Stoics’ Interpretation of Love

Marcus Aurelius

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate binds you together but do so with all your heart.” – Marcus Aurelius

What do we mean when we consider someone “Stoic”? We generalise a person under the category when he/she doesn’t show much emotional reaction to situations or circumstances. Stoicism, in the current era has become somewhat synonymous to lack of passion or emotion towards life. Although this interpretation of the philosophy is somewhat wrong but we can take this stereotypical perspective to extract the meaning of “Love” for stoics.

For stoics, “present” is the most crucial concept. In their writings, they focused solely on “living in the present” and enjoying as well as appreciating what you had in the moment. To them, the most important thing is loving what you have around you. They have no place of desire or envy in the concept of love. The stoics tends to reject the concept of desirability and criticises the pursuit for love. According to them, life is wasted in the pursuit of something which you don’t have and leads to nothing but misery. Due to this reason, scholars criticises stoicism as an anti-romantic philosophy. Is it really against the romanticism which is being portrayed by other philosophies in the concept of love? It is evident from their writings that they were not against romanticism but endorsed the concept of loving each and every aspect of your life with all your heart and will.

Stoics were critical of the pursuit that we endure in the name of love which brings us nothing but sadness, failure and misery. This concept is evident in this era of social media. We all are bombarded with people and their lifestyles which either makes us envious or fills us with desire, but at the end we only feel miserable about our lives instead of appreciating what we already have. More than often we tend to get attracted to the people that doesn’t value us while ignoring the ones who cherish our presence in their lives. So, stoicism reminds us that the greatest kind of love is loving what we already have.

The another crucial aspect of stoicism is that it establishes the concept of “impermanence” to all the objects we love. It says, every attachment of ours is bound to fade away and die including our body. Even though death is the ultimate truth, acceptance of this impermanence is quite difficult for human nature. In a way, knowing the nature of the objects we love, we can comprehend the true nature of “Love and Loss” according to them. The harshness of this concept is justifiable in an optimistic way because it reminds us the constant loss and renewal of love in our lives. Although we are bound to people and objects that we love but it certainly helps in the mitigation of the loss that comes with living.

To me, stoicism makes the concept of love much more simpler and acceptable. It constantly reminds us to appreciate the things we already have in our lives and cherish every moment loving the things that fate binds us with. It gives us clarity about chasing things which necessarily brings misery and sadness but no happiness. On one hand, it teaches us appreciation and on the other, it teaches us the inconsistency of Love and Loss in life. It establish the fact that life is nothing but a flowing river which constantly flows with ups and downs and we should accept each part of it and value little things in our life.

Love as a “Religion”: Vedanta Philosophy

Ramakrishna Paramhansa Dev

“Vedanta teaches us that consciousness is singular, and happenings are played out in an universal consciousness and there is no multiplicity of selves.”- Erwin Schrodinger

There is much of a discussion about the fact if Vedanta should be considered a religion or just a philosophy. The most profound thing about Vedanta is that it is vast, it takes into consideration about spirituality as well as science. One time you’re talking about a particular religion and at the end you end up talking about the entire cosmos!

If we look closely, the vedanta is not just about an ideology but it is a way, a way to live life at the fullest. I personally found many instances which clearly indicates a close connection of Vedanta philosophy with Bhagwat Geeta. Let’s take three instances to have a better understanding of the concept of “Love”. Firstly, there are “things” which we love, the inanimate things such as our favourite coffee mug or our favourite city or a movie. There is no reciprocation in these kinds of love. You can say these things give you pleasure, bliss and peace but these things don’t love you back. Do they? In Bhagwat Geeta, these kinds of material attachment is called avinivesha. But it’s important to assess that in these kinds of love “I-ness” or you can say, individual ego is mandatory because the “things” are not to be loved universally but it is “I” who gives out the privilege to it being love worthy.

Secondly, you can take the example of a “trophy wife”, in which the sole importance is given to ego boost and nothing else. The love is just to support your partner through a constant upliftment of individual ego. Thirdly comes the selfless love which most of the ancient cultures and ideologies give utter importance and considers it to be the purest of all. Platonic love is one of the examples of this which is described in the theory of “The other half”. But, it is important to know that the most selfless love contains the dimension of attachment which is mentioned in Bhagwat Geeta as “raga”. These concepts of “Bhishma- individual ego”, “avinivesha- material attachments”, “raga- attachments”, “kripa- ignorance and delusion” are considered to be “kleshas- troubles” which refrain human beings to attain the eternal “love” or divine love.

According to Shree Ramkrishna Paramhansa Dev, every religion is same and each one of them provides us with the path to divine love. He studied Sufism, Christianity, Hindu scriptures and so on, and finally with introspection, he came to the self realisation that each religion teaches us to attain the ultimate truth and indulge in divine love. So, in a nutshell, he suggested that the means to attain divine love might be different but the end is always the same. For example, Greek mythology provides us with the concept of Eros and Aphrodite, the Romans referred them as Cupids and Venus and just like that Hindu scriptures explains Eros and Cupids as “Kamdeva”. It is evident from the example that the depictions might have been different but their functions are all the same.

Ramkrishna Paramhansa Dev always stated the idea of “Divinity in humanity”. The only way to attain the divine love is through the acts of humanity. So, he says that “god is there in each one of us” and if we want to attain the divine love, we need to love each and every human being selflessly. Not only human beings, he suggests that “god is even in other animate as well as inanimate objects” which clearly gives us a hint of Buddhism. In a way, he asserts that we have to fall in love with the cosmos in order to attain the eternal love. The vedanta philosophy gives preference to the fact that we all are connected with each other and ultimately to the divine one, over the concept of individualism. We all are a part of a single entity and hence there is nothing as “I”. We are bound by a single consciousness and hence we must devout ourselves from different “kleshas” in order to attain the spirituality needed to uplift our souls and find the love we seek.

The Reality of Love: Narcissistic View

“They lie to your face without a second thought and there’s nothing you can do about it. In fact, the lies are their truth. You have to believe them anyway.”

We have all explored the different dimensions of love in this series. Be it the idealistic approach which conveys multidimensionality as well as totality or the realistic approach which conveys the fact that love is nothing but an instinctual force consisting of ego, greed and possession. It intrigues me greatly to analyse how a narcissist would deal with it. How they contemplate love? What do they feel? Even if most of them live in a very different reality based on “delusions and denials”, they ought to comprehend it from a very different angle.

When we fall in love, our worldview changes drastically. Our heart leaps whenever we see our lover. We think constantly of them, even in the busiest time of our boring days. We wish to spend our whole life with that person and wishes them to stay by our side at all times. We make sacrifices just to put up that precious smile on their beautiful face. All we want is to make our partner happy, no matter what! But do narcissists feel the same way?

No! They don’t ever feel the same way as us. They don’t comprehend love as we see it. The truth is, it is highly unlikely that your narcissistic counterpart is even capable of love. In reality, they lack the capability to show or experience love the way it’s supposed to be. Narcissists are not equipped to admit or appreciate the authentic self of another human being.

In a way, they are “cynical” in nature. They don’t sacrifice anything for the sake of their counterpart. The only happiness they’re concerned with is of their own. No matter how harsh it sounds but that’s exactly the way narcissists feel. It is because the contemplation of love is extremely hard for them; even it is harder for them to analyse what other people make out of “Love”. However, concepts like lust, admiration and acceptance are easily contemplated by Narcissists.

One of the most basic issues with their behaviour is that they lack emotional empathy. Lack of object consistency is another quality that complements them, limiting the ways of experiencing or expressing positive feelings. In the backdrop of these basic issues they tend to substitute “practicality” for “Love” which ensures their self-justification.

Another problem with Narcissists is that they constantly refuses to believe in their flaws and faults. More than often, they tend to impose the fault on their counterpart and it certainly is their “part of the truth” that convinces them to live in their own bubble of righteousness. The lack of object consistency leads to frequent separations in their relationships and whenever they find “a new one”, they starts idealising that person. As, they inevitably discovers the partner’s flaw, they become disillusioned. They starts devaluing them and ultimately discards them.

The reality of love: Sexual Prejudice

Lou Andreas Salomé

In the previous part of the series we evaluated Nietzsche’s view of the animal instinct involved in love. He tends to portray the idea of love as nothing but basic instincts of each and every human being which includes greed, ego, possession and love. In this part we would interpret the sexual prejudices in the concept of erotic love as stated by Friedrich Nietzsche. His interpretations were greatly moulded by Nietzsche’s own experiences when he fell in love with “Lou Andreas Salomé”. It had a devastating effect on his life because it ended in a tragedy of Salomé leaving Nietzsche. Some scholars suggest that these experiences in life, made Nietzsche a realist and more importantly a shift from “feminism” to “misogyny” was seen in his works.

The ways in which instincts portrays itself is not independent but is dependant upon the dimension of sexes (I.e Masculine and Feminine). Aphorism 363 of “The gay science” describes ‘how prejudices of love is dependant upon the differentiation of sexes’. It asserts that men and women doesn’t have “equal rights” in love or different sexes tend to interpret the concept of love differently. They don’t have synonymous expectations from the opposite sex and tends to have different experiences shared through love. Nietzsche tries to draw a distinction between masculine and feminine love through the dimensions of fidelity and devotion.

He asserts that women’s interpretation of love lies in complete surrender, approaching it as a faith, “to be taken or accepted as possessions”. Masculine interpretation on the other hand, focuses upon “possessive thirst” to acquire more from the lover. Nietzsche even states that men who are completely devoted are “not men” and proposes that a man who loves like a woman becomes a “slave”, whereas a feminine love with the same amount of devotion becomes more “perfect”. Though fidelity can become an attribute of masculine love over time due to concepts like gratitude and specific taste of men but “fidelity” is not essentially a masculine quality.

So in a way, the biological differentiation between sexes correlate with oppositional gender roles in erotic love. Woman tends to give herself away as possession, man acquires more but what Nietzsche can not comprehend is how one cannot see around this natural opposition? Through social contracts or with the strongest of will which restricts a person from reminding himself how terrible, enigmatic, harsh and immoral this concept is? He states “Though love in its entirety is thought as great and full, is nature, and being nature, it is in all eternity something immoral.”

Nietzsche in a nutshell, criticises the conventional interpretation or idiosyncratic dimension of love in which it is given a privileged status by surplus evaluation of it through romanticism. He opines that the differentiation between masculine and feminine interpretation as a product of “instinctual forces” that causes the opposite sexes to love distinctively and hence can not expect an egalitarian reciprocity in the concept of erotic love.

The Reality of love: Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

“There is always some madness in love, there is also always some reason in madness.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Idealism might enlighten our path providing us with the ideal characteristic of every concept but it is realism which challenges us with the fact that it is not always possible to achieve the ideal characteristics at all. Realism always enlightens us with the harsh truth of reality, it brings us all face to face with the ugliest of truths, the truth that we all deny to comfort ourselves. It forces us to examine the bitter truth of even the sweetest thing we can ever come across; “Love”! We all are in the pursuit of true love by deciphering the myths of it but there is multidimensionality to this answer. We talked about idealism and it is now time for us to examine realism in the concept of “Erotic Love”.

One of the pioneers of “Realism” is Friedrich Nietzsche who earned his reputation for being a champion of “Nihilism” and a critique to “Idealism”. In his theories, he constantly raised philosophical concerns about idiosyncratic characteristic of every concept including “Love”. He always adhered to a provocative style which focuses on making the readers feel uncomfortable about presumed values and assumptions inherited by them from the social and cultural drives. Nietzsche always had a tendency to question and examine every aspect of life in a critical way.

In his theory of “Erotic or Sexual love” (which could be seen in the aphorisms of “The gay science”), he tends to focus on the basic, vulgar and selfish qualities of erotic love. He questions the presumed values of the readers in which “Love” is always given a privileged status and demonstrates that the things we conceive about love tends to be the opposites. According to him, “Egoism” and “Greed” are inextricably bound to the expression of love. Nietzsche even asserts that there’s no romantic element to the concept of erotic love but it is just the other expression for egoism.

In his aphorisms, he explains love’s proximity to “Greed” or “Lust for possession” while completely denying the consideration of moral good in the presumed concept of love. He tries to establish a relation between the feeling of love and an instinctual force. Nietzsche considers love to be an instinct which is related to the biological and cultural drives and has nothing to do with morality. Socialisation of these biological and cultural drives always results in psychological suffering and prejudices, according to him. So, in a way he tends to ignore the self-deceiving idealism by the exposure of less attractive motivations in the concept of “Love”.

However, Nietzsche neither wants any change in the self serving expressions of love nor any rectification of the most pervasive delusions of love. In his theories, he even accepts that the strong propensities towards the illusions of erotic love are necessary for that love to be successful. He tends to praise the creativity or artistry one adopts while in love but recognises the differentiation of roles of sexes.

One of the most controversial aspects of his theory of love is that, he consider the terms “Greed” and “Love” to be the same instincts with two different names. He asserts that these two experiences are equivalent and is used depending upon the level of satisfaction one has achieved. A satisfied person who feel their possession (the lover) threatened by others would name others’ instincts to be gain or “Greed”, while an unsatisfied one seeking something new to desire would always impose a positive evaluation and would call that instinct to be “Love”. So according to Nietzsche, Erotic love is just the pursuit of possession that has been glorified and defied by those in search of acquiring something to enrich themselves.

Homosexuality in Archaic Greece

“A lover who loves goodness of character is constant for life.” – Pausanias, Pausanias’s speech (The symposium)

Homosexuality is the most purest form of love. While the platonic explanation of “Other half” provides us with the authenticity to this particular statement, Diotima’s interpretation of love criticises the totality in the concept of “true love”. The social structure of the Athenian society was quite different from that of the existing social matrix of the world. They were liberal in the true sense and they gladly accepted the concept of “Homosexuality” without much hesitation. To comprehend the Pausanias’s “Paradox of Love”, it is necessary to have knowledge about the archaic or classical period of Greece, more importantly its social structure as well as the concept of ‘sexuality’.

The Greek civilisation was one of world’s oldest of civilisations and the liberal attitude of their society about sexuality is what fascinates me the most. In the archaic period of Greece, sexual desire and behaviour was not considered as a function of difference or resemblance in ‘anatomical gender’, but sexuality was considered a value which was dependant upon act’s conformity to social norms, as a function of age, social,economic and political denominations as well as sex.

A naive interpretation of the terms “Homosexual or Heterosexual” quickly leans our perspective towards anachronism as the sexual behaviour doesn’t resemble the way it is accepted in the contemporary period. The sexual relationships during this period was purely based on an anatomical level; “Phallic penetration”. The two actors in the sexual act was generally distinguished by the one who ‘penetrates’ and the other who gets ‘penetrated’ (real or symbolic). The actor who ‘penetrates’ was considered to have an active role whereas the ‘penetrated’ one was considered to have a passive role in the sexual act. The determination of the role in the sexual act was somehow dependant upon economic, social and political position of the actors. Therefore, activity and passivity enables the assessment of the acts and the actors.

Though the Classical Greek culture had a liberal perspective to the acts of sexuality but there existed orthodoxy in the determination of the actors. It was socially unacceptable for an adult male to get ‘penetrated’, but penetration was normal for an adult male, whatever the anatomical gender of the ‘penetrated’ might be. So, passivity was banished for an adult male and if an adult male played a passive role, it was considered the most shameful social act.

Here’s the part where, Aristophanes “inventory of sexual behaviours “ comes into play. It distinguishes different types of sexual acts in Ancient Greece. The first one was the sexuality between a man and a woman. The phallic penetration between a man and a woman were the most unproblematic of all. The sanction of marriage constituted the privileged instruments which enabled the male to transmit his social, economic, genetic as well as political patrimony. The only problem in these sexual relationships was the concept of “Adultery” which was condemned because it created confusion in the process of transmission through penetration. The second type was the sexual relationship between women which lacked importance due to the absence of phallic penetration. The most important one was the sexual relationships between men as it was the most complex of all,as phallic penetration was involved without any transmission.

“Paiderastia” was a social convention which was evident in the Athenian society’s higher circles. “Paiderastia” is the sexuality between an adult male citizen with a ‘pais’ (a boy or an adolescent) until the appearance of his first beard. It was believed that the ‘pais’ were capable of becoming the object of sexual desire on the part of an adult. The appearance of fuzz on the boy’s cheeks represented the peak of his sexual attractiveness. These ‘pais’ played a passive role in the sexual relationships but at the boy’s transitional phase, he was allowed to play both passive role (with a male adult) and active role (with a female counterpart) in a sexual relationship which clearly indicates the lack of constriction to one sexual partner. It is important to note the fact that, once the adolescent becomes an adult, the role necessarily gets shifted.

This type of sexual relationships (as in Paiderastia) was characterised by affection with a subsistence of emotional and erotic asymmetry distinguished by beloved’s “Phillia” and lover’s “Eros”. The older counterpart in these relationships were called “Erastês” and the younger counterpart were called “Erômanos”.

The Greek literature, especially the platonic literature remains discreet and one shouldn’t be fooled by it. For example, the term “huporgein” means to do someone a service and “kharizesthai” means to accord a favour. However, these terms could be attributed a special sexual meaning which forms a major part of Pausanias’s Paradox. The service expected or the favours requested by an “erastês” is equivalent to physical intimacy, ultimately leading to ejaculation but according to the context of these terms, a smile or a pleasant word might be the thing needed to keep a lover happy.

Though the concept of “Paiderastia” essentially indicates sexual relationships but it is a social convention with strict social norms and an educative role. The task of the adult was to facilitate the adolescent’s entry into the masculine society. Instead of being a social convention with regulative norms having an educative role, Aristophane portrays the existence of a long lasting and powerful relation between individuals of same sex. The fidelity or constancy could be considered a violation to the norm of abandoning exclusive ‘passive’ sexual relationships with men in order to get married and essentially brought upon them what the culture considers as “The social blame”. The most prominent example of this violation was the sexual relationship between Agathon (erômanes) and Pausanias (erastês) who had a prolonged relationship all their life.

It is important for us to know the concepts being mentioned and the social structure of the Ancient Greece for comprehending the controversial terms of “homosexuality and heterosexuality” in the modern phraseology. So, these sexual orientations (homosexuality) could be traced back to Ancient Greece which was one of the oldest civilisations of all. This is one of the oldest historical justifications of considering “homosexuality” as a way of life and not something to look down upon.

Eros and Psyche

“Eros and Psyche”

To some people, true love is nothing but sacrifices. On the contrary to me, true love is nothing but self search in the world full of chaos; searching “beauty” in one’s own soul. It doesn’t always necessarily means sacrificing but a way to know who you are! True love is all about personal growth through learning or doing something productive, something that enlightens your ‘soul’. If you’d read my posts about the “The myth of true love”, you’d come across the term “Eros” and hence I thought of sharing a story of “Eros” and the women he loved and adored, the mortal “Psyche” who achieved immortality through “true love”.

“Psyche” was gifted with extreme beauty and grace. Psyche’s sacrifice and love towards her beloved “Eros” helped her attain immortality. Etymologically the term ‘psyche’ implies the ‘deity of the soul’ and find its roots in Greek mythology. In modern phraseology, ‘psyche’ symbolises self search, learning through personal improvements, and most importantly losing and saving your true love for the right one.

Psyche, in her mortal life received excessive amount of admiration as a consequence of her eternal beauty and grace. She was considered the most ‘gorgeous maiden’. Men desired her beauty as well as craved her affection. This extreme amount of admiration towards her beauty made “Aphrodite- the Greek goddess of Love” envious towards her. So she asked her son, the powerful master of love to poison the souls of men in order to eliminate the desire for Psyche’s beauty and grace. Ironically, Eros, the powerful master of love saw her and instantly fell in love with Psyche. This event further agitated “Aphrodite”.

Despite the extreme amount of admiration received by men, she stayed unmarried. Not because she considered these admirations worthless but because she wanted to find her “true love”. This commitment of Psyche made her parents quite worried. So, her mortal parents had no other option than to ask for an “oracle” hoping to solve the mystery and help her find “true love”.

This is where the powerful master of love, Eros played his game. He guided “Apollo” to provide the oracle to her parents. It implied that Psyche would marry an ugly beast who she’d never be able to see and he’d wait for her at the top of the mountain. It’s not the thing what her parents expected, completely unaware of the game of “Eros”. I’d not call it a game but was a test instead. The parents of Psyche was completely devastated by the oracle and felt pity on their daughter’s fate. It was definitely not what she deserved, but they decided to arrange the wedding anyway as the guidance of the oracle.

The first condition was she’d never be able to see her husband and she’d only be able to be with him at night. The Beast’s enormous love and tenderness provided a love beyond her expectations and dreams which made Psyche fall in love with the beast, she found her “true love” at last. Psyche explained the enormous amount of love she received to her sisters. She even portrayed the amount of sadness she experiences because she was unable to see the face of her husband. On the contrary, jealous of finding the true love of her life, her sisters convinced Psyche that one day the beast would kill her and it is important for her to kill the beast first to save herself. Under the influence of her sisters, she went on carrying a knife and the oil lamp to murder the beast that night.

When she was about to slay her Beast husband, she enlightened the face with the oil lamp and was surprised to find out it was none other than beautiful “Eros” laying by her side. Caught by surprise, she spilled oil on Eros’s face which woke him up. Eros was disappointed to find out the chain of events due to the persuasion. He told Psyche that she had betrayed him and ruined the relationship. He even told her it was impossible for them to be united again and flew away.

She was deeply saddened by this incident and went on to find the “true love” of her life, her beast-husband or the master of love, “Eros” himself. She was suggested to go beg to “Aphrodite” who was always envious of Psyche. It was known that “Aphrodite” had imprisoned “Eros” in the palace. She gave her three impossible tasks to accomplish in order to prove her “true love”.

The pursuit of Psyche to be united again to her “true love” made her fearless. On the final task, Psyche had to go to the god of the underworld “Hades” to bring the box with elixir of beauty to “Aphrodite”. “Aphrodite” even ordered her not to open the box. This was a conspiracy as the box never contained the ‘elixir of beauty’ but had “Morpheus- the god of sleep and dreams” hidden in it instead. Out of curiosity, Psyche opened the box (which is exactly what “Aphrodite” predicted) and instantly fell asleep.
“Eros” was devastated to know the chain of events and he ran away from the palace. He went on to “Zeus” and begged him to save his “Psyche”. “Zeus” was so overwhelmed by the excessive amount of love, he didn’t only save Psyche but also provided her immortality; so that the lovers could be together for eternity and beyond.

Diotima’s dialogue with Socrates

“Love’s purpose is physical and mental procreation in an attractive medium.” – Diotima, Socrates’s speech

When we talk about ‘true love’, we often try to constrict it to absoluteness. Here’s the situation where Diotima’s perspective about ‘true love’ becomes significant as she initiates the dialogue with Socrates. She gets extremely annoyed by the narrow interpretation of love into absoluteness and provides a much broader perspective to the concept of ‘true love’ in the form of a ladder known as the “Ladder of Love”.

In this concept, the ladder merely represents the steps to achieve “The beautiful”. We all are aware of the fact that beauty is what intrigues us to fall in love. But what we fail to question is the true nature of beauty! Is it a ‘beautiful body’, or a ‘beautiful soul’? In the modern times, some faction of population considers the ‘beauty of body’ to be important whereas other factions prefers ‘beauty of soul’ over the materialistic ‘body’. They tend to criticise each others’ perspectives and provide different rationale to support their preferences. It is extremely important to know that ‘beauty of body’ and ‘beauty of soul’ are not contradictory concepts but are merely the steps in the ladder of achieving the “True eternal Beauty”.

The first step in the “Ladder of Love” is nothing but recognising beauty of the body. We all primarily fall in love with the physical appearance of someone. Intellect or perspective doesn’t play any role in the primary phase of falling in love. On the other hand, it is extremely important for us to assess the fact that no ‘body’ is irreplaceable. When you fall in love by recognising the beauty of the body, you tend to fall in love with every beautiful body that you encounter. So, this concept of falling in love with the ‘beauty of body’ is nothing but temporary. So what’s permanent?

The second step in the ladder might seem permanent but it is temporary as well. The next step in the ascent is recognising the ‘beauty of the soul’. It might be considered one of the most important things to achieve because it doesn’t merely recognises the public traits of one’s personality but includes the private traits as well. It’s easier to recognise one’s public traits such as their behaviour, their habits, their ways of doing things and so on but to know someone’s private traits you’ve to conquer the person. Physical intimacy is one of the ways in which we can recognise someone’s extremely private traits and this recognition overwhelms us with a feeling of achievement. You’ve to cultivate enough of your time to recognise the ‘beauty of soul’. It is not just recognition but is an experience that you can cherish. So if this isn’t permanent, what is it?

In Diotima’s perspective, the second step is where the romantic part of ‘true love’ comes to an end. The third step towards attaining the ‘eternal beauty’ is encountering the ‘beauty of laws and institutions’. So the concept of love clearly shifts from a romantic realm to a legal realm. The term ‘institution’ has wider connotations. It might be an educational, religious, political institution or a civilisation itself from where the person you’re in love with belongs. This feeling of recognising the ‘beauty in institutions’ is nothing but our desire for establishing a bond with the principles of these institutions. On the other hand, ‘beauty of the laws’ is nothing but our desire to comprehend or contemplate the laws that intrigues us. In Diotima’s dialogue, she suggested her love for the Spartan Constitution of Athens which intrigued her and she recognised the ‘beauty of laws and po’. If you relate closely, this recognition is an intra-personal trait which shapes our soul and hence is connected with the second step of the ladder. Encountering the ‘beauty of laws and institutions’ clearly strengthens solidarity through patriotism, communalism and so on.

In the next step of the ascent, the beauty shifts from a legal realm to an academic realm. Recognition of ‘knowledge’ is what brings us to the penultimate stage of attaining the ‘eternal beauty’. Knowledge might be considered our true virtue. Knowledge is everything! It doesn’t merely helps us to assess different principles but it moulds our morality as well as our personality. It strengthens our moral values and helps us to comprehend things. One recognises the ‘beauty of knowledge’ when he/she develops a desire to construct a bond with a particular subject. The desire strengthens and we thrive to attain knowledge of something that intrigues us.

The next step is where we achieve the knowledge of “The beautiful”. It is the final step where we achieve the “Eternity in Beauty”. It is the ultimate form of beauty; is truly what it is and certainly beyond all ‘beauty’. This beauty can not be achieved without the ascent through the “Ladder of Love”. Attaining the (knowledge of) “The Beautiful” might be considered as liberation. Participation to the ascent is what takes us to the ultimate stage and hence it encourages participation to go through the different experiences of ‘beauty’. This clearly indicates the fact that, it is extremely necessary to contemplate different beauties at different phases because without proper comprehension or contemplation, one cannot achieve the “Eternal beauty”.These are the stages where different comprehension of different phases mould the concept of ‘true love’ differently. It certainly provides a much broader perspective to the concept of love. Multidimensionality is what Diotima suggests in her theory of “Ladder of Love” ,completely criticising the absoluteness or the platonic distinction of body and soul. It takes no account of the transcendental reality but provides a mundane yet efficient way of defining the relationship between “Beauty and Love”.

Pausanias’s Paradoxes of Love

“The lover and the beloved”

“Love looks after the good and overlooks the bad”- Agathon, The Symposium

In the symposium, while everyone is arguing about the totality and relativity in the concept of love, Pausanias (an erastês) brings out the paradoxes involved in the concept of love. There are considerable amount of paradoxes which are proposed by Pausanias that makes the definition of love quite complex to comprehend. To some people, love brings out the best in us and to others it’s just a way to bring out the worst in an individual. Though this statement itself constitute a paradox but there are other paradoxes pointed out by Pausanias.

He emphasised upon the paradoxes of love in a romantic as well as an erotic sexual relationship. For this purpose, Pausanias takes into consideration of one of the most complex and balanced cities in the Greek society; Athens. According to him, other cities lacked the balance and the complexity to assess the paradoxes effectively. One of the major reasons for considering the Athenian Society in Ancient Greece was the interpretation of homosexuality and its functionality. The sexual acts between an younger and an older homosexual was not only considered an act of recreation but an act with educational purpose. This liberal attitude of the Athenian Society in Archaic Greece intrigued Pausanias to consider it for the evaluation of his paradoxes.

Firstly he points out certain maxims, one of which stated that it is better to love openly than secretly. The homosexuality in archaic Greece had two components- (1) Passive role (Younger counterpart) and (2) Active role (Older counterpart). However, the determination of the roles were based upon the social and political position of the actors. So, one may say that they fell in love with the intellect of an influential person but the other may perceive it as an act to achieve power and influence but not love. This constitutes the first of the paradoxes of love mentioned by Pausanias. In this case the lover might be applauded for falling in love with the intellect of someone, while cynics might criticise the act as a way to gain power and influence in the society.
Secondly, the lover is applauded or encouraged for conduct that would in other circumstances be considered exploitative. A lover is applauded when he provides everything for getting the attention of the beloved he desires which includes influence, power, money and so on, but the same circumstance of providing everything just with the desire for sexual intimacy or a way to achieve success could be considered exploitative and sign of a bad character. The lover is applauded for begging to the beloved (vowing vows or sleeping on doorsteps) for acquiring the reciprocation he craves, but in other circumstances begging for your self satisfaction and need makes you a beggar, the society perceives you from a different dimension when you’re not in love. Just like beggary, slavery could also be considered a part of the paradox proposed by Pausanias.

‘Lovers get to break promises’, this constitute another paradoxical dimension to love. In love, promises are made just to be broken and a lover essentially cannot keep all the promises he makes while trying the acquire the love of his beloved. The society justifies it, not only society but his beloved also justifies it in his/hers own circle of acquaintance. If we apply the same concept of not keeping promises other than in love, the society condemns it and it pressurises the individual to keep the promise or the agreement he made. Hence, this poses another paradox in love.

Another question is aroused by Pausanias, “If love is considered so precious, why parents deny access of the lover to the beloved?” Love is considered the most beautiful and precious thing in the society. Instead of being the most beautiful feeling in the world, the parents of the beloved restrict the individual to get indulged in love. Even in Archaic Greece, especially in Athenian Society, the union between the lover and beloved were faced with serious hurdles or barriers which contradict the statement portraying love to be a sacred entity. So another paradox is institutionalised. Yet another question arises here, if love is so great, why do fun is being made to the beloved by his/her peers? We’re all aware of the taunts we have to endure when in love, as if it’s certain kind of profanity which the society perceives while accepting love as the greatest of all things. So is it important to love in secrecy rather than openly? Isn’t this poses another paradox?

Pausanias finally proposes a final paradox. He asks if it’s okay to submit to a noble lover. The noble lover is the one who only has the genuine desire to have your company. The lover who has no intentions or desires of sexual intimacy and genuinely wants and craves for the beloved’s attention. According to the lover, affection and compassion prevails over sexual desires. Is it ok to submit completely in that case only to be broken apart in due course of time. It might be the fact that the beloved failed to assess the intention of the lover in the preliminary phases of the relationship. It might be the case that the beloved assessed the lover to be a genuine one just for the sake of finding out the misinterpretation later on in the future. Even if the case is so, Pausanias seems optimistic. He suggests that the beloved’s intentions were pure. It shows beloved’s nobility in character and he/she had good reasons. He considers it to be a good act but an unfortunate one. So, Pausanias critically poses certain paradoxes that he called “Paradoxes of Love” but suggests optimism at the end. This concept yet again denied the totality in love proposed by Plato and portrayed a critical approach with an optimistic end.

The Myth of true love: The “Other Half”

“The offsprings of the moon: Hermaphrodites”

“Love is simply the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole.” -Plato, The symposium

In our lifetime,one day or the other we question ourselves about the true meaning of something the world considers the most beautiful feeling one can experience. Love! Everyone tends to perceive its meaning according to their own percept, intellect and past experiences but for assessing the true nature of love, what we fail to assess is the true human nature.

For understanding the true human nature, one must be aware of the three classifications of Human being. Male and Female are the two existent classifications but long ago there existed a third type, “The androgynous”. These androgynous were the strongest of all the above classes. They had four hands and as many legs as hands, was completely round with back and sides in a circle, had two sets of sexual organs, two exactly alike faces on a rounded neck. The ‘male’ was considered the offspring of the Sun, the ‘female’ was considered the offspring of the Earth and the ‘androgynous’ were considered the offsprings of the Moon;just the way Moon is a part of both.

As mentioned earlier, they were spherical and so was their motion.These extremely unique and strong creatures once ruled the Earth. In power and strength, they were monstrous and hence had massive ambitions which became the reason for their extinction. They became so ambitious that they attempted to attack gods with their monstrous strength. This attempt dissatisfied the gods and hence ‘Zeus’ and other Greek gods met in a council and came to a terrible consensus. Zeus ordered to cut them in half through which their strength got reduced to half. Even the gods came to another consensus, they decided if they still chose to adhere to the same amount of ambitions then again they’d be cut into another halves, leaving them with one leg and one hand as a form of punishment.

So, Apollo was given the task to carry out this brutal punishment. Apollo cut the ‘androgynous’ into two halves and moulded the body of humans as we see today but left wrinkles on our belly just as a reminder of the punishment. But the harshness of the punishment was too much to endure. So,Zeus took pity on them and ordered the relocation of their genitals enabling the process of reproduction. Just after this incident the ‘halves’ became anxious to achieve their ‘whole’. They began thriving to achieve their “whole ness”. This anxious thrive for the achievement of the whole is what we consider as “Love”, this pursuit for the ‘other half’ is what we call “ True Love”. We feel complete when we embrace our ‘Other half’.

In our society, there are factions of people who still consider homosexuality a result of distorted or deluded mentality. There are religions which still consider ‘homosexuality’ a sin. It is important to know that the concept of union with the other half (or true love) is not necessarily the union of the opposites. Some of these hermaphrodites or androgynous kinds shared its other half with the similars instead of the opposites. These are the people who takes no interest in the opposite gender. So, these people comes under the class of ‘Homosexuals’. Even in this progressive era, I’ve seen people looking down at the homosexuals disgracing them and considering them less masculine or manly but little do they know that these men who thrives for the embrace of another men are the most manly of all. They are more masculine or manly than the lecherous men who runs after women. These are the men who tend to cherish what is like them! These are the men who has the purest form of love as they are brave and bold enough to go against the predetermined social norms of marriage and producing legitimate offsprings. They tend to find satisfaction in living their lives unmarried and always rejoicing and embracing its own kind.
So, be it homosexuals or heterosexuals, whatever the orientation might be, we all find our love and belongingness in our “other half”. When we meet them, something special and unique happens and we get struck by the feeling, the feeling this world considers the best and purest of all; Love, and finally our pursuit ends, leaving us with a feeling of eternal joy and completeness.

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