The husband is inwardly wedded to the divine feminine, the power of Shakti. The wife is inwardly wedded to the divine masculine, Lord Shiva. Marriage is not about the passionate quest of two halves for their "soul mates." It is a deep abiding partnership between whole human beings. How can I fulfill another person if I am only half full? To fill others, I must overflow.
In early Gnostic Christianity, the inward marriage of divine masculine and feminine energies took place in the heart center and was called "the sacrament of the Bridal Chamber."
Some modern authors have tried to turn the mystical symbolism of the inner marriage into a literal sexual affair. Such misinterpretations are as prevalent in the Indian tradition as in the West. Is the lila, or love play, between Krishna and the Gopis in the garden of Vrindavan a historical event in which a king has promiscuous sex with local cowherd girls? Of course not. It is the eternal love song of the soul and the Spirit, the heart's longing for union with God.
Is the love of Christ and Mary Magdalene a tantric sex ritual? Of course not. It is the Western version of the Radha Krishna story. These ancient symbols describe the marriage of dynamic forces within a whole human person, not the marriage of two separate bodies:
"Jesus said, When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one... then you will enter the kingdom." ~Gospel of ThomasObviously the purport of this passage is balance between Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, Ha and Tha: the solar male and lunar female energies in Hatha Yoga. The passage describes an interior union, not an external act of romantic love-making.
According to the science of Yoga, the male energy spirals down the spine through a nada, a subtle nerve channel called the Pingala, meeting the feminine energy spiraling upward through the Ida. They form a double helix. Male and female, sacred sky and holy ground, converge in the human heart. Our body is the lightning rod linking earth and stars. Solar Male unites with Mother Earth in Hridaya, the heart center. Hrid is the Sanskrit root of the English word heart.
Lacking an internal balance of male and female in our own hearts, our outer sexual relations are tantalizing but fruitless quests for a wholeness that is only realized within. Thus the Gnostic Gospel of Philip declares of male and female:
"Through their sacred embrace, we are invited into the interior. As long as this is hidden, unhappiness prevails..."Christ celebrates this "sacred embrace" of male and female in the heart's Bridal Chamber. The Gospel of Philip says:
"In his Breath, we experience a new embrace: we are no longer in duality, but in unity... All will be clothed in light when they enter into the mystery of this sacred embrace.... What is the bridal chamber if not the place of trust and consciousness in the embrace? It is a symbol of Union, beyond all forms of possession. Here is where the veil is torn from top to bottom; here is where some arise and awaken." *So marriage is an outward sacrament and sign of an inward mystery. There is no evidence in early Christianity that this "embrace" was a tantric sex ritual. At the same time, there was no calling to become a monk. Monasticism was a later development.
From the Gnostic Gospels it is clear that both men and women were called to interior union, and they helped each other to its fulfillment as partners in the state of marriage.
* 'The Gospel of Philip: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the Gnosis of Sacred Union,' J. Leloup, Inner Traditions, 2004 (Leloup is a French scholar whose translation is excellent, though I don't always agree with his interpretation).