Eros

Excerpts from the Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis

One of the first thing Eros does is to obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving.

...Pleasure, pushed to its extreme, shatters us like pain. The longing for a union which only the flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable, can have the grandeur of a metaphysical pursuit.

...In Friendship each participant stands for precisely himself - the contingent individual he is. But in the act of love we are not merely ourselves. We are also representatives. It is here no impoverishment but an enrichment to be aware that forces older and less personal than we work through us. In us all the masculinity and femininity of the world, all that is assailant and responsive, are momentarily focused.

But Eros, honoured without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon. Of all loves he is, at his height, most god-like; therefore most prone to demand our worship. Even in courtship I question whether anyone who has felt the thirst for the Uncreated, or even dreamed of feeling it, ever supposed that the Beloved could satisfy it. The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolise each other but that they will idolise Eros himself. When lovers say of some act we might blame, "Love made us do it," notice the tone. The confession can be almost a boast. They 'feel like martyrs'. In extreme cases what their words really express is a demure yet unshakable allegiance to the god of love. Eros builds his own religion round the lovers. It seems to sanction all sorts of actions they would not otherwise have dared. I do not mean solely, or chiefly, acts that violate chastity. They are just as likely to be acts of injustice or uncharity against the outer world. They will seem like proofs of piety and zeal towards Eros. The pair can say to one another in an almost sacrificial spirit, 'It is for love's sake that I have neglected my parents - left my children - cheated my partner - failed my friend at his greatest need.'

I am stronger than you, Eros. You think you can take me, throw me down at your alter of irresistible devotion to worship you and you alone in exchange for the aliveness I seek. I admit you are the most formidable and beloved of opponents I could ever imagine taking on, bar Death. You know me and all my desires and weaknesses so well. You are the ultimate seductor. Your timing and your instruments are sublime and deadly. The men you have selected for me along the way have been perfect, at least you make them so, and yet they are not you. But you forget that over the years I have come to know you too. Though I know not your face, I can recognise your tricks, I know your fickle nature, and the agony and remorse you can so shamelessly bestow. I know your potion tastes like paradise itself, and that you somehow stole a spare set of keys to eternity. Through divinely brilliant slight of hand you transfigure the mundane into the ecstatic. You make everything look glorious and lucid, even the tragic. You momently lend to me all the femininity of the world such that I become Venus herself for a day in the sun, an embodied paradox of virginal innocence and erotic allure. You make me look and feel beautiful. And yet, I shall say this again with defiance; I am stronger than you Eros. For there is one greater still than you, one who gives a greater satisfaction than you ever can, and that is Goodness.