“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Free Love II: on the delights of the angelic body

Wahl ist Qual – Choice is pain. Before I go on tracing the intricate maze danced (to the lascivious promptings of a lute) by Georg Forster and Sophie Huber, born Heyne, as they went through the attempt, in the Revolutionary epoch of the eighties, to find liberty in marriage and love in liberty, I want to take the long view. Free love is a phrase that is well and truly dead – dead of mockery, dead of the emotional exploitation of which it became the instrument, deniability raising the old ghost of guilt in the service of nubile bodies forever lined up at the porn shoot. Yet it had a long, long career, and it is still not so dead that the phoenix of some kind of program joining sex, liberty and utopia cannot leap from the ashes of lovers, factual and fictional, who took the principle of free love with deadly earnestness. As I’ve noted, my three ideal types of alienation – the reactionary, the liberal and the radical – all in one way or another turned from happiness to love as the foundation of society. Only, however, the liberal and the radical turned to free love – it was the contention of the reactionary that, in fact, happiness, carrying the sensualist inheritance of Enlightenment volupte, would invariably end in promiscuity – which is the only way that the reactionary could see free love. Love in the reactionary tradition is not about liberty, but about obedience – to the sovereign, whose love is emanated in rules and laws. Although at the center of the Christian tradition there was always the disturbing Pauline paradox that love transcends and destroys those laws and rules insofar as they are the marks of sin, that is, of a lack of love. Heretics hived off from the main body of the Church by taking that notion too seriously, of course – those small circles of Adamites and Levelers, those claimants to purity for whom all things are pure.

In fact, free love was not only a scandal to the church – certainly Marx, for instance, was unhappy about the association of socialism with free love. To be flip, Marx’s definition of scientific socialism sometimes seems to be socialism minus the free love nonsense.

The person who joined love and liberty together in the eighteenth century was Emmanuel Swedenborg. Even though Swedenborgians proper disclaimed the free love ideas that grew out of certain Swedenborgian factions in the nineteenth century, it is certainly true that Swedenborg was a great promoter of the notion that liberty is love. As his biographer puts it:

“We must guard, however, against supposing that the spiritual is not real and bodily; for everything inward has its last resort in substantive organization. The bodies of angels are as our’s in every part, but more expressive, plastic and perfect. Their conjugal union, which is true chastity and playful innocence, is bodily like our own; nay, far more intimate: its delights, immeasurably more blessed.”

And this, from Conjugal love:

“The Lord provides similitudes for those who desire love truly conjugal, and if they are not given in the earths, he provides them in the heavens. The Divine Providence of the Lord is most particular and most universal concerning marriages and in marriages, because all the enjoyments of heaven stream forth from the enjoyments of conjudgial love, as sweet waters from the stream of a fountain; and that on this account it is provided that conjugial pairs be born, and that these are continually educated, under the auspices of the Lord, for their several marriages, both the boy and the girl being ignorant of it; and after the completed time, then that marriageable virgin, and then that young man fit for nuptials meet somewhere as if by fate, and see each other; and that then, as from a certain instince, they know that they are partners, and, as if from a certain dictate within, think in themselves, the young man, that she is mine, and the virgin, that he is mine; and, after this has been seated for some time in the minds of both, they deliberately speak to each other, and betroth themselves.”

One notices that Swedenborg’s idea of virginity – as with the delights of the angels – is not orthodox. And the notion of an education through marriages seems to be something like education in volupte, or the radical libertine ideal as it came from Cyrano de Bergerac and others.

4 comments:

northanger said...

AQ 2847 = I WILL HELP YOU FIND THE TOTAL CONNECTION BETWEEN EXPRESSIVE ACCOUNTS, METHODOLOGY, AND FINDINGS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE WHOLE BEAR THE IMPRESS OF AN AUTHORIAL IDENTITY = SUZUKI IN HIS LATER YEARS WAS NOT JUST A REPORTER OF ZEN, NOT JUST AN EXPOSITOR, BUT A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTOR TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF ZEN AND TO ITS ENRICHMENT (Suzuki's view of Zen Buddhism is certainly his very own; as philosopher Charles A. Moore said; AQ-147 DAISETZ, AQ-203 D.T. SUZUKI, AQ-308 DAISETZ SUZUKI).

P.M.Lawrence said...

According to Google's translation, "Wahl ist Qual" = "Election is spoiled".

roger said...

That's Google, Mr. Lawrence.
Wahl is choice, election, - so for instance, Die Wahlverwandschaften, Goethe's novel, is usually translated, elective affinities. A beautiful title.

Perhaps the best translation would be Brooklynese - Choice is the woist!

P.M.Lawrence said...

Doch, sicher - ich Deutsch sprechen wiss, aber nur ein wenig. (Auch, das ist kein Reichsdeutsch; ich hab' mein Deutsch im Aargau gelehrnt. Aargau ist nicht i' der Schwizer Baerger, aber es fast ist.)