“Contemplation of the Reality without formal support is not possible…Since, therefore, some form of support is necessary, the best and most perfect kind is the contemplation of God in woman. The greatest union is the one between man and woman.”

Ibn al-‘Arabi 

I had a moment today while having coffee with one who is dear to my heart in which I found myself utterly overwhelmed by her beauty. It was no mere reaction to the artistry of her physical beauty (with which she is naturally gifted) for in that moment there was a luminosity that seemed to radiate out of the pores of her skin and surround her as lustrous aura. In an instant, I totally lost my sense of things and felt I was in some timeless space robust with joy. It felt heavenly, whatever that word connotes, in the sense of everything being uplifted to a higher realm of gracefulness. I became wholly rapt in presence, all of my attention focused as a singular reception of her loveliness. It was ecstatic.

ecstasy (n.) 
late 14c., "in a frenzy or stupor, fearful, excited," from Old French estaise "ecstasy, rapture," from Late Latin extasis, from Greek ekstasis "entrancement, astonishment; any displacement," in New Testament "a trance," from existanai "displace, put out of place," also "drive out of one's mind" (existanai phrenon), from ek "out" (see ex-) + histanai "to place, cause to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). 
Used by 17c. mystical writers for "a state of rapture that stupefied the body while the soul contemplated divine things," which probably helped the meaning shift to "exalted state of good feeling" (1610s). 

        She wondered at me, as I clearly look bedazzled, and I stuttered clumsily off the top of my heart that I was just struck by how beautiful she was, which she found endearingly adorable (thank goddess). We both turned ruddy, as our hearts’ burst in mutual eruptions of warm sentiment, inevitably rising to our faces, and we laughed in length, dotingly. Rapturous as it was, I wanted to tell her more about her beauty. Elaborations flashed through my mind as I considered it: flowers, serene music, oodles of kisses, infinite poetic musings, tickles along a naked back, long embraces with her hair, etc. after endless etc. It was as if I wanted to create a ritual of worship, to worship the beauty of her but also of Her. I realized that in that moment, there was a certain magical power to her; to Beauty. And that what I was experiencing is the timeless capacity in men to be wonderfully sensitive to the tidal beauty that is woman. When men are allowed to fully experience this sensitivity, it inevitably brings us to a sense of awe and we become transformed; inspired toward tenderness, myriad affections; a softening of all defenses and machismo; a dearmouring of all pain. It is one of the most powerful forces in the world if not the most.

“The lure of amor drew the medieval man out of his armour—or, as Reich would have said, out of his ‘character armoring.’ The essence of the lure was tenderness. Sometimes the force of tenderness was so profound and exquisite that it could overpower the brutal force of maleness. La Belle Dame Sans Merci, she who embodies the temptation of tenderness, is a mere wisp of a girl who can unarm and disarm the most potent, armed and armored man.”     John Lamb Lash

        This is not new. This is ancient. This is what the Troubadours, them impassioned romantics of Middle Ages, relics of indigenous European-Pagan culture, wrote about ceaselessly in poems and songs, exalting love and especially romantic love as communion with divine forces. In fact, every culture is rich with intense adulation of romantic sentiment in every era. It’s an eternal thread. However, it has come under siege by conservative, fanatical religious ideologies. 

“In medieval times, Romance was the religion of choice, the path of transcendent love. To those who practiced it, religious transcendence held no appeal whatsoever. No wonder the Church needed to exterminate the Cathars and the troubadours. Romantic love was as much a threat to the Church's promise of divine reward as Gnostic heresy had been, centuries before. The genocidal campaign against the heresy of love culminated in 1244 with the burning en mass of the last holdouts at the Cathar fortress, Monsegur (left, as seen in winter, looking northeast). Along with the heretics, the mercenaries of Pope Innocent III murdered the local populace by the thousands—30,000 in one day in Beziers, so the story goes. When one sword-slashing knight asked his superior how to tell the heretics from the faithful, the response came, ‘Kill them all. God will know His own.’”      John Lamb Lash

        Our modern, materialist culture, is actually a relic of these dark, aged belief systems. Thus, romantic sentiments, which often expand into mysticism and ecstasy, are still subtly frowned upon and/or distorted. More often than not, we are simply ignorant as a culture of the rich romantic lineage, especially traditions that saw in romantic love a spiritual path, though we feel it, somehow, bubbling in our DNA. 
        Our modern culture is one of limiting capacities: its constriction of freedom with its onslaught of rigid social conditions, and commercial prejudices turns everything, even feelings, drives and desires, into the distortions affected by profiteering. There’s also a domineering ostracism exercised upon the flamboyant, the edgy and the transformative fringes of society, though we are happily challenging this and moving beyond. A materialist culture is, after all, prone to become as solid as the materials it worships, becoming hostile to things that flow and which defy containment, making it, ultimately, anti-natural (as nature is fundamentally a flowing of creative and relentlessly evolving forces). Think about just where in our culture we are warranted to act in an ecstatic or intensely energetic manner, such as what one might apprehend in the shaking healing ceremonies of the Kalahari Bushpeople or even a round dance of the First Nations, suffuse with booming drums and soulful singing? (Shaking Medicine link!) Mostly in controlled environments, like sporting events where alcohol is imbibed faithfully and too often indulgently and we respond to pucks in nets and balls in baskets rather than sacred prayers and spontaneous conflagrations of feeling. You can get a ticket or worse put in jail for releasing your anger in a powerful dance on the sidewalk, or exuberantly singing your joy. I’m not saying we should all do this inadvertently (though a day a month would be interesting) but without the ceremonial and fervent gatherings of community that traditional cultures boast, there’s no outlet whatsoever.
            When men allow their sensitivity to the beauty of women to be experienced, they come right up against this blockade of cultural norms. I would even go a step further to say, tragically, men are so densensitized by the over-stimulations of our culture that they aren’t sensitive enough to register the effect of beholding the power of beauty of the feminine. Only this would be a bold-faced lie and a desecration of the power of woman. Certainly, a few of us may lie in this category who may be victims of abusive trauma that has disassociated us from embodied reality to point of benumbing us. Moreover, most of us are atrophied in some way to being able to fully receive the whole magnitude of this experience. However, the power of feminine beauty is almighty. Practically all heterosexual men feel it no matter the circumstances. As with my experience, it stops the world and lets something eternal in. 

Without love no one has presence in the world.
Frederick Goldin
Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouveres

        Our culture skirts on the superficial with, for example, our obsession with physical aesthetics. This engenders a certain greed and grasping in us because in attraction to the physical we are also hosting an attraction to the temporal; the impermanent; to things that inevitably will sag, wither and die. In our denial of death and decay (another hallmark of modern culture) we unconsciously clutch and cling to things in unhealthy, unnatural manners as if some primal instinct to hold what is most dear close to us, hoping that it won’t die in our coveting grasp. But it will and it does. And this makes many of us absolutely mad or at best horrifically confuses us when we come to our own inevitable deathbed. 
             Men tend to cling to the beauty of women as just a physical experience. No doubt there’s a certain primal instinct to this and yet women are so much, more than their bodies but we are barely taught that. And, worse, in our denial of death, we tend to honour youthfulness too much because of our fear in engaging the body’s natural decay. This leads to all kinds of howls of the twisted soul. We lack a sense of the eternal, what is permanent in us all, namely what has been called the soul, which requires sensitivity to what has been deemed spiritual dimensions or more subtle energetic, and intuitive realms. This can all be done in relation to the power of feminine beauty, which makes for a glorious and lovely endeavour.
        We must confront that in all of these mechanisms, superficial attraction translates as lust: the context of our reaction to female beauty is conditioned as a base level sacral response that doesn’t expand into higher heart sentimentality. The sexual urge remains tied to animal instincts and the powerful urges of the ancient, mammalian aspect of our brain. However, there’s a whole other path of consecrating the sexual urge by moving it beyond merely groins to the heart. This has been proven to trigger a whole other neurological circuitry in the brain which fosters ennobling feelings of harmony between lovers, not the mere impassioned lust for frenzied sex and depleting climaxes. It opens us to the eternity of love. (see the work of Marnia Robinson for more on love and its chemical happenings:
        Our commercial society is rooted to these grave projections. Just look at how the media tells us about women. They are mostly valued as sexualized bodies and terrifyingly, in our digital age, more often than not these images of feminine beauty are not even real! It’s a stretch for most of us to consider placing the impassioned feelings we experience in the presence of the beauty of woman into a spiritual context and yet that’s exactly where we need to go if we wish to salvage ourselves from degenerate sexuality, porn addiction and abundant broken relationships littering our lives.
             The spiritual dimension is apprehension of what is the same in all of us; it is sensitivity to unified textures of reality. What struck me in that moment when I beheld my dear one was that true it was a personal experience of her and yet there was something deeply impersonal about it. I’d been here before, many, many times, like a unifying thread, beholding the beauty of some woman, usually in the most mundane fashion when something levitated from within them out that amplified there physical attractiveness. The physical attractiveness wasn’t necessary though. It shined from inside. I realized that I was responding to a universal force that was woman. This helped me to gather my emotions, connect them to something eternal, so as not to fall into the covetousness and boiling lusts that temporal passions tend to inspire. The eternal and spiritual is a salve for containing and channeling passion. This is pervasive in all spiritual literature. It grounds heat, cooling it and allowing it to settle and expand, freely and deliciously. It beautifies, through honouring, the preciousness of what flows through us all as unifying continuum. It uplifts all downtrodden things, relentlessly. It glorifies the commonplace as something divine.
            In a culture bereft of spiritual context, it takes work to get to these places. It involves a politics of ecstasy, namely, a discussion and cultivation of intense feeling states. Reiterating, our culture doesn’t encourage us to feel big and act big for that matter. Consumers are discouraged to be heroes. Small ball is the name of the game as then we’re easier to manipulate, making us more vulnerable to advertisers’ posturing. Because of these elements, when we engage a massive force, such as the beauty of woman, we often feel uncomfortably vulnerably. This also has to do with the infantile state of most of our masculine development. This is not harsh criticism but statement of fact. A patriarchal system belittles true masculine potential. Thus, we are not good at harnessing power: instead of feeling emboldened by the experience of female beauty, we can actually feel diminished and even threatened. But we should revel in it as primary nourishment for our masculine identity, when it’s experienced appropriately. 

“Romance is not just a sentimental game we play today, it is a profound cultural and spiritual inheritence that needs to be handled with skill and intelligence.”
John Lamb Lash

            As I wrote in a song recently, we need a romantic revival but not romance in the context of capitalist culture which is usually employed as a means to an end (here to obtain a woman as partner or temporary mate). Romance needs to be understood deeper, as the eternal force of attraction flowing immensely through us, transcending all walls, all shipwrecked hearts. It’s what lights us up in an instant like a star, even if we were a pile of sorrowful ash moments before. It’s a surrendering to the indomitable desire to union; to be close and intimate with another; and the healing of coupling (for intimacy is one of the most healing things on the planet). As men, we need to remember what the ancients knew too well: that by surrendering ourselves to full reception of female beauty, we open our hearts, our souls, ourselves to incredible energies that will guide us to peace, serenity and wellbeing. And we need women to understand these things, for there’s work to be done on their behalf too. 
      Ultimately, there’s some profound work to be done together. Women have good reason to distrust a man whose romantic urges aren’t grounded and are floating in empyreans of lust; hot can turn to cold so fast. Moreover, infantile masculine energy can be hostile when it awakens to one of nature’s greatest secrets: that the feminine is often the dominant energy. Men and women need to have transparent dialoguing on all these counts and be patient and tolerant of each other (see my sharing circle blog post for innovative communication models to foster this growth).             
            There’s many ways to approach this kind of work. My own life has afforded me many possibilities to engage ecstatic states. Movement and free-dance are potent in awakening the body and the mind inherent in it to be a more liberated continuum of experiential energy. Most of our body-minds are mucky and filled with stagnant energy (again, hallmarks of the density of material culture) and we need a good shaking to get things moving. Singing and music performed in group alone cultivates inner-expansion. Yoga aligns channels in the body to express the subtle forces of life better through our bodies, connecting us more potently with the world around us and the greater energetic grid in space. Finally, sacred sexuality perspectives open up abundant perspectives where sexuality is honoured as a spiritual and transformative path, which is a tremendous need for healing in our 21st century and is much of the work at present that I am involved in.     
        I wrote this sentiment some time ago and no longer regard it as the whole truth I did then as I’ve matured and seen a more multifarious nourishment to my masculinity but there’s a part of the truth here I feel: Ah yes, and now I understand: it’s by truly loving woman, that I become a man…

Romantic Revival

Oh my dear, stay close to me
While I try to make sense of me
All my demons today are having a parade.

I would have stolen the moonlight
Right from the night, if it would help invite
Your innermost desires to light this careless fire.                                                                                                                

My love is a killer: it wants the death of you and me
Death to divisions
Life to unity. 

But how can I tell you these crazy things
In a world where love only sings
Of cheating hearts, and big bucks survival
Need a romantic revival
Love is all we need for survival… 

Would you dance with me if the music stopped
(Would you help me make our own…)
Would you come to me, I just want to talk
And tell you the secrets I’ve kept buried
I may talk as though we should get married
But I have no intention of being scary
It’s just when I look at you
I forgive everything… 

But how can I tell you these crazy things
In a world where love only sings
Of cheating hearts, and big bucks survival
Need a romantic revival
Love is all we need for survival…
Love is all we need for revival…
Love is all we need for revival… 

Oh and there you go running away
The moment I had the courage to say
That I loved you since the first ray
Of your beauty
Tickling my soul;
There you go
Your hair wavy in the wind
The moment it did begin.

You turned my nightmares into nectar;
The moans of mind
Into the essence of wonder
Now this wonder
is my prayer. 

Oh wake me up in the romantic revival
When we’ve finally realized
Love is all we need
For survival…