Letter for Europe, November 2012

Eros is riding on the Panther. Love and Marriage as they are seen by the World Religions

By Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz

"Do we really know what love means? Quite often we have got an idea of sentimental, soft feelings. (...) Modern age needs to be more imaginative with regard to its dimension, tremendousness and enormousness, than it actually does." Romano Guardini

Is our understanding on matters of love not too soft? Love and marriage are not so much being understood as two people living together in harmony than rather as being divine. Love and marriage have always been connected with creativity and continuity of worldly matters in our intellectual and religious history. The romantic relationship has not been to the fore. One can still see this in the Indian tradition, where people are till today very often being married off by relatives. And in the Nordic epics Edda it is described as follows: they married and then they grew fond of each other." Our approach of "me and you" is actually a late and very individualistic concept.

In Hinduism as well the nuptial sexual act is sacred. When the wedding takes three days, the bridegroom approaches the bride during the third night only. Before that they have to undergo numerous religious benedictions.

The erotic encounter is being seen as continuation and stabilization of the very beginning of the world in many Asian tantras. And a couple does not get married for reasons of private love and its expression, but to contribute to the creation of the world. Marriage means creation of the world.

It is thus not primarily a matter of desire or need and its satisfaction, but rather of cohesion of the world. This sacred cooperation is a clear parallel to the sacrament of marriage in Christianity. It is because "eros is riding on the panther" (as the Greeks put it), that it must necessarily be placed within a sacred space.

Life does not consist of harmonious forces. The myths  of various cultures show us a polar opposition of man and woman. These forces are balanced, but clearly differing and also assigned to separate tasks. The Yin and Yang in Lao-Tse's philosophy is also a clear expression of that phenomenon. The woman is a mystery that the man has to tackle by applying all his power. Thus she is motion and to a certain extent also confusion. She puts him to the test, and he sets her free. The woman only becomes wife and mother through man. The man only becomes husband and father through woman.

It needs more courage to actively encounter the other sex than one's own. And this encounter is at the same time expression of the divine tension. To master the tension is being chaste in its original meaning of the word, because chaste originates from "conscius" - "conscious". Being chaste is therefore to be able to direct one's own energy consciously, instead of letting it go.

Relationship means that one is attracted by somebody to something, thus being dragged away from one's self. The interaction of man and woman is being recognized as being at the same timeopposed to each other in all ancient traditions. Bipolarity is necessary in order to move something, in order to make it work. The polar genders function according to the principle of key to lock Two keys cannot unlock something on their own; two locks cannot be opened by being applied to each other. There is no duality in sameness; there is only duality in  oppositeness. Those who deny the otherness, deny life. Life and happiness are in the otherness.


Recommended reading (German): „Frau-Männin-Menschin. Zwischen Feminismus und Gender“ (Woman-Man-Human; between Feminism and Gender), by Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, publisher: Butzon&Bercker Kevelaer, 2009.