Why did Hieronymus Bosch include, among the countless characters in his Garden of Earthly Delights, only naked bodies? There is only one exception, in the so-called cave of Pythagoras, while there are more than a hundred characters in the educational province alone.

Bosch certainly did not intend to shock the viewer. The nudity, like the expression of the faces, here expresses an almost infantile innocence, without a shadow of lewdness or perversion. It obviously reflects an intention. The painter necessarily played on the resonance it could have in the mind of the viewer.

The human being presented unvarnished evokes his position before the Creator. The naked body also brings to mind the romantic relationship, which is preferably practiced in close contact between bodies. The absence of clothing reminds us of an original state, a lost paradise before the Fall. The main message could be more aptly that of the innocence necessary for the flourishing of sacred Eros.

Before asking ourselves the question: “Why only nudes? “, let’s ask ourselves the complementary question: “Why do we dress? “. The temperature of our regions could explain this in winter, but we feel terribly embarrassed at the idea of showing up naked even in the hottest weather. Nudity even served as a punishment, for example when the adulterous woman was dragged before everyone’s eyes. Is such an attitude a matter of culture, or should it be attributed to human nature?

We see that the young child does not think of hiding his body, it is necessary to impose on him the reflexes of dressing through education. He most often defends himself against restrictive measures and seems to need to discover his body and that of others. Then comes an age where discomfort appears, particularly after puberty. We must therefore ask ourselves where this discomfort comes from and if it is universal. The fact that certain primitive peoples escape it only reinforces the question, because the spectacle of their innocence proves to us that it can be otherwise. We cannot therefore neglect the hypothesis according to which the discomfort that we feel viscerally does not necessarily belong to human nature and, therefore, that it comes from a cause that must be determined.

The question then takes this form: why do we experience such a feeling of shame in relation to nudity?

A (bad) sociologist will answer us that the concealment of private parts is a social norm, and that any deviation from the norm leads to a feeling of guilt. The explanation is not convincing, because the shame felt does not fit with a simple feeling of social guilt. It has more to do with a visceral fear of being seen or desired, and a diffuse awareness that this could open the way to something dangerous or destructive.

This is where the thesis of sacred Eros allows us to provide a fundamental answer. When we know the transcendent purpose of sexuality and appreciate its importance, we understand the existence of both unconscious fear and a feeling of guilt.

In the ordinary context, sexuality is very generally perceived and practiced far from the criteria of sacred Eros. Its unconscious resonance is rightly that of a degraded and potentially degrading activity, regardless of the guilt that may be added to it. Awakening in others, through the exposure of the sexual organs, impulses whose degraded and degrading character we a priori sense, with all the consequences that this could have on an existential level, automatically triggers feelings of fear and guilt.

It thus appears that a feeling of sexual shame tends to take hold in any society marked by the failure of sacred Eros. Over time, this can result in a norm requiring people to hide parts of the body that evoke sexuality. However, such a norm is felt, here also unconsciously, as an unnatural situation, which can induce in certain individuals a protest of unconscious origin calling for transgression. Exhibitionism thus appears to be a reaction of unconscious origin against a clothing obligation perceived as unnatural.

It is possible that the nudity displayed by the characters in The Garden of Earthly Delights has a function of this type. It would serve as a provocation, protesting against the general degradation of sexuality expressed by clothing practices. It also serves as a testimony to the disappearance of feelings of bodily shame which occurs during the rehabilitation of sacred Eros.

To which can be added an educational intention aimed at raising awareness of the need for an attitude of innocence essential to this subtle form of love.