Lust is a craving, it can take any form such as the lust for
sexuality, lust for money or the lust for power. It can take such
mundane forms as the lust for food as distinct from the need for food.
Lust is a psychological force producing intense wanting for an object,
or circumstance fulfilling the emotion.
1 In religion
1.2.1 New Testament
1.3.1 Brahma Kumaris
1.8 Meher Baba's teachings
2 In culture
2.1 Medieval prostitutes
3 In art
4 In philosophy
4.2 St. Thomas Aquinas
5 Contemporary spiritual perspective
6 In psychoanalysis and psychology
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Religions, especially Christianity, separate the definition of passion
and lust by further categorizing lust as an inappropriate desire or a
desire that is inappropriately strong, therefore being morally wrong,
while passion for proper purposes is maintained as something God-given
Main article: tanha
Lust holds a critical position in the philosophical underpinnings of
Buddhist reality. It is named in the second of the Four Noble Truths,
which are that
Suffering (dukkha) is inherent in all life.
Suffering is caused by lust.
There is a natural way to eliminate all suffering from one's life.
Noble Eightfold Path
Noble Eightfold Path is that way.
Lust is the
, attachment to, identification with, and passionate desire for
certain things in existence, all of which relate to the form,
sensation, perception, mentality, and consciousness that certain
combinations of these things engender within us.
Lust is thus the
ultimate cause of general imperfection and the most immediate root
cause of a certain suffering.
The passionate desire for either non-existence or for freedom from
lust is a common misunderstanding. For example, the headlong pursuit
of lust (or other "deadly sin") in order to fulfill a desire for death
is followed by a reincarnation accompanied by a self-fulfilling karma,
resulting in an endless wheel of life, until the right way to live,
the right worldview, is somehow discovered and practiced. Beholding an
endless knot puts one, symbolically, in the position of the one with
the right worldview, representing that person who attains freedom from
In existence are four kinds of things that engender the clinging:
rituals, worldviews, pleasures, and the self. The way to eliminate
lust is to learn of its unintended effects and to pursue righteousness
as concerns a worldview, intention, speech, behavior, livelihood,
effort, mindfulness, and concentration, in the place where lust
Lust at the Sankt Bartholomäus church (Reichenthal), Pulpit
In many translations of the New Testament, the word "lust" translates
the Greek word ἐπιθυμέω, particularly in Matthew 5:27-28:
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 (ἐπιθυμέω) after her hath committed adultery with her
already in his heart.
In English-speaking countries, the term "lust" is often associated
with sexual desire, probably because of this verse. But just as the
English word was originally a general term for desire, the Greek word
ἐπιθυμέω was also a general term for desire. The
suggests "set one's heart upon a thing, long for, covet, desire" as
glosses for ἐπιθυμέω, which is used in verses that clearly
have nothing to do with sexual desire. In the Septuagint,
ἐπιθυμέω is the word used in the commandment to not covet:
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife; you shall not covet your
neighbor's house or his field or his male slave or his female slave or
his ox or his draft animal or any animal of his or whatever belongs to
— Exodus 20:17, New English Translation of the Septuagint
While coveting your neighbor's wife may involve sexual desire, it's
unlikely that coveting a neighbor's house or field is sexual in
nature. And in most
New Testament uses, the same Greek word,
ἐπιθυμέω, does not have a clear sexual connotation. For
example, from the
American Standard Version
American Standard Version the same word is used
outside of any sexual connotation:
Matthew 13:17: For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and
righteous men desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them
not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not.
Luke 22:15-16: And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to
eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I
shall not eat it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
Acts 20:33: I coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Ye
yourselves know that these hands ministered unto my necessities, and
to them that were with me.
Luke 15:14-16: And when [the prodigal son] had spent all, there arose
a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. And he
went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he
sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled
his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto
A demon satiating his lust in a 13th-century manuscript.
Romanesque capital representing lust.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, a Christian's heart is lustful
when "venereal satisfaction is sought for either outside wedlock or,
at any rate, in a manner which is contrary to the laws that govern
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II said that lust devalues the
eternal attraction of male and female, reducing personal riches of the
opposite sex to an object for gratification of sexuality.
Lust is considered by
Catholicism to be a disordered desire for sexual
pleasure, where sexual pleasure is "sought for itself, isolated from
its procreative and unitive purposes". In Catholicism, sexual
desire in itself is good, and is considered part of God's plan for
humanity. However, when sexual desire is separated from God's love, it
becomes disordered and self-seeking. This is seen as lust.
The Latin for extravagance (Latin: luxuria) was used by St
translate a variety of biblical sins, including drunkenness and sexual
Gregory the Great
Gregory the Great placed luxuria as one of the seven
capital sins (it is often considered the least serious of the seven
deadly sins), narrowing its scope to disordered desire, and it was
in this sense that the Middle Ages generally took luxuria, (although
Old French cognate was adopted into English as luxury without its
sexual meaning by the 14th century).
In Romanesque art, the personified Luxuria is generally feminine,
often represented by a siren or a naked woman with breasts being
bitten by snakes.
Prudentius in his
Psychomachia or Battle of the Soul
Luxury, lavish of her ruined fame, Loose-haired, wild-eyed, her voice
a dying fall, Lost in delight....
For Dante, Luxuria was both the first of the circles of incontinence
(or self-indulgence) on the descent into hell, and the last of the
cornices of Mount Purgatory, representing the excessive (disordered)
love of individuals; while for Spenser luxuria was synonymous with
the power of desire.
The daughters (by-products) of Luxuria, for Gregory and subsequent
Thomism, included mental blindness, self-love, haste and excessive
attachment to the present:
Marianne Dashwood has been seen as
embodying such characteristics for a later age – as a daughter of
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna, an
Avatar of Vishnu, declared in
verse 21 that lust is one of the gates to Naraka or hell.
Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful
acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force? Then
Krishna said: It
is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode
of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the
all-devouring sinful enemy of this world. As fire is covered by smoke,
as a mirror is covered by dust, or as the embryo is covered by the
womb, the living entity is similarly covered by different degrees of
this lust. Thus the wise living entity's pure consciousness becomes
covered by his eternal enemy in the form of lust, which is never
satisfied and which burns like fire. The senses, the mind and the
intelligence are the sitting places of this lust. Through them lust
covers the real knowledge of the living entity and bewilders him.
Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb
this great symbol of sin—(lust) by regulating the senses, and slay
this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization. The working senses
are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses;
intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even
higher than the intelligence. Thus knowing oneself to be
transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, O
mighty-armed Arjuna, one should steady the mind by deliberate
spiritual intelligence and thus—by spiritual strength—conquer this
insatiable enemy known as lust. (Bhagavad-Gita, 3.36–43)
In this ancient manuscript the idea behind the word 'Lust' is best
comprehended as the psychological force called 'Wanting'.
According to Brahma Kumaris, a spiritual organization which is based
on Hindu philosophy, sexual lust is the greatest enemy to all
mankind and the gateway to hell.
For this reason followers do not eat onions, garlic, eggs, or
non-vegetarian food, as the "sulphur" in them can excite sexual lust
in the body, otherwise bound to celibacy.
The physical act of sex is "impure", leading to body-consciousness and
other crimes. This impurity "poisons" the body and leads to many kinds
Brahma Kumaris teach that sexuality is like foraging about in a
dark sewer. Students at Spiritual University must conquer lust in
order to find the Golden Age, a heaven on earth, where children are
conceived by an asexual power of mind, and lasting for 2,500 years in
the peace and purity of a holy swan moving on earth, over water, and
In Islam, intentional lascivious glances are forbidden. Lascivious
thoughts are disliked, for they are the first step towards adultery,
rape and other antisocial behaviors.
Muhammad also stressed
the magnitude of the "second glance", as the first glance towards an
attractive member of the opposite sex could be just accidental or
observatory, the second glance could be that gate into lustful
Islam does not advocate celibacy but it
requires marriage to conduct sex legally.
Yetzer hara § The evil inclination in Jewish
In Judaism, all evil inclinations and lusts of the flesh are
Yetzer hara (Hebrew, יצר הרע, the evil
Yetzer hara is not a demonic force; rather, it is man's
misuse of the things which the physical body needs to survive, and is
often contrasted with yetzer hatov (Hebrew, יצר הטוב, the
Yetzer HaRa is often identified with
Satan and the angel of death,
and there is sometimes a tendency to give a personality and separate
activity to the yetzer. For the yetzer, like Satan, misleads man in
this world, and testifies against him in the world to come. The yetzer
is, however, clearly distinguished from Satan, and on other occasions
is made exactly parallel to sin. The
Torah is considered the great
antidote against this force. Though, like all things which God has
made, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) can be manipulated into doing
good: for without it, man would never marry, beget a child, build a
house, or occupy himself in a trade.
Few ancient, pagan religions actually considered lust to be a
vice. The most famous example of a widespread
religious movement practicing lechery as a ritual is the Bacchanalia
Ancient Roman Bacchantes. However, this activity was soon
outlawed by the
Roman Senate in 186 BC in the decree Senatus consultum
de Bacchanalibus. The practice of sacred prostitution, however,
continued to be an activity practiced often by the Dionysians.
In Sikhism, lust is counted among the five cardinal sins or sinful
propensities, the others being anger, ego, greed and attachment.
Uncontrollable expression of sexual lust, as in rape or sexual
addiction, is an evil.
Meher Baba's teachings
The spiritual teacher
Meher Baba described the differences between
lust and love:
In lust there is reliance upon the object of sense and consequent
spiritual subordination of the soul to it, but love puts the soul into
direct and co-ordinate relation with the reality which is behind the
form. Therefore lust is experienced as being heavy and love is
experienced as being light. In lust there is a narrowing down of life
and in love there is an expansion in being...If you love the whole
world you vicariously live in the whole world, but in lust there is an
ebbing down of life and a general sense of hopeless dependence upon a
form which is regarded as another. Thus, in lust there is the
accentuation of separateness and suffering, but in love there is the
feeling of unity and joy....
Medieval prostitutes lived officially sanctioned in "red light
districts." In the book, Common Women, by Ruth Mazo Karras, she
discusses the meaning of prostitution and how people thought the
proper use of prostitutes by unmarried men helped contain male lust.
Prostitution was thought of as having a beneficial effect by reducing
the sexual frustration in the community.
Man Mocked by Two Women
Man Mocked by Two Women (Dos Mujeres y un hombre), c. 1820.
Ovid to the works of les poètes maudits, characters have always
been faced with scenes of lechery, and long since has lust been a
common motif in world literature. Many writers, such as Georges
Casanova and Prosper Mérimée, have written works wherein
scenes at bordellos and other unseemly locales take place.
Baudelaire, author of Les fleurs du mal, had once remarked, in regard
to the artist, that:
The more a man cultivates the arts, the less randy he becomes... Only
the brute is good at coupling, and copulation is the lyricism of the
masses. To copulate is to enter into another—and the artist never
emerges from himself.
The most notable work to touch upon the sin of lust, and all of the
Seven Deadly Sins, is Dante's la Divina Commedia. Dante's criterion
for lust was an "excessive love of others," insofar as an excessive
love for man would render one's love of God secondary.
In the first canticle of Dante's Inferno, the lustful are punished by
being continuously swept around in a whirlwind, which symbolizes their
passions. The damned who are guilty of lust, like the two famous
lovers, Paolo and Francesca, receive what they desired in their mortal
lives, their passions never give them rest for all eternity. In
Purgatorio, of the selfsame work, the penitents choose to walk through
flames in order to purge themselves of their lustful inclinations.
The link between love and lust has always been a problematic question
Schopenhauer notes the misery which results from sexual relationships.
According to him, this directly explains the sentiments of shame and
sadness which tend to follow the act of sexual intercourse. For, he
states, the only power that reigns is the inextinguishable desire to
face, at any price, the blind love present in human existence without
any consideration of the outcome. He estimates that a genius of his
species is an industrial being who wants only to produce, and wants
only to think. The theme of lust for
Schopenhauer is thus to consider
the horrors which will almost certainly follow the culmination of
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas defines the sin of
Lust in questions 153 and 154 of
his Summa Theologica. Aquinas says the sin of lust is of "voluptuous
emotions," and makes the point that sexual pleasures, "unloosen the
human spirit," and set aside right reason (Pg.191). Aquinas restricts
lust's subject matter to physical desires specifically arising from
sexual acts, but Aquinas does not assume all sex-acts are sinful. Sex
is not a sin in marriage, because sex is the only way for humans to
reproduce. If sex is used naturally and the end purpose is
reproduction there is no sin. Aquinas says, "if the end be good and if
what is done is well-adapted to that, then no sin is present,"
(Pg.193). However, sex simply for the sake of pleasure is lustful and
therefore, a sin. A man who uses his body for lechery wrongs the Lord.
Sex may have the attributes of being sinless; however, when a person
seeks sex for pleasure, he or she is sinning with lust.
Lust is best
defined by its specific attribute of rape, adultery, wet dreams,
seduction, unnatural vice, and simple fornication.
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas defined and discussed the topic of
nocturnal emission, which occurs when one dreams of physical pleasure.
Aquinas argues those who say that wet dreams are a sin and comparable
to the actual experience of sex are wrong. Aquinas believes that such
an action is sinless, for a dream is not under a person's control or
free judgment. When one has a "nocturnal orgasm," it is not a sin, but
it can lead to sins (Pg. 227). Aquinas says that wet dreams come from
a physical cause of inappropriate pictures within your imagination, a
psychological cause when thinking of sex while you fall asleep and a
demonical cause where by demons act upon the sleepers body, "stirring
the sleeper's imagination to bring about a orgasm," (Pg. 225). In the
end, though, dreaming of lustful acts is not sinful. The "mind's
awareness is less hindered," as the sleeper lacks right reason;
therefore, a person cannot be accountable for what they dream while
sleeping, (Pg. 227).
Adultery: One of the main forms of lust seen frequently during the
Middle Ages was the sin of adultery. The sin of adultery occurs when a
person is unfaithful to his or her spouse, hence "invading of a bed
not one's own," (Pg.235).
Adultery is a special kind of ugliness and
many difficulties arise from it. When a man enters the bed of a
married woman it not only is a sin, but it "wrongs the offspring,"
because the woman now calls into question the legitimacy of children.
(Pg.235). If a wife has committed adultery before, then, her husband
will question if all his wife's children are his offspring.
Simple Fornication: Simple fornication is having sex with one's wife
for enjoyment rather than for bearing children.
Fornication is also
sex between two unmarried people, which is also a mortal sin. Aquinas
says, "fornication is a deadly crime," (Pg.213).
Fornication is a
mortal sin, but as Aquinas notes, "Pope Gregory treated sins of the
flesh as less grievous than those of the spirit" (Pg. 217).
Fornication was a grave sin such as that against property.
Fornication, however, is not as grave as a sin directly against God
and human life; therefore, murder is much worse than fornication.
Property in this case means that a daughter is the property of her
father, and if you do wrong to her, you then do wrong to him;
therefore seducing a virgin or seeking pleasure from an unmarried
woman is an invasion of a father's property.
Rape is a kind of lust that often coincides with seduction and
is defined as a type of lechery.
Rape comes with force and violence:
Rape occurs when a person craves the pleasures of sex so intensely
that he uses force to obtain it.
Rape is committed when violence is
used to seduce, or deflower a virgin.
Rape harms both the unmarried
girl and her father, because the girl is property of her father. Rape
and seduction can be discussed together, because both sins involve the
deflowering of a virgin; however, rape can happen without seduction,
as when a man attacks a widow or a sexually experienced woman and
violates her. Therefore, wherever violence accompanies sex, you have
the quality of rape and the sin of lust.
Seduction is a type of lust, because seduction is a sex
act, which ravishes a virgin.
Lust is a sin of sexual activity, and,
"…a special quality of wrong that appears if a maid still under her
father's care is debauched" (Pg.229).
Seduction involves a discussion
of property, as an unmarried girl is property of her father. A virgin,
even though free from the bond of marriage, is not free from the bond
of her family. When a virgin is violated without a promise of
engagement, she is prevented from having honorable marriage, which is
shameful to herself and her family. A man who performs sexual acts
with a virgin must "endow her and have her to wife," and if the
father, who is responsible for her, says no, then a man must pay a
dowry to compensate for her loss of virginity and future chance of
Unnatural Vice: Unnatural vice is the worst kind of lust because it is
unnatural in act and purpose. Unnatural vice happens variously, but
Aquinas provides several examples including bestiality or intercourse
with a "thing of another species," for example animals. Aquinas said,
"bestiality goes beyond the bands of humanity" and is therefore,
Contemporary spiritual perspective
Barry Long states that lusting is simply thinking or fantasising about
an imagined sexual scene and private parts of the body. The action of
thinking or fantasising stirs the natural, pure sexual energy into a
coarser, more degraded emotional form (lust). Long
encourages lovemaking as the practice of converting sexual energy into
the knowledge of love: "You don’t need a celibate body, you need a
In psychoanalysis and psychology
Main article: libido
Lust, in the domain of psychoanalysis and psychology, is often treated
as a case of "heightened libido". A person is more likely to lust
after someone who does not resemble themself. Self-relatedness is a
cue of kinship and causes an instinctual reaction to not be attracted.
Therefore, self-resemblance decreases attractiveness and sexual desire
in a person while less resemblance increases attractiveness and sexual
desire creating a higher possibility of lust.
^ Richard Lazarus with Bernice N Lazarus, Passion and Reason: Making
Sense of Our Emotions, 1994, New York: Oxford University Press
^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Lust". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
^ Pope John Paul II, Mutual Attraction Differs from Lust.L'Osservatore
Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 22 September 1980, p. 11. Available
at http://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2tb39.htm .
^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, n° 2351 sq."
^ Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy (1994) p. 37
^ Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy (1994) p. 39-40
^ J. Jerman/A. Weir, Images of
Lust (2013) p. 30
^ Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1968) p. 48
^ Dante, Hell' (1975) p. 101; Dante, Purgatory (1971) p. 67 and p. 202
^ C. J. Berry, The Idea of Luxury (1994) p. 97-8
^ Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy (1994) p. 37-9
^ Robert Liddell, The Novels of Jane Austen (London 1963) p. 22
^ Through open doors: a view of Asian cultures in Kenya. Cynthia
Salvadori, Andrew Fedders, 1989
^ Exploring New Religions. p. 196, George D. Chryssides, 1999
^ Peace & purity: the story of the Brahma Kumaris : a
spiritual revolution By Liz Hodgkinson
^ A history of celibacy, p. 172. Elizabeth Abbott, 2001
^ Bava Bathra. pp. 16a.
^ Baba, Meher (1967). Discourses. Volume I. San Francisco: Sufism
Reoriented. pp. 159–160. ISBN 978-1880619094.
^ Karras, Ruth Mazo. Common Women: Prostitution and Sexuality in
Medieval England. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
Barry Long Foundation International". Barrylong.org. Retrieved
^ 'MAKING LOVE Sexual
Love the Divine Way' Barry Long, Book
^ Barry Long, Gold Coast Talks audio, February 1997
^ Gold Coast Talks audio April 1998
^ Debruine, L. M. (2005). "Trustworthy but not lust-worthy:
Context-specific effects of facial resemblance". Proceedings of the
Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 272 (1566): 919–22.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.3003. PMC 1564091 .
Froböse, Gabriele, Rolf Froböse, and Michael Gross (translator).
Lust and Love: Is it more than Chemistry? Royal Society of Chemistry,
2006. ISBN 0-85404-867-7.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lust.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Lust
The dictionary definition of lust at Wiktionary
"The Seven Deadly Sins: Lust"
National Public Radio
National Public Radio feature
"A New Look at Lust: The Secular View"
The Catholic Encyclopedia: Lust
Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Sixth Commandment
The Jewish Encyclopedia: Yeẓer ha-Ra
Mono no aware
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