Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Musings: Eros and Unreality

With actress Linda Spall, New Year's Eve, 2000-2001.

So I'm on a tear today.  Looking back over 2014 can do that to you.

One of the themes in life that I've noticed this year, as I've noticed for many years, is our devotion as a culture (both secular and Catholic) to Unreality.  Unreality is my word for the Controllable Substitute for Reality that we flatter ourselves we can pull out of the air and live in.  Unreality is fundamentally Manichean and Gnostic, in that it is predicated upon denying the penetration of grace into nature: the incarnation, the crucifixion and the second coming must be denied, for they all deal with the life-altering experience of God entering the specific daily world around us.  When Gnostic Catholics like Christopher West attempt to sell a program wherein a sensitive and illuminated minority of believers experience the spiritual elements of sex to the exclusion of the natural realities and consequences of sex, this experience is divorced from the mundane reality of context, which is to say that Gnostic sex or "sex magic" denies that sex makes the family, with all of the daily ups and downs and crosses and joys that the family contains.  The family is too real and uncontrollable for our taste; "spiritual" sex, by contrast, is artificial and thus manageable.

And here's where Eros enters the picture.
I've written a lot about Eros on this blog.  Unrealists and Gnostics hate Eros because Eros is the love for a specific thing or person - Eros is the supernatural (love) penetrating nature (the specifics of daily life).  Eros is jealous; Eros gives a damn.  Eros takes us out of ourselves, which is why it must be balanced with Agape, lest we become creatures of lust.  Eros is threatening to the fiction we've created.

This, then, is why vagueness and indefiniteness are the hallmarks even of our current Church and our homilies.  We want a fuzzy feeling; we don't want Immanuel - God-is-with-us, God-among-us.


Anonymous said...

I thought that eros was basically earth-bound while agape is the supernatural love that takes us out of ourselves. Eros focuses on ME and what I WANT whereas agape forgets self.
I'm trying to "get" your dislike of C. West. I believe that C. West is trying to show us how sex has a spiritual as well as a physical dimension. I understand Alive von Hildebrand's objections to him but I am not understanding yours.
Also, what do you mean by "sex makes the family?" A sterile legitimately married couple are not a family?
Lest you think I don't like your posts - on the contrary - I have found some great insights here. Thanks.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Patty, your understanding of Eros and Agape is actually a common misunderstanding. Pope Benedict XVI wrote brilliantly about the connection of Eros and Agape and how each needs the other in his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est".

As for Christopher West, if all he were trying to do was to demonstrate that sex is spiritual, he'd get a great big "duh" from even non-Christians. It's self-evident that sex is spiritual.

He's trying to do something much more creepy than that. Click on the "Christopher West" label and read, if you have the time and patience.

And sex makes the family. That's its telos, its purpose. So that even an infertile married couple become a family and prefigures the wedding feast of the lamb in their physical and emotional love for one another. We are united with God in specific and sometimes humbling ways, not in the esoteric and quasi-magical ways that West and the Westians are peddling.