This morning I’m going to talk to you about a particularly virulent and dangerous form of divine madness which is called falling in love. Which is, from a practical point of view, one of the most insane things you can do, or that can happen to you. Because in the eyes of a given woman or a given man, an opposite who go to the eyes of everybody else a perfectly plain and ordinary person can appear to be God or Goddess incarnate, to be such a and enchantment that one can say in the words of an old song which probably dates me every little breeze seems to whisper Louise. And this is an extraordinary disruptive experience a subversive experience in the conduct of human affairs. Because you never know when it will strike off for what reason. It’s something like contracting a very chronic disease once you get into it, and we try to resolve it sometimes by making it the basis for a marriage, which is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to do. And this is because in Western civilization we have a tradition of the family which is very curious and which would seem to be the most ridiculous composition of disparate ideas imaginable.
When we go back to the origins of Western civilization in the Hebrew and Christian traditions, we find that the idea of marriage and the experience of falling in love are really rather separate things. Because in those earlier times, in agrarian cultures, nobody ever chose their marriage partner. There are certain exceptions to this that in ancient Greece. You would occasionally find a woman who is called a parthenos, which has been mistranslated Virgin. The correct meaning of parthenos is a woman who chooses her own husband. And there were very few of them and in that passage in the Gospel and the Book of the prophet Isaiah where it says “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name should be called Emmanuel.” That is in Greek Parthenos, a parthenos shall conceive. And therefore [this] has nothing strictly to do with a virgin, although a woman who chooses her own husband might conceivably be a virgin.
But by and large a marriage was an alliance of families. And it was contract did not simply for the purpose of raising children, yes, but also to create a social unit smaller than a village, a village therefore being a cluster of families. And these families were rather large. So families allied the oldsters, the grandpa and grandma, who had an enormous voice in who their children were going to marry. Used to, you know–I suppose this is no news to any of you–used to dicker and. Use go between. Ones and they considered not only whether this girl was suitable for their son and vice versa but also what kind of a dowry she would bring and whether it would be advantageous to the two families to form such an alliance and of course these things almost up to quite recent times were always important in the marital affairs of royal families. But as is notorious, all royal families and kings and queens kept concubines and had outside arrangements when and if they should happen to fall in love. And even if they didn’t they had mistresses simply to prevent monogamy from becoming monotony. So, that is the basis, you see, and that is why to this day marriage is a civil or our own and or religious ceremony, the basis of which is a contract, a legal contract, which one signs on the dotted line. And therefore there are all kinds of laws as the laws relate to contracts that this contract is very difficult to get out of. The rationale for that being quite obvious. That society believes that it requires a secure environment for children. But also just the general stability of things. Because when people break up a marriage it’s sort of unnerving for everyone. You see a couple and you think for a long time that they’re the happiest and best adjusted couple you ever met. The next thing you know is that they’ve split up, and you begin to think now what goes on here are all my friends crazy because you see people breaking up all around. Because if you call it breaking up that’s a put-down phrase, to break up. Especially It sounds a smashing something as if for the something precious and been smashed. Whereas it may be something quite different altogether depending on how you evaluate it.
But now, into this kind of feudal conception of marriage. There came in, very largely I think as a result of the poetic movement that was centered in southern France in Provence in the Middle Ages what is called The Cult of Courtly love. This is something about which scholars dispute. According to one theory, the knightly or courtly lover who was also a poet would select a lady to be his heart’s desire, preferably a married lady. And he would yearn for her, and sing songs under her window and to send messages to her and little tokens of his devotion, but according to this particular theory he must never go to bed with her. Not only would that be adultery, but it would spoil the state of being in love. That it should always be an unfulfilled state and an unhappy state this is the theory of Denis de Rougemont, in his book Love in the Western World, or Passion in Society, it has two titles.
And the other theory is probably more realistic that this was first of all the the great ladies of the noble families were awfully bored because their husbands were always out hunting and making war and wenching and so on and therefore they had to have lovers too. And so they did indeed have adulterous affairs on the side, and a great deal of poetry rose out about this, because you see it’s that the my friend Yon Carvarde [sic], always says that laws about sexual relationships should never be liberalized. There should always be strict. Disapproval of adultery and fornication because if there is not that strict disapproval and if it’s not difficult to attain it’s less fun. And I have worked out those of you who read my book Beyond Theology, I worked out a whole theory of the Christian repression of sex that the secret intent of this was to make people more interested in sex because if there is complete liberality in prep promiscuity in every direction it all becomes so easy that it might indeed be in danger of becoming a bore. And then people would seek other dissipations of perhaps a less healthy kind.
So then, as a result of the gradual fusion of these two approaches to the relationship of the sexes we have arrived at the idea of the romantic marriage. In which the two trends are ms-allied to say the very least. You are supposed there for to fall in love with someone. And of your own choice naturally it has to be that way for going to fall in love if that is a choice. And then enter in to that relationship. With a legal contract. In which you get up before a magistrate or a priest do solemnly curse and swear that you will be faithful to each other until death do you part which leads often to matter. And it seems to me perfectly obvious that two young people are extremely anxious. To get into each other’s embraces and the only way of doing so under the circumstances is entering into this contract will naturally be ready to promise anything. To fulfill this desire. And while there are indeed many, many married legally married couples who have a very very happy alliance that goes on all their lives and we don’t hear about them because. Good news is never news. It’s only the unhappy couples who make the newspapers. And there are enormous numbers of them but they are mainly I think people who are lucky. There is no way of making a marriage work, so far as I know, because every attempt to make a marriage work is secretly it within that breast of each partner builds up hostility. You can, I know all this, I’m speaking from a certain amount of that experience. You can work very hard to keep a marriage together, and as you do so, you may fail to recognize you see that you are being untrue to your own emotions. And you think well, I must control my emotions, for the sake of children, for the sake of society, for the sake of everything, like that and so you work, and work and one of the ways of working is to try to convince yourself that you’re in love. And you go through the pretenses of love you empathise yourself with loving language towards your partner you go out of your way you make little lists to remember the tensions you must pay you keep a diary in which you remember your wedding anniversary because you were very liable to forget it and all these things and you really work it now the more you work it the more you are building up promises and expectations for something that you are probably not going to come through with at the level of deep feeling. And everyone is well aware of that is a hintergedachte, there you know it in the back of your mind. And so you build yourself increasingly into a wall to wall trap. And so the mutual hostility grows worse and worse and worse so that one psychologist was recently known to ask a patient with whom are you in love against. The most awkward course from the falling in love is between people who are already married to someone else. And because you see this is a cataclysmic and disruptive experience in the presence of shorter and we know I mean Victorian novels–a lot of people are still living out the door in novels. But in Victorian novels, the great thing is where a couple madly in love with each other say to each other well it’s best for us that we don’t see each other any more this is becoming bigger than either of us. And this, this fantastically mad experience is denied, swept under the rug and strangled. What should one do.
Well as I’ve often said I’m not a preacher and therefore I don’t know what you should do. But I would like to make some reflections on this particular form of madness, and to raise again a very disturbing question. And this disturbing question is as follows: Is it only when you are in love with another person that you see them as they really are? And in the ordinary way, when you are not in love with people you see only a fragmented version of that being. Because when you are in love with someone you do indeed see them as a divine being. And suppose that’s what they are truly. And your eyes have by your beloved been opened in which case your beloved is serving to you as a kind of guru. An initiator. And that is why there is a form of sexual yoga, based on the idea that man and woman are to each other as mutual guru and student. And through a tremendous outpouring of psychic energy in total devotion and worship to this other person who is respectively the goddess of the god. You realize by total fusion and contact with the other organism. You go down to the divine center in them and it bounces back and you discover your own or you could put it in this way which is another aspect of it that by falling in love and regarding falling in love not just as a sort of sexual infatuation, because it’s always more than that, isn’t it. I mean you can have a great sexual enjoyment with a pleasant friend, you know. But you may do so simply because he or she appeals to your aesthetic senses. But when you fall in love, it’s a much more serious involvement, you just cannot forget this person. You feel miserable when not in their presence, you’re always yearning, that’s get to see more of each other let’s get together that’s we’re completely entangled and then you see you’ve actually kind of out what I would call spiritual element has been introduced. And the Hindus were sensible enough to realize that this was a means of awakening, enlightenment, and therefore it was. Surrounded. With a sort of rigid religious ritual meditative art, with a form of sexual yoga that is designed to allow the feeling of mutual love to the extent of grand passion to have an extremely fitting fulfillment and expression.
Falling in love is a thing that strikes like lightning and is therefore extremely analogous to the mystical vision. We don’t know. No how really people attain the mystical vision. There is not as yet a very clear rationale as to how it happens because we do know that it is opened to many people who never did anything to look for it. And many people especially in adolescence have had the mystical vision all of a sudden without the slightest warning and with no previous interest in that kind of thing. On the other hand many people who have practiced yoga or zen disciplines of what you will for years and years and years have never seen it. And in both classes, there are of course exceptions–there are those who have never had the spontaneous experience and there are those who through yoga or zen have attained this inside. But as yet we are not clear as to why it comes about and if there is any method of attaining it the best one is probably to give up the whole idea of getting it.
But you see it is completely unpredictable and so it is in that way like falling in love, capricious and therefore crazy. But if you should be so fortunate as to encounter either of these experiences. It seems to me to be a total denial of life to refuse it. And what we therefore have to. Admit in our society is so that we can contain this kind of madness. We must be far more realistic about the marriage arrangement so that it can contain the possibility of falling in love. When you base marriage you see on the falling in love and you go into a pseudo love affair, which is simply hot pants, and set up a rigid family in which you expect to the other person that they will. Always be in love with you, and then, in that context, you go and fall in love, then your falling in love is of necessity disruptive of the marriage and of the family. But you see it could only disrupt it because the love relationship between the two partners was false, was pretended.
But if marriage were based more on the old idea of the reasonable contract between two people to bring up children, who may be expected at the best to be good friends and to allow each other to be persons that is to say in the ordinary sense of the word person to have their own freedom. Then if Love strikes it is tolerated within this arrangement provided you’re not going to be so unreasonable as to go on to say well life since I’ve fallen in love with somebody else I must marry them. Well that’s perfectly ridiculous.
You see, in this way we can think about and structure the necessary stable social institution of family sometime without it being constantly threatened of foundering on the rocks of love. Now you see this this then means that when when people marry is they take it any vows at all to each other instead of. Saying that they will always be true to each other in the sense of meaning I Will Always Love You. It means I will be true to you in the sense of I will always be truthful to. I will not pretend that my feelings towards you ARE other than what they are. Because I marry you because I think that you are a reasonable person to live with and therefore I want you to be you I want you to be someone else I want to be a rubber stamp of me–how boring that would be?! So it is a really and the arrangement not of us leave we always say jocularly did you get the ball and chain on him. But an arrangement in which people set each other free and make an alliance to cooperate with each other in certain ways. Now if it should so occur that they are of immense sexual attraction to each other, so much the better? That this should not be a primary factor in entering into marriage. Admittedly, you must be to a certain extent attractive to each other otherwise there will be no progeny. But this is this is seems to me to be a sensible and reasonable view and just because it is sensible and reasonable it can accommodate what is not sensible and reasonable which is falling in love. We should regard then marriage as it is especially if it should possibly be called holy matrimony, as a mutual, well, setting free of to people to live together in freedom and therefore in responsibility because the present situation although it’s pretending to be responsible is in fact extremely irresponsible. Because it is dishonesty with respect to the way you feel towards another person.
Well now really when we go back then to falling in love. And say it’s crazy falling. You see we don’t say rising into love. There is in it the idea of the fall. And it is goes back as a matter of fact two extremely fundamental things that there is always a curious tie at some point between the fall and the creation. Taking this ghastly risk, is the condition of there being life. You see, for all life is an act of faith and an act of gamble. The moment you take a step, you do so on an act of faith, because you don’t really know that the floors not going to give in to your feet. The moment you take a journey what an act of faith. The moment you enter into any kind of human undertaking in relationship what an act of faith you see you’ve given yourself up. But this is the most powerful thing that can be done surrender see and love is an act of surrender to another person. Total abandonment. I give myself to you. Take me, do anything like with me. So, that’s quite mad because you see it’s letting things get out of control all sensible people keep things in control. Watch it, watch it, watch it. Security. Vigilance. Watch it police, watch it Gods, watch it , who’s going to watch the Gods? So actually there for all the cost and wisdom what is really sensible is to let go that is to commit oneself to give oneself up and that’s quite mad, so we come to the strange conclusion that in madness lies sanity.