Cover image for The red thread of passion : spirituality and the paradox of sex
The red thread of passion : spirituality and the paradox of sex
Gaĭ, David Iosifovich.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass. : Shambhala, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 260 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
BL65.S4 G88 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Is sex an enemy that must be subdued before spiritual practice can happen, or is it a powerful creative force and a vehicle of enlightenment? There may be no completely satisfying answer--though the question has engendered discussion for centuries. David Guy's contribution takes the form of a personal exploration of the place of sex in his own life and meditation practice, as well as in the lives and work of figures he has come to regard as pioneers on the boundaries of sex and spirituality: Walt Whitman, D. H. Lawrence, Alan Watts, and the erotic writer Marco Vassi among them. It also includes accounts of his pilgrimages to contemporary theorists, activists, and sex workers.

From poets to prostitutes, everyone has something to say, even though the reconciliation of sex and spirituality may always remain something of a paradox--as expressed in the Zen koan from which the title is taken: "Why is it that the most clear-eyed monk cannot sever the red thread of passion between his legs?" David Guy's answer is this honest and compelling exploration of the nature of desire.

Author Notes

David Guy teaches writing in the Hart Leadership Program and the Masters of Public Policy Program at Duke University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Autobiography of My Body and The Red Thread of Passion . His book reviews appear regularly in the Washington Post , the New York Times , and other papers, and he is a contributing editor to Tricycle: The Buddhist Review . He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

What do Walt Whitman and Annie Sprinkle have in common, or D. H. Lawrence and a porn queen? Just about everything, Guy argues. Most especially, they share experiential knowledge that sex is one of the most profoundly spiritual human experiences. In an engagingly confessional voice, Guy describes his lifelong quest to understand the place of sexual passion in our spiritual lives. In less skillful hands, some passages of his report would be just sordid accounts of masturbation and massage parlors. But his self-revelation redeemingly serves as a bridge to the more extreme experiences he finds in literature and in life. His chapter on Whitman is particularly excellent, for he eliminates the distinction between the poet's polymorphous sexuality and his profound spiritual nature. Similarly, when interviewing gay activist and body worker Joseph Kramer, Guy captures the interconnections between social activism, ecstasy, and meditation that might have eluded less complex writers. This is a genuinely lusty book and a genuinely spiritual one, too. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Blending memoir with literary and journalistic profiles, Guy (The Autobiography of My Body) explores how a range of liberated people have understood the connection between sexuality and spirituality. According to Guy, sex, misused and misunderstood, can be little more than an addictive and ultimately disappointing escape from anxiety. Yet, through interviews and examples from literature, Guy affirms that sexual energy is sacred and that the pursuit of sexual understanding and liberation is an inextricable part of spiritual realization. Offering brief biographies of Walt Whitman and D.H. Lawrence, Guy points up the intriguing contrast between their expansive views and the often tortured unfulfillment of their sex lives. Biographies of Zen student Alan Watts and writer Marco Vassi follow. Guy devotes the second half of the book to profiles of contemporary sexual healers, including the writer Carol Queen, a former stripper and lesbian activist who now lives with a man; Judith Anderson, a former porn star; and the Jesuit-trained Joseph Kramer, bright, ebullient and gay, who has synthesized Tantric, Taoist and Western theories about sexual energy into the Body Electric School of Erotic Massage. He also interviews Collin Brown and Selah Martha, the couple who now runs the tribal, freely sensual Body Electric workshops originated by Kramer. The book as a whole is phallocentric, but Guy is persuasive in demonstrating how important sex can be, for all, when we stop trying "to make personal and private the primal energy of the universe." (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved