The truly blessed life involves the proper cultivation of both activity and passivity, working in harmony and mutuality. A horror of passivity lies in the condemnation and hatred towards openness. This will lead to a life impoverished in value and knowledge.
As a consequence we must attempt to seek what I would like to call the spirituality of everyday life. An experiential basis for qualitatively ranking the pleasures seems to be necessary to not let go to waste such openness for the transcendental. For that reason those pleasures like gluttony, which ?fat [us] like hogs? (Richard Hooker), are qualitatively inferior to those which accrue from aesthetic delight or contemplative ecstasy.
I?m not talking here about extremely esoteric matters; one simply needs to recall Abraham Maslow?s expression ?peak experience? to grasp what I suggest. A peak experience may be the result of seeing a sunrise on the desert, or being ?hit? by a line from T.S. Eliot, or of hearing the last movement of Tchaikovsky?s Path鴩que. And also, the pleasure derived from intimate sexual union with the ascent of the soul to spiritual ecstasy and mania.
This vision is of course not in any way new. The famous simile of the ladder of eros, proceeding from its first rung ? the physical love of a beautiful young body ? to the highest rung, the love of the divine ground, is but an example. However, perhaps it is time that we assess our spiritual freedom to turn from the Nietzsclean nihilism of the ?culture of desire? and recapture a new balance. We have the freedom to find our way through the chaos of competing sexual lifestyles and to take our bearings from a more paradigmatic expression of our humanity (whether gay, lesbian or straight).
The paradigm I think should be sought in a joining of sensibility and sexuality, the passionate sexual union is a metaphor for the soul?s ecstatic spiritual union with the divine. The aesthetic dimension of eros is paramount, for the lover sees in his beloved a reflection of divine beauty. The entire experience is suffused with tenderness. Eros embraces and nourishes the whole soul; it is far from being a merely physical act.
It is clear that today we often confuse sexuality with genital sexual union. Of course we must include genital sexual union in the love relationship, but the love relationship should be above all and primarily a sensibility or state of consciousness. Humour of a particular kind is very much part of that sensibility. Such humour should not repress but affirm and extol sexuality. It is fun and funny to be in love.
We should therefore defend the richness of lovers? play, reminding us that this receptivity expresses itself in jokes, puns and laughter as well as in the shared pursuit of wisdom. The openness in such relations should be an openness to transcendence or to how the being together of lovers encourages them to seek in their consciousness for the immutable ground of human mutable love and for the reality of Beauty in which every beautiful thing in the Between of human life participates, to the extent that it is really real. Surely ordinary experience suggests that the reason two people would be joined over time in such an intimate complete relationship is that their union suggests more than it contains and opens to them the Being in which they live and move.
Another message in this regard that I find important is the one carried by the existential reality of death. Dying to the world?s priorities, including the pursuit of power and money, is the prelude to loving the things that matter. Due to, for instance, Plato?s intense love of the beautiful body (in this case male) he was able to conceive of divine reality in erotic analogy. And what could be more divine in temporal existence than the body of one?s beloved?
Sex without love is empty, anonymous sex violates the very principle of encountering the other as partner in a spiritual quest and sex motivated by violence is a violation of true eros. A long-term, meaningful, relationship is consistent with this view and above all, tenderness must be the norm and beauty the animating spirit.
Of course, not everyone can be a spiritual mystic and attain to the vision of the Good (in Plato?s words) but we can all partake in some measure in the journey from the sensual love that joins true lovers together to Dante?s ?love that moves the sun and the other stars.? Nevertheless, fortunate is he, who finds his life partner and shares with her (or him) a fusion of sexuality and spirituality.