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The word fornication has been subjected to centuries of misinterpretation and misunderstanding, and often, intentional misuse.

Originally, the term fornication was derived from the Indo-European word gwher. The study of this root word and its many branches reveals the meanings of volumes of religious symbols.

Etymology of Fornication

Originated from: gwher-, meaning "To heat, warm." Derivatives include brand, brandy, forceps, and fornicate.

  1. Zero-grade form *gwhr-. a. burn, from Old English beornan, byrnanbærnan (transitive), to burn; b. brimstone, from late Old English brynstn, “burning mineral,” sulfur (stn, stone; see stei-); c. brindled, from Old Norse brenna, to burn. a–c all from Germanic *brennan (intransitive) and brannjan (transitive), formed from *brenw-
  2. a. brand, from Old English brand, piece of burning wood, sword; b. brandy, from Dutch branden, to burn, distill; c. brandish, from Old French brand, sword; d. brandade, from Old Provençal brand, sword. a–d all from Germanic *brandaz, a burning, a flaming torch, hence also a sword.
  3. Suffixed form *gwher-m(n)o-. therm, –therm, thermo-, –thermy; hypothermia, lobster thermidor, from Greek thermos, warm, hot, and therm, heat.
  4. O-grade form *gwhor-. forceps, forcipate, from Latin forceps, pincers, fire tongs (< “that which holds hot things”; -ceps, agential suffix, “-taker”; see kap-).
  5. *gwhor-no-. a. Fornax, furnace, hornito, from Latin furnus, fornus, fornx, oven; b. probably Latin fornix, arch, vault (< “vaulted brick oven”): fornicate, fornix.
[Etymology quoted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition, 2000).]

It is common to read that fornication is derived from the Latin fornix.

  • fornic or fornix (Latin): plural: fornices. A vault or archway.

In Roman times, brothels were called "fornices," seemingly because prostitutes could be hired near the "arches" of certain buildings. Thus, it is said that the word fornication appeared (ca. the year 1303) to describe a sexual act with a prostitute. Yet, this word "fornices" is also related to the word "furnace," which is a significant symbol in the Bible.

Nonetheless, the most significant relationship here is between gwher, "to burn," and the word fornication.

Fornication Defined in Christianity

Undoubtedly through the influence of the dominant Christian traditions, in English the word fornication became defined as "the sexual act when occurring outside of a marriage recognized by the church." In other words, any person who had sex without being married by the official church was called a "fornicator." Even if people were married in other religions or sects, the established church considered them "fornicators." This definition is still in use today, and even is extended by certain groups to include those who remarry after divorce.

Fornication Defined in Judaism

Christianity was derived from the Jewish tradition. Jesus was an expert at the Jewish law, and stated that his teaching was congruent with the Jewish law.

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law [given by Moses], or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." - Matthew 5:17

In Judaism, the exoteric (public) definition of fornication is not so different from the Christian one:

Fornication: cohabitation between a man, married or unmarried, and an unmarried woman.- Jewish Encyclopedia

While slightly more broad than the Christian meaning, the basic idea of the public definition remains the same. Yet, in a document written nearly one thousand years ago, we can see that among the initiated Rabbis or teachers who studied the inner or hidden meanings of the law of Moses (Torah), the meaning of fornication is clearly not the same as among the public.

...since the Torah has warned against forbidden sexual relations and forbidden foods, while permitting relations with one's wife and eating meat and wine, the lustful person can find a place to wallow in fornication with his wife or wives and be of "the guzzlers of wine and the gluttons of meat", and converse at will of all licentious things (since no prohibition against this is specified in the Torah). He can be a hedonist with the Torah's permission. Therefore, after enumerating the things which it forbids entirely, the Torah says: "Be holy." Constrain yourself also in that which is permitted. - Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1194-1270), known by the acronym Ramban, author of commentaries on the Torah, Talmud, and Maimonides' Sefer HaMitzvot

In other words, fornication can occur with one's own wife. If that is the case, then in the law of Moses, fornication must mean something other than a married person having sexual relations outside of marriage. In fact, there is even more evidence to support this view.

Adultery and Fornication

In the Bible, the law is defined primarily in the Ten Commandments. In Christianity, two of the commandments are related to sexuality: that one should not fornicate, nor should one commit adultery, which is commonly defined as:

  • Adultery: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than his or her lawful spouse.

Let us recall the "official" definition for fornication:

  • Fornication: voluntary sexual intercourse between two unmarried persons or two persons not married to each other.

Are these not the same definition? Why should the law of Moses differentiate between these two if they are the same thing? It is exceedingly bizarre to conflate these two terms, fornication and adultery, and to conflate these two commandments. The fact is that fornication and adultery are not the same thing. That is why the Bible always keeps them distinct.

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. - Hebrews 13:4

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor a person who commits extortion will inherit the kingdom of God. - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

The simple solution to this vexing contradiction is that fornication does not mean what the dictionary and the church say. Over the centuries, in their confusion, the church has conflated these terms.

Learn more about the word adultery.

Fornication Defined in Esotericism

The Savior [Christ] said, "Sin as such does not exist, but you make sin when you do what is of the nature of fornication, which is called 'sin.' For this reason the Good came into your midst, to the essence of each nature, to restore it to its root." He went on to say, "For this reason you come into existence and die [...] whoever knows may know [...] a suffering which has nothing like itself, which has arisen out of what is contrary to nature. Then there arises a disturbance in the whole body. For this reason I said to you, Be of good courage [cf. Matt. 28:9], and if you are discouraged, still take courage [willpower] over against the various forms of nature [in you; in other words, "Deny yourself"]. - The Gospel of Mary

When observed in the light of the esoteric knowledge of Christianity (which has been lost by all the mainstream traditions), it is clear that rather than being rooted in the derivative term fornix ("arch"), the word fornication is in fact rooted in that ancient word for "heat," and is therefore very closely related to fornus, furnus, or fornax, meaning "oven." The furnace or oven is an important sexual symbol in the Bible:

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven...

And he [Lot] looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah [cities destroyed because of sexual crimes], and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. - Genesis 19:24, 28

And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. - Exodus 9:7-9

And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. - Exodus 19:17-19

Whenever I would heal Israel, the sins of Ephraim are exposed and the crimes of Samaria revealed. ...I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them... They are all adulterers, burning like an oven... Their hearts are like an oven... Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire. - Hosea 7

Throughout all religions, the presence of God is closely related to fire. In Christianity and Judaism, God often appears as fire.

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night... - Exodus 13:21

Primarily, the relationship of fornication with the term fornax or furnace is of importance. A furnace or kiln is where the chaff is burned away, or all impurities are removed.

And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. - Matthew 3:10-12

I am come to send fire on the earth... - Luke 12:49

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.- 1 Corinthians 3:13-17

For our God is a consuming fire. - Hebrews 12:29

The oven or furnace symbolizes where that fire is contained and utilized by will. In the human being, the power of God is in the sexual fire, and is why marriage is sacred and why two of the Ten Commandments are sexual. Sex has great power to either destroy or create. The fire of sex can be used safely when one obeys the guidance of the divine, or that fire can be misused, and destroy whatever is in its path.

Careful study of scripture reveals that "fornication" is not limited to the "official" definition of the modern church. It is clear that impure sexual acts result in being burned "as in a furnace," in other words, fornication "burns" the impure or those who do not obey the law.

Although it is clear that the oven or furnace is a cause for destruction, it is also where the power of the divine is revealed, as in the book of Daniel. Those who obey the divine law emerge from the fire unscathed.

And these men, the three of them, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell into the burning, fiery furnace, bound. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was bewildered and stood up in haste. He shouted and said to his leaders, "Did I not cast three men into the fiery furnace, bound?" They answered and said to the king, "The king is true." He called out and said, "Behold, I see four free men walking in the midst of the fire, and there is no wound upon them, and the form of the fourth one is like [that of] an angel." - Daniel 3:23-25

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they [the Apostles] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit... - Acts 2:2-4

When someone knows the esoteric doctrine and follows the law, they work with the fire and are not burned. Those who do not know the law or reject the law are burned in the furnace. To fornicate is to abuse the fire of the Holy Spirit that dwells in the temple of the body; that fire is His creative power: sexual fire.

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. - 1 John 3:9

Esoterically, fornication means to make the heat (solar fire) of the seed (sexual power) leave the body through voluntary orgasm. Any voluntary orgasm is fornication, whether between a married man and woman, or an unmarried man and woman, or through masturbation, or in any other case; this is explained by Moses:

A man from whom there is a discharge of semen, shall immerse all his flesh in water, and he shall remain unclean until evening. And any garment or any leather [object] which has semen on it, shall be immersed in water, and shall remain unclean until evening. A woman with whom a man cohabits, whereby there was [a discharge of] semen, they shall immerse in water, and they shall remain unclean until evening. - Leviticus 15:16-18

To fornicate is to spill the sexual energy through the orgasm. Those who "deny themselves" restrain the sexual energy, and "walk in the midst of the fire" without being burned. Those who restrain the sexual energy, who renounce the orgasm, remember God in themselves, and do not defile themselves with animal passion, "for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

This is why neophytes always took a vow of sexual abstention, so that they could prepare themselves for marriage, in which they would have sexual relations but not release the sexual energy through the orgasm. This is why Paul advised:

...they that have wives be as though they had none... - I Corinthians 7:29

Yet, fornication is not limited to our use of physical matter.

"...fornication does not pertain only to the physical body; it is also related to thoughts, emotions, words and animal sensations." - Samael Aun Weor, Alchemy and Kabbalah

This is consistent with the teachings given by Jesus and Buddha regarding adultery: harmful actions are primarily rooted in our use of the mind.

How to Avoid Fornication

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power. Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. - 1 Corinthians 6:13-20

It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself [who already fulfilled the duty of marriage, and had transcended the need for it, for there are two kinds of chastity]. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I [in chastity]. But if they cannot contain [their sexual energy], let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. - 1 Corinthians 6:1-9

Marriage is sacred, and provides a vehicle through which man and woman can transform their sexual forces and attain purity.

"A fornicator is an individual who has intensely accustomed his genital organs to copulate (with orgasm). Yet, if the same individual changes his custom of copulation to the custom of no copulation, then he transforms himself into a chaste person. We have as an example the astonishing case of Mary Magdalene, who was a famous prostitute. Mary Magdalene became the famous Saint Mary Magdalene, the repented prostitute. Mary Magdalene became the chaste disciple of Christ." - Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of Beelzebub

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit (sex). - 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

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