There is not a single side of life which is not capable of revealing to us an infinity of the new and the unexpected, if we approach it with the knowledge that it is not exhausted by its visibility, that beyond this visibility there is a whole "invisible world"--a world of to us new and incomprehensible forces and relations. The knowledge of the existence of this invisible world: this is the first key to it.
A wealth of "newness" unfolds to us in the most mysterious sides of our existence, in those sides through which we come into direct contact with eternity--in love and in death. In Hindu mythology love and death are the two faces of one deity. Siva, god of the creative force of nature, is at the same time the god of violent death, of murder and destruction. His wife is Parvati, goddess of beauty, love and happiness, and she is also Kali or Durga--goddess of evil, of misfortune, of sickness and of death. Together Siva and Kali are the gods of wisdom, the gods of the knowledge of good and evil.
In the beginning of his book, The Drama of Love and Death, Edward Carpenter very well defines our relation to these deeply incomprehensible and enigmatical sides of existence:
Love and death move through this world of ours like things apart--underrunning it truly, and everywhere present, yet seeming to belong to some other mode of existence.
These figures, Love and Death, move through the world like closest friends indeed, never far separate, and together dominating it in a kind of triumphant superiority; and yet like bitterest enemies, dogging each other's footsteps, undoing each other's work, fighting for the bodies and souls of mankind.
In these few words is shown the contents of the enigma which confronts us, encompasses us, creates and annihilates us. But man's relation to the two aspects of this enigma is not identical. Strange as it may seem, the face of death has ever been more attractive to the mystical imagination of men than the face of love. There have always been many attempts to understand and define the hidden meaning of death; all religions, all religious doctrines begin with giving to man this or that idea about death. It is impossible to construct any system of world-contemplation without some definition of death; and there are numerous systems such as contemporary spiritism which consist almost entirely of "views upon death," of doctrines about death and post-mortem existence. (In one of his articles, V. V. Rosanoff observes that all religions consist in substance of teachings about death.)
But the problem of love, in the contemporary way of looking at the world, is regarded as something given, as something already understood and known. Different systems contribute little that is enlightening to an understanding of love. So although in reality love is for us the same enigma as is death, yet for some strange reason we think about it less. We seem to have developed certain cut and dried standards in regard to an understanding of love, and men thoughtlessly accept this or that standard. Art. which from its very nature should have much to say on this subject, gives a great deal of attention to love; love ever has been, and perhaps still is, the principal theme of art. But even art chiefly confines itself merely to descriptions and to the psychological analysis of love, seldom touching those infinite and eternal depths which love contains for man.
In reality love is a cosmic phenomenon, in which men, humanity, are merely accidents: a cosmic phenomenon which has nothing to do with either the lives or the souls of men, any more than because the sun is shining, by its light men may go about their little affairs, and may utilize it for their own purposes. If men would only understand this, even with a part of their consciousness, a new world would open, and to look on life from all our usual angles would become very strange.
For then they would understand that love is something else, and of quite a different order from the petty phenomena of earthly life.
Perhaps love is a world of strange spirits who at times take up their abode in men, subduing them to themselves, making them tools for the accomplishment of their inscrutable purposes. Perhaps it is some particular region of the inner world wherein the souls of men sometimes enter, and where they live according to the laws of that world, while their bodies remain on earth, bound by the laws of earth. Perhaps it is an alchemical work of some Great Master wherein the souls and bodies of men play the rôle of elements out of which is compounded a philosopher's stone, or an elixir of life, or some mysterious magnetic force necessary to someone for some incomprehensible purpose.
Love in relation to our life is a deity, sometimes terrible, sometimes benevolent, but never subservient to us, never consenting to serve our purposes. Men strive to subordinate love to themselves, to warp it to the uses of their every-day mode of life, and to their souls' uses; but it is impossible to subordinate love to anything, and it mercilessly revenges itself upon those little mortals who would subordinate God to themselves and make Him serve them. It confuses all their calculations, and forces them to do things which confound themselves, forcing them to serve itself, to do what it wants.
Mistaken about the origin of love, men are mistaken about its result. Positivistic and spiritistic morality equally recognize in love only one possible result--children, the propagation of the species. But this objective result, which may or may not be, is in any case an effect of the outer, objective side of love, of the material fact of impregnation. If it is possible to see in love nothing more than this material fact and the desire for it, so be it; but in reality love consists not at all in a material fact, and the results of it--except material ones--may manifest themselves on quite another plane. This other plane, upon which love acts, and the ignored, hidden results of love, are not difficult to understand, even from the strictly positivistic, scientific standpoint.
To science, which studies life from this side, the purpose of love is the continuation of life. More exactly, love is a link in the chain of facts supporting the continuation of life. The force which attracts the two sexes to each other is acting in the interests of the continuation of the species, and is accordingly created by the forms of the continuation of the species. But if we regard love in this way, then it is impossible not to recognize that there is much more of this force than is necessary. Herein lies the key to the correct understanding of the true nature of love. There is more of this force than is necessary, infinitely more. In reality only an infinitesimal part of love's force incarnate in humanity is utilized for the purpose of the continuation of the species. But where does the major part of that force go?
We know that nothing can be lost. If energy exists, then it must transform itself into something. Now if a merely negligible percentage of energy goes into the creation of the future by begetting, then the remainder must go into the creation of the future also, but in another way. We have in the physical world many cases in which the direct function is effected by a very small percentage of the consumed energy, and the greater part is spent without return, as it were. But of course this greater part of energy does not disappear, is not wasted, but accomplishes other results quite different from the direct function.
Take the example of a common candle. It gives light, but it also gives considerably more heat than light. Light is the direct function of a candle, heat the indirect, but we get more heat than light. A candle is a furnace adapted to the purpose of lighting. In order to give light a candle must burn. Combustion is a necessary condition for the receiving of light from a candle; it is impossible to ignore this combustion; but the same combustion gives heat. At first thought it appears that the heat from a candle is spent unproductively; sometimes it is superfluous, unpleasant, annoying; if a room is lighted by candles it will soon grow excessively hot. But the fact remains that light is received from a candle only because of combustion--by the development of heat and the incandescence of volatilized gases.
The same thing is true in the case of love. We may say that a merely negligible part of love's energy goes into posterity; the greater part is spent by the fathers and mothers on their personal emotions as it were. But this also is necessary. Without this expenditure the principal thing could not be achieved. Only because of these at first sight collateral results of love, only because of all this tempest of emotions, feelings, effervescences, desires, thoughts, dreams, fantasies, inner creations; only because of the beauty which it creates, can love fulfil its immediate function.
Moreover--and this perhaps is the most important--the superfluous energy is not wasted at all, but is transformed into other forms of energy, possible to discover. Generally speaking, the significance of the indirect results may very often be of more importance than the significance of direct ones. And since we are able to trace how the energy of love transforms itself into instincts, ideas, creative forces on different planes of life; into symbols of art, song, music, poetry; so can we easily imagine how the same energy may transform itself into a higher order of intuition, into a higher consciousness which will reveal to us a marvelous and mysterious world.
In all living nature (and perhaps also in that which we consider as dead) love is the motive force which drives the creative activity in the most diverse directions.
In springtime with the first awakening of love's emotions the birds begin to sing, and build nests.
Of course a positivist would strive to explain all this very simply: singing acts as an attraction between the females and the males, and so forth. But even a positivist will not be in a position to deny that there is a good deal more of this singing than is necessary for "the continuation of the species." For a positivist, indeed, "singing" is merely "an accident," a "by-product." But in reality it may be that this singing is the principal function of a given species, the realization of its existence, the purpose pursued by nature in creating this species; and that this singing is necessary, not so much to attract the females, as for some general harmony of nature which we only rarely and imperfectly sense.
Thus in this case we observe that what appears to be a collateral function of love, from the standpoint of the individual, may serve as a principal function of the species.
Furthermore, there are no fledglings as yet: there is even no intimation of them, but "homes" are prepared for them nevertheless. Love inspires this orgy of activity, and instinct directs it, because it is expedient from the standpoint of the species. At the first awakening of love this work begins. One and the same desire creates a new generation and those conditions under which this new generation will live. One and the same desire urges forward creative activity in all directions, brings the pairs together for the birth of a new generation, and makes them build and create for this same future generation.
We observe the same thing in the world of men: there too love is the creative force. And the creative activity of love does not manifest itself in one direction only, but in many ways. It is indeed probable that by the spur of love, Eros, humanity is aroused to the fulfilment of its principal function, of which we know nothing, but only at times by glimpses hazily perceive.
But even without reference to the purpose of the existence of humanity, within the limits of the knowable we must recognize that all the creative activity of humanity results from love. Our entire world revolves around love as its centre.
Love unfolds in a human being traits of his which he never knew in himself. In love there is much both of the Stone Age and of the Witches' Sabbath. By anything less than love many men cannot be induced to commit a crime, to be guilty of a treason, to reanimate in themselves such feelings as they thought to have killed out long ago. In love is hidden an infinity of egoism, vanity and selfishness. Love is the potent force that tears off all masks, and men who run away from love do so in order that they may preserve their masks.
If creation, the birth of ideas, is the light which comes from love, then this light comes from a great fire. In this eternally burning fire in which humanity and all the world are being incessantly purified, all the forces of the human spirit and of genius are being evolved and refined; and perhaps indeed, from this same fire or by its aid a new force will arise which shall deliver from the chains of matter all who follow where it leads.
Speaking not figuratively, but literally, it may be said that love, being the most powerful of all emotions, unveils in the soul of man all its qualities patent and latent; and it may also unfold those new potencies which even now constitute the object of occultism and mysticism--the development of powers in the human soul so deeply hidden that by the majority of men their very existence is denied.
In the majority of cases love, as it exists in modern life, has become a trifling away of feelings, of sensations. It is difficult, in the conditions which govern life in the world, to imagine such a love as will not interfere with mystical aspirations. Temples of love and the mystical celebration of love's mysteries exist in reality no longer: there is the "every-day manner of life," and psychological labyrinths from which those who rise a little above the ordinary level can only desire to run away.
For this reason certain fine forms of asceticism are developing quite naturally. This asceticism does not slander love, does not blaspheme against it, does not try to convince itself that love is an abomination from which it is necessary to run away. It is Platonism rather than asceticism. It recognizes that love is the sun, but often does not see its way to live in the sunlight, and so considers it better not to see the sun at all, to divine it in the soul only, rather than receive its light through darkened or smoked glasses.
In general, however, love represents for men too great an enigma; and often the denial of love and asceticism take on strange and unnatural forms, even with persons who are quite sincere, but unable to understand the great mystical aspect of love. When one encounters these perversions of love, one involuntarily calls to mind the words of Zarathustra:
Voluptuousness: unto all hair-shirted despisers of the body, a string and stake; and cursed as "the world" by all backworldsmen: for it mocketh and befooleth all erring, misinferring teachers.
Voluptuousness: to the rabble the slow fire at which it is burnt: to all wormy wood, to all stinking rags, the prepared heat and stew furnace.
Voluptuousness: to free hearts, a thing innocent and free, the garden-happiness of the earth, all the future's thanks-overflow to the present.
Voluptuousness: only to the withered a sweet poison: to the lion-willed, however, the great cordial, and the reverently saved wine of wines.
Voluptuousness: the great symbolic happiness of a higher happiness and highest hope. For to many is marriage promised and more than marriage--to many that are more unknown to each other than man and woman--and who hath fully understood how unknown to each other are man and woman.
I have dwelt so long on the subject of the understanding of love because it has the most vital significance; because to the majority of men, approaching the threshold of the great mystery, much is closed or opened to them in this way, and because for many this question represents the greatest obstacle.
In love the most important element is that which is not, which absolutely does not exist from the usual worldly, materialistic point of view.
In this sensing of that which is not, and in the contact through it with the world of the wondrous, i.e., truly real, consists the principal element of love in human life.
It is a well-known psychological fact that in moments of powerful emotion, of great joy or great suffering, everything happening round about a man seems to him unreal--a dream. This is the beginning of the soul's awakening. When a man in a dream begins to be conscious of the fact that he is asleep and that what he sees is a dream, then he is waking up; so also the soul, beginning to be conscious of the fact that all visible life is a dream, approaches its awakening. And the more powerful, the brighter the inner emotions are, so much the more quickly will the moment of consciousness of the unreality of life come.
It is very interesting to consider love and men's relation to love in the light of that method and those analogies which we have already applied to the comparative study of different dimensions.
Again it is necessary to imagine a world of plane beings, observing phenomena entering their plane from another unknowable world (such as the change of the color of lines on a plane, in reality depending upon the rotation through the plane of a wheel with many-coloured spokes). The plane beings believe that the phenomena arise within the limits of their plane, from causes also belonging to the same plane, and that they are finished there. Also, all similar phenomena are to them identical, such as two circles which in reality belong to two entirely different objects.
On this foundation they erect their science and their morality. Yet if they would decide to discard their "two-dimensional" psychology and try to understand the true substance of these phenomena, then with the aid and by means of these phenomena they could sever their connection with their plane, arise, fly up above it, and discover a great unknown world.
The question of love holds exactly the same place in our life.
Only he who can see considerably beyond the facts discerns love's real meaning; and it is possible to illumine these very facts by the light of that which lies behind them.
And he who is able to see beyond the "facts" begins to discern much of "newness" in love and through love.
I shall quote in this connection a poem in prose by Edward Carpenter, from the book Towards Democracy.
THE OCEAN OF SEX
To hold in continence the great sea, the great ocean of Sex, within one,
With flux and reflux pressing on the bounds of the body, the beloved genitals,
Vibrating, swaying emotional to the star-glint of the eyes of all human beings,
Reflecting Heaven and all Creatures,
Scarcely a figure, male or female, approaches, but a tremor travels across it.
As when on the cliff which bounds the edge of a pond someone moves, then in the bowels of the water also there is a mirrored movement,
So on the edge of this Ocean.
The glory of the human form, even faintly outlined under the trees or by the shore, convulses it with far reminiscences;
(Yet strong and solid the sea-banks, not lightly overpassed);
Till maybe to the touch, to the approach, to the incantation of the eyes of one,
It bursts forth, uncontrollable.
O wonderful ocean of Sex,
Ocean of millions and millions of tiny seed-like human forms contained (if they be truly contained) within each person,
Mirror of the very universe,
Sacred temple and innermost shrine of each body, Ocean-river flowing ever on through the great trunk and branches of Humanity,
From which after all the individual only springs like a leaf-bud!
Ocean which we so wonderfully contain (if indeed we do not contain thee), and yet who containest us!
Sometimes when I feel and know thee within, and identify myself with thee,
Do I understand that I also am of the dateless brood of Heaven and Eternity.
Returning to that from which I started, the relation between the fundamental laws of our existence, love and death, the true mutual correlation of which remains enigmatical and incomprehensible to us, I shall merely recall Schopenhauer's words with which he ends his Counsels and Maxims.
I should point out how Beginning and End meet together, and how closely and intimately Eros is connected with Death; how Orcus, or Amenthes, as the Egyptians called him, is not only the receiver but the giver of all things . . . Death is the great reservoir of Life. Everything comes from Orcus--everything that is alive now and was once there. Could we but understand the great trick by which that is done, all the world would be clear.