'It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party's control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war fever and leader worship. The way she put it was:
"When you make love you're using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don't give a damn for anything. They can't bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?"'
George Orwell, 1984
I spent all of yesterday evening on my couch reading 1984. I know what you're thinking: Who spends Christmas Eve reading George Orwell? Well, apparently I do: Having disconnected my home internet account in preparation for my move to Idaho, and having no family in this country (and thus no family obligations to attend to during the holidays), I found myself home alone and effectively disconnected from the rest of the world yesterday evening (the significant other had gone to Florida to visit her dad). So what better thing to do than to curl up on the couch and read some mind-blowing scary shit like 1984?
Well, it wasn't scary, but it definitely was disturbing and thought-provoking. As I read, I couldn't help forming connections between the novel and things I experience in my everyday life, and the above passage was one of those that definitely jumped out at me in this regard. In the novel, the Party champions chastity as one of the virtues to be cultivated by the citizens of the totalitarian state; the Party Line is that the sole purpose of sex is to beget children for the service of the Party (which involves, among other things, telling on and denouncing their parents). This being the case, sex is not something that should be done for pleasure; sexual intercourse "was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema." The Party also recognizes that sex and making love uses up energy; energy which could be channeled into more "constructive" things like marching, waving flags, and other Party-sanctioned political activities. Which is another good reason to promote chastity and discourage gratuitous sex, from the Party's point of view.
As I was reading and thinking about these things, the cynical and subversive part of my mind couldn't help forming a connection here with our yoga practice. As you know, Brahmacharya is one of the yamas or ethical observances of yoga. The yoga "Party Line", if you will, is that if you conserve your sexual energy and not have too much sex, you will have more energy for your practice and the other great things in life, like fulfilling your householder duties and eventually becoming a self-realized being. So if we look at things in this rather cynical way, doesn't our yoga practice function to control and re-channel our sexual energies for a larger goal, just like the Party in Orwell's world tries to control and re-channel the sexual energies of its citizens in order to fulfill some larger political goal? Is yoga then a sort of self-imposed Totalitarianism of the soul?
Wait a minute, not so fast! You may be thinking. Surely yoga practice is the furthest thing from totalitarianism! If nothing else, chastity is imposed on you from the outside in Orwell's totalitarian state, whereas brahmacharya is self-imposed.
Or so you say. But what's the real difference between "self-imposed" and "imposed from the outside"? They are both forms of imposition. I'm not saying that there is definitely no difference between the two forms of imposition, or that there definitely is a difference somewhere. To be honest, I don't know the answer, one way or the other. I'm just thinking aloud, as always. But here's something else to think about: Remember all those gurus who have fallen from their states of grace since the beginning of the history of yoga? If you need a little memory jog, the latest two such cases involve somebody whose first name rhymes with "bathtub", and somebody whose name can be rendered in Spanish as "Juan Amigos". Could it be, could it just be that perhaps these gurus fell from their states of grace because of some failure of whatever systems of brahmacharyic self-imposition that they have imposed on themselves? Could it be that perhaps they had had enough of a life which consists of sex gone sour, from their point of view, so they decided to take things into their own hands and make the sour sweet again (which, of course, resulted in things becoming even more sour than they ever were to begin with...)?
Well, as I said, I have no answers here, only a few not-so-well-thought-out questions. But maybe, if you would like to burn off a few calories from your holiday indulgences by exercising a few brain cells, you might like to ponder this matter a little, and maybe leave a comment or two here. I'll love to hear what you have to say.