This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The mythological union of the sexes

In one of Plato’s dialogues, Hephaestus, god of fire, metalworking, and sculpture, addresses a pair of lovers as follows:[1]

“Is it not perhaps this for which you long, a perfect, mutual fusion so that you will never be sundered from each other by day or night? If this is what you wish, I am ready to melt you and weld you together with fire into one and the same individual so as to reduce you to one single being instead of the two which you were beforehand; in this way you may live united to each other for the whole of your lives and, when you are dead and down in Hades, you may be only one instead of two and may share together one single fate. Well, then, ask yourselves if this is what you want and whether you think you can be happy if you obtain it.”

After which Plato comments:

“We know very well that no one would refuse such a proposal or show himself desirous of something else, but each person without any hesitation would eem that he had finally heard expressed that which had certainly been his desire for a long time, namely to be united and fused with his beloved so as to form one single nature from two distinct beings. Now, the cause of this desire is to be sought in the fact that this was indeed our primitive nature when we constituted one unit which was still whole; it is really the burning longing for this unity which bears the name of love.”

Elsewhere Plato summarizes love again and in a way defines it as “the clinging of the two parts to each other, as if in a desire to pervade each other wholly,” the two parts that once were a whole. This is the myth of the hermaphrodite, the primordial “race” not yet sundered into polarized opposition (man and woman) but simply Man.

We should add that although Plato includes other elements in his dialogue, such as physical features of this primordial race, we should be careful, as with all myth, not to interpret it literally as if this were some historical race whose bones we should expect to sooner or later discover. What is in question here, and what is always in question when we are dealing with myth, is a spiritual state explained in a way that we are capable of grasping. It is the impenetrable mystery of our being laid before us in a symbolic manner:

“From such an ancient time has love goaded human beings, one toward the other; it is inborn and seeks to renew our ancient nature in an endeavor to unite in one single being two distinct beings and, therefore, to restore human nature to good health.”[2]

Who cannot see that the profundity of this doctrine is well beyond pleasure, procreation, and any of the other modern pseudo-explanations for sexual phenomena. The sexual impulse participates and pleasure and enjoys pleasure, and it results in procreation, but in its essence it “tends toward something different, which it cannot express but which it feels and reveals mysteriously.”[3]

[1] Symposium, 192d-e.

[2] Symposium, XIV-XV, 191c-d.

[3] Symposium, XIV-XV, 192c-d.

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