By Deane Juhan
The conflicts between eros and capitalism, and the degradation of both their higher purposes, are at the heart of the central dilemmas of our time. Eros, a love of flesh and spirit, a joyful engagement with all their sensuality and their kaleidoscope of delights and wisdom, is not faring well in our culture of scientific abstraction, religious dogma and lack of the social graces of touching one another’s bodies, hearts and minds. Capitalism, which once offered a promise of abundance and prosperity for all, has degenerated into manipulative self-serving acquisitiveness with eros as its slave.
God as love has been rooted out by the money-changers in the temple. Love is ultimately the stronger and more enduring force, but without a robust celebration of ecstacy, co-creation and compassion it is proving to be no match for the ruthless minions of amassed wealth and the heartbreaking demands of raw survival. The only things naked in our world today are power and greed. We worship the Golden Calf.
The underlying ethos of capitalism might indeed be useful to humanity, and it may well potentially hold all the virtues that economic conservatives have claimed--a creative market place that rewards innovation, a healthy Darwinism that winnows out the viable seeds of success, the challenge to produce things that genuinely serve the human values of the collective, the reliance upon our native wits, the accumulation of resources for wise investment, and so forth. If the fruits of all this did in fact trickle down, modern economics would have a fecund power. Material prosperity could indeed be a progressive force which Eros could welcome in a mutual delight for the common good.
But the practical machinations of capitalism can all too easily be separated from the human well-springs of eros, to become a compulsion unto itself. “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers...”
The displacement of the heart and flesh of eros by the abstractions of capitalism is the very heart of Mammonism, and it has become our religion. When human aspirations become smelted and cast into the cold metal of gold, the tribe has lost its way on the path to the garden and has fatally strayed into the industrial wasteland. When wealth loses sight of its primary utility of creating abundance, it transforms itself into covetousness, envy, lust, greed, moral sloth, the dishonoring of ancestral values, the pillaging of our children’s legacy, and a selfish adulteration of the covenant. It will justify homicide and perfect it to further its own ends. It is in this sense that money generates the root of all other evils. And among these evils, whether they are done by us or to us, eros loses any place in our lives. This is a human catastrophe, the fall from grace. If we fall far enough--and our descent is palpably picking up speed--it will not end only in our expulsion from the Garden, but in the destruction of the Garden itself. Such a destruction cancels all hope of redemption and return. It is the irredeemable loss of this hope that congeals mere desperation into Satan, whose primary impulse then becomes the destruction of all others, even himself, in the mad dream of a prevailing that cannot be. There is no poison to eros deadlier than this spite that bubbles in the last fetid lees of unholy ambition. Nature has no endgame. The perversion of eros and humanity just might.