Eroticism; a paradoxical dance between life and death.
How the (Erotic) taboos can be another tool for inner work.
The uncommon and surprising coupling of eroticism and wisdom as a path to spiritual fulfillment has been a calling that has occupied both my personal and vocational life. However, such a pairing often raises questions and is not immune to random assumptions. I think a brief dive into two central ideas around eroticism by the French philosopher and essayist Georges Bataille will simplify my intentions and, above all become an occasion to make suitable resolutions in our love life for the last quarter of this year. The first concerns our longing for continuity, and the second is our need to overcome taboos.
Sexual attraction is nothing but the physical expression of the lonely ever-Self's longing for continuity or, I would add, eternal life.
In his eponymous 1957 work, eroticism is defined by Bataille as "the approval of life unto death." What does he mean by that? As human beings, we are separate from each other and thus separated by an abyss of discontinuity. In other words, the Self is always lonely. No one will ever experience ourselves or hear our thousands of secret daily thoughts. "We are all condemned to a prison under our skin," as Jean Genet told us more tragically. For this reason, we yearn through our union with the other to experience unity, a sense of continuity, or otherwise a sequence, as Bataille calls it. Thus, sexual attraction is nothing but the physical expression of the lonely ever-Self's longing for continuity or, I would add, eternal life.
Sex is a relative of death.
Nevertheless, the only absolute continuity is death. From there, a dance with the paradox emerges: we do not want to die, but we yearn for that feeling of complete continuity that only death can offer us. Paradoxically, through death, we completely fulfill our need for continuity.
So, sex is the little relative of death or an alternative to death because it offers us this violent interruption of life and, therefore, continuity. That is why in many cultures, it is associated with death or sacrifices in various religious traditions. Through this prism, we also understand the real meaning of orgasm, the little death (la petite mort) as it is called in French.
Paradoxically, through death, we completely fulfill our need for continuity.
Similarly, overcoming taboos, and doing something forbidden, the other central idea in Bataille's work, also offers us an alternative interruption of life. This is because the taboos or prohibitions, the cultural rules we live, distinguish us from animals and make us civilized people. Therefore, thanks to taboos, life, and our culture evolve. But overcoming taboos, like sex, belongs to the senseless part of life and offers us a sense of continuity of life (through its violent interruption again).
The love experience is identified with the religious experience since it expresses our longing to go beyond the limits of our fragility.
Our mistake is to treat taboos with logic. The above explains why in many religious rituals around the world, we find celebrations of overcoming sexual and other prohibitions. What we are essentially celebrating is our union with the world, the end of the loneliness of the Self, and in a way, the fulfillment of the desire to live forever. In creating the prohibitions necessary for the continuity of our civilization, it is paradoxically essential to transgress them to fulfill our longing for continuity, for sacred eroticism. Thus, a dance with the paradox begins again.
Eroticism marks the passage from the animal to the human, from the body to the heart.
This is why Bataille said that "the field of eroticism is the field of violence," This explains why he radically differentiates eroticism from sexuality: the former is an integral part of the inner life of humans and the management of a paradoxical dance between life and death. Eroticism marks the passage from the animal to the human, from the body to the heart.
In conclusion, I suggest we keep something that has practical application in our emotional life. Because the arts and letters should serve life and not the other way around, they must identify with the art of living and dying and even complement it. Thus, what Bataille's eroticism teaches us is this: each of our sexual fascinations is an unconscious effort to continue life; it is a resistance to death and the lethargy of everyday life.
The field of eroticism is the field of violence.
More specifically, I would say that it is an unconscious attempt to solve an emotional problem that haunts us in our conscious reality. So, for example, when we have a lot of responsibilities and exercise a lot of power in our daily lives, we may need to play the submissive lover of our dominant partner. On the other hand, when we've been with our partner for a long time, and we're having sex feeling like we've seen it all, the idea of having sex in a new hotel or wearing all of our clothes excites us because it satisfies our need for surprise, for something new. Imagination has no limits, fortunately, and everyone spontaneously writes many scenarios. Let's consciously give our erotic scenarios the possibility to express themselves physically without our regular self-censorship as a legitimate expression of the Self; they can be an excellent tool for inner work. They will lead us to the path of self-knowledge and, therefore, to mental integration.
"If the soul too, my dear Alcibiades, is to know itself, it must surely look at a soul."
Finally, I suggest we establish our weekly love rituals from now on with our partner as a generous and mutual act of self-awareness. Because as Socrates once said to Alcibiades, " if the soul too, my dear Alcibiades, is to know itself, it must surely look at a soul."