Three Loves: Aphrodite, Eros, Pan.

The original marble group of statues most likely dates from Hellenistic Times. They are on public display at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Aphrodite carries a shoe or slipper in her right hand.

According to Cabaret Songs:

Your feelings when you meet it,
I am told you can’t forget,
I’ve sought it since I was a child
But haven’t found it yet.
I’m getting on for thirty-five,
And still I do not know
What kind of creature it can be
That bothers people so.

Cabaret Songs were composed by Benjamin Britten, lyrics by W H Auden.

Throughout intellectual, literary, and cultural history rarely has there been just “one” love. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates says it was a woman who taught him the true meaning of love. Her name was Diotima; and she is probably the first female philosopher in recorded history.

Later, we will discuss her reported philosophy of love in more detail; suffice  it to say for the moment that although she acknowledged a great variety of loves, she had a unified theory for the entire field of love.

Typology of Loves

CS  Lewis was an author, academic, philosopher, religious thinker popular in the UK during the 1950's. and early sixties. He wrote The Chronicles of Narnia as well as science fiction and academic tomes. In the book below, published in 1960, he wrote about four loves.

The four loves championed by Lewis were

  • Empathy-identification
  • Friendship
  • Romantic love
  • Agape (Christian love)

However seminal the book, it was very Western in its orientation. For example, in addition to the four loves Lewis could have added a few more such as:
  • Chesed חֶסֶד, (Hebrew) faithfulness
  • Neo-Platonic love, chaste love, and courtly love celebrated by troubadours in Mediaeval times 
  • عشق  Ishq in Suffi poetry which is a passionate love dedicated to God through poetry, dance, music
But Lewis didn't.

With the sixties came a mix counter-cultures involving indian mysticism, meditation, rejection of capitalist systems, sexual exploration, psychedelic drugs, rejection of family structures. The Age of Aquarius was a very different world from Oxbridge of Tolkein and Lewis...... and so was its loves.

Custom & Morality: Highbrow & Low-grade Love.

Typologies of love, such as Lewis's, quickly become obsolescent. Far from speaking about the eternal value of a particular set of loves, they tend to depict the ideals, hopes, and fears of just one particular era. In other words philosophies or psychologies of love are often prejudices in disguise.

In Plato's Symposium a legal expert, Pausianas, explains there is not just one love, but two. There is first of all "heavenly love" which is about honouring one's partner; particularly by praising publicly his beauty, intelligence, and wisdom!!! Another form of love was "common Aphrodite" or love according to the masses. Here the objective of love wsa to satisfy one's erotic desires whether for men, women or youths. Love is getting what you want as soon as possible without worrying too much whether the love-object wants you or not. Love is principally about satisfaction and gratification. This characterisation is indebted to customs about homosexuality in Athens. The most cherished form of homosexual love in Athens was between an older, usually married man, and a youth aged 12/13 +. It was predominantly practised by aristocrats and men of high culture, it was both supported and restricted by an incredible amount of upper-class custom and social intimidation. Some Greek cities did not tolerate pederasty at all: it was illegal and proscribed. In other city-states, like Athens during some periods of its history, this odd social mixture of homosexuality, apprenticeship, and eroticism, thrived. Pausianas,  like Lewis, was a man of his time with his own particular prejudices. Meanwhile the supporters of common love, did not worry one jot about the aristocratic peccadilloes of Pausianas and his friends.

Over twenty years ago I recall attending a day-long meeting in Manchester that attracted hundreds of participants. The meeting had been called because lots of gay men and women had became activists, supporters, or buddies during the Aids crisis. After counsellor training, some of these former volunteers now wished to train in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. This caused tremendous consternation amongst the analytic training organisations and their graduates members! 

As late as August 21 1994, The Independent on Sunday commented

A new report suggests that discrimination against gays and lesbians working in some psychoanalytical and therapy circles is accepted practice and that classical psychoanalytic theory lies behind it - a serious worry not only for those who want to practise as therapists, but also for those who end up on the couch………

'When I applied to be a psycho-analyst I was a homosexual in conflict and so, because no one thought that I was 'really' gay, I was accepted.'I went into psychoanalysis, for 10 years. I came out married with two kids. It wasn't until I was free of the analysis that six months on I recognised that I was in fact gay.' He says that all his clients now are gays: many have come to him for more therapy after the same distressing (and expensive) experience

Bits & Pieces: Small Round Extrances

An exit is way out. Entrances are how you get in to some place or other. 

Extrances are -simultaneously or separately- both . I like this neologism  because present in it is the word extra:  in the language of advertising there are lots of them, great choice, offering more satisfaction the you ever conceived. Below a mouth is depicted in a skull lacking ear holes and nostrils. Inside the skull offers a startling array of corridors, compartments, and mazes to explore -both going in, coming out or inquisitively wondering around.

During the first seminar in this series,  I asked whether transference is necessarily a whole unified package. For example it might be supposed clients could be transferring the needs of a child, adolescent or lonely adult onto the practitioner. This supposition is understandable given the moral importance afforded to individual subjectivity in Western liberalism. Because people and the personal are so valorised, there is a natural tendency to feel that everything concerning human beings has to be personal.

Not so with either transference or love. Living and  loving have their entrances and exists.... which are prized, hated or desired for oneself.

How many entrances/exits are there in the average human body?

  • nostrils, for breathing and sense of smell
  • mouth: eating, breathing, vocalization: alarm, pleasure, speech
  • ear canals: hearing 
  • lacrimal ducts: carry tears from the lacrimal sac into the nasal cavity 
  • anus
  • males, the urinary meatus, for urination and ejaculation
  • females, the urinary meatus
  • females, the vagina: menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth
  • nipple orifices

Here I am beginning to introduce you to an important element of 
Lacan's teaching that was stressed during the late 1950's and early 60's. What he called l'Objet petit a is perhaps best translated as "a small round 'o' object" Such objects -be they partial, apparently empty, or even initially repulsive- form the building blocks of love for babies and adults alike.

You may be reminded of "erogenous zones" -parts of the human body which are particularly sensitive -so that when caressed, kissed, pulled, or stretched, an erotic response invariable occurs. These zones do not necessarily coincide with Lacan's round o objects -either in number or location. 

The "o" Lacan speaks about is the Other, some other being or an-other. It is a cause of your desire because this Other seems to draw you to itself whether it be a person, idea, image, animal, or ideology that you love. For example, some people adore being looked at. Next week we will learn how artist Lucian Freud attracted scores of models -many of whom wanted to have his babies- by the interrogation of his gaze even during all-night sessions

So maybe what a client might love about you ... are your eyes or your mouth or maybe your nose. In everyday terms, maybe your eyes are quite ordinary: but if they become a small round object O for somebody ...... Oh my........ what  incredible eyes you've got. Just looking at them (or being beholden by them) you are close to love ....and transference .....and the promise of unlimited jouissance. Unlike Artemisia, you need not be a great artist to become the bearer of another's small O object. In fact it is given, lent, or donated to you by the admiring subject.

One could go through the extransces listed above - and find lots of objects to admire!  Skin, touch, aroma, hearing. The small round o object is a Wonderland: like Alice's rabbit hole it affords entrance to incredible worlds of desire and satisfaction or disgust.

When talking of greek literary traditions, I mentioned how love may be viewed as comedy, tragedy or sleaze. Above you will observe a bronze representing male love (Eros), female love (Aphrodite) plus the figure of Pan or a Satyr -a horny animalistic being that lives in woods and forests. There are still in existence Satyr plays from classical times, but very few were preserved. It is from this animalistic-phallic figure that the word satyriasis derives -an eventually dangerous condition for men. There the phallus stops being funny.

Plato's Symposium ends with a sleazy satyr-like episode. The party is noisily broken up by one of the most talented, handsome, and spirited man of Athens (who could also be quite treacherous). His name was Alciabides. He interrupts the polite symposium with his drunken friends in a most rowdy way. He himself proposes to speak about love ...... especially his own love of Socrates.  There is a great deal of ironic comedy in the closing scene of Symposium. Socrates was infamous for being one of the ugliest men in Athens.

Bust of Socrates. Vatican Museums 
in the public domain

Alciabides by contrast, was supposed to be the most desired of men. In this final section, Alciabides narrates his admiration, adoration and love for Socrates. The text makes clear, these are not intellectualized or ideal loves, but deeply sexualised desires as well. We are told how Alciabides, even as a youth attempted to seduce Socrates: but got nowhere. I really encourage you to read the conclusion of Symposium it is great world literature.

A seemingly strange Coda to Alciabides' encomium or praise of Socrates, is an account of the low-grade, crude, words often used by Socrates that contrast with their high-value content.

“For there is a point I omitted when I began—how his talk most of all resembles the Silenuses  that are made to open. If you chose to listen to Socrates' discourses you would feel them at first to be quite ridiculous; on the outside they are clothed with such absurd words and phrases—all, of course, the gift of a mocking satyr. His talk is of pack-asses, smiths, cobblers, and tanners, and he seems always to be using the same terms for the same things; so that anyone inexpert and thoughtless might laugh his speeches to scorn. But when these are opened, and you obtain a fresh view of them by getting inside, first of all you will discover that they are the only speeches which have any sense in them; and secondly, that none are so divine, so rich in images of virtue, so largely—nay, so completely—intent on all things proper for the study of such as would attain both grace and worth.
“This, gentlemen, is the praise I give to Socrates: at the same time, I have seasoned it with a little fault-finding, and have told you his rude behavior towards me.

So in one way, listening to words coming from Socrates' mouth -the round o object- you have just the crude, sexualised and disappointing language of Pan & Satyrs. However, if you can go beyond those words  and somehow peer inside the o object you will find something unique in his words. Socrates' discourse is divine, full of virtue and extreme, endless wisdom.

 πᾶς ἂν τῶν λόγων καταγελάσειενδιοιγομένους δὲ ἰδὼν ἄν τις καὶ ἐντὸς αὐτῶν γιγνόμενος πρῶτον μὲν νοῦνἔχοντας ἔνδον μόνους εὑρήσει τῶν λόγωνἔπειτα θειοτάτους καὶ πλεῖστα ἀγάλματ᾽ ἀρετῆς ἐν αὑτοῖς ἔχοντας καὶἐπὶ πλεῖστον τείνονταςμᾶλλον δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶν ὅσον προσήκει σκοπεῖν τῷ μέλλοντι καλῷ κἀγαθῷ ἔσεσθαι.

ταῦτ᾽ ἐστίν ἄνδρες ἐγὼ Σωκράτη ἐπαινῶκαὶ αὖ  μέμφομαι συμμείξας ὑμῖν εἶπον  με ὕβρισενκαὶ μέντοι

The words of his mouth are agalmata: delights, like beautiful statues, memorials to greek divinities.


I am not sporting the view that all loves and transferences are necessary related to parts -bits and pieces- rather than wholes. However I am trying to say that far too often, the bits and pieces  of Extrances have been ignored in the practice of psychoanalysis.


Popular posts from this blog