In this writeup I am going to provide an exposition to the following sentences from my book, Apologoumena:
'Though rage befits a river, Tiber wait,' so goes Pedo Albinovanus's Consolation to Livia, as Mars continues in his praise of the simplicity of war, 'for country let the reason be revealed; what I could give, I gave, a victory gained- the workman dies, the workmanship remained.' Equally, reflection shows us that our image of agape, of true love, echoes in spite of its critical justification the De Reformatione of Zerbolt, 'dedit etiam vires appetitivas, voluntatem scilicet ut Deum super omnia amares, caetera vero propter ipsum et in ordine ad ipsum amando referres,' and is thoroughly steeped in the daemon to which the course of our Eros has conferred upon us.1 Coacta virtus similis hibernae rosae, diuturna non est. Cum nihil potuit amor, justas amoris sustinent partes timor. --Tragico-Comoedia parabolica Androphilus Yet, the kind of agape which could arouse courage in us exists only in the Diana we might have defiled, in the children we could have killed. In other words, our image of true love is indissolubly bound up with the image of redeemed love.2
1. In the book Inter Timorem Et Spem there are various expositions on the work of Zerbolt, and the Latin quote associates him with the following idea:
"Of the five irascible affections named by Aquinas, Zerbolt mentions only hope and courage; and they are necessary to overcome obstacles which block one's path to the attainment of the good. The will, the appetite of reason, was granted to man in order that he might love God, and all else for his sake. " Agape echoes in spite of this critical justification the same point point. For if Eros, the appetite of reason, was granted to man for the sake of the divine, then there must be something which separates it from a completely absorbed, an erotic infatuation. This kind of love is spoken of by John Climacus, who says that "Blessed is he who has obtained such love and yearning for God as a mad lover has for his beloved." For if it is not a characteristic of the saint's love, that he be wholly consumed with it, so shall he be exasperated in his search for the divine, and by too hard of laboring come to rest, and fall away from it. Yet, again, a truly divine love must not only be all-consuming, to prevent exasperation of the spirit, which I speak of in an aphorism: "Too much wine, the man is deceived; to little, he loses his interest in the good and the true," yet this love also must inspire courage, for without that there is nothing preventing Eros, in face of a life spent with the beloved, from wholly indulging in the carnal aspect of things, and thereby becoming meaningless. This is the love that will be called for in the preceding theses: a divine love, agape - that is not only all consuming, and enlivening, but also inspires courage and direction. What is this 'earthly measure' but the final recognition of what Pascal speaks of as the 'je ne sais quoi?' of Eros?
"Anyone who wants to know the full extent of man's vanity has only to consider the causes and effects of love. The cause is a je ne sais quoi. And its effects are terrifying. This indefinable something, so trifling that we cannot recognize it, upsets the whole earth, princes, armies, the entire world. Cleopatra's nose: if it had been shorter the whole face of the earth would have been different." - Pascal.
The phraseology of the last sentences closely mirrors the jottings of Walter Benjamin in the theses on history, where he animates the 'image of happiness' with a radical philosophical energy. The same energy is at work in the following theses, which seek to invest Eros (born from Penia) with a truly philosophical life, with a true and redeemed love. Walter Benjamin says in those Theses on History,
"Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly colored by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us. In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption."
In these theses the same idea is being applied to Eros: True and philosophical love is seen to be indissolubly bound up in a redeemed love, a love that has with life and with courage not merely overcome or subdued its carnal nature, but has reinterpreted it and directed his eros towards it to, as Climacus says, 'have invested it with goodness.' The phrase ' poieisthai amas' further recalls the philosophy of John Climacus, who will be quoted in some detail.
"Eros is not merely an icon, a symbol or figure of speech. Above all, it is an energy, a way, a prototype, a specific mode of existence. John's words are typos and hypodeigma: "As an example of the fear of the lord, let us take the fear that we feel in the presence of rulers and wild beasts; and as an example (hypodeigma) of desire for God, let carnal love serve as a model (typos) for you. There is nothing against taking (poieisthai emas) examples of the virtues from what is contrary (enantion)> The phrase poiesthai emas shows that carnal love is not good in itself but must be 'made' good as will be seen below. The word enation further shows clearly that, for John, there is a contrast as well as an analogy between carnal and divine love.....
Worldly love can be readily directed towards God. (metaphora) It is Climacus' firm conviction that 'if anyone is willing, it is possible and easy to graft a wild olive tree onto a good one." The Macarian Homilies say: "the soul is accepted not because of what it has done, but because of what it has despised. Because the prostitute in the Gospel account had "loved much" John claims that she could 'easily expel love by love.' Consequently, even corporeal, that is, worldly or allegedly corrupt love, must not be condemned out of hand or even censured. It, too, may be transfigured into spiritual love. "One love can retrieve another, just as spiritual fire can quench the material fire of the passions."
-- John Chryssavgis on St. John Climacus
2. " Coacta virtus similis hibernae rosae, diuturna non est. Cum nihil potuit amor, justas amoris sustinent partes timor. Tragico-Comoedia parabolica Androphilus 2 Yet, the kind of agape which could arouse courage in us exists only in the Diana we might have defiled, in the children we could have killed. In other words, our image of true love is indissolubly bound up with the image of redeemed love. "
The Latin quotation, in translation, reads "What force of valor, so similar to Eros, in the winter rose, which survives for no long while. When one stops loving, one cannot approach justice without fear, and the Good in Eros passes, like that rose. " The quote encapsulates the meaning of these first theses in a excellent poetic imagery: the all consuming and erotic love, and the love which inspires courage to, beyond all else, continue loving, and to not fall into the infatuated and orgiastic relationship with the world, in exasperation of spirit. The final sentence, nearly oracular in its utterance, echoes the sentence of Benjamin "The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us."
Now the true erotic consciousness is not a vaguely conceived kairos on the part of meeting a beautiful woman. If it were, it would merely sanction the temporal course of the world that is all but the unfolding of a divine love. Correctly understood - and speaking from the perspective of possible salvation - true erotic consciousness refers to the most progressive and transformational, as opposed to salvific consciousness, which is one that is aware of the viciousness and of the passions, as well of the dissonances within the horizon of its possible reconciliation. 3
What separates the immanent and transcendental orders of affectivity, viz. the role of mentation and somatic states in love? It is the fact that, just as the impossibility of separating affectivity out into its sensible and intellectual components is revealed through the ceaseless collapse of the distinction between Eros and Ethics, its manifest presentation, so the true Erotic consciousness is aware of this dissonance. Eros is aware of the irreconcilability of the mental and somatic orders of affectivity in two ways: narcisim and infatuation, total infatuation with the beloved. Does Eros seep relentlessly back into the places from which Levinas would banish it, does it reintroduce the constitutive ambiguity at the heart of affectivity, muddying the clear pool in which is reflected only a ghostly figure of a transcendent intelligibility, or can the irreconcilability of the orders of affectivity be deduced from narcisism and infatuation? If they can, it must be possible to reinterpret eros in terms of its transformational, as opposed to salvific consciousness. Nicolai Hartmann writes, " Indeed there is such a thing as the courage to live, to undergo experiences, to see things through and to know their quality, not less than the courage to be happy. Thus it comes about that merely participant wisdom refers us step by step to the complementary virtue of courage." Eros belongs wholly to the order of affections for the sole reason that he is enjoyed. That is the mystic basis of its authority. Anyone who tries to bring Eros back to its first principle, the courage to undergo experiences and to be happy, destroys it. The only real fidelity, then, is an external one: fidelity out of conviction is not real fidelity because it is already mediated through our subjectivity - that is, we are not really honoring the matrimony between ourselves and our beloved but simply following our own judgment, which tells us that the beloved deserves to be treated in faith insofar as she is good and beneficent. External fidelity to the beloved is thus not submission to external pressure, or even to so called ideological brute force, to the socio-political dimension of marriage for instance, but fidelity to the conviction to undergo experience, to enjoy eros, to be happy, - insofar as it retains a traumatic and irrational character: far from hiding its full authority, this traumatic, non-integrated character of the conviction to undergo experiences, to be happy and to love, for instance, is a positive character of it. The calling for Eros, this courage to undergo experiences, for instance - to spend his life with the beloved, as a modality not of knowledge but of infatuation, is effectively a shuddering, or what Plato calls phrike in the Phaedrus, the uncontrollable anxiety and shivering that comes over one at the sight of the beloved. This phrike is not, however, a direct response in proximity to the beloved, but the premonition of a more cultivated subjectivity, receptive to Penia - the needs of the beloved, and also to Poros, - to the euporia of metaphysical and Climacusian, all-consuming desire. This phrike opens up the irreconcilable orders of affectivity to Adorno's das Hinzutretende, to his 'physical addenum' to Kant's idea of freedom, the originally untamed impulse, 'the rudiment of a phase in which the dualism of extramental and intramental was not thoroughly consolidated yet, neither volitively bridgeable nor an ontological ultimate.' Moreover, this phrike opens up a novel stimulus to pleasure, to ero's 'mystic authority':
"The old hedonism in the philosophy of eros must focalise in what it claims to be a perverse implication of the ideal of the profane, namely the
notion that the darker and earthly aspects of eros ought to yield something approximating pleasure. Actually, the
ideal of this earthliness does no more and no less than postulate that eros, properly understood, must find happiness
in nothing besides its ability to stand its own ground, and to receive its earthly measure. This happiness illuminates
the sensuous phenomena from the inside, hominem facit res una contiguum Deo, servare lapsos. Hugo Grotii
Sophompaneas Just as in the internally consistent relationship of Eros with regard to the beloved spirit penetrates
even the most impermeable phenomena, redeeming them sensuously, as it were, so the profane too - the antithesis of
the fraudulent sensuality of philia - has a sensual appeal. For Eros, there is more pleasure in dissonance than in
consonance, for there is a kind of pleasure in true love's objectively determined impossibility, a thought that metes
out justice to hedonism, measure for measure. This discordant moment of realization, dynamically honed to a point
and clearly set off from the homogeneous mass of affirmative moments in the passions and affections, becomes a
stimulus of pleasure itself. "
In this sense the das Hinzutretende is a condition for true erotic consciousness, the 'first principle of eros,' as opposed to erotic consciousness either typified by narcisism or infatuation, as salvific consciousness. If we maintain that this das Hinzutretende may, at most, be sublimated, we may infer that its complete elimination would render genuine loving, genuine engagement with the beloved, impossible. Hence the freedom of Kant's transcendental subject is entirely an illusion dia Phaidron, and by that extension dia Phaidron, so the freedom of the beloved is illusory, because it cannot be asserted on the basis of transcendental subjectivity with respect to the erotic consciousness:
"Eros, like Psyche, is compatible with experiences of an order of magnitude similar to
itself. Just as pathos mediates and sets up the boundary of emotional life, thymos sets up the boundary of erotic life.
If the object of this experience is raised out of proportion to Eros, if Eros defies the earthly measure given him by
Thymos, then Eros does no longer truly experience it, but registers it dia Phaidron and unmediatedly, through the
daemon and its non-intuitive concept, as desire, and therefor as something extrinsic to itself, something
incommensurable, to which the latter relates as coldly as to the catastrophic shock; even as Stesichorus, to avoid
becoming blind, exonerates the beautiful Helen from her responsibility for the Trojan War."