The perception of falling in love is but one expression, however of a broader kind, of perception. This higher way of seeing is the path of Ecstasy. Ecstasy, from the Greek word ex-stasis, means “to move beyond stasis,” that is “beyond the apparently solid, into motion, movement, and life itself.” Its Latin root ex-stare means to stand outside yourself. To say I’m ecstatic is to say “I am beside myself. I am overwhelmed by intense experience. The veils of my illusions have been pierced and something essential touched.
Ecstasy is the highest perception of love. Ecstasy is modeled in the raptures of sexuality, but expresses itself in every facet of being as well. Ecstatic dance, music, exercise, study or work are all an essential part of what we need to be, both nurtured and wise in the world. The defining feature of ecstasy is that we touch a place of union where the walls have come down. In falling in love we touch it in the experience of intimacy. We have defined intimacy as shared identity. It is precisely this expansion of self which is ecstatic. The move from I to We is the greatest joy of a human life.
The circle expands however beyond the We of intimate relationship, beyond even the We of community. Ecstasy is the erotic place where we touch most clearly what the Hindu Upanishads call tat tvam asi, “That art thou …and thou are that.” Hebrew mystics called it Hitpaalut- radical amazement at wonder of being. In Hitpaalut you feel like you are enmeshed in the fabric of being – all loneliness and alienation are overcome – not the salve of relationship which can never fully ful-fill you, but a much more profound sense of being at home. A beautiful quote from the Chandogya Upanishad:
“This my spirit within my heart
is greater than the earth, greater than the sky,
greater than the heavens, greater than all worlds.
The all-working, all-wishing, all-smelling, all-tasting one,
that embraces the universe, that is silent, untroubled –
that is the spirit within my heart, that is Brahman.
There unto, when I go hence, shall I attain.
Who knoweth this, he… hath no more doubts.”
The Erotic and the Holy