On Sunday, March 16, 2008, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Last week the Democratic governor of New York State, Eliot Spitzer, got involved in a large sex scandal and a few days later he let go of his office. The sex scandal, I’m sure you all know, involved a prostitution and money laundering ring. That means that it most likely had strong links to organized crime. The name of the prostitution ring was The Emperors' Club, VIP (*1).
It was quite a scandal. It was a good one. It was tawdry. It was great. Governor Spitzer had been paying these very high priced prostitutes for quite some time. By some estimates, over the past year or so, he had paid $80,000 to this prostitution ring. It was actually through following the money that the FBI found out who Eliot Spitzer, or “Client-9”, was. It was these large money transactions that FBI agents were monitoring.
They caught him speaking on wiretap. It was an open and shut case. This scandal was further complicated because for one of the trysts he flew the prostitute down to Washington, DC where he was attending a meeting. When you transport someone across state lines for immoral purposes it becomes a federal crime. There are lots of potential problems going on here.
Sex scandals – of course we’ve had many of them. We’re used to them. The most famous one in recent history – actually it’s ten years old now – was when in 1998 Democratic President Bill Clinton was involved in a sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky who had been a White House intern. They had been having a sexual interaction that had lasted quite a long time and this included sexual acts going on right in the Oval Office.
President Clinton, at first, denied the sexual involvement, however later he did admit to it. There was an impeachment trial related to his false testimony at a Grand Jury hearing. The impeachment was a 21 day Senate trial. President Clinton was acquitted of all charges – found not guilty. However, the House of Representatives did put him under “Censure.” Eventually he did loose his license to practice law, first in the state of Arkansas and then, later, the U.S. Supreme Court took away his license to practice law everywhere. Also, he did have to pay a $90,000 fine. It wasn’t like he got off “scott free.” People will say that he got off “scott free” but he didn’t get off “scott free.”
It was quite tawdry as well. First there was his denial of it. He continued to deny it. First Lady, Hillary Clinton, also denied it. She said that it was, “... a vast right wing conspiracy” trying to get them. It wasn’t until they found the famous blue dress with the semen stain on it – that was the proverbial “smoking gun” in this case (laughter) – that President Clinton started to admit that there actually was an improper relationship. In August of 1998, President Bill Clinton officially admitted to an improper relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky who was 22 years old when the affair started.
Just so we remember that it is not only the Democrats that get involved with these, this past year the Republicans, too, had a sex scandal. Republican Senator Larry Craig, it was revealed on August 27, had been arrested for lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport men’s room on June 11, 2007. He later announced his intention to resign from the Senate. However, afterwards, he decided that he wasn’t going to resign and he still serves in the Senate today. He has stated that he is not going to run for reelection. I found it interesting that he is not going to resign. I like that. He decided to weather it through.
Can you imaging going into work every day, in the Senate, if this were you? Everyone knows this about you and – there you go. You go into work anyway and you do your job.
There have been lots of sex scandals all throughout history. These are three, recent, high profile ones that we all know of. What happens when these things occur? The media jumps on them and average people jump on them. Universally, there’s a condemnation of these scandals and the people involved. “How could they do this?” “How could they ruin there careers like that?” “Why would they do that?” Now, with Eliot Spitzer, after we found out that he was paying these hookers $4,000 to $5000 for a quick sexual tryst, we started to wonder, "Just what are these women doing (laughter) that is worth that kind of money?" That’s got to be some special something that they are doing. I don’t know what it could be. $4,500 for an hour – that’s a lot of money for an hour. That’s the “high priced spread”, so to speak. (laughter) There wasn’t just one hooker that he was involved with. There were many prostitutes he was with. The latest one that busted the case, the one that was flown down to Washington DC, has her picture has been all over the internet. She’s very attractive, another 22 year old – a slender, petite, but very voluptuous, beautiful woman. She’s probably sell her story for a lot of money. Probably a lot more money than Eliot Spitzer was paying her and more than she was making working for The Emperors’ Club.
I’ve talked about this universal condemnation and these questions of “Why?” and “How?” “What’s going on here?” However, I don’t think the truly important questions get asked when these things happen. The important questions are, “What’s wrong with our society?” “What’s wrong with our social structure that these things happen?” What is it about us and what is it with the way we think about sex that causes these things to spring up in our culture?
We want to see these things as outside of us. We think that these are things that these men with great privilege do because they have the access to it. We want to see it “out there.” A Course In Miracles always tells us that we like to see it out there because then it can be something that isn’t us. We can condemn it. We can know that it is a problem that exist apart from us. We can feel better about ourselves because we don’t have this problem.
However, I do think it’s something we all have and it is our problem. It’s a trial for our society. A Course In Miracles tells us, “Trials are but lessons which you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one and thus escape all pain which what you chose before has brought to you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother, choose again.’” (Tx.Or.Ed.31.87)
Since these things keep coming up in our culture, since these trials keep happening and keep being presented again, then – as the Course says – society is still making a faulty choice in how to view them. We haven’t made the correct choice. They will continue to happen until we choose to see them differently. I believe that they will continue to happen until we honestly choose to see sex and sexuality differently. These scandals are a symptom of the sexual dysfunction of our society. They are not a problem that exists for a few alpha-male men with high testosterone levels who have the privilege to do it. It’s something in our culture. It’s something in our society. It’s something in us all.
As such, the proper response to Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton and Larry Craig is gratitude. We should be very grateful for them, and for the pain and trouble that they have to take on in order to expose this. They are the ones who take on the role. On a spiritual level, on a psychic level, they have agreed to expose this about our culture and our society. I thought some of the responses were good. I saw what Hillary Clinton said. She was expressing a lot of sympathy for him, for his family and for the ordeal they were going to have to go through. Considering that this was Hillary Clinton, who had to go through a similar ordeal herself, it meant a lot. It was genuine when she expressed that. I appreciated that. I think that’s the cue that we all need to take. We have to express some sympathy and some empathy for these people now, for what they are going to have to go through and to all their friends, family and associates that will have to go through it as well.
A Course In Miracles says, “Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, nor hidden by deceit of any kind if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears.” (Wk.Or.Ed.333.1)
It is important for us to see this conflict and to see it exactly in the reality that it appears to have here in our world. However, we cannot pretend that is exists in someone else and in some other people. We now have to understand that this conflict is something that exists in all of our minds. It is certainly within the consciousness of our society. We have to see it within us, and within the society that we help to create, if we are ever going to have a breakthrough in any of these things.
I was talking to a young woman last night, Naomi. She is, yet another, 22 year old woman. She graduated from the University of California at Davis last year. She’s currently working as a sexual health educator for Planned Parenthood in Sacramento, California. It’s a very interesting job. She spends most of her work time going to different high schools and middle schools. She talks to 12, 13, 14 and 15 year old teenagers about sexual health issues. She’s been doing that now for many months. It was interesting to talk to her about this and to get her perspective on these things. She talked about what Planned Parenthood wants her to say and how she should respond to certain questions asked. She has to teach and explain all the different things. She has to teach and explain abstinence as well as the different birth control methods. “What is effective for birth control?” “What is effective for disease prevention?” It’s a broad range of items.
Naomi said something that I thought was very interesting. She said that when she does this job there is one thing that she has to understand. All the research has shown that young people are going to do, sexually, whatever they are going to do – regardless of whether somebody is talking to them about sex or not. They have done research. Somebody talking to you about sex at 12, 13 or 14 doesn’t make you any more likely to have sex and it doesn’t make you less likely to have sex. You will have the sex that you will choose to have. It’s true for young people and apparently it’s true for adults as well. Planned Parenthood’s perspective is if you are going to choose to have sex, at least have it with the information. That way you can make better choices for yourself. You can keep yourself healthier and, hopefully, not do things that will have vast implications on your life. Obviously, considering the sex and the scandals that we have in the world today, adults need an informed perspective just as much as the 12, 13 and 14 year olds need an informed perspective.
I’ve heard many, referring to the current governor Larry Spitzer scandal, say, “Just what was he thinking?” “Didn’t he realize those sums of money were going to come back to haunt him?” “Didn’t he realize that eventually one of these women was going to figure out that he is the Governor of New York State and blackmail him?” “Didn’t he realize the consequences of what he was doing?”
Maybe he did. Maybe the very fact he did realize the potential consequences, that he did realize the danger involved, is actually what made this illegal sex so appealing – what made it so tantalizing – what made it so exciting. That’s what I think we have to understand about our society. Possibly, it isn’t that they don’t realize it, it’s precisely because they do realize it. That’s what is the attraction.
Think about it. A lot of people’s first sexual experiences, when they are teenagers, are fraught with all kinds of: guilt, anxiety, danger. We get it wired that way. That wiring doesn’t just go away. Eventually that wiring gets very hooked into sex and excitement. There’s always been an element that seeks sex out that is: dangerous, anxiety producing, guilty. I don’t think sex has to be that way but we wire it that way. It gets wired that way when we are young. It gets wired that way when we are 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 years old.
I felt very good that Naomi, a 22 year old, was going into schools and talking to adolescents about sex. Possibly it was lessening some of that anxiety, some of that danger, some of that guilt, that these young people might have during their first sexual experiences. I would think that it would. Possibly it may allow them to have a more healed and less dysfunctional way of approaching sex. Hopefully we are manifesting a new generation that is not as sexually dysfunctional as the older generation has been.
A Course In Miracles says once we make these decisions about how we view things, these decisions stay with us. They don’t just dissipate because now we’re older, married and have a committed sexual partner. These decisions are still there and they are still having their effect. The Course says, “When you make a decision of purpose, then, you have made a decision about your future effort, a decision which will remain in effect unless you change the decision.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.78)
We make decisions about how things are, what the purpose of things is, and these decisions remain in effect – especially if they get reinforced. I think that’s what has happened to us as a culture and that’s why these sexual scandals keep cropping up.
A Course In Miracles also tells us, “Sometimes a sin can be repeated over and over with obviously distressing results but without the loss of its appeal.” (Tx.Or.Ed.19.27) That’s obviously what is going on in these scandals. I am not saying that sex is a sin, but the guilt, danger and excitement inherent in these scandal situations is the “sin” that makes them appealing. The anxiety, the sense that the activity is bad – that’s the problem. Unless we eliminate that “sin” – the guilt and anxiety associated with sex – unless we make sex a truly natural thing, a common natural activity people do, sex will always get these negatives wired into it and these problems will continue to exist in our society.
I think this is starting to change. I think this change was one of the appeals of the recent movie Juno. This movie was very popular and was nominated for Best Picture. It was about a teen age pregnancy. The girl in the film is 16. The movie isn’t saying that what happened to this girl is a good or a bad thing, but it certainly showed a different view of teen pregnancy. It put onto this experience of teen pregnancy a lot of humor and a lot of reality. You spend time with this young girl, her parents and her boy friend. He wasn’t really her “boyfriend” but just a young “boy friend” that she had sex with. These characters have to deal with all the different options that are confronting them. They have to deal with the option of abortion, the option of an adoption. The main character does this with “hootspa”, humor, dignity and reality. People watching this movie and getting its message heal our culture and heal our society.
I think the most we can do to heal our culture and heal our society is simply to continue to be in the conversation of these things. Don’t make these sexual issues a forbidden topic. That’s why I’ve always wanted to talk about them. I don’t want them to be forbidden topics. It think we should talk about these things with enlightenment, with a light shining on them, so that they don’t continue to be a sickness in our culture.
When you’re 16, the danger, the anxiety and the guilt of the sexual connection probably exists because you’re doing it in the family room, in the basement, and your parents are upstairs. Maybe you’re doing it in a car pulled off the side of the road and other cars are whizzing by. The police might catch you. When you get to be 48 and you’re a man of great privilege and wealth, then the danger is you’re doing it with a gorgeous 22 year old professional hooker while at a meeting in Washington, DC, and you flew this exceptionally hot young woman in from New York City. It’s all deliciously illegal. You find new ways to create the danger in the situation because we’ve wired exciting sex with danger.
Until we eliminate that, until we make sex a normal thing and treat it like Naomi, the 22 year old sexual health educator does, we will have these problems. When we realize that young people, and adults, are going to have all kinds of sex regardless of what we have to say about it – then we might be able to make sexual choices with wise information and insight so that better choices can be made. Until we understand the inherent and normal sexual nature of everyone, we’re going to be in these dysfunctional situations.
A lot of people believe A Course In Miracles is actually against sex or that sex, according to ACIM, is a somehow lower or baser form of egoic expression and if we were truly enlightened we wouldn’t be interested in sex or sexuality. I keep hearing this over and over again. It’s always been around in the Miracles scene. There are many quotations in ACIM that might lend themselves to that type of interpretation. There is a lot of exposure, in the Course, to the ego’s thinking. There’s a lot of shining a light on the way the ego usually thinks of the world and of the body. These ideas could be extrapolated to seem to be negative about sex. However there are other passages in the Course that seem to say different things and all passages can lend themselves to different interpretations.
In one place in A Course In Miracles it states, “The love of God for a little while must still be expressed through one body to another because the real vision is still so dim.” (Tx.Or.Ed.1.105) Here we have something about love being expressed from one body to another. One great way for love to be expressed is by making another body feel good while feeling good in your own body, while in the presence of this other, feeling good body. Some people say we shouldn’t equate sex with love and they get into all kinds of discussions about this. Still, passages like this lend themselves to an interpretation, for me, that we certainly can be involved with bodies and see all of our body involvement, one body to another, as loving.
In another place the Course says, “The Holy Spirit sees the body only as a means of communication and because communicating is sharing, it becomes communion.” (Tx.Or.Ed.6.87)
We’re talking about: bodies, sharing, communication and then communion. This seems rather sexual to me. It certainly seems like sex would lend itself to be in that arena. We should be able to think very positively about sex.
Now, with the electronic availability of the Urtext (*2), the original unedited transcription of A Course In Miracles, we see that there were a lot of passages about sex, especially in some of the earlier chapters, that were cut out of the subsequent versions of ACIM we’ve come to read. In the May 2007 issue of Miracles Monthly we published the article “The Sex That Was Cut Out of A Course In Miracles” (Vol.21,No.3/May’07) that had numerous quotations from the Course that said something about sex but that were: cut out, rewritten, or reedited in such a way so that the direct sexual reference of the passage was no longer in them. These caused quite a little stir and a lot of them do seem rather negative about sex. They do say things. One says that the only valid use of sex is for procreation. That’s in there.
Recently, a well know A Course In Miracles teacher published several articles carrying forth some of these ideas using these Urtext quotations as reference. This teacher talked about how sex isn’t the highest level we should be aiming for and talked about how procreation is really the only valid form of sex and sexuality. This is the only type of sex that is actually elevated to a high spiritual purpose. I have a lot of trouble with all of this appropriate and inappropriate sex teaching. I think it has vast implications and it’s very disturbing to me.
First, saying that sex is only for procreation is a type of “heterosexism” that excludes all homosexual people. Homosexuals are not having sex for the purpose of procreation. They can not even delude themselves into thinking that their sexual activity is about procreation – or possibly the practice for future procreation or however heterosexuals may think to justify it. Teaching procreation sexual validity marginalizes all homosexual people and tells them that they have a lesser, baser, or more in error form of sex and sexuality.
Second, it’s also a form of ageism because as we get older it is, again, harder to delude ourselves that we are actually doing this because we want to have children. We’re just doing it because we like it and it feels good. It’s a fun activity. Procreation sexual validity is a form of ageism. Only young, “breedable” people become the ones who can have this appropriately, valid sex.
Third, it’s a form of sexism because we males can still impregnate well into our senior years. We’re still fertile in our later years. Maybe we’re not quite as fertile as we were in our 30s and 40s, but men are still fertile in their 60s, 70s and even 80s! We males can still sire and father children so this procreation sexual validity interpretation gives males a privilege that females can’t have because once females go through menopause in their late 40s and early 50s, that’s it! They are not “breedable” anymore – which means, I guess, they should just stop having sex because, once again, they can’t delude themselves that this activity is about procreation. There’s sexism in this procreation sexual validity interpretation that I do not like.
Finally, I also think there’s a problem with using passages from the Urtext to justify something. The Urtext, currently, has not been published. It is not readily available. You can search it out and get a copy only as an internet download. It’s difficult to read in this form. Only a very small segment of the Miracles community is ever going to look at it in this form. I think using the Urtext, or any edition of A Course In Miracles that is not readily available to everybody, to justify a certain interpretation, is fraught with problems. It’s a kind of elitism. Such as, “I have access to the sacred teaching and you don’t.” I have a difficulty with this type of teaching. It doesn’t lend itself to enough feedback and criticism as any valid teaching should. I don’t think we should be using the Urtext in this way. However, there it is and some teachers do.
When I read the cut out, sex passages in the Urtext I don’t get the same interpretation that some other teachers have gotten. I see that it’s just like what A Course In Miracles always says. It points out the ego’s way of thinking of these worldly things and that egoic perspective seems like something that we shouldn’t be moving towards. However it’s all still vastly open to interpretation and I don’t see anything in the Urtext that says we shouldn’t be sexual. There is a passage in this cut out material that says we’re going to be sexual and since we are going to be sexual we should turn more of the decisions of when and with whom, over to the Holy Spirit or over to Jesus. This is exactly what ACIM always says we should do. It isn’t a different teaching at all. If you say ACIM is anti-sex because of what it says in the Urtext you need to understand that this is the same thing it says about everything in the world. Tacitly endorsing sex-negative ideas is a world negating kind of interpretation which I do not think lends itself to a healthy style of living.
Here’s one of the passages from the Urtext. “NO fantasies, sexual or otherwise, are true. Fantasies become totally unnecessary as the Wholly satisfying nature of reality becomes apparent. The sex impulse IS a miracle impulse when it is in proper focus. One individual sees in another the right partner for ‘procreating the stock’ (Wolff was not too far off here), and also for their joint establishment of a creative home. This does not involve fantasy at all. If I am asked to participate in the decision, the decision will be a Right one, too.” Once again, it’s open to different interpretations. However, for me, the main message is we are going to be sexual so let us ask Holy Spirit to help us decide with whom, and when. That’s all. It’s just like everything else in the physical world. It isn’t sex negating. It’s the common idea that the world is actually a neutral place and that every decision we need to make about any of these things we should bring to the Holy Spirit.
I believe we will get highly individualized answers to these questions. What one person gets is great for that person and it will be an entirely different answer than what another person will get. Generalizations about sex, physical activity, and what A Course In Miracles is teaching shouldn’t be made and as Naomi, the 22 year old sexual health educator, knows – people are going to do what people are going to do. I presume governor Eliot Spitzer’s 22 year old prostitute knew that as well. None of what we say about sexual “validity” is going to effect that one little bit. However, what we do say and teach – and the philosophies that we have – will effect the energy in which these inevitable sexual activities happen. If we continue to hold onto sex-negative ideas that make sex: guilty, wrong, dangerous, and sinful we will keep perpetuating the sexual dysfunction of our society.
This is a trial that I think our society has to learn. It’s a trial that the A Course In Miracles community has to learn. If we embrace interpretations of the Course that lead us to think in this way about: sex, the body, or the world it’s going to create a problem. Do we want perpetual sex scandals or do we want miracles? We do need to learn these lessons. Being sex-negative is not a healthy way to mir in this world. There are other ways to interpret ACIM. Are we going to interpret the Course in a way that perpetuates a problem, or are we going to interpret the Course in a way that is a healing of the problem? Holy Spirit must be our guide in this. I believe if we follow that guide we will have a much more healed and sexually functional society.
That’s it for today. Thank you. (applause)
(*1) Text from The Emperors’ Club web site. The site has since been removed from the internet.
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c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
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This article appeared in the February 2008 (Vol. 21 No. 12) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.