Art of Karezza
© 2014 John F. Rychlicki III Leilah Publications
All rights reserved.

220px-Alice_StockhamKarezza (pronounced kar-ET’-za), is a name coined (Italian for ‘caress’) by Alice Bunker Stockham in the 19th century.  Karezza refers to non-religious spiritual sexual practices that draw upon tantric techniques of body control yet exclude tantric cultural or iconographic symbolism.  Stockham was an Ob-Gyn from Chicago, and the fifth woman to be made a doctor in the United States.  She travelled to northern India to learn the ‘secrets’ of Tantra, in essence, control of the orgasm response.  She had no interest in Eastern religions and she felt that such addenda to the methods were not essential.  Her view of spirituality was Quaker-Christian, and she fitted sacred sexuality into a Christian paradigm with no difficulty.

A well-travelled and well-read person who counted among her friends Leo Tolstoy and Havelock Ellis, Stockham also visited Sweden and from her trips to schools, there she brought back the idea of teaching children domestic crafts, thus single-handedly establishing the first shop and home economics classes in the United States.

Stockham was a reformer in the true Victorian sense of the word.  She lectured against the use of corsets by women, made public endorsements of the healthiness of masturbation for both men and women, “If God did not want you to experience these beautiful feelings, he would not have given you the ability to experience them or the desire to produce them,” and advocated complete abstinence from alcohol and tobacco.  She promoted Karezza as a means to achieve:

1) birth control, she was against abortion but she wanted women to be able to control pregnancies;

2) social and political equality for women, she felt that Karezza men “would never rape their wives and would actually treat them decently”;

3) marital pleasure and hence marital fidelity, she advocated Karezza as a cure for “failing marriages.”

To the libertine, it seems that Alice Bunker Stockham was a prudish woman who received no sensual pleasure from the esoteric sexual practices she studied.  On the contrary.  Her book Karezza is filled with sensually erotic descriptions of the mutual satisfaction to be had in “conjugal embrace.”  Stockham’s book Tokology, a layperson’s text on gynecology and midwifery, contains references to “increasing marital pleasure through the practice of male continence.”  Tokology is the Greek word for obstetrics.

Stockham was very concerned with the economic plight of divorced women with children and prostitutes who wanted out of street life.  She felt that these women had no marketable skills and would be unable to support themselves, so she had copies of Tokology privately printed and gave them to “unfortunate women” to sell door-to-door in Chicago.  Each copy came with a bound-in certificate signed by Stockham and entitling the bearer to a free gynecological exam.  The following is a quote from the tenth edition of Alice Bunker Stockham’s book Tokology, published in 1884:

Many of the means used to prevent conception are injurious, and often lay the foundation for a train of physical ailments.  Probably no one means is more serious in its consequences than the semen being discharged external to the vagina.  The act is incomplete and unnatural…

Some of the appliances sold for the purpose [of contraception] are a sure preventive by mechanical interference.  If the material is pliable, the only positive injury is from preventing the complete interchange of magnetism…  

Many married people also adopt the method adopted by the Oneida Community with complete satisfaction.  In this, the sexual relation is entered upon but not carried to completion.  Some call it sedular absorption.  No discharge is allowed.  People practicing this method claim the highest possible enjoyment, no loss of vitality and perfect control of the fecundating power.  Those interested in this subject are referred to a pamphlet by Rev. Mr. Noyes; John Humphrey Noyes of the Oneida Community.”

From these brief allusions, readers can divulge that Stockham subscribed to the interchange of magnetism theory popular among 19th century sexual-spiritual teachers.  This theory, or its interchange of electrical currents counterpart, of which Pascal Beverly Randolph advocated, underlies 19th century neo-Tantra in the Western Mystery School.  Stockham’s interest in birth control was often covert, as disseminating information on contraceptives was illegal, and could not overcome her fear that a mechanical sperm barrier would prevent “the complete interchange of magnetism.”  Her statement that external ejaculation was “injurious” sprang in part from the Biblical injunction against Onanism, yet seems a failure of magnetic interchange.

Stockham also advocate the Oneida method, then also known as Male Continence, in which men refrained from ejaculation but women were encouraged to have contractive orgasms at will.  Stockham’s Tokology predates her book Karezza by several years and it was only in later writings that she went completely into descriptions of sexual techniques familiar to Tantrikas, then promulgating the need for women to learn to control orgasm responses the same way the men of Oneida did.  Ultimately, Stockham rejected the Male Continence techniques of Noyes in favour of gender parity in orgasm control.

The antiquated writings of Alice Bunker Stockham still have relevance in contemporary ritual erotica.  Stockham’s gender-parity version of Tantra yoga, despite its anti-orgasmic context and anti-hedonistic bent, serves as an important counterpoint to male centered aspects of traditional tantric sexual practices.  Such practices are quite common in “occult” societies comically espousing “sex magic,” where in reality; the woman is just a receptacle of the male sperm, and not an equal partner in erotic operations.

So-called “occult,” and even some ‘Western’ Tantra teachers, emphasize the conservation and self-re-absorption of male bindu {seed, meaning semen, prostatic fluid} as an important method of Tantra yoga that will lead the disciple to liberation from future rebirths, or samsara.  There is no place in this schema for the female except as a handmaiden to the male aspirant’s spiritual attainments, or more bluntly, as a sperm container.

In contrast to various Western Mystery Schools, the methods advocated by Alice Bunker Stockham stand out.  She was the first to challenge the idea of re-absorption of bindu as the basis for spiritual liberation.  She taught instead that both sexes felt a kind of lassitude after orgasm, which impaired their spiritual discernment.  She concluded both sexes would benefit from the increased vigor resultant from orgasm retention.  As a suffragist and medical doctor, she also promulgated Karezza as a method of birth control, as all mechanical-barrier forms of birth control were against U.S. law during her lifetime.

Writing in the 1880s, when publishing any material about human sexuality was legally risky, Dr. Stockham as a teacher who advised against female orgasm, believing this to be a gesture of parity with the retention of male orgasm she had been taught in India.  Her influence as such continues in contemporary ritual erotica, for all modern neo-tantric teachers, under direct historical influence of suffragist Tantra students such as Stockham or her student Lloyd; consider the issue of female orgasm relevant in a spiritual context.

Since she was both a gynecologist and a suffragist, Dr. Stockham approached a truly scientific basis for understanding the spiritual benefits she believed were attendant upon orgasm retention, an effect that arises in the neurological hard wiring shared by both men and women upon repeated sexual arousal and avoidance of orgasm.  She was the first Tantra-trained teacher in the West to drop the Hindu emphasis on the merely physical issue of semen-retention that leaves the majority of traditional Tantra yoga teachers preaching techniques for liberation from future rebirths, or samsara.  Karezza method was the first form of spiritual sexuality that explicitly gave equality to women as aspirants.

The physical techniques of Karezza, propounded by Dr. Alice Stockham and others in her circle, teach control of the orgasm and retention of seminal fluids for the purposes of physical pleasure, partnership bonding, mental health, and spiritual wellness.  Karezza techniques apply equally to both partners during sex, whether they are a man and a woman, two men, or two women.

Stockham’s contributions to the field of sacred sex stand out due to the historical context and public perceptions of sexuality.  During the late 1800s, Orthodox Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist Tantra practice emphasized male orgasm control only, for under the Hindu and Buddhist paradigms, the major point of sacred sex was to teach men to raise their kundalini energy to a fever pitch by sperm retention, sending it shooting up their spinal cords into their brains, thus achieving blissful union with the ‘Goddess.’  Women simply endorsed sexual-spiritual experience and could not partake of it.

Dr. Stockham was not the first or the only Westerner to advocate a form of sacred sex excluding religious iconography.  Other 19th century variants of Tantra include; John Humphrey Noyes’ Male Continence, the Anseiratic Mysteries of Paschal Beverly Randolph; Magnetation, a name proposed by Stockham’s student John William Lloyd; A. E. Newton’s The Better Way, and George N. Miller’s fictionalized account of Stockham’s method, promulgated in a novel under the title Zuggasent’s Discovery.

One metaphor Stockham used to describe her techniques was that of a fountain that fills a basin slowly, drop by drop.  The build-up of sexual desire, she believed, continued daily, day after day, filling the basin until it overflowed naturally.  If the basin was drained dry through continual orgasmic sex acts before it filled naturally, she believed that the drained person would be in a state of magnetic depletion during that time.  Control became necessary for neurological health and magnetic interchange.

Dr.  Stockham argued that the traditional Hindu technique of draining the woman’s basin of sexual desire through allowing her to have an orgasm, while leaving the man’s basin full through teaching him tantric methods of self-restraint, produced an inequality that undermines harmonious relationships.  The man would become a sort of psychic leech who continually kept the woman drained off while basking in the spiritual luxury of his own overflowing basin of sexual magnetism.  Stockham’s prodigal solution to this problem was to instruct couples to engage in sex whenever they wanted, as often as they wanted, fewer than three conditions:

1) Each sex act should be preceded by some form of spiritual dedication, similar to the traditional Hindu puja ceremony in intent, yet adapted to American cultural needs.

2) If a couple did not want more children, they should refrain from sex during the woman’s fertile time.

3) Orgasm must be under volitional control.

Karezza more improvisatory than Tantra yoga, although the desired concept is to make love sensually and rhythmically, relaxing rather than “suppress” orgasm, conscious of your own, and your partner’s state of arousal, especially focused on breathing.  In Karezza, there are not fixed gender specific roles.  Experiences are transient, excluding social and religious dogma.  Essentially, we can summarize Karezza as slow, sensual rhythmic sex, culminating in a holy love.

Dr. Stockham’s traditional Karezza warns against coming too close to orgasm, preferring to ride slowly with the sex-energy.  This is more a meditative approach than an ecstatic mode.  Stockham’s image is of a quiet pool just before a waterfall.  She recommends wading around only in this pool, avoiding the waterfall, which is orgasm.  Other Karezza techniques propounded by John William Lloyd and Pascal Beverly Randolph involve hanging out at the edge of the waterfall, moving extremely close to orgasm and then easing back.

When Karezza is practiced regularly, anxieties about orgasm, both preventing it and achieving it, and sexual performance disappear.  When orgasm is not an end to the means of sex, it becomes more accessible to both partners, should they wish it.  Men may be concerned that prolonged sex without orgasm will lead to testicular disease.  Karezza should not cause this theoretically; any initial discomfort disappears after Karezza is practiced correctly at length.  Individuals must determine their own physiological condition.

Karezza and natural birth control represent a holistic approach to our sexuality.  Take note, Karezza was first promulgated as a form of birth control, and Stockham was at one point arrested on that charge.  My research indicates that Karezza is not a reliable form of birth control because pre-ejaculatory fluids can escape and cause pregnancy; it does work rarely in combination with ovulation detection through observation of basal temperature and or mucus.  In the 1950s, Dr. John C. Lilly did some neurological studies relating to Karezza and sex.  His published notes reveal that he found four points in the brain that control the sexual response.

According to Lilly, the first neural point in the series regulated arousal.  The second point regulated muscular contraction.  The third point regulated the orgasm itself.  The fourth point he called the master switch, for when stimulated, it entrained the three previously mentioned centers, causing orgasm and ejaculation.  Tantric and Karezza techniques are akin to the practice of biofeedback training.  Spirituality is innate in the human genome.  Karezza reconciles spirituality with technique as prescribed by Dr. Stockham and later teachers.

Until the information age, it was possible to read many volumes on the subject of Tantra Yoga and Karezza without realizing that sexual energy was its central motif.  Thousands of years during which this complex philosophy, religion, and science of sexual union has evolved, its central source often remained hidden.  A number of spiritual teachers will show anyone with the time and money the actual practice of spiritual sexual union.  Still, the essence of what they impart is shrouded in the terms of the teacher’s particular religion, and subject to their immature control.  New Age revelations of fabricated ancient secrets of Tantra still leave the seven veils of faith and karma unbroken.

Paschal Beverly Randolph is an enigmatic and fascinating figure.  A free African-American born in the state of Virginia in 1825, he was an orator for the Abolitionist cause before the Civil War.  He was also a well-known spiritualist and trance-medium, and a world-traveler in the best Victorian fashion, who visited England, France, Turkey, Egypt, and Syria in search of esoteric wisdom.  His investigations into Rosicrucianism led him to the then highly controversial field of sex-magic, and along the way, he also wrote a definitive treatise of the use of hashish as an aid to trance possession (1860), and an equally important book on clairvoyant scrying with magic mirrors (1860).

karezzaAs a medical doctor and occultist, Randolph attempted to transcend the coercive racial stereotyping of 19th century America, yet he felt continually checked in his ambitions.  In 1875, he succumbed to what seems to have been a long-standing case of depression and ended his life by suicide at the relatively young age of 50, leaving behind a wife and infant son.  Questions remain concerning the long-standing effects of the very techniques Randolph practiced.  Such are the constant dangers of the misuse of ritual erotica.  Randolph is the pioneer who paved the way for ritual eroticism.

Randolph’s best-known book is the 1874 volume Eulis!:  The History of Love: It’s Wondrous Magic, Chemistry, Rules, Laws, Modes, Moods    and Rationale; Being the Third Revelation of Soul and Sex, also, Reply to ‘Why Is Man Immortal?’ the Solution to the Darwin Problem, an Entirely New Theory.  This treatise, with its mention of Qabalah and various ceremonial magic practices is certainly the product of someone who had studied comparative philosophy and religion, and in its statement that the author is the Grand Master of the Order it seems to promulgate a formal, cryptic, system of organized spiritual training.

From 1857 through 1860, Randolph was the head of the Third Temple of the Rosi Croix, which he had founded in San Francisco, California.  This Rosicrucian group fell into disrepair in the Civil War era, but Randolph reformed it in Nashville, Tennessee in 1874 as The Brotherhood of Eulis, to work sex-magic.  Shortly thereafter, in San Francisco again, the order was once more re-established, thereafter known as The Triplicate Order Rosicruciæ, Pythianæ, and Eulis; with Randolph assuming the lofty and egocentric title, the “Supreme Hierarch, Grand Templar, Knight, Prior, and Hierarch of the Triple Order.”

Randolph’s association with hermetic and Rosicrucian orders is noteworthy in light of the fact that contemporary occultists tend to identify African-American practitioners exclusively with folk-magic and to discount the contributions people of colour have made to the development of occultism and ritual erotica.  In fact, although he was a black man from the South, Randolph rarely mentioned African American hoodoo folk magic.

I see the value of Eulis! and Randolph’s shorter works, The Mysteries of Eulis (1874) and The Anseiratic Mystery (1873) in their unique and direct passages about his own version of the ritual sex practices of the Nusa’iri tribe of Syria, in which, according to Randolph, the exchange of electrical-magnetic energy takes place in ‘the seven magnetic points of the human frame” and “the pellucid aroma of divinity” suffuses the sex act.

Randolph describes “the marital office and function,” or sexual intercourse) as “material, spiritual and mystic,” he boastfully states “my doctrine…alone declares and establishes the fact that the marital function is unquestionably the highest, holiest, most important, and most wretchedly abused of all that pertains to the human being.”  The vanity of this aside, it is noteworthy that among the “abuses” of the marital function that Randolph lists are rape and “the murderous habit of incompletion of the conjugal rite,” or coitus reservatus.

Frater Randolph celebrates sexual union as a metaphysical and holy ritual, only when it produces full and complete orgasms for both partners.  That places him in conflict with the theories of traditional Hindu Tantrikas, who hold that male orgasm expends rather than enhances male spiritual energy.  Randolph’s theory also places him in partial conflict with his contemporary, Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham, who believed that maintaining states of arousal just beneath the peak of ejaculatory orgasm spiritually benefits both men and women.

P.B. Randolph’s emphasis on holy orgasms over holy sexuality is most clearly set forth in a portion of Eulis!  where he postulates an elaborate, multi-tiered and multi-dimensional cosmos extending “to realms beyond the starry spaces.”  Now concerning the moment of orgasm, when we are, he says, in metaphysical contact with powerful spiritual entities in these dimensions, he writes:

It follows that as are the people at that moment, orgasm so will be that which enters into them from the regions above, beneath, and roundabout; wherefore, whatsoever male or female shall truly will for, hopefully pray for, and earnestly yearn for, when love, pure and holy, is in the nuptive ascendant, in form, passional, affectional, divine and volitional, that prayer will be granted, and the boon be given, But the prayer must precede the moment of orgasm.

Randolph rejected coitus reservatus, while Stockham promoted it yet both agree on one basic tenet: because a controlled orgasm itself is holy, a sincere prayer given at the “nuptive moment” will be granted, by the Christian God in Stockham’s view, and by unknown higher spiritual hierarchy in Randolph’s.  This concept of the orgasm-prayer is rarely found among Hindu Tantrikas or Hindu Tantras.  Ritual erotic prayer is magical and religious, and I believe Randolph a “sex mystic” along the lines of Alice Bunker Stockham, and a Hindu Tantrika as well as a “sex magician” who used sexuality as an appendage to control of the phenomenal world.

Randolph’s writing clearly influenced Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy.  Sex magicians, and I use this term loosely in lieu of these men, Theodor Reuss and Aleister Crowley were influenced by Randolph’s Triplicate Order (and its subsequent spin-offs after Randolph’s death, the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Light) when they reorganized the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a group founded by Reuss and modified by Crowley.  Consequently, Crowley’s famous catch phrase, “Love is the Law, Love under Will” derives directly from Randolph’s aphorism, “Will reigns Omnipotent; Love lieth at the Foundation.”  (Mysteries of Eulis, 1874).

The difference between Randolph’s sex magic, and that of Reuss and Crowley on the other, is that Brother Randolph was working from a standpoint of gender parity and Crowley and Reuss’ practices are male-centered exclusively.  In a sensible manner, Randolph sought to produce spiritual and magical effects through prayers or invocations acted upon prior to a mutual orgasm of both partners – the ‘nuptive moment.’

Reuss and Crowley believed that women were simply passive vehicles for male spiritual attainment and that male orgasm, followed by the male’s ingestion of his own sperm, mingled with his partner’s vaginal juices or feces, was the sublime secret to spiritual mastery.  Further, Crowley often employed prostitutes as his magical sex-partners, while Randolph believed that this practice invariably prevented the possibility of completing a successful magical act.

The successful results Randolph claimed for his form of sex magic, results I have also recorded using his techniques included: telepathy, communication with discarnate spirits, increased wealth, forecasting the outcomes of financial transactions, rendering adulterous husbands and wives dissociative to others, improved health, the power to derange the relationships of others, the ability to secretly know others’ designs and plans, the power to direct others, and the gift of prophetic revelations.

The Mysteries of Eulis provides the following instructions, which set forth a few of Randolph’s practical techniques:

If a man has an intelligent and loving wife, with whom he is in complete accord, he can work out the problems [of how to achieve magical results] by her aid.  They are a radical soul-sexive series of energies…The rite is a prayer in all cases, and the most powerful [that] earthly beings can employ…it is best for both man and wife to act together for the attainment of the mysterious objects sought.

 Success in any case requires the adjutancy of a superior woman.  THIS IS THE LAW!  A harlot or low woman is useless for all such lofty and holy purposes, and just so is a bad, impure, passion-driven apology for a man.  The woman shall not be one who accepts rewards for compliance; nor a virgin; or under eighteen years of age; or another’s wife; yet must be one who hath known man and who has been and still is capable of intense mental, volitional and affectional energy, combined with perfect sexive and orgasmal ability; for it requires a double crisis to succeed…

 The entire mystery can be given in very few words, and they are an upper room; absolute personal, mental, and moral cleanliness both of the man and wife.  An observance of the law just cited during the entire term of the experiment — 49 days.  Formulate the desire, keep it in mind during the whole period, and especially when making the nuptive prayer, during which no word may be spoken, but the thing desired be strongly thought…

There is more to Randolph’s system of sex magic than the above excerpts can supply, in particular he advocates mirror-scrying, breathing exercises, use of hashish, and teaches three magical techniques he calls Volantia – the calm exercise of will, Decretism – decreeing something must be so, especially at the “nuptive moment,” and Posism – sinking into a receptive mental and physical posture to receive that which has been willed.