Eros, the Greek god of Love, represents the passionate desire for all that is good, true, beautiful and meaningful. Eros, who traverses all levels of creation, is the Guide on the passage from the ‘Below’ to the ‘Above’, the Messenger between Earth and Heaven, the means to the perfection of the soul. Eros is the driving force and motivation behind all the great discoveries of science, all great art, all great social endeavors, all the magnificent efforts of the human mind, heart, and spirit.
In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates says that the mysteries of Eros begin in youth, when we find ourselves passionately attracted to one beautiful girl or boy. As a result of this experience we begin to entertain beautiful new thoughts and feelings. These soon lead us to an appreciation of beauty in other forms as well, and we begin to see that the beauty of one is akin to the beauty of another, and there is something magnificent and wonderful in the essence of all of this loveliness and beauty which attracts us.
Love then leads us to discover for ourselves that the beauty of a mind is even more precious and admirable than the beauty of outward form, and we find ourselves desiring friends and lovers of character, who have beautiful souls, and together we seek to bring to birth beautiful ideas and sentiments which may improve ourselves and each other.
Thence, in our converse with beautiful minds and souls, we become conscious of the beauty which exists in living well and righteously, in observing just laws, admiring excellent institutions, and meeting our responsibilities with honor. We begin to understand that the beauty of all of this is of one family, and personal physical beauty is but a sweet and fleeting trifle.
Eros then leads us further into deeper realms of the mind, where we discover the beauty of knowledge and science and reason, and we begin to desire the splendid loveliness of wisdom. And then, being lured by Love to surpass the limitations of reason, we begin to contemplate Universal Beauty. No longer enslaved to the attractions of just one form of beauty, Eros reveals to us a vast sea of beauty, and we find ourselves creating noble and majestic thoughts and emotions.
Finally, having been tutored and disciplined by all these experiences of Love, having gradually ascended this ‘Ladder of Love’ and thoroughly experienced and contemplated all the many aspects of the Beautiful, Eros leads us forth until we suddenly behold that wondrous noetic ‘Beauty’ that is no longer subject to death or decay, but is pure, divine, and eternal. In this sacred communion, beholding Beauty with the awakened eye of the soul, no longer seeing mere images or relying on human reason, but actually knowing Reality, we become a ‘friend of God’ – having purified and perfected our own immortal Soul.
Socrates often said that he had no wisdom at all, that he knew nothing either beautiful or good. In Plato’s Symposium, however, he announces that he is an expert on Love. These two statements only appear contradictory. Love, for Socrates, meant longing, and this state of longing is what he meant by being always between ignorance and wisdom, between ugliness and beauty, always seeking and questioning and desiring. Socrates understood Eros, and lived passionately and erotically, precisely because he acknowledged that he knew nothing, but was always an adoring lover and seeker of beauty, goodness, and truth. Plato and Socrates taught the West that these longings – for passionate relationships, for wisdom, for beauty, for immortality, for God – are what make human life meaningful. Eros is the key to the development and fulfillment of our souls. Eros makes possible the hope for human warmth, the hope for a deep connection with life and eternity, the hope for an understanding of the sense and meaning of existence.
But Eros has been badly wounded, just as the ancient myth of Eros and Psyche described so long ago, and he has taken wing and flown away – perhaps never to return.