Friday, March 21, 2014

Reclaiming the Erotic

"Intimate Beauty"
-in my meditation garden-

Yesterday I came upon the word "erotic" used in reference to "spirituality." At first it seemed odd to describe spirituality as erotic. That word "erotic" has been severely hijacked by our contemporary culture. Nowadays the word "erotic" evokes images of pornographic movies and massage parlors. Eroticism involves sex.

The fact is that, in its' original use, the word "erotic" was a term that applied much more to the spiritual life than to one's sexual life.  

"Eros" is an ancient Greek word that means "desire." It is a word that has often been used by contemplative monks, Christian mystics and spiritual seekers throughout history, to describe the quest for deeper peace. "Eros" is:

The longing to share in the life of the "other."

The "other" might be another person, it might be a place - the natural environment, or it might be "God."

At its very core, the spiritual life is erotic. A spiritual journey is a journey of desire to go out of the confines of my own isolated "self," and to be intimately connected to something or someone beyond my own individual isolation. 

As I think about it, reclaiming the "erotic" may indeed be a life-saving task for human beings living in our contemporary culture. 

As I see it, even in an age of such advanced technology when we can sit in front of a computer and with the flick of a key be connected to the entire world community, we are perhaps more isolated from one another than ever before in human history. The paradox is that our technology connects and disconnects us both at the same time. 

People sit at a computer or peck away at an iPad, browsing the web, doing business, chatting with friends, but at the same time we sit in isolation - alone at a desk, in a cubicle, within the confines of our own homes, apartments or work places, never actually seeing or touching another human being face to face. Some people rarely even go outdoors except to get into a car, and they almost never go out into the wild to bask in the beauty of the natural world.

Our isolation and alienation reinforces the myth that we are separate individuals who live within the confines of our own impermeable borders.  And so people define themselves dualistically and they think in terms of borders and boundaries: "I" am separate from "you."  There is "me" and there are "others" apart from "me." 

But the truth is that there is a deep "erotic" longing in every human heart. We long for connection with the "other." In some very real sense our longing is a realization that in truth there are no "others." The borders and boundaries are very porous and permeable. Everything and everyone is a complex web of interconnectivity- rigid borders and defined boundaries are all artificial. And so we long to experience that connection. 

We long to share in the life of the "other" because we are the "other."  

"Reclaiming the erotic" may indeed be the saving grace of our alienated and isolated culture in these times.  

Every day I sit in my garden and I practice "eros." It is such an erotic time for me. I see the sunrise and listen to the songbirds; I smell the new buds of the springtime flowers and I experience an intimate connection with all of it - and I long for more.

It reminds me of one of the most erotic poems I have ever read, written by the celebrated environmentalist, John Muir:

The sun shines not on us, but in us.
The rivers flow not past, but through us,
thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies.


  1. Very thought provoking.
    And enlightening.
    Enlightening a truth that is obscure but depicted in the erotic sculptures Hindu temples , like Khajuraho.
    An easy subject to harp on by the proselytising promoters of Abrahamic religions, casting it as the work of Satan.
    I use to employ different reasons to logicise it.
    One being the act of coitus is the closest obe gets to losing ones shell called ego - and merge flesh and soul with another being.
    But your thoughts gives me another dimension of the same perception to firm up the foundation of my conviction.Thank you.
    In ancient cultures, even the act of consuming food was considered an act of _Eros_.
    Wherein the prey and the predator or the consumer and the consumed merge to form a new identity . That is why it is said that food chooses you, depending upon your psyche,rather than the other way around.
    Thanks again and God bless

  2. Great comment Nandu--thanks very much

  3. Earlier this year I have joined a meditation group using the Vijnana Bhairava and Lorin Roche's transcription "the Radiance Sutras" as a foundation for meditation - what you write in this article fits in so well with my recent thoughts and experience - thank you so much for your inspiration

    1. You are most welcome. Peace be with you.