Mini Encyclopedia of EcoSexuality – Eros (1 of 3)
Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
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.
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!
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