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The penis, the phallus and the divine

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When the penis stands up, hard and solid, able to spurt semen, it becomes the phallus - the lingam - and assumes the creative form recorded in art and literature for generations. The erect penis, the phallus, is not only a source of bliss, it is a representative of the creative principle in mankind, and it has been worshipped as such in many religions. For example, on the wall of Egyptian temples you can see carvings of the Pharaohs with their erect penis sticking out before them, symbolizing the Pharaoh's supposed power of procreation. 

The cult of the phallus - that symbol of life and virility, of the sheer generative energy of man and mankind alike - first appeared about 8000 BC in the lands bordering what is now India. Indeed, this is the only region where the cult of the phallus (think of this as meaning the worship of the penis and its essentially male qualities) has survived practically unchanged to this day. 

The word lingam is synonymous with the penis in the Hindu and Tantric traditions. (Lingam means "sign" or "symbol", a derivation thought to come from the most obvious sign of manhood - the presence of a penis on a new born baby.) The lingam or phallus is the source of life, the form in which the absolute being or creator (God), from whom the world comes forth, can be evoked. However, worshipping the phallus is not really about penis worship per se - it's about worshipping the progenitor, the cosmic God behind the creative force and design of the Universe. 

Of course, the substance of the world is represented by the vagina, or Yoni, and it's the coming together of design and substance (the phallus and yoni, respectively) which gives  form to matter and life. The two parts exist only because of their relationship to each other.

While the function of the phallus is to create life, it also provides pleasure, and pleasure is an image of the divine state. That, so the ancient Indian literature has it, is why when the divine manifests itself in its procreative aspect, it produces extreme pleasure as well: such superior pleasure as can be produced by the union of penis and vagina is a means of touching or reaching the divine state. Physical intimacy results in paternity and sexual pleasure; the former attaches man to the things of the earth, but sexual pleasure is a way of contacting divine reality, and leads to detachment and spiritual enlightenment.

Naturally enough, sperm, or more accurately semen, becomes something to be treasured in this belief system. All beings are created from an offering of sperm thrown into the fire of desire, and there are many representations of this around the world. In Egypt, the sun-god made all creation by masturbating; In India, the river of semen that issues from the head of the lingam represents the sacred River Ganges, supplier of life to the people; and semen fills the cup of the moon worn by Shiva on his forehead. 

Ritual offerings of sperm were part of agrarian rites in various civilizations. In some religions, such as Hinduism, there were substitutions for sperm itself, such as rice grains and rainwater. Needless to say, the Earth, being a feminine principle, receives these male offerings gladly. And even today, in some ceremonies of tribal peoples in Africa, young men dig holes in the ground and offer their semen to Mother Earth. 

But the subtlety of ascribing such principles to the phallus and the yoni is that they need each other to manifest the divine. Only when the vaginal yoni enfolds its softness around the erect hardness of the phallic penis can God manifest and the universe appear. Equally, the transmission of the genes of ancestral heritage to a new being which will then contain all the archetypes bequeathed to it is the most important religious act of a man's life. Sexual intercourse is the process by which new beings are given life. The sexual union, therefore, represents a place between the immanent world of the divine and the material world of creation. 

The concept of God the father derives from the concept of man as the phallus bearer, he who pours semen into the waiting vagina and starts the process of the expression of life. 

The evidence of widespread worship of the phallus is all around us: from the Celtic standing stones of Europe, through more explicit statues formed into erect penises in ancient Greece and Rome, through Egyptian obelisks, via the raised phalluses decorated with a face that adorn temples and sacred sites of the Western World, to the explicit temple art of India, and in a hundred other forms, the worship of the penis testifies to the divine spirit in which masculinity has been held for centuries. The recognition of the divine aspect of male sexuality inherent in the phallus is essential to a healthy sexuality between men and women.

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Other pages on the penis in the human psyche

The penis and the phallus
Beauty of the penis
Masculinity
Penis, phallus and the male ego
A cultural history of the penis
Subincision
Black men and penis size
Evolution and the penis
How important is size?
Porn

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