The answer lies in the story itself.
When the lion is subdued, the world does not wake up with just its sexual drive lobotomized. Rather, the world wakes up to an overwhelmingly dull and drive-less existence. The passionate engagement in all activity has suddenly withered and vanished. Whether it be in sex, art, work, or creativity, the thrill of existence is gone. Clearly, that fiery feline inhabitant of the Holy of Holies represents not merely sexuality. Rather, she is the incarnation of a more potent energy force. She is the embodiment of the Shechina.
The Shechina is the feminine Divine. Her name means Indwelling Presence, ‘the one who dwells in you’. She is presence, poetry, passion. She is the sustaining God force which runs through and wombs the world. A living mythic presence not wholly dissimilar to ‘the Force’, of Star Wars fame. She is the underlying erotic, sensual and loving force that knows our name and nurtures all being.[i]
Shechina captures an experience, a way of being in the world, for which we do not yet have an English word. For this is a way of being which we in the West are hard pressed to articulate. It is the experience of waking up in the morning full of utter joy for the arrival of the day. It is weeping over the splendor of the sunset or the scent of the ocean or the fragility of a newborn. It is a way of living in love.
Indeed, it is one of the great failures of love that we do not possess such a word for this fully charged way of living. The main reason we lack a word for the type of love we will be exploring in this book, is that such an expanded notion of love is still so foreign to the fabric of our lives. Our vocabulary reflects our reality. Just as the Eskimo has an ample supply of words to describe different types of snow, a society infused with love would likewise have a menagerie of terms for different types of love. We should wonder over the paucity in the English language for our ‘terms of endearment’.
Our best move in the English language is to turn towards the term Plato introduced in the Symposium: Eros. For Plato eros is love plus. It is precisely the kind of fully charged life experience which is evoked by the Hebrew term Shechina.
But over time the term eros has been so narrowed and limited that it has lost most of its original intention. Usually when we hear the word erotic it evokes only the sexual. And although the sexual is a part of eros, it is only a limited part. The type of full eros we will be describing in this book is way and beyond the merely sexual.
Together we will work to reclaim this original meaning of eros, a meaning infused by its Hebrew counterpart Shechina. May the claiming of our erotic birthright in these pages in-form a richer and deeper life for ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
[i] (footnote?*Literally translated Shehina means ‘neighbor’, in the sense of the God force that dwells within the world, the indwelling presence of the divine.)