From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 4
Let us give two very simple examples of the body’s knowing: diets and sexual partners. New diet books proliferate, with dozens of them being published every year. Every new diet claims to have cracked the code to easy weight loss. The well-known fact, however, is that diet books have a minimal impact on people. People cannot regulate the most visceral function of the body—eating—based on external rules. The truth is that we do not need diet books. The law of the body always knows when you have had enough to eat and what kinds of foods you should be eating. But when the wisdom of the body is drowned out in the din of our busy lives, we turn to diet books. The diet books almost inevitably fail us if we do not first reconnect to the erotic ethics of the body.
To hear the voice of the body, we need to become proficient in our discernment between Eros and pseudo Eros. Let’s say we feel hurt by some event in our lives. We fall into the hole. We are afraid to stay in the hole, so we seek to fill the emptiness with pseudo Eros. We reach for a Baby Ruth candy bar. We get an immediate rush of sugar. It is damaging to virtually every system in our body. Our consumption of sugar violates our Eros. Candy bars are pseudo Eros. But you do not need a diet book to tell you that. Just feel the experience in your body after one, two, and then three candy bars. When we deny the truths of the body, we begin to read diet books, in all the arenas of our lives. Our Eros becomes blocked, and we lose access to the living divine presence that flows through us.
In the second example, we consider our sexual partners. With whom should we have sexual relations? There are many relationship and religious books that answer this question. But actually, in order to know whom to have sex with, we need only to access the truth of our bodies. Our bodies know perfectly the distinction between sex that is an expression of our vitality and sex that is a violation of our vitality. Relationship books or laws governing sex will not get you there.
The Rejection of Body Absolutism
But that does not mean that diet books or ethical books are unnecessary. Akiva writes, “If the Torah would not have been given, we would have learned all wisdom from the Song of Solomon.” We have cited this Tantric teaching several times in order to open up the radical wisdom of the body. But that does not in any sense imply that we want to revert to the body as our sole source of ethics. The Secret of the Cherubs rejects a kind of body absolutism in which the body becomes the sole Holy Grail. This rejection of naive body absolutism is essential for three primary reasons:
In the body there are states of profound expansion that yield great wisdom. This is the natural state of the body when the character armor is shed and the force of the divine flows unobstructed.
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.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 2
In sexuality we are all vulnerable. To be a great lover in the sexual, technique is woefully insufficient. Genuine sexual Tantra has nothing to do with circulating the energy up your spine through practiced breathing. Genuinesexual Tantra is about making love with an unguarded heart. This requires radical vulnerability. Authentic sexual Tantra is about merging your heart with your yoni and phallus. Yoni and phallus are not merely exterior forms of genitalia. They are qualities of being that live in every man and woman. It is only from that place that you can be vulnerable enough to risk being ultimately fierce and ultimately tender. It is only from that place that you can risk sexing your partner open to God or letting your partner sex you open to God.
Both of these wonders require your total surrender. The ethics of the sexual is the ethics of vulnerability. You have to be willing to let your partner witness both the surrender of your power and your surrender to your power. Your small self and contracted ego disappear in erotic sex. In sex Eros, we bypass ego and access our most sacred, scared, and secret selves.
A new vision of human possibility emerges from our vulnerability. “Sex is ethics” means that we are radically loyal to the vulnerability aroused by our sexing. We are loyal even after the ego rushes back in, eager to reassert its dominion. Loyalty means that we do not—years later—tell a different story in which we negatively revise our experience of the sexual. Sex that was beautiful, mutual, and vulnerable cannot ethically be recast as predatory or abusive. Regret is not rape, just as arousal is not consent. That is a violation of the Holy of Holies. Remember the two teachings of Akiva: “All the [biblical] books are holy” and “The Song of Solomon is the Holy of Holies.” The sexual love song is the Holy of Holies. To falsely narrate a sexual experience or to break sexual boundaries without invitation is to violate the Holy of Holies.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 1
We recently had dinner with a colleague who has written some significant work on Eros. It is far more nuanced than virtually anything else out there. In general, we think her work is studded with insight, and we are delighted to recommend it. However, we believe she makes two important mistakes that need to be addressed in the spirit of public debate because they are so impactful in terms of how we experience our lives.
First, she collapses the sexual and the erotic. For her, Eros is a term that for the most part refers to the sexual. She is talking, however, not about banal sex but about what is often called great sex. By Eros she means sex that is, at least on some level, hot and deep. She then makes a very dramatic claim: that Eros by its very nature is transgressive. With this we take exception. The nature of the erotic (including the sexual) is subversive but not transgressive. The difference between these two positions is vast.
Transgressive means to violate an appropriate value or boundary. Subversive implies the intentional subverting of cultural values or boundaries for the sake of a higher vision. Transgressive undermines that which should not be undermined. Subversive is revolutionary, undermining that which needs to be overthrown. The difference is subtle but highly significant.
Our colleague is somewhat of a sexual anthropologist. She looks at the practice of sexuality and finds that what is most alive in people’s sexual lives involves transgression—by which she means transgression of the cultural mores held by society or even by the people themselves. Of course, that is exactly the point we were making in the previous chapter. But we would argue that transgression is not the ideal state of the sexual but what one might call the unconscious or shadow expression of the sexual. It is descriptive of the fall of Eros. The goal is to move from the unconscious to the conscious, from shadow to light. When we liberate Eros, we are able to access the aliveness of transgressive sex in the context of our committed relationships of whatever nature they might be. The way to do so is to restore temple consciousness—that is to say, a world in which sex is not transgressive but subversive.
Sex is subversive in that it points to an order of being beyond the conventional. Ordinary reality involves pragmatic surface relationships in which each person looks out for his or her own self-interest. The basic social contract of society is built on precisely such notions of individual self-interest and civil interaction. Sexuality models the possibility of breaking the boundary of the superficial to enter the deep. Sex, in its ideal form, subverts the “normal” order of society.
That’s the real question underlying this beautiful talk by our Academic Director Zak Stein.
Watch and listen to this fascinating thought experiment:
What would be a “seed bank” of ideas that—if preserved—would allow us to recreate civilization from the ground up, in case humanity survived some sort of an apocalypse?
Playing off of Noah’s Arc, Zak calls it the “Nous Arc.”
Engaging in this thought experiment a bunch of questions arise:
- Who gets to decide what should be in there?
- What should be the content of this “Great Library?” or in other words:
- How can we assure that we give the next generation everything they need?
The Need for Meta-Theories
In order to engage these questions, we need Meta-Theories. What are Meta-Theories?
While theories take the world as data, Meta-Theories take theories as data. Meta-Theories norm the norms of discourse.
Listen to this exciting 20-minute talk and learn:
- What a new legitimate model of teacherly authority and intergenerational transmission could be
- How our image of the ideal human looks like that we can teach into
- Why we need a theory of Cosmos and Self
- Which educational environments we need to create—in contrast to the informational environments that are stressful for most nervous systems
Enjoy the talk:
From an unedited draft of the forthcoming book Towards a New Politics of Evolutionary Love
by Dr. Marc Gafni & Dr. Zachary Stein
The core structural principle from Integral Meta-Theory involved in the formation of a Unique Self Symphony is the scientific principle of self-organization. The idea of self-organization is according to many the single most important scientific idea to emerge in the last sixty years. It exists at every level of reality and across all four quadrants. While many scientific accounts focus only on self-organization in systems and structures in biology or cybernetics (i.e., Lower-Right reductionism), there is a whole history of work in psychology and social theory dedicated to modeling how minds and cultures are complex dynamical systems, that evolve and self-organize in remarkable ways.
Multiple scientific fields, when held in an Integral embrace, tell us that self-organization is a basic principle of reality at all levels. Most forms of evolutionary emergence are a function of this ubiquitous tendency of all life and matter toward self-organization. This leads to the idea of an inherently creative cosmos, always evolving and organizing at higher and higher levels. Throughout the evolution of the world it appears that self-organization is often catalyzed via the leveraging of uniqueness. When you look at the emergence of complex processes in nature that display remarkable forms of self-organization, such as an ecosystem like swamp or rainforest, they are always complex symbiotic systems in which there are an endless number of unique niches.
This is why one of the core ideas behind the new politics of outrageous love is enabling self-organization at the level of human culture. So we must ask, what enables self-organization at the level of human culture? The answers is clear and in keeping with both the best of what we know about evolutionary theory and the best of our ideas for political and personal Enlightenment: the catalyst of self-organization in human socio–cultural systems is the Unique Self. Paradoxically, this means that the “shape” every human needs to assume in order to contribute to the creation of a healthy social organism is unique. Strange as it may sound, a just and healthy society needs to “socially engineer” for uniqueness, especially the institutions that shape human personalities and self-understandings: schools, news media, entertainment industries, computer technologies industries, etc. The whole social system would be like an incubator for uniqueness.