Is There any Pleasure to Compare with Eros?
[By eros is meant the state of “being in love,” a state where sexual or romantic infatuation is a necessary but not sufficient condition.]
The passion of love is the most familiar and extreme example of the importance of the inner element in experience. If it comes, it comes; if it does not come, no process of reasoning can force it. Yet it transforms the value of the creature loved as utterly as the sunrise transforms Mount Blanc from a corpse-like grey to a rosy enchantment; and it sets the whole world to a new tune for the lover and gives a new direction to his life.
I have every reason to love you. What I lack is the unreason.
When rationalism makes people sceptical of all absolutes, their incurable romanticism leads them to idealise their finer emotions. Thus, in materialistic societies sex passes beyond its natural function and becomes an outlet for all the unsatisfied cravings of the psychic life. But the romantic idealisation of sexual passion fails as completely as the rationalist attempt to reduce it to a mere appetite.
He [Bertrand Russell] was enough of a puritan and a very conscious intellectual to have to explain to himself every sexual call of nature as a fated invitation to a mystical union of souls, an incurable form of rationalization that got him into perpetual trouble.
Alistair Cooke (speaking of his friend Russell)
[The following is from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography and concerns events in 1911 when Russell’s first marriage was breaking up.]
The [aesthetic] atmosphere of Ottoline’s house fed something in me that had been starved throughout the years of my first marriage. As soon as I entered it, I felt rested from the rasping difficulties of the outer world. When I arrived there on March 19th, on my way to Paris, I found that Philip [Ottoline’s husband] had unexpectedly had to go to Burnley [Philip’s constituency], so that I was left tête-a-tête with Ottoline. During dinner we made conversation about Burnley, and politics, and the sins of the Government. After dinner the conversation gradually became more intimate. Making timid approaches, I found them to my surprise not repulsed. It had not, until this moment, occurred to me that Ottoline was a woman who would allow me to make love to her, but gradually, as the evening progressed, the desire to make love to her became more and more insistent. At last it conquered, and I found to my amazement that I loved her deeply, and that she returned my feeling... For external and accidental reasons, I did not have full relations with Ottoline that evening, but we agreed to become lovers as soon as possible. My feeling was overwhelmingly strong, and I did not care what might be involved. I wanted to leave Alys [his wife], and to have [Ottoline] leave Philip. What Philip might think or feel was a matter of indifference to me. If I had known that he would murder us both (as Mrs. Whitehead assured me he would) I should have been willing to pay that price for one night.
We must not give unconditional obedience to the voice of Eros even when he speaks like a god. But neither must we ignore or attempt to deny the god-like quality.
C. S. Lewis
Freud and his followers considered emotional energy to be specifically sexual in nature. According to this hypothesis the only really authentic form of emotional communication between people would be sexual love. Jung, on the other hand, had a much truer view of the matter. Emotional energy is essentially undifferentiated and can be put to different uses by the will provided circumstances allow.
Fr. Ignace Lepp (psychotherapist)
Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship.
[Hesketh Pearson was a British writer whose biographies sold well in the 1930s and ’40s.]
Throughout the Thirties what Pearson called ‘the most vital part of my life’ was a dark, vivacious Jewish actress named Dorothy Dunkels. She was nearly twenty years younger than he and, because of that, he at first avoided sexual intimacy. But after six weeks of ‘a gradually weakening resistance’ they became lovers and remained intermittently so for nine years. ‘Fascinating, infuriating, seductive, aloof, shameless, sensitive, cruel, tender: she could play all the emotional notes in quick succession, and leave me quivering with lust or quiescent with love or tingling with admiration or coldly critical.’
Gladys [Pearson’s wife] could no more help making scenes over Hesketh’s infidelities then he could help repeating them. She eventually found out about Dorothy which led to ‘agonizing emotional scenes’ when Hesketh swore that he would break it off. There followed the cowardly letters trying to rupture from a distance what one wishes only to nurture when together; the feeling of utter emptiness when all the lights seem to have gone out and only one person can illuminate the darkness; the desolating loneliness in which he would see her or telephone her or write to her once again, and the cycle would start over. Although capable of decisiveness (as his military record attests) he was irresolute when at the mercy of sensuality. Like many men, when lust was in the ascendancy, common sense flew out of the window.
To be always with a woman and not to have intercourse with her is more difficult than to raise the dead.
St Bernard of Clairvaux
The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. Simply to relapse from it, merely to “fall out of” love again is—if I may coin the ugly word—a sort of disredemption.
C. S. Lewis
Love is what we call the situation which occurs when two people who are sexually compatible discover that they can also tolerate one another in various other circumstances.
Both young men [Christopher Dawson and Edward Watkin]...were seekers of beauty, truth and knowledge... After a long discussion they had about love which took place during a visit to Christoper’s home in 1911, Edward Watkin wrote: ‘We agreed that it (mutual attraction) had been a matter very much neglected by thinkers. Plato and Schopenhauer alone seem to have dealt with it. We were reluctantly obliged, I at least was most reluctant to admit that the basis of love was always physical.’
Christina Scott (Dawson’s biographer)
To our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal’d may look;
Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.
On the whole women tend to love men for their character while men tend to love women for their appearance. In this respect, it must be said, men show themselves the inferiors of women, for the qualities that men find pleasing in women are on the whole less desirable than those that women find pleasing in men.
The pleasure of love is loving, and we get more happiness from the passion we feel than from the passion we inspire.
Thoughts about Eros
Around my love there is always a mystery: why, in a world that seems to make so little sense otherwise, did something so inevitably right happen?
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena)
Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals; love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.
To love is to suffer, to be loved is to cause suffering.
In how many lives does love really play a dominant part? The average taxpayer is no more capable of a ‘grand passion’ than of a grand opera.
True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.
de La Rochefoucauld
Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else.
George Bernard Shaw
We must not ridicule a passion which he who never felt was never happy, and he who laughs at never deserves to feel.
Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.
There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman.
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!
The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Proteus)
Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.
She who would long retain her power must use her lover ill.
Women should never show a man that she loves him too much... Indifference is the great stimulus of love.
Sudden love takes the longest time to be cured.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
The man’s desire is for the woman; but the woman’s desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
They that marry where they do not love, will love where they do not marry.
They do not love that do not show their love.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Julia)
He who loves without jealousy does not truly love.
The Zohar, 13th century
To put it in a rather crass way, falling in love is a trick that our genes pull on our otherwise perceptive mind to hoodwink or trap us into marriage.
M. Scott Peck
Eros may unite the most unsuitable partners; many unhappy, and predictably unhappy, marriages were love-matches.
C. S. Lewis
When love grows diseased, the best thing we can do is to put it to a violent death; I cannot endure the torture of a lingering and consumptive passion.
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