(Adapted from a post originally written in 2015 for my former column at Good Men Project.)
The natural world — the human body, included — is the sensuous (often sexual) manifestation of Eros on this planet.
“Where is your eros?” I asked my new client.
We were engaged in a one-on-one coaching session via Skype, he in Seattle and me in California, discussing his ongoing search for deeper meaning and authenticity in life. When I enquired what and where eros might be for him, a puzzled expression clouded his bearded face on the screen and wrinkled his brow.
“Eros… ? I don’t know what that is… or at least not in the way you’re asking about it.”
“It is your ‘life force’ and passion,” I offered. “Eros more than desire, and definitely more than sex or even love. If you want to get really deep or a bit metaphysical, it’s the force that holds the entire universe together and drives our lives.”
To the ancient Greeks, Eros was the god of desire, the son of beautiful Aphrodite. In most myths, his father is Hermes, swift-footed messenger of Olympus, but in others he is the son of Ares, vainglorious god of war. As a handsome and alluring divinity, Eros embodied the masculine aspect of love and was a powerful deity in his own right. Sometimes regarded as a male fertility icon, the god of desire personified the energies of lust and intercourse, as well as beauty and love.
When the conquering Romans later adopted the Greek pantheon, they diminished mighty Eros into a pint-sized, chubby cherub. The sexy and arousing god devolved into the mischievous Cupid, hiding behind clouds to dart unsuspecting souls with his bow and arrows of desire.
Further trivialized by our modern culture, Eros-turned-Cupid is now the stuff of candy valentines, hothouse-grown roses tied with satin ribbon, pop songs and fluffy Hollywood movies. A multifaceted and misunderstood energy, mighty Eros is routinely whittled down to a notion of sexual love. The word erotic, which stems from Eros conjures the following definition:
- arousing, or designed to arouse, feelings of sexual desire
- characterized by or arising out of sexual desire
Diverse, beautiful and powerful as sexuality is, physical eroticism is but one expression of this magnetic force.
In the words of noted Jungian analyst and author, James Hollis, “Eros is the ‘life force’ — desire that wishes most to connect, to build to combine, to fuse, to generate with the other.” Closely entwined with soul, it is a primal force seeking expression in the world through us, perhaps even to serve its own mysterious ends as destiny.
In a fuller sense, Eros is energetic longing — the gravitational allurement that holds the Cosmos while it expands and collapses. The electrical charge that pulls subatomic particles together, it is the essential attraction that builds atoms and ants, molecules and microbes, bones and beasts, binary stars and burgeoning solar systems.
“In all its many forms, Eros is the creative force that pulls us into conscious relationship with life. The natural world — the human body, included — is the sensuous (often sexual) manifestation of Eros on this planet. If our senses and hearts are open, longing draws us into the beauty and mystery of the sensual world as a lover, seducing us, stoking the slumbering passion in our core.” (excerpted from The Bones and Breath: A Man’s Guide to Eros, the Sacred Masculine, and the Wild Soul by L.R. Heartsong)
Eros is desire in the truest sense: that which goes beyond merely sexual energy and embraces the deep yearning for union and wholeness. It is the longing that arises in the body, heart and soul to connect with the other in a deeply meaningful and felt way — somatic and embodied.
Often we feel the initial touch of eros as allurement, a curious attraction to explore something — a mysterious place, a new creative expression (painting, wine making, sculpting, writing), perhaps a forgotten pastime from childhood, or embarking on a personal journey. These curious allurements are signposts, directing us to a deeper, more authentic sense of ourselves, and they are worth following.
There is a reason you are alive, and part of the journey in life is discovering that unique design. It is the yearning for an authentic sense of aliveness — passion, vitality, connection and meaning — that holds a key to the soul’s purpose. Our deep longing, even if we cannot clearly articulate what it is, offers the entry point for the larger life that awaits us.
In working therapeutically with men for twenty years, I believe that what most of us are truly seeking is a sense of connection: with self; with lover or partner; with family and work; with community and the world; nature. We feel a deep, nameless longing for something that seems missing from our lives, yet remain unclear on how to take the next step.
For many men, finding a true sense of eros is challenging. Society offers a wealth of superficial substitutes and distractions, but little that feeds the soul. Few of us know how to make that meaningful contact we seek. Instead we are blindly groping and grasping in misguided and frustrated attempts: an affair, sports cars, unbridled materialism, various addictions including social media and internet porn.
And gay men seem to have decided that eros is simply about sex. Yet even if we are connecting our genitals with our heart for a more embodied approach to sexuality, important as that is, it’s but one small aspect of true eros.
Authentic eros is something more than excitement or arousal — that sleek new BMW, the ‘hottie’ you’re chatting with online or the guy on Scruff — it evokes something expansive in our core. It whispers of the reason we are here. That longing you feel is really a summons from your soul — the innate, most authentic part of your being — inviting you to something larger than the life that contains you right now.
Go deeper, friend.
What arouses, draws and moves you? What is your deepest longing? What stirs a sense of creative energy within you? Where do you feel that in the body? If you could do one thing and knew you wouldn’t fail, what would it be?
There is a reason you are alive. A more authentic, powerful and passionate man waits inside you — the one you’re secretly hoping to be but maybe also a little afraid of — the man that the future hopes you’ll become. An embodiment of the Sacred Masculine.
Only destiny knows where your deep longing will take you.
I ask, where is your eros?