Repression of Eros

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Repression of Eros

Post  Nick_A on Thu Jun 04, 2009 10:52 pm

Hi All

This conversation between Jacob Needleman and Jerry Whitakker is filled with ideas but I'd like to concentrate on one and see if any of you have experienced this repression of eros or this fear of being real as described in this part of the conversation. Why are we afraid of these great questions and how do we become open to them rather than suppress them?

http://www.conversations.org/issue.php?id=0&st=jerry_n

JN: There was an article a few weeks ago in the New York Times about New York City becoming the philosophy capital of the world--many leading academic philosophers are teaching there--and I was trained in that world at Harvard University. There were all these guys--competitive, analytic--and very often they were arguing about things which, to me, were completely sterile. And many people like you-I write about this in my book [The Heart of Philosophy]-who fell in love with philosophy find it was like falling in love with a beautiful woman who turned out to be frigid.

I remember I was a freshman at Harvard, in one of my first philosophy classes there. The professor started by asking-like I do sometimes, like professors do-what do you expect to get out of philosophy? I put up my hand and said, "I want to know why I'm living, why we die, Does God exist? What are we here for?" I went on an on like that, and I could see around me that there was this silence. My throat got dry, and I just felt awful. At first I'd thought that I was going to speak for the whole human race. And the professor, of course, was saying, "Yes. Go on." He knew he had one. Finally I just couldn't go on any more. Then he said, "Yes. But you see, that's not philosophy. If you want to know those things, you have to see a psychiatrist or a priest. This is not philosophy." It was such a shock.

I recovered quite well, but I had to find a few other people who shared my hunger. It is the hunger you're speaking of. That is what Plato called eros---a word that's come down to us which has taken on a sexual association. But for Plato it had to do, in part, with a striving that is innate in us, a striving to participate with one's mind, one's consciousness, in something greater than oneself. A love of wisdom, if you like, a love of being.

Eros is depicted in Plato's text, The Symposium, as half man, half god, a kind of intermediate force between the gods and mortals. It is a very interesting idea. Eros is what gives birth to philosophy. Modern philosophy [??] often translates the word, "wonder" merely as "curiosity," the desire to figure things out, or to intellectually solve problems rather than confronting the depth of these questions, pondering, reflecting, being humbled by them. In this way, philosophy becomes an exercise in meaningless ingenuity.

I did learn to play that game, and then to avoid it.

My students at State were very hungry for what most of us, down deeply, really want from philosophy. When we honor those unanswerable questions and open them and deepen them, students are very happy about it, very interested in a deep quiet way.

RW: It is really very hard to find that, I believe.

JN: Some years ago I had a chance to teach a course in philosophy in high school. I got ten or twelve very gifted kids at this wonderful school, San Francisco University High School. In that first class I said, "Now just imagine, as if this was a fairy tale, imagine you are in front of the wisest person in the world, not me, but the wisest person there is and you can only ask one question. What would you ask?" At first they giggled and then they saw that I was very serious. So then they started writing. What came back was astonishing to me. I couldn't understand it at first. About half of the things that came back had little handwriting at the bottom or the sides of the paper in the margin. Questions like, Why do we live? Why do we die? What is the brain for? Questions of the heart. But they were written in the margins as though they were saying, do we really have permission to express these questions? We're not going to be laughed at? It was as though this was something that had been repressed.

RW: Fascinating.

JN: It's what I call, metaphysical repression. It's in our culture and It's much worse than sexual repression. It represses eros and I think that maybe that's where art can be of help sometimes. Some art.

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  hen on Thu Jun 04, 2009 11:10 pm

So it's not the fact that we don't know the answers, rather the fact that we are afraid to even ask. By repressing our eros, we are forced to turn to materialism and other similar forms of escape.

This explains why people of modern times are so much more susceptible to depression as compared to people of the past. Great find, Nick.
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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  Jason Jr. on Fri Jun 05, 2009 12:24 am

Henning I think its more Like

Before we ask a question, our Ego mind blazes off and makes up some kind of worse case scenario. This illusion is what causes us to be afraid to ask the question and forcing ourselves to become anti social
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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  Nick_A on Fri Jun 05, 2009 1:56 am

Jason Jr. wrote:Henning I think its more Like

Before we ask a question, our Ego mind blazes off and makes up some kind of worse case scenario. This illusion is what causes us to be afraid to ask the question and forcing ourselves to become anti social

Is the ego mind making us anti social or rather what keeps us socialized?

You and Hen agree that these essential questions are avoided. I believe this is because for whatever reason, we are afraid of our potntial individuality which these questions of the heart refer to. This raises the question if you believe a person should sacrifice their individuality for the sake of society or society should strive to create individuals? Which do you recommend?

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  stephsquared on Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:44 am

Hey there Nick
I thought this was a really interesting topic so I'd like to join the discussion

In my opinion, i think sacrificing individuality for the society and society striving to create individuals are BOTH needed in our society/world today-- going into the gray area. I think people retain their individuality as well as, not being overly stubborn or hard-headed, as not seeing that they need to make this sacrifice for the greater good of the whole. After all, us humans are just little aspects of something greater, we're just part of a whole right. We still need to keep and develop our character and uniqueness-- be independent and critical thinkers; think for ourselves, to be very much aware of manipulation and exlpoitation etc. But we can't become totally self-reliant and completely independent from others because it's impossible to live that way.

In Ralph Waldo Emerson's Self-Reliance he stated that
The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee?... The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genuis, of virtue, and of life, which we call Spontaneity or Instinct... We first share the life by which things exist and afterwards see them as appearance in nature, and forget that we have shared their cause. Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration whcih giveth man wisdom, and which cannot be deneid without impiety and atheism. We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, whcih makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity.

So Emerson is saying that we should have self-reliance, but it's the self-reliance of individual thinking. We still also have to depend on others, and take others into our consideration because we're all humans, as a whole. There is no excluding each other because that way, we cannot exist on this planet.

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  stephsquared on Sat Jun 06, 2009 6:02 am

Wait, sorry i just realized i didn't answer your initial question! whoops.

ok. So back to your original question, i agree with Jason. I also believe people repress their expression of free thoughts/ideas because they're in the state of the ego-mind. Because once a human being is born, he or she is born with a mind. This mind gets altered, mended, shaped as it faces its environment that the individual is in and it is an artificial tool for us to utilize, for better survival--since we have something called the society. This mind is loud and is manifest in ourselves. It's very noticeable and obvious because the mind holds on to our prior knowledge, holds on to the past when we approach something new. When the students wanted to ask those questions, they're inquiring from their Being/ Essence. Because they also have a mind, they're holding on to unecessary thoughts from the past-- maybe have seen or have been first handed ridiculed by asking a "stupid" question-- so they resrict themselves by writing in the margin. It feels safer for them. This result is not genuinely who they ARE. It's a result from their mind because like many people, they probably are more aware of the mind than of their own being.

From the book The Power of Now talks about the mind always being excessive. It talks about how the mind creates anxiety, fear, paranoia and of course, worry. The mind creates those emotions and also has impact on our physical body--like being under pressure gives us a bad liver-- to make us more aware of its impact/effect on us. the Being on the other hand is much more subtle and light. The Being is just simply THERE, in the core of our lives. It doesn't go into excessive overload-- it's peaceful and quite.

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  Nick_A on Sat Jun 06, 2009 1:40 pm

Hi Steph.

In my opinion, i think sacrificing individuality for the society and society striving to create individuals are BOTH needed in our society/world today-- going into the gray area. I think people retain their individuality as well as, not being overly stubborn or hard-headed, as not seeing that they need to make this sacrifice for the greater good of the whole. After all, us humans are just little aspects of something greater, we're just part of a whole right. We still need to keep and develop our character and uniqueness-- be independent and critical thinkers; think for ourselves, to be very much aware of manipulation and exlpoitation etc. But we can't become totally self-reliant and completely independent from others because it's impossible to live that way.

I think you are referring to the individuality of our personality and I'm referring to our potential individuality acquired through the growth of our essence. From this perspective nothing is gained by society by sacrificing individuality. Actually society becomes from this sacrifice more of what Plato called the "beast."

I know this seems absurd at first glance. But being that people here are concerned with transcendence, I feel secure in introducing concepts that are not the norm of the day.

It is actually the "Great Beast" we are a part of that denies our inner growth and the only individuality that it is concerned with is what furthers its aims. Just consider some of the ideas in this article:

http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/weil.html

In "Sketch of Contemporary Social Life" (1934), Weil develops the theme of collectivism as the trajectory of modern culture.

Never has the individual been so completely delivered up to a blind collectivity, and never have men been so less capable, not only of subordinating their actions to their thoughts, but even of thinking.

Weil is not defending the individual as laisse-faire atom but as subordinated to inimical modern forces by "production and consumption," with science, technology, labor, money, and social life turning historical means into corporate and collectivist ends.

The inversion of the relation between means and ends -- an inversion which is to a certain extent the law of every oppressive society -- here becomes total or nearly so, and extends to nearly everything.


Weil then analyzes the relationship between economics and the state, and militarism as an adjunct to extending economic control and social content to the goals of the powerful. Sometimes she uses Marxian or anarchist viewpoints to demonstrate her point; other times she uses them to demonstrate their failure to have anticipated the shrewdness of the capitalist elites and institutions to bypass and overcome the logical obstacles to their version of reality. With the modern spirit has come the systematization of accumulation, organization, and control of the range and relationships of all human activity. Power is concentrated and like a whirlpool absorbs every facet of life. Oppression is inevitably bound to productivity, efficiency, coercion. Productivity and progress, consumption, and limitless expansion of desire and power are all aspects of modern culture. And yet society revolts not against its own oppressors but against nature.

In an aphorism of "The Great Beast," Weil begins the transition from analyzing society to discovering a solution or antidote. Here her thoughts hearken to anthropological thinking circulating in the early twentieth century, which maintained that society is a project of individual relationships, a projection given life and meaning separate from those relationships, a projection to which power and thought and authority is renounced. This is not a renunciation to the fictional cooperative called "society" but to individuals as authorities, who then contrive the symbols, ploys, and coercive social structures. Anthropology called these "totems"--Weil does not use the term--which define God, religion, and the norms of society via the power of institutions to interpret and sanction.

According to Weil, the person's accession to society, the individual's renunciation of values to the collective as defined by a small group, is based on ignorance and fear, fear that without society (which is to say the state), people will collapse into crime and evil. The social and collective is seen as transcending individuals, as a supernatural entity from which nationalism and war is as normal as science, progress, and consumption. All of these evils are taking place simultaneously in a social context. The individual has probably never reflected on these issues at all, never acknowledged his or her degree of complicity in this system. But, say the apologist for the Great Beast, the individual need have no direct responsibility,

The collective is the object of all idolatry, this it is which chains us to the earth. In the case of avarice, gold is the social order. In the case of ambition, power is the social order.

Thus society itself is the Great Beast, not some particular product of society, not even the state, the mode of production, the capitalist class, or any other social product. The weight of humanity is a heavy and ponderous gravity, a force but a contrived force to which the individual remains oblivious.

As long as one accepts the "totem," and subordinates all values to the collective, the contrived dichotomy of good and evil will trap individuals in fear. But the solution to the dilemma Weil depicts is not Nietzsche's transcendence of morality but a simple perception of the nature of society, of the nature of the "Great Beast."

The basic idea here for me is that the transcendent impulse that seeks to connect Man with a higher reality that it can consciously transcend towards has been replaced by the idolatry of the Beast: of society itself. A lot of what we call happiness is based on conformity and unhappiness is the inability to conform. But this is a choice of mechanical reactions. We simply do not concern ourselves with the nature of the beast but rather how can we be a better conforming machine for our group? But is this our only choice? Can't we be machines that work well and yet maintain the transcendent impulse? The Bible expresses it like this:

Luke 20

23He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24"Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"

25"Caesar's," they replied.
He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
This doesn't require sacrificing individuality but actually acquiring it. This IMO is one of the biggest misconceptions of modern times. We believe we have individuality without realizing that it is conditioned mechanical individuality. We don't see how much of a slave we are to conditioning which by definition excludes conscious individuality. It is only conscious individuality that truly can give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar and in the process become himself.

The best definition I ever read for a Man is "one who is master of himself." How can a car be master of itself. As a machine it must be used and we are used in this way as part of the Beast. Lacking consciousness we are driven rather than driving anything.

That is why for me real individuality is that which receives help from above and gives it to the world. But the Great Beast has no interest in rocking the boat but only wants conformity and idolatry.

So Emerson is saying that we should have self-reliance, but it's the self-reliance of individual thinking. We still also have to depend on others, and take others into our consideration because we're all humans, as a whole. There is no excluding each other because that way, we cannot exist on this planet.

But we attempt it as cogs in a wheel. Is it possible that conscious humanity could deal with the human condition far better than cogs in the wheel?

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  Nick_A on Sat Jun 06, 2009 2:01 pm

stephsquared wrote:Wait, sorry i just realized i didn't answer your initial question! whoops.

ok. So back to your original question, i agree with Jason. I also believe people repress their expression of free thoughts/ideas because they're in the state of the ego-mind. Because once a human being is born, he or she is born with a mind. This mind gets altered, mended, shaped as it faces its environment that the individual is in and it is an artificial tool for us to utilize, for better survival--since we have something called the society. This mind is loud and is manifest in ourselves. It's very noticeable and obvious because the mind holds on to our prior knowledge, holds on to the past when we approach something new. When the students wanted to ask those questions, they're inquiring from their Being/ Essence. Because they also have a mind, they're holding on to unecessary thoughts from the past-- maybe have seen or have been first handed ridiculed by asking a "stupid" question-- so they resrict themselves by writing in the margin. It feels safer for them. This result is not genuinely who they ARE. It's a result from their mind because like many people, they probably are more aware of the mind than of their own being.

From the book The Power of Now talks about the mind always being excessive. It talks about how the mind creates anxiety, fear, paranoia and of course, worry. The mind creates those emotions and also has impact on our physical body--like being under pressure gives us a bad liver-- to make us more aware of its impact/effect on us. the Being on the other hand is much more subtle and light. The Being is just simply THERE, in the core of our lives. It doesn't go into excessive overload-- it's peaceful and quite.

So if the ego mind causes all this trouble, how best to deal with it? For me, if the ego mind is expressing mechanical reactions it means that it cannot function in this way if a person has "presence." In order to acquire presence, we need conscious attention rather than the dominance of the ego mind. From Book 1V of Plato's Republic:

Not I, indeed.
Then our dream has been realised; and the suspicion which we entertained at the beginning of our work of construction, that some divine power must have conducted us to a primary form of justice, has now been verified?
Yes, certainly.
And the division of labour which required the carpenter and the shoemaker and the rest of the citizens to be doing each his own business, and not another's, was a shadow of justice, and for that reason it was of use?
Clearly.
But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being concerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, which is the true self and concernment of man: for the just man does not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one another, or any of them to do the work of others, --he sets in order his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals --when he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and co-operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action, and the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over it ignorance.

According to this, our connections with the external world, namely our mind, emotions, and body, exist together as a large octave where the mind is high C and the body is Low C with the heart in the middle surrounded by connecting intervals.

An octave in music though is in harmony but for us it is chaotic where the mind thinks about one thing while the emotions are emoting about something else and the body is doing its thing. There is no harmony: no "presence."

Our inner world can only be aligned and balanced through conscious attention and it is precisely conscious attention that can remove imagination from the ego that is the source of what you refer to as ego mind.

Experiments in "self knowledge" reveal how little we are capable of conscious attention so consequently continue to fall back into our conditioning sustained by the ego mind. Welcome to Plato's cave from which we are called to transcend.

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  stephsquared on Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:52 am

It is actually the "Great Beast" we are a part of that denies our inner growth and the only individuality that it is concerned with is what furthers its aims.

Ah, i see. So you're saying that this "Great Beast" is society, and it limits our inidividuality-- the potential for us to transcend and grow spiritually? I quite agree. I think that sacrifice of individuality--which means no inner-growth of the essence, our Being not expanding/growing-- will create psychological limits/boundaries thus, we will not be able to transcend, and thus not fulfilling our potential to attain contentment of our Being/ inner- Self;inner peace. The society will be purely classicist and superficial if we sacrifice our individuality-- there will be absolute consistency; "foolish consistency"

Is it possible that conscious humanity could deal with the human condition far better than cogs in the wheel?

hm, Could the conscious humanity deal with the human condition, better than cogs in the wheel? I don't think so. As much as we have intellect/ knowledge, we're still ignorant and we still have the mind. So i don't think we will be able to become like parts of a whole, like cogs in a wheel. I don't think everyone can see in the way that "there is no they, there is only an us". I think people will always classifu according to levels, whether it's social, racial, appearance, sexual/gender, or just simply himself/herself vs. the world. People can't see in the way that we're genuinely all equal and apart of a whole, many people can't see that we're a human family, and that we're all connected. It depends on what they believe. I'm not sure if I'm answering your question. If I'm getting confused again, i do apologize.

---------------------------------------

Um. what do you mean when you use the word "presence". Do you mean, intelligence--wisdom/spontaneity/ intuition? (that's how I've seen it used) or do you mean by the present moment? Living in the present--fully aware of what is precisely happening in the present? Have you ever heard of the theory of time? How that there is the pyschological time and the NOW? how the clock is just a figure of our own imagination and that there is no past and the future--they're a product of the mind? In the nonlocal domain--the domain of everything viewed as atoms/vibrations and waves/particles, and that there are spontaneous events that seem like coincidence, but it is a matter of how everything is connected and correlated and intermingled together as parts of this planet, thus there is no distance/ no time to determine when these events have happened? I've listed these ideas/concepts because it seems very much related to what you were just talking about-- presence. Yes, i believe that having conscious attention of the NOW/ present moment is how we control the ego-mind. Being in control of the ego-mind allows us to transcend easier (i think). Although it seems very unlikely anyone could ahieve this, this may be the key to transcendence. OSHO, an Indian philosopher, also said that by realizing one is not in the present, he/she isin the present. In other words, once you realize you're not in the present, you ARE in the present. Being in the present allows the ego-mind to become quiet and allows the BODY, MIND, and SPIRIT (HEART/ESSENCE) mutually associating in harmony.

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Re: Repression of Eros

Post  Nick_A on Tue Jun 09, 2009 12:22 am

Hi Steph

hm, Could the conscious humanity deal with the human condition, better than cogs in the wheel? I don't think so. As much as we have intellect/ knowledge, we're still ignorant and we still have the mind. So i don't think we will be able to become like parts of a whole, like cogs in a wheel. I don't think everyone can see in the way that "there is no they, there is only an us". I think people will always classifu according to levels, whether it's social, racial, appearance, sexual/gender, or just simply himself/herself vs. the world. People can't see in the way that we're genuinely all equal and apart of a whole, many people can't see that we're a human family, and that we're all connected. It depends on what they believe. I'm not sure if I'm answering your question. If I'm getting confused again, i do apologize.

I respectfully disagree with a great deal in these ideas. What causes this ignorance that can know a great deal but at the same time as Socrates said knows nothing? It is the lack of vertical consciousness or capacity for a human perspective rather than our normal acquired horizontal linear perspective normal for Plato's cave.

I don't think everyone can see in the way that "there is no they, there is only an us".

Yes, this "us" comprises the "Great Beast." But if we believe in transcendence, we must believe in our potential individuality that can connect with higher consciousness.

I think people will always classifu according to levels, whether it's social, racial, appearance, sexual/gender, or just simply himself/herself vs. the world. People can't see in the way that we're genuinely all equal and apart of a whole, many people can't see that we're a human family, and that we're all connected.


We recognize that intellectual knowledge has levels of quality. My USCF rating in chess for example is around 1950. There are many 1600 and 1700 players not as strong as me. Yet there are those like Kasparov or other grandmasters over 2600 that are far better than me. This is just recognizing levels of quality or the understanding of the game.

A agree that we live by levels of quality that have only a social meaning but that is not to say that people do not exist at differing levels of being or levels of "Objective quality." If not it makes the whole esoteric teacher/student relationship a scam.

True transcendent knowledge isn't new. Acquiring this knowledge is only remembering what has been forgotten. A true teacher helps us to experientially do just that and not fall into dreams. A true teacher has gotten out of his own way so knows how to do it. Believing all to be the same denies a person becoming able to open to objective quality and become themselves.

All this is confusing at first since we have to think in a new way. Here is an anecdote concerning a man who may have been one of the greatest of the twentieth century. A new student of his came to him and admitted with fear that she felt completely intimidated in his presence. He was this special man and she felt like nothing so couldn't relax.

He looked at her for a while and then said something to the effect that "yes compared to me you are sh-t and I compared to certain others am also sh-t so you see we are really the same." She left him confused but returned an hour later with a smile. She now "understood" levels of reality. she understood that a staircase consists of several steps. All these steps are necessary on the staircase. It is our egotism that denies this basic inner morality

To deny objective hierarchy is to deny Jacob's Staircase and cosmology itself. The question is how to avoid its abuse which we agree permeates society.

Um. what do you mean when you use the word "presence". Do you mean, intelligence--wisdom/spontaneity/ intuition? (that's how I've seen it used) or do you mean by the present moment? Living in the present--fully aware of what is precisely happening in the present? Have you ever heard of the theory of time? How that there is the psychological time and the NOW?

I mean being awake which by definition means consciously in the NOW so as to be able to consciously function in life. Living in the Now creates the objective relationship between giving to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's. It is much more than the associative mind. Vertical and linear "Time" is a topic in itself.

Presence or living in the Now requires consciously being open to think, feel, and sense something simultaneously. You are present to cold for example when you stand outside in winter and experience it emotionally and through sensation without preconditioned reaction even as your mind admits that there are degrees of cold. We live by reaction so anticipate what cold will both feel and sense like so do not have the conscious experience but rather imagine it.

The idea isn't to control the ego mind but just to acquire conscious attention that aligns the head, heart, and senses. In this state of presence the ego mind loses its power. This is why beginning efforts at conscious attention are much more difficult then actually doing them. Our ego doesn't want what they reveal.

This whole idea of the repression of eros is connected with our inability to welcome the experience of our nothingness as this young student became able to do thanks to a teacher with real understanding.

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