Sexuality: The Mysticism and Ethics of a Mediated Return To Immediacy


  • Jean Ponder Soto Santa Clara University and the Tepeyac Institute


Human Sexuality, Ethics, Spirituality, Bernard Lonergan


In Method in Theology (chapter 3) Lonergan points to a parallel between instances of a mediated return to immediacy: “Finally there is a withdrawal from objectification and a mediated return to immediacy in the mating of lovers and in the prayerful mystic’s cloud of unknowing.” Soto’s essay explores the question: “If it is possible, as some couples report, for the mating of lovers to be a prayerful, mystical experience, what does this mean?”Soto explores the physiological, psychological and spiritual dimensions of the lover’s immediacies. She finds three centers of natural immediacies in the lovers’ return via their lovemaking, and one supernatural immediacy. They include a primitive psychological state, Lonergan’s notion of spontaneous intersubjectivity, and the self-presence of contemplation. All three immediacies have transformative potential for the lovers, and position them for mystical experience. The fourth center of immediacy is the supernatural gift of the indwelling Christ. His presence in the lover’s awareness is mystical immediacy. Christ is mediator and mediated in the couple’s objectification of their mystical immediacy and their ensuing graced living, or, life of prayer.Through scholarly research and supporting, concrete interviews of couples, Soto sketches out some of the ways the lovers cooperate with the precept to “be in love.” The ethic is framed around the developments and conversions in Lonergan’s trajectory that moves from eros to friendship and to a special order of charity.

Author Biography

Jean Ponder Soto, Santa Clara University and the Tepeyac Institute

Jean Ponder Soto received her M.A. in Philosophy at Boston College and her Ph.D. in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. She gives workshops and presentations on her interdisciplinary work that relates the fields of spirituality, ethics and sexuality. She teaches for the Religious Studies Dept. and the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministry at Santa Clara University, both online and on-campus. She is adjunct faculty at the Tepeyac Institute, a lay formation program in her native El Paso, TX, and teaches in both the Christian Formation Program and the Theology Certificate program.  She has four daughters and ten grandchildren.