Beyond Subspace into the Mystic: Mortification of the Flesh & Pain as the Pathway
One of the most apparent links between BDSM and reaching a spiritual state is the infliction of physical pain as part of a ritualised ordeal. The practice of ‘mortification of the flesh’ is not uncommon as a religious ritual, with acts such as fasting; sleep deprivation; the wearing of uncomfortable clothing; or self-flagellation. The tradition of self-flagellation, usually whipping oneself, is still prevalent around the world in Catholic & Shi’a Islamic communities. (For Christians this act allows them to join Christ in his redemptive suffering.) While Shamans use physical pain to enter a spiritual trance in order to peel away illusion and enter the spirit world.
Pain can be a ‘rite of passage’ as we must deal with our fear of pain, however fear exits in the mind while pain is truly of the body – an unmistakable sensation that puts us in the moment and reminds us we are alive. In BDSM we accept the pain, we don’t fight it, we go into the centre of the pain, we bask in it. We experience the ecstasy (or rapture) of pain. It becomes an acknowledgment that the body is just our vessel and that we exist beyond it.
The implementation of pain can induce a state known in BDSM as ‘subspace’, the ‘high’ or exhilaration a submissive can feel during a scene, induced through sustained intense pain/pleasure. This response is created by our sympathetic nervous system as it produces adrenaline & endorphins, to cope with the experience, this also happens during exercise or extreme sports. This natural physiological and emotion response can be a first step towards a spiritual state.
Mortification of the flesh is not always directly connected with physical pain, it is at act of subduing one’s bodily desires, in Christianity it was the act of ‘putting your sin to death’. BDSM games can indulge in sexual tease’n’denial, cuckolding and enforced chastity; here the ‘subduing of one’s sexual desire’ with denial and suffering paradoxically become deeply sexualised acts.
Our interest in BDSM is driven by our base sexual desires and unconscious primal urges and not intended as a means to enlightenment and transformation – though interestingly it has huge overlaps with religious rituals and these unexpected spiritual revelations and altered states still leave a deep impression.
The Unintended Spiritual Path
Read Pt1 Here: Rites of Passage & A Retreat from Ego
Read Pt2 Here: Bondage as Meditation & Outer Transformation as a means to Inner Transformation
Read Pt3 Here: Beyond Subspace into the Mystic: Mortification of the Flesh & Pain as the Pathway
Also, Entering Subspace – Altered States Here