Monday, February 07, 2011

The Path of Lust Resistance

Midway upon our guided tour through hell, your strutting psychopomp came down with the flu and deviated from the path that does not stray. Now having lost the plot, he wonders if he can regain his former momentum, or whether he should just chuck it in and issue a full refund. He wishes to remind us all that he is no more a scholar of Dante than you are, so this verticalisthenic exorcism is venturing perilously close to resembling actual work, heaven forfend.

We were into Canto V, where, in the words of Upton, Dante "descends into the Second Circle, the true beginning of Hell": Thus I went downward from the topmost ring / Into the second, where in a smaller space / The greater torments bring forth cries of woe.

Now, the first thing that occurs to us is that this is the inverse of the celestial spheres, which also represent a series of concentric circles. However, in their case, they have the paradoxical quality of becoming more expansive as one approaches the center. Obviously this is "geometrically" impossible, which is why geometry can only "indicate" but not actually map these areas of theometry.

As we know, there are seven "deadly" sins, including lust, gluttony, greed, acedia, wrath, envy, and pride; and these correspond to their seven virtues, chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility. This particular circle of the inferno houses the lustful.

Obviously, when it comes to lust, context is everything. Certain types of lust are not only permissible, but encouraged.

Analogously, the temperate person enjoys food just as much as (if not more than) the glutton. But in the case of the latter, something has shifted within the soul, so as to attach much more significance to the object of gluttony than there is in it. I mean, it's only food. What's the big deal? But this is precisely the detached attitude the glutton cannot take toward the act of gastric intercourse.

It is the same with lust. Like the appetite for food, it is a kind of real power that can become detached from the central self that would "humanize" and elevate it, so to speak.

Upton notes that that Dante attaches special blame to the romantic poets who delve "into deep psychic material without seeing its spiritual implications, which would have allowed them to raise it to a higher level." Being that Dante is a poet, he knows full well "how romantic glamour can lead to the loss of eternal life."

Note that these are sinners who do not just lust, but who vilely yield / Their reason to their carnal appetite. And please do not confuse "reason" with mere rationality -- as if the correct path would involve the rational ego merely repressing these lower urges from above. Rather, Dante is talking about the higher intellect, the psychic being, the central self, what we symbolize with the pneumaticon (¶).

It is critical to bear in mind that the latter is always a function of vertical integration, not repression or splitting. And this is indeed a central theme of the Divine Comedy, in that the whole purpose of "descending into hell" is to recover, redeem, and sanctify lost and missing parts of the self. The only good reason to make this descent is because the lower vertical places an upper limit on how high one may ascend without being blindsided and dragged back down to hell.

Now, as we were saying a few posts back, there is a kind of pseudo-transcendence that occurs when plunging into the lower vertical. Obviously, being swamped by lust -- or by anger, or booze, or anything else -- temporarily disables the ego, bringing with it a subjective sense of freedom and expanded space.

Think of all those phony gurus who use this fact to prey upon their devotees, e.g., Adi Da, Chögyam Trungpa, Muktananda, and all the rest of that miserable bunch of new age mythofolkers and crockseekers. Their circle of hell will be described later, as we move closer to the center. (As we know, John Lennon's Sexie Sadie was actually about Deepak Chopra's randy guru, the infamous Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)

Upton notes that in our debased culture, it is as if sexuality has entirely displaced spirituality, so that it becomes simultaneously much more and much less than it actually is: "in our culture we almost consider this blinding to be legitimate because we see reason as a tyrant, whereas in Thomistic theology, reason (ratio) is one of the first fruits of the Intellect (Intellectus, the direct intuition of spiritual Truth), and also its servant."

Upton also points out that the souls in this circle are not as deluded as those we will encounter later. In one sense, they enjoy their entrapment in the lower imagination, not knowing that this type of sexuality is a promise that can never be kept. In hell it is this perpetual disappointment and disillusionment that is experienced, the mourningafter the naughtybefore.

Think, for example, of what motivates the gambling addict. In that fleeting moment when his money is on the line, he experiences a kind of infinite hope. But like a rubber band, he is then snapped into an infinite despair when he loses the wager. In this way, his displaced hope keeps him simultaneously alive and dead in a pseudo-eternity of perpetual acting out.

In reality, such a person has turned against Spirit, but has "spiritualized" something unworthy of the name. The souls in this circle are blown about by the wind, just as they were in this life. Wind is "a symbol of the Spirit, but since the damned have turned against the Spirit, they experience it as turning against them" (Upton). Thus, as the "higher love" leads one up and out, a love that excludes God is a "satanic parody" that can never be sustained.

Along these lyin's, note some of the many excellent aphorisms of Don Colacho on this website I just discovered (HT Vanderleun):

A great love is a well ordered sensuality.

A naked body solves all the universe’s problems.

Sex does not solve even sexual problems.

The 19th century did not live with more anguish because of its sexual repression than the 20th century with its sexual liberation. Identical obsession, even when the symptoms are the opposite.

God is the substance of what we love.

Eroticism exhausts itself in promises.

To liberate man is to subject him to greed and sex.


The souls of the lustful in the infernal his & hurricane.

24 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

He wishes to remind us all that he is no more a scholar of Dante than you are, so this verticalisthenic exorcism is venturing perilously close to resembling actual work, heaven forfend.

That said, and not that it really matters, but I at least am glad you're sticking with it. There's so much there there, it would seem a shame to let it slip away. Especially when both the Upton chapter and its referenced Canto can usually be read in about 10 minutes as a refresher.

Speaking of which, let me just get back to speed...

2/07/2011 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. Don Colacho, thanks for the link, and I thought this one was quite apropos, as well:

Eroticism, sensuality, and love, when they do not converge in the same person are nothing more, in isolation, than disease, vice, and foolishness.

2/07/2011 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Now, the first thing that occurs to us is that this is the inverse of the celestial spheres, which also represent a series of concentric circles. However, in their case, they have the paradoxical quality of becoming more expansive as one approaches the center.

Like being in the bottom of a well versus being on a mountaintop.

2/07/2011 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

It is the same with lust. Like the appetite for food, it is a kind of real power that can become detached from the central self that would "humanize" and elevate it, so to speak.

On a related note, the effects of porn on the male libido.

On poetry, which these days perhaps isn't so far a turn from pornography as it ought to be, I often find myself going back to the observation that in recent decades, romance has all but disappeared from popular music. People still sing about "love," of course, but in a generation where hooking up for a few months is considered a "long term relationship," what they're really talking about is something disposable. And when women sing about it, especially, there is almost always a jaded cynicism and an either implicit or explicit assumption that they are going to be betrayed, if they haven't already.

In other words, it has become adulterated. Not just by pornography, which is really more a symptom of the underlyin' problem, but by the cultural norms that have been corrupting American relationships in the latter half of the past century. I doubt it can be honestly said that there was a golden age, but at least in the fifties everybody knew what the ideal family life was like, and it showed in our popular culture. By the time I was growing up, that ideal was already becoming a fading memory of a supposedly more naive era. Yet that ideal - two parents, a mom (usually) at home raising the kids - is exactly the sort of environment that works best at shaping nascent humans into adults who can love in the truest sense.

How are the children of divorce and abandonment (in the sense that so many, lacking a stay-at-home parent, have either been raised by people who have no love for them if they are in daycare, or have been simply left alone, locked in an empty house with the television, a bag of chips and two liters of soda) supposed to be able to withstand the whirlwind of passionate, lustful feelings at the start of a relationship and broaden those fleeting emotions into something lasting, deeper, and grounded in its proper place?

Lots of people do manage, of course, but I suspect that it is in many ways harder now than it might have been in the past.

2/07/2011 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

The only good reason to make this descent is because the lower vertical places an upper limit on how high one may ascend without being blindsided and dragged back down to hell.

This points up a weakness of quite a bit of evangelical Christian thinking. Christians just want to be "free", identifying with the Resurrected Christ without first identifying with the Crucified and "descending" Christ.

Speaking of food pr0n (it's lunchtime) when did cooking and chefs and all that take over television? Don't these people have anything to do? Cooking is what you do so you can eat. Eating is what you do so you can do something worthwhile.

2/07/2011 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Wow, Julie, that is a worthy post in itself.

2/07/2011 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"It is the same with lust. Like the appetite for food, it is a kind of real power that can become detached from the central self that would "humanize" and elevate it, so to speak."

It seems like that detachment, dis-integration, underscores most if not all issues. When power is separated from the purpose it serves, it serves its own purposes, and they are necessarily arbitrary, fragmented, impulse driven and ever hopeful (for no reason), rather than of seeking to serve reasonable integrated principles. And of course,

"Note that these are sinners who do not just lust, but who vilely yield / Their reason to their carnal appetite. And please do not confuse "reason" with mere rationality -- as if the correct path would involve the rational ego merely repressing these lower urges from above. Rather, Dante is talking about the higher intellect, the psychic being, the central self, what we symbolize with the pneumaticon (¶). "

Yep.

2/07/2011 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Think, for example, of what motivates the gambling addict. In that fleeting moment when his money is on the line, he experiences a kind of infinite hope. But like a rubber band, he is then snapped into an infinite despair when he loses the wager. In this way, his displaced hope keeps him simultaneously alive and dead in a pseudo-eternity of perpetual acting out.

In reality, such a person has turned against Spirit, but has "spiritualized" something unworthy of the name. The souls in this circle are blown about by the wind, just as they were in this life. "

Yep, hope for hope's sake, rather than for anything at all, which is just reveling in power as well... though power which is unable to power anything worthwhile.

2/07/2011 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "I doubt it can be honestly said that there was a golden age, but at least in the fifties everybody knew what the ideal family life was like, and it showed in our popular culture."

Yes, it wasn't so much that people were naive enough to believe that everything would work out for the best, but they had an ideal they were aiming for which was worth hoping they'd successfully attain.

Now that the myth of Ward & June Cleaver has been banished... what is there that is worth aiming for? Nothing, of course... and never has a goal been so widely achieved.

Speaking of which, anyone see the Nat'l Anthem sung at the Super Bowl? Forget about what she got wrong, far worse is what she thought she got right. Ugh.

2/07/2011 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

It was so full of fail, DH rewound and watched it again a couple of times because he just couldn't believe it the first time 'round. The stony expressions on the troops' faces pretty much said it all, though...

2/07/2011 01:34:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Julie - bingo!

I do suspect that pre-60's America was a bit naive, or at least not entirely self-aware of its own virtues. Thus the 60's plunge into Hades whereby those virtues you mentioned were questioned, put to the test, and, I think, eventually vindicated in many respects. I mean, if nothing else, I like to think we are a bit more self-aware than we previously were.

Of course, there is an army of slow learners out there.

2/07/2011 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

What Mushroom said at 10:40.

2/07/2011 02:12:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

>> . . . being swamped by lust -- or by anger, or booze, or anything else -- temporarily disables the ego, bringing with it a subjective sense of freedom and expanded space<<

Also, I think, the swamping might expand the ego to the degree that it feels inviolate - the universe suddenly becomes one's fiefdom, populated by those who are under the bidding of the ego. Quite the heady feeling, this false enlightenment.

Anger, for example - doesn't it actually feel like one is "expanding" in power and self-assuredness? It even brings a sense of false "clarity" .

One way or the other, it is a false enlightenment. Fur shore.

2/07/2011 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

Lust is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Even long after the body no longer reacts impulsively, the compass needle of the heart still moves when opportunities arise.

That said, it occurs to me that the problem these days is not so much that people have too much sex with too many people, but that they are doing so for the wrong reason.

English has this beautiful expression, to "make love". And yet, often it would be more correct to say that people take love. It is all about using other people, not to increase the amount of love radiating outward.

That is my impression though. I am hardly an authority, being celibate from my youth. That's certainly an interesting life in today's world, but I suppose it was worse in the past, when a man needed a wife to milk the cows as well...

2/07/2011 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Moving back to the opposite side of the love spectrum, this made me grin (give it a minute - it makes more sense when she comes into the frame). These two have apparently been at it for quite some time, and still find it just as wonderful.

2/07/2011 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger Mizz E said...

GB, Thank you for this series - good work is so hard to find.
_____________


‎"It is always difficult to give oneself up; few persons anywhere ever succeed in doing so, and even fewer transcend the possessive stage to know love for what it actually is: a perpetual discovery, an immersion in the waters of reality, an unending re-creation."

- Octavio Paz

2/07/2011 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Hey, you know that metaphor about the sphere passing through a horizontal plane? There's a graphic of that...

(Source here, with many more cool images on the main page, via Neatorama)

2/07/2011 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger ge said...

Think
you know all there is to of Adi Da?

what's this, reviving old guru devil advocacy month, ge?

+ an old web-pal who ran the main Da skeptics site has had some revisions in his opinion of late...

2/08/2011 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger Sal said...

People give the Church a hard time about this, but we understand that if you allow one part of sex- union or procreation- to over-power the other, it's not whole-some.

Wonderful comments, everyone.

oh, and: Will!

2/08/2011 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger jwm said...

Every time I think that leftism has no bottom to its depravity I get unpleasantly surprised. This is a must read- not as much for the article, as for the comments.
Sex with a chimp

I'm not kidding.

JWM

2/08/2011 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger jwm said...

Damn. Lost a post. I'll repeat: Any time you think you've seen the bottom of leftist depravity, you are wrong. This article is a must read. The comments could disgust a fly.

Sex with a chimp

I'm not kiddin'

JWM

2/08/2011 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger jwm said...

Odd. I've had this post disappear twice. Perhaps it ran afoul of some spam or prn filter. I'll skip the disgusting topic, and try it again. You must read the comments.
Article from Second Hand Smoke

JWM

2/08/2011 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

One more from Don Colacho, in the section on Intelligence & Wisdom (& Stupidity). It's off topic, but resonates nonetheless:

Phrases are pebbles that the writer tosses into the reader’s soul. The diameter of the concentric waves they displace depends on the dimensions of the pond. (#43)

2/08/2011 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Blogger is occasionally sending innocent comments into the spam file. I'll post these comments as soon as I become aware of them...

2/08/2011 08:41:00 AM  

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