Silhouette of couple holding hand

Anthropology: What is Love? The Similarities Between Symposium and Genesis

Humans are social beings by nature. We can’t live without sharing our stories, without long conversations with our loved ones. I think this characteristic played a major role in the evolution of our species and the rise of civilizations.  Sharing our experience as human beings, telling what it is like to be a human. We talked about that in a previous article about art and its deep roots in human culture. But now we’re seeing things from a different perspective. This exchange we find in day-to-day life.

What is Love?

Love couple (a man and a woman)
Love Couple in Nature. Photographer: Anastasia Egorova.

Society’s answers

We come to this life and we start learning how to be part of society by mimicking people around us. I can’t say we came to this life without knowing why. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I was a baby. Nobody can, but the moment we become aware of our existence here, we find ourselves already having all the answers. Be it of a cultural or religious or even a scientific nature.

We think life is no longer a mystery. I’m not judging or criticizing one way of thinking or another. We can’t say there is one ultimate truth that can be confirmed and validated by all of us. Every human being has his answers to find and his truth to seek. But we don’t have to take the answers we receive from society for granted.

If we observe the world around us to know what love is, we will find a lot of definitions. It is like we’re sitting inside one of Plato’s writings. We will find that the scientist guy is resuming love in a bunch of hormones that are affecting our emotions. They then guide our actions all the time and our decisions in a near robotic way. Without having a say, which is partly true for a human with dull or absent self-consciousness.

Different faces of love

If you’re convinced that a man is his body, his thoughts, and emotions, you can’t get anywhere with this conception. That is why the modern man is not that different from his ancestors when it comes to emotions. But if he became aware of that point of consciousness where he can be the observer of his body, thoughts, and emotions. He can no longer be affected by them or, at least his decisions, life would stop happening to him.

Musicians and artists see it as a form of inspiration, a reason to live. Mystics think it is the key and the door to the higher realms of beauty and happiness. Love in mysticism is very different. It has not its known opposite. In the heart of the mystic, love is a state of being. In this state there is no judgment or “I think this is beautiful, so I will love it and I will hate that for its ugliness”. Love here is the realization of harmony, the great law of the universe where everything becomes beautiful and makes sense.

Different experiences, different interpretations

And we find people with bad or good experiences of love defining it according to their past relationships, memories, or their present joy and happiness. Love comes to those people to extract the beauty inside them. You can’t be in love and be violent and selfish. I know this is the picture of love we see in the media most of the time, but what we see is more of an obsession than love. Our human experience is different, love brings with it all forms of altruism and sacrifice.

That is why we can’t separate love “the emotion” from the ” human being” who’s experiencing it. If we want to understand it, we have to understand the social mind of humans. We can’t talk about relationships without talking about ” self” and “the other”.

Relationships since the beginning of time

In his life, man has several types of relationships, and this differentiation depends on the nature of the other. We have, for example, the oldest and the most mysterious relationship between human beings and nature. That has evolved or has just known a kind of divergence. Because of the desire for domination and control of man or maybe his fear of the unknown, or his long dwelling in the material world where he lost his sense of his inner self and that deep knowledge we have about the passive and active exchange between the within and the without.

Another relationship appeared. Humans started worshiping the outside gods, which has recently changed into a relationship between Man and technology. There is even a kind of relationship between the gods and Man where Man is the other. We find it in sacred books and ancient myths. But we want to focus more on the man being “the self”.

When we’re talking about love and relationships, I can’t find anything better than the first couple ever, Adam and Eve.

Did we have to die to know love?

Did it start with death?

If we contemplate the first passages of Genesis, we will find that the act of eating from the tree had a lot of consequences that the so-called ‘lord god’ and Nachash(The devil) talked about to that first state of human beings. Death was not a punishment but a consequence.

So what if, the moment they ate from the tree, they entered a death state. In this state, we find a different awareness, a different way of seeing things. They are inside the same place, inside the garden. Their bodies became different, they noticed that they were naked. Not that they gained awareness when they ate from the tree, but we can imagine the scene differently.

An apple under a book
Photo de RODNAE Productions provenant de Pexels.

The realm of dualities

First of all, there is no sexual intercourse because they didn’t have a reproduction system in their first state. They had different bodies. When you eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will enter the realm of dualities. The first duality they open their eyes on is male and female, so they enter the realm of duality through the tree of knowledge. Although from the first passages we see that gods or gods were already inside this realm, and then they tell us that Adams and Eve ate from the tree and became like them (gods), knowing good and evil.

They entered a different state of awareness, a deeper one. Perhaps, far from the source, that divine energy, Adam and Eve were one, and when they entered this state, they were at the same place, they had the same mental image of the garden.
Don’t eat from the tree or you will die, Lord god said. Do not even touch it. Nachash said the tree will give you knowledge of good and evil. Some interpreted it as a lie, religions say god or gods perceived the act of eating from the tree as a rebellious one. But if we think a little, we will find that what they consider a lie was a consequence of eating from the tree. Death (whatever it meant there), and knowing good and evil, as Nachash said, is also a consequence of eating from the tree.

Different state of awareness

Perhaps in order to know good and evil, we have to have a different state of awareness called death in the realm of heaven. We’re applying the meaning of the word death here.

To die in the garden of Eden is our ticket to the realm of dualities, of male and female, good and evil, god and devil.
So Nachash and the other gods gave Adam and Eve only a part of the information. God said if you eat from the tree you will die.

Nachash said if you eat from the tree you will become like the gods, know good and evil, but this makes us think are the gods dead? What is that supposed to mean? are we dwelling in the realm of the dead?

Perhaps this is why Eve was called eve (to breathe, to live in Hebrew). Why using this name if they are in the realm of the living?
So, when they eat from the tree, they get the result of their choice (dying and knowing good and evil), and dying there means entering a different state of awareness which enables them to know good and evil,  to acquire a reproductive system. They entered the realm of dualities, and when we say dualities we say, male and female, love and hatred. So in order to know love, they had to die.

Plato and love

Plato gave us a different narrative of what happened in heaven from that of genesis, but it takes us to the same place.

Symposium: What did Aristophanes say about love?

Aristophanes said that human beings were different, and there were not just 2 genders, but three, man, woman and the union of the two, which he called Androgynous, that had a real existence and described it as having a round body, with four hands, four feet, and two faces.
The androgynous could walk upright, backward, or forwards, and they were very strong and mighty. They even made an attack on the gods.

Zeus made a proposition, to cut the Androgynous in two. Because they were so hard to be annihilated with thunderbolts, that way they would be weaker and increased in number to make them more profitable. There would be more worship and sacrifices they received from human beings.

About the process of cutting them in two, Aristophanes said: ” he (Zeus) proceeded to cut everyone in two, just as people cut up sorb-apples for preserving or slicing eggs with a hair”( The forbidden fruit being an apple?).

Looking for the other half

After that, Apollo finished his work by taking each separated half and turning round the face and half neck to the cut side, The two parts couldn’t bear that separation and they kept hugging each other, desiring to be reunited again. They refused to do anything at all as separate beings and they began to die of hunger and inactivity. Aristophanes concluded his speech by saying that we constantly desire that first state when we were whole and that desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.

When you’re missing the person you love, or you’re looking for him/her, you want to see him/her talk to him/her, you’re unconsciously seeking that lost part of you. We hear everywhere the sentence ‘ looking for someone to complete me. I mean this deep hole inside us that we’re trying to fill with the presence of another, and this is not something emotional only, even our bodies are complementary. Isn’t love for each other a constant aspiration for our first state of beingness when we were in heaven… when we were one?

Anthropology: Cultural Significance of love in our modern society

We can see how love and looking for a partner is affecting our modern men in the earnings of commercial dating sites and applications that have evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry. And we’re not talking here about something that has to do with the survival of the man, the basic needs. I mean those sites sell the opportunity to meet someone and they’re making that much money from it.

The internet is making it easier to find the other half instead of the traditional ways like through family, work, or in the neighborhood.

And I think entertainment also has a great influence on this desire to find someone. I mean we’re bombarded by romantic movies, series, and songs, which have their disadvantages, of course. By installing a specific pattern or image of how a relationship should be, which creates a kind of dissatisfaction between the couples. Just like how blue movies influence the degree of satisfaction during intercourse.


Illustration of sun and moon

We saw how the symposium and the story of Adam and Eve have some similarities and maybe they’re completing each other because we find more details in the two of them. The main point of it is that we were one once before entering the realm of dualities where we lost our other half, and that urge to find someone is coming from that deep memory we’re not aware of consciously, but it comes in the shape of love.

When we see the person we love, talk to him/her, we feel alive. We’re constantly looking for him/her. We’re looking for that connection with our first state. I mean he/she is the physical manifestation of the other part of our soul, and we are too. We can’t see ourselves with our own eyes, or see our own eyes.

We can only see their reflection. Therefore, we cannot differentiate love from mysticism. Love is mysticism by surrendering to the beloved and our desire to perish in the one we love. We become the thing and its opposite ….everything and nothing.

But what if the entire world is the physical manifestation of our soul, the sky is us, the earth, the butterfly, our loved ones, even our so-called enemies. We won’t feel empty again if we realize it’s all us, not only a special person out there.




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