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The 3 Persons of Eros

[from James Hillman's "Pothos" 53-55, as published in A Blue Light : Chap 11 - Love's Tortuous Enchantments - Harper & Row, 1998 - available on]

There are three portions or persons of Eros that have been classically differentiated: himeros or physical desire for the immediately present to be grasped in the heat of the moment; anteros or answering love; and pothos, the longing toward the unattainable, the ungraspable, the incomprehensible, that idealization which is attendant upon all love and which is always beyond capture. If himeros is the material and physical desire of eros, and anteros the relational mutuality and exchange, pothos is love's spiritual portion. Pothos here would refer to the spiritual component of love or the erotic component of spirit. When pothos is presented on a vase painting (5th century, British Museum) as drawing Aphrodite's chariot, we see that pothos is the motive force that drives desire ever onward, as the portion of love that is never satisfied by actual loving and actual possession of the object. It is the fantasy factor that pulls the chariot beyond immediacy, like the seizures that took Alexander and like Ulysses's desire for "home".

Pothos here is the blue romantic flower of love that idealizes and drives our wandering; or as the romantics put it: we are defined not by what we are
or what we do, but by our Sehnsucht: Tell me for what you yearn and I shall tell you who you are. We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wandering. Pothos, as the wider factor in eros, drives the sailor-wanderer to quest for what cannot be fulfilled and what must be impossible. It is the source of "impossible love", producing the Tristan complex that refuses himeros and anteros in order to maintain the transcendence of pothos. This side of eros makes possible living in the world as a scene of impossible mythical action, mythologizing life. This component of eros is the factor, or the divine figure, within all our senseless individuation adventures, the phallic foolishness that sends us chasing, the mind's mad wanderings after impossibilities, our forever being at sea, and the fictive goals we must set ourselves -- all so that we may go on loving. []


Staying with Love

Let's stay with the love because it is so amazing to realize that love is working toward clarification, that's its intention, and all the ferment, all the seething, is its "increase", becoming clarified like a broth, like a butter, because what happens is transparency. And when we try to "clear things up", go over the past to see it better, or put ourselves through confessions -- all that is part of love becoming clarified. We are working at transparency. Impossible dark spots of the interior person get lit up, the shadow, the ugliest man, all the shames and embarassments regarding the concealed personal tied-up self -- well, there they are. "Good morning! How are you! Nice to see you!" They aren't gone away or healed or integrated. Those hysterias you mentioned, those delusions. There they are, but they have become transparent, for a moment at least, like rubies and emeralds. The leopard can't change his spots, but the spots can be gems. I am trying to say that your shadow is your virtue, and that is what love is mostly about. And that's what remains -- if anything has to remain -- after a person's dead. His faults, his unbearable qualities, or hers, become clarified, and you remember them as virtues. They stand out sharp and clear, like essences. It's amazing how the very thing you couldn't bear in your mother or father, in your wife or husband -- they die, and then rubies show right in the shadow....

[Inter Views, 191-192 - also excerpted from A Blue Light. Check for availability.]



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