the orgy

Chapter XI from 'The ecstasies of Eros'

Witches' Sabbath
Polygamy, promiscuity and the orgy
Orgy and feast
Three persons, one god
Die Geburt der Musik aus dem Geiste der Orgie
The resexualisation of the orgy
The taboo on the orgy
Praise of the orgy


In the course of the previous ten chapters we have described the unfolding of love. First, we carefully constructed the horizontal axis of sexual love. Then, we added the second, vertical axis of parental love. And, finally, we circumscribed this axis with the circle of communal love.

On a closer view, two opposed forces seem to be out at dissolving this figure. A first, centrifugal force, the vertical axis is dissolves and the horizontal axis is curved into the circumscribing circle . This is the story of the sexual orgy, to which this eleventh chapter is devoted.

We saw a similar centrifugal force at work in the previous chapter. There, we described how the horizontal axis was dissolved and how the vertical axis was curved into the circumscribing outer circle: the community of the spiritual fathers, as the counterpart of the orgy. In the last chapter we will see how, under the influence of a centripetal force, the cross and the circle are condensed into a single central point: the incest.


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.

From all places and all times, there are records of regular collective and public orgies on occasion of religious feasts, mostly in honour of fertility gods, not only with primitive tribes, but also with higher civilisations, not only in the aristocratic upper layers, but also with the peasants. Next, there are also more secluded orgies performed by members of all kinds of sects. Best known is the 'Witches' Sabbath' or the 'Black Mass', during which a priest, as the representative of Satan, had intercourse with the attendants of the ceremony and incited them to have intercourse with each other. Finally, there are the purely secular orgies, not only among the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, but also in the broader layers of the population. Suffice it to refer to the orgies of the Borgias. After an abundant dinner, Pope Alexander VI summoned whores to unveil their beauty. He promised a prize for those who would achieve the largest number of orgasms. Also one-night-stands are often part of countless orgies. Let us also remind of the countless masturbation orgies in boarding schools and the widespread phenomenon of group rape during war. And, last but not least: in cafés and bars all over the world, there have always been mini-orgies of all degrees under the influence of alcohol.


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.

Finally, the orgy is often cherished in literature, especially in the Eastern, as in the stories of 1001 Nights with which we began this chapter. In the West, de Sade excelled in imagining the most crazy orgies. Let us also refer to Les Chansons de Bilitis of Pierre Lou˙s, the orgies with whores in Miller and those of Hesse (Steppenwolf).

In painting, there is the theme of the Bacchantes, nymphs pursued by fauns and satyrs, and that of the feasts like those Rubens and Delacroix (Sardanapale)


How have we to understand the orgy?

A first series of authors understands the orgy from its legitimations. It would promote the fertility of nature or the community. To phrase it with Maffesoli: 'The orgy is a condensation of the sympathetic harmony with the cosmos and the others.'

Other authors regard the orgy as a temporary lifting of the repression on sexuality. Whereas, with promiscuity, the accent is on the forbidden fruit, with the orgy, the accent is on the internal pressure on the kettle. There are those who stress the release of forbidden sexual activities: exhibitionism, voyeurism, anal and oro-genital intercourse and sadomasochism. There are those who stress the removal of the repressive social patterns within which sexuality is canalised. Some think of the quantitative limitations imposed by monogamy or polygamy in favour of intercourse with the entire community. Others think rather of the replacement of imposed heterosexual partners with partners of the same sex, of another age or of another species, or, finally of the rejection of the legal partner(s) as such.

All these explanations presuppose that sexuality is curtailed by all kinds of regulations. They conceive of the orgy as of a kind of valve to release the tension in the kettle. They thereby overlook the fact that an orgy does not at all imply that the activity or the social pattern is forbidden. An orgy might as well consist of the performance of permitted sexual intercourse (think of Fourier) within a sanctioned social frame like a commune, a harem, or a series of monogamous couples. Conversely, tabooed activities or tabooed relations might as well be performed in isolation or within the frame of permitted relations.


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. The 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.

Also Freud was a victim to this confusion. We already mentioned how he interpreted the orgy as a regression to a former state of sexual relations, when romantic love had not yet emerged and when sexual partners were considered interchangeable. In the same primeval times, Freud also situates the patriarchal hordes. Although there is no description where the sexual intercourse of the primeval father with his wives is said to be orgiastic, orgy and polygyny of the primeval father are closely interconnected in the eyes of Freud.

The confusion between orgy and polygamy survives in the twentieth century. Havelock Ellis holds that the countless yearly sexual orgies are a remainder of the yearly rut, which has disappeared with civilised men as a consequence of domestication. Alberoni conceives of the orgy as of a form of society in which an temporary erotic communism is realised. Margulis describes the polygamy of homo erectus as one great celebration of love in which nobody belonged to nobody. She goes so far as to proclaim the orgy in the beginnings of human history as a remainder of the orgy in the beginnings of evolution as such: the continual orgasm of division of viruses! 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.


The silent confusion of polygamy and the orgy is caused by a remarkable error. The orgy and polygamy have in common that there are more than two individuals involved. But there are two temporal differences. Polygamy is a relation between several partners that has to be measured in months or years, whereas the orgy is a feast that has to be measured in hours or minutes, a once-only event, although it can be repeated cyclically. This first difference reveals a second one. Whereas with the orgy all the partners are sexually active at the same time and in each other's presence, polygamous partners meet each other in couples, each in their own turn. The same goes for the assimilation of promiscuity and the orgy. Although in some forms of the orgy, the partners are exchanged rapidly, we should not forget that the don Juans do not gather after their conquests to make love together, let alone to share their conquest. They rather prefer to consume their snack within the confinement of their own private alcove.

To better grasp the difference between polygamy/promiscuity and the orgy, we should remember that, in the orgy, shame, that normally leads to isolation, is lifted. With usual sexual intercourse, the partners withdraw in isolation to share their orgasm. With the orgy, the partners rather join in public with the explicit intention to make love in each other's presence, like the primeval men of Vico and Bachofen. 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).

It turns out that the orgy is merely a particular form of the feast. What makes a feast into a feast is in the first place that people enjoy together. The nature of the enjoyed activity is neutral in principle. Just like a banquet is not organised to still hunger, an orgy is not organised to satisfy sexual needs. That is already apparent from the fact that the Romans used to go vomiting between the courses of their banquets, or in that thirst is artificially elicited by alcohol. The same goes for games and sports. The players challenge each other and that elicits the desire to win. Just like a banquet uses hunger, a drinking bout thirst, games and sport the desire to win, just so does the orgy use sexual desire. All the theories that understand the feast in general or the orgy in particular in terms of pressure in the kettle, fail in that they understand these activities in terms of the activity, rather then in terms of the simultaneity of its the performance. They remain blind for what transforms eating into a feast, and lovemaking into an orgy, and therewith for the common essence of all feasts, that transcends the binding activity. The feast is not a question of sexuality, 'gastricity', 'ludicity' or of what have you, but rather of identity - in the ideal case of simultaneity. The 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 marriage), 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.

Whoever wants to write the evolution of love, should better not concentrate on copulation. Already since Haeckel, however, countless authors begin the history of love with the union of sperm and egg. Haeckel talks of 'chemical erotropy' between egg and sperm. Bölsche opposes the fusional love between egg and sperm and the 'distance love' of higher organisms, that have to resort to copulation: 'vom Zell-Leib zur Zell-Liebe'. Mantegazza even traces the origin of love back to the attraction between atoms. Bloch describes how also animals that have no genitalia experience pleasure in the moment of fertilisation and refers with no further problems to the 'orgasms of fusing primeval cells'. Also Freud and Ferenczi see the libido sexualis already at work with the primeval cells, that are split for some mysterious reason. The scheme survives with Margulis, who talks of the 'orgasmic' scission of viruses. The confusion of morphology and function also leads to a mistaken understanding of the orgy. Misled by morphological similarities, many authors fail to discern the orgy from the sexual bond. Through overlooking the function, they miss the insight that the orgy is only one of the many forms of the feast.

DIE GEBURT DER MUSIK AUS DEM GEISTE DER ORGIE 'Now every man feels himself united with his neighbour, reconciled and fused together (...).
Singing and dancing, man expresses himself as a member of a higher unity.
He has forgotten how to walk and talk and is on the verge of flying up into the air as he dances.'
Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik, 1871.

On 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.

A first series of orgies consists of making love together. As far as the coitus is concerned - penis in vagina - only a pair can be formed. A larger formation can only be achieved by adding several couples. One woman can make love to several men, one after another, or one man can make love to several women, one after another. In both cases, the simultaneity - the core of the communal experience - is weakened. Just like with one-sided polygamy, a number or males or a number of females are temporarily excluded. 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 masturbate communally.

In all these cases, the gain in simultaneity is paid by a loss in communal feeling. Not all the partners can perceive each other's orgasm genitally, tactilly or orally. That is only possible when they look at each other and display themselves to each other, but then, the orgasm loses in intensity. Whoever wants to avoid such splitting, will have to alternate between being a spectator and being a performer. The community is then divided in spectators who enjoy seeing, but have no orgasms, and performers who have an orgasm, but cannot visually share it. This conflict can only be solved through replacing the orgasm with the shared delight in communally contemplating a lovemaking couple. The orgasmic community is thereby transformed into a voyeuristic community: voyeurs who delight no longer in beauty, but in contemplating orgasm. The subordination of the coitus under the orgy thus results in a new combination of two elements of the sexual chain.

The incommensurability of genital intercourse and the orgy is heightened in that orgasm satiates sexual desire, foremost with men, but also with women. The resort to sexuality has the same inconvenience as the resort to eating: just like the orgy in orgasm, the banquet finds its end in satiation. Only here does it apply that men feel disappointed after the coitus, like in the saying 'post coitum animal triste'. In the orgy, love cannot find a new expression through switching to another register, like when lovemaking is continued in cooperation. The orgy has to last, for hours, for days, eternally! No wonder that, with Taoist or tantric orgies, the participants resort to coitus reservatus. No wonder also that, during modern orgies, it is mostly women who continue to be sexually active, while men are soon reduced to mere onlookers. 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.

A further step away from orgasm is the voyeuristic orgy. The most common variant is that one women unveils herself before the eyes of many men, or the other way round. Only Fourier mentions this variant of the orgy and calls it 'l'orgie de musée' that does not provide the pleasure of having, but only of seeing'. In his ideal society, the most beautiful women and the most beautiful men will display their beauty regularly before the community after the example of statues in a museum. Another popular variant is when men and women voyeuristically enjoy each other's beauty and exhibitionistically display their beauty before each other: the kind of collective exhibitionism/voyeurism that is performed in various degrees of nudity on (nude) beaches, baths and saunas, in dancings, in operas and churches, on promenades, during parties and receptions, and what have you. The nude beaches on the Mediterranean are the cult places par excellence of this ritual .

Also in this second, optical form of the perverse orgy, the collision between sexual and communal love is repeated. Looking and displaying go hand in hand, the one elicits the other. The lover that displays herself for her beloved, does so not only to have him looking at her, but also to have him display his own beauty for her. Eyes can only look at one partner at a time. That is why such reciprocal voyeurism/exhibitionism can only be performed by a couple. The confinement within the frame of the couple is also a consequence of the fact that not all the lovers are equally desirable. Many men admire the most beautiful woman, and conversely. But the chosen one only admires his or her chosen counterpart. As a couple, they withdraw from the community.

Only abandoning reciprocity can overcome the restrictions of the couple and enables the formation of a community. Only the chosen one, who only displays her beauty without looking herself, can be admired by a large mass that does not display its beauty, but only admires. But a new problem arises also here. All are united in that they are admiring, but they are not looking at each others looking. The community itself is not perceived. That problem can be solved through the intervention of the audible: applause, whistling, comments during the performance, through which the voyeurs feel united. The comparison with the activity in the amphitheatres and shadow theatres, as described in our chapter on 'The beautiful Woman' is misleading. The difference lies in the fact that the orgiastic exhibition is not intended as seduction: the intention is not to proceed to copulation. Compensation may be found in a particular variant of this ritual, where the participants look at one single woman who is approached by a group of men.

In another version, all the participants display each other's beauty to each other, so that all can equally admire each other's beauty. This is only possible when all the exhibitionistic movements are synchronised through music. Since all the partners synchronise their movements, the partners become exchangeable. Also here, the accent shifts from erotic display to synchronised movement. The 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.

The only way to escape such desexualising is rhythmic synchronisation of the audible erotic appearance. The audible erotic appearance has been symbolised in figures like the Lorelei or the Sirens. When it comes to the audible erotic appearance, theoreticians seem to have wax in their ears, just like Odysseus. In most theories, its description fails. Exceptions are Darwin, who descried in the mating call the origin of music, Mantegazza, and alsoBinet, who refers to opera singers. This neglect is all the more deplorable, since the importance of the audible appearance cannot but be underestimated. Not for nothing did many hetaeres master the art of singing. Also the nineteenth century West, the opera singer - the divine diva - knew how to provide her public an eargasm, that more than eclipsed the effect of her equally appreciated colleague in the theatre. The reason is that the ear, although it is a distance sense, causes pleasure in the ear itself, otherwise than the eye, The 'audible body' of man is not an object situatedbefore our eyes, like visual appearance. It has rather something of an aura in a vibrating ether, that also moves us as ear and aura. What displaying and admiring are on the visual plane, is echoing on the auditory plane. Lovers (not otherwise that parents and children) develop a remarkable kind of 'grooming talk' full of echoes. In polyphony, this erotic play is elevated to heavenly heights. The development of polyphonic and harmonic music in the West, is the auditory counterpart of the high flight of the visual arts. Only in the such singing together does the orgy celebrate its highest expression. Rhythmical coordination, simultaneity, and what is coordinated - sexuality - belong to one and the same audible medium. This medium continues to exert is erotic effect. It is not desexualised. That is why the vocal or instrumental 'symphony' goes often hand in hand with a deep feeling of being submerged in the mystic organism of the group as a collective soul. Precisely because the audible appearance of music is seldom experienced as such, this highest form of the orgy could know such a high flight in the West. Its bloom began of all places in the Christian churches. Only later were built concert halls and opera houses. Only now does it become clear why in the Christian heaven, the sexual orgy had to leave room for visual contemplation. It is not by accident that the orgy is often described in musical metaphors: in Fourier's ideal commune Harmony, the couples unite in 'quartets, sextets or octets', yes even 'orchestras of passion'.

From a social point of view, also the auditory orgy can be realised in several versions: only men, only women, men and women together. Similar combinations are easily recognised in instrumental music. Of course, the combination of male and female voices has the highest sexual freight. It becomes irresistible when one melody, sung by one woman, is accompanied by male voices: the beautiful woman, on the stage of a - this time auditory - amphitheatre! Not for nothing are the lower female voices often replaced with higher male voices. And not without reason did polyphonic music evolve into homophonic music, where one high voice is embedded in the condensed polyphony of chords.

When we overlook this development, we see that sexuality undergoes two morphological transformations when it is functionally subordinated under the primacy of simultaneity. In a first move, sexuality is released from its subordination under the primate of genitality. It thereby falls apart in separate elements. Orgy and orgasm turn out to be rather incompatible. In a second move, sexual behaviour is desexualised into a performance that has to be contemplated visually or a gesture that has to be synchronised audibly. That is why the most repulsive version of the orgy is far less popular than the fare more attractive unveiling, or the universally approved dance. With this last variant, alcohol should not fail. It stirs desire, but makes impotent, as is becoming to the orgy. Dionysos is the God of the orgiastic ecstasy, not of the orgasm. Only music enables the condensation of the most perverse extreme of sexuality and the metrical simultaneity of the community. Unveiling, dance and music: all this is condensed in Richard Strauss' 'Salomé's dance', the orgiastic counterpart of Wagner's orgasmic 'Isoldes Liebestod'. 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.


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. The 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.

In the resexualisation of the orgy lies the objective basis of both theoretical misconceptions of the orgy: the concept of the orgy an form of marriage, and the interpretation of the orgy as a safety valve for what has been caged in the monogamous prison.

The ambivalence of the resexualised orgy explains the countless procedures that initiate and conclude it, which are absent in other forms of the feast. Through alcohol, drugs, music, or procedures like poker, the transition form couple to community and from orgasmic to orgiastic commerce is facilitated. More difficult to handle is the return from the orgy to the normal sexual relation. A wife or a husband who made love during an orgy, have been unfaithful. But the one cannot reproach the other of what he did himself. Acquaintance with the communal partners can spoil the fun. Not by accident are most orgies performed in darkness or with masks, are the partners allocated by chance, or do the males resort to whores. Through the resexualisation of the orgy, communal love on the circumference of the circle implodes to the horizontal axis of sexual love, that previously was curved to a circle. The intervention of sexuality swallows the vertical axis of time, which otherwise assigned the lovers their place in the succession of the generations. That is why the resexualised orgy is a matter of adolescents. The children and the aged are excluded.


In 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 promiscuity.

Only to such orgy is the aversion of the loving couple legitimated. Many are those who try to break free of the confinement of compulsory monogamy through indulgence in the orgy. Their fervour finds its counterpart in the aversion of lovers of the in their eyes debasing orgiastic commerce. This only strengthens the propensity of the loving couple to withdraw from the community and to isolate itself. That the loving couples comes to oppose the community, has everything to do with the hostility of the community to the loving couple. Sexual love would only be reconcilable with communal love, when everybody would be in love and remain so. Here lie the roots of a natural taboo on the orgy. And this taboo, just like the taboo on polygamy/promiscuity and the incest, is imposed by monogamous love itself. To 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.

Such spontaneous taboo is evident from the way in which the orgy is often projected on enemies or in primeval times. It should be clearly discerned from the ascetic taboo on all things sexual. The orgy has often been forbidden; the cult of Bacchus has been forbidden by the Roman senate in. The Christian Church used the Inquisition to eradicate the 'Witches' Sabbath'. Missionaries tried to eradicate the orgy among the 'heathen' primitive people. The same attitude is to be found with the other world religions: suffices it to refer to the attitude of the Hindus towards tantra, that is therefore often performed in secret gatherings, and to the attitude of the Jews, which will be further studied below.


We proposed to discern the sexual orgy from other feasts. Also these other feast are often called 'orgies', especially when they are experienced intensely. In that sense, the orgy seems to be the paradigm of the feast. Only through borrowing from sexuality (especially from sexual arousal, like with dancing), doing something together seems to become intense enough, to provoke the experience of unity in a mystical body. The communion of sexual arousal is the primeval form of the communal experience. 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. It 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.


Especially with the communion of sexual arousal, the orgy has the advantage that it also affirms sexuality. It thus erects a strong dam against every endeavour to ban it from our lives. It enterains the arousability and is the most appropriate means to break the spell of work and the subordination under the castrating society. That, the orgy has in common with romantic love, that other keeper of love. The 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 jealousy removed.

For the orgy to fulfil this wholesome mission, it should clearly be outspoken that the orgy is in the first place a communal bond, and not a sexual one. Only then can the resexualisation be scorned. Only then can the orgy be saved as the paradigmic consecration of sexual and communal love, and as the hinge that joins couple and community. Bachofen's saying 'Not to wither away in the arms of an individual has women been adorned with all her charms' finds its truth in an orgiastic context. It suffices that all restrict themselves to the shared delight in audible or visual beauty, or to the charms of touching, and that all resign from appropriating their communal partner for private consumption. Only then can the exhibitionistic-voyeuristic orgy fulfil its true task: to cultivate beauty to the benefit of all. 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...

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