If I could start over, knowing what I know now, I would go back to school and study that endlessly fascinating, miraculous amalgam of bone and flesh, mind and psyche, soul and spirit – the body. Not just my body. I want to know the hows and wherefores of cellulose, beetle carapace, sharkskin and feathers. I want to know about granite and obsidian, clay, salt, sulphur and mercury.
I want to know in the biblical sense – carnally with all the senses of my body. I want to embody all I know, integrate it into flesh and blood and bone until I become attuned to the voices of my liver, my gut, my sex. I want them to advise, and complement my every thought.
This is gnosis– the coming into relationship with the divine through self-knowledge. This is the bliss Joe Campbell advised us to follow. What stops us?
What’s stopping me is self-consciousness, self-awareness – the sense of being an individual isolated being. Paradoxically, the same attribute which allows me to observe, relate to and integrate the wonders of the world is exactly that thing which separates and distances me from all that is. This dilemma is crazy-making and painful. Luckily, we humans have been given something to ease and ameliorate our suffering.
Above, below, beside, before, behind, within, without and beyond, we have been gifted with beauty…
When our human ability to perceive and appreciate beauty is married to our animal ability to feel pleasure through the senses, we arrive at Eros.
Eros moves us to cross the bridge of distance between ourselves and another. Tempts us out of our existential loneliness into another pair of arms. Makes it easy for us to stay. Eros quiets monkey mind, electrifies the body. Allows us to remember.
Eros is the language of the divine. When logic fails in the face of the ineffable, the holiest of holy women and men resort to the language of Eros. Whether they be virgin, mendicant, soldier, priest, martyr, pilgrim or recluse, whatever their experience or inexperience with the physical act of making love, when it comes to speaking of union with god, sexual sensuous phrases drip from their lips like honey from a comb – Hildegard’s1 Earth sweats its green vigor, St. Teresa2 sinks to the floor with her beloved and Sheba’s3 maidens, so restless with desire they can not sleep, go questing for their men on the midnight streets of sleeping cities.
We never lose our connection to Spirit. That loss is – illusion. Through Eros we recapture, reclaim, reunite with our lost sense of the divine. This is how we come into Presence – by being completely present to all her manifestations; by reveling in the beauty presented when we fully open eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin to sensation. We sink into God as if she were our lover, our soul mate, our perfect One. When we invite Eros in, we facilitate the sacred marriage between spirit and matter; make it easy for Spirit to insinuate and penetrate; slip between fascia, fizz through the blood, and soak the very marrow of our bones with love.
- This 10th century BCE queen has been called a variety of names by different peoples in different times. Ethiopians revere her as Makeda, the progenitor of their royal family. Her epic (the Kebra Nagast) includes a visit to King Solomon of Israel. She appears in the biblical book of Kings as well as being the subject of Solomon’s sensual erotic love song. In Islamic tradition she was Balqis. The Roman historian Josephus calls her Nicaule.
2. Hildegard of Bingen (1098 –1179), also known as Blessed Hildegard, Saint Hildegard and Sybil of the Rhine, was a German abbess, author, linguist, naturalist, philosopher, herbalist, composer and visionary. Elected Mother Superior by her fellow nuns in 1136, she became a counselor to kings, popes and emperors. Hildegard wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and the first surviving morality play. Although she lived a sequestered life from the age of six, her work in every area overflows with the sensuality and vitality of Eros.
3. Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer in the Carmelite Order of her time and the movement she initiated, later joined by Saint John of the Cross, eventually led to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites, though neither she nor John were alive when the two orders separated