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VIII. The Discourse of Aristophanes: 189 C-193 D.

Prologue: Men have failed to pay due honour to Eros, the most “philanthropic” of gods, who blesses us by his healing power, as I shall show.

a Man's original nature was different from what it now is. It had three sexes—male, female, androgynous; all globular in shape and with double limbs and organs; derived respectively from sun, earth and moon.

b Man's woes were due to the pride of these primal men which stirred them to attempt to carry Heaven by assault. In punishment Zeus sliced them each in two, and then handed them to Apollo to stitch up their wounds. But, because they then kept dying of hunger, owing to the yearning of each for his other-half, Zeus devised for them the present mode of reproduction, altering the position of the sexorgans accordingly. Thus Eros aims at restoring the primal unity and healing the cleft in man's nature.

c Each of us is a split-half of an original male, female, or androgynon; and the other-halves we seek in love are determined accordingly. Courage is the mark of boy-loving men and of man-loving boys, as both derived from the primal male. In the intense passion of Eros it is not merely sexual intercourse that is sought but a permanent fusing into one (as by the brazing of an Hephaestus); for Love is “the pursuit of wholeness.

d As it was impiety that caused our “dioikismos” and bisection, so in piety towards the god Eros lies the hope of meeting with our proper halves and regaining our pristine wholeness.

Epilogue: Let us, then, laud Eros as the giver both of present blessings and of bright hopes of healing and restoration in the future.

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