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Dr Joanna Kujawa, Spiritual Detective :).
Goddess and Playing with Eros
When I was in my late teens and living in a communist Poland, I would observe my girlfriends offering their virginity to their boyfriends on their 18th birthdays then marching to the alter about three months later because, of course, they had got pregnant. Although in those days nearly everyone considered this a normal course of events, for me it was the definition of a nightmare. The idea of being stuck early in life in marriage and motherhood and, even, worse, stuck behind the iron curtain, was, in my mind, worse than death itself. I promised myself I would not touch a man until I was out of Poland. You see, I was dreaming of exotic adventures. I was dreaming of being a traveller, I was dreaming of getting degrees from foreign universities and, most of all, I was dreaming about being a writer. In those days, I imagine myself as more a female version of Hemingway or Garcia Marquez. Or eventually some kind of combination of Colette, Marguerite Duras and Simone de Beauvoir. It was a bit vague for me. But what was definitely clear was that I needed to get out. So, as I was watching my girlfriends losing their virginity and marrying their first boyfriends, I was dreaming about going to Paris and from there to some exotic lands. I dreamed about being a writer far, far way from where I was born.
That does not mean that I was not interested in men or matters of Eros but, rather, that I played with Eros in my imagination. For example, I wondered at some stage how it would be to be with a tall, handsome Viking. Eros, being a playful being, likes being played with, even if only (or perhaps especially, as I soon learned) in the imagination. So, since I was imagining this, I managed to scare off any potential local boyfriends with my faux intellectual superiority, which intimidated them. Indeed, I did meet a Swedish businessman who, out of blue, showed up in my hometown and I, knowing nothing about sensual seduction, played with his imagination instead. It was the time of Elton John’s Nikita – and I was not that different from her: a blonde dreamy girl walking among the Eastern European tanks during times of martial law. This seduction of this foreign ‘imaginale’ worked well enough for him to jump through the loops of the communist bureaucratic nightmare to invite me to Sweden, based on nothing more than a short platonic encounter in my hometown. The affair did not last, as the reality of living in a Swedish suburb did not, of course, match the encounter with the Viking of my erotic imaginings.
This would have been a sad end to my dream if I not for the good luck that allowed me to escape the communist greyness again, this time to Paris, at a girlfriend’s invitation. I left Poland with nothing but a borrowed suitcase and $10 American dollars. Once in Paris, I recovered from the ill-fated Swedish affair quickly. I remember my first invitation to a Parisian party. I was shy with my high-school French and being pretty much the only non-model girl there, as the rest of the girls were all attending some modelling schools of one description or another. After one hour or two at the party I quietly asked in French what the time was. And to my surprise, half of the men in the room turned towards me and said in their Parisian accents, ‘It is nine o’clock. Too early to leave’. They then very patiently continued, speaking very slowly so I could understand, entertaining me with their charm and conversation. This was the first time in my life that I had been given such attention, and I began to suspect that I might be attractive after all.
And this brings me to the very potent and delicate topic of Eros. Eros is as different from sexuality as eroticism is from sex, as Eva Pierrakos tells us in her book, The Pathwork of Self-Transformation.
After that evening, my erotic imagination quickly moved from the Viking archetype to a French libertine archetype, as I started to date Frenchmen. And as I started to date them, I noticed that I was equally attracted to them and could not decide with whom I was in love. But this is perfectly natural when you are 21 and in Paris.
The French know this well and for that reason they prefer to refer to the beautiful attraction that it is the play of Eros as ‘erotique’, rather than sexual. Sexual force without the erotic element, Pierrakos says, is very ‘animalistic’, enjoyable only for a period of time and ultimately ‘utterly selfish’ and meaningless spiritually. Eros, on the other hand, which lives mostly in our imaginations, manifests as a desire to know and experience the other. It can manifest as a strong attraction but it is a different level of attraction. While sexual attraction can create an intense yet temporary ‘chemistry’ between two people, erotic attraction is more focused on a powerful desire to connect with the other. To truly and completely know them – and this knowing includes sexual union but goes beyond it. Eros, or erotic connection (rather than chemistry), wants to create a bridge between our being and the being of another on whom our erotic desire is fixed.
Let me give you an example. In the instance of a pure sexual attraction, you may experience great sexual pleasure but have no desire to truly know a person. Often, you may experience the strange feeling that despite the great sex you have very little to say to each other. In this respect, even great sex without a deeper connection is largely meaningless and leaves us empty, if physically satisfied.
Erotic desire is more fulfilling because of that presence of a deeper connection. For the same reason, our sexual experiences when Eros is present are also much deeper and satisfying. They touch our soul like a breeze caressing an ocean wave. We feel that not only do we know the other better but that we have somehow got to know ourselves better in the process. This leaves us mysteriously connected and bedazzled by the experience because it allows us to touch our soul and feel a deep, if fleeting, connection with another person. This is a gift that should not be rejected. Pierrakos calls this ‘the quest for the other soul’ as the sexual encounter in this case is only a conduit to the experience of a profound connection and knowing of the soul of another. You may not know anything about the mundane aspects of this other person’s life but you get to know them at a much deeper level, at a level people who have lived with this person for years may never know. This is the power of Eros.
Yet, even Eros, as we well know, wears itself out. Eros loves to be playful. Eros loves to be beautiful at all times. Eros loves the new. Eros gets bored if it is not constantly curious about the other. Eros moves on.
All the greatest romances of this world are based on Eros and die because of Eros. This is why, Pierrakos says, romantic love is only the final point for those who refuse to evolve spiritually and move beyond it. It is true, I must admit, that without knowing the possibility of something higher, romantic love seems like the best of all possible deals, because what usually comes after that is marriage and few of us know how to sustain Eros in marriage. Alternatively, like all great romances, romantic love comes to an abrupt end.
But, fortunately, this is not all we have. Apart from sexual attraction or the adventurousness of Eros, we also have Love. Love, Pierrakos tells us, is a ‘permanent state of the soul’. Now, what is it this permanent state of the soul and how we can achieve it? And this is the difficult part. We need to be willing to do two things: to grow spiritually (constantly work on ourselves) and, at the same time, stay open to Eros. This also means not being afraid to completely expose yourself, including your soul, including your darkness, including your ugly parts – to another.
Do you have the desire, the stamina and the courage to do this?
Trust me, it is worth it.
Let me refer you to Pierrakos, again: ‘When you find the other soul and meet it, you fulfil your destiny.’
Do you dare? Are you prepared to risk all for this ‘complete mutual revelation of one soul to another?’ Because this is what it takes.
For this revelation to be possible you need to constantly grow and constantly move to a higher possibility with yourself and with your partner. This, in turn, requires facing the shadowy parts of yourself and healing them. Pierrakos teaches us that true, soulful love is not possible without this. You need to grow. You need to attain your highest possibility for both of you, and then you, as a great Tantric philosopher, Abhianavagupta, said in the 10th century, ‘You will walk upon this earth as gods.’
So back to my play with Eros in Paris. I learned beautiful lessons in Paris and I have learned that not even Eros, without the desire for spiritual growth, can hold a relationship or long. Eros needs to be lived. Without this life is only a set of mundane responsibilities. But Eros also needs to be entertained at the highest possible level and used to open the highest field of divine play: Your own highest possibility.
Dr Joanna Kujawa