Eroto-comatose lucidity is a technique of sex magic known best by its formulation by English author and occultist Aleister Crowley in 1912, but which has several variations and is used in a number of ways by different spiritual communities. A common form of the ritual uses repeated sexual stimulation (but not to physical orgasm) to place the individual in a state between full sleep and full wakefulness as well as exhaustion, allowing the practitioner to commune with their god.
Crowley first described the rite in a tract titled Eroto-Comatose Lucidity. The ritual as described by Crowley involves one "ritualist-seer" and several aides. Donald Michael Kraig advises that the more sexually experienced the aides are, the better the ritual works, and that the aides be members of the opposite sex. Religious scholar Hugh B. Urban, however, concludes that, for Crowley, aides of the same gender as the ritualist (e.g., homosexual activity) was the highest stage of practice of this ritual.
In the first part of the ritual, the aides seek repeatedly both to arouse the ritualist sexually as well as to exhaust him. The ritualist is generally passive in this regard. There is disagreement over whether sexual arousal is enough, or sexual orgasm must be eventually accomplished. Crowley and others argue that orgasm must be avoided. Although later practitioners conclude that orgasm does not need to be avoided, that was how Crowley originally formulated the ritual. Most practitioners agree with Crowley that every means of arousal may be used, such as physical stimulation, genital stimulation, psychological stimulation, devices (such as sex toys), or drugs (entheogens like hashish, marijuana, or other aphrodisiacs). There should be enough aides so that if one aide tires another may take his or her place. Eventually, the ritualist will tend to sink into sleep due to exhaustion.
In the second part of the ritual, the aides seek to come close to awakening the ritualist through sexual stimulation alone. The goal is not to fully awaken her or him, but rather to bring them to the brink of wakefulness. Not all authors agree that the ritualist seer will be in a state between sleep and wakefulness, instead noting that exhaustion will lead to a trance, or "sleep of lucidity."  The ritualist should be neither too tired or uncomfortable to aid in the trance-like state. Once the ritualist reaches a near-waking state, sexual stimulation must stop. The ritualist-seer is then permitted to sink back toward (but not into) sleep. This step is repeated indefinitely until the ritualist reaches a state between sleep and wakefulness in which communing with a higher power may occur. Some say a goal during this time is to not become "lost" in the trance-like state, but to remain open without directing an outcome. The ritualist may also conduct spiritual work while in this state, or witness mystical events. Exhaustion may not be necessary for the ritualist who is "bodily pure," Crowley writes.
How the ritual ends
The rite may end in one of two ways. The ritualist may simply sink into total sleep. Or they may achieve orgasm and then sink into a deep and "undisturbable" sleep. Jason Newcomb, however, concludes that sexual exhaustion achieved through repeated orgasm may also lead to the ritualistic state and does not necessarily end the rite. Frater U.D., however, has argued that the orgasmic moment should not be lost, and that the individual should strive to use the moment for spiritual or magical purposes.
Upon wakening, the ritualist seer could, for example, write down everything he or she has experienced, witnessed, or been told. At least one author concludes that what is desired should be focused on throughout the rite, and that the individual should not be distracted from it or free of desire.
Ordo Templi Orientis practice of the ritual
As practiced by Ordo Templi Orientis the rite is much simpler as well as a solo effort. In this version of the rite, a lone individual repeatedly masturbates to orgasm, visualizing the end sought. Writer Benjamin Walker has argued that this is how the rite was taught by Crowley. Chaos magic practitioner Peter J. Carroll distinguishes such "autoerotic" rites with visualization from eroto-comatose lucidity.
A similar rite of sexual exhaustion described by Crowley leads not to spiritual communing but a sort of vampirism. In this rite, the aides use only the mouth to sexually exhaust the ritualist, and the intent of the aides must not be to assist the ritualist but rather to transfer the ritualist's own magical strength to themselves. Crowley claimed that when the ritualist is pushed to the point of death from sexual exhaustion in this way, the ritualist's spirit is enslaved by the aides and his or her power transferred to the aides.
Michael W. Ford has argued for alternative rites as well. His concept of Luciferianism incorporates Crowley's ideas about sexual exhaustion, but concludes that the ritualist's will is what sends the spirit forth to bond with higher power. Ford argues for two methods of attaining sexual exhaustion and ascension: "Via Lilith" and "Via Cain." In the Lilith ritual, the room should be draped in crimson and black; music which inspires dark emotions, contains chanting, or contains horrific sounds should be played; and images of Lilith, Lilitu, and succubi should hang in the room. In the Cain ritual, both the room and ritualist should be adorned with fetishes of the Horned God and symbols of Cain, and Middle Eastern music should be played.
History of the rite
Other authors, however, have concluded that the rite can be traced back much earlier. Occult historian Allen H. Greenfield has observed that there was a deep interest in sexual magic and sex as a spiritual tool which began in the early-to-mid-19th century and built throughout the century. A number of spiritual sexual rites and practices were either allegedly rediscovered or created during this period.
Crowley wrote in his work De Arte Magica that eroto-comatose lucidity is also called the "sleep of Siloam" and both Allen Greenfield and Newcomb note that this rite preceded Crowley. They point out that Paschal Beverly Randolph ("arguably the single most important figure in the rise of modern sexual magic") called this ritualistic state the "sleep of Sialam." Randolph first discussed the "sleep of Sialam" in his 1873 work Ravalette, but described it at the time as a once-in-a-century prophetic trance. In later writings, Randolph used the term as a more general form of clairvoyant sleep used to understand spiritual things.
Helena Blavatsky may also have taught the technique, calling it the "Sleep of Siloam." In her 1877 work Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky wrote that the trance must be induced through drugs rather than sexual exhaustion. Later, Blavatsky altered her understanding of the rite to mean that drug-induced trance-like state in which a new initiate first comprehends spiritual things. This was described in Blavatsky's 1888 work Secret Doctrine, and she taught that the ritualistic state allowed the individual to either commune with the gods, descend into hell, or perform spiritual acts. Blavatsky taught this was a deep sleep, but Newcomb notes that modern ritualists do not enter sleep but rather a state between sleep and wakefulness.
The rite's influence
- Kraig, Modern Sex Magick: Secrets of Erotic Spirituality, 1988.
- Frater U.D., Secrets of Western Sex Magic: Magical Energy and Gnostic Trance, 2001.
- Martin, Art, Messianism and Crime: A Study of Antinomianism in Modern Literature and Lives, 1986.
- Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006.
- Martin, Orthodox Heresy: The Rise of "Magic" as Religion and Its Relation to Literature, 1989.
- Carroll, Liber Null & Psychonaut, 1987.
- See: Newcomb, Sexual Sorcery: A Complete Guide to Sex Magick, 2005, p. 71; Frater U.D., Secrets of Western Sex Magic: Magical Energy and Gnostic Trance, 2001, p. 130.
- Walker, Encyclopedia of Esoteric Man, 1977.
- Newcomb, Sexual Sorcery: A Complete Guide to Sex Magick, 2005.
- Walker, Body Magic. 1979.
- Belanger, Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices, 2007.
- Ford, Luciferian Witchcraft, 2005.
- Greenfield, The Roots of Modern Magick: Glimpses of the Authentic Tradition From 1700-2000, An Anthology, 2006.
- Urban, Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism, 2006, p. xi.
- Deveney, Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Rosicrucian, and Sex Magician, 1997.
- Wile (1992)
- Bhattacharyya (1999) pp. 294, 296-7, 423-25.
- Reynolds, The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll, 1996.
- Belanger, Michelle. Vampires in Their Own Words: An Anthology of Vampire Voices. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. ISBN 0-7387-1220-5
- Carroll, Peter J. Liber Null & Psychonaut. Newburyport, Mass.: Red Wheel, 1987. ISBN 0-87728-639-6
- Deveney, John Patrick. Paschal Beverly Randolph: A Nineteenth-Century Black American Spiritualist, Sosicrucian, and Sex Magician. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7914-3119-3
- Ford, Michael. Luciferian Witchcraft. Raleigh, N.C.: Lulu.com, 2005. ISBN 1-4116-2638-9
- Greenfield, Allen. The Roots of Modern Magick: Glimpses of the Authentic Tradition From 1700-2000, An Anthology. Raleigh, N.C.: Lulu.com, 2006. ISBN 1-4116-8978-X
- Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Sex Magick: Secrets of Erotic Spirituality. Woodbury, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1988. ISBN 0-87542-324-8
- Martin, Stoddard. Art, Messianism and Crime: A Study of Antinomianism in Modern Literature and Lives. New York: Macmillan, 1986. ISBN 0-333-39496-8
- Martin, Stoddard. Orthodox Heresy: The Rise of "Magic" as Religion and Its Relation to Literature. New York: Macmillan, 1989. ISBN 0-333-43540-0
- Newcomb, Jason. Sexual Sorcery: A Complete Guide to Sex Magick. Newburyport, Mass.: Samuel Weiser, 2005. ISBN 1-57863-330-3
- Reynolds, Simon. The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll. Reprint ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-674-80273-X
- U.D., Frater. Secrets of Western Sex Magic: Magical Energy and Gnostic Trance. 3d ed. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2001. ISBN 1-56718-706-4
- Urban, Hugh D. Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, and Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2006. ISBN 0-520-24776-0
- Walker, Benjamin. Body Magic. Florence, Ky.: Taylor & Francis, 1979. ISBN 0-586-08323-5
- Walker, Benjamin. Encyclopedia of Esoteric Man. New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977. ISBN 0-7100-8479-X
- Text of Liber CDLI (451) - containing Aleister Crowley's description of the ritual