Passionate Attraction

By the Society for Moorish Research

A very ancient mystical idea, which is of interest to those pursuing an ‘anthropological reading’ of religion is what Charles Fourier (1772-1837) called ‘passionate attraction’. For Fourier, human desires were divinely inspired, and the realised desires of human beings co-operating in affinity groups, or ‘series’ would come into harmony, forming a ‘perfected soul’ (âme integrale). Fourier’s psychology of the passions is complex, drawing on neo-Platonic and Gnostic ideas as well as his own mystical mathematics. Similar ideas as to the inner harmony of human desires, or which understand desire as the divine motive power of the universe, can be found in modern Quakerism and the sufi Master Ibn Arabi as well as in the post-structuralist 1970’s French Philosopher Giles Deleuze (and his ‘desiring machines’).

Charles Fourier has three key passions in his complex Utopian system, alongside the five senses – firstly the Cabalist passion for scheming, rivalry and combining with others in intricate intrigues. This emphasises the ludic nature of Fourier’s ideas. Secondly the beautifully-named Butterfly passion, which reflects the human need for variety – Fourier’s utopia is so organised that one is constantly moving between different series and different activities which may be productive or simply playful, but always have an aesthetic quality. This conception of human beings is the likely source of Marx’s famous ‘hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, art criticism in the evening’ remark in the German Ideology. Fittingly, his Composite passion is fulfilled bycombining together different experiences of the senses simultaneously – a practice revisited seventy or so years later by avant-garde movements such as the Futurists. Fourier is sometimes (probably rather ambitiously) cited as a precursor to Freud, in that he allows that human passions may be distorted in the current state of Civilisation (free-market Capitalism in it’s early 19th Century ‘heroic’ phase). So, a desire to harm others is the repressed or distorted form of a desire which requires a higher form of society — based on ‘serial’ organisation – to flourish.

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