From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 3
The old split between body and soul that lies at the heart of Western civilization has not healed or transformed our world. There is a better way to live. Imagine a world in which we called the courtesan a sacred intimate and the great enlightenment implicit in the sacred secrets of the body became known to every man and woman, young and old. What if a new sexual humanism began to teach us what it means to live in Eros in all dimensions of our lives?
The principle we just articulated—that all failures of ethics have their source in a breakdown in Eros—reminds us just how vital a return to Eros is. There is only one choice at this crucial juncture in history: love or die. Love outrageously, or die. It is not enough merely to love one’s family. We must participate in the evolution of love. This happens when we realize that love is not an ego strategy for comfort. Real love is outrageous, not merely sweet human sentiment but the very essence of existence itself. Outrageous love is the evolutionary love that animates and drives the self-organizing universe. Outrageous love is Eros, suffusing and driving all reality.
Love in the Body
Sex is but love in the body. In Hebrew Tantra, the body is not merely a vessel to hold the light. Rather, it is the highest form of light. In the image of Hebrew Tantra, at the moment of the world’s inception (called “cosmogenesis”), a divine shaft penetrates the divine circle, and vessels are formed that hold light. The light is too intense for the vessels. In a defining primordial event, the vessels shatter. Some of the light from the vessels returns to its original source in the Godhead. Some of the light descends downward, where it becomes trapped in the shards of the broken vessels. This is taken to mean that hidden in our physical world of embodiment—which is a world of broken vessels and broken hearts—there is light that can be liberated by the one who has attained mastery.
This is a primary image of Hebrew Tantra. But now comes the seductive secret. In the inner texts of Tantra based on the deepest mystical realization, accessible only by the highest initiates, it is written: “Higher is the root of the vessels than the root of the lights.” What might this mean? Here is the shocking teaching. There is actually no such thing as vessels. Vessels are, in fact, but configurations of light. But not just any configurations of light. In the realization of Hebrew Tantra, what appear to be vessels are the highest form of light. “Greater is the light in the vessels than the light itself” is another way of translating this teaching. Simply put, that means that the body is not only a temple for the soul—the body being the vessel and the soul and the light—rather, the body is itself a higher form of soul than even what we usually refer to as the soul.
Embodiment is everything. It is not—as religion has always taught— that the vessels, our bodies, hold the light, hold the spirit. Rather, the vessels are the light. Our bodies are the spirit.
Said differently, the body is the light. The truth of this mystical position finds expression in contemporary science. We now understand that matter is but condensed energy, or what is sometimes called condensed light. The body is the ethical text. Sex is ethics. It is for this reason that the sexual models the erotic. The sexual is the body. The body teaches Eros. The body at its root is a higher form of the sacred than even the soul, which is normally called sacred. That is what we mean when we say the sexual models the erotic and the erotic and the holy are one.
There is a beautiful Hebrew Tantric text commenting on the biblical Genesis story, in which God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. In the popular reading, Abraham is faithful and goes to offer his son up as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah. There he hears the voice of God again, speaking through an angel. This time the voice says, “Do not stretch forth your hand against the boy.” Abraham hears the voice and spares his son, again in obedience to the divine command.
The mystical interpretation, however, reads the Genesis story quite differently. In the Tantric reading of the text, the voice of God telling Abraham not to harm his son is none other than the voice of Abraham’s body. Remember the text we cited above: “Through my body, I vision God.” Abraham’s body becomes a text of revelation. It tells him that he misheard the original command. His body tells him that to kill his son as a sacrifice to God, which was the custom of his day, is a horrific ethical violation. This is the beginning of the body humanism that is the hidden central motif of Hebrew Tantra. The eroticized person—whole-body Eros, not merely genital Eros—is the new human.
Echoes of Hebrew Tantra also show up in the writings of Herbert Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, and Norman O. Brown. For Reich, when the sexual energy is blocked in the body, Eros stops flowing. The repression of sexual energy, of life energy in the body, creates a blockage of the natural divine force that flows through you. The repression of life energy creates neurosis and even psychosis, both in the body and in the body politic. Freud talked about the need to repress the sexual impulse in order to create the ethical goods of civilization. That is a slippery slope that leads to the murder of Eros. The connection of fundamentalism to sexual repression is not incidental. Brown correctly takes umbrage at Freud and seeks to re-eroticize not merely the yoni and phallus but the entire body. His vision of a polymorphously perverse erotic body was foundational to the “make love not war” ethics of the 1960s. As we are sexually, so we are emotionally and ethically. There can be no split among body, mind, and heart.
And yet Brown’s vision, rooted in a rereading of psychoanalytic theory, as well as Marcuse’s vision before him, rooted in a liberal neo-Marxism, are woefully insufficient matrices for the emergence of the new human or the new society. We need a new vision of Eros beyond Marcuse and Brown. The reductionist materialism of both Marx and psychoanalysis are ultimately too pallid and weak to spark a new social or personal politics of Eros. That is why the new-human story of the 1960s collapsed on itself. It lacked the authentic depth needed for the emergence of a new erotic worldview.
In this writing, we articulate a new vision of Eros. This new erotic possibility is not rooted in psychoanalysis or neo-Marxism but rather in the scientific-mystical-evolutionary context of a new universe story. The universe is a love story—not an ordinary love story, but an outrageous love story. And outrageous love is Eros.
We are the erotic mystics infused with the magic to affect the force. We are irreducibly unique expressions of the love-beauty and love-intelligence that are the imitating and animating Eros of all that is. We are outrageous lovers, all costarring in the great love story that is the dramatic thread of the universe. It is only by taking off our body armor and embracing the natural, ethical rapture of the body that we can act in love but be lived as love.
When you really inhabit your body, you become wise in the ways of love. The body becomes the seat of wisdom. Sex invites us to the body. We must say yes to the invitation. In superficial sexing, we can be in sex but not in the body. When we deeply enter the body, we can hear the murmurings of the sacred. Sex is love in the body.
To be continued…
A Return to Eros: On Sex, Love, and Eroticism in Every Dimension of Life, from Drs. Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, reveals the radical secret tenets of relationship between the sexual, the erotic, and the holy. They reveal what Eros actually means and share the ten core qualities of the Erotic, which are modeled by the sexual. These include being on the inside, fullness of presence, yearning, allurement, fantasy, surrender, creativity, pleasure, and more.
A Return to Eros shows why these qualities of the erotic modeled by the sexual are actually the same core qualities of the sacred. The relationship between the sexual and the erotic becomes clear, teaching you how to live an erotically suffused existence charged with purpose, potency and power.
To be an Outrageous Lover—not just in sex but also in all facets of your life–you must listen deeply to the simple yet elegant whisperings of the sexual. This book will forever transform your understanding and experience of love, sex, and Eros.
with Dr. Marc Gafni
Imagine being fully expressed with an unstoppable life force that aligned you with the will, the desire, the knowledge and the creative impulse to engage ALL areas of your life full-on; without fear or shame stopping you from moving forward. Imagine the transformative power and positive impact you’d have on your personal relationships and potentially be a major influence in the world.
This is the ideal companion to our think tank book A Return to Eros by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid.