Love and Cosmology

Love and Cosmology

Myth,Cosmos, and Romantic Love

Roy Lisker, 1979; revised 1996

  1. The Bounding Cycle of the Erotic Cosmos

  2. Dismemberment

  3. The Breaking of the Vessels

  4. Marriage

  5. Communication and Fidelity

  6. Colonization of the Mythic Zodiac

  7. The Erotic Battle in Myth and Reality

I. The Bounding Cycle of the Erotic Cosmos

Insight into the politics of passionate involvement may be derived from the logic of boundaries. Trace any simple, non-intersecting closed curve, such as a circle, etc. , on the surface of a sphere. Two regions R and S, mutually exclusive but adhering to a common boundary, are thereby engendered .Their shape and content are a function only of the boundary . One could argue that it is the boundary which owes its existence to the opposition of R with S.

One visualizes the boundary projected through time in a process of continuous deformation. Its' internal cohesion is never surrendered . Despite the ordeals of transformation , the function of the boundary in maintaining R's separation from S, the authority whereby it bestows individuality upon both of them, will not be challenged.

Thus one sees how a Principle of Separation subsumes a Principle of Identity. Insofar as R and S share ownership of all situations along a mutual boundary, a mode of duality abides at the core of their complementarity.

For R and S substitute two human beings, two conscious psyches bound up in some emotional involvement. The structures imposed by the boundary will thereby be transformed:

  1. Via the Principle of Separation : into alienation, politics, war

  2. Via the Principle of Dualism : into empathy, desire and passionate love.

All phases of empathetic involvement will exhibit the features of this co-bounding dualism. Being defined only by indirection such identity is of necessity deficient : no merging of R with S through a total surrender, or mutual transcendence of self, is possible. As it is only through its dissolution that alienation is conquered, it follows that all struggle for mastery of the boundary is futile; nor will there be any relief from its oppressive emotional or sexual boundage. It is because of this deeply sensed yet rarely recognized, self-destructive and incestuous bondage to an indiscernible boundary, that the imagination of Love, however intense or altruistic , must be ever darkened by the spiritual annihilation of the Beloved.

Images of rupture, such as ripping up a fabric, or breaking an artifact, are of no assistance; one cannot make appeal to any pictorial analogy: there must be a genuine and total dissolution of the boundary, a fading away like the dimming of light on the horizon at twilight, a surrender of Self to Other, as the defensive ego sinks unsupported, utterly empty and depleted, into the ocean of unlimited consciousness.

Although the bounding state is, properly speaking, unpicturable, it is possible, through a variety of metaphors, to suggest its global character and many of its defining features:

One can speak of a membrane of traumatic contact which, though defined through local interaction, exists somehow apart from interaction. Functioning for each of the parties of the involvement at the bounding surface of an entire cosmos , it serves as the celestial vault upon which, like the heavenly constellations, may be painted the persons , gods and demi-gods and other creatures of imagination which, through lyric and legend, incorporate the mythic body of Love.

This membrane is a true vehicle in the sense of Plato's Timaeus. One can identify, imprinted on its interweaving surfaces, the ideal prototypes of all things in the unfolding of Love's chronology.

The membrane is osmotic, semi-permeable; processes of ingestion (although there is no consuming organ ) to within ( although within and without are misleading designations ), occurring simultaneously ( though time be arbitrarily assigned ), are commonly employed in the description of these situations, unrealizable in physical space, yet elementary from the viewpoint of psychology.

Other coalesces into Self, each individual providing the other's cosmos. At the same time, in the objective world, there is a widening of the gulf of alienation. In no sense is this void, consuming all passionate involvements in its immensity, empty: indeed it is replete with the bilateral symbiosis of Self to Other. A hologram of the erotico-political universe reveals a densely knotted jungle , of webbed capillarity, of avid roots tangling with dangling lianas, feasting upon the rich nutriment of Love. In this mutual leeching of psychic integrity, Cosmos serves as both placenta and cocoon. All participants nestle within it, gorged to satiety in the sexual banquet, though exhausted of Being down to the bare remnants of self-definition.

Thus lovers abide, secure, though abandoned to the wild desolation of the universe, locked in the dungeon of one another's heart.

II. Dismemberment

The literature of Love echoes with metaphors of Union. To this mystical Ideal does it address perpetual praise. UnionÕs myriad manifestations, timelessly invoked in reverent worship, are proselytized in story and song: the conjugal bond, the pledge of fidelity, the marriage rites. Everything turns upon its' message, uncritically accepted , which is the mutual surrender of identity through its dissolution into a higher, presumably more wholesome, unity.

One finds legends of healing and deliverance; allegories of quests, separation and fulfillment; tales of dangerous adventures and long journeys, always culminating in blessed unions under the seal of a higher providence. The marriage ceremonies under the signature of good fortune which, bathed in felicity, fill the closing scenes of almost all opera, drama, romance and epic, objectify, through an act of communion joining heroes and heroines, the restoration of a primal state that once existed but which had been lost, damaged , or contaminated.

Persons destined for one another, estranged through accident or deliberate malice, are subjected to dreadful calamities or arduous trials in accordance with the author's imagination. The blessed fortune that weds them together at the culmination of their spiritual pilgrimage is rendered that much the sweeter and more exalted.

Metaphorically, the arrival of children emplaces the keystone to their bond, henceforth and forevermore unassailable. In the magical glow of legend, it is this ascension to the stage of the family as indivisible social unit, that now unites all moral, social, artistic and religious forces through a mutual reinforcement of validation and protection. Nature, the individual and society attain to a reconciliation transcending the pedestrian and purely earthly sphere.

Yet a re-examination of this literature soon reveals that it abounds almost equally in images of dismemberment, severing, separation, cleaving. (It is significant that the infinitive , to cleave, has apposite meanings: to cling and to sunder .) All beings who are truly in love must subject the soul, body and mind, the life history and personality, even the destiny and volition of the Beloved to a minute analysis, a veritable process of dissection down to her or his indivisible constituents . Via channels of diffusion inaccessible to objective analysis, these atomic unities saturate the commensual wilderness of love's consciousness as a curtain of infinitesimally fine gems, like a morning mist suspended over a torrid jungle.

A man who is in love with a woman finds her face in the faces of all other women. Her skull re-appears in the hillside boulders, her bones in the out-croppings of rock, her teeth in the scattered pebbles. Her hair mantles the forests, drapes its coat over the wild beasts. Sensitized to the unique resonance of her voice, he recovers it in the voices of everyone around him, then in all intelligible sounds: the tones of oboe and flute, insects' buzzing and the murmuring of streams, the shrill rainfall and the echoes of distant thunder, and the noises of city streets.

In the depths of the night he sees her soul projected against the heavens. Her spiritual darkness encompasses the physical darkness, her luminescence, reflected from the stars, brightens the valleys. The lover mines the metal of the Beloved from Nature's hidden dens. Whatever cannot be made comprehensible through elements mined from her Being must be rejected as dross.

This epistemological dispersion of elemental forms forged from sensory interaction with the loved person restores the Cosmic Order. Through them is meaning assigned to both animate and inanimate realms. Through providing symbols, stepping-stones across the alien Deluge of a terrifying world, her attributes organize Chaos.

One will find as many cosmologies as there are persons associated with the sexual drama. The inhibition of direct communication then becomes considerable. One is reminded of the immense clouds of inter-galactic dust which, for centuries, led astronomers to believe that the heavens were largely empty. It is now known that innumerable galaxies lie hidden in their obscurity. Though blind to the nature of their relationship, all participants remain inter-dependent while they continue to touch along a co-bordant identity. Since all attempts at communication become entangled with their destabilizing responss, an involvement initially rooted in tenderness may descend rapidly into a savage tableau of domination and humiliation, endless battlefields of a war waged for the mastery of the heart of Love.

Summarizing: the psycho-sexual boundary, the fine co-bordant skein of contact, adorationÕs spun tissue, presents itself in two aspects, a dual persona not easily reconciled in understanding:

  1. A Platonic vehicle, a celestial empyrean. Upon this crystalline sphere Love's history is displayed in the form of a Zodiac, a timeless mythology;

  2. An atomized dispersion of essences and forms, a monadology saturating mind and matter.

It is from the dispersion of the bounding vehicle that the loving soul, now densely impregnated through the atomization of being, becomes a domain of representation. Through representation the incompehensible is rendered intelligible. The dismembering of the morphology of the loved body has transfigured the universe to make it negotiable.

III. The breaking of the vessels

The boundary has been characterized as a 'membrane of traumatic contact', its sources rooted in psychic wounds. Though internally coherent, it originates in the fragmentation of consciousness, mixing elements of revelation and traumatic shock. The direct confrontation of beings in a mutual state of sexual bondage is impossible without spiritual bruising.

The erotic boundary is therefore also political, as is any schematic whereby Self receives definition inversively in its relationship to Other. This dual principle of Alienation/Identification corroding the otherwise undifferentiated field of consciousness is intrinsic to perception.

in Lurianic Kabbalah the shattering whereby the boundary is engendered is called , " The Breaking of the 10 Vessels of Creation" , the Sefiroth . The dismemberment and alienation of the fragments is likewise called the Shekinah , the Bride of God, the exemplification of JudaismÕs historic dualism of Wandering and Exile.

In the final stages of erotic obsession, when the immersion of all participants in their symbiotic cosmos has degenerated into a veritable pathology , there comes an abrupt manifestation of various auto-destructive phenomena: sado-masochistic devices , spiritual cannibalism , auto-mutilation, incest. These are the prelude to the demolition, with a kind of unhinged frenzy, of all the patterns of cooperation erected by lovers in turmoil and pain, the burning of the precious harvest of sweet and bitter tears.

Love's cosmology is thereby distinguished from the astronomical. The word rending will be used to signify the inner auto-destructive tendencies latent in any erotico-aesthetic epistemology. Even in the early moments of the initiation of the loving contract, one already discovers a contrary tension, a complementary urge to tear apart the delicate fabric of sensibility, a longing for freedom rising, like the dizzy column of a charged vortex, from the depths of the shared struggle.

It is through this process of rending that the bounding oneiric cosmos is transformed into a flayed skin, a scorched battlefield, a landfill populated with slagheaps of tortured and mutilated dreams, a bitter earth saturated with acid and salt. Yet never does it cease to function as the fundamental ground of perception, as phrase book and guide for the translation of the arbitrariness of daily confrontation into its more intelligible language.

Broken fragments of the once coherent image of the Beloved, impotent in action and sterile in possibility, now permeate the mythic Zodiac of Love. Abstractions formed from an idealized devotion, they set the standard into which all other forms of symbolism are transformed. The dynamic of rending, infecting the innermost core of love, guarantees that these mutilated artifacts will be destined to undergo further shattering, further dispersion, until a minute pulverization, a reduction of the phenomenal Other to a fine sand, has been accomplished.

The membrane of traumatic contact has become a tortured carcass, its surface hosting upon its skin a landscape of the imagination wild beyond understanding which, despite its appalling deformations, retains all the structure of the initial boundary

IV. The language of love

The vocabulary of social intercourse is unable to capture the characteristics of a genuine human relationship. Linguistic conventions often make it impossible to portray real conditions that happen to contradict social norms. Feminist movements has been aware of this for decades, but society has not yet caught up them.

One even suspects the presence of a conspiracy in the collective psyche by which society claims the right, not only to pass judgment on all matters of the heart, but to credentialize them as well, denying reality to manifestations of sentiment which do not conform to a deliberately reductive framework imposed by social institutions and mediated through language.

Limitations on vocabulary falsify most of the available means for the expression of emotion. Charged idioms such as living together,sleeping together,relationship,boy friend,fiance,mate, (the addition of the insidious significant other only augments the catalogue of stereotyped inanities ) , are no more than convenient forms of stale junk food that people pass around in conversation, ersatz substitutes for any kind of serious discussion of what may be going on between people.

There still exists in English no satisfactory way of expressing the idea of the neutral or universal personal subject without employing the biased he. The language of the emotions is subject to similar restrictions. One speaks of the 'experiencing of pain' and 'imposition of pain' as the twin axes of suffering and hatred. However, though hatred and love be treated as antonyms, the experiencing of well-nigh unbearable pain in the company of the Beloved, together with the desire to inflict same, are both characteristics of passionate response.

That two persons of opposite sex live together in the same home or apartment is conventionally accepted as confirming evidence, ( if not proof), that there is some sort of sexual activity between them , even that a state of love exists between them. Neither the one nor the other need be true, of course, although it is reasonable to presume that where there is sexual activity there must be some kind of passionate attachment, such acts being otherwise pointless or even disgusting. Since this condition of living together is, in society's judgment, so often treated as both a necessary and sufficient proof of love, couples may find themselves forced to live together so that the world will acknowledge the truth of their relationship. Physically separated couples run the risk that their friends will conclude that they are also spiritually alienated.

However, the very intensity of an involvement between two persons often makes it impossible for them to abide each others company for more than short periods of time. Risking yet another violation of polite social fiction, it is the author's impression that such relationships are in the majority. Sexual involvement cuts deep: when it is genuine it operates far beyond the pain threshold, No serious person confuses it with fun, pleasure or convenience. Its obvious that nothing very much is going on between lovers that can indefinitely endure the presence of one another. One can only encourage social psychologists to investigate the rich diversity of stratagems employed by the participants in conventional marriages for throwing up insurmountable barriers between each other .

Because the present vocabulary is so inadequate it must be supplemented , and in fact most of it ought to be replaced. Words like "love" , "hate" , "being in love" , "relationship" , "estrangement" , "A and B are involved" , ( as if this were a unique state, rather than many different things as seen by different persons), need to be defined differently, or discarded altogether. How does one express the fact that the statements "A and B live together because they are involved.", and " A and B avoid one another because they are involved.", may describe essentially similar modes of emotional attachment ?