Poly Planet GAIA | ecosexual love | arts of loving | global holistic health | eros | dissidence: Eros
Showing posts with label Eros. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eros. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mini Encyclopedia of EcoSexuality - Eros (3 of 3)


Entry:  Eros

by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD

3. Eros Across Time and Space, cont'd

When modernity became a prevalent mentality in the scenes of Western Culture, Eros came back as a significant cultural trope via the discourse of psychoanalysis.  Cultural constructs of the divine were still prevalently male, monotheistic, and abstract.  The mind/body split that had resulted in the divorce of the sacred from the erotic was still in function.  Humans still believed they had been made “in God’s Image.”  They were encouraged to do so by evolutionary science that positioned our species at the pinnacle of evolution: the form of life for whom other forms had been designed.  These constructs aligned with official scientific practices that desacralized nature and turned it into a resource for human life. 

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Predictably, Eros’s come back was partial: from a deity in a polytheistic pantheon, the trope became a sexual instinct or drive.  Freud, a founder of the new human science, had a predilection for Greek tropes to conceptualize psychoanalysis.  He envisioned Eros as the life instinct and associated this instinct with its opposite: Thanatos, the drive to death and self-destruction.  This binary helped Freud explain intra-psychic conflicts while positioning the erotic on the side of life.  In this way, psychoanalytic discourse rescued the erotic from its association with “sin” and “vice,” and made it an element in the discourse of late 19th century vitalism, of which Freud’s views were part. 

In the late 20th century, the discourse of postmodern science produced a gradual but effective decoupling of the practice of love from reproduction.  While the Gaia Hypothesis postulated that love begins with unicellular life, the biosciences began to study the effects of love across biological realms.  It became apparent that within the discourse of psychoanalysis the redemption of Eros could only be partial.  As an instinct, Eros was considered “natural,” but only to the extent that its pursuit was contained within the cultural values of the time.  The modern notion of the “natural” was very narrow.  “Sexuality” was the new cultural construct based on which all arts and practices of love were to be analyzed.  Yet all non-reproductive expressions of love were pre-classified as “perversions” that caused illness because they were “unnatural.”  Psychotherapy used discourse to talk patients out of them.  But Eros proved too powerful and the “talking cure” did not always work out.  The practice of same-gender love and a woman’s choice to experience pleasure and pursue her desire contrasted with the cultural values of the time.  Civilization was associated with the stability of these values.  This explains why Freud did not carry his own premises fully out. 

When psychoanalysis, sex-positive feminism, and political theory started to converse with one another things became more contextualized.  In the 1960s, Marcuse identified the connection between sexual repression and social oppression.  In Eros and Civilization he connected the dots between Freud and Marx.  Reich proposed to liberate the erotic energy in the body and thereby cure the mind.  In the 1970-80s, sex-positive feminists, including Gayle Rubin, Ruby Rich, and many others, unpacked women’s sexuality and reclaimed female erotic power.  The new genre of Erotica was invented as a style in the visual and performing arts that celebrates nudity, sexual play, erotic seduction, styles of pleasure, orgasmic variety, and body art.  Conventional pornography was turned upside down.  The emphasis was on pleasure, playfulness, and art rather than arousal.  The intention was to encourage all viewers to become more knowledgeable in the arts of love, rather than feed male viewers with ejaculatory fantasies.  With Annie Sprinkle, Carol Queen, Susie Bright, Betty Dodson, and others, women became erotic protagonists and sovereign sexual subjects.  Female viewers felt especially empowered: their anatomy of arousal and erotic potential were finally recognized.  A new scene for the arts of love had come about. 

In this new scene, Eros made a full come back when humans realized they were vulnerable to the forces of a degraded environment and a seriously damaged climate.  The way the sacred value of the force of love was re-established was roundabout.  In the context of global ecology and a new impulse to respect non-human life, Neo-paganism appeared as a cultural movement that pluralized the sacred and vowed to revere life in all its manifestations.  At about the same time, modern Tantra appeared in the West as a reverberation of a countercultural tradition within Hinduism, another polytheistic culture.  Tantra emphasizes the union of the erotic and the sacred in the arts of love.  Behind these cultural elements was a vernacular notion of Gaia as the web of life, a sense of cyberspace as a manifestation of planetary consciousness, and a circular sense of planetary life as recycling.  The new cultural tropes restored to Eros his sacred powers.
In the practice of sacred sexuality the sovereignty of female pleasure is recognized.  A new marriage of the sacred and the erotic became possible when the interdependence of Eros and Gaia, feminine and masculine, matter and energy, lover and beloved, was recognized.  When the experience of pleasure becomes a way to expand consciousness, one’s ability to channel the cosmic force of love is magnified.   The arts of love serve to channel the flow of energy so that one element can transform into another in the continuous recycling of life.

See Also: Gaia Hypothesis, Ecosexuality, Tantra, Herbert Marcuse, Plato, Sappho, Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis, Thanatos, Cupid, The Symposium, Giacomo Casanova, Marquis De Sade, Humanism, Gaspara Stampa, Veronica Franco, Erotica, sex-positive feminism, Ovid, sexual, sacred, arts of love.

List of Sources

Bright, Susie.  Full Exposure: Opening Up to Sexual Creativity and Erotic Expression.  New York: Harper Collins, 2009.
Casanova, Giacomo.  The Story of My Life.  Gilberto Pizzamiglio ed.  Stephen Sartarelli tr.  New York: Penguin, 2001.
De Sade, Marquis.  The Marquis de Sade: The Complete Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings.  Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse trs.  Introduction by Jean Paulhan and Maurice Blanchot.  New York: Grove Press, 1965.
Franco, Veronica.  Poems and Selected Letters.  University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Freud, Sigmund.  Beyond the Pleasure Principle.  New York: Penguin, 2003.
Halperin, David.  One Hundred Years of Homosexuality.   New York: Routledge, 2012.
Holland, Nancy.  “Looking Backwards: A Feminist Revisits Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization.” Hypatia: 26: 1 (Winter 2011): 65-78.
Marcuse, Herbert.  Eros and Civilization.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1974.
Ovid.  The Art of Love.  James Michie tr.  New York: Random House 2013.
Plato.  Symposium.  Robin Waterfield tr.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Queen, Carol.  Real Live Nude Girls: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture.  New York: Cleis Press, 2003. 
Reich, Wilhelm.  Character Analysis.  Vincent Carfagno tr.  New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013.
Rich, Ruby.  Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement.  Duke University Press, 1998. 
Rubin, Gayle.  “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex.”  In Literary Theory: An Anthology (770-794).  Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan eds.  New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 
Sappho.  The Complete Poems of Sappho.   Willis Barnstone tr.  New York: Shambhala Publications, 2011. 
Sprinkle, Annie.  Dr Annie Sprinkle’s How to Be a Sex Goddesses in 101 Easy Steps.  NP: Joseph Kramer/Erospirit, 2008.
______  .  Dr. Annie Sprinkle’s Amazing World of Orgasm.  Joseph Kramer dir.  NP: Erospirit, 2007. 
Stampa, Gaspara.  Selected Poems.  SUNY: Italica Press, 2008.

To be continued: new entry is The Gaia Hypothesis . . .  come back next week, same time.

Sending much love and all good wishes to all of you and your loved ones.  Thanks you for listening and opening up.  Stay tuned for more coming.  With all good wishes for a happy spring and summer.  Thank you!

Namaste,

SerenaGaia


Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, PhD
Author of Gaia, Eros, and many other books about love 
Professor of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mini Encyclopedia of EcoSexuality - Eros (2 of 3)


Entry:  Eros

by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD

3. Eros Across Time and Space

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In Antiquity, Eros was imagined as a deity, and this deity was envisioned in a number of correlated ways.  Most of these are rehearsed in Plato’s dialog dedicated to Eros, The Banquet, or Symposium.  The background for this dialog is an Athenian practice of love known as pederasty, whereby, in a two-month retreat, an adult man initiates a young man into the arts of loving.  Participants in the banquet, Athenian men of various age groups, are invited to commend Eros.  Their interpretations correspond to a range of perspectives on love still held today.  Phaedrus describes Eros as one of the oldest gods, also known as Titans, because they represented forces of nature whose power was sovereign over human life.  This interpretation assumes that Eros is a cosmic force.  As a natural element, Eros is similar to other Titans: Aeolus for the winds, Uranus for the sky, Cronus for time, and Gea, or Gaia, for the Earth.  

Other participants in the all-male banquet include the legal expert Pausanias, Socrates’s youthful and handsome disciple Agathon, the physician Eryximachus, the playwright Aristophanes, the philosopher Socrates, and young Alcibiades, another disciple of Socrates who arrives drunk.  Pausanias’s interpretation associates Eros with Aphrodite since he was sometimes seen as her son.  He brings up Aphrodite’s spiritual and erotic aspects, claiming that a balance of both is advisable.  Agathon describes Eros as a youthful and handsome god, which tends to associate love with the effervescence of youth and the process of reproduction.  Aristophanes associates Eros with the durability and uniqueness implied in the construct of “the other half.”  Legend has it that ancient humans had two faces, four legs and four arms.  They were of three kinds:  male, female, and male/female.  Zeus cut them in halves because they were too arrogant.  Eros is the force that attracts the two severed halves to one another: to form durable, self-contained couples made of two men, two women, or a woman and a man.  This interpretation appreciates the value of monogamy and same-gender love in a way that could be used by today’s advocates of gay marriage equality.  The more holistic Eryximachus associates Eros with the state of health in one’s life: medicine, music, and astronomy are love’s allies, provided they are well practiced. 

Socrates’s turn eventually comes, and, as is typical of Plato’s dialogs, he recaps the inconsistencies of others and provides a more comprehensive interpretation.  The philosopher invokes the wisdom of another philosopher, Diotima, a woman who answered his questions when asked.   “Eros,” Diotima claimed, “is neither young nor old.”  The lesson reads, as Socrates continues to explain to the others, that he is a mediator between the desirer and the desired, the human and the divine, the young and the old, the beautiful and the ugly.  He is the force that guides humans towards the beautiful, which inspires humans to desire knowledge, and therefore coincides with the good.  This union of good and beautiful is what one wants to keep forever, Socrates reports, as he refers back to Aristophanes’s appreciation for same-gender love.  The question arises: how do same-gender and other-gender unions last in time?  The union of men and women produces descendants.  The union of men and men is of a more elevated character because it produces ideas and philosophical dialogs.  The explanation of why Diotima forgot the union of women and women never comes.  Yet, Alcibiades, who is drunk, undermines the teacher’s argument by claiming that it’s the body of his disciples that Socrates desires, not their mind.  Socrates replies that Alcibiades is jealous of Agathon.  This exchange refers to the construct that under the effect of wine and other Aphrodisiacs, humans can become more honest with themselves about their desires.

The Symposium anticipates the mind/body split that’s part of Plato’s philosophy and the post-classical era so eagerly picked up.  Notably, the union of women and women is not mentioned in the lesson that concludes the dialog.  This epistemological deficiency is correlative to the absence of women in flesh and bones from such dialogs.  From female philosophers and teachers of the time, including Sappho, we know that the union of women and women was very fertile.  The Thaisoi of ancient Lydia specialized in the education of young women.  There this union produced ideas, poems, music, and art; and, most of all, a philosophy that advocates the freedom to love for people of both genders.  Women educated in the arts of love became aware that one finds beauty in whatever one loves.  As disciples of Sappho, young women learned to admire Helen’s practice of freedom in choosing a partner.  They experienced love as a vibration that encompasses the whole being.  And allowed love to last in one’s heart though memory, poetry, music, and nostalgia.   

Eros became Cupid when the Romans became Hellenized enough to adopt Greek deities, and adapt them to their mentality.  Cupid is often represented as a winged putto whose arrows convey the Roman rhetoric that love is a form of conquest: a rhetoric the poet Ovid ironically adopts in his manual, The Art of Love.  While Eros is envisioned as an energy, a vibration, a force that connects those in love, Cupid is more materially-oriented and practical.  Eventually, he becomes coupled with cupidity, or the desire to acquire unnecessary riches and capital.  In another legend, Eros/Cupid falls in love with Psyche and marries her.  Paganism in the Roman Empire was not conducive of sacred eroticism because cynicism prevailed and pleasure was not experienced as a path to enlightenment.  When Christianity became institutionalized, the divorce of the sacred and the sexual became final.  The new institution was held together by the myth of a sacred conception without deflowering.  The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception de-eroticized the feminine and exiled women who enjoy lovemaking from the realm of the divine.

To be continued . . .  come back next week, same time.

Sending much love and all good wishes to all of you and your loved ones.  Thanks you for listening and opening up.  Stay tuned for more coming.  With all good wishes for a happy spring and summer.  Thank you!

Namaste,

SerenaGaia


Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, PhD
Author of Gaia, Eros, and many other books about love 
Professor of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mini Encyclopedia of EcoSexuality - Eros (1 of 3)


Entry:  Eros

Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD

1. Summary

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The notion of Eros comes from Antiquity.  In Greek mythology Eros was the god of love.  Eros represented the marriage of the sacred and the sexual at the heart of polytheism and classical mythologies.  Knowledge about this deity was considered good since it involved initiation and training in the arts of love.  Eros was often considered a force of nature, similar to other Titans or primordial deities.  Eros is the topic of Plato's dialog, The Symposium.  The Roman version of Eros was Cupid.  In the Christian Era, monotheism and the dogma of "Immaculate Conception" dissolved the marriage of the sacred and the sexual.  In the Early Modern and Modern Era, Eros made a gradual come back thanks to the Discourse of Love in Renaissance Poetry and to Freudian Psychoanalysis.  In the Post Modern Era, a full come back of Eros as a supreme force of nature is taking place, as more humans are becoming aware of love as the ecology of life on the sovereign third planet known as Gaia or Earth. 


2. Introduction

The notion of Eros comes from Antiquity.  In Greek mythology, Eros was known as the deity that represented the cosmic force of love.  In most polytheistic cultures, lovemaking was considered an art.  The practice of this art had a sacred character.  Initiation rituals marked the processes of educating young people into the practice of these arts.  As an element of nature whose force science could not explain well enough, love had its proper deity among others in a culture’s pantheon.  In Greek culture, Eros represented both the cosmic force of love and the way this force was wielded by those trained in the arts of love, or the erotic.  The very practice of these arts was considered sacred, as the energy of love would manifest among deities, among humans, and between humans and deities. 

The binary that opposes love and sex came about when polytheistic belief systems gave way to various forms of monotheisms, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  With only one deity to love, legitimate practices of love became narrower.  Since the mono deity was typically non-sexualized, the sacred and the erotic became decoupled, and erotic pleasure became constructed as “sin” or “vice.”  In the age of European expansion called the Renaissance, Eros was part of the love for nature--and human nature--that came to the age via Humanism, the cultural movement that encouraged a genuine study of the classics.  Female poets like Veronica Franco and Gaspara Stampa interpreted the art of love as the source of all other arts.  The discourse of love developed across languages and cultural arenas, including Italy, France, and England.  The “flame of love” was a central trope, carrying the idea of love as an energy that circulates and spreads like wildfire.  The erotic was the background for the poetic convention of celebrating one’s love life in a sequence of sonnets, ballads, and madrigals.  For the libertines of the 18th century, the erotic was a subcultural space to explore various styles of pleasure related to one ideal of the revolution that concluded the century: liberté!  Known leaders in this movement include Giacomo Casanova and the Marquis de Sade. 

In the modern era the notion of Eros was revived when the human sciences evolved as legitimate disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, and psychoanalysis.  In this context, Eros became associated with the cultural construct of sexuality.  This construct was useful in rescuing erotic pleasure from the wastebasket of “sin” and “vice” where it had been placed by institutionalized Christianity.  The notion of “sexuality” placed the arts of love under the aegis of science.  It legitimized the study of love and its practices via the discipline of psychoanalysis, with Freud and others as its founders.  In this essay we will describe Eros as a cultural construct whose effects are significant in the Ancient and the modern world.  We will focus on how the trope travels, transforms, adapts across time and cultural landscapes.  

To be continued . . . . come back next week, same time.

Sending much love and all good wishes to all of you and your loved ones.  Thanks you for listening and opening up.  Stay tuned for more coming.  With all good wishes for a happy end of winter, spring, and summer.  Thank you!

Namaste,

SerenaGaia


Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, PhD
Author of Gaia, Eros, and many other books about love 
Professor of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez

Join Our Mailing List   
Follow us in the social media
Poly Planet GAIA Blog:  http://polyplanet.blogspot.com/ Website: www.serenagaia.com

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