Once—and I will never forget it—I unexpectedly stepped into the Holy of Holies at a falafel stand. We were returning from visiting my sons Eitan and Yair in summer camp near the town of Hadera in Israel. As we were leaving, my partner spotted a falafel stand. Now, falafel is a fried Middle Eastern food that I am less than fond of, and I hadn’t eaten one in years. But she insisted, so I went along. Surprisingly, though, as we stepped up to the simple falafel shack, there was something about the shopkeeper that made me want to order a falafel.
I took one bite of the falafel, and I swear to you, it must have been made in the Garden of Eden. I looked up and I was bathed in pure love. The shopkeeper beamed at my pleasure. When we went to pay, he asked for six shekels. My jaw dropped—everyone knows a falafel costs at least fifteen shekels. And his was so unbelievably good. How could he only take six shekels? So I asked him. To which he responded gently, “Because that’s what I need.” That, my sweetest and most wonderful friends, is Eros pure and simple.
To be erotically engaged at work requires only that you fully enter the inside of whatever you might be doing. When you do—whatever your work may be—worlds open up, opportunity knocks at your door, the angels sing, and you are filled with joy. So full are you with joy that the delight has no choice but to spill over—into your fried falafel, into the person who stands before you, into the very earth at your feet. Joy joins joy, the earth brims with a new peace. This man did not leave Eros in his bedroom; he brought it with him to work every day. Somehow, with this, he made his falafel stand a Holy of Holies.
Freud, of course, would have relegated both Jacob and the falafel king to his couch in no time. Freud’s understandings, which have so colored our own unconscious view of the world, are the precise opposite of the Secret of the Cherubs. For Freud, everything is a metaphor for sex. For the Kabbalists, sex is a metaphor for everything. Freud was interested in reduction, in bringing everything down. He lived in an era that was still in rebellion against seventeen hundred years of church domination that had crippled science, freedom, and beauty. As a result, like most of the intelligentsia of his age, Freud automatically rejected spirit as a serious force. So Freud reduced everything in the world to sex.
The mystical project, however, is not about reduction; rather, it seeks to raise up all the scattered sparks of light and return them to their source. To the Kabbalist, all the processes in the world, including sex, are erotic at their core. For the Kabbalist, sex points to the erotic. This underscores an even deeper distinction between Freud and the Kabbalah. For Freud, sex was a human release valve that allowed for the discharge of tension and therefore assured more effective functioning. For the Kabbalists, effective spiritual living is facilitated not by releasing tension but by holding Eros. A perfect world for Freud would be one in which everything was desexualized; then sex itself could perform its natural biological release-valve function without creating neuroses and complexes. For the Kabbalists, the ideal world would be one in which the sexual modeling of the erotic is made conscious, thereby eroticizing all of reality.
Certainly Freud was important in moving us to look at ourselves and pay attention to our inner lives. Yet his insight blurs because he cannot free himself from a deep, inner need to reduce everything to the sexual. This becomes especially striking whenever Freud moves to understand the “higher” aspects of mankind—what we would call the erotic or the holy. A striking example is his reduction of a mother’s love for her child to sublimated sexuality. In doing so, not only does he violate common sense and our deepest intuition, but he also violates all that is sublime.
Freud said, after reading Dostoyevsky, “Here, psychoanalysis must lay down its arms”—so overwhelmed was he by the sublime and erotic power of what he read. And yet Freud, unable to resist, soon returned to Dostoyevsky trying to locate the power of his presence somewhere in the recesses of his relationship with his father. Freud missed the point. The notion of a core spiritual erotic energy coursing through life was simply too much for his materialist mind to absorb. Life is not sublimated sex. It is Eros itself. Freud’s theories remain a great symbol of the Shechinah’s exile.
Similarly, Kinsey, the great sex researcher who, in documenting the sexual habits of Americans, took much of sexuality out of the closet, nevertheless radically split sex from Eros. Admittedly, he did so with much less sophistication than Freud. For him, sex was a simple and happy affair not much different than the mating of animals he had observed in his zoological training. Yet, while for Kinsey sex remains a bland, zoological kind of function, and for Freud a more dark and deterministic kind of force, for both of them the sexual remains uninspired and unerotic. Both Kinsey’s and Freud’s views ignore the soul of sex. To split sex from Eros so dramatically is to exile the Shechinah. Both of these thinkers are seminal expressions of our society’s disenchantment.
A Return to Eros: On Sex, Love, and Eroticism in Every Dimension of Life, from Drs. Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, reveals the radical secret tenets of relationship between the sexual, the erotic, and the holy. They reveal what Eros actually means and share the ten core qualities of the Erotic, which are modeled by the sexual. These include being on the inside, fullness of presence, yearning, allurement, fantasy, surrender, creativity, pleasure, and more.
A Return to Eros shows why these qualities of the erotic modeled by the sexual are actually the same core qualities of the sacred. The relationship between the sexual and the erotic becomes clear, teaching you how to live an erotically suffused existence charged with purpose, potency and power.
To be an Outrageous Lover—not just in sex but also in all facets of your life–you must listen deeply to the simple yet elegant whisperings of the sexual. This book will forever transform your understanding and experience of love, sex, and Eros.
An Online Course with Dr. Marc Gafni
Imagine being fully expressed with an unstoppable life force that aligned you with the will, the desire, the knowledge and the creative impulse to engage ALL areas of your life full-on; without fear or shame stopping you from moving forward. Imagine the transformative power and positive impact you’d have on your personal relationships and potentially be a major influence in the world.
This is the ideal companion to our think tank book A Return to Eros by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid.