Celibacy: A Back-to-the-Body Perspective

Traditional religions include celibate nuns and priests.

Traditional religions include celibate nuns and priests.

The French sociologist Émile Durkheim stated in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915) that, if something exists in society as a “human institution,” then it is impossible for it to rest on an error or a lie. I believe celibacy is a human institution, because it exists today and has existed throughout history.

Based on Durkheim’s view, then, we can state that there is something real that makes celibacy necessary in certain cases. Sociology tells us that it is so—in other words, there is some reality that is at the basis of the practice of celibacy throughout history. But the difference of opinion appears when we try to define what that “something real” is.

In this article, I will provide a reason why celibacy has existed in human history—and I will provide an argument that the time for celibacy has passed, and the time for marriage has come. In order to do this, I will take a Biblical point of view, based on the book of Genesis, written by the Hebrew-Egyptian prince Moses. So, regardless of the particular brand of religious or spirituality belief and practices that you may ascribe to, put on your Biblical hat and come along with me on this exploratory journey.

My Background

What I will say comes from my ten years of studying Catholic theology with the Carmelite priests—including two years in Rome—and also from my studies with a non-Catholic branch of Christianity, namely, the Unification Church. The Unificationists from among my friends will have no trouble following my train of thought.

Why Religious People Cannot Marry

The explanation of why religious people cannot marry is very simple. It is based on the belief that there was the human fall at the beginning of human history. So, first, a summary about the human fall.

A celibate priest is lonely.

A celibate priest is lonely.

As Moses described it, the first man was called Adam. He was a magnificent creature, the image of God. But he was warned by the creator that there was a dangerous tree whose fruit he should not eat, because the day that he ate that fruit, he would surely die.

Moses continues with his account and tells us that, in due course, a woman was created, and her name was Eve. Eve was, likewise, a magnificent creature: the image of God, the expression of God’s feminine beauty in the world. Moses tells us that Eve was also aware that there was a tree nearby, and they should not eat the fruits of that tree, because it would kill them.

Moses goes on with his narrative and tells us about a serpent that could talk, the difference of opinion coming from the serpent, the dialogue between the serpent and Eve, and later between Eve and Adam, and their decision to eat the poisonous fruit.

Death or No Death? — Adam and Eve After Eating the Poisoned Fruit

It is at that point that there came the separation between religion and science. Science says, “Look, Adam and Eve did not die. In fact, Adam and Eve lived long years and had children.”

Religion says, “Yes, Adam and Eve are dead. What you see there—walking around, working the land, having children, and bearing the same names as Adam and Eve—those people are not the magnificent creatures that God created. God’s magnificent creatures—the images of God—are gone. Adam and Eve need to be brought back to life. They need to be born again. They need to be resurrected.”

The Voice of Science: Man and woman need more education, better living conditions, better political leadership, more equality, better salaries. Then, we will all live happily and in peace.

The Voice of Religion: The man and woman that God created have died. The humans living today are not true people. They all need to die and be born again. They need to resurrect!

Like two mighty rivers, science and religion have followed their own courses, sometimes clashing with each other; sometimes contradicting each other; mostly ignoring each other. For the natural eyes of science, people are just fine as they are. They must learn and change, of course, and they need more equality and more social justice. But they are doing just fine.

For the faith-informed eyes of religion, every person needs to go through the process of dying and being born again as a “true Adam” or a “true Eve.” People are unhappy and miserable because they are actually dead. They need true life, rebirth, resurrection.

The Messiah—the Anointed One

Based on this scenario, religious people in the main theocentric religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) believe that they day will come when a “new Adam” will appear, a Messiah, the “anointed one,” the Chosen one. And this man will be the true, magnificent creature that God created long ago and who died after eating the poisoned fruit. This magnificent Messiah will “save” the people from death and will give them life, rebirth, resurrection, new hope, a new culture, a new society.

From this true man, a new woman will be created; and they will multiply children; and they will re-create paradise on earth. Humankind will leave the world of suffering and will go back to paradise.

Heilsgeschichte — Salvation History

For the religious eyes, then, history has been marked by events that point in a single direction: to produce the true man, the new Adam, the Übermensch promised by Nietzsche; after that, to produce the true woman, the new Eve. For religion, then, human history is salvation history, Heilsgeschichte.

What about celibacy? This is where we come to the simple explanation of celibacy: Religious people cannot marry because they do not have the qualifications to marry. Once they go through the entire Heilsgeschichte (salvation history), they will have the qualifications to marry and live happily every after. That is celibacy in the simplest forms.

We can understand the meaning and purpose of celibacy, then, if we look at it from the perspective of religion and the human fall. Those people who turn their eyes to God and begin to walk the path of rebirth and resurrection, such people have no qualifications to marry. They are not “true Adam” or “true Eve.” This explains why celibacy has been part of the religious life for such a long time.

Adam Resurrected: Judaism

With Judaism, God called forth a family (Abraham’s family) who grew to become a nation. The purpose of Judaism is to live as Adam and to prepare the way for the coming of the “New Adam.” So, in Judaism, they do not have celibacy. People enjoy weddings and dance at weddings, because they are making the preparation for the coming of the “New Adam.”

Jesus: The Second Adam

Christians believe that Jesus was the “Second Adam”—a magnificent creature, the Son of God, just as the first man (Adam) was. After his death, he was accepted as a “spiritual Messiah.” From this “Spiritual Messiah,” God created a “spiritual Eve”—namely, Christianity.

So, who is a Christian? A Christian is a “bride of Christ.” Therefore, Christians who want to live their religious life to the a high level must dedicate themselves to the “holy Groom,” Jesus. A Christian is someone who lives his or her life as a bride to Jesus.

In advanced Christian spirituality, this is exactly the teaching: the Christian is a “sponsa Christi,” a Bride of Christ. For example, Ephesians 5:23 compares the relationship between Christ and the Church as that between a husband and a wife—where Jesus is the husband, and the Christians are the wife.

The Christian Cross

The Christian bears the cross of loving an invisible groom.

The Christian bears the cross of loving an invisible groom.

Therefore, this is a cross that a Christian man or a Christian woman must bear every day. They cannot give 100% of their hearts to their spouses. A Christian man must love Jesus more than his wife; and a Christian woman must love Jesus more than her husband. This is the cross that Christians must bear.

And that is why, for those Christian men or women who wish to live a more perfect Christian life, they must abstain from marriage altogether. That way a Christian man does not divide his heart with his wife and Jesus, but instead, gives his entire heart to Jesus. Likewise, a Christian woman does not divide her heart with her husband and Jesus, but instead, gives her entire heart to Jesus. This is the meaning of celibacy in Christianity. But notice that not every branch of Christianity practices celibacy.

The Times Have Changed — The Second Vatican Council

I believe now the times have changed, and the times have come for people to marry in joy. No more celibacy, unless you choose to be celibate.

I was in Rome when the Second Vatican Council was doing its work. My personal hope at that time was that the Catholic Church was going to abolish the mandatory celibacy for priests—similar to what other branches of Christianity do. That did not happen, and it was one of the reasons why I decided the priesthood was not the right path for me, especially after I fell in love with an Italian woman while taking a language course in Ireland.

The results of the Catholic Church’s decision to do nothing about celibacy are there for anyone to see: the number of priests has decreased; seminarians give up, the number of nuns dwindles. Why? No joy, no fun, no hope.

Family: A Back-to-the-Body Perspective

Going back to Émile Durkheim again—if so many people and so many religious traditions believe that there was a human fall, then there has to be a reality behind that belief. This cannot be based on a lie or an error. The difficult question is how to decide what this reality is.

In the Back-to-the-Body Perspective, we can find an explanation for this question. The body is the model for anything that happens in society and in the physical universe. So, if something bad happened in society (that is, the human fall), then it must have happened inside the body first.

In the body, we have the three sovereign areas of stomach, brain, and heart; and the brain is divided in equal parts of Left side and right side.

If we use the symbology proposed by Prince Moses in Genesis, then Adam represents the stomach (the son of God, the creative power); Eve represents the heart (the spirit of God, the guiding, inspiring, and nurturing power); and the brain represents the two children of God (Cain and Abel—as the left side and right side of the brain).

From the Back-to-the-Body Perspective, then, the human fall means that the stomach (Adam) and the heart (Eve) have been slaves to the brain (Cain and Abel). In other words, the center stage of history is occupied by the children (Cain and Abel, the brain). Absent from history are the stomach (creative power of love) and the heart (the emotive, nurturing power).

Thus, a fallen person is someone in whom the stomach (creative power) and the heart (emotional power) have no voice at all, and everything is dominated by the interplay of the two sides of the brain (left side and right side). This is the world in which we live. It is a heartless world without a true will or direction. Without love and without heart, the world suffers under the power of a contradictory brain. The two sides of the brain struggle in politics and in wars. The earth is scorched by depredation; the people live in misery.

Man (stomach); woman (heart); children (brain).

Man (stomach); woman (heart); children (brain).

The hope of this world is that one day the true man and the true woman will appear to love and guide the children, who are involved in wars. True love, true education, true caring will appear again, and the world will have plenty, and joy will abound. This is the hope that comes from the story of the human fall.

For many modern teachers and believers, the time for the new world has arrived. Check out, for example, Bahá’u’lláh of the Bahá’í Faith, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, and Menaḥem Mendel Schneersohn of Judaism, who, in their own way, taught that our time is the time of the return of Adam and Eve to the earth.

A new man, then—or the Übermensch promised by Nietzsche—is someone in whom the stomach exists to love people, the earth, the plants, and the animals; the heart exists to displays the beauty of nurturing, educating, healing, and guiding. And the brain (left side and right side) exists to develop the science and the means whereby love and beauty can be expressed.

What is a true man, then? A true man is one who displays the virtues of the stomach: love and purpose–from morning to night, one single purpose: to love and to rejoice in that love.

What is a true woman? A true woman is one who displays the virtues of the heart: from morning to night, caring, nurturing, guiding, teaching, inspiring. Like a fountain of crystalline waters, she ever again renews herself in youthful beauty.

What is a true child? A true child is one who displays the virtues of the brain: the executive power. From morning to night, finding ways to implement the purpose of love and the caring of the heart, using both the right side (creative imagination) and the left side (critical judgment).

Is Celibacy Eternal?

No; celibacy is not eternal. Celibacy is only for those humans who are still on their way to full development. Celibacy is for the brain. The brain is celibate—must be celibate. Children are celibate. But as humans develop, they grow their ability to love (stomach) and their ability to feel (heart). And the time comes when a man (representing the stomach) and the woman (representing the heart) must marry in order to create a family in the image of the body. And they will have children, who will come as representatives of the brain—left side and right side. The children will be celibate in order to grow and mature; will marry; and the cycle will begin again. And there shall be peace.

In conclusion, then, I believe the Catholic Church should have voided the requirement for priestly celibacy long ago–back in the 1960s. They missed that chance; the time of the Second Vatican Council passed; horrors followed; more than a billion dollars have been spent on sexual abuse by priests; and Catholic theologians are calling for the immediate abolishment of celibacy–for example, Hans Küng (read article here: http://bit.ly/1Y2vzq3). I think this is a worthy challenge for our beloved Pope Francis.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
November 10, 2015

Photo Credits:

Nuns. Author: Staffan Scherz; Source: http://bit.ly/1NHyS2R; Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Priests. Author: ision Vocation Guide; Source: http://bit.ly/1Y2hVDh; Cteative Commons License: Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Cross. Author: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson. Source: http://bit.ly/1NHESsv. Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Family: Author: jacinta lluch valero; Source: http://bit.ly/1MmkBEg; Creative Commons License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

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