Eros and the Mysteries of Love: The Metaphysics of Sex
is Julius Evola
's work expanding on his ideas about sexuality described in his major work Revolt Against the Modern World
, published in 1958 (English translation by Inner Traditions International
Evola sets out in this book to investigate the metaphysics of sex. He uses the term “metaphysics” in two ways. First, metaphysics means the “first principles” of a thing. Second, metaphysics means the “science that goes beyond the physical” (from the Introduction).
Sex in the Modern Era
The Metaphysics of Sex
- Evola argues that sexuality in the modern age has become depraved. His primary reference for this conclusion is the state of research on sex. He criticizes biological, sociological, psychological and sexological approaches to understanding sexuality as essentially shallow. Each discipline focuses on only one aspect, a lower aspect, of sexuality. Biologically deterministic arguments about sex -- that sexuality can be explained by the need to reproduce -- come under especially harsh criticism. Evola argues that the need to reproduce is one of the lowest aspects of and is in fact tangential to sexuality. He criticizes sexologists and investigators of sexuality from other disciplines for starting with lower, easier to understand aspects of sexuality (ie: reproduction) and deducing the higher aspects, the first principles, from them. Evola seeks instead to explain sexuality starting from first principles.
Transcendental Aspects of Profane Love
- Evola sets out to deduce the first principles of sexuality. His starting point is Plato’s ‘’Symposium’’ and the myth of the hermaphrodite. A myth in which mankind, in its pure form is a “hermaphroditic” form and was only later divided into two sexes, as the result of a fall (the Fall in the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example). Sex, then, is the attempt to reunite man and woman into “one flesh” (‘’Genesis 2:23-2’’). Sexuality, however, is not a “purely” spiritual act. Instead, the sexual act brings the spirit and the body closer together in order to attain unity. Evola, therefore, criticizes theories which overemphasize love and beauty to the extent that the physical side of sexuality is excluded or even found profane. He criticizes the ideal of platonic love in this way. A final myth which Evola explores is that of the birth of Eros to Poros and Penia, which, Evola argues, makes the point that Eros is the product at once of rationality and irrationality, being and emptiness. Thus sex has the ability to make one both (either) full and (or) empty. It is both the unity of man and woman and the driving force behind the never sated impulse to procreate.
Man and Woman
- Drawing on numerous literary and mythological sources, Evola describes the manifestations of the transcendental state described in Part One in what he calls “Profane” love. Profane love is love (and sex) which does not have transcendency or unity as its object. This obviously includes sex for pleasure, but also sex for love. Evola describes how the language of lovers implicitly includes references to the transcendental. In other ways too, modern manifestations of love show their roots in the divine, transcendental metaphysics of sex. Perhaps the most important of these is the way that lovers use references to death during courtship (as well as coitus). For example, saying “I would die without you” or referring to the orgasm as the “little death.” This language refers back to the contradiction in the myth of Poros and Pennia, in which sex is both life and death and therefore hints at the true nature of eros.
- In this section Evola describes the archetypes of absolute man and woman according to his traditional outlook. Man is represented by the sky, godliness, and form. Woman is represented by the earth and the waters, nature, and matter. Perhaps the two most important analogies are those of form and matter. The male principle is active and abstract, and (especially during copulation) gives form to the concrete and passive matter that is woman. Evola goes into considerable detail describing basic characteristics of the absolute male and absolute female that these paradigms encompass and their effects on relations between the sexes. Evola is careful to point out that all men and all women contain aspects of the absolute woman and man. Contrary to modern theory, however, Evola casts this as the failure of individual men and women to embody their divine character and as a result of the fall. Evola further argues that the “true difference between the natures of man and woman in no way implies a difference of worth” -- in other words that which is divine in woman is profane in man and vice versa, but is, in fact, divine in its proper place.
- The second half of the book is devoted to historical examples of the kind of transcendental sexuality Evola describes in the first half. He considers Tantric sexuality, chastity as a means of transforming the sexual drive into higher forms, and pagan orgiastic rites among others. The Table of Contents below provides a good summary of the topics he broaches.
Table of Contents
I. Eros and Sexual Love
II. The Metaphysics of Sex
- The Evolutionary Prejudice - Love and Sex - Eros and the Instinct for Reproduction - The Myth and Genius of the Species - Eros and the Tendencey toward Pleasure - Sensual Pleasure - The Magnetic Theory of Love - The Degrees of Sexual Development - Physical Sex and Inner Sex - Conditional Nature and Forms of Erotic Attraction
III. Phenomena of Transcendency in Profane Love
- The Myth of the Hermaphrodite - Eros and the Various Degrees of Intoxication with It - The Biological Treatment and the Fall of Eros - Aphrodite Urania; Eros and Beauty - Lust and the Myth of Poros and Penia - Appendix - Homosexuality
IV. Gods and Goddesses, Men and Women
- Sex and Human Values- "Everlasting Love," Jealousy, and Sexual Pride - Phenomena of Transcendency in Puberty - Love, the Heart, Dreams, and Death - The Love-Pain-Death Complex - Sensual Pleasure and Suffering: The Masochist-Sadist Complex - Erotic Ecstasy and Mystic Ecstasy - The Experience of Coitus - The Metaphysics of Modesty - The Meaning of the Orgy - Appendix: Marquis de Sade and the "Way of the Left Hand" - Rasputin and the Sect of the Khlysti
V. Sacred Ceremonies and Evocations
- Mythology, Ontology, and Psychology - The Metaphysical Dyad - Demeter Archetypes and Aphrodite Archetypes, the Virgin, and Ultimate Nakedness - Typical Differentations of Manhood in Myth - Man and Female in Manifestation - On the Daemonic in the Feminine and the Symbolism of the Inverted Coitus - The Phallus and Menstruation - Male and Female Psychology - Woman as Mother and Woman as Lover - Pity, Sexuality, and Cruelty in Woman - The Fascination of Woman and Activity and Passivity in Sexual Love - The Ethics of the Sexes
VI. Sex in the Realm of Initiations and Magic
- Wedlock as "Mystery" in the World of Tradition - Christianity and Sexuality - Sacred Prostitution and Holy Marriages - Incubus and Succubus; Fetishism and Evocatory Processes - Evocation Processes in the Chivalrous Love of the Middle Ages - The Initiatory Experiences of the Worshippers of Love - Appendix; The Meaning of the Sabbat and the Black Mass - The Doctrine of the Hermaphrodite in the Christian Mysticism
- Transmutations and the Commandment of Chastity - The Techniques of Endogenous Transmutation in Kundalini-Yoga and Taoism - Sex in the Kabbala and Eleusinian Mysteries - Tantric Sexual Practices - Tantric Sexual Practices and Their Dangers - Secret Sexual Practices in Chinese Taoism - Arab Sexual Practices and Hermetic Symbology - The Myriam and the "Fire Magic" - The "Light of Sex" and the "Law of Telema" - The Presuppositions of Operative Sexual Magic