„Primera carta de San Pablo a los Corintios. Cantata BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden. Oh, Charles!“ © Samuel Rubio

From the Italian Trecento onwards a secularization of theology comes about in such a way that the love discourse finds its perfect mould in the religious discourse, where love and divinity unite and identify each other and, as a result, the loved one is deified. Sacred discourse is used to express profane love. The secularization has two aspects, the first attributes divine origin to the loved one, imitating the double nature of Christ, and the second, heretical and murky, which consists in using biblical poetry to describe the spiritual and nervous convulsions evoked by the loved one, for example the desire to be punished, submission and a whole series of unconscious alterations (or delirious clinical diagnosis) associated to the state of falling in love and that find their best expression in religious poetry, that has to do with the adoration of the loved one (erotomania), who is God. Consequently a distortion of what is real (reason) is produced in favour of a delirious experience (the spirit). Erotic passion and Christianity manage to merge into each other because love, like faith, is based on purely inner values, not external, and above all else on mystery. And however much we use a religious culture in which desire is criminalized, there is no incompatibility between dogma and carnal passion because for the one who loves, and deifies the loved one, suffering and penitence are not repression but complete devotion, like in Mary Magdalene. Even Freud, in “Mourning and Melancholia”, talks about a “delirious desire of punishment”. Love is not a sentimental matter but a fetal one, visionary and prophetic, with no possible learning.

The cusp of this fusion, in its purest version, is reached by Dante by transforming Beatrice into an object of religious cult, constructing a perfect analogy between the loved one and Christ, and even though it is the substitution of a religious myth for an erotic myth, deep down what sustains both myths is the human being’s never ending search for redemption while his exhausting and guilty days on earth last. In “The New Life”, Beatrice is the guide towards God, she is the one who touches the poet’s forehead in the dark wilderness of loss and becomes the only one. The idea of God, and especially the necessity of God, is found at the end of human deception.

Love makes man IRRESPONSIBLE.

In “The Tears of Eros”, Bataille talks about the subversive character of the religions, as they go against all law. In this sense, what becomes subversive is love, which – as Roland Barthes so well describes in his book “A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments” goes “against time, prohibition and law”. Love is antisocial and, as Bataille points out, impossible to approach from a moral or ethical point of view, because morals and ethics are one construction. Love liberates man from the yoke of his obligations and responsibilities (in fact the pagan goddess Venus intervenes deliberately to weaken the heroes, to make them forget their obligations, Venus puts fire into Dido’s bones with the purpose of making her lose her reason and favour Aeneas). Love makes man IRRESPONSIBLE, there is no ethic justification for the lover whose new order is irrational and doesn’t respond to conventions. Love builds our identity as individuals more than any other element due to its antisocial nature. Love is an act of individual rebellion against society, against economic and political activity. Thus, love is not subject to any ethical construction but to disarray, until it reaches its maximum subversion: death and evil (Medea murders her own children). Spiritual life, love, comes to break any imposition of the law. In this context, Bataille says of William Blake, “Blake knew how to reduce what is human to poetry, and poetry to Evil (…) He is the only one who speaks in the language of the Bible, returning life for an instant to the primary energy: in this way, the truth of Evil, which is essentially the rejection of the servile attitude, is his truth. He is one of us singing in the tavern, laughing with the children, he is never the sad man, full of morality and reason, who, without energy, reserves himself, is miserly, and slowly, gives in to the sadness of logic.”

Mad people are certainly closer to the truth.

It is precisely the pre-rational that puts us in contact with the origin of man, not from the point of view of what is fair or unfair, nor from an illustrated morality, not even from the point of view of feelings, but beyond feelings. It puts us in contact with unrecognizable places, with the “fear and trembling” that give shape to the spirit, and that don’t even belong to expression, as they are inexpressible. At most they belong to the revelation (remove the veil), as these are the nucleus of the secret life, nocturnal and sinister, incomprehensible. Saint Paul expresses it in this way: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In this incomprehensible and nonrepresentable area, love and faith endorsed by madness intertwine. In the film “Nostalghia” by Tarkovski, the main character says in reference to an old man who lives alone obsessed with the salvation of the world: “Why do they say he’s mad? He’s not mad. He has faith […] mad people are certainly closer to the truth.” This madness finds one of its most intense formalizations in religion, where god and love unite, creating a poetic resistance to the prose of justice and of the social pact. The movements of the soul with god, with the loved one are asocial and belong to confusion and violence. There is nothing more violent than the passion of love, nothing as violent as faith. Love does not rest on positive values, but on a lay and murky asceticism that reconstructs our individual and profound, primary identity, facing the positive values of the mass, always conventional, always general.

„You Are My Destiny (lo stupro di Lucrezia)“ © Brigitte Enguerand

Paradoxically, the current society, heir of the sexual liberation of the 70s, founded on the positive values of the mass in the name of freedom, has turned into a society AGAINST LOVE. In fact, in the bosom of a SEXUAL society, what becomes a defiance, a rupture and a disobedience is precisely LOVE, DELIRIUM, MADNESS. The disorders of love’s passion defy the established convention of liberated sex disembodied from the spirit. Houellebecq explains this situation perfectly in “Atomised” (“Les Particules élémentaires”) where he describes Charles Manson as a natural consequence of the Hippie era, where sex was separated completely from love, and the bases of contemporary sexual liberalism where founded, that is to say, the physical value that regulates the determinism of NON AFFECTIVE relations. Roland Barthes in his “A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments”, written in 1977 (in the middle of the decade of liberated sex), presents his book thus: “The necessity for this book is to be found in the following consideration: that the lover’s discourse is today of an extreme solitude. This discourse is spoken, perhaps, by thousands of subjects, but warranted by no one; it is completely forsaken by the surrounding languages: ignored, disparaged, or derided by them, severed not only from authority but also from the mechanisms of authority (sciences, techniques, arts). Once a discourse is thus driven by its own momentum into the backwater of the ‘unreal’, exiled from all gregarity, it has no recourse but to become the site, however exiguous, of an affirmation”. And then the dedication: “it is thus one who is in love who talks and says”.

The lover’s discourse is today of an extreme solitude.

Therefore, if what is conventional in our society is liberated sex, the rebellion will come from the peaks of love (I am the slave of the lord) and from the poetry of the shadows and deliriums, not from the prose of the flat and smooth convention, but from the same delirium that pushes Dido to commit suicide when Aeneas abandons her, not without first cursing him so that he would die. The same delirium that makes young Werther end his life just when he confirms that Lotte loves him, the same delirium that drives Hildegard von Bingen to her mystic visions in which god unites to her head with rivers of fire. Love linked to rebellion to the extent that it defies the positive functioning of the sexual society, love as a motor of transcendence, of wisdom, of irreducibility, as a flame of a single soul, encouraged by a lay asceticism that takes its language from religious devotion, for being the ONLY loved one. The truth is that there is no freedom inlove. I remember once more “Nostalghia” by Tarkovski, the woman, furious, sexually frustrated, shows her breasts to Andrei the poet and says: “You all talk about freedom, but you don’t know what to do with it when you have it.” It is thus that in love, in faith (Andrei transporting a candle from one end of the swimming pool to the other to save the world, just as the mad man has told him), we are only slaves devoted to other slaves.

Pascal Quignard in “The Sexual Night” says of Mary Magdalene: “Mary Magdalene, tormented by the obstinately sexual life she had led, stopped eating, she became the figure of melancholy” – “Melancholy appeared in the doorway of Paradise. She was the first to take the night to the eternal light”. That is love as rebellion, to take the night to the eternal light, black bile, black liquid like the water of the Styx, the nutrition of the original energy that propels us to the sacred.

In the same way that in “Tandy” (another play that belongs to the cycle of the resurrections) love is dealt with as an illness, in the First Letter of Saint Paul love becomes a mystical passion, a sacred object, adapting its obsessive, fanatic and irrational discourse perfectly to the poetry of the Christian myth, to the words of Saint Paul. Both the illness and the sacred defy law, time and reason.

Hair and Dogma of the Resurrection. The Three Letters

The two main themes in the First Letter to the Corinthians written by Paul are LOVE and THE DOGMA OF RESURRECTION. Both these themes, in the gospels, are united by a fundamental figure, Mary Magdalene, the first person to whom Christ appears to after the resurrection. He appears under the guise of a farm worker, she is anxious to embrace her loved one but has to receive these harsh words from Christ, “Noli me tangere” (Touch me not). Conflict and violence in love begin.

The six pieces of wood used to make the crosses of the Golgotha fall from the sky, dispersed on the stage, messily.
Until the appearance of Magdalene on stage, there are three letters:
– The letter of Marta to Thomas in the film “Winter Light” by Bergman
– The letter of the Queen of the Calvary to the Great Lover, that is to say, my own letter
– The letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 13
These three letters are intertwined among themselves through the following passage of Saint Paul: “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.”

„Primera carta de San Pablo a los Corintios. Cantata BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden. Oh, Charles!“ © Samuel Rubio

Trying to understand this passage using the sense of established morality would be a stupidity, it is necessary to understand it from the madness of god, or what is the same, the madness of love, the complete defiance of reason. In Martha’s letter to Thomas she talks of some eruptions on her head, in a clear allusion to Job, which provoke the disgust of the loved one (priest) but that lead her to a dialogue with the divine and the acceptance of love as a mission. Then the Queen of the Calvary makes Martha’s capillary eruptions and Saint Paul’s recommendations about the use of the veil hers, and it is in this moment that the heresy is produced, as the Queen of Calvary decides to shave her head and it is precisely the heresy that helps her to understand the meaning of love (without abandoning the meaning of the sacred, because she accepts that the head of the woman is the head of the man and for this reason shaves her head; it is a heretic act of complete identification with the loved one). In her reflection she ends up certifying the need of evil for good to exist, and far from destroying the dogma, she confirms and reaffirms it, in the same way that verse 13 of the epistle of Saint Paul confirms the emptiness of a life without love.

The Apparition of Mary Magdalene

Once the three letters are intertwined, and having reached the conclusion of the necessity of evil (sin) for Christ to die and resurrect, said conclusion is endorsed by a choir of Magdalenes where the long hair that defines her classic iconography is replaced by a shaved head (that makes reference to total identification with the loved one, a desire to be closer to god; more than an act of disobedience it is an act of self-punishment to give a meaning to the pain and the anguish, to the silence of god, to Saint Paul’s words, because the poetry in the Bible is born from the literal aspects that put us in contact with the murky movements of the soul), and at the same time it is a dramatic extension of the three letters.

The women substitute the human skull that traditionally accompanies them in their penitence with a skull of a deer, in a clear allusion to the first NOLI ME TANGERE that appeared in the collars that hung from the necks of Julius Cesar’s deers. We transform the Christian “noli me tangere”, where it is Christ who imposes, to the Roman “noli me tangere” where the loved one affirms that she only has one master and no one else can touch her, which is also a guarantee of the chastity that Paul proposes, chastity that comes basically from love. The Magdalenes, thus, shaved, naked, defiant to the law to obey love, carrying deer skulls, covered later on by meters of velvet of the goddess of Corinth, Venus, responsible for the deep disasters of passion, of sacred metamorphosis and of tragedy, compose images of adoration using simple, sexual, nocturnal movements.

The Magdalenes enter the scene just in the critical moment in which we invert the mystery of the transubstantiation, turning wine into blood by means of a real blood draw. The blood is extracted from a golden man, loved one or Christ (who plays with a spider, in the movie “Through a Glass Darkly” by Bergman – title which is a citation from the epistle to the Corinthians – God is a spider). This inversion concludes with the apparition of Charles Manson, as a great symbol of the need of evil for good to exist. “If I do not sin against you, you will not die, you will not resurrect, you will not come”. Religion needs the existence of evil so that it can develop; “of man’s first disobedience” is the first verse of “Paradise Lost” of Milton.

„Lesiones incompatibles con la vida“ © Susana Paiva

The text of the cantata number 4, which is a discourse of Luther written precisely for Easter Sunday, accompanies the adoration. The loved one cuts the hair of a Magdalene, the woman wants the golden man to cut her hair, it’s an act of spiritual madness, of spiritual glory, of glorious submission, of the madness of love. Thanks to the madness of god we understand the madness of love, or vice versa. In any case it is a challenge to reason, to what is established; love has nothing to do with peace, but all to do with war. “Don’t think that I came to bring peace on earth, I did not come to bring peace but war”, and: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” says Jesus in the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, the return to the dark bosom, to the formation of veins and nerves, to mystery, to the “primary energy”.

According to Empedocles’ theory, thanks to love (or attraction) we would return to the primeval chaos, in the same way that after the death of Christ (sacrificed for the love to men) the earth trembled. Dante refers to this in the XII verse of Hell in which Virgil, friend of the poet, talks to him in this way:

Upon all sides the deep and loathsome valley trembled so, that I thought the Universe was thrilled with love, by which there are who think the world ofttimes converted into chaos.

January 2015, Madrid

The Focus Angélica Liddell at Foreign Affairs 2015 presents three plays, one reading and several film screenings. A shortened version of this essay has been published in German translation in the second Foreign Affairs programme publication in taz. Die Tageszeitung on 16 May 2015.