"Every Breakdown of Ethics is sourced in a Breakdown of Eros." ~ Dr. Marc Gafni
What does that mean?
Aren't we used to thinking of Eros and Ethics as opposites?
Aren't the newspapers full of people following their Eros at the expense of Ethics with often disastrous outcomes?
Take a moment to remember how we have defined the Qualities of Eros as
- Being on the Inside
- Fullness of Presence
- Interconnectivity and Union
- Participating in the Yearning Face of Being
Even though Eros can have a destructive Face, the most destructive in most of our lives is what Marc Gafni calls the Pseudo-Eros.
Echoes of Emptiness: The Erotic and the Ethical
An Excerpt from The Mystery of Love by Dr. Marc Gafni
The arena where emptiness - non-erotic living - is most destructive is in the ethical. Every ethical failure comes from the absence of eros. It is the inability to stay in the experience of emptiness that moves people to ethical violation. All crimes are in some sense crimes of passion. But this is really a misnomer. What we mean is that all crimes are rooted in the fear of passion’s loss! We cannot imagine what life would be like without the eros that we stand to lose.
Joel finds out that his wife is having an affair. The betrayal opens up the void within. Afraid that if he confronts her she will leave, he slowly becomes a workaholic to dull the pain. Work for Joel has become pseudo eros.
Or take Susan, who was verbally and physically abused by her mother. Never able to claim the dignity of her anger she became gradually disempowered as a person. As an adult, she is constantly furious at her children, often lashing out brutally at them. She seeks to assure herself that she is still alive and powerful. For Susan, her displaced anger at her children is pseudo-eros.
Or more mundane examples. We cheat on income taxes because we think that the extra money will paper over some of the fear of life. Money becomes pseudo-eros.
Or we exaggerate our accomplishments because we are afraid that our real story is insufficient to fill the void. Self aggrandizement is pseudo-eros.
All of our inappropriate behaviors that violate our values are really us crying out, “Pay attention to me – I exist”! All forms of acting out are pseudo-eros. Life is about walking through the void. Every time we walk through and not around the void we come out stronger. Every time we are seduced by pseudo-eros, ethical breakdown is around the corner. There is no ethics without eros.
The biblical myth text describes the pit into which Joseph was thrown by his jealous brothers: “The pit was empty, it had not water,” reads the story. But isn’t this redundant ask the students. If it had no water, don’t we know that it was empty? The master replies, this was an emptiness which bred evil. “Water it did not have, snakes and scorpions it did!" Emptiness always breeds in its wake ethical collapse. Of course, the real pit at play in the biblical myth is not simply a pit in the Earth. The pit is in the ground of being of Joseph’s brothers. It is their own gaping sense of emptiness which makes them envy Joseph so. It is their inability to walk through their own pit (void) that moves them to project a pit in the world in which they would cast their brother. The snakes and scorpions come from the unacknowledged emptiness of the brothers.
No, Joseph is not perfect, but when we respond to a person viscerally, it virtually always tells us more about ourselves than the person. The brothers’ own felt emptiness – their pit – moved them to the murderous rage of attempted fratricide. You see, up till this point in the book of Genesis one son has always been chosen as the inheritor of blessing. Abel was chosen over Cain. Shem over Ham and Yefet. Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esav. The brothers were convinced that Jacob their father was going to likewise choose Joseph over them. Joseph’s existence called into question the integrity of their stories.
When the value and dignity of our stories are called into question we brush up against the emptiness. The inability to walk through the emptiness to the fullness is the source of all ethical collapse. Ethics without eros is doomed. It is only from a place of fullness of being that we can reach out in love to others.
The first step to love is always self-love. If you don’t fill yourself up with love then you have precious little to dole out. As long as my love is not rooted in my erotic matrix, the inside of my fullness, it is doomed to fail. I will have to rely on an ethical source outside myself in reference to which I must always be a sinner. No one is ever able to consistently follow external rule sets that seem to violate our inner desire. However, if ethics well up from the inside, if we are at the center, then sin is not disobedience, but the violation of human well-being. In the end all ethical failure is a violation of eros – your own or someone else’s.
For a deeper inquiry into the relationship between Eros & Ethics download this excerpt from the forthcoming new version of Mystery of Love: "Circles & Lines – The 3 Stages of Eros & Ethics:"