“The Cycle of Eros”: Speech By Eleni Tagonidi-Maniataki At The Benaki Museum

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Thursday 12 February 2009, accepting the invitation by the Friends of the Benaki Museum, the Vice-President of the Maniatakeion Foundation, Eleni Tagonidi-Maniataki, delivered a speech entitled “The cycle of Eros” at the Benaki Museum.

The speaker approached Eros [=love], the son of Poros and Penia, not as a strong emotion, but as a powerful entity, acting as a source of inspiration and creativity. She reported that “... together with Chaos and the Earth, Eros is among the first elements of the world. While he does not create, he is the foundation of creation. He is creation itself, its manifestation, the arrival of light and the allure thereof. Beyond the erotic meeting of two heterosexual beings, he is the desire for the gestation and euphoria for the best elements within us and the most beautiful element in nature.”

She mentioned many ancient philosophers, but focused on Plato’s Symposium and spoke of Diotima, Socrates’ controversial heroine, the catechist and philosopher. It was she who initiated him in the mystery of Eros. Diotima represented the “super-logical” element; that of human consciousness governed by a metaphysical dimension. According to Diotima, love, at first, is a basic instinct. It is the libido a person feels aroused by another. It is the strong desire to seek happiness, which starts from sensual pleasure and culminates with immortality.

She then discussed the union of man and woman, which exalts them beyond the visible form of phenomena and penetrates the core of balance and harmony, to the depths of the human soul and spirit. She stressed, however, that there can be no pure creativity when the mind is trapped solely in its desire and satisfaction. The basic conditions of love are free individuality and voluntary choice. Then, the spirit transcends the flesh.

In conclusion, she said that “Love is creation and creation is life. Not only as an act of life but of philosophy as well. Conscious thought and creation are those elements that allow us to visualize a glimpse of the infinity of the divine. Eros, as a proclivity to bliss and perfection, activates the creative powers of humans.”

She ended her speech with the wish of the ancient poet Zopyros: “ May none of my friends leave without tasting love. May they welcome it wherever they encounter it”. Μηδείς άπειρος των εμών είη φίλων έρωτος . Ευτυχών δε τον θεόν λάβοι».)