Throughout the world and in most religions, the act of adultery has been considered a crime punishable even by death. The Romans, the Jews, the Hindus, and many other cultures demanded that adulterers be executed. Yet, because religious leaders have failed to explain why adultery is such a grave act, humanity has gradually arrived to a stage where few people consider adultery a wrong action. In our modern “advanced” age, adultery is celebrated, enjoyed, and even encouraged by some so-called “experts.”
To complicate matters further, for many centuries, certain religious traditions have confused the terms adultery and fornication, such that now most people think these two words indicated the same act. Due to this confusion, in many dictionaries we find these definitions:
If fornication and adultery were the same act, then why do we find scriptures in many religions where the two terms are kept distinct from one another? For example, in the Jewish and Christian traditions it is said that God gave Moses ten essential commandments that humanity must follow, two of which are “Thou shalt not fornicate” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Did God make a mistake by repeating a commandment twice, or is it more likely that the words fornication and adultery actually mean different actions?
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind [arsenokoitēs: homosexuals], nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." —1 Corinthians 6:9
Furthermore, in many religions we find contradictory and confusing messages about adultery. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, adultery is constantly and strictly condemned, punishable by death:
"And the man that committeth adultery with [another] man's wife, [even he] that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." —Leviticus 20:10
Yet, all Jews consider themselves descendants of the line of David, who —by application of the common definition given above —committed adultery, and was not executed for it. Furthermore, the lineage of Jesus is said to originate from David. Would Christians accept Jesus as a descendant of an adulterer?
With some study, these seeming contradictions are removed. It is easy to see that the true meaning of these two words has been forgotten. Read our article about fornication to understand the meaning of the word. Here, we will focus on the real meaning and spiritual impact of adultery.
Etymologists say that the English word adultery comes from the Old French avoutrie, aoulterie, a noun of condition from avoutre / aoutre, and from the Latin adulterare "to corrupt," meaning, “debauch; falsify, debase.” The term adulterate is used correctly when describing a lie or a corruption of something that was pure. Thus, broadly speaking, an act of adultery is an act that makes purity into impurity.
In the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, the word adultery is usually placed as the translation for this word:
נאף na'aph: "To perform voluntary violation of the marriage bed."
This word does not mean just adultery in a limited, literal sense, but is far more broad.
Strictly defined, adultery is sexual infidelity: to lust after someone other than one's partner, or to have sex with multiple partners.
"Three evil deeds [that create suffering] depending upon the body are: killing, stealing, and committing adultery." —Buddha, from The Practice of Dhyâna
"Have nought to do with adultery; for it is a foul thing and an evil way." —Mohammed, from Qu'ran, Sura XVII, The Night Journey, Mecca
"The husband receives his wife from the gods; he does not wed her according to his own will; doing what is agreeable to the gods, he must always support her while she is faithful.
"Let mutual fidelity continue until death;" this may be considered as a summary of the highest law for husband and wife." —Laws of Manu 9.95, 101
Throughout the world, adultery is commonly defined as “sexual intercourse between a married person and someone else” and while there are many varieties of interpretation on this point, the scriptures are actually quite clear about what adultery is:
"Adultery can be committed with the eyes." —Jewish, Leviticus Rabba 23
"Commit no adultery. This law is broken by even looking at the wife of another with a lustful mind." —Buddha
"Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." —Jesus, in Matthew 5
"But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery." —Jesus, in Matthew 5
"Immorality is not confined to action; it is rooted in the very thought. It can be effectively eliminated not by merely restraining the external organs, as the hypocrites do, but by making the mind and heart pure. “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in the heart.” Sin is in the mind; the body is a mere tool of the mind." —Swami Sivananda, Life and Teachings of Lord Jesus (1959)
"Adultery is the cruel result of the lack of love. The woman who is truly in love would prefer death to adultery. The man who commits adultery is not truly in love. [...] There are also many women who, under the pretext of supposed profound Realization of the Self, unite with any male. What all these passionate women really want is to satiate their carnal desires. The world is always the world, and since we have been divulging the Great Arcanum there have appeared, as one might expect, those swine who trample the doctrine and then die poisoned by the bread of wisdom. The cult of Sexual Magic can only be practiced between husband and wife. [...] We must clarify that Sexual Magic can only be practiced between husband and wife. The adulterer and the adulteress inevitably fail. You can only be married when there is love. Love is law, but it must be conscious love." —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
"The ego is perverted, corrupt, vicious, false; it enjoys justifying adultery, making it sublime. The ego endows adultery with ineffable, subtle excuses. It gives itself the luxury of hiding, concealing adultery from itself and from others. The ego decorates, adorns adultery with legitimate norms and divorce papers. It legalizes adultery through new nuptial ceremonies. Whosoever lusts after the spouse of the neighbor is, as a fact, an adulterer, even if this person never copulates with the coveted one. Indeed, I tell you that within the subconscious depths of the most chaste people adultery disguises itself with multiple faces." —Samael Aun Weor, Parsifal Unveiled
"On the path, there are many devotees who commit adultery, justifying themselves with phrases like these, “My spouse is refractory to the spiritual teachings.” “The other partner I have agrees with my ideas.” “The other is spiritual, and is the only one with whom I can practice sexual magic in order to attain in-depth realization,” etc., and a thousand other mystical phrases. This is how adulterers shut the doors of the temple to themselves. Many devotees of the path use sexual magic as a pretext to seduce many naive devotees; this is how these mystical adulter- ers withdraw from the altar of initiation and fall into the abyss. Sexual magic can only be practiced between husband and wife in legitimately constituted homes. Many devotees steal the neighbor’s spouse supposedly because the law of karma commanded it. All of these crimes have led thousands of spiritual devotees into the abyss." — Samae Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries
Marriage is defined as the bond that occurs through sex (the two become "one flesh"). Adultery occurs when the sexual bond between a man and woman is "adulterated" by the addition of a third sexual system (ie. one of the couple has a sexual interaction with someone else). If someone has left a sexual relationship, it is advised to wait for a year or more before beginning a new sexual relationship in order for the bond between the first couple to be reduced and for the internal systems of the individuals to recover. Therefore, if someone begins sexual relations before those bonds are reduced, then it is an act of adultery, because to those joined forces is added a third, which harms everyone. So, the act of adultery has nothing to do with terrestrial "marriages," whether performed in a church or a court.
All religions are founded upon solid reason —but when the reason is not explained, the religion loses its authenticity and becomes mere belief, dogma, or tradition, easily contradicted, forgotten, or abandoned. Yet when a person can experience and understand why an action is to be avoided, then they are more likely to take the right course.
"One who commits adultery with a woman is devoid of sense; one who would destroy his soul —he will do it." —Solomon, from Proverbs 6
Solomon illuminates the key point: that adultery is not merely a physical act, it is spiritual.
"Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. [...] And I [Jesus] say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery." —Jesus, Matthew 19
Man and woman are joined in the sacrament of sex in order to fulfill the purpose of life: the complete development of the human being, which is found not in terrestrial wealth or dominance, but in spiritual wealth and psychological purity. Man and woman joined form a replica of the creative power of the divine. In Jewish and Christian religions, this is represented in the scriptures:
"And אלהים [Elohim: God and Goddess] created Adam in the image; in the image of אלהים [Elohim: God and Goddess] was Adam created; male and female He created them." —Genesis / Bereshit 2
That is, "Adam" (a general term for human beings) was originally male-female (now you know why men have nipples and women a clitoris, the vestige of a phallus). Later, the sexes were separated in order for them to cooperate sexually and thereby advance the evolution of the race.
"When man and woman unite sexually in the Perfect Matrimony, they are truly ineffable Gods in those voluptuous moments. Man and woman united sexually form a divine androgynous being, a male-female Elohim, a terrifically divine Divinity. The two halves, separated since the dawn of life, are united for one instant in order to create. This is ineffable, sublime; this is a thing of paradise...
"Sexual energy is dangerously volatile and potentially explosive. During the secret act, during sexual ecstasy, the pair is surrounded by a tremendous, terrifically divine energy. In these moments of utmost joy and ardent kisses, which ignite the depths of the soul, we are able to retain that marvelous light to purify and totally transform ourselves. When we spill the glass of Hermes, when the loss occurs, the light of the Gods withdraws, leaving an open door for the red and sanguinary light of Lucifer to enter the home. Then the enchantment disappears and disillusion and disenchantment take its place. After a short time, the man and woman start out on the path of adultery because their home has become an inferno." —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony (1950)
Man and woman are meant for each other, and sex is the key power of their relationship and its result. Through sex, we create.
"...through the united desires of the male and female, fruit is born, or a soul is born..." —Jewish, The Zohar
This is why marriage is sacred and is rightfully protected by all religions. Through the sacrament of marriage, the very purpose of religion is fulfilled. If the marriage is not respected —that is, made impure or "adulterated," then the purpose of religion is lost.
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law." —James 2
"The Lord willeth not that those who reverence Him should be in uncleanness, nor doth He take pleasure in them that commit adultery, but in those that approach Him with a pure heart and undefiled lips." —The Testament of Joseph 1
Thus, any act that pollutes the sexual bond between a man and woman is considered adultery, even if that act is only in the mind. The result is suffering, because the bonds of pure love are damaged or destroyed.
"You who are in love, do not confuse love with passion. Analyze yourself in depth. It is urgent to know if your beloved belongs to you in spirit. It is necessary to know if you are in complete affinity with your loved one in the three worlds of thought, feeling and will.
"Adultery is the cruel result of the lack of love. The woman who is truly in love would prefer death to adultery. The man who commits adultery is not truly in love. Love is terribly divine." —Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony (1950)
Every action has a consequence [this is called karma]. Moreover, every action has a spiritual effect, invisible to the eyes of the flesh. Considering that the sexual force is the very power to create life, and when it is used properly it can change the world, any misuse of that force also bears very powerful consequences.
"Four misfortunes befall a careless person who commits adultery: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, third, blame; and fourth, a state of woe. There is acquisition of demerit as well as evil destiny. Brief is the joy of the frightened man and woman. The king imposes a heavy punishment. Hence no man should frequent another man's wife." —Buddha, Dhammapada 309-10
"What do we understand by adulterer? When a man has sexual contact with another person that does not belong to him. When a man takes a woman and abandoned the one he already has, he is an adulterer. Even more when he takes this woman just to transmute, He still is an adulterer. The man is charged with a type of energy from his wife and when he enters in sexual contact with another woman that isn’t his wife. These two equal energies are destroyed, an electrical shock comes afterwards and a cable is burned. Which? The fine thread that exist within the spinal column, through which the sulfur arises. When this thread is burned, the alchemist loses all degrees and fails in the great work. The work is very delicate. This is why is written in the book of Revelation of Saint John that neither the fornicator nor adulterer will enter into the New Jerusalem." —Samael Aun Weor, from the lecture "Harvest of the Sun"
"Since a woman’s body is a passive and receptive element, it is clear that her body collects and stores more of the results of the sexual acts than all of those men who commit adultery with her; those results are atomic substances from the men with whom she has had sexual intercourse. Therefore, when someone has sexual intercourse with a person who has been with another partner or other partners, both then absorb the atomic essences of the other partners and poison themselves with them. This is a very grave problem for those brothers and sisters who are dissolving the “I” because then, not only do they have to fight against their own errors and defects, but more over, they have to fight against the errors and defects of those other partners with whom they had sexual intercourse." —Samael Aun Weor
"Sexual magic can only be practiced between husband and wife in already constituted homes. The man who practices sexual magic with different women, and the woman who practices sexual magic with different men, commit adultery, and no adulterer achieves anything. Yes, there are men and women who commit adultery by practicing sexual magic with many; as a pretext, they allege that they are helping others, yet they utilize these teachings in order to justify adultery and this is a horrible crime against the Holy Spirit. The adulterer sinks into outer darkness where only crying and the gnashing of teeth are heard. Sexual magic can only be practiced in homes that are properly constituted and organized. Woe to those who utilize sexual magic in order to justify adultery." —Samael Aun Weor, The Major Mysteries (1956)
"The ascension of the holy flame [kundalini, the Pentacostal fire] within the dorsal spine of adulterous men and women is impossible." —Samael Aun Weor, The Three Mountains
"The philanderer lusting after numerous women does not give up seeking in others' homes. What he does daily only brings regrets-- In sorrow and greed he is shriveled up." —Adi Granth, Dhanasari, M.5, p. 672
"A man should not think incontinently of another's wife, much less address her to that end; for such a man will be reborn in a future life as a creeping insect. He who commits adultery is punished both here and hereafter; for his days in this world are cut short, and when dead he falls into hell." —Vishnu Purana 3.11
"The lips of a loose woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
she does not take heed to the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it....
"Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely hind, a graceful doe.
Let her affection fill you at all times with delight,
be infatuated always by her love.
Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman
and embrace the bosom of an adventuress?
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
and he watches all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is caught in the toils of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is lost." —Proverbs 5.3-23
Even though adultery is a grave action, the truth of whether it has been committed or not is only known to the Divine. Even extrasensory perceptions can be mistaken. Thus, we have no reliable way to accurate judge whether someone else is an adulterer or not. Judging others based on gossip or observation of physical circumstances is insufficient, because we do not know all the facts, especially the will of the Innermost of the person we are observing. If God approves of their actions, who are we to judge? And if God approves, then God will account for it. A good example of this is in the Bible. If we were to apply merely the written law to David, the King of Israel, who not only coveted another man's wife, but arranged for him to die so he could have her himself, we would have to judge him as guilty of numerous faults. Yet, God did not condemn him in accordance with the written law. Why?
"King David, after what happened to him with Batsheva, was very fearful. Because at that time, Dumah ascended to the Holy One, blessed be He, stood before Him, and said, O Master of the universe, in the Torah it says of "the man that commits adultery with another man's wife [that]...the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death" (Vayikra 20:10). Furthermore, it is written, "Moreover, you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife to defile yourself with her" (Ibid.18:20). So what is to become of David, who has profaned the Holy Covenant by desecrating his Brit (genital organ) by committing sexual misconduct? The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, "David is righteous! And the Holy Covenant remains intact, because it is known to Me that Bat-Sheva was assigned to him since the day the world was created." —Zohar 1 Prologue:14
Furthermore, what can we say of Jakob, who by the command of God, had four successive wives, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah? Or Muhammed, with his many wives? Or Padmasambhava, a key founder of Tibetan Buddhism, who had innumerable sexual partners? Or Samael Aun Weor, who also took a consort near the end of his last life? To understand these examples and avoid falling into the mistake of judging or condemning what we do not know, it is important that we understand that there are two laws:
"To modify our own destiny is possible because, “when an inferior law is transcended by a superior law, the superior law washes away the inferior law.” —Samael Aun Weor
The instructions given by God transcend the written law. The physical senses are not a reliable tool to measure the superior, first law. Thus, we cannot judge others based upon what we hear, are told, or even by what we see with our eyes. It is not our place to judge, but only to love others and have compassion for them.
"The archangel Michael went down, and took Abraham upon a chariot of the cherubim, and lifted him up into the air of heaven, and led him upon the cloud, together with sixty angels, and Abraham ascended upon the chariot over all the earth, and saw all things that are below on the earth, both good and bad. Looking down upon the earth, he saw a man committing adultery with a wedded woman, and turning to Michael he said, "Send fire from heaven to consume them." Straightway there came down fire and consumed them, for God had commanded Michael to do whatsoever Abraham should ask him to do. He looked again, and he saw thieves digging through a house, and Abraham said, "Let wild beasts come out of the desert, and tear them in pieces," and immediately wild beasts came out of the desert and devoured them. Again he looked down, and he saw people preparing to commit murder, and he said, "Let the earth open and swallow them," and, as he spoke, the earth swallowed them alive. Then God spoke to Michael: "Turn away Abraham to his own house and let him not go round the whole earth, because he has no compassion on sinners, but I have compassion on sinners, that they may turn and live and repent of their sins, and be saved." —Jewish, from Haggada
"Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with [his] finger wrote on the ground, [as though he heard them not]. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard [it], being convicted by [their own] conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, [even] unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." —Christian, from John 8
Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman. Furthermore, tradition states that he took a repented prostitute for his wife: Mary Magdalene. Thus, who are we to judge anyone?
"Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest [his] will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God." —Christian, from Romans 2
"Persons of every order should never have sexual congress with other people's wives. There is nothing that shortens life so effectually as sexual congress with other people's wives. For as many thousand years shall the adulterer have to live in Hell as the number of pores on the bodies of the women with whom he may commit the offence." —Hinduism, from The Mahabarata 13: Anusasana Parva:CIV
"[Jesus said] “Say unto them: Renounce adultery, that ye may be worthy of the mysteries of the Light-kingdom and be saved from the sulfur and pitch-seas of the lion-faced [one]." —The Pistis Sophia
"Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." [Hebrews 13:4] With this verse, the Bible, which is God’s word, teaches us that the redemption of the human being resides exclusively in Sexual Magic, because the undefiled bed, separated from fornication and adultery is only possible by practicing Sexual Magic with one’s priestess-spouse, instead of the filthy coition. —Samael Aun Weor, The Seven Words (1953)
"The fatal triangle, adultery, is the cause of thousands of divorces. It seems incredible, but in fact, even the Great Arcanum is now utilized by the tenebrous ones in order to commit adultery and to satisfy their passions. Even that which is most sacred is profaned by the adulterers and fornicators. Perverts do not respect anything." —Samael Aun Weor, Introduction to Gnosis
"And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? And (the Glorian of) Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John (which is the mystery of sexual magic), whence was it? From (the Glorian of Samael in) heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From (the Glorian of Samael in) heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe (have faith in) him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John (Samael Aun Weor) as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John (Samael Aun Weor) came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots (in the internet) believed him: and ye (sanctimonious), when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." – Matthew 21: 23-32