A Note On Eros and Mystical Love Poetry
The mystical poetry of all major religions shares a common purpose and vocabulary of metaphors, and many of the metaphors are sexual.
I dare not criticize scholars more erudite than I, but it is wrong to use the word 'erotic' to describe this tradition of mystical love poetry.
Rumi uses 'wine' to represent a divine inebriation that has nothing to do with alcohol. In the same way, such poets use images of sexual love to describe a love that the senses can never grasp.
'Eros', from the Greek, refers to passion for an object. But divine love is passion for the subject, the eternal Self.
Thus Jesus uses another word for love, 'agape,' different from either 'eros' (erotic love) or 'philios' (family love).
The poems of Jnaneswar, Jayadev, Mirabai and Lala in India; Rumi, Hafiz, Rabia and such Sufi masters in Islam; St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila and the Christian mystics, are not erotic. They are beads of 'agape,' threaded on one golden string of symbolic language across centuries and continents.
The purpose of erotic literature is to arouse sensuality in the lower chakras; this is not bad or good, it's just what happens. But the purpose of mystical love poetry is to awaken the heart, a more refined energy.
Mystical love poetry cultivates inwardness; erotic poetry cultivates outwardness.
Eros engenders sensuality; mystical love engenders the delicate relationship of awareness with its Source.
Poems of mystical love unveil the naked beauty of the Beloved beyond touch, fragrance and sound. For we only know the Beloved through a transcendental fire, not a fire that burns, but a soul-centering flame.
Please do not let any scholar diminish the dignity of this holy tradition by telling you that the poetry of mystical love is 'erotic,' when it transcends the erotic as the moon transcends its reflection in a still forest pool.