Having an orgasm leads to an altered state of consciousness. This will probably not come as much as a surprise if you have had sex or masturbated to the point of ejaculation. But, just so you know, your suspicions have been confirmed by new scientific research, according to an article by Kayt Sukel in the New Scientist. What is interesting is what neuroscience tells us about the parts of the brain that are involved in sex and orgasms.
The neuroscientific research shows that it is the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain for “aspects of consciousness such as self-evaluation and considering something from another person’s perspective” that is active at the time of orgasm following self-stimulation masturbation. However, it also showed that a specific part of the prefrontal cortex, the left orbitofrontal cortex, appeared to switch off when orgasm followed partner-stimulated masturbation.
The pre-frontal cortex happens to be the part of the brain responsible for self-control, organisation of thoughts, creation of narrative and ultimately finding a reason or purpose for things. The researchers, Barry Komisaruk (Rutgers University, US) and Janniko Georgiadis (University of Groningen, The Netherlands) surmised that self-stimulation required greater mental effort to create a fantasy or image to take the place of a partner, whose presence would make it easier to let go. If someone else is stimulating us, there’s not that much we need to do. So a part of the prefrontal cortex turns off – the altered state of consciousness. This is perhaps why the ‘Yes, Yes, Oh God, Yes’ moment is more pronounced during sex. But I think that that expression is more than a figure of speech in the throes of passion.
But if the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that creates purpose and organisation, then atheists will say that God is simply notion of the prefrontal cortex. I don’t think this disproves the existence of God. On the contrary, if there is an external God and he does communicate with us directly, He is most likely to communicate with us through the prefrontal cortex. That is how he would relate to us.
I can’t speak for other faiths out of ignorance, but Christianity is meant to be about how God wants to have a relationship with us. In the Bible, this relationship is often described metaphorically as the marriage between a bride and bridegroom. Perhaps this isn’t as metaphorical as we might think. Perhaps the orgasm we get from sex is meant to be God’s way of giving us a temporary experience of what it’s like to be in an (eternal) relationship with Him in Heaven. He’s telling us, ‘If you like sex and orgasm, then you are going to love being with me’.
Obviously the above research is not conclusive but Komisaruk and Georgiadis suggested that there are many valid reasons why we don’t have orgasms during sex but ultimately it’s down to not letting go and giving up control to let someone else pleasure and satisfy us. In the same way, the only way that we can experience this erotic relationship with God is if we completely submit to Him and let Him pleasure and satisfy us. Perhaps in heaven, our left orbitofrontal cortex will be completely turned off and we will be in constant state of sexual orgasm. (Perhaps the experience of the Fall described in Genesis, when we are supposed to have turned our backs on God, is when the left orbitofrontal cortex became switched on. Maybe that’s why the whole of humanity became infected with ‘sin’; there was actually a physiological change in our thinking.) Orgasm following from masturbation, on the other hand, does point to this relationship but is only a shadow because we are still in control.
Apparently, it’s also possible for women and children to have orgasms while being raped or abused. Now, rape and sexual abuse is a horrible act so this understandably creates confusion. I’m not expert so this paragraph should be taken with a pinch of salt. But perhaps the victim, either consciously or subconsciously, gets to the point where they realise that the abuser is going to do it to them whether they resist or not. So they just wait for it be over, essentially giving up.
This blog post does raise an interesting issue about certain controversial narratives about Jesus, such as in The Last Temptation of Christ or the Da Vinci Code. Though this is not in the Bible, Mary Magdalene has historically been portrayed the physical lover of Christ. Christians have traditionally rejected this but in light of the above research I wonder whether, actually, the Mary Magdalene-as-lover narrative is just another way of talking about being in relationship with God. Mary gave herself, submitted herself, completely to Christ (God) and allowed him to satisfy her. (I am not suggesting that she actually did have sex with him. But, when one thinks of the Hegelian dialectic between contradictory ideas, perhaps that’s what we have here.) Theresa of Avila has described a perfect union with God as ‘devotion of ecstasy’.
Indeed, the whole Christian faith is based on a sexual act – the Holy Spirit of God coming into Jesus’ mother Mary. Mary entered that altered state of consciousness, she went to Heaven and back. In John’s gospel, the writer always describes himself the ‘disciple that Jesus loved’. Luke’s gospel and his Acts of the Apostles is written in the form of a letter from the writer to Theophilius, which is Greek for ‘lover of God’. There’s even a whole book in the Bible, The Song of Songs, which is erotic love song between newlyweds and is also taken to be an allegory for the divine relationship between us and God.
Right, I’m off to my room to pray…