The Ecstatic and the Origin of Ontology in the Erotic

Ecstatic temporality, as Heidegger describes it, is the way in which Dasein opens a World, and as such is itself ontological as a being. Ecstasy itself originated in the phrase “ekhistanai”, which meant “to place, to make stand out”, or to determine. In Ancient Greek it had come to mean being apart from one’s Self. By the seventeenth century in Christian mysticism it had come to mean the erotic rapture experienced in contemplation of the divine.

Heidegger names our founding experience of temporality out of our ability, itself founded in that temporality, to experience ourselves “as if” from outside, from the meaning the term had in Ancient Greek. However this term itself originates in a term that denotes what makes Dasein properly ontological already as a self-aware Self, prior to the creation and self-positing of the I-Subject. This ability, though, is itself founded on the erotic, and as such can simultaneously mean what it did for the later Christian mystics, or for that matter why it came to be slang for a drug that was initially intended to “draw (intimate) couples closer”.

Already in Plato, although the epiphanic experience of sudden knowledge is discussed specifically in terms of philosophical eroticism. The “true” philosophical apprehension of the Ideas is described as being in a sense ‘already dead’. The erotic, as what draws towards, is itself indefinite, anything can be seen as erotic and only through the projections of fantasy is anything in particular seen as erotic. It is precisely in these projections that we project who we are, as a Self, out of ourselves as historical but oriented to what we might become. This stretching constitutes ecstatic temporality. Heidegger’s early notion of Entschlossenheit parallels Plato’s thanatic conceptions, as willful being-towards-death. Its replacement after Ereignis with Gelassenheit as letting-oneself-be-drawn-towards whatever is projected authentically in the particular moment retreats from Plato’s thanatic pre determination of the Self through knowledge of the eternal forms back to the origin of knowing-understanding in epiphanic coming to know what we were erotically drawn towards. Hegel’s placing of the origin of self-awareness in the situation of the Lord / Bondsman is interesting both in terms of the posited situation being a common sexual erotic fantasy, but also because the being-drawn-together of the Lord and Bondsman, as innately erotic, itself goes unquestioned.

In being-drawn-towards what authentically draws our attention and projecting ourselves towards it we give ourselves a constantly changing partial determination. As erotic and open to change it is not an over-determination in the sense of Plato’s thanatic knowledge or Heidegger’s willful being-towards-death. It is a narrative of the self where the end remains unknown, indeterminate. That we are drawn towards, that aspects of reality can be erotic, leads to our continuing to expand our World, to learn, to grow, in spite of the uncanny, unfamiliar nature of being-in-the-world itself.

We project imaginatively, that is, by fantasizing. The notion of fantasy immediately evokes erotic or even specifically sexual fantasy, not due to a simplistic “drive” (we can only experience drive in that something has already captured our attention) but due to the erotic nature of being drawn towards, the erotic nature of having our attention captured.

Fantasy though is simultaneously experienced as narrative. The Self is always a narrated Self. Authenticity of a narrated Self, at the sime time, implies that we are our own authors. Our basic self-awareness is experienced as our own story, out of our personal and shared history, towards what draws us at that moment, a story whose ending is as yet unknown. This fantasy is enacted, actualized as place, prior to the split between spatiality and in-timeness it is what we experience as the ‘age of man’, as an individual and shared Self. The word for this personal and shared ‘age of man’ in Anglo-Saxon is still the only appropriate word – ‘World’.


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