Sounds like a contradiction in terms. Yet, what if you or your partner prefers to skip penetration for whatever reason? How do you tap the delicious benefits of intimate connection?

If you’re a Synergy fan, you already know that the gifts of this practice don’t come from producing orgasms in each other. The benefits come from nourishing exchange and affectionate touch. Controlled intercourse is a deeply satisfying way of achieving both ends but it’s not indispensable.

Naked snuggling can be fun, sensual and fulfilling. Accompany it with your favourite bonding behaviours. Tired? Find a comfortable position and turn your encounter into a sexual meditation. What is important is the ‘intention’ to love and care for your partner.

Was such a practice once at the heart of Christianity?

The Synergy Explorers website encompasses various traditions that revealed the potential in the careful use of sexual energy. To those raised in the West, one of the most surprising relates to the early Christian tradition. It seems that early Christians may have viewed some version of the Synergy practice with a committed partner as a sacred rite, or sacrament. It was referred to by various names. Scholars usually describe the practice as “syneisaktism.” That’s Greek for “spiritual marriage.”

Later Church authorities regressed into celibacy (or its outward appearance). They then expunged almost all the details of this early practice of sacred union. However, scattered historical sources (some polemical) suggest that the practice was widespread for hundreds of years.

Evidence of syneisaktism appears in such far-flung places as Ireland, Northern Africa, Turkey and France. It also existed among the Therapeutae, a popular sect in the ancient Greek world, which rested upon the teachings of Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria (20 BCE – 50 CE).

In essence syneisaktism referred to couples, both of whom were often clergy, living chastely together. The women were known as agapetae (“beloveds”), subintroductae, or “virgins.” More on the agapetae.

From the Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F.L. Cross. 1963 reprint

Predictably, some of the “weaker brethren” employing syneisaktism occasionally slipped back into conventional sex. Eventually, the faction of celibate Church authorities consolidated their power. They then used the inconsistencies among syneisaktism practitioners as an excuse to stamp out the practice. At a Council in 325 CE, the Church officially forbade it.

Yet in out-of-the-way places like Ireland syneisaktism lingered on for far longer. More about the Irish practice.

What did the couples actually do?

Syneisaktism was viewed as a way to overcome lust within a sacred union. It seems to promote a little understood balance between the couple. It’s not clear exactly what physical activities the practice actually encouraged or forbade. We don’t know if it included naked snuggling, touching of genitals, or sometimes even (non-orgasm-driven) physical union.

Some scholars believe that the practice of syneisaktism never involved intercourse. Yet others translate passages of some of the ancient texts from Northern Africa as if coition were an option.

Consider two of the Gnostic gospels found in the last century. Existing copies of these gospels date back to the first few hundred years of Christianity. These texts use terms that suggest both physical embraces and actual intercourse. See, for example, the The Exegesis on the Soul. It speaks of intercourse that enables couples to leaves behind the annoyance of physical desire.

The Gospel of Philip speaks of a physical embrace [koiton], also described as a mystery: the sacrament of the bridal chamber. The gospel describes it as follows:

It is not only a reality of the flesh,
for there is silence in this embrace.
It does not arise from impulse or desire [epithumia];
it is an act of will.

Was a Synergy-like practice, with or without intercourse, one of the mysteries at the heart of Christianity in the form of syneisaktism? Who knows? Interestingly, the practise revived again in the Middle Ages in what is now southern France, and a similar practice existed in the Hindu tradition for centuries. See Ancient Tests of Sexual Self-Control.

Try it for yourselves

The point of this brief history lesson is that if you decide to experiment with non-intercourse Synergy, you’re part of an ancient tradition that was once widespread. Eventually abandoned, it is now largely forgotten. But you can still explore it.

Need inspiration? In this short video, Carolin Hauser describes three ways to approach lovemaking without intercourse: