Saturday, 26 April 2008

Patricians talk: the revolt of Eros

One of the more astonishing things about the modern consciousness is the general view that falling in love is now a completely separate matter from getting married and having children. In university nowadays it is almost de rigour for students to have sexual relationships of love, but the notion that this being done by means of marriage with the consequence of bearing children causes at best astonishment. The concept of sexual love binding together man and woman for life till death do you part is barely understood by most people. It is considered perfectly normal to live together in a state of concubinage, with the possibility that either party can completely end the relationship.

Part of the reason why has of course been the contraceptive mentality, which has completely divorced sex and procreation of children. But this I think is the consequence of something much more profound, and which dates long before the so -called sexual revolution of the 1960's. It is very understanding of the place of erotic love.

Erotic love is a sacred thing: it was created by God as a key ingredient in matrimony and procreation, and is an integral part of the human person. Both sacred scripture and the sacred liturgy talk in it's terms, to describe the relation of the soul to God, and Christ to his mystical body the church. Nevertheless, it has been damaged by original sin, and since the fall has to be made subject to reason and the order of grace.

What has happened now? Eros has gone wild, been cut off from matrimony, and now has become a God in its own right. Having effectively been condemned as part of the corruption of human nature by the protestant reformation, and separated from the life of grace and sanctification, it was bound to revolt. This was to happen in the romantic movement in the 18th and 19th centuries, which stressed the primacy of feeling against cold reason and law.

Romanticism made falling in love a form of redemption, whereby one achieved a state of ecstatic bliss in the moment of passion, which transcended the experience of the ordinary world. But this was not as a part of marriage: love now becomes an experience that destroys the lovers, whereby they achieve death at the high peak of bliss. Eros has become a force that rejects life and procreation.

No more so does this come apparent in the music of Richard Wagner, which have been enormously influential in modern culture, particularly in contemporary films and film music. The characters Tristan and Isolde, as well as Sigmund and Sieglinde in the Ring cycle, are one's whose love is illicit and outside matrimony, and is so powerful and strong that they are destroyed by it. This is a common motif in modernity, and is repeated time and time again in modern literature and film culture.

Richard Wagner

But this worship of erotic love as a God did never achieve its aims. It was to quickly degenerate to a point where 'love' has just become another word for promiscuity. So what shall be the response of us who are Christians, and who are trying to be faithful to the church's teachings? I will try to follow on in another post.

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