Sunday, February 12, 2006

Celebrate St. Valentine's Day this February 14th

From Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore:
"A general principle we can take from Freud is that love sparks imagination into extraordinary states. Being "in love" is like being "in imagination." The literal concerns of everyday life, yesterday such a preoccupation, now practically disappear in the rush of love's daydreams. Concrete reality recedes as the imaginal world settles in. Thus, the "divine madness" of love is akin to the mania of paranoia and other dissociations.
Does this mean that we need to be cured of this madness? Robert Burton in The Anatomy of Melancholy says that there is only one cure for the melancholic sickness of love: enter into it with abandon. Some authors today argue that romantic love is such an illusion that we need to distrust it and keep our wits about us so that we are not led astray. But warnings like this betray distrust of the soul. We may need to be cured by love of our attachment to life without fantasy. Maybe one function of love is to cure us of an anemic imagination, a life emptied of romantic attachment and abandoned to reason.
Love releases us into the realm of divine imagination, where the soul is expanded and reminded of its unearthly cravings and needs. We think that when a lover inflates his loved one he is failing to acknowledge her flaws - "love is blind." But it may be the other way around. Love allows a person to see the true angelic nature of another person, the halo, the aureole of divinity. Certainly from the perspective of ordinary life this is madness and illusion. But if we let loose our hold on philosophies and psychologies of enlightenment and reason, we might learn to appreciate the perspective of eternity that enters life as madness, Plato's divine frenzy.
Love brings consciousness closer to the dream state. In that sense, it may reveal more than it distorts, as a dream reveals - poeticaly,suggestively, and, admittedly, obscurely. If we were to appreciate truly the Platonic theory of love, we might also learn to see other forms of madness, such as paranoia and addiction, as evidence of the soul's reaching toward its proper yearnings. Platoninc love is not love without sex. It is love that finds in the body and in the human relationship a route toward eternity. In his book on love, Convivium - his answer to Plato's Symposium - Ficino, who is credited with coining the phrase "Platonic love," says concisely, "The soul is partly in eternity and partly in time." Love straddles these two dimensions, opening a way to live in both simultaneously. But incursions of eternity into life are usually unsettling, for they disturb our plans and shake the tranquility we have achieved with earthly reason.
In order to appreciate the mystery of love, we have to give up the idea that love is a psychological problem and that with enough reading and guidance we can finally do it right, without illusion and folly. We do not care for the soul by shrinking it down to reasonable size. Our era's preoccupation with mental hygiene encourages us to think of all forms of mania as disease. But Plato's divine madness is not pathological in our hygienic sense, but more an opening into eternity. It is a relief from the stringent limits of pragmatic, sanitized life. It is a door that opens out from human reason into divine mystery."

Links to this post:

Create a Link

Back to Barque: Thomas Moore
Back to Barque: Thomas Moore's Work