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Reply To: “Love Will Make You Do Crazy Things,” with Mythologist Norland Téllez

#74799

Thank you Stephen, it is a pleasure to be back in the mythic dimension with you, especially now that we are dealing with such a mighty God as Eros. For like all Gods, Eros greets us with its paradoxical nature.

I would say that my mythblast is less about the “down side” of Love than about attempting to look at the paradoxical totality of what Love is.  Also observing our theme of the In-Between, I wanted to begin to show that Love is indeed something that lies between true and false, between right and wrong, between agony and ecstasy, while quite capable of reaching these extremes at any one point and only for a moment in the pendulum swing of mighty opposites.

Taking our Will Smith example, the question whether his slap of Chris Rock was an act of “true love” is rather debatable. Its authenticity or inauthenticity is not self-evident. Can we really deny Will Smith’s claim that it was an act of Love? By what objective measure can we rank the authenticity of Will Smith’s love in his own mind?
Can we really say that he was lying when Smith said:

“I’m being called on in my life to love people and to protect people and to be a river to my people.” “It’s like I want to be a vessel for love.”
Or was Denzel Washington not right when he said to Smith: “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the devil comes for you.”

What is difficult about my topic this week, is that it asks us to connect the highest with the lowest values with respect to Love in order to reveal the full phenomenological range of this archetypal force of Eros. As it is told in the Symposium, Love has a paradoxical character due to its mixed origin, being the offspring of Penia, goddess of Poverty, and Poros, a god of Plenty. Let’s hear Diotima tell the story to Socrates:

On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Plenty who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep, and Poverty considering her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in-the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher. or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” “But-who then, Diotima,” I said, “are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?” “A child may answer that question,” she replied; “they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love.

The nature of Love as the offspring of Poverty and Plenty seems to describe a well-known pattern of archetypal functioning as in the Rise and Fall of civilizations. This pendulum swing of phenomenal energy is a movement the Ancient Greeks called Enantiodromia.
Jung used this term to designate a broad regulative principle of the psyche which could help to explain the “crazy” dynamics of Love in all its manifestations. So Jung wrote under “Definitions” in Vol. 6 of the Collected Works: Psychological Types:

[¶709]     I use the term enantiodromia for the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, onesided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control. Good examples of enantiodromia are: the conversion of St. Paul and of Raymund Lully, the self-identification of the sick Nietzsche with Christ, and his deification and subsequent hatred of Wagner, the transformation of Swedenborg from an erudite scholar into a seer, and so on.

This is in keeping with the daimonic nature of Love, which is really what I wanted to begin to explore in my mythblast. A mythic perspective on Love rather than a moral, ethical, or spiritual/psychological one. As much as possible, I wanted to steer clear of any moral or ethical preconceptions that would artificially impose a limit on the phenomenology of love. In the mythic view, as I understand it, the phenomenon of Love comes fresh out of Nature, in the savage reproductive power of life. Both Freud and Plato recognized this more-than-human origin of Eros as the very nature of the human soul. For Eros is a harbinger of the most metaphysical desire of all, a symbol of the “mystical” immortality of death-drive: the sexual union with God.

So as you can see, the question of “true Love” is in a way beside the point. Nevertheless, were we to take it up, the notion of true Love would still get dicey and complicated. For true Love is not without its own set of paradoxes, which may put true love, for example, at odds with the legal frameworks of the moral law. True love can still make me act in criminal ways in the eyes of the State and vice-versa.

When we look through the lenses of conventional morality, of course, we can draw a clear dividing line between “true” and “false” Love. The true corresponds to conformity with the moral law and the false with insubordination. But when we look at Love through the eyes of myth, the way the Greeks did, the paradoxicality of Love is allowed to come to the surface in its full spectrum of appearance. Rather than a fixed substance in time, Love is a spectrum of libidinal energy running through a river of self-becoming in time. Eros is the Fifty Shades of Grey for the desire of being itself, as Plato clearly saw in the Symposium.