Beloved, gaze in thy own heart,the holy tree is growing there. From joy its holy branches start, all the trembling flowers they bear.” WB Yeats
The tree of marriage is a particular aspect of the tree of life. In a thriving, healthy marriage, its trunk is strong and solid, its roots grow deeply into the fertile earth. It grows tall and wide, its branches reaching up to touch the heavens. This tree is a shelter, a haven, a welcome place to take refuge, climb its broad branches, sing songs, make merry, relax, and rest. A place to think and converse, to play and also to fight sometimes. A perfect place to make love. This tree of marriage enhances the world around it. It blesses those who come near it. Its seeds scatter and some of them eventually grow into new trees, so the cycle continues.
In Thomas Moore’s book, The Soul of Sex, he includes an important chapter entitled “The Marriage Bed (creating a marriage through sex)”. He writes, “Nowhere else in life is there such opportunity to envision the future, enact old memories, feel the strongest of emotions, and constantly struggle between individuality and togetherness. And in the center of this maelstrom lies sex– mysterious, alluring, demanding, comforting.”
“Matrimony is a form of soul work, and marriage is the most potent alembic available to us where we can become initiated into the rudiments of community and the basics of intimacy. In this context sex is the primary ritual. It’s one thing to resolve arguments and tensions in a marriage through conversation and counseling, but it’s another to perform the mysterious rite that addresses the deepest mysteries of the union.”
Marriage connects us to our souls through union and struggles with our partner. Moore writes, “married couples often confess that their pleasures and their troubles seem so deep as to be beyond understanding. No matter what they do, the tensions remain, and yet people have a clear sense that something absolutely meaningful is at stake.” From observing friends’ marriages and my own experience, I certainly agree with his words. What is created through the deep commitment of marriage are energies powerful enough to heal or to destroy the married couple, their families and even communities which surround them. As in the forest, a thriving, vibrantly healthy tree enhances and blesses all living things around it, while one which becomes diseased and sickly affects the life around it adversely. Were we conscious of how powerful our combined energies are as a married couple, many of us might think harder about the consequences of our daily interactions, and strive to be kinder and more loving with our partner, for the good of not just ourselves, but for the greater community and the world.
Moore writes, “In any society the many marriages play an important role in holding the society together and giving it its deep culture. Each marriage is a laboratory for the soul, and in each marriage lies the deeper laboratory of sex, the holy of holies, where passion, union, differences, pleasure, difficulties, and even work achieve their necessary balances. If couples realized the importance of their lovemaking and its impact on the world around them, from their children and neighbors to the nation and the world, they might have a less personalistic, less psychological view of their sexuality, and in that broadening they might enter into sex with larger vision and greater joy. Everything in life suffers when our vision of it is too small and too personal.”
Sexuality between the two partners is the crucible within the marriage which allows each one to express their feelings fully, without words, by using the language of the body to communicate. Sexual union can take myriad forms and situations, from tenderly loving and gentle, to urgent and highly passionate. It is the container which can hold the deepest and most vulnerable of emotions. To ‘make love’ with the one you love the most is a literal act: the act of physical joining of bodies creates love as substance which fills both the lovers, the room, the house, all who are nearby, and then, like ripples on water, goes out further and further to bless the world. It is no small act to make love, but rather, as Moore says, the ‘holy of holies’ which, like we recently learned about Eros, is the substance which holds the universe together. Moore writes, “Making love we enter the true thalamus, the marriage chamber, a magic circle where our souls come to the foreground, where our actions, even the subtlest of them, are ritual signs, where our words speak to a separate reality, and where we can tie the bonds of marriage most effectively because we are now beneath and beyond ordinary consciousness.”
Once, long ago when I was still a girl, I asked my mother, “how long do people make love, until what age, do you think?” Her reply was succinct. “You do until you die, if possible.” Our culture sadly does not acknowledge the various cycles of youth, maturity and ageing in regards to lovemaking. This is unfortunate, because some will tend to think that they reach a point where they are too old, or too this or that, to find that precious and sacred container with their partner any longer. My mother’s confirmation that all of us have the capacity to love each other physically up until they take their last breath, is such a life affirmation, a belief in the inherent capacity and wish of the human being to remain intimate with their partner, to touch each other, to honor the crucible not only when we are healthy, strong and exude the beauty of youth, but throughout our entire lives.
Moore again, “In sex we seek and sometimes find the scintilla, or sign of a wakened soul, that keeps life sparkling, and in marriage we keep it close, not identified with our mate but felt in our coming together and in living an abiding, lengthy sex life. The best glimpse of meaning we may ever enjoy could be found in regular sex with our spouse in the holy sacramentality of the marriage bed. Important to the soul is days and nights of conversation, passionate expressions of love and devotion, words as ritual rather than communication, or even the mutual attachment to the marriage bed. All of these together weave a tapestry of fantasies and memories that becomes, over many years perhaps, the main creation of a marriage and the web that holds a couple together.”
“What is marriage but a mysterious, indescribably complete way of being present one to another, where sex is the epitome, ritualization, source and celebration of that presence? Marriage is the mythological narrative in which our lives work themselves out, while sex is the ritual presencing of that felt and sensed narrative. The sexual touch echoes the sensuality entailed in being present in everyday life, present to one’s partner, present to the world, and open to the world’s presence.”
In our times of broken marriages, promises and ever-shifting values, the tree of marriage is threatened by the chainsaw of disinterest and disillusionment. And yet. Marriage itself is an urge for intimate connection as strong in our souls as the urge to procreate and raise a family, a way of furthering humanity and ensuring its continuation. We are social creatures by nature; it is natural for us to pair up, to mate, to love, to embrace in profoundly intimate ways. Our souls crave one another.
I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.
I give you the life I have let live for the love of you:
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life
that we have planted in the ground, as I
have planted mine in you. — The Country of Marriage (excerpt) Wendell Berry
Dear Readers, I suggest you take some time to ponder about marriage, your own if you are married, or ones close to you, such as your parents, siblings or close friends. Look deeply into this marriage and find the sacredness of its union, see the larger outworking of the marriage’s tree. Write your thoughts about it, working to go beyond preconceived notions, such as cynicism, criticism, or sentimentality. Just look at it as objectively as possible.As always, you are welcome to share your thoughts with me here.
- Eros and the Erotic: an attempt at clarification (clearskiesbluewater.wordpress.com)
- Understanding Will You Marry Me? (menofredemption.wordpress.com)
- Are You Ready for Soul Sex? (snspost.com)