growing child and youth with the spiritual-vital aura of the reincarnating ego proceeds progressively and steadily through life into adulthood, and slackens only a short time before natural death – or should do so, and would do so in virtually all cases were it not for the fact that so many human beings live unnatural emotionally and passionally tempestuous lives which weaken the organs of the body and their full and complete functioning.14
Artificial parthenogenesis was pioneered by German physiologist Jacques Loeb. In the late 19th century he found that ultraviolet light, ammonia, chlorine, acids, alkalis and alcohols can cause the eggs of sea urchins and other marine creatures to start developing, with no need for sperm. These agents reduce the surface tension of the egg membrane, kicking off a chain reaction (usually started by sperm) that causes embryonic growth. In 1900 he pricked unfertilized frog eggs with a needle and found that in some cases normal embryonic development ensued for a while. In 1936 Gregory Pincus induced parthenogenesis in rabbit eggs by temperature change (cooling of the fallopian tubes) and chemical agents. Artificial parthenogenesis has since been achieved in almost all major groups of animals, by mechanical, chemical and electrical means, though it usually results in incomplete and abnormal development.
Attempts at artificial parthenogenesis in humans have not been successful. The first cloned human embryo was produced in October 2001. Eggs had their own genetic material removed and were injected with the nucleus of a donor cell. They were then incubated under special conditions to prompt them to divide and grow. One embryo grew to six cells before it stopped dividing. The same experimenters also tried to induce human eggs to divide into early embryos parthenogenetically – without being fertilized by a sperm or enucleated and injected with a donor cell – but their efforts met with only limited success.1 Research on human parthenogenesis now focuses on the production of embryonic stem cells for use in medical treatment, not as a reproductive strategy. The creation of human stem cells from unfertilized human eggs first occurred in 2004.2
The current scientific view is that:
Mammalian eggs may begin to develop (i.e. to undergo cell division) either naturally or when stimulated. Such ‘embryos’ may have the same chromosome set as the egg (haploid) or two cells may fuse to form the normal adult (diploid) complement. However these cell masses fail to develop far, and die long before birth. No parthenogenetic mammalian embryos have ever been proved to go to term. One reason for this may be the constraint imposed by genomic imprinting in which genes (more correctly, chromosomal segments) from both parents must interact for normal development to take place.3
Experiments on rabbits and mice show that, if an egg is induced to start dividing, the embryo will not survive for long because certain genes will not switch on if paternal genes are absent. Mouse parthenogenetic embryos die by day 10 of gestation. Lack of imprinting leads to abortion because ‘histones, the structures around which DNA is coiled, are lost, as the instructions on how to rebuild them are present in the sperm’.4
In 2004 Japanese scientists succeeded in creating a fatherless adult mouse by combining the nucleus of one female’s egg with that of another.5 An immature egg whose genes had not yet been stamped with an imprint was taken from a mouse genetically engineered to lack a gene known as H19, which is normally subject to imprinting, and a region that would otherwise switch off a gene called Igf2. These two genes are thought to control fetal growth. These steps endowed the egg with a pattern of gene activity similar to that of a sperm. This egg was then fused with a mature egg from a different female. This extremely laborious technique can so far only be used on lab rats. The conclusion drawn from experiments like this is that ‘natural parthenogenesis in mammals is impossible’.6
There is a case of a boy who had his mother’s blood, but not her skin; his blood contained only XX (female) chromosomes, whereas his skin had both X and Y chromosomes. It is believed that he probably originated from an egg that had become an embryo without being fertilized, and that a Y-bearing sperm from his father later managed to fertilize one of the early embryonic cells. ‘Chimeras’ like this are thought to be rare.7
According to science, human parthenogenesis would only be possible if the changes brought about by sperm-cell imprinting were to occur by ‘random mutation’, or if a ‘random mutation’ eliminated all imprinting. But this is considered ‘highly unlikely’.8 However, it could hardly be as unlikely as the orthodox Darwinian idea that all the diverse and intricate life-forms on earth have evolved through purely random genetic mutations, followed by natural selection. Various biologists have acknowledged that nature gets things right too often and too quickly to ascribe everything to ‘chance’; there is a purposeful element to evolution that the materialistic paradigm cannot admit to, let alone explain.9
Hermaphroditic animals are mostly invertebrates, such as worms, bryozoans (moss animals), trematodes (flukes), snails, slugs, and barnacles. These creatures are usually parasitic, slow-moving or permanently attached to another plant or animal. Hermaphroditism is thought to have evolved in these creatures because they have trouble finding mates. Hermaphroditism is also said to be ‘favoured by taxa living in borderline habitats, where they can use the energy that would have been allocated for mating to more useful tasks, as well as allowing a quick population increase – this is also the reason why invasive insect species and pests are parthenogenic’.10
If hermaphroditism appears in a species where it aids their survival, it will of course be favoured by natural selection. However, according to Darwinism, new bodily structures and processes, new instincts and ultimately new species appear through random genetic mutations, most of which are harmful and arise from copying errors during DNA duplication; mutations are not made more probable by the fact that they would serve a species’ needs. There are two major problems with this hypothesis: neither protein-coding genes nor regulatory genes contain instructions for building bodily structures or originating new instincts; and even if they did, the probability of all the necessary changes occurring by chance is infinitesimal. Darwinist ideology is a dead end, requiring blind faith in the miraculous power of blind chance.
There is anecdotal evidence that natural parthenogenesis may occasionally occur in humans. There are many instances in which impregnation has allegedly taken place in women without there being any possibility of the semen entering the female genital passage.11 In some cases it was found either in the course of pregnancy or at the time of childbirth that the female passages were obstructed. In 1956 the medical journal The Lancet published a report by Dr Stanley Balfour-Lynn concerning 19 alleged cases of virgin birth among women in England.12 The women came forward after the Sunday Pictorial had inquired whether there were any mothers who believed they had given birth to a parthenogenetic child. Such a child would most likely be a girl who closely resembled her mother; it might also be a defective male, but this was 100 times less likely. At that time, DNA tests did not exist, but it was thought that the probability of a genuine virgin birth could be assessed by comparing genetically determined traits and carrying out blood-group tests and skin grafts. The tests were performed by a team of leading doctors.
Eleven of the 19 mother-daughter pairs were eliminated at the first interview because the mothers had thought that a virgin birth meant that the hymen had remained intact after conception and until birth. A further six pairs were eliminated on the basis of blood-group tests, and another pair was thrown out because their eye colour did not match. This left only one mother, Emmimarie Jones (a German by birth), and her 11-year-old daughter, Monica. They were subjected to several additional tests, which indicated that they were genetically alike. Finally, skin grafts were carried out: the graft from daughter to mother was shed in about four weeks, while one from mother to daughter remained healthy for six weeks. Overall, the probability of such a close match between a mother and a daughter produced sexually was less than 1 in 100.
Balfour-Lynn felt that the significance of the skin grafts was obscure. If a parthogenetic child originated from an unfertilized ovum (and not from budding of a somatic cell), it might not have all the genes possessed by the mother, due to meiosis. According to one expert, a skin graft from the child would therefore be expected to take on her mother, but one from the mother would not necessarily take on her child. However, another expert was not satisfied that such a result would be conclusive. There are in fact numerous cases of people rejecting skin transplants from their own skin. Balfour-Lynn concluded:
In such a case as this, rigorous proof is impossible, but it remains that all the evidence obtained from serological and special tests is consistent with what would be expected in a case of parthenogenesis. … Thus, this mother’s claim must not only be considered seriously, but it must also be admitted that we have been unable to disprove it.13
At the time of conception (spring 1944) the mother’s husband was away with the German army and she herself was confined to a women’s hospital. It has been suggested that a male member of staff could have taken advantage of her while she was sedated. However, the mother said that all the staff working at the hospital were women.
This article on Emmimarie Jones and her daughter appeared in the Sunday Pictorial in 1956.
Many primitive peoples believe that there are two methods of human reproduction: the ordinary animal one and a higher one rarely employed – virgin birth.14 One belief is that the rays of the sun can fertilize women. In this regard, it is interesting that ultraviolet rays can cause parthenogenesis in unfertilized eggs of sea urchins. It is also believed that moon rays, wind, rain and certain types of food can cause impregnation. In the 19th century the Trobriand Islanders of the western Pacific insisted that cases of virgin birth still occurred among them.
The possibility of human parthenogenesis is supported by the mysterious phenomenon of dermoid cysts or teratomas.15 These are malformed embryonic growths or tumour-like formations occasionally found in various parts of the body, including womb, ovaries and scrotum. They often contain bones, hair, teeth, flesh, tissue, glands, portions of the scalp, face, eyes, ribs, vertebral column and umbilical cord. They are found in males as well as females, both young and old, including virgins. They appear to be undeveloped embryos and fetuses in various stages of growth. Loeb and several other researchers argued that dermoid cysts may be related to the parthenogenetic tendency of the mammalian egg, catalyzed perhaps by an increase in blood alkalinity. However, the body’s parthenogenetic capacity is now very feeble and the generative centres lack the power to carry the reproduction process through to its proper conclusion. Scientists do not understand how, in the absence of any sperm, an ovarian teratoma can end up with two or more sets of chromosomes, two different versions of the same gene, or prostate tissue and phallus-like organs.
It is possible that some cases of human parthenogenesis involve self-fertilization rather than true virgin birth, as there are cases of sperm being produced in women by vestigial, usually nonfunctional, male reproductive glands known as the epoöphoron (parovarium) and paroöphoron, which correspond to the seminiferous tubules of the testicles in males. In some instances, the magnetic influence and nervous excitement occasioned by attempted sexual intercourse may rouse into activity the latent, rudimentary male sex glands so that they secrete semen, resulting in impregnation.16
Prior to the acceptance by the medical profession of the present theory of conception (epigenesis) in the middle of the 19th century, the ovist and aura seminalis theories prevailed, which can be traced back to Pythagoras. According to the ovist theory, the new organism is a product of the egg alone, and the spermatozoon and male progenitor are not essential to the reproductive process. According to the aura seminalis theory, the male supplies only a vital stimulus (an aura or emanation) which initiates the development of the ovum. The aura seminalis theory was rejected after it was established in 1854 that ova were fertilized by the actual entrance of the nucleus or head of the spermatozoa.
However, Loeb’s experiments showed that for fertilization to occur, neither the sperm nucleus nor the spermatozoon itself need enter the egg, or even be in proximity to the egg. He replaced the sperm by alkaline solutions, ultraviolet rays and other stimuli. Alexander Gurwitsch discovered in the 1920s that cells emit weak ultraviolet (‘mitogenetic’) radiation that can cause cell division in other cells at a distance – a finding still resisted by mainstream scientists.17
The desert grassland whiptail lizard (Aspidoscelis uniparens) is an all-female species that reproduces by parthenogenesis. Two females go through courtship and ‘mating’ (pseudo-copulation) rituals resembling those of closely related species that reproduce sexually. How this behaviour causes the eggs of the passive female to enlarge and start dividing is not known.18
The power of sperm to cause fertilization is distinct from their capacity of hereditary transmission. In one experiment, a fertilizing enzyme (occytase) was isolated from spermatozoa and, when added to unfertilized sea-urchin eggs, caused them to develop. This substance is present in mammalian blood, since the addition of ox’s blood to unfertilized eggs produced the same effects. Sperm therefore exercise two independent functions: they can trigger the segmentation of the ovum, and they may convey paternal genetic qualities. The former function can be replaced by chemical substances, while the latter can be dispensed with, in which case the offspring have purely maternal characteristics.19
Eggs show at least a beginning of segmentation under normal conditions. But sperm, which are highly alkaline, appear to accelerate the process by compensating for the excessive acidity of the medium surrounding the egg rather than a chemical deficiency in the egg itself. An acid condition of the blood prevents the parthenogenetic development of ova in the ovaries, while increased alkalinity appears to favour parthenogenetic development.20
Commenting on Pincus’s experiments on artificial parthenogenesis in rabbits, G. de Purucker stated that the means employed had probably thrown the ova back to a condition identical with the hermaphroditism of the early third root-race. Since there is always a double sex in every human or animal of our day, the ova would develop from the double current innate in the mother rabbit and produce offspring much as the hermaphrodites did towards the middle of the third race.21There are many references in the world’s religions and mythologies to the virgin birth or ‘immaculate conception’ of gods, saviours and sages. While virgin reproduction does occur in the animal world, this mystical teaching also has a twofold symbolic meaning. It can refer to the ‘virgin-mother of space’ giving birth to her ‘mind-born’ son, the manifest cosmos, with its multitudes of beings. And it can also refer to the birth of an initiate’s inner buddha or christ from the virgin or spiritual part of their nature, or from Sophia, eternal wisdom, the virgin-mother of initiates.22 G. de Purucker says:
The Christian Church has interpreted these doctrines physically and thus has lost the noble and profound symbolism; but the same mystical teaching and legend is found in other countries: for instance, in India there is Krishna who was born of a virgin, and in Egypt, Horus born of the virgin-mother Isis.23
Sex among these lowly folk seems to depend a great deal on food, since the best-fed individuals turn female the earliest, while the poor scrawny ones get left behind as males (although the opposite happens in the case of oysters). In some species, such as the marine worm Ophryotrocha, if the portly young females are later underfed they revert back into males again. Indeed among most primitive creatures of the sea and practically all insects it is a general rule that the smaller individuals are males and the bigger, fatter ones females, the basic reason being that the essential female function is to produce and feed young, while the only important thing expected of a primitive male is to dart blithely about fertilizing every egg in reach ...1
Fish have evolved the quickest sex-reversing capacity of any animal: some species not only change from male to female as they grow, but a few, like groupers and guppies, develop the ability to switch sexually back and forth within seconds. If two female guppies meet while feeling amorous, one is likely to start turning into a male so he can mate with the other. Occasionally both shift at the same moment, which usually results in a furious fight, with the winner emerging as a female who somehow forces the other to stay male.
As already mentioned, many primitive creatures (including plants) are hermaphrodites, possessing both male and female sex organs. The guppy’s flexibility comes from having both testicles and ovaries with some sort of mechanism that switches the flow from milt to roe. But true hermaphroditism (involving simultaneous sperm and egg flow) is entirely normal among most plants and many animals, from snails, who make love with their feet, to earthworms, which spend hours adjusting and aligning themselves head to tail and tail to head with the aid of a sticky mucus they exude, so that the sperm pores on the fifteenth segment of each worm coincide with the egg pores on the tenth segment of the other worm.
In times of famine or stress, when such hermaphrodites don’t meet each other so often for cross-fertilization, each one still has the possibility of fertilizing itself by uniting its own sperm and ova. A dynasty of laboratory snails was kept going on self-fertilization for 90 consecutive generations (during 20 years) without noticeable loss of vitality. Some kinds of deep-sea arrowworms actually prefer self-fertilization and use it exclusively.
A curious hermaphroditic creature is the sluglike sea hare, a kind of shell-less snail sometimes two feet long. Its phallus is on the right side of its head and, when playing the male, it puts its head between the finlike fans of a companion playing the female, gradually oozing its member into the genital opening. At the same time as it is a male to one sea hare, it will be female to another on the other side, and as many as 15 of them have been seen linked thus in a chain. In a few cases, the chain’s ends work their way round to meet and join, forming a continuous loop – a sort of sexual merry-go-round.2
Hermaphroditus, the ‘son’ of the Greek god Hermes and the
goddess Aphrodite, origin of the word ‘hermaphrodite’.
Most humans today are born with either a distinctly female or distinctly male sexual anatomy. However, about one person in a thousand is born with an ‘ambiguous’ sexual anatomy, often resulting in disagreement among ‘experts’ as to what their ‘true’ sex is.3 Human hermaphrodites or intersexuals have been reported throughout history.
Intersex bodies present an unusual mix of parts. The organ located where the penis or clitoris is usually found might look like the ‘wrong’ organ, or like something in between the two, or not particularly like either. The genitalia may appear to be of the female type, but the labia may contain testicles. Or the genitalia may look mostly male, but include a seeming vagina. Ambiguous individuals used to be categorized as male pseudohermaphrodites if they had testicular tissue only, as female pseudohermaphrodites if they had ovarian tissue only, and as true hermaphrodites if they had both ovarian and testicular tissue, either separate or combined in an ovotestis. The tissue in question need not be functional in any sense. An interesting asymmetry in true hermaphrodites is that the ovaries are generally found on the left side, and the testes on the right.4
‘Hermaphrodite’ from Cameroon.
True hermaphrodites are very rare (about 1 person in 83,000). The vast majority of them have an XX chromosomal basis, though a small percentage exhibit XY chromosomes. A very few have some cells showing XX and others showing XY, and in extremely rare cases cells have a single X chromosome (XO). In every such individual there is also evidence of Y chromosomal material on one of the ‘nonsex’ chromosomes (autosomes). These individuals usually have ambiguous external genitalia with a sizable phallus so that they are generally reared as males, but they rarely produce sperm. They develop breasts during puberty and menstruate, and in some instances even pregnancy and childbirth have occurred.
South African athlete Caster Semenya has always identified as female. After winning the women’s 800 and 1500 metres at the African Junior Championships in 2009, her sex was called into question. News that the International Association of Athletics Federations had asked her to undergo a gender test broke three hours before the final of the 800 metres at the 2009 World Championships, which Semenya won. According to press reports, the tests showed that she had internal testes instead of ovaries, and no womb. The IAAF decided that she could continue to compete as a female because her condition did not give her an unfair competitive advantage.5
Female pseudohermaphrodites have ovaries and exhibit an XX chromosomal pattern, but the external genitalia look masculinized. The most common cause is congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a condition in which the adrenal glands of the fetus produce relatively large amounts of androgens (male sex hormones). Male pseudohermaphrodites have testes and an XY chromosomal pattern, but are born with feminine-looking genitals. There are two main causes: testicular feminization syndrome or androgen insensitivity syndrome; and 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. In the latter case, the body develops along more masculine lines at puberty; the testes often descend into the assumed-labia, and the penis/clitoris grows to look and act more like a penis. Women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome are technically ‘male’ pseudohermaphrodites because they have internal testes rather than ovaries. However, this label seems inappropriate because these women often have primary and secondary sexual characteristics typical of other women and feel they have normal (external) female bodies.
Ambiguous genitalia can also result from other conditions. In Klinefelter’s syndrome, for instance, the presence of several X chromosomes and one Y chromosome sometimes results in sexual ambiguity. Moreover, many babies are born with relatively unusually formed genitalia but are not categorized as ambiguous or intersexed. Unquestioned females are sometimes born with relatively large clitorises, and a large number of male babies – perhaps one in every one or two hundred – are born with hypospadic penises, meaning that the urethra exits some place other than the tip of the glans. Operations are often performed very early on hypospadic penises, and large clitorises are often surgically reduced.6
Intersex surgery: before (A) and after (B). (slidesharecdn.com)
(For very graphic photos, click here.)
The term ‘pseudohermaphroditism’ was first used in 1876, long before the discovery of X and Y chromosomes, and the term ‘intersexuality’ was introduced in 1923. However, most intersex or hermaphrodite people think of themselves as being either boys/men or girls/women. A multidisciplinary meeting of medical and nonmedical experts in Chicago in 2005 (the Chicago Consensus) proposed that congenital conditions associated with atypical development of chromosomal, gonadal or anatomical sex should be called disorders of sex differentiation (DSDs), and that terms such as intersex, hermaphroditism and pseudohermaphroditism should be dropped.7 In the new terminology, male and female pseudohermaphroditism are known as 46,XY DSD and 46,XX DSD respectively. However, since ‘disorder’ implies that any differences of this kind are pathological, this term has also been challenged, and terms like ‘intersex conditions’ are still in use.8
Intersexuals have traditionally been regarded as freaks in need of a medical-technological ‘fix’, but this attitude has increasingly been challenged in recent decades.9 The orthodox medical response has been to create a ‘believable’ masculine or feminine anatomy via plastic surgery and hormonal therapy as soon as possible after birth. CAH is a metabolic disease and certainly requires treatment as it can save a child’s life and fertility. Likewise, androgen insensitivity needs to be diagnosed as early as possible so that the testes of androgen-insensitive people can be carefully watched or removed, as there is a high risk of cancer. However, ambiguous genitalia are not diseased, and the narrow definition of ‘normality’ among intersex experts has resulted in an extraordinary number of risky surgeries on unconsenting children. Complications include scarring, infections, loss of feeling, and psychological trauma.10 Nowadays, both medical doctors and intersex advocates increasingly recommend not assigning a gender identity in infancy and delaying nonessential surgery until the person in question is old enough to express a gender identity and participate in medical decisions.11
As already mentioned, the tradition that the early ancestors of the human race were androgynous is widespread among all races of the world. Even today, 100% maleness or femaleness does not exist as each sex contains the rudimentary organs of the opposite sex; in this sense we are all intersexuals. Some researchers have argued that hermaphrodites represent an atavistic reversion to a primordial type. From a theosophical standpoint, hermaphroditism can also be seen as a foreshadowing of what is to come.
It is noteworthy that males sometimes have cycles closely resembling the female menstrual cycle in length and nature. In rare cases, males may even menstruate periodically, with blood being discharged from various parts of the body, usually the nose or urethra.12 There are also instances of males having breasts as large as a female’s and as functionally active, so that they are able to suckle offspring.13
According to theosophy, the separation of the sexes in the third root-race took millions of years. Many details of the different reproductive stages passed through by the third root-race, and the corresponding changes in anatomy, are lacking, but the general scenario seems to have been as follows.14 In the early third root-race, humans had no external sex organs such as now exist. Initially ‘vital cells’ were exuded from all parts of the body and coalesced into a huge egg, in which the fetus gestated for several years. Later an egg was laid that had been formed within the body. The idea that early (semi-astral) humanity was egg-laying is not as strange as it may seem; the modern method of reproduction is essentially a modified, internal, microscopic version of the same thing. As some point, offspring began to be born with external sexual organs, and initially these individuals were probably true functional hermaphrodites or male-females, who fertilized one another and could play the role of male or female. Gradually this form of true hermaphroditism gave way to pseudohermaphroditism and finally to unisexuality. In humans today, males have nine orifices and females 10. Blavatsky says that, prior to the separation of the sexes, 10 orifices existed in the hermaphrodites of the third race, first potentially, then functionally.15
The terms ‘hermaphroditic’ and ‘parthenogenetic’ are sometimes used interchangeably in theosophical literature to describe both the past and future modes of reproduction, whereas hermaphroditism is normally regarded as a sexual mode of reproduction and parthenogenesis as an asexual mode. However, this distinction may be somewhat artificial. Even when there is no physical fertilizing agent, some sort of ‘male’ potential must ‘activate’ the egg, and an organism in which such a potential resides is in a sense hermaphrodite. (G. de Purucker says that there is a double sexual current in every human and animal today.) As mentioned in the previous section, where parthenogenesis occurs in humans today, either the rudimentary seminal vesicles in females may produce sperm, or fertilization may involve a subtler agent, as postulated in the aura seminalis theory. In both cases, attempted (but nonprocreative) sexual intercourse with a male partner may sometimes act as trigger. Dermoid cysts indicate that a weak potential for parthenogenesis is also present in males.
In the future, male and female bodies will probably grow more alike, and the incidence of both pseudo- and true hermaphroditism will increase, until hermaphrodites are finally in the majority and single-sexed individuals begin to be looked upon as abnormal. Cross-fertilization will eventually be replaced by self-generation.
One in six couples worldwide experiences some form of infertility problem at least once during their reproductive lifetime.1 Assisted reproductive technology (ART) aims to help them have children. The most common procedure is in vitro fertilization (IVF): a man’s sperm and a woman’s eggs are brought together in a laboratory dish, and the resulting embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus. Induced ovulation involves treating a woman with hormones to stimulate her ovaries to release eggs. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is used to help get underperforming sperm or eggs in the same place at the same time. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) involves injecting a single sperm into an egg. Sometimes sperm or eggs are obtained from donors, or an embryo is implanted in the uterus of a surrogate mother.
The first ‘test-tube baby’ was born in 1978. Since then an estimated 5 million IVF babies have been born. Today, around 1 in 50 babies born in the UK, and 1 in 100 babies in the US, starts life in a lab. Success rates with IVF and ICSI are only around 30% at best. After age 45 the chance of pregnancy is close to 0%.2
To persuade the ovaries to release multiple eggs, hormones are administered in high doses. This can cause premature menopause, uterine cancer and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), where the ovaries become swollen and painful.
Fluid may accumulate in the abdominal cavity and chest, and the woman may feel bloated, nauseated, and experience vomiting or lack of appetite. ... Up to 2% of women develop severe OHSS characterized by excessive weight gain, fluid accumulation in the abdomen and chest, electrolyte abnormalities, over-concentration of the blood, and, in rare cases, the development of blood clots, kidney failure, or death.3
To harvest eggs, a long, thin needle is passed through the vagina to the ovaries and used to suck the fluid out of mature follicles, or egg-containing sacs. This invasive procedure entails a risk of bleeding, infection, and damage to the bowel, bladder or blood vessels.
Trade in eggs has grown exponentially in response to demand.
As in the case of wombs-for-rent, there is scope for abuse. Women from poor socio-economic backgrounds may submit to – or be coerced into – successive egg donations to make money ... This phenomenon has been called ‘fertility tourism’ or, in its most nefarious forms, ‘egg trafficking’.4
In one case, a Stanford student who had agreed to donate eggs for a fee of $15,000 experienced a rare adverse reaction to one of the fertility drugs. She suffered a massive stroke, which left her in a coma for eight weeks with long-term brain damage.5
In the US and the UK most adoption agencies prefer to place very young children with couples in their 20s or early 30s. For older, single women the only real option is to turn to international adoption bureaus, which charge at least £20,000 or £32,000 for their services. Buying an egg or sperm, on the other hand, costs 10 times less.6
To prepare for pregnancy, surrogate mothers are pumped full of hormones, putting them at risk of long-term liver problems. They also face the usual risks of pregnancy, such as toxaemia and haemorrhage. A woman who carries to term a child not genetically related to her and has had no previous exposure to the genetic father’s antigens faces an as yet unknown threat to her immune system. Surrogacy is a lucrative business in poor countries like India, where women are paid between $6000 and $10,000, equivalent to about 15 years’ wages on average. Couples from countries like the UK, US, Germany, Japan and Australia make use of these services because, even with travel costs, they pay a third of what it would cost in their own countries. Women in India are 69 times more likely to die from childbirth-related issues because of inadequate access to good medical facilities.7
A study found that 7.2% of babies born after IVF had a birth defect, compared with about 6% of babies conceived naturally. However, most of the increased risk of birth defects was due to parental factors, such as the mother’s age, smoking status and conditions during pregnancy.8 There is evidence that children conceived by ART have an increased incidence of growth abnormalities associated with genetic imprinting (imprinted genes are contributed by only one parent).9 The chance of having a baby with major malformations through ICSI is twice as high as in the general population (9% versus 3-4%). All assisted reproductive technologies increase the chance of preterm birth, low birth weight and multiple births, with all the risks this entails.10 Following ART procedures, miscarriage occurs in nearly 15% of women under 35, in 25% at age 40, and in 35% at age 42.11
Around 5% to 9% of all babies in developing countries and 12% of babies in the US are born prematurely.1 For over a century such babies have been enabled to survive by placing them in incubators. These provide warmth and humidity, but nutrients and oxygen have to be delivered via tubes inserted into the baby’s body. The babies are usually sedated some of the time to stop them pulling the tubes out or to reduce discomfort or pain. Infection around the tubes is a serious risk. Today, a preterm fetus can survive when removed from the mother at a gestational age of slightly less than 22 weeks – just over half the length of a normal 40-week pregnancy.
Recent decades have seen rapid advances in two areas of biotechnology that could pave the way for full ectogenesis – i.e. the development of a human embryo in an artificial womb, from fertilization to birth.
One of the two developing key technologies is the artificial amniotic fluid filled environment that has continued to develop with laboratory animal models since the work with goats in the 1990s. The other area is embryo transfer. Not only can a developing mammal be transferred from the uterus of its own mother to that of a surrogate, but gradually investigators are reproducing the endometrium – the cell layer of the uterus that contains and nourishes the pregnancy – as a cell culture, or an in vitro model. The convergence of these technologies will make it possible to transfer a developing human into a system that includes the placenta and umbilical cord and supplies all consumables (oxygen and food), and removes all waste, directly through the blood.2
Some researchers believe that a fully functional artificial human womb could be developed within a couple of decades. While much of the technology for experimenting with artificially growing a human fetus already exists, human trials are probably at least a decade away, largely due to the murky legal and ethical implications. At present, researchers are not allowed to grow human fetuses in the lab for more than 14 days, because this is when they develop a neural tube – the precursor of the brain and nervous system.3
Will science fiction become reality?
An artificial uterus would move a pregnancy outside of a woman’s body. Advocates say it could serve male gay couples, male-to-female transsexuals, women with damaged or dysfunctional wombs, elderly women, and also fertile women who want children but do not want to experience the hassle and potential perils of pregnancy themselves. Social conservatives disapprove of the idea. Even some feminists view ectogenesis with scepticism, saying it will hand over women’s sacred birthing ability to science.4
An artificial womb would allow a fetus to develop in an environment that is not influenced by the presence of disease, environmental pollutants, alcohol, nicotine or other drugs which a mother may have in her circulatory system. Some opponents say that putting a fetus in an artificial womb for 40 weeks will remove the special bond between mother and child. Aarathi Prasad comments:
[C]arrying a baby has never been a prerequisite for loving one’s baby or being able to bond with it – otherwise the same issues would be an argument against adoptive parents, mothers who use surrogates, and even fathers. In fact, being able to watch, in plain sight, the fragile, doll-like foetus as it develops and grows may encourage a new and special bond.5
Bonding also reflects the degree to which a child is wanted.
In the UK, around 40% of abortions for medical reasons are aimed at preventing the birth of a fetus with serious disabilities. About 92% of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome, for example, choose to terminate the pregnancy. The remaining 60% of abortions are connected with the mother’s physical or emotional health or her relationship to the father. In 91% of the cases, the fetus is aborted after no more than 13 weeks of gestation – too early for today’s incubators.6 An artificial womb would make it possible to terminate a pregnancy without killing the fetus, which could be transferred to an artificial womb and perhaps later offered for adoption.
Embryonic stem cells can be used to make artificial sperm and eggs.
[I]n early embryos every cell has the potential to generate into any number of different cell types. As development proceeds, ... one cell will only be able to become a brain cell, another will only become a muscle cell, and so on – the stem cells lose their totipotent potential and become pluripotent, able to generate several different cell types but not all. But because extracting embryonic stem cells currently requires destroying an embryo, the technique is besieged with controversy, particularly in the US.1
Within the last decade, researchers have been ‘reprogramming’ adult cells (such as skin cells) to act like embryonic stem cells. These induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells have been used to develop human retinas and intestines, for example. Researchers have also created iPS cells that could differentiate into primordial germ cells. This was first achieved in rodents, but by 2015 both embryonic stem cells and iPS cells from males and females had been used to make sex cell precursors with up to 40% efficiency.2
Regardless of the body part from which stem cells are obtained, the proteins that act as signposts for developing sperm and eggs can be detected in them.
In fact, eggs have been made in the lab from both female and male embryonic stem cell lines. This is because the male embryonic stem cells have not yet expressed the SRY gene, which triggers the development of the testes and eventually the generation of sperm. Female embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, can only give rise to eggs. So without an artificial Y chromosome, women could only ever make artificial eggs, while men could make artificial eggs or sperm.3
In 2016 a Chinese team reported that it had used stem cells from a mouse embryo to create artificial spermatids – undeveloped sperm that lack tails and cannot swim. When injected into mouse eggs, the eggs developed into viable embryos and healthy, fertile babies. This was the most successful such experiment to date. In the UK, this procedure would be illegal. Some scientists hope that it will one day be possible to extract cells from an infertile man, revert them to an embryonic stem-cell-like state, and then convert them into artificial spermatids for use in IVF. One concern is that if germ cells do not format their DNA correctly, this would affect not only the resulting individual but also the next generation.4
Aarathi Prasad holds out the following prospect:
If the option were to exist one day, the ultimate solo parent will probably be a woman who needs nothing but her own stem cells and an artificial Y chromosome to produce eggs and sperm. She might use two of her own eggs to create a child, converting one egg into a pseudo-sperm to fertilize herself, as scientists have already done in mice. And then, should an artificial womb become a reality, she might even forego pregnancy, allowing a doctor to set the ideal conditions for the foetus’s development. She could even keep working, as men do, until the moment the baby is born.
This would be the great biological and social equalizer, a truly new way of thinking about sex. The question is not if it will happen, but when.5
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is aimed at identifying genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization before they are implanted in the womb. It has also been used for the purpose of gender selection. The couple concerned then decides whether to continue with the pregnancy or have the embryo destroyed. The first genetically screened babies were born in 1990.
It is also possible to genetically modify embryos or babies – not only to rid them of genetic diseases but also, in theory, to ‘enhance’ them by, for example, making them more beautiful, more athletic, or more intelligent. Humans have already genetically modified crops and animals; in the hundreds of thousands of trials that failed, the unwanted crop or animal was simply discarded. There is always a risk that genetic modification could disrupt the function of other genes and have unintended effects. Moreover, this whole issue raises the spectre of eugenics – the effort to improve the human race through selective breeding.
Gene therapy involves the replacement or alteration of defective genes to prevent inherited diseases. It is particularly suitable for treating genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and Huntington’s disease, which are caused by mutations at specific locations in genes that scientists are very familiar with. For example, sickle cell disease is caused by an error in a single letter of genetic code. Nicholas Staropoli says that editing out these types of mutations ‘would merely be consistent with what physicians and researchers have been doing for centuries: treating diseases’.1
Gene therapy currently focuses on making changes to the genes in an adult’s somatic cells. These genetic changes are therefore not passed to offspring. Gene therapy could also be applied to newborn babies or even embryos, but there is widespread opposition to this. The advantage would be that an early embryo only consists of a few cells, whereas gene therapy in adults has to target thousands or even millions of cells and replace a faulty gene in all of them. Most controversial of all is the editing of germ cells (eggs and sperm) as this would permanently modify the human gene pool, and if anything went wrong, it would be difficult to reverse. In the UK, germline editing is currently illegal. In many other countries, the law is ambiguous.2
The idea of using genetic modification to design a child that will have specific talents, abilities or virtues currently belongs firmly to the realm of science fiction. Even materialistic scientists believe that ‘genes may play a role in the traits we have, but our individuality is the result of multiple genes interacting with each other, and all of them interacting with the environment’.3 As bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe puts it:
At this point in our understanding of the dynamics of human development, we can send in one or a small number of genes to correct or modify single traits. However, our understanding of the genetics of complex traits like intelligence, or musical ability, or athleticism is still rudimentary, and no one would know how to create a more intelligent child, for example.4
It used to be thought that a simple trait like eye colour was determined by a single gene. But as many as 15 genes have so far been associated with eye colour inheritance.5
Thanks to research in the field of epigenetics, scientists now accept that our thoughts, deeds and general lifestyle can all alter our genes – for better or for worse. Several ‘tags’ have been discovered that modify gene expression. The two main ones involve methyl groups (made of carbon and hydrogen), which turn genes on or off, and histones (a type of protein), which regulate gene activity up or down. It’s thought that we have four million of these switches, which are triggered by lifestyle and environmental factors.6
Scientists who follow the materialistic faith are still fixated mainly on genetics, and completely overlook the most essential ingredient in human beings: the reincarnating soul.7 The ageless wisdom teaches that if a baby is born, whatever the reproductive method and whatever the genetic modifications, it is because a soul has attached itself to the growing physical form; this means that the body in question and the family circumstances are what that soul needs for its further development. Any changes – genetic or otherwise – to the physical body, whether before or after birth, do not alter the intrinsic characteristics of the soul, only its ability to express itself through its physical vehicle. All the events in our lives are the karmic product of our conduct in our present and/or former incarnations; every soul ultimately reaps what it has sown.
In the animal kingdom sex generally takes place only at certain times of the year and for the purpose of reproduction, as animals have no selfconscious intellect to interfere with their natural instincts. Birds lay eggs and most mammals deliver their young in early spring, when the months ahead are warm and food is plentiful, and the mating season is adjusted to this end. In the human kingdom, on the other hand, most sexual activity is for recreation, and sex can be indulged in all year round, including to excess. Our hedonistic culture constantly bombards us with ‘erotic’ images and promotes the message that an active sex life is essential to health, sanity and happiness. Sexual pleasure has become one of the false gods worshipped by modern society, alongside the pursuit of wealth, power and status. Self-indulgence, rather than self-discipline, is the guiding principle.
It is no accident that the human kingdom is afflicted with a variety of sexual and degenerative diseases unknown in the animal kingdom. H.P. Blavatsky stated that ‘by turning the holy mystery of procreation into animal gratification’, humanity had become ‘a helpless, scrofulous being, ... the wealthiest heir on the globe to constitutional and hereditary diseases, the most consciously and intelligently bestial of all animals!’1
Globally, more than 1 million sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are acquired every day. Each year, there are 131 million new infections with chlamydia, 78 million with gonorrhoea, 5.6 million with syphilis, and 143 million with trichomoniasis. At any given time, more than 500 million people suffer from genital herpes, and more than 290 million women have a human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Syphilis in pregnancy leads to about 305,000 fetal and neonatal deaths every year and leaves 215,000 infants at increased risk of dying from prematurity, low birth weight, or congenital disease. HPV infection causes 528,000 cases of cervical cancer and 266,000 cervical cancer deaths each year. Today’s high rates of oral sex are linked to the rising incidence of throat and mouth cancer, caused by the transmission of HPV. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women. STDs have rapidly become more resistant to antibiotics in recent years, and this has reduced treatment options.2
In the United States, 1 in 4 teenagers becomes infected with an STD each year, and by the age of 25, half of all sexually active young adults will get an STD. 45 million people aged 12 and older have genital herpes – a 30% increase since the late 1970s. At least 50% of sexually active Americans will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives.3 Gay and bisexual men have a higher risk of STD infection. In the US, they account for over 80% of syphilis cases and are 17 times more likely to get anal cancer than heterosexual men.4 In England, gay or bisexual men account for about 81% of syphilis diagnoses, 63% of gonorrhoea diagnoses, and 17% of chlamydia diagnoses, even though they make up only around 2.6% of the male population.5
Sex is a natural act whose natural consequence is the creation of a new human being. However, a variety of mechanical, chemical and surgical means are used to try and avoid this natural outcome, in order to allow unlimited sexual indulgence. Nevertheless, an estimated 40% of all pregnancies are unintended. One of the main means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies is the contraceptive pill, which is used by over 100 million people worldwide. It is designed to prevent fertilization by interfering with the natural workings of the female reproductive system. Side effects range from headaches, weight gain, irregular bleeding and nausea to high blood pressure, liver tumours, gallstones, jaundice, blood clots, heart attack and strokes.6
Over 55 million abortions are carried out globally every year, and nearly half of them (25.5 million) are considered unsafe. Most unsafe abortions take place in developing countries where abortion is illegal or highly restricted.7 An estimated 68,000 women die as a result of unsafe abortions every year, mainly from haemorrhage, infection and poisoning, and millions more suffer complications, many permanent.8 Even abortions using ‘safe’ procedures can have physical side effects, ranging from abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding to infection or sepsis, damage to the cervix, scarring of the uterine lining, perforation of the uterus, damage to other organs, and death. Emotional and psychological effects following abortion are very common, including guilt, shame, insomnia, nightmares, depression, relationship issues and suicidal thoughts.9
About 10% of internet users admit to being addicted to pornography. There are 4.2 million pornographic websites (12% of the total), and 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests (25% of the total). The average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11 years. 34% of internet users receive unwanted exposure to sexual material.10 The dysfunctional effects of internet pornography addiction are well documented.11 In response, there is now a growing online community of people sharing their commitment to break the habit and take back control of their lives.12
When the body is sexually aroused, it is in a state of stress; frequent stress lowers the body’s natural defences and makes it more vulnerable to disease. An orgasm sends it into convulsive spasms and the tension is discharged, which the mind interprets as ‘pleasure’. However, this does not bring permanent satisfaction, for soon the cycle of arousal and discharge begins all over again; sex can easily become an addiction and the more it is fed the greater the craving for it becomes. But giving in to every sexual impulse that takes hold of us is not a sign of freedom but of slavery. In Eastern traditions in particular, compulsive, recreational sex is seen not so much as a sin but as a weakness, a waste of time and energy, while sex for the purpose of generating a new body for a soul to inhabit is regarded as a creative, sacred act.
During sexual intercourse heart rate doubles, respiratory rate triples, and blood pressure increases considerably. The nervous exhaustion following intercourse can induce a state of amnesia, disorientation and lethargy. In exceptional cases, the vascular and muscular excitement involved in arousal and orgasm can produce even more unfortunate effects, especially in men, as Havelock Ellis described:
Fainting, vomiting, involuntary urination and defecation, have been noted as occurring in young men after a first coitus. Epilepsy has been not infrequently recorded. Lesions of various organs, even rupture of the spleen, have sometimes taken place. In men of mature age the arteries have at times been unable to resist the high blood-pressure, and cerebral haemorrhage with paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse with young wives or with prostitutes has sometimes caused death.13
Many partners find that bouts of passion are followed by ‘hangover periods’, in which they feel emotionally alienated from each other. These see-saw relationships have been linked to body chemistry.14 The buildup to orgasm is accompanied by the release of dopamine, which creates intense anticipation of pleasure. (Dopamine surges are associated with all addictions.) Orgasm triggers a burst of dopamine and other neurochemicals that produces the same effect on the brain as a heroin rush. It is followed by a sharp fall in dopamine levels, with the usual withdrawal symptoms. Nerve cell receptors exposed to high doses of dopamine become less sensitive to it and, over time, the number of dopamine receptors may decline, so that more intense stimuli are needed to produce the same high.
Levels of oxytocin (another pleasure hormone) also fall after sex, while prolactin levels greatly increase, which creates a sense of sexual satiation and also suppresses dopamine, resulting in the inability to have another orgasm right away. Intense sex can cause both males and females to feel more irritable, dissatisfied, anxious or depressed for up to two weeks. Some people try to get over this slump by eating, drinking alcohol, watching porn or seeking a new sexual partner. But this merely aggravates the problem by again raising dopamine to an abnormally high level. Stressful relationships lead to high levels of cortisol, which is sometimes called the death hormone because it can age us rapidly and lower our immunity to disease. As for people who are infatuated (‘madly in love’), their brain chemistry is like that of people who are mentally ill.15
Thus sex does not necessarily bring happiness and often has more to do with lust than love. One study found that more people find more pleasure in watching TV, helping others, reading, and pursuing their various hobbies than in having sex.16 Liz Hodgkinson writes:
deep inside ourselves, we know that physical sex does not have the power to make people happy and stay in love with each other. Most of us who have tried it know to our cost that sex causes far more problems than ever it solves. We know, if only unconsciously, that a physical activity, however blissful or all-consuming it may seem at the time, can never heal an emotional wound, or increase happiness and contentment. ... One of the reasons, I firmly believe, that so many marriages are desperately unhappy is that we are always looking to the other partner to satisfy us sexually. When they are unable to do this, or when we cannot respond to them, much hurt, anger and feelings of deep rejection follow.17
Apart from the health risks, another argument commonly cited in favour of sexual moderation, as far as males are concerned, is that semen is a rich cocktail of sugars, salts, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, including fructose, sorbitol, inositol, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and cobalamin (vitamin B12).18 Loss of these substances, for whatever purpose, has a devitalizing and debilitating effect on the body, and the faster semen is expended the more the body must strain to replace it. If it is conserved, it is reabsorbed into the bloodstream and used to nourish the tissues of the body, especially the brain and nervous system. No two constituents of the body show greater similarity in their lecithin, chlolesterin and phosphorus contents than brain cells and semen.
Hinduism in particular emphasizes that semen is a sacred fluid, a creative force, whose conservation contributes to physical health, moral stamina, intellectual vigour and spiritual growth. This point of view was echoed by the French author Honoré de Balzac, who, after a night of passion, would lament: ‘There goes another novel!’ Athletes and prize fighters are still sometimes advised not to have sex in the run-up to a big race or match, and according to ancient tradition it is beneficial to abstain from sex before any major physical or mental challenge.
Whatever the benefits of conserving one’s own sperm, and despite sperm’s role in the conception of a child, Donald Tyler MD argues that foreign sperm (any sperm into a woman, and another male’s sperm into a man) are a potential major cause of cancers and other serious diseases.19 Sperm can not only enter another person’s body directly through ejaculation; sperm pooled in a woman’s vagina can move into the urethra of a subsequent sex partner. Sperm invade the lining or surface membranes of internal and external genitalia, sometimes causing pus and mucous discharges or sores, and once they enter blood vessels they can reach any part of the body. The fusion of a sperm with an ovum produces rapidly dividing cells that result in a multitrillion cell baby in nine months. Sperm invading cells other than ova could account for all the characteristics of malignant cells, including their rapid uncontrolled division and abnormal numbers of chromosomes. Sperm and their parts invading a body are the equivalent of a cell or even organ transplant. Antibodies attacking the sperm may also attack cells and organs of the host body, causing autoimmune diseases.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and rectum, and produces part of the fluid that makes up semen. 15% of men experience inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis) at some point in their lives; the cause may be bacterial or non-bacterial.20 When a man becomes sexually excited, all the pelvic reproductive organs, including the prostate, become congested with blood. John Tilden MD argued that when the prostate is continually subjected to this engorgement, it becomes inflamed and enlarged; this can impede the flow of urine, and the prostate may eventually become a fibrous tumour.21
Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the western world, and the second most common cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer. The risk of developing prostate cancer is related to age, genetics, diet, lifestyle, medications and other factors. Most studies have found that sexually transmitted infections (especially gonorrhoea and syphilis), a high number of sexual partners, or a high level of sexual activity can increase prostate cancer risk by up to 40%.22 Other factors associated with increased cancer risk include obesity and consumption of animal fats (especially red meat). A few studies have found a correlation between high ejaculation frequency and reduced prostate cancer risk. A study by Giles et al. (2003) gave rise to misleading media headlines around the world (and all over the internet) that masturbation provides protection against prostate cancer – yet Giles’ inconclusive study actually gathered no information whatsoever on masturbation.23
As far as women are concerned, it is commonly believed that there can be no escape from premenstrual and menstrual losses of mucus and blood, including vital substances such as iodine, lecithin, calcium, phosphorus, iron and sex hormones. The truth is that ovulation need not be accompanied by often painful and prolonged menstruation; no haemorrhage or rupture of blood vessels is natural and normal.24 Leucorrhoea and excessive menstrual bleeding result from an inflammatory condition of the mucus membrane of the uterus. As well as contributing to chronic inflammation of the vagina and uterus, frequent sex (especially if it begins at an early age) can lead to various other genital complaints, which sometimes assume a malignant form, including cervical cancer.
Animals in the wild, with the exception of certain apes, pass through periodic seasons of ‘heat’ without any noticeable discharge of blood, whereas domesticated animals do menstruate, as a result of confinement, overfeeding and sexual overactivity. It is also significant that women menstruate much more profusely in ‘civilized’ societies than in ‘primitive’ societies, and prostitutes much more so than nuns, for example. Evidence suggests that immoderate sexual behaviour (and erotic fantasies) and a high-protein flesh diet are important factors in menstruation, and numerous women have reduced menstruation or eliminated it altogether by adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Diet has a significant influence on sexual desire and behaviour. Meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, salt, spices, onions, garlic, alcohol, (nonherbal) tea, coffee and tobacco, for example, can all act as aphrodisiacs. Animal products, especially meat and seafood, contain uric acid, which irritates and inflames the genital mucous membranes, triggering sexual arousal. A low-protein vegetarian diet, on the other hand, tends to have the opposite effect.25 Overeating is endemic in the rich North, and is reflected in the high incidence of obesity, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. In a wartime experiment, 32 men reduced their food intake from 1700 to 1400 calories daily for six months. They reported that sexual desire, erotic dreams, nocturnal ejaculations and aggressive impulses all but disappeared.26
Contrasting the effects of sex and exercise on the body, Dr Edwin Flatto writes:
The sex act is essentially catabolic (destructive metabolic action). Sexual stimulation causes the blood to become congested in the pelvic and reproductive organs of the body. Sexual intercourse entails the loss of vital fluids containing the most essential elements and hormones. Sex weakens the individual and places a strain on the heart.
Exercise is anabolic (constructive metabolic action). It entails bodily action which develops and maintains physical fitness. It is essential movement for keeping the muscles strong and healthy. Proper exercise benefits and strengthens all the vital organs, improves the blood circulation, and strengthens the heart muscles.27
In the vegetable kingdom, after a plant bears fruit it weakens and often dies. Annuals which flower when only a few weeks old die in a few months. Apple and orange trees live much longer than peach trees, because they grow more slowly and bear fruit later. Nut trees bear fruit even later in life and many live more than 1000 years. By clipping off buds to prevent flowering and seeding, not only is the life of the plant lengthened, but annuals may become biennials or perennials. In the animal kingdom, too, reproduction is basically a movement towards death. The Pacific salmon, trout, shad, and several other varieties of anadromous fish die soon after spawning. Male drone bees and male spiders usually die soon after, or even during, mating; the male of the black widow spider is sometimes so weak afterwards that the female eats him. Higher animals are far less likely to die after sex but, as a general rule, the earlier an animal reaches puberty and the more often it mates, the shorter its lifespan.28 A study of male crickets found that, when housed with sexually mature females capable of reproduction, they were more likely to produce high-quality sperm than when housed with females incapable of reproduction, and that production of high-quality sperm had a negative effect on their immune systems.29
In the human kingdom, spiritual adeptship and the development of the highest occult powers require perfect self-mastery and are incompatible with sexual indulgence.30 By leading lives of utmost purity, mahatmas are said to be able to live in the same body for several hundred years if they wish.31 Among other things, sex has adverse effects on the ‘third eye’, the organ of spiritual vision.* Theosophy asserts that in the third root-race this was an actual physiological organ located towards the back of the head, but as evolution proceeded down the ‘arc of descent’ (into matter), and spirituality was supplanted by ‘the newly-awakened physiological and psychic passions of the physical man’, it gradually lost its powers and atrophied.32 Finally, it became the pineal gland – an endocrine gland, shaped like a pine cone, located within the third cerebral ventricle along the midline of the brain. The pineal is our master gland; it converts light, temperature and magnetic information from our environment into neuroendocrine signals that regulate the body’s functioning. In some lower vertebrates the pineal gland has a well-developed eyelike structure, while in others it functions as a light receptor. This pineal, or parietal, eye is now widely regarded by science as the evolutionary forerunner of the modern eye.
*The powerful Hindu god Shiva is known as ‘the great ascetic’ and is worshipped as a model of celibacy and ascetic power. His third eye is said to be the result of his perfect chastity.
Parietal eye (very small, light-sensitive oval) between the
regular eyes of a juvenile bullfrog.
Parietal eye (with small lens and retina) on the top of the
skull of a tuatara (modern dinosaur).
The pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin, which affects sleeping patterns, biorhythms and sexual maturation. It is large in children and begins to shrink with the onset of puberty. Lecithin, an organic phosphorized fat, is a chief constituent not only of semen but also of brain and nerve tissue, and the pineal gland is richer in lecithin than any other part of the body. During sexual stimulation, impulses are sent up the spinal cord to the brain, and this prevents the ‘reopening’ of the spiritual eye. It is said that in the seventh root-race, millions of years from now, the pineal gland will once more become active in all humans as the organ for the seventh sense – spiritual intuition.33
In her book A History of Celibacy, Elizabeth Abbott writes: ‘[T]hroughout the ages, celibacy has been a double-edged sword. As a chosen lifestyle, it may empower and liberate, but when coerced, it can repress and crush.’1 The oppressive effects of enforced celibacy can be seen in the Catholic church. Since the early 1960s, nearly a quarter of the world’s working priests have resigned and nearly half of all parishes have no priest at all. Despite their vows, about half the Catholic clergy are uncelibate.2
As William Skudlarek points out, celibacy is not the only sexual option that cuts both ways:
Throughout the ages, the choice to engage in sexual relations with another person has also been a two-edged sword. For many men and women, a committed sexual relationship has been the path to spiritual and psychological maturity. But it is also obvious that even a freely chosen, committed relationship such as marriage does not always lead to such a positive outcome.3
Sex drive varies immensely from one person to another, and also over the course of a person’s life. Around 1% of the population is asexual, i.e. they do not experience sexual attraction, though they may still long for love and companionship; about 70% of them are women. Asexuality is widely regarded as an innate sexual orientation, unlike celibacy, which is a choice.4 People may choose to abstain from sexual intercourse for a variety of reasons, e.g. to prevent pregnancy or STDs; to wait until they’re ready for a sexual relationship; to wait until they find the right partner; to focus on school, career, or extracurricular activities; or to support personal, moral or religious beliefs and values.5
Many people find that sex declines in importance the more attention they devote to more satisfying and rewarding pursuits. Several surveys have revealed a trend towards less frequent sex, less interest in casual sex, and an increase in the number of people giving up sexual relations altogether. A US survey in 1986 found that about 10% of women, 8% of heterosexual men, and 10% of homosexual men were not involved in sexual relationships.6 A 2006 survey found that 14% of American women had abstained from sex in the past six months. Abstinent women were more likely to be aged over 30, have a high school education and avoid adverse health behaviours.7 In the US, 10.9% of women and 8.2% of men do not have premarital sex.8
A British sex survey in 2014 found that 28% of respondents were not currently in a stable relationship. The average current relationship length is 17 years for heterosexuals and five years for homosexuals. The most important things in a relationship were said to be: trust (57%), communication (26%), humour (7%) and equality (7%). Only 2% said sex was the most important thing (compared with 11% in 2008). 61% believe it is possible to maintain a happy relationship without having sex, an increase from 48% in 2008. This figure is highest among those who are married (69%) but even 51% of singles agree. Women (68%) are more likely than men (55%) to believe that sex is not essential, and homosexuals (41%) are significantly less likely than heterosexuals (62%) to take this view. On average, Britons have sex four times a month, though one in three does not have sex at all in that time period. Only 1% of Britons have sex once a day on average.9
Many couples find that manipulating each other’s erogenous zones and exchanging body fluids sooner or later lose their erotic charm. 33% of married people are abstinent for two months at a time on average and many for three months or more. After the birth of a child, mothers often find that their interest in sex declines significantly. One survey found that 72% of American women would be content to be held close and treated tenderly and forget about the sex act, 40% of these women being under 40 years of age.10 Diminished sexual appetite on the part of one or both partners may lead to conflict, or to desperate attempts to turn each other on again, or to the pursuit of extramarital sex. But if accepted as a natural development, it can be seen as an opportunity to relate to one another more on other levels. For many people, sexual moderation is easier within a relationship than outside one. And couples who choose to raise children face a challenging and vitally important task, requiring all the higher, unselfish qualities they can find.
People who freely choose to refrain from sex for many months or years, or even for a lifetime, are often called ‘secular celibates’ if they are not members of religious communities. They speak of the relief of being free from sexual distractions, and of feeling healthier and more energetic, both physically and mentally. They welcome the greater freedom and autonomy that celibacy brings. Many find themselves developing deeper and closer friendships, but free from the worries, frustrations, ill feeling, possessiveness, jealousy and dependency that can make sexual relationships such a burden. Elizabeth Abbott explains her own decision to give up sexual relations as follows:
Much as I once reveled in sexual indulgence, I realized that at this stage of my life, I value even more the independence and serenity chaste solitude brings me. I welcome my freedom from the jealousy and possessiveness that characterized the most passionate of my relationships, and I am immensely and perpetually relieved that someone else’s domestic demands no longer dominate my daily agenda.11
While some people cannot even conceive of life without sex, for others sex holds no fascination. One celibate woman writes: ‘I find [sex] a messy and embarrassing sport. Without the required lust it all seems rather pointless.’ A male celibate writes: ‘Sex is terribly overrated. It is more banal than many people are willing to admit. ... I used to enjoy solitude very much when I was younger. I would like to recapture that spirit of thoughtfulness, mindfulness, intellectual and spiritual seeking that celibacy makes possible.’12 People who voluntarily opt for celibacy generally find that the longer they go without sex, the easier it becomes.
Liz Hodgkinson, author of Sex is Not Compulsory, says that since she and her husband adopted celibacy ‘we have been completely happy and healthy in every way. We have gone down with no deficiency diseases, and we are not walking round in agonies of sexual frustration. Far from it. We are pleased to be freed from the dark and desperate urges of the body. It is a wonderful liberation, a release, a life-enhancing choice.’ The sexual urge, she says, ‘has simply vanished’.13 A male practitioner writes: ‘Celibacy is an experiment rich in revelations about the mind and body ...’14
Martin Poulter, who used to maintain the Celibate FAQ webpage, writes:
I’m always thrown for a loop when asked why I wouldn’t have sex. I don’t have any great sexual urges, so the act of mutual membrane-agitation seems so arbitrary: the question makes little more sense than ‘Why not regularly stand in a big tub of yoghurt?’ I can be impressed – moved, even – by a woman’s beauty, but I fail to make the connection between that and a need to do something to her. When you see a beautiful flower, you don’t need to go up to it and lick it, do you?15
He sums up some of the advantages of celibacy as follows:
A whole load of worries are taken off your mind. You don’t even have to think about contraception, venereal disease, physical compatibility, who sleeps on the wet patch, impotence, frigidity, bizarre sexual injuries, whether to swallow, whether your partner is good in bed, sexual fidelity, how to stop the bed from creaking, shave or not shave, wash or not wash, whether you know enough positions, orgasm faking, whether to experiment or which flavour of condom to choose. This must surely free up several cubic inches of brain tissue.
After putting together a special issue of What is Enlightenment dealing with sex and spirituality, the magazine’s editors commented: ‘we were intrigued to discover that celibacy is a more taboo subject than is tantric sexuality. The more we looked, the more apparent it became that, generally speaking, the subject of celibacy does not often arise for the spiritually inclined. In fact, in the postmodern spiritual marketplace, talk of renunciation of any kind is rarely heard. ... Sometimes even just speaking about [celibacy] makes people angry and upset.’16
There is often a certain ambiguity in talk about celibacy and chastity. For many people (especially in the West), celibacy simply means refraining from sexual intercourse with a partner. Others, however, define celibacy more strictly as abstention from all forms of sexual activity, including masturbation. (In sexual intercourse there is at least an exchange of energy between the partners, whereas masturbation involves only loss.) Perfect chastity also entails freedom from sexual thoughts and desires. Dr Franz Hartmann wrote: ‘Abstinence in acts is useless for spiritual development, unless it is followed by abstinence in thought. Enforced celibacy does not make a priest; a true priest is a saint, and saints are persons who have outgrown their carnal desires.’17
Some people think that without a sexual outlet, semen will simply accumulate in a male, leading inevitably to nocturnal emissions (‘wet dreams’). This myth reflects the widespread ignorance of the key fact that unexpended semen is reabsorbed into the bloodstream. There is no evidence that celibate men have more nocturnal emissions than sexually active men. Nocturnal emissions are often a sign of inflammation and congestion of the urethra, resulting from frequent sexual activity and/or a highly stimulating diet. Other causal factors include pressure on the seminal vesicles caused by their being sandwiched between a distended (constipated) colon and full bladder.18 If all these causes are eliminated, and if all sexual thoughts and fantasies, and other types of erotic stimuli are completely curtailed, nocturnal emissions will not occur. This may take several lifetimes to achieve.
The Sanskrit word ‘brahmacharya’ literally means ‘conduct of Brahman (the Absolute)’, i.e. perfect purity in thought, word and deed. It is often used as a synonym for chastity, which is a time-honoured tradition in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Chastity is considered essential for the attainment of the highest spiritual illumination and enlightenment. This attitude contrasts starkly with the teachings on ‘tantric sex’ or ‘sacred sexuality’ that have become very popular in the West. According to Tantrism, those who lose their own personal consciousness in the sex act, while understanding sexual ecstasy to be an aspect of divine bliss and an offering to the Divine, can achieve rapid spiritual evolution. If the male learns to control the urge to ejaculate, a bout of tantric love-making can even be prolonged for many hours! Torkom Saraydarian warns that sex without orgasm* puts intense pressure on the sexual organs because of the additional seminal fluid created, and that excessive energy or congestion throws the body out of balance. He adds: ‘If a man does not want to ejaculate, he should not become sexually stimulated.’19
*If orgasm occurs, discharge of semen can be prevented by using three fingers to apply pressure to the perineum (midway between anus and scrotum) just before the ejaculatory spasms begin. Massaging the area afterwards facilitates reabsorption of the semen and helps release muscular tension.20
Swami Chidananda says that in most cases the tantric-sex path amounts to pandering to lust under the guise of spirituality. The sex force is sacred, he says, but ‘sacred sexuality’ is a misnomer because, given the frailty of human nature, once people get enmeshed in sexuality, the sacredness tends to be forgotten. He says that sex focuses our entire attention on that part of our physical nature that we share with the animal kingdom, and this is hardly going to help us attain cosmic consciousness. If freely chosen, brahmacharya does not mean repressing or denying sexuality; it means ceasing to identify with the body and personality, and seeking to express a higher dimension of our being, for which sexual gratification is a meaningless delusion.21
For Buddhists, celibacy is a path to wisdom and liberation from suffering/dissatisfaction (dukka). The Buddha highlighted the powerful but deceptive attraction of sensual pleasure by likening it to throwing a dog bare bones that do not satisfy its hunger. As William Skudlarek explains, for most people orgasm is the experience that comes closest to ‘spiritual’ transcendence.
Western secular psychiatric and psychological literature tends to present the quest for spirituality and spiritual experience as a sublimation of sex. From the Buddhist point of view, it may be just the other way around: orgasm may actually be an ersatz experience of transcendence. If that is true, the reason for celibacy is that it allows one to go for the real goods, for true self-transcendence. ...
If celibacy were to be seen as a repression of sexuality, it would be harmful. Without accepting desire as a natural part of the human condition, one cannot transcend it. ... [Buddha] was married and had a child before renouncing the world and becoming a monk. Attachment to desire, however, is a hindrance to spiritual progress. The wholehearted commitment required of the monastic life requires the relinquishment of all distractions, all attachments, that create a barrier or hindrance to spiritual development.
Celibacy is a powerful force that allows one to see through the delusion of desire and know true peace. Celibacy allows the energy of the body and mind to be used in harmony in order to go deeper into spiritual understanding and to both Great Compassion and Great Wisdom.22
The Buddhist approach is to accept sexual thoughts and feelings without either repressing them or acting on them, and to watch calmly as they pass through the mind. Honestly assessing the quality of our thoughts and actions is essential if we are to overcome negative habits and improve our characters. In this regard, it is instructive to take note of what happens during frenzied lust-making: mindless thrusting, squelching, slobbering, groaning and grunting – like pigs at a trough. Detached reflection (and a sense of humour) can help defuse desire.
Desire is rooted in the mind. A sexually desirable person becomes less appetizing if their genitals are oozing with disease, or if a relationship sours and ‘love’ turns to hate. Beauty is only skin deep; imagine a body without the skin; imagine the internal organs and their contents – where’s the attraction? A physical body is composed of bones, flesh, fat, blood, urine, excreta, mucus, phlegm, and germs; it is destined to age, wither, wrinkle, die, and rot away or be reduced to ashes. Sexual arousal can be dissipated not only by changing our perspective, but also with the help of physical techniques that channel ‘sexual’ energy upwards, for higher purposes.23
According to the ageless wisdom, thoughts, emotions and desires are elemental energies, and we attract into our minds those that resonate with us from the astral realms. The lower astral plane is also inhabited by dead humans’ decaying astral souls, i.e. their largely instinctual lower minds, which are left behind when the higher human soul ascends to more ethereal realms between lives. Earthbound entities like these, especially the semi-conscious astral corpses of humans who led particularly selfish and depraved lives (elementaries), can feed off the emotional, vital and psychic energy of any people they are drawn to, while fuelling their victims’ weaknesses and vices. To become masters of our destinies, rather than the playthings of lower forces, we need to make a constant effort to lead a pure, clean, unselfish life.24
Sudhir Kakar writes as follows about the attitude towards sexuality in Hindu culture:
[S]exuality, whether in the erotic flourishes of Indian art and in the Dionysian rituals of its popular religion, or in the dramatic combat with ascetic longings of Yogis who seek to conquer and transform it into spiritual power, has been a perennial preoccupation of Hindu culture. ...
Indian ‘mysticism’ is typically intended to be an intensely practical affair, concerned with an alchemy of the libido that would convert it from a giver of death to a bestower of immortality. It is the sexual fire that stokes the alchemical transformation wherein the cooking pot is the body and the cooking oil is a distillation from sexual fluids. The strength of this traditional aspiration to sublimate sexuality into spirituality, semen into the elixir Soma, varies in different regions with different castes. Yet though only small sections of Indian society may act on this aspiration, it is a well-known theory subscribed to by most Hindus, including non-literate villagers. In its most popular form, the Hindu theory of sublimation goes something like this.
Physical strength and mental power have their source in virya, a word that stands for both sexual energy and semen. Virya, in fact, is identical with the essence of maleness. Virya can either move downward in sexual intercourse, where it is emitted in its gross physical form as semen, or it can move upward through the spinal cord and into the brain, in its subtle form known as ojas. Hindus regard the downward movement of sexual energy and its emission as semen as enervating, a debilitating waste of vitality and essential energy. Of all emotions, it is said, lust throws the physical system into the greatest chaos, with every violent passion destroying millions of red blood cells. Indian metaphysical physiology maintains that food is converted into semen in a thirty-day period by successive transformations (and refinements) through blood, flesh, fat, bone, and marrow till semen is distilled – forty drops of blood producing one drop of semen. Each ejaculation involves a loss of half an ounce of semen, which is equivalent to the vitality produced by the consumption of sixty pounds of food.
[E]ach act of copulation is equivalent to an energy expenditure of twenty-four hours of concentrated mental activity or seventy-two hours of hard physical labour. ...
If, on the other hand, semen is retained, converted into ojas and moved upwards by the observance of brahmacharya, it becomes a source of spiritual life rather than a cause of physical decay. Longevity, creativity, physical and mental vitality are enhanced by the conservation of semen; memory, will power, inspiration – scientific and artistic – all derive from the observation of brahmacharya. ...
These ideas on semen and celibacy ... are a legacy of Indian culture and are shared, so to speak, by Hindu saints and sinners alike. ...
The notion ... that sexual urges amount to a creative fire – not only for procreation but, equally, in self-creation – is indeed compelling.25
Hindu teachings state that sexual excitement has an equally negative effect on females, due to the drain on vitality and nervous energy.
Kakar also observes that, ‘Whereas, on the one hand, there are a number of sages in the Indian tradition (Gandhi is only the latest one to join this august assemblage), who are admired for their successful celibacy and the powers it brought them, there are, on the other hand, also innumerable folktales detailing the misadventures of randy ascetics.’ The following is a tale about the fall of a Japanese sennin, or ‘man of the mountains’:
Kume-no-Sennin lived an ascetic life in the mountains near Kume-dera, a Buddhist temple, and had developed the ability to feed on air and to fly through it. One day when he was winging through space, enjoying his heavenly freedom, he saw a woman washing clothes in the river beneath him. Then he noticed her white feet gleaming in the water and flew nearer, mesmerized. As he hovered in the air above her, his lustful thoughts neutralized the power that had kept him aloft, and he came crashing down to earth.
The sennin was not injured by his fall, but he never regained his powers. He did, however, gain a wife and descendants.26
There is a story about a young man who went to Socrates to ask whether or not he should marry. ‘It doesn’t matter much one way or the other,’ Socrates replied. ‘Whatever you do, you’ll regret it!’ For those who cannot do without a partner, the most stable and satisfying personal relationships are those based on mutual love, commitment, trust and respect rather than fickle and ephemeral desire. As Henry Edge writes:
Personal love, the theme of poetry and romance, is compact of Love and passion. The latter, like fires in general, flames up fiercely and then dies down; and, if there is nothing more, the result is disillusionment and sorrow. But, if the divine element has entered into the feeling, then the true Love remains after the passion has subsided. But personal love, however sublime it may seem, is still a limitation, and but a stepping-stone to universal Love. True Love does not desire to possess its object, for it does not seek personal satisfaction. This may seem a high ideal, but it is true; if it is too high for you at present, yet seek not to deny it; follow whatever is best in you. Step by step we climb.27
Evolution in the fourth round
Sex: theosophical quotations