Ms. Hopkins' Eros and Enlightenment
The purpose of the movement I am apart of is to facilitate liberation from the oppressive subjugation in this era of our society. In order to be effective in our efforts we have looked at the current status of the society, along with the works of prevalent critical theorists. Our aim is to transform Eros and Enlightenment by collapsing the illusions of duality that exists among these great thinkers and within ourselves by combining the dynamic aspects of each theory to retell a critical myth for our future. That which represses us is also that which divides us. Taking a holistic approach to myth ensures that the future we are creating can actualize as our reality now.
Many of the cries of discontents cannot be answered by religion. According to Sigmund Freud religion is an illusion that is loosely based on emotions or feelings. The “oceanic” feeling is something that drives people to questions their existence and they long to return to this state of being. However, Freud argues that this oceanic feeling is nothing more than a distant memory of being in the womb. Furthermore, it is an attempt to recreate the paternal and maternal aspects to tame the outer chaos of suffering. “A purely objective experience, not an article of belief; it implies no assurance of personal immortality” (Freud, 8). Man’s goal in religion is to answer the questions of human suffering. The body is heavily involved in the suffering humanity endures. Along with the sense of the body, the sense of the self or ego emerges. Freud states that, “Originally the ego includes everything, later it detaches from the external world” (13). This form of internal duality that we create with our selves perpetuates in our society’s need to feel whole. Thus, man has created religion to repress the desires of his own flesh and mind. It is clear that the inhabitants of our society are still unhappy, violent, and dissatisfied although they have attempted to answer the questions of suffering with their religions. Freud suggest that we look toward our basic biology for our happiness, rather than in the illusions of religion. Our desires and sensations from our own body’s organs somehow are always out of reach or are deemed as inappropriate, yet we are from the body and nurtured by the breast (Freud, 12).
Happiness and religion are intimately connected due to the fact that religion aims at diminishing sorrow. Freud notes how Eros can serve as a distraction from the pains of humanity. For example, art has the ability to be a religious experience in itself, because it inspires creativity, it tends to be truthful about the body, and it is liberation from work. Work is one of the main suppliers of grief in our current society, which religion has no antidote for other than the belief in an afterlife where joy will be experienced. Despite religion, drug and alcohol use has surged in our society. Freud highlights how, “Substitutive gratifications, which lessen it, and intoxicating substances, which make us insensitive to it” mask the misery at large (25). Many therefore engage in excessive behaviors to compensate for their unhappiness, yet animal instincts such as reproduction and intoxicants do not grant lasting happiness. Humanity is in need of the Eros, but the suppression of Eros in the body limits our Enlightenment.
By examining Freud we can use his theories of liberating the body from oppressive religious control and combine them with Walter Benjamin’s views on history to create a progressive future. Benjamin strove for the future to be in the now or now-time by viewing history as one continuous stream rather than in segments. “Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly colored by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us” (Benjamin 253). The concepts of history and the future tie into the fact that the victims of history remain and are not faded remnants of the past. Dangerous memory or moments when we experience flashes from the past, “Appears to man singled out by history at a moment of danger” (Benjamin, 255). The danger then can be used as a means of repression by those in power due to the anamnesis of the masses. Religion tends regulate the body and sex, thus it controls much of the population. Likewise, the victims of the past are not sited correctly by those in power, which distorts the future. Profane illumination, which can be viewed as a prophetic angle standing at the future to critique the past, may give us some hope. According to Benjamin there is no real hope in a messianic future that religion promises, because the battle truly is in the historian’s perceptions. Our happiness can be seized by realizing that every day is “Judgment Day” and we have the ability to create the future we want now. Steiner proclaims, “His own thinking proceeded from a utopian final state of history whose elements, no matter how imperfectly accomplished, manifested themselves in everyday present, are indeed immanent in it” (21). So instead of making the past or future fixed in a historical view, we must strive to look at them in a metaphysical scope that is eternal. Benjamin’s theory can help with our progression if we fuse it with the freedoms of Eros surrounding the body, as displayed by Freud, and create in the now-time, rather than in the realms of the afterlife or distant future.
Michel Foucault is also relevant to our goal of liberation and enlightenment in our new society. The Victorians in the seventeenth century are a classic example of some of the same repressive stances about the body, the family, and sex that we encounter today. Foucault states that, “A policing of sex: that is not, the rigor of a taboo, but the necessity of regulating sex through useful and public discourse (25). Much of the dissatisfaction of the masses stems from The Repressive Hypothesis, which states that the regulations and obsessions surrounding sex not only cause a repressive attitude about sex, but it is contrary to the main objection of instilling parameters around sex as well. The objective behind the censorship is power; the power of sex and the pleasure of it. “Pleasure spread to the power that harried it; power anchored the pleasure it uncovered” (Foucault, 45). So, generating a new myth that includes pleasure without the monitoring by the elite or religious restrictions will distribute the power back to the people and then the power will truly be “everywhere” as Foucault states.
Ursula Le Guin’s, “The Dispossessed” can be used as a guide for creating our new critical myth as well. Anarres was the prime example of a society of people not bound by the repressions of the body or family as Freud and Foucault both expressed here on Earth. On Anarres there was no need for religion due to the satisfaction people gained from their work, because there was no separation from work and play on Anarres. Hence, there was no need for vacations or people dreading the week until the weekend arrived. I propose we model our society in the same fashion as Anarres by rotating the harder jobs while allowing people to choose the jobs they favor for a majority of the time. “On Anarres he had chosen, in defiance of the expectations of his society, to do the work he was individually called to do” (272). Currently, many people are enmeshed in the family and the emotions that result from those bonds. Le Guin strove to show what truly units us in reality, “It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love” (Le Guin, 300).
Herbert Marcuse’s theories can highlight areas in which our new society can improve as well. Marcuse, much like Freud and Benjamin, saw the need for religion as the echoes of suffering of the people and religion as beyond the here and now as most religious concepts tend to aspire for. Religious reform in our new society will end the delay in gratification, which is Marcuse’s Reality Principle that promises false hopes and salvation. Religion follows The Pleasure Principle, because the most primitive parts of our body are religious. Most religious texts can be seen as memories of the future or a primitive archive. Marcuse’s captivating preface is just as relevant in his decade as it is for our movement now, because although we gone through an age of industry, we still seem to cling to an embryonic past:
“The idea of such a new Reality Principal was based on the assumption that the material (technical) preconditions for its development were either established or could be established in the advanced industrial societies of our time” (Marcuse, xv).
According to Marcuse we should be transforming, because a technical society should mean revolution. Our new plan also should correlate with the advances in science and technology to the advances of our liberation as well.
Marcuse demonstrates how duality causes us to split ourselves from the self and other, work and play, and doing and being. Under the Pleasure Principle; We Are All One. According to Marcuse, our oneness is available now and when we experience this state of oneness we transcend or go beyond time and space. Marcuse’s input is much needed for our new critical myth, because unlike Freud, a messianic future is possible by escaping the entrapment of the body via the Eros Marcuse proposes to spread. Similarly, Foucault contains mostly Enlightenment, yet leaves little room for the Eros or absolute past. The Nirvana Principle, concludes the state of suffering is finally over through the ultimate realization of Enlightenment. Kellner gives an interesting argument about Marcuse’s use of The Nirvana Principle, “Marcuse wishes to use the Nirvana principle to help produce a new reality principle that would overcome the conflict between the pleasure principle and the reality principle” (174). In other words Marcuse was in alignment with our goals in disintegrating the illusions of duality in our new society.
The Repressive Sublimation is deemed as enjoyment and creativity by Marcuse, instead of in the negative manner, which Freud held. Marcuse believed that “Eros liberates” (165). However, the Non-Repressive Sublimation can stem from the paternal figures in our lives, which defines the beliefs of the superego. Here we create shame, guilt, judgments, and conflicts usually resulting in neurosis. In our new society, people will not feel bad for playing as a means of income nor will they feel ashamed by the traditions of the past. Marcuse actually encouraged that we embrace Narcissism and in doing so we would be creating a new world by removing the guilt of loving ourselves. The promotion of self-love in our new critical myth will create a new Reality Principle as well, by bringing joy into an “alternative culture” (Marcuse, 164). Many other theorists feared that a non-repressive society would unleash a wave of degenerates, who would behave as brute breast. “Against Reich, Marcuse argues that a non-repressive civilization would take other forms besides sexual intercourse” (Kellner, 183). The lift from the repression would inspire creative and passionate pursuits, such as the arts and education.
The Surplus Repression Marcuse notes can be viewed as a byproduct of sublimation. For instance, the masses currently loathe much of their time spent working in any fashion due to the oppressive nature. Even academic pursuits have lost their luster for those who enjoying scholarship. Students and professors endure the demands place on them, which produces guilt and repression. In our new culture, student and professional instructors will be given the freedoms to design their own curriculum and schedules. The main objectives of Universities will be then to match the requests of students and teachers. We would be re-enchanting beauty in our learning centers by infusing them with Eros. Marcuse suggested, “Work becomes play” when we change our language (171). The surplus or wealth of knowledge would be redistributed back to the public by the revamping of our recurring for education through beauty and new phrases in our literature, and by re-designing ideal campuses.
In “The Republic,” Plato invents the concept of myth for us and as we design our new critical myth noting the similarities between Marcuse and Plato is helpful for our progression. Plato often wrote about love and being divided from our original or whole selves. Marcuse displays how love is a spiritual experience, rather than a ritual. “Spiritual language” can be spread into the monastic communities in the form of Eros to produce an Agape or monastic love. (Marcuse, 210). Once Eros and a sense of sacred sexuality are placed within the monastic community, some of the shame, guilt, and secret sex acts can be transformed in a new resurrection: A resurrection of the body within the spiritual setting. According to Plato, the repression of Eros leads to the heresy of lust and love. The incorporation of the body and love into the spiritual realms will allow our citizens the liberation of themselves in a holistic manner.
By blending the theories of several critical thinkers, rather than taking a dualist approach to the future, we have a blueprint for our new critical myth. Myth is erotic enchantment, and Benjamin understood that life in the now has no purpose without enchantment. Freud challenges us to be creative in our ways to find happiness outside of religion that do not repress the body. Foucault displays how regulations can perpetuate the very thing that one is trying to prohibit. Le Guin’s novel exemplifies a utopian society that has found pleasure in working, and Marcuse gives us the enchantment connecting us with all things to spread the Eros. Therefore, we will create a myth that in itself is an inclusion of theories that frees the body, connects us to each other, spirituality, and nature, has no restrictions, and facilitates pleasure within work now, rather than later or in the hereafter.