Monday, February 24, 2014
Love and sexuality
Sex, he explained, is a function; and love is a different thing. The word function is derived from the Latin fungi, to perform. It is, in other words, a natural action that takes place in order to fulfill biological requirements. The fact that it is deeply tied to pleasure is, so to speak, immaterial to its purpose and place in the scheme of life.
It might seem demeaning to separate sexuality from love and reduce it to a mechanical function; yet, by way of analogy, drugs and alcohol are also deeply tied to pleasure and act mechanically on the body,—yet we don't make the mistake of connecting them to any ideas of love... except in the crudest sense of love for the needle, the pill, or the bottle. The very idea sounds absurd.
Although, broadly speaking, objects, events, circumstances, and conditions originally arise from the sacred impulse of Love (all things do), because they have become separated from the transcendent by their manifestation in the material world, they become, in alchemical terms, coarser. The material world is, at its heart, mechanical; and perhaps this is something we can take away from Gurdjieff's teachings about man — and the universe — as a machine. They perform functions.
Yet Love is a higher, or sacred, impulse, a finer substance, the true gold of the philosopher's stone; and at its root it provides a connection between God and His creation. As such, mixing it with sexuality, although it is possible and can at times be desirable, is not in the least necessary.
Human beings oft have these two qualities, sex and love, confused. I think we can all admit that to ourselves; we understand that there can and should (at times) be a connection between these two things, and yet we are somehow taught by society that that connection ought to be there at all times.
Is love sex? Every adolescent is convinced of it. Is sex love? Here, again, the adolescent is the authority; but of course it's necessary to bring more than an adolescent point of view to the subject. That's difficult, because almost all of us remain mired in many adolescent attitudes; if anything characterizes the modern world, it's the refusal of most adults to actually grow up.
Our juvenile way of thinking (and feeling) on this matter causes many contradictory impulses and understandings of sexuality to arise. Examining the question provides ample illustration of how perverse our reasoning and feeling become when they are contaminated by desire and subjectivity. Sex is sacred because it is a part of all creation, and all creation is sacred; yet, especially in puritanical and fundamentalist societies, it's treated as profane. So it becomes its own opposite, in the minds of men and women who ought to know better.
At the same time, sex is a function, a mechanical action, and understanding it as quite divorced from the action of love (which is a "scientifically correct" observation, from Gurdjieff's point of view) leads us to see that pornography may well have, at its root, a more accurate understanding of this question than romanticized sexuality does.
This leads us, of course, into dangerous territory; but it also explains why Gurdjieff often told his students that having sex was like "blowing your nose." What seems like a cynical attitude towards sex was actually nothing more than a practical one; yet we can't allow practical considerations to become perversions, which is what pornography may do. Society's complex and contradictory attitude towards both overt and covert sexuality, which involves a staggering amount of lying (the internet is flooded with pornography, but most people deny watching it) illustrates just how badly we understand and manage these questions.
Most human beings would agree that trying to sort their sexuality out is a tangled ball of string. For all of us, subjectivity and desire are so deeply rooted in this action that we can't have an objective view towards it.
We can, on the other hand, open to a higher energy that may inform us correctly about the nature of Love, that is, sacred Love, which contains all of the aspects of sexuality embodied not in the principal of physical existence, but in the nature of a higher energy that creates. In this sense, sexuality is nothing more than a crude mirror, a reflection of a much higher principle. it reminds us of Swedenborg's doctrine of correspondences — actually, not an idea that he originated, although he did receive it from divine revelation. Essentially, the doctrine says that all material reality is a mirror of much higher principles; and this is an idea that the ancient Greek and Hindu philosophers certainly examined in great detail.
Perhaps we could say that our difficulty lies in confusing love in its coarser form, desire, and love as it emanates from the divine principle. Desire and sexuality are inevitably mixed; they both belong to this level. What we often call love is usually desire; and what we desire is not real love.
What we desire for the other could perhaps be considered real love; but what do we really know of that?