“This ring pledges you to sincere and serene humility, unquestioning obedience, confident unfailing trust in your Dominant, and a fervent desire – but without selfish emotional exaggerations – to become a slave.”
- From a ritual accepting a submissive
to initial formal training for slavery.

Although natural absolute slavehood is the expression of an instinctual and primeval need to submit far more comprehensively than the erotic role-playing of mainstream D/s, it extends beyond our rudimentary animal heritage into the very core of our rational human soul. The absolute submissive not only desires slavery but needs it in order to achieve fulfillment and identity. This need for slavery, this so-called “dark imperative” that governs natural submission, is apparent at all levels of existence, the instinctual, the emotional and the intellectual. In other words, slavehood is a vocation, comparable and equal in every way to any religious calling.

As with all other vocations, slavehood is not automatic. It must be closely examined and, when found to be genuine, nurtured and guided. Unlike most other levels of submission, slavehood is primarily of a spiritual nature. It shares the bulk of its physical and material aspects with the more superficial approaches to the lifestyle, but it does not recognize sexuality as the principal vehicle for, let alone the goal of, a profound and pervasive submission destined to develop into lifelong slavery.

Having established that slavehood is a vocation, the similarity between a life in slavery and monastic life becomes straightforward. Both are simultaneously introvert and extrovert, contemplative and active, spiritual and material. In both, energies of one aspect of life, apparently at odds with the other; are so channeled as to enable a harmony to develop, wherein each gives strength to the other so that together they become more than the sum of their component parts. Most importantly, however, the modus operandi of both pivots on service and the greatest possible reduction of self.

It is important to bear in mind that, regardless of her status of collaring, a slave submits primarily to her own nature. The apparent paradox of introvert/extrovert comes to light – and is resolved – when this basic fact is understood. That she requires a material, external focus for her submission, i.e. the dominant, does not alter the fact that on the spiritual level her submission is essentially introverted. One could say that through the dominant she submits to herself by proxy.

Religious practice contains a number of sadomasochistic elements, from penance, confession and absolution, to servitude, abstinence and flagellation. By far most, if not all, religions contain rituals of this nature, designed to focus the spirit and enhance the sanctity of the individual. No matter the perspective, therefore, the fact remains that the magic of religion and BDSM is the same. If, as postulated here, magical practices are sadomasochistic, it follows that sadomasochistic practices are magical. The reason BDSM looks so much like a religious act is quite simply that it is a religious act.

The evocation and experience of the divine is as primary in BDSM as the means by which they are sought. There is a duality in the BDSM practice which closely parallels that of religious practice, in some instances so closely that the very symbolism employed is the same. The descent into submission is as much concerned with the practical matter of materializing a daemon appropriate to submit to, as it is concerned with the submissive’s own self-reduction. As she is beaten it is confirmed that He is stronger; as she is humiliated, He rises in stature and power; as she is blindfolded, He becomes all-seeing; as she is bound He becomes omnipotent; as she is punished He grants her absolution; and so on.

It is important to underscore that what is sought here is an experience of the divine, not of divinity. Dominants are not deities, and no amount of reference to one’s Mistress as a goddess will alter that fact. The role of the dominant is more comparable to that of a priest in Christian tradition. That is to say, a human among humans who guides the congregation, himself included, into a deeper submission to and reverence for that which is holy. The priest is a vessel of sanctity, the link between congregation and the divine; he himself possesses neither more nor less divinity than any other. If the dominant is attributed special powers of any kind, they are not magical in and of themselves, but rather at most in rare harmony with Creation in general and his own nature in particular. This is not unlike the powers of a shaman, who is a particularly gifted and perceptive individual, certainly, but by no means superhuman.

So the mechanisms of BDSM tap into the common denominator of all religions. The BDSM ritual may be predominantly sexual in expression, however the goal is not gratification per se, but ecstasy. BDSM is, above and beyond a physical need, the psyche’s effort to make sex a sacrament. Only through the understanding and acceptance of the sacramental value of submission will slavehood be true. By the same token, of course, it also becomes holy.

Sacramental and holy though it might be, BDSM is not – and could never become – a religion in its own right. It can, however, be incorporated into a religious lifestyle, and for those who are thus inclined it must be. Whatever dogmatic complications arise in the process, it is indisputable that neither submission nor dominance can exist aside from, or parallel with, the other elements that make up a human life. No matter the condemnatory rhetoric of others, who most probably have understood neither BDSM nor their own religion particularly well, there must be no conflict between them in the mind of the submissive herself. It is paramount that she be provided with the wherewithal to practice her religious life as a natural element of her submission.

The importance of pursuing slavehood for anyone who has a calling to it is self-evident. The vast amount of hard work required to achieve this depth of submission is only marginally more daunting than staying there. As many religious people and natural submissives alike have discovered through the ages, the fact of the matter is that meekness requires an iron will. However, despite these hardships – and most emphatically contrary to the views prevalent in BDSM orthodoxy – slavery can never be a goal unto itself. No vocation that is pursued for its own sake has value.

The humility learned in the collar should be the perspective from which all of Creation is viewed. The strength derived from a successful and spiritually gratifying lifestyle should be placed at the disposal of all who need it. The endurance developed under the rigors of pain, chastisement and labor, should translate into tolerance and forbearance of all who think and act according to other values – even those who would deny the legitimacy or validity of the BDSM lifestyle. The acute awareness of identity through meditation and examination of the submissive nature should lead to a greater understanding of – and thereby respect for – disparate cultural and moral backgrounds. The obedience and selflessness that are the distinguishing characteristics of any natural slave should be expanded to include not just a Master or Mistress but humanity at large.

Without these, the entire journey into slavery will have been meaningless, valueless and morally void.

Author: J. Mikael Togneri

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