“The mystics are among the most trustable in this area of sensuous love, and they have a lovely theology of the sensuous implicit in their writings. The mystics never preach a denial of the senses, rather they speak of the transfiguration of the senses. They recognize that there is a certain gravity or darkness in Eros that can sometimes predominate. The light of the soul can transfigure this tendency and bring balance and poise. The beauty of such mystical reflection on Eros reminds us that Eros is ultimately the energy of divine creativity. In the transfiguration of the sensuous, the wildness of eros and the playfulness of the soul come into lyrical rhythm.

Modern Ireland has had a complex and painful journey toward the recognition and acceptance of Eros. In the old Irish tradition, there was a wonderfully vibrant acknowledgment of the power of Eros and erotic love. This finds expression in one of the most interesting poems from that era, a poem by Brian Merriman called “Cúirt an Mheáin Oidhce” or “The Midnight Court.” Written in the eighteenth century, much of this poem is given from the perspective of a woman. It is a radically free, feminist perception. The woman’s voice speaks:

Amn’t I plump and sound as a bell,

Lips for kissing, and teeth for smiling,

Blossomy skin and forehead shining,

My eyes are blue and my hair is thick

and coils and streams about my neck;

A man who’s looking for a wife

Here’s a face that will keep for life;”

“Hand and arm and neck and breast

Each is better than the rest;

Look at that waist! My legs are long

Limber as willows and light and strong.


This very long poem is a ribald celebration of the erotic. There is no intrusion of the frequently negative language of morality, which tries to separate sexuality into pure and impure. It is redundant in any case to use such words about clay creatures. How could you possibly have such purity in a clay creature? A clay creature is always a mixture of light and darkness. The beauty of Eros is its passionate thresholds where light and darkness meet within the person. We need to reimagine God as the energy of transfigurative Eros, the source from which all creativity flows.

Pablo Neruda has written some of the most beautiful love lines. He says, “I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells, / dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses. / I want / to do with you what Spring does with the cherry trees.” This thought is so beautiful; it shows that love is also the awakening of springtime in the clay part of the heart. Yeats, too, wrote some inspiring lines of love poetry, such as “But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you / and loved the sorrows of your changing face.” These poems show a recognition of the special depth and presence within the beloved. Love helps you to see the Other in his or her own unique and special nature.”

“Anam Cara” by John O’Donohue

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