A review of Ludwig Klages’ Of Cosmogonic Eros, Theion Publishing 2018
By Carl Schelling
“The light of Eros-Phanes flashes in the pregnant darkness of the Dionysian vortex.”
One could review this tremendous work from various angles such as the philosophical, metaphysical, religious as for each of these and other areas this release holds very important implications. And indeed, upon its first release in early 1920s Germany it influenced luminaries of various disciplines ranging from Walter Benjamin to Walter F. Otto and from C.G. Jung to Hermann Hesse. It did, however, also impact greatly on the spiritual and esoteric milieu of its time and it is from the perspective of an esoteric practitioner that I will attempt to review this publication.
The great biocentric Ludwig Klages, together with Alfred Schuler the head of the esoteric Cosmic Circle, waged a radical war against monotheism, logocentrism and human-centric positions. Against these currents he pitched an enchanting and ecstatic daemonic world of images which constitute a cyclical reality mediated by the powers of Eros. This world-creating, Cosmogonic Eros thus becomes the elemental power which manifests the true Real which is ‘lost’ to humankind behind the false reality mediated by the Logos. So central is this force to Klages’ thinking that he devoted an entire monograph to this sacred force, the same book, Of Cosmogonic Eros, which is finally available to us in English for the very first time.
Now onto the book itself:
Theion Publishing treats us to the full package here, adding two extra texts to the translation. Of Cosmogonic Eros itself is divided into seven chapters plus a preface, an appendix and a discussion of sources. As extras this book further contains an introduction by the preeminent contemporary expert on Klages in the English-speaking world, Dr. Paul Bishop, and an additional essay by Klages’ collaborator the mystic Alfred Schuler on the Ur-Gnosis.
Bishop’s introduction may already be worth the price of the book alone. His introductory essay of 60+ pages is in itself a mini-analysis of the entire Eros book, examining its most important concepts and how they relate to Klages’ overall metaphysical world of daemonic images.
Klages advances his elaborations on Eros in a very structured way allowing the reader to follow closely all his argument. With the razor-sharp mind of a scholar and the heart of a mystic Klages peels back layer after layer of misunderstandings and distortions in regards to the nature of Eros until he arrives at his essential qualities and powers. In a tour de force he differentiates Eros from Love, Sexus and emotionality before embarking on a discussion of the concept of Eros in antiquity. Amongst the topics treated in this chapter are the Eros of the Orphics, Eros Cults and Eros as a Mystery God.
In chapter 3 Klages elaborates on the essence of the Erotic state and then compares Erotic and Dionysian rapture before explaining the cosmogonic nature of Eros. A master of language Klages treats us here to passages like this:
While the ecstasy of satisfying the sexual drive is associated with the sexual union of two beings, there is presumably no limit to the opportunities that permit entry by the person bearing a soul into the fiery circle of erotic frenzy. It can consummate itself, or reach perfection, at the mere sight of a beloved being, and that may be a being of the opposite sex, but also one of the same sex, or it might be an animal, or a plant. And it can just as well consummate itself at the smell of a scent, the taste of a wine, the hearing of a sound, and the touch of a dripping branch. It can be roused while awake as if in the most stupefying dream. It celebrates its orgies beneath the breeze of spring storms, in the light of a star-studded heaven, in a hailstone shower, on a flaming mountain ridge, in the raging surf, in the lightning flash of “first love”, but not least in the embrace of fate that smites it. It is an ecstasy both of the ascent and descent; an ecstasy that transfigures dying and death into agonising bliss! The eternal moment of its perfection contains: unfettered frenzy or crystalline transport of delight.
Chapter 4 ‘on the ecstatic state’ is of the utmost importance to any spiritual practitioner interested in utilizing forms of ecstasy in their work. The author explains the crisis of ‘un-selfing’ and the pathway of Life through Death. Far ahead of his time he discusses the possible use of drugs in relation to mystical work and elaborates on 3 main forms of cosmic ecstasy, the heroic, the erotic and the magical forms. The chapter ends with the introduction of a truly mystical concept of distance in relation to Eros of which Klages says that:
The shiver of Eros however differs from this in that, in the moment of even the highest realisation, it remains an Eros of Distance and the intoxicated man remains a separate, never-intermingling second in relation to his partner, an eye of the universe watching him from out of the purple night! To surrender to this does not mean to lust after it or to embrace it. It does not mean: to become one with it; to be subsumed in it. It means: to awaken!
Chapter 5 takes us deep into the ‘nature of ecstasy’. Magical time and space, the relation of Eros and ecstasy to the daemonic images and the visionary power of the soul are all discussed in this chapter which leads over to chapter 6 ‘on ancestor veneration’ which should become mandatory reading for any contemporary pagan or heathen practitioner. Far beyond the shallow clichés and limits of the usual treatises on such topics Klages uncovers the deepest layers of the relation of Eros to Thanatos, the empowerment of the Living through the Dead and the transformative quality of the living soul.
A ‘concluding word on Eros and passion’ is then followed by a lengthy appendix which contains a highly fascinating treatment of the question as to ‘Why does it bring ruin to lift the Veil of Isis?’ You want the answer? Go and read this book, I won’t spoil it for you with an answer!
A true gem in this treasure chest of Gnosis is the included essay by Alfred Schuler. Klages mentions him in various places of the book as a mystic and as being instrumental in shaping his view on the Chthonic mysteries. Schuler, who also communicated with French esotericist Papus, was a highly mysterious figure whose oracular language and visionary ecstasies had a profound effect on his immediate circle. His pagan vision of a cyclical maternal world is closely associated with erotic mysteries, divine androgyny and necromantic teachings. The short essay presented here is an excellent example of Schuler’s unique approach and vision.
To conclude: Of Cosmogonic Eros is an epic achievement, an intellectual and esoteric masterpiece which deserves the closest attention and should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in or practicing any form of Pagan spirituality. Some passages of this book, especially in the beginning, demand proper intellectual focus as they can be complex but it is worth persisting. It is a work you will go back to time and time again.
The publication of this book could not be more timely also in regards to another matter: Klages tirelessly pointed out how environmental destruction and ruthless exploitation of nature is one of the disastrous manifestations of Western ideologies and reality. In a time where more and more people wake up to the terrible consequences of environmental collapse Klages can give us crucial insights into possible alternative avenues and strategies.
The book is published in a limited cloth hardcover edition (a deluxe edition is sold out) of 745 copies. Theion Publishing is known for their quality productions and this book is no exception. Beautiful quality blue cloth and exquisite endpapers make this book a delight to hold. A special mention must go to translator Mav Kuhn who did an outstanding job translating this work.
Carl Schelling is a lifelong student of the esoteric. After pursuing academic studies in philosophy and anthropology he traveled internationally for more than 3 decades in the search for spiritual truth. He now lives in a rural setting on the European continent and focuses his spiritual heart on venerating the ancestors and the genius loci.
Many thanks to Carl Schelling for allowing me to share his review of Of Cosmogonic Eros which is a book that has influenced my own thinking and spirituality. I was lucky enough to immerse myself in the text as its translator and I very much recommend it to anyone seriously interested in pagan spirituality. Mr Schelling’s review is a fantastic enticement to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see … Seshat
This afternoon I watched a talk on “the art of seduction” by a tall, slim, beautiful Hispanic American female dancer. She travelled between the US and Cuba to study with the best dance teachers and she had a message to convey, namely that we should all be playing at the art of seduction to get what we want and it was all about desire, confidence and arousal.
She began her talk by twisting and grinding a lap dance on a male talk host who stood there looking faintly mortified, not knowing where to put his hands or eyes which eventually settled somewhere above her head staring out into the distance at the audience.
She said that seduction was not about being sexual, so why begin her talk with a lap dance which she said was intended to get us thinking about seduction “in our guts”? She said it wasn’t about women sleeping their way to the top either; and her focus was predominantly on women doing the seducing although men got a brief mention too. So if it’s not about sex why did she enact the Rumba as a conversation between a man and a woman with the woman saying, “You want it? You want it? Come and get it!” and the man thrusting his hips towards the woman with “the intention of getting her pregnant”?
She held up Cuban society as a paragon of the art of seduction saying to start with that no woman had body issues in Cuba because there is no advertising (and therefore no negative media influence) since Cuba is a communist country; consequently women of all sizes used their bodies seductively and freely. She emphasized that seduction should start “as young as possible”, describing adults dancing at a social gathering and tiny children “grinding” (her word) next to them and being complimented for how beautiful they looked doing their seductive thang. She neglected to mention the high rates of child prostitution in Cuba …
This latter example reminds me of the hoo-ha surrounding the TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding where viewers were horrified to see how children as young as 6 were up on the dance floor wiggling their hips and grinding their genitals while drawing attention to their little, flat chests. If this is an example of seduction at work in a sociological group, then one should also look at the lack of education amongst women in those particular gypsy communities because getting married and breeding carries more social standing and kudos than leaving school being able to read and write. But hey, if this dancer lady is right, why do they need an education when the art of seduction can get them what they want?
But at what price? She coquettishly described how Cuban men pursued women, seducing and seducing them over and over until “the desire began to burn”. She said that “A no turns into a maybe turns into a yes, and that’s so sexy!” … but what if a no is a no? Sexual harassment is not sexy in any country.
She claimed that any woman could play the art of seduction and be sexy … she looked down at herself and said, “I choose to be classy.” And I thought, “Just because you’re wearing trousers doesn’t make you classy.” She was undoubtedly a beautiful woman and I think she has just been brainwashed into thinking that because she has got a lot of what she wanted from men by using her looks, that she is somehow in a position of power and control. She’s not. The flirting seduction game will work until the guy wants you to follow through and calls you a cock-tease (at best) for not giving him what all your actions have promised him. The seduction game works as long as you are attractive – is she really naive enough to think that a dumpy woman with average looks stands as much chance of seducing her way through life as an exotic, standard-beautiful dancer?
And why should I have to lap dance a guy to get what I want? Why can’t I ask him as an equal and lay down the intellectual reasoning for why I should have what I want? Working for what you want need not be drudgery; getting what you want need not involve semi-prostitution of your self.
I’m not going to cite the source of the talk because frankly I don’t want to send any more attention her way. I found her talk to be naive and irresponsible. Sex is not a tool for bartering, not necessarily for any moral reason, but because in our society we are not bartering from positions of equal standing. Encouraging all men and women to seduce each other as a means of communication is ridiculous … how many men think with their heads once their cock is engaged for a start? The last thing we as women want is to encourage men into thinking that our “no” is merely a segue to us saying “yes”. And her suggestion to teach girls “as young as possible” to communicate through seduction is frightening and sickening.
There’s nothing wrong with flirting. There’s nothing wrong with being sexually active. But seduction cannot and should not become the predominant language because we have fought too long to be viewed as more than the sum of our tits and slits. At university I was probably the most vocal woman on my course which intimidated my male peers who used to flinch when I spoke and one even said, “I thought you were going to hit me then.” Why? Because an intellectually passionate woman can be scary as hell to men who are used to a simpering, flirtatious “yes-girl”.
So I do not advocate “the art of seduction” as a means to “get what you want” … you may get more than you bargained for… verbal abuse, sexual harassment, rape, to name but a few things. Instead learn to say “no” and mean it. Learn to stand on an equal (or higher!) intellectual platform than the men you engage with. Don’t treat him like a walking dick – he deserves more than that too! And don’t act like you were made from Adam’s rib – your bone to his boner. You are more than that and if you associate with the right kind of man, he will treat you as if you are more than that and not expect you to manipulate your breasts and vagina before he pays you any attention.
Last night before sleeping (or not!) I was reading Ean Begg’s book, The Cult of the Black Virgin. I have had a soft spot for the Black Madonna since my teens. In the transition point from Catholicism to Witchcraft she was a safe intermediary that hid my true desires under a barely acceptable semblance of Catholic doctrine.
Even today the Black Madonna is a hushed figure in the Catholic Church, most often passed off as a pagan hangover and fertility image, or at worst an accident of too much candle smoke, or a painting mistake. I am repeatedly astounded at how people put so much effort into hiding the truth.
When I lived in Germany I spent most of my time in the woods, sometimes whole days. One day I came to the edge of the wood and found a village. I wandered in and found a small chapel. It was barely big enough to seat 10 people. I walked in expecting to see one of the normal shrines dotted around the area and suddenly felt as if someone had taken all the breath out of my lungs: there was a Black Madonna. A moment I shall never forget.
In Begg’s book he wrote that in 1838 a new Catholic religious order, the Brothers of Christian Doctrine (located on two mountains in the Alsace and Lorraine in France) “fell under the spell” of a magus and mystagogue (love that word! I want to be a mystagogue!) known variously as Michel Vintras, the French Jeremiah, Elias the Artist and the Organ. Begg goes on to say:
Vintras preached the advent of the Age of the Holy Spirit, long prophesied by Joachim of Flora, which would coincide with a redemption wrought by the Virgin Mediatrix, and her predestined priestesses. In this new dispensation the greatest sacrament was the sexual act, through which the original androgyny would be restored. Thus on the mountain of Rosmerta, the love-goddess, the sacred prostitution of the old high places and the orgiastic communion of licentious Gnostics [ 🙂 Seshat falls over laughing] were celebrated anew.
Apparently there was “international support and interest” even from the House of Habsburg, but the police and bishops had their way (don’t they always) and the establishment was suppressed in 1852.
I am reminded of a religious peace conference I attended when I was 17. The days were split into small workshops and groups with a final joint meeting at the end where representatives spoke about the thoughts and findings of their particular group. I had attended a discussion on pantheism, panentheism and theism in nature generally. The discussion had wandered onto the lack of goddess imagery in Christianity. I remember being riled at only having a Virgin to look up to…
I was chosen as a representative for the group to put together a talk on our findings. I stood in front of 300+ people with arch-bishops, bishops, priests and clergy all around me. And I told them that Christianity was lacking the feminine, and that they needed to rediscover the goddess, and what was wrong with a bit of tree-loving… where was Nature in Christianity? How could it be a true faith and ignore the majority of creation when the divine was in every aspect of nature and could be found just as easily (if not more easily) in the fields as in a church. I was seventeen. When I finished, there was loud applause (particularly from the women), but afterwards a student priest from the group came up to me and said, “That’s not what we meant at all!” I replied, “Oh, but that’s what I meant…” See? Big gob even then 🙂
This dark goddess has appeared at various stages throughout my life, and I feel a deeper encounter with her awakening within me. In my mind she transforms from beautiful black to breath-taking skeleton … the Queen of the Dark and of the Dead. Through her there is Life. Blessed be her Hidden Names in the Hidden Places. All glory to the Black Madonna!
In the first chapter of his book*, Ludwig Klages looks at different perceptions of the word love (Liebe) and the different meanings assigned to this word. In elucidating the different shades of ‘Liebe’ he highlights the inadequacy of this word for the purposes of his book (I will be writing something on each chapter, so you will find out his philosophical destination shortly after I do). For this post I want to share with you some of the different definitions of love à la Klages. Please bear in mind that I am translating these concepts from the German, and whereas they are beautifully, concisely and simply expressed in the German, they are slightly forced in English.
There is love as a spiritual/emotional quality, where we speak of a ‘loving person’, i.e. someone who has the capacity for love or where love is an integral quality in their personality.
There is love is a condition of taking continual or temporary pleasure (Wohlgefallen) in something. Such pleasure is made up of inclination (Neigung) and interest (Interesse), with the emphasis in interest on the love to a thing. In its extreme form this is expressed as an enthusiasm (Begeisterung).
Love is also understood as Christian love/Karitas – a duty-bound esteem or expression of mercy.
Then there is the ‘tendency’ of the heart (Herzensneigung), an inclination, pull or draw to certain things or to particular features and characters. Each arbitrary tendency of the heart establishes a selective and specific relationship between the heart and the object of its affection.
There is a love to particular parts and features of a person: hands, feet, smells…), which ranges from a purely habitual inclination up to a passionate pull towards the love object.
An impulse/drive/urge (Trieb) dictates the direction which it compels you to follow; an inclination (Neigung) dictates a direction which you would allow to manifest or not if the appropriate situation arose.
The various classes and forms of inclination are too weak however to convey a genuine urge for union (Vereinigungstrieb). The difference is expressed using its negative form as follows: if you experience a negative inclination against an object you will avoid it; if you experience a negative emotion from a Trieb-state (a state of compulsion ruled by an inner urge), such as hate, fury or envy, you seek out the object to deliberately break with it.
Since true union with a love object is not possible, the fulfilment of this urge is generally epitomised in the form of close physical proximity. The essence of such love is expressed in tenderness/affection (Zärtlichkeit), which in turn is manifest in its basic form as a mother’s love.
The need for affection (Zärtlichkeitsbedürfnis) runs through each person’s life and can also be satisfied with objects, such as feathers, velvet, fur … essentially any kind of sensual touch.
Then there is the urge/drive to engulf or devour (Verschlingungstrieb) which is only satisfied once the love object is devoured or consumed (e.g. food, drink, although I believe this concept could also understood in a metaphysical or abstract way). This type of drive is more than an impulse; it forces a situation into being where the urge is fulfilled. The words ‘passion’ or ‘enthusiasm’ are too weak for this type of love, in its extreme form it becomes ‘lust’ or an appetite on many levels of being.
Then there is the sexual drive (Geschlechtstrieb/Sexus). In this context the noun ‘love’ is used synonymously with the word sex and ‘to love’ or ‘to make love’ is used for the sexual act. This is an urge to copulate and is expressed in sexual activity; as such it can be subclassified into: different-gender sexual love, same-gender sexual love, sexual activity with animals, love of self-display (exhibitionism), sexual activity incorporating particular body parts (fetishism), etc.
Love in its extreme form is called passion when the love object is socially approved and an addiction (or also perversion) when it is not approved socially (e.g. extreme love of drink – alcoholism; extreme love of food – gluttony, etc.).
In summary, Klages lists a brief range of ‘loves’:
Love of an object
Love of self (i.e. egotism)
Love of our neighbour/enemy
Love for friends
Extreme, passionate love
Love of drink
Just this brief array makes it clear that a philosopher is walking a semantic minefield if he chooses to use the word ‘love’ to convey any concept. Consequently, for the above diversity of reasons, Klages decides not to use the word ‘Liebe’, as, he says, none of these definitions can even approach the true knowledge of elemental Eros.
So what does Klages want to tell us about Eros? Stay tuned for the next chapter on the concept of Eros in antiquity.
*Nb. Cosmogonic: pertaining to the branch of astronomy dealing with the origin, history, structure and dynamics of the universe