Solitude and sexuality


“Sex is one of the chief causes of human solitude. Man is a sexual being, that is, half a being,(1) divided and incomplete, aspiring to be complete. Sex brings about a profound division of the ego, which is by nature bi-sexual, both male and female, androgynous. Thus man’s endeavor to overcome solitude through communion is primarily an endeavor to overcome the isolation caused by sex, to achieve reunion in sexual integrity. It’s very existence implies separation, want, longing, and the desire to identify oneself with another. But the physical union of the sexes, which puts an end to sexual desire, is not in itself sufficient to banish solitude.  Another result of sexual union may also help to precipitate the Ego into the objective world. Marriage and the family are its social consequences. As a biological and social phenomenon, sexuality is objective, and therefore incapable of completely allaying solitude.  The biological union of the sexes and the institution of the family may, indeed, to a certain degree allay and diminish the sense of solitude, but they are unable permanently to vanquish it. There is also a demonic element in the inhibitions as well as the manifestations of sex. This demonism makes sexuality a deadly and destructive thing. Love and friendship are man’s only hope of triumphing over solitude. Love is, indeed, the best way of achieving this end, for it brings the Ego in contact with the Other Self, with another Ego in which it is truly reflected. This is the communion of one personality with another… Only love can effect that complete fusion with another being which transcends solitude….Transcendence is the essence of love. Man is impelled towards it by his poignant sense of solitude in an ice-cold world of objects and by his need of communion with the Other Self. But such is the metaphysical mystery inherent in sexuality that even in the very height of passion, a love as overwhelming as that of Tristan and Iseult, fails to banish completely the sense of solitude and longing. A demonic element of hostility persists between the lovers…  the problem of solitude is most acutely felt in the sphere of sexuality.”

Nicholas Berdyaev, Solitude and Society

(1) The original Russian word for sex means both ‘sex’ and ‘half’.

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