Eros and Pseudo-Eros – Part 1

From Your Unique Self by Dr. Marc Gafni

Kali and Bhairava in Union, wikimedia_commons

Kali and Bhairava in Union, wikimedia_commons

Eros is both a constructive and destructive force.

She appears both as the “terrible mother” or “destroying goddess,” as well as the “nurturing mother” and “radiant lover.”

Shekhinah in Kabbalah and Kali in Hinduism are two synonyms for Eros. Shekhinah in Kabbalistic text appears as both a constructive and destructive force, and Eros always has these two faces of destroyer and mother. The constructive face reaches toward prior union. But sometimes Eros appears as tough love. This is the Eros of destruction, which is really de-construction. The destructive face tears down old structures, obsolete preconceptions, and the illusions of the separate self. This de-constructive expression has often been termed Thanatos.

There is, however, a second more terrifying form of Thanatos that is not animated by Eros. It is rather suffused with the desperation and brutality of the ego’s mad craving for eternal power and existence. This is the face of pseudo-Eros.

Let me explain.

The refusal to die to the separate self, the ego’s insistence that it exists a-part from the whole, is the cancer that eats away at all of existence. For what else is cancer but cells that ignore their own part-ness, and claim to be the whole? They multiply uncontrollably, forgetting that they are parts of a larger organism.

When Eros is not realized, pseudo-Eros always comes in its place. When Eros is denied, pseudo-Eros demands its pound of flesh.

If the separate self will not die, there remains a deep knowing that some sort of death is still required. No longer will the death be that of our own ego, but the death of the other. And so we bear witness to some of the world’s most horrible atrocities, all in the name of a higher power to which we refuse to surrender our own lives.

The problem begins only when the ego usurps its role and refuses to die at the appropriate time. In the language of the Sufi mystics, “The servant refuses to serve and pretends to be king.” The part pretends to be a whole.

But here is the critical distinction that is all too often lost in both old and contemporary enlightenment teachings: The wholeness of Eros does not require the death of your experience as a separate self. Eros requires only the death of your exclusive identification with your separate self. You are not less than your separate self. You are more than your separate self. The separate-self ego’s fear of death stems only from the ego’s belief that its death leads to nonexistence. The ego correctly senses the infinite dignity of its unique divine expression. But it identifies the eternal nature of its unique God-spark with the separate egoic self. It does not realize that it can die to separate self, and yet be fully alive as a uniquely gorgeous strand in the seamless coat of the Uni-verse. The separate self dies only to reveal True Self, which having fully realized its uniqueness, turns out to be Unique Self.

This is the first part of a 3-part series on Eros and Pseudo-Eros. Stay tuned for the next part!

In the meantime, you can listen to a dialogue between Ken Wilber and Marc Gafni.



  1. Jennifer Grove says:

    What I’m perceiving is the “Enlightenment” community expressing and strengthening the last (hopefully) hold-out of the separate self expression: “The Enlightened Ones”. It is inevitable.

    “We, the Enlightened, shine the light for the Unenlightened so that they can recognize how they are perpetuating the separate self sense.”

    Right? Recognizing Unenlightenment in others is so easy. When it is in the other, it is easy to generate and regurgitate precise polemic. Even beautiful propaganda. “Violent speech” is not the only language that the Unenlightened knows. It is also expert at polite and professional biz-speak, positive affirmation, and there are always plenty of “namaste’s” to go around. And don’t forget the most oft used tool of damage control: ignoring. In love with itself and confident that it is on the right path, it is unable to recognize that it is the same path as the Unenlightened. Just exactly like every single Unenlightened expression that has gone before it.

    Shaming? Criticizing? That depends on whether you really can include it as part of the Self. If you do it and you are not conscious that you are “doing what you hate”, then I am shaming you. If you do it and you see it for what it is, then I am humbly bowing down WITH you at the miracle of the Awakening of the Destroyer. The opened 3rd Eye of Shiva.

    I Am Become Death. Destroyer of Worlds.

    Be Awake. And Be That. And then speak from experience. It will change the whole tone of The Work.

    I love you, Kerstin.
    I’ll never forget you.

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