Sacred Eroticism as Ontology: A Way of Being in the World

The working definition of erotic within TEA includes sexuality within it, but is also much broader than the particular act of sex. In examining the word erotic, the root word, eros, can be understood as coming from the Greek God of the same name. Eros was either brother or son of Nyx (night) and Erebus (darkness), a primordial god and one of the first in Greek cosmology, or, later, Eros was the son of Aphrodite and Ares. According to Sam Keen1Keen, S. (1983). The passionate life: Stages of loving. New York, NY: HarperCollins. in his book The Passionate Life, the word eros itself means “to love or desire ardently,” (p. 4) and the original meaning of erotic “was the impulse that made all things yearn and strive for fulfillment. The acorn was erotically moved by its destiny to become an oak” (p. 5). In defining the erotic, Audre Lorde2Lorde, A. (2007). Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press. in her essay Uses of the Erotic, described it as the lifeforce of creation, as the “creative energy empowered” (p. 55). The erotic is connected to creation, creativity, love, and connection, which are all intrinsically related to sexuality, but also more than sexuality. It is fundamentally rooted in matter, in nature, in the sacred, in sexuality, and in the desire of being and becoming.

In this definition of the erotic there is no question that it has to do with the experience of being, of ontology. Here I turn to Keen’s3Keen, S. (1983). The passionate life: Stages of loving. New York, NY: HarperCollins. eloquent and poignant description of erotic:

Eros is the bond in the ecological communion within which we live. It is not primarily an emotion, a decision, or the result of an act of will. It is the mutuality linking cell to cell, animal to environment, without which we would not be. . . . [Sexuality] is nothing more than a specific instance of a universal principle. The dance of desire, the attraction and
repulsion of particles, goes on within the heart of every atom and aphid. Thus the study of love is not primarily a sociological, psychological, or biological matter. It belongs to ontology–the study of being. In the erotic vision, love is, in the words of Paul Tillich, ‘the ontological drive toward the reunion of the separated.’ Love is the prime mover within Being-becoming-itself. It is the energy of linkage. As such, love is the presupposition rather than the conclusion of our search. (p. 25)

The Erotic is the energy that moves us toward becoming who we truly are and connecting with our soul’s purpose. It is what moves us toward self improvement. It is aspect of the self that desires, both desires for romantic and sexual erotic union as well as for the erotic union of soul and spirit and body and earth.

The erotic is at the heart of experiential spirituality. It is that which drives us to learn, grow, and become. It is the energy of life force that connects us and leads us toward integration. It is what pushes us toward integration and what enlivens us. This connection between eroticism and ontology and lifeforce is acknowledged in every definition of the erotic that I have found. As such, the erotic is inherently sacred, or leads us toward the sacred nature of ontological experience. Engaging authentically and wholly with our erotic natures is a sacred and transformative experience.

The Importance of Sexuality to the Erotic

It is important, when reading this, not to denigrate or debase the experience of sexuality, nor to think it is the entirety of the point either. Certainly sexuality in and of itself can be and is experienced as a sacred experience, and is not to be discounted. Sexuality is an important aspect and expression of the erotic, but it is not the entirety of the erotic. As Keen (1990) also stated: “When we limit ‘erotic’ to its sexual meaning, we betray our alienation from the rest of nature” (p. 4). The erotic is a natural force, and is the fundamental aspect of being alive. It leads us toward connection with ourselves, with others, with the world, and with the rest of the cosmos. In this culture, we find eroticism through sexuality and often not anywhere else, but we can open up to experiencing the erotic in all things and in all desires. We can also use sexuality, because it is where we have relegated the erotic to in this culture, as a gateway to understanding our own erotic natures. Eroticism is fundamental to the experience of being alive.

Similarly to Keen’s assertion that limiting erotic to sexuality “we betray our alienation from the rest of nature” (p. 4), I would assert that excluding sexuality from the erotic, or from a fundamental understanding of Being, is also an indication of our alienation from the rest of nature. I believe it is because of the disconnection of sexuality from the sacred erotic that contemporary United States culture is overly obsessed with sexuality while also denying it. When we approach sexuality as a natural aspect of our sacred erotic being to take enjoyment and pleasure in—rather than a duty, expectation, chore, or, on the flip-side, something to be gain to feel better about ourselves, to gain status, or to distract or further disassociate us—we can embrace the entirety of experience as a human-animal. The erotic as connective life force runs through sexual interaction, and is one of the very few avenues to experience the erotic that is acceptable according to social norms.

Benefits of Erotic Engagement

Engaging with the erotic in a conscious, embodied way also leads to better understanding of our own bodies, needs, and desires. We begin to feel more deeply and experience all sensations in a more embodied way, for the only way to feel is through the body. As we engage more with our own erotic lifeforce in this way we become in greater contact and relationship with the sacred and divine aspects of ourselves, other individuals, and the earth itself. Embracing our erotic natures is a move toward self-understanding, sovereignty, and authenticity. This occurs through the recognition of, acceptance of, and responsibility over one’s own desires, joy, and pleasure.

The closer we are to full-bodied feeling and wholeness of Self, the closer we are to understanding our own sacred erotic natures and reason for being. This is the ultimate goal of TEA: to assist individuals, groups, and the world toward individuation and the understanding of their soul’s purpose. The particular way TEA goes about this is through encouraging investigation of the erotic through the archetypal, mythological, and metaphorical relationships the individual has with the erotic and the body. To this end, sexuality, emotions, connection to and understanding of the sacred, archetypal engagement, past experiences, family dynamics, complexes, the shadow, personal and cultural experiences of power, and many other aspects of the Self must be investigated and integrated within the life of an individual to work toward embracing what Tai calls one’s Whole Erotic Self.

Whole Erotic Self

To think of the Self as something separate from or apart from the erotic or the body is to do disservice to the whole of human experience. While we may be connected to something greater than this level of existence through our soul and spirit, our body is what tethers us to the material. The Whole Erotic Self is the desire for individuation, or an integrated wholeness, that recognizes eroticism as a fundamental part of the Self. It is knowing ourselves as subjective agents of desire constantly moving toward integration and wholeness.

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