In general, we do not believe that discussions have a meaning and a seriousness unless it essentially aspires to a clarification in the premises of a common base. If a writer is able to recognize the fundamental premises of his own thought (whether or not tied to a “personal equation”) and sees his fundament difference in respect to those of another writer, the only serious thing is that he follows his own way without trying to insert himself in an intellectual world foreign to him. Unfortunately that happens rarely, due to the lack of such a preliminary self-analysis. That does not limit us to an inescapable criticism of other people’s views (which is of course approvable and fruitful), but is put on a confused argument: precisely because of the heterogeneity of basic conceptions. That demonstrates fundamentally the activity of sub-rational explanations.
For this reason, we would not have considered that a book titled “Io sono te: sesso e oblazione” [You and I: sex and offering] was by Giulio Cogni. The author has certainly believed he included in it an essay on our work, the Metaphysics of Sex. That would not be as important as the fact that in the circumstances grave confusions and distortions weighed on a domain that goes beyond the ideas that we’ve espoused in various places. Hence, the opportunity of a development that, apart every polemic need, intends to highlight some ensemble of ideas which may be of interest for the reader.
The views of I am you reproduce, in its essentials, that which Cogni had already expressed in another book, Saggio sull’amore [Essay on Love], published in 1922. At that time, someone wisely said that Cogni, at that time a Gentilian through the skin, had translated the Gentilian theory of the “spirit as pure act” into a more sapid “theory of the spirit as impure act”, since he recognized in the sexual union a principle concrete form of the identification of the subject with the object postulated by Gentile’s actualism. Moreover, Cogni formulated a phagic or anthropophagic theory: love, would mean eating oneself, devouring oneself. A similar thesis in his new book: where “the famous hunger-sex, hunger-love, equation” is established. Previously, Cogni presented the situation in rather masochistic terms: man eaten by the woman in whom he was absorbed and lost himself as individuality. In the more recent exposition erotic anthropophagy seems to be conceived as reciprocal, turning out however to be little imaginable because, ironically, he would want to think that at the end of the lovers, there remained only two mouths, each being ingested and consumed wholly by the other.
If it all ended here, with phagia, it would be said the Cogni was inspired only by the crudest aspect of sexuality: the “hunger” of bodies, simple lustful longing. But suddenly he proceeds to appositions that are in complete contrast with what, as analogy, might suggest “eating” and hunger. In fact, Cogni always returns again to self-denial, to sacrificial offering, the abandonment of oneself that there would be in eroticism and in sexual union. Carnal pleasure would be “complete renunciation of oneself in order to make oneself the other.”
He moves directly to a type of mysticism: “the sexual act is humility of annihilation and sacrifice of oneself to the universal life that is seen in the body of the beloved”. “Love is phagic because only with the gift of the body and with devouring and making oneself devoured one realizes the more powerful symbol of Unity: every alleged individual separation is removed.” The ultimate goal is “the immersion of the cosmic One without a second.” All this seems to us pure digression, even with a slight paranoid tint.
First of all, about the incongruence between the points of view, it must be pointed out that in hunger and in phagia presented as the keys of sex, there is nothing of this sacrificial orientation, of the abandonment of oneself, and of “sweet” identification (sweet is a word that often recurs in Cogni even in connection to sadomasochistic situations; that would point, to malign him, at the strong preference, usually female, for products of the confectionary industry instead of the prevalent manly taste for spicy and peppered food). indeed, in hunger the need operates by suffering from a deprivation, while eating leads only its own conservation and satiety: exactly the opposite of the abandonment of the sacrificial gift of oneself. Nothing sweet, then, if hunger is absolute, devouring. And since Cogni even makes almost a dogma out of anthropophagy in its proper sense, he does not know that in it, at most, the situation is not different: it is multiply attested that if the savage feeds himself with the flesh of others, he does not do it for a “sweet” identification, but only and darkly because he believed he absorbs the other’s strengths to this own advantage. As for eating the flesh of sacrificial victims, it is a fantasy to say that in it the tendency acts to submerge oneself in the cosmic One. In general, here everything comes down to totemic participation (the victim incarnates the totem), then a rather restricted order, shadowed by sorcery and demonism typical of totemism in general. Therefore, these are very fragile and inconsistent bases for the advocated theses referring to sex. And the Eucharistic symbol, if one does not want to totally contaminate it by discovering in it rather suspect roots, is reduced to a mere allegory.
As far as we are concerned, the fundamental intention of the book Metaphysics of Sex was to highlight the existence of a possible transcendent dimension of sex. We tried to lead the transcendental meaning of eros (in the almost Kantian sense) back to a dark, unconscious impulse to restore an original wholeness, which we referred as the most noted mythical formulation in the West, to the Platonic theory of the androgyne. Besides, we found that phenomena of transcendence could intervene in the erotic-sexual experience of a momentary traumatic removal of the common conditionality of the individual consciousness, we showed that this was the presupposition of practices of some environments, especially the Oriental, in which it was done in a magical, initiatic, or evocatory use of sex. But all that is quite far from Cogni’s mystical-phagic digressions, and every confusion in this regard is deplorable.
First of all, we should not generalize by attributing the strong value of transcendence to that which is typical of almost all sexual unions of human beings. What appears in the metaphysical or transcendental cannot be made of value in the phenomenological. In a phenomenological examination fall all the idealizing and mystical fixations, with the very sweet sacrifice and the sacrificial surpassing of oneself in the flesh of the other which Cogni always comes back to. Factually, in most sexual intercourse, one partner seeks only his own pleasure, making the other the means, so that the situation is not very dissimilar, sit venia verbis, from a “masturbation duet”. Therefore nothing overcomes the individual bond. In the second place, existentially, often, and today more than ever, sex is of value to the individual only as a self-confirmation, only to assert a “need” (Geltungstrieb as Adler would say), or to look for an illusory, turbid substitute for a true sense of existence, of which he is deprived: then, again, no exit from the closed circle of the individual. Finally, as we said and also highlighted in our book, if sporadic phenomena of “transcendence” in the profane experience of sex can sometimes be verified, they often are not experienced as such. They are realized in apical forms to the trauma of the organism which represent, for the most part, a solution of continuity of the consciousness from which one returns emptied, instead of having had the “shining experience of the One”. That, in general, is rarely the case in profane, carnal, or romantic love. It is especially pertinent to the magical and initiatic use of sex, the use that, inter alia, involves a special conduct of sexual intercourse and about which one thing is certain: intensive states of a special destructive intoxication intervene (in an almost ontological, not a moral, meaning), which excludes phagia, the abandonment of the other, the sacrifice of oneself, and all the sweet and pantheistic affectations so dear to Cogni; and they never failed to emphasize the dangerous character of that practice, for anything idyllic, romantic, and idealizing.
Cogni has also noticed the relation, noticeable in multiple forms, between eros and death, between the divinity of sex and the destructive divinity and death, that we did, but without understanding it in its true sense. It is significant that, among other things, the secret Hindu orgiastic rites that aimed at the aforementioned experience of transcendence, was celebrated in the sign of goddesses like Durga and Kali, not in their maternal aspect but in the destructive aspect. Sekhmet, the Egyptian goddess of love, is also the goddess of destruction and war (her leonine head refers to a beast whose manners are not at all the sweetest). Something analogous applies to the ancient goddesses of the Mediterranean area, starting with Ishtar, also the goddess of the orgy.
The following point is related to that. We indicated the magnetic base of every eros and every intense sexual experience. It is the development of such a base that serves as the basis for those experiences. But it is due precisely to the polarity of the male and the female as ontological principles, something always acknowledged. So Cogni denies that that polarity is an essential requirement of eros, which he believes concerns only the naturalistic plane, like electrical and similar phenomena. That means that for him all the documentation that we have gathered, in an entire chapter, from the most varied cultural areas, regarding the “metaphysical dyad”, might as well not exist because it contradicts his promiscuous pantheism.
Without dwelling on such a, perhaps a little too specialized, topic, let’s indicate in general the horizons between which the erotology proposed by Cogni moves. The theory of eros as pantheistic identification has found nourishment, in Cogni, in his references to India and to Hindu philosophy of the Vedanta. It appears in a clear way that Cogni has seen of India only what, given his temperament, he was capable of, the India that would be immersed in the “dream of the One”, the “hot all comprehensive all justifying sweetness, royally tolerating, loving and accepting of the people and the land of India”. Mother India, discovered by certain useless humanitarian American authoresses like women, with Gandhiism, non-violence, the alleged climate of “loving equality” for the meaning of the One above every illusory difference, would be the true India. But that is an image in part one-sided, in part absurd.
First of all, Cogni seems to overlook the small defect of the beauty present in the “sweet tolerance”, exhibited by the recent massacres between the Hindu and Islamic inhabitants of India, which Gandhi made out as another pleasant event. He then ignores the fact that, if there was a social regime which ruled in the most rigid way the principle of difference for entire millennia, this was the Hindu caste system. To the alleged India all love, abandonment and pardon we contrast the India of the great epochs and of the Bhagavad Gita, a traditional text having the same popularity which the Bible enjoys among the Westerners. It attributed the characteristic of a passion, destructive in its transcendence, to the highest form of the appearance of the divine, while also drawing from it a spiritual and metaphysical justification of the duty of the warrior to fight and kill, sparing neither friends nor relatives who were found on the enemy front. And everyone knows that the Hindu Trimurti, much closer to the Hindu population than the abstractions of Vedantic speculation, considers a divine function in Shiva to whom destruction is proper.
But now it is necessary to repeat myself that Cogni is visibly affected by spiritual scotomas which prevent him from seeing whatever does not support his inclinations. So Buddhism interests him only in its late and popular exoteric forms of a religion, with “love for all creatures”, Amitabha the god of love, etc., in contrast to the serious individual ascetic techniques of the Buddhist doctrine of “awakening” of the authentic texts of the original Buddhist canon, that we showed with strict reference to the texts in a book that Cogni says he was familiar with. From that canon it becomes obvsious that, among other things, if love and compassion figure (however with an instrumental function) as preliminary stages in the sequence of the four phases of the highest Buddhist contemplation, of dhyana, they are left behind, since the summit is constituted by a state of sovereign, disincarnated impassibility and imperturbability that, pleasing or not to Cogni, has something of the Olympic quality and nothing of a week humanitarianism.
In fact, our author does not stand at the peaks but in the trash heaps of India. The current devotion has had a part in India, but in the lower popular strata, not unrelated to a pre-Indo-European substrate of the country. Only relatively recently has it corresponded with a philosophic system, that of Ramanuja. Earlier, it was considered a “path of devotion” and love, bhakti-marga, but it certainly did not stand at the first level, the dignity of a spiritual “regal path”, raja-marga, which was instead attributed to the path of knowledge”, jnana-marga and jnana yoga.
That character was mainly attributed to the Vedanta, which Cogni is enthusiastic about, seeing in it however only the theory of absolute Identity, of non-duality, of the One-All, of “thou art that”, the theory that serves him as the basis for his ideas of eros that embraces and reunites everything.
Well, here we can first of all say that the Vedanta in the primitivistically pantheistic key does not at all exhaust the Hindu spiritual world. We can point out, especially, that a radical monism was not attested in its origins, in the Vedas, which present us with a clearly articulated pantheon. In the second place, India has known great speculative systems, like the Samkhya, which has instead emphasized a primordial duality, that of Purusha and Prakriti, and like metaphysical tantrism, which argued against the “illusionistic” Vedanta (the world is maya) and along with the school of Kashmir formulated a well differentiated cosmological doctrine.
We will not dwell on these factual data about India. The essential point is that Cogni exchanges the metaphysical One with the pantheistic One, with that One which, according to the expression Hegel used in regard to the philosophy of identity of the later Schelling, is “the night in which all the cows are black”. It is not about the One that dominates a well-articulated order of differences (a cosmos, in the Hellenic sense) but rather of a promiscuous “naturalistic” unity to be related, rather, to “Life”. This is Cogni’s spiritual horizon.
From that confusion, much more serious confusions arise in the practical realm. Cogni has no sense of the fact that just as an “integrative ascending self-transcendence” exists, so a divisive descending self-transcendence also exists for the true personality. That is, there are possible openings of the I both toward the higher as well as toward the lower, which also means toward “nature”, toward the unconscious, toward the vital formless bottom. Only the former correspond to the high ascesis, to initiation, to authentic yoga. The ancient wisdom already distinguished and counterpoised the higher waters from the lower waters, the first illuminating, the latter intoxicating and divisive, and this basic doctrine, taken up again by thinkers around the period of the Renaissance, was opportunely recalled by one of the few people today truly qualified in this field, by Rene Guenon, to alert us about the danger and deviations of a certain contemporary spirituality.
To return to the field of eros, Cogni recalled in passing the ambivalence that is present, from the spiritual point of view, in sexual experience. If the woman was seen as a danger, if one could say foemina mors animae in Latin so as to recommend continence, that is not attributable to a moralistic attitude, to the “theological hatred for sex” that Vilfredo Pareto spoke about or to the “sexophobia” on which L De Marchi insists. They also had in view the possibility that the experience of sex, when it was not about curbing mere mortals and moralizing, but for those who had supernatural aspirations, that it could even lead to the negative direction of a “descending self-transcendence”. And if we examine the use of sex predominant in the most recent generations, we find a reflection of that even on a quite profane plane: other than a “sweet” sacrifice of oneself, a “carnal offering”, that redeems and leads to the One, but couplings used on the same life of drugs (to be precise: of the current profane pandemic use of drugs) to draw from the extreme sensations of the orgasm the illusory confirmation of the sense of oneself (the exact opposite of the direction toward the higher).
When the One is “the night in which all the cows are black”, every difference is challenged and discouraged, and promiscuity in the name of that One becomes a norm even in the forms more repugnant for every well born person. In that regard, Cogni is explicit and demonstrates, if nothing else, the courage of coherence. He asserts, for example that “every doctrine that starts from the absolute and not relative point of view, from inferiority or hierarchal superiority, is erroneous at its base, if it is true that the One is all and identical to Brahman”. Note that these words are said in regard to the difference between the species, between men and animal species, for example. We are not talking about how it relates to the human environment. Cogni will certainly not object, to the greater glory of the Vedantic One, if a young Nordic girl beds a Zulu or an Australian aborigine whose morphological and mental level corresponds to the stone age. He is certainly an egalitarian to the bitter end, a fanatic integrationist (he rushed to make an act of contrition, keeping to date in relation to a past error because in the fascist period he was a racialist, albeit of a dubious racial theory), an admirer of “unisex” and the “third sex” and so on. But the last straw is in the area of carnality. As a more audacious form of identification, phagist or not, in the name of the One, he actually admits not only homosexuality and pederasty, but even sex with animals, sodomy with women, and so on. His theory explains how “many people have so much attraction for such relationships commonly judged against nature”. “Only by accepting in principle the ordinarily most repugnant areas of the other (for sexual use), is one certain of having reached absolute identity.” At this rate, we believe that Cogni would, in the same way, value even coprophagia (the eating of feces as a form of eroticism) and would sanctify the disgusting events where even coprophagia figures abundantly as the decisive erotica along with the other horrors, described in the 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade.
Naturally, in denouncing similar aberrations of Cogni, we do not appeal to any conformist moralism but to what is called normal in a higher, not social, sense. For example, pederasty at the most can be tolerated when if arises from special constitutional situations of imperfect sexualization but must be stigmatized as a vice, deviation, and perversion in all other cases, denying also that in this, as in all other case of sexual psychopathy, the necessary objective requirements from a metaphysics of sex are present for the actual experiences of a deconditionalizing intensity. But there is no hope that Cogni has such an understanding for similar things.
Finally, we need to point out another deviation in Cogni, unifying promiscuous sexuality with pantheism. Since, as we have seen, his reference point is not metaphysical reality but rather the promiscuous bottom of “Life”, skirting the unconscious and the subconscious; in his more recent writings, Cogni sympathizes openly with psychoanalysis and metapsychics. He goes so far as to say that parapsychology “remains still the great hope of the future”. He poses himself in a duet of mutual admiration with Emilieo Servadio who had “opened the way”, “knowing India in depth and every type of initiatic thought and psychic depth”. That makes us smile. If Servadio had ever really had some idea of intiatic matters and authentic wisdom that was when, before the war, he was vividly interested in the publications edited by the “Ur Group” which I directed. After the war, at a snail’s pace, he more or less set all that aside and he immersed himself in psychoanalysis. Moreover, that brought on a lucrative professional program and seeking to put himself everywhere before the public, he associated psychoanalysis with parapsychology, in place of initiatic knowledge and wisdom traditions, giving himself however to probe not the psychical depths but rather the slums of the psyche. The connection with psychanalysis and metapsychics took place in Cogni without difficulty through the fact that his One is easily relatable to the “deep unconscious that is one in the entire universe”, by which telepathic phenomena and metapsychics in general can be explained, while it is the field proper to psychoanalysis.
In fact, in these new disciplines the unconscious becomes a sack in which things of every type are placed. One does not think at all about such an elementary and basic distinction, like that between the subconscious (or unconscious) and the superconscious, in part for the simple reason that psychoanalysis and metapsychics have no idea of the latter, and then because in their experimental field, for obvious reasons, it is rather difficult to even imagine. Form this also come aberrant assimilations, like those of C G Jung, in which the homologous figures perceived by psychopaths or oneiric visions of symbols and mythical structures of the initiatic and religious field, reducing everything to the emergence of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. Now, it still holds that, apart from psychoanalysis with its murky world, all modern parapsychology embraces only the offal of the extranormal and is outside all that might have an authentically spiritual value. It is only a question of the slums that can impress only the naïve. But the reason for Cogni’s interest in such things appears evident given what is said: it is a question of true elective affinity. At this level is where he locates which he called the “great hope”. Signs of the times.
In conclusion, from the present considerations it turns out that the mentality, the personal equation, the elective affinities, the theoretic referents of Cogni have no point of contact with a spiritual world that we presume is not personal. In cases of this type, as was said at the beginning, discussions have little meaning. However, these notes are less about “arguing” than taking the occasion to make clear certain questions of undoubtable relevance for those readers who might have an interest in the themes treated.