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Osho: From sex to superconsciousness
on 19 December 2010
Osho is the same person as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. I don't think Bhagwan needs a closer introduction. He was a quite notorious cult leader about thirty years ago - in Oregon, of all places. In contrast to most other cult leaders, Bhagwan managed to salvage *some* of his reputation by exposing the murderous machinations of his closest aides, even inviting the proper authorities to investigate. Later, Bhagwan returned to his native India, where he changed his name to the incomprehensible Osho, probably because the old name was too tainted. "Osho" is also the name inscribed on his tombstone. (He died in 1990.)
Although I can't really relate to his philosophy, it's nevertheless a pity that Osho screwed up and became a cult leader. In some strange kind of way, I like the man - or at least his public image. Osho never called himself a guru or claimed to be divine, and he was often deliberately frivolous or provocative. Please look him up on Youtube, if you don't know what I'm talking about! Osho's message sounds like a curious blend of very low church Hinduism, Western self-help techniques, Nietzsche, libertarianism and hedonism. He wanted people to combine the traits of Zorba with those of the Buddha. Would the world really be a better place if we would all be Neo-Sannyasins? No idea. But perhaps it would be more fun! If only Osho hadn't screwed up in Oregon...
"Sex Matters" is a book containing talks by Osho on the subject of sex. No dates are given, but as far as I understand, the talks in part I were held in India, already before Osho moved to the United States. The talks in section III seems to be more recent, perhaps from the Oregon period? Osho became controversial in deeply conservative and patriarchal India because of his outspoken attitude towards sex, and his constant criticism of mainline Hinduism, especially the ascetic holy men. Indeed, most of his followers have always been Westerners.
However, if you are looking for some kind of steaming exegesis of the Kama Sutra, you will be disappointed. In fact, most of "Sex Matters" deals with Osho's views on the relationship between spirituality, sexuality and celibacy. Interesting, to be sure, but hardly sexy. Osho believes that sex has to be transcended, so humans can reach a state he calls superconsciousness. However, the only way to transcend sex is to go through sex. Thus, sex shouldn't be repudiated or repressed. Indeed, Osho believes that by repressing sex, society has become sick to the bones. Why are humans constantly obsessed and preoccupied with sex? According to Osho, it's because we long for timelessness, egolessness and bliss. In sex, this is temporarily reached in orgasm. However, in meditation, we can experience a more perfect kind of bliss. Therefore, the sexual orgasm must be transformed into meditation and superconsciousness. Osho claims to know a meditation technique by which the orgasm can be prolongued for several hours. After this, the individual will no longer be interested in sex. He will become truly celibate the rest of his life. The ascetic "holy men" of India are hypocrites. They may be technically celibate, but in reality they are constantly preoccupied with sexual thoughts and desires. Only by releasing the sexual energies, can these be transformed into something higher.
To a critical outsider, Osho's advice seems contradictory. On the one hand, he has no problems with divorce, premarital sex, nudity, homosexuality or bisexuality. He wants people to be life affirming instead of life denying, and often comes close to sounding like a hedonist. (This is why his talks became controversial in India.) On the other hand, he wants sex to be spiritualized, turned into "real love", and hence turned off, with people essentially becoming asexual. It's not clear how these two traits can be combined. How do you combine "Zorba" with "Buddha"? Perhaps Osho counts on some kind of catharsis effect? If people indulge in sex, they will eventually loose interest in it. Or so Osho believes. In the third part of the book, it turns out that Osho isn't particularly interested in giving concrete advice about sexual problems. Indeed, he believes that Westerners are too obsessed with having orgasms! Just relax, experiment and go with the flow, is the rather anticlimactic advice. But then, who knows? It may just be working... More murky is Osho's ultimate goal: a society of supermen, apparently an idiosyncratic version of Nietzsche. (Some have accused Osho of incipient fascism.)
"Sex Matters" is a relatively easy read. If the book feels difficult, it's probably because it takes some time to get accustomed to Osho's strange philosophy. As such, Osho's talks aren't superintellectual or overly theoretical. They are often lightened up by funny anecdotes or frivolous jokes. (Including a joke about the Pope and a gay man!) If the book is the best introduction to Osho's worldwiew, I don't know, since I haven't read all his books. Has anyone? Personally, however, I found "Sex Matters" to be an interesting gate into the strange land of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh...