During the absence of his brother, Shah Zaman
- the man of the decapitated woman, that we saw at work in the chapter
on promiscuity - witnessed the following event: 'Suddenly
he saw the doors of the palace open. The wife of his brother appeared in
the company of twenty women slaves: ten black and ten white. She hopped
like a dark-eyed gazelle. Shah Zaman looked at them without being seen.
He saw how they walked to his palace, where they halted under the
window, without seeing him, because they thought he went hunting with
his brother. They sat down against the wall and took their clothes of.
Now it appeared that it was ten black male slaves and ten black female
slaves. The ten males began to make love with the ten black female
slaves. Thereupon, the queen cried: 'Massud! Massud!', and a black slave
jumped from a tree. He wedged himself between her thighs, and had
intercourse with her. They only stopped when it was noon'. The poor Shah
Zaman, threatened by unfaithfulness himself, felt comforted: 'I now see that
this fate befalls everybody'' This is only the orgy from a story. But
similar orgies took and take place also in the real world.
This short survey shows only the top of the iceberg. But is can suffice
to prevent us from projecting the orgy on 'uncivilised' people or
primeval man. Dreams about the orgy are not only banished into primeval
times and primitive tribes, but also into the hereafter. Thus, the
Trobriands imagine that they will engage in an endless orgy after death.
In some interpretations (like that of Sabattai Zevi) the Torah promises
free sexual access of all to all after the coming of the Messiah.
According to others, there is no food, no drink and no procreation in
the Jewish heaven. Also many early Christians must have cherished
orgiastic fantasies about the End Times. Often, they could not await the
advent of the Messiah. It is perhaps therefore that the Christian heaven
looks far more ascetic. Thus, Origen held that only in heaven will men
be safeguarded against sin, since women are not allowed. His theses are
rejected 300 years later. New concepts vary from a heaven with purely
optical contemplation of Gods Glory (Dante), over a heaven where also
music unites the souls (like on Van Eyck's Holy Lamb), to the more
popular heaven with rice pudding with golden spoons. Mohammed's paradise
remained unaffected by such asceticism; there is intercourse ad libitum
with eternal maidens. Orgiastic dreams are also cultivated in the
projection on hostile communities: therefore, it is often difficult to
know whether reports are founded or merely fantasised.
When talking of the removal of imposed social relations, most authors do not think of the harem, but of monogamy. Since also promiscuity and polygamy seem to overcome the limitations of monogamy, they are easily confounded with the orgy. Thus, Fourier regards the orgy as a ''mariage composé'. As far as I know, only Crawley and Wund discern polygamy from the orgy.
With many authors, the assimilation of polygamy and the orgy is facilitated by using history as a catalyst. As opposed to the (presumed) monogamy in the present, the orgy and polygamy/promiscuity are referred to the past. That betrays itself in the terminology. Suffices it to remind of the fact how Bachofen described the evolution from Afrodisian-hetaeric primeval times, over matriarchy, to Apollinian patriarchy. Nietzsche masculinises Bachofen's scheme into the opposition between the Dionysian and Apollonian. In his 'Geburt de Tragödie' is unambiguously formulated what was only implicit in Bachofen: the orgiastic interpretation of sexual intercourse in primeval times. This idea resounds in all the theories on 'primeval communism' ever since Morgan. The 'collective property of women' can be understood not only as reciprocal polygamy, but also as an orgy.
assimilation is fostered by more superficial similarities. Vico fancied
how the Gigantes had intercourse in the open air in the presence of
other Gigantes and without any shame. Shame developed only when they
became sedentary and thereby withdrew in a cave. Also Bachofen was
convinced that primeval men made love in public. With Diderot, the
inhabitants of Tahiti have intercourse in the open air and in plain
daylight and Krafft-Ebing has the same ideas about primitive tribes as
such. Such ideas about shameless intercourse in public cannot but foster
the assimilation between polygamy and the orgy.
The orgy is not only confused with polygamy, but also with promiscuity.
We already pointed to the fact that promiscuity and communism are used
as synonyms by many authors. Also the confusion with the orgy is common. Maffesoli
conceives of 'l'amour vagabond' as of an orgy. Also Alberoni sees no
distinction between orgy, 'free love' and promiscuity.
ORGY AND FEAST
The comparison with commensality imposes itself, the widespread habit of eating together. When hungry, humans feel the irresistible urge to look for companions. This urge is so strong, that solitude often kills hunger. Conversely, seeing someone eat often suffices to raise one's appetite. In the same vein, seeing others making love also raise one's sexual appetite, and one often feels the urge to raise the sexual hunger of companions by proceeding to making love before their eyes. This desire for co-lovers often takes the shape of the desire to make love in the open air or in public, or, in the repressed form, of the fear of being seen. Eating and lovemaking seem to be contagious. And that is what they have in common with lots of other activities: think of smoking and drinking. Many people cannot fall asleep alone and signal by yawning the readiness to go to sleep. Women who love each other often synchronise their menstruation. And when someone begins to sing or whistle, it is difficult to resist the urge to join him.
That reminds us of the way in which communal love is celebrated as a
feast: by commonly performing some common activity. In that respect, the
sexual orgy resembles other feasts like banquets, drinking bouts,
gatherings of gamblers, sport manifestations, lynch parties,
hooliganism, collective suicide or self-mutilation (like the priests of
Demeter, the Scopts, or mourning Islamites).
communal performance adds something to the satisfaction of what is
performed. One enjoys that one enjoys together. This pleasure is
synonymous with the advent of the 'mystical body' of the community.
Enjoying 'enjoying together' is the way in which the community is realised.
Only now does it become fully clear what the difference is between
polygamy/promiscuity and the orgy. If we discern between social
formation and the bond that ties this formation, then it is apparent
that polygamy is a social formation and the orgy is a bond. Or to phrase
it plainly: whereas polygamy is a sexual social formation (a form of
tied by a sexual bond (lovemaking), the community is a communal social
formation, tied by a communal bond (the orgy in particular or the feast
in general). As
a social formation, polygamy is to be discerned from other forms of
marriage, like monogamy, and other social formations, like the community. As
a bond, the orgy (that binds a community) is to be discerned from
lovemaking (that binds monogamous or polygamous couples) and form
sucking (that binds mother and child).
From the point of view of content, the confusion between the many forms of polygamy and promiscuity comes down to a reduction of communal love to sexual love, and vice versa. The reduction of communal love to sexual love can be found with Freud, who conceives of larger social groups as derivates of the primeval horde. The converse reduction of sexual love to communal love can be found with authors like Maffesoli, who asserts that sexuality is repressed by monogamy, and that sexuality can only fully unfold in the orgy. To him, the orgy is the expression of a 'collective instinct' that is at the same time 'sensual and sexual'. There is not only the mutual reduction of sexual and communal love. In the next chapter, we shall study the double reduction of parental and communal love to sexual love in the incest.
From a theoretical point of view, these reductions originate in the confusion between morphology and function. Freud described how a same behaviour can serve many functions: sucking can serve the purpose of taking in food or of expressing a parental bond. In the same vein, copulation can serve the purpose of reproduction or of expressing a sexual bond. The phenomenon is made possible by the so called 'preadaption': in order to invent new functions, evolution has to start from existing organs and behaviours. One and the same 'form' can thus come to serve multiple purposes. Thus, Lorenz describes how the sexual bond between goose is expressed through behaviour that originally served a totally opposed function: aggression.
No wonder then, that different functions are often reduced to one another, on the sole ground that they make use of the same behaviour. No doubt, sexual intercourse evolved to secure sexual reproduction. But, in the course of evolution, it came to serve totally different purposes like binding a couple or even expressing dominance (like with many baboons). Copulation should therefore not be identified with one of these functions. Conversely, the sexual bond consists of other elements than those borrowed from reproductive behaviour alone. Lorenz demonstrated how the sexual bond between goose is realised through a transformation of aggressive behaviour. Eibl-Eibesfeldt pointed to the role of feeding: think of kissing. One and the same sexual bond can be expressed by behaviour from diverse origins: kissing, grooming, copulation, threatening. With animals that live in couples, but do not fertilise internally, copulation cannot be part of the sexual but in principle.
It is well know how Freud
interprets the relation between parents an children in sexual terms. It
is true that the sexual and parental bond often make use of the same
behaviour: think of kissing, embracing, caressing and so on. That does
not suffice, however, to conclude that the parental bond is sexual in
nature. For the same reason, one cannot conclude that the orgy is
sexual, from the mere fact that it makes use of the same behaviour as
the sexual bond. On the ground of formal similarities between the
parental, sexual and communal bond, Freud concludes that there is one
and the same (sexual) function. No doubt, the three persons are one god.
But the name of that god is not libido sexualis, but Eros, love in
general. And the three persons are: sexual, parental and communal love.
closer sight, the morphological similarity between forms of behaviour
that serve different functions, turns out to be rather superficial: organs as well as behaviour are transformed when they acquire a new
function. Often, parts of one behaviour are integrated in a new
encompassing whole. Thus, the child that behaves exemplary, receives a
kiss on its cheek or its forehead. In a parental context, the kiss (on
the forehead) closes a chain, whereas, in a sexual context, the kiss (on the lips) initiates a
totally different chain. It will prove interesting
to examine how sexual behaviour is transformed during its integration
in an orgiastic context.
This problem is solved in the most perfect variant of this form of the
orgy: when many couples make love together. Only when, next to the penis,
other protrusions are summoned - think of the tongue and the fingers -
and when, next to the penis, other openings are penetrated - think of the
mouth and the anus, can other combinations be envisaged. Several men
can penetrate one and the same woman, or one man can penetrate several
women. Or chains can be formed with all kinds of combinations: chains
with cunnilingus or fellatio ('swallow the leader') - think of the
trains described by Burton. A second method to overcome the limitations
of the couple is self-satisfaction, as when many men and/or women
The only remedy is to join the perverse move away from the orgasm, up to the tactile, visual and auditory preparatory stages. The communion of sexual arousal is for more appropriated than that sexual release. Sexual arousal allows for simultaneity, and also for communally contemplating each other's performance.
The standard solution for this problem is sensual dancing. The most common form is dancing in pairs. There are also variants where one man dances with many women and conversely, or variants where chains are formed (lambada), or variants where all the partners press themselves against each other (see the tactile 'games' of the Trobriands).
With this first, tactile form of perverse orgy, the problem that the
contact with the other members of the community is lost, repeats itself
on another level. Tactile contact is limited in principle, just like
genital contact. At most two people can be touched with the hands, and
with the body not many more. Whoever wants to feel united with more
participants, will have to resort to the distance senses and to proceed
to listening and looking. But precisely tactile contact tends to stir
the propensity to close the eyes. Contact with other participants can
then only be realised through listening at the rhythm of the synchronising
music. This turns touching into simultaneous movement of all the members
of the community. What makes dance to a communal bond, is no longer
sexual tactility, but communal simultaneity. The stress shifts form the
pleasure in copulatory movements to the pleasure of moving as such. A
restoration of the sexual intent must of necessity lead to a disturbing
of the rhythmical synchronisation. From a morphological point of view,
there is a new combination of touching and listening, that is not found
in the sexual chain also here: in the couple, caressing is not elicited by
rhythm, but by the silent caressing of the partner.
perverse forms of the orgy culminate of necessity in the tactile or
visual dance. With this kind of dance, the community is finally realised
through the synchronising rhythm of the music. Through such
synchronisation, the visual and tactile elements are desexualised, just
as was the case with orgasm that was transformed in a visual display.
Through its transformation in the communal orgy, lovemaking is
desexualised through simultaneisation. Thereby, the horizontal axis of
sexual love is curved ever further. Eventually, it takes the place of
the communal love of the circumference.
THE RESEXUALISATION OF THE ORGY
Sexuality does not put up so easily with its subordination under the genital primacy. With the visual orgy, pure exhibition can easily degrade into eduction (or be experienced as such) and then invite to tactile contact. The same goes for dancing. The visual version often leads to touching, and the tactile version to copulation. In the margins of the orgy, we often find lovemaking couples, who isolated themselves from the feasting community. With the coital versions of the orgy, it suffices to give up the contact with the other couples and to concentrate on each other. Such breakthroughs of the sexual urge constitute a permanent threat to communal love.
resexualisation of the orgy is not only the effect of the reluctance of
the sexual drive to be subordinated, but also and foremost of its
repression. It is fuelled then by the propensity to unfaithfulness, just
like all the forms of polygamy or promiscuity. As opposed to polygamy,
the orgy has the advantage that it is not a form of marriage, so that no
new relations have to be envisaged. Often, the partner also participates
in the orgy, so that nobody can reproach nobody. It is only one step
further to the abuse of the orgy as a means of reanimating the
sexual life of the monogamous couple. The orgy is used as an
aphrodisiac, when witnessing each other's lovemaking is used as a means
of sexual stimulation. Such abuse of the orgy is comparable to the abuse
of banquets as a means of satiating one's hunger or of receptions to
quench one's thirst.
principle, couple and community are not incommensurable.
It suffices to alternate participation in both. In addition, nothing
prevents participants of the orgy from celebrating the orgy with their
legal partners. In that case, a perfect condensation of sexual and
communal love would be achieved. Only the resexualised orgy is a
negation in every respect of the intercourse between lovers: as well
with regard to partners as with regard to the kind of lovemaking. Henceforth,
the primary concern is to make love with everybody, except the legal
partner. Already with Fourier, 'jealous and exclusive' love is
contrasted with 'collectivistic' love, and the latter is conceived of as
a higher state in the evolution of love. That contradicts another ideal
of Fourier, that the orgy is a 'besoin
de nature'. Maffesoli holds that sexual 'exclusivism' is an offence
to the community. Only through such taboo on monogamy, and the
concomitant taboo on jealousy, does the orgy degrade into transgressive
such natural taboo is added the resistance of the excluded children and
the aged. These can be integrated easily when the orgy is desexualised
and when it resorts to other activities than sexuality. In as much is
the orgy is resexualised, children and elderly are of necessity excluded
of this communion. In that respect, the resexualised orgy undermines
communal love: the higher and the lower strata of the community can no
longer participate. Thus, the taboo on the orgy originates in the first
place from the other parts of the love cross. They resent the tyranny of
a sexuality that represses parental love and is out at usurping the
place of communal love.
TOTEM MEAL AND ORGY
Only the aggressive orgy seems to be able to compete with the sexual. It suffices to refer to the gladiator games, lynch parties, group rape, cannibalism, and what have you. In comparison with the sexual orgy, the aggressive orgy has a number of drawbacks. Feast often ask for a state of rest, in which man becomes by nature sexually aroused. Aggression, on the other hand, rather disturbs that state of rest. In addition, after the disappearance of tribes and since the increasing socialisation of the world, it becomes increasingly difficult to find enemies, of which one is not at the same time dependent. That is why real enemies are gradually replaced with symbolic ones, like bulls. The aggressive orgy is thereby transformed into sport, into a ritually regulated challenge. The shift into hooliganism demonstrates how fragile such transformation is. Sexuality, on the other hand, is already a sexual bond before being transformed into a communal bond. That is why only the purely sexual orgy can be understood as the orgy of orgies. It has the advantage that it not only mobilises the strongest bonds, but moreover that it has an inbuilt end in orgasm. That is also why the sexual orgy is mostly the last phase in a series of preparatory orgies of another kind, that are introduced as a kind of foreplay as it were. When the climax has come, it is easy to return to daily life. When orgasms do not bring the climax, alcohol can make an end to the orgy, just like it also allows to fall asleep when there has been no sexual gratification in the couple.
No doubt, also the murder on the primeval father and the ensuing totem meal by his cannibalistic sons, belong to the aggressive orgy. In the wake of Robertson Smith, Freud thought in the first place of ritual offerings, especially of the Christian mass. The story of the primeval father shows a remarkable lacuna here. In our chapter on 'Primeval Communism' we already described how the fraternal horde would found a commune after the murder on the primeval father. It is not difficult to imagine how the brothers, in the flush of victory, also communally consumed the conquered wives of the primeval father, in a communally celebrated primeval orgy. As a first crime against the primeval father, interiorised as conscience, that would surely have stirred their feelings of guilt. Remarkably enough, this moment fails in Freud's story. We are only told that the sons resign from making love to the primeval father's wives in order to maintain solidarity. And that notwithstanding the fact that precisely the sexual orgy has been used by many a brotherhood as the consecration of their togetherness. Roheim tried in vein to fill this lacuna.
Behind every religious feast - in case: the mass, where the brothers in Christ drink the blood of their father and eat his flesh - Freud only descries the cannibalistic orgy. He seems to be blind for the 'black mass', the 'agapč' in the real sense of the word, that so many read in it or made of it. The mass commemorates not only the murder on the primeval father, as Freud thought under the influence of Robertson Smith. The precursors of the mass, however, are not only the (human) offering, but also the orgiastic mysteries and the hierosgamos of the high priest. According to Taylor, the Eucharist was only introduced in the third century, as the successor of the orgiastic 'agapč', during which the attendants went in trance (like the later Shakers). The epiphany of the monstrance, during which the worshippers have to lower their eyes, is an echo of the blinding appearance of Salomé or Phryne. In the eating and the drinking, Freud sees this time only the table and not the bed. Of all people Freud, who is so often reproached for his sexual bias, represses the sexual aspect of the orgy. It seems as if, behind the deadly banquets of don Giovanni and Rasputin, he wants to overlook their misdeed. That is betrayed in the fact that the very orgy that he considers as a remnant of primeval times is failing in his reconstruction of those primeval times. Against the background of the subsumption of communal love under sexual love, we understand where the repressed has withdrawn: in the condensation of the polygyny of the primeval father with the orgy, as analysed above. The theory of the totem meal, Freud's paradigm of the orgy, is, according to our analysis, not only the reversal of the cannibalism of the father in that of the sons, but also a negation of the sexual orgy.
In this context, it is not superfluous to remind of the fact that in many biblical text god is bestowed with female characteristics. Therein, traces survive of the cult of the divine couple Jahweh-Ashera as it must have existed in the (post-mosaic) monotheistic reform of the seventh century. It seems to resurge with the Cabbalists, who conceived of their copulation as of a holy deed by which the divine hierosgamos of God and Goddess was initiated. Copulation was allowed only on the Sabbath, and it had to be performed without pleasure. Nowhere is it demonstrated the hostility between couple and community more evident. Such orgiastic practice on the Sabbath was taken over by the brotherhood of Safed after the expulsion from Spain. The followers of Sabbatai Zevi (17th century) proceeded to genuine orgies. Let us refer to the Dönmeh in the early eighteenth century in Turkey, to the followers Jakob Frank (1726-1795) in Poland, who were accused of dancing around nude women, and to the community around Jonathan Eibeschütz in Central Europe. These movements caused a pietistic reaction of the Chassidim in the Poland of the 18th century under the spiritual leadership of Baal Shem Tov. They returned to a more ascetic version of the cabbalist tradition. The focus is no longer copulation without pleasure, but on prayer. That prayer was conceived as a copulation with the Shekhina, the female emation of God. Their arousal could take such proportions as to culminate in ejaculation. Baal ShemTov opposed such practices. He recommend to think of God instead of the Shekhina. Thereby, the Shekhina was expulsed from heaven, where henceforward only a male god was worshipped by god-fearing sons. Therein, he is the shadow of Moses, who removed the golden calf from the pedestal. Therein he is equally the prefiguration of Freud, who expulsed Bachofens primeval mother from primeval times to install a primeval father on her throne, who, brandishing the sickle, chased his sons from his harem. And, just like Moses silenced the orgy around the golden calf, Baal Shem Tov chased the worshippers from the Shekhina. Their practical taboo was theoretically completed by Freud.
must be granted that Robertson Smith and Freud have the merit of having
discerned the aggressive-cannibalistic aspect of the orgy.
Both aspects are united in the rituals who are said have been performed
by the Scopts. A scopsita, proclaimed to mother of God, was denudated on
an altar and kissed by the entire community.
When she gave birth to a child, it was killed eight days after birth.
The blood of this son of god was drunk during a communion and his dried
body was processed into cookies to celebrate the Eastern communion. Also
the followers of Satan are said to have eaten the corpses of babies in
the form of cookies. During such reversed totem meal, not the father is
eaten, but the son, as is becoming to Kronos.
PRAISE OF THE ORGY
orgy has still another advantage. We already described how not all
people are equally beautiful and how the formation of couples bereaves
the less beautiful from the delight in the most beautiful. It is true
that romantic love makes blind for such differences. But since romantic
love fluctuates, the delight in the beauty of other candidates may
sometimes bring solace and is in any case a better solution that
secretly taking another partner. Displaying one's beauty to the
community may, finally, relieve the guilt of having eclipsed the less
fortunate. Only in the orgy, not in the commune, is every ground for
Perhaps the universal hunger for the women of others, as it is apparent in the many forms of polygamy and promiscuity, will some time give way to the communal delight of all the lovers in each other's happiness. It is to be feared that many goblets will be filled with wine before it comes so far...
Footnotes will be added