So, I realize I have not been posting for nearly a week (or has it been a week?) now. I apologize to my followers (and you ninja-followers out there), but I have been very busy and being a little sore after intramural football (go figure it would hurt that much after years of rugby) didn’t help. At any rate, I am better now, it is 12:44 AM where I live, and I am chuck full of caffeine, so let’s get started.
I know I’ve written on love before and this will be based, up to a point, off of the post on love, however, in this post my focus is much more on the physical and spiritual act of sex.
First off, physical sex. You know, birds and bees, that kind of stuff. If you, in fact, don’t know, this is a good time to ask your parents about it or about whether you should keep reading. At any rate, as far as the Symposium goes, which is different from most other dialogues of Plato, Socrates holds that love is one, i.e. the child of wealth and search (the synthesis of having much to offer and desiring much), which does not help us in our quest to learn about the Platonic view on sex, but Pausanias and Eryximachus may help us. Pausanias, whose speech comes first in the Symposium, identifies that there are two types of eros or sexual desire, desire based on physical countenance and desired based on the soul. Eryximachus, who, we are told, is a physician, goes deeper into the issue of the two distinct sexual desires. He says that physical attraction is comprable to sickness in the body, whereas the other kind of desire was the same kind that ruled over music, medicine, etc. From these two statements we can figure out something about what Plato thought about concerning sex. Right off the bat, it should be obvious that Plato gets a bad rap in modern culture over “Platonic relationships” when it comes to sex, because, somehow, we have come to understand a relationship between two souls as necessarily non-physical, which makes no sense. In fact, “Platonic relationship” is such a broad term that it would describe the relationship that Socrates had to his mother, friends, wife, three children, and friends, though, obviously, those relationships are not same. You will not get very many people in Ancient Greece saying that sex is bad, that is much more of a Puritanical position. However, what our two speakers do tell us is that Plato did not think much of hook-ups/one night stands, or even relationships that start purely as a function of the mutual physical attraction between two people. If one really thinks about the reason behind this reasoning, it is pretty obvious. For the follower of the man who looked for a reason behind everything, it would seem pretty silly to give the most intimate part of one’s body to someone else simply because they like how the other person looks. In ten years, that other person may look very different, but the act will remain done. The alternative, of course, is to fall in love with someone’s soul. The idea is that one cannot lose spiritual six-packs like they can lose physical ones, nor do the first get built as easily as the latter. The obvious counterpoint is that someone’s mind can change even more than someone’s physique, but Plato’s hidden assumption is that if you fall in love with someone who is well set in the ways of virtue and wisdom, they will not suddenly decide to pull a Diogenes (the founder of the cynics, who lived in a dumpster and masturbated most of the time).
That being said, physical sex is not the only intercourse between two humans. The alternative intercourse is entirely spiritual and not at all erotic, or necessarily happening between two lovers. At this point, a lot of people would jump to the conclusion that “sex” in this sense is only a metaphor, but I would caution them to remind that, as explained in the Timaeus, we live not in the world of the forms, but in the alternative world, so we should be weary about saying that spiritual things are metaphors of physical things, because it could well be the opposite. If you have been reading all my posts, especially the one immediately below it, you might be a little confused by what I am about to say and believe that I have contradicted myself, but, please, follow on to the end, it will all become clear. The point is, whereas two bodies can come together in physical sex and produce a new child, two souls came come together in thought and create something new, a new thought, a new image, a new way to one of the forms. Of course, in the end, the reality that we are, as a genus, all female has to come into play. Though we can reach a lot in thought among humans, in the end, it is just spiritual foreplay and sooner or later the Groom finds us. A lot of people say that they are looking for the Divine, but are absolutely terrified at the idea that He is, in fact, chasing after them and not the other way around. C. S. Lewis offers the imagery of children playing burglars hearing the footsteps of a real burglar. The point was never to find Him, it was supposed to all be a game. The point is that true spiritual union can only be achieved with the Divine, which is our real purpose in life.
If spiritual union with the Divine is our purpose, then, what is the original and what is the metaphor? It would be obvious that what is greater is the original (if you spend more to build a sign for the Versailles than the Versailles itself, you are utterly inefficient and quite stupid). It would seem, therefore, that spiritual sex is true sex and that physical sex should be taken as a metaphor for the other kind. This statement, of course, puts into question not only the place of sex in the modern Western life (everyone hates when people use metaphors too often or where they have no purpose being), but also the amount of reverence reserved not only for the act of sex itself, but also for the partner in the act, who mystically represents the Divine. Well, I bid you think about it.