Sexual ethics for Wisdom teachers

Dear Cynthia,

Hello, I’ve learned from the Wisdom retreats I attended in NH. Today, I am reaching out with a concern I hope you can address. Part of my journey is learning what healthy leadership and what a healthy church looks like. I spent 20 years in a church that I later realized had many elements that did not represent healthy relationships. That makes me curious as to what safeguards organizations have in place to keep their groups healthy.

I read about Gurdjieff and it raised many concerns. “However, the issue of a sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and his or her student(s) raises a number of important ethical questions: Is a sexual relationship between a teacher and student harmful or beneficial from a spiritual perspective? Is there an imbalance of power between teacher and student that compromises the authentic expression of a loving relationship between two equal partners? Is it possible to separate an intimate sexual relationship from an objective impersonal transmission of spiritual knowledge? I am hoping you would be willing to address this in your writing.

Sincerely, Beth

Dear Beth

Thank you for raising this sensitive and timely issue.

I personally do not accept or countenance the claim that a sexual relationship between a spiritual teacher and student can ever be used “as an objective impersonal transmission of spiritual knowledge” for the benefit of the student. Intimate sexual love is by its very nature grounded in a complete equality between the partners, of which the sexual act serves as the sacrament. For me, all truly authentic lovemaking is fundamentally eucharistic—“This is my body, given for you.” Sex cannot be “used” for any other application than to express this complete self-giving. And so the inherent power imbalance and ulterior motive in the teacher/student “sexual transmission” is bogus from the start, and in my experience always involves pathology and exploitation. At least within a Western spiritual milieu.