Then again for as long as humans have walked the earth we have tried to define love and make sense of why love is so essential to us even though we can’t really put our finger on how or why.
All we now is that love is addictive like a drug, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love.
But we also know that love drives us all a little mad, love makes us do crazy things. Love makes introverts extrovert and extroverts introvert, love makes shy people sing and love can cause any one to do the most extraordinary and outlandish things.
“Love is insanity”
From the day we turn on our first Disney flick we are taught that there is something called true love, and if Disney are to be believed: “True love’s kiss” is the most potent magic ever conjured up by mankind.
But there is something else that the idea of true love conveys, leaving behind the childish notion of “one true love”, no the idea of true love tells us that there is such a thing as false love.
C.S. Lewis calls this need-love and give-love, the distinction being that need-love is a love that is given only because we need love, give-love on the other hand is given simply as is with no expectation of a returned love, or need for it.
When we say that god is love, this is what we mean, god who loves, unconditionally and without either restraint or limit. This is true love and so true love is more than a feeling and more than a decision and even more than an action, true love is an elevated state, it is being. But true love is not just being it is BEING, as in the ultimate being.
Now C.S. Lewis is quick to warn us that while god is love, love is not god because, Lewis says, when love is made god it turns perverted and demonic. I am not sure I agree, but I do know that need-love or ego-love as I prefer to call it when elevated to godhood turns a diabolical tyrant.
We all have traces of ego-love, but we must understand that ego-love is also a love and the true-love can be thought to build on top of it or, maybe its better if I put it this way, once ego love grows and transcends the boundary of ego it transmutes into true love. Now, here is the secret of expanding ego-love. Ego-love thinks that it grows by gripping tighter, by contracting and becoming more and more focussed and narrow, this is of course not true. The more exclusive and narrowly focussed ego-love gets, the more it suffocates the flame and eventually it will snuff it out. Ego-love expands and grows only by relaxing and letting go, by allowing air, space and freedom by transmuting need into free gift. This of course feels like death to the ego and therefore the ego will kick and scream and give you hell every step of the way.
The stages of love
So in our traditions holy scriptures we have a few very descriptions of love, in the Old Testament we have Dod, Ahava and Raya. In the New testament we have Eros, Storge & Phileo and Agape.
I am thinking that these different words for love embodies different stages, resonances or harmonies of love. I think maybe I need to already at the outset say that while this maps out a progression, an expansion of love it does not mean that any expression or stage of love is better or more loving than any other. I know at times it may sound like this and, I know I am at risk of contradicting myself, but I want to make it clear that love is love no matter how high or low the vibration.
First stage love
So let us travel this wave of love. We are human and at the start of the spectrum we find the flame of physical love, this is Eros or Dod. This vibration is part of both the biology and chemistry of the body. This is touch and feeling. This is pure and raw sexual energy.
While for us this feels like the strongest fire, a roaring flame, this is because it moves and is felt in the body, on our skin, in our muscles. It is also often the kind of love we are least comfortable with. This because we are conditioned to feel shame around this. We feel it all the same because eros is such a strong current that it completely overwhelms our senses and can therefore sometime even override the brain and our carefully constructed thought structures.
But because this vibration is bound in the body, so while it may be the strongest fire it is also the most contracted or perhaps restricted of the loves.
When Eros is in the infant state or ego state, it is a consuming fire that demands satisfaction. Not only is it need-love it can easily be characterised as GIVE-ME-love. it is desire that demands instant gratification and satisfaction. The hyper sexualisation of our society feeds on the infantile, ego driven aspect of eros.
When allowed to expand and grow eros by sheer vital force offers us a short cut to the divine. When we can allow eros freedom, space and expansion the roaring fire of eros will shoot the energies skyward, it will put us on an express elevator to the highest and most refined vibrations of love. We can make this expansion happen by practicing intense presence and awareness when we are physically connected or when we feel strong desire and then when we are totally ‘there’ we can ride this desire all the way to heaven. It also happens by transforming the need or desire to receive to become the need or desire to give. When eros is freed from the ego and given without demand or expectation it expands rapidly and takes us with it.
I think this is why the song urges us:
“Eat, friends, drink,
and be drunk with love.” (Song of Songs 5.1)
Second stage love
As we journey on we find that as we climb the foothills of the mountain of love we have settlements. Here we find both Storge (affection), Phileo (friendship) and ahava (commitment) This is love of the heart but tempered and ruled by the borders of the mind.
We categorise our love into acquaintances, friends, family and we feel stronger or weaker affection depending on the connection. The flame of ahava is a much cooler but also a much more steady flame, it will keep us out of the dark and carry us safely along our journey. C.S. Lewis actually states that 9/10ths of all our joy in life is given us through Storge the warm affection we feel for our fellow humans.
Most of us live our entire life between eros, storge and phileo and we sort all our relations in these three categories. We use different labels of relation to organise, control and contract eros and storge by use of phileo, ahava and raya (friendship, commitment, companionship). When in the infant stage or ego stage this friendship and commitment comes with a long list of expectations and demands.
I’ll be friends with you as long as I am your best friend and you spend the most time with me. I’ll commit my life to you and I will follow you, as long as you commit the same to me. If I am to love you, you must first promise to love me and actually come to think of it, I want you to love only me.
These harmonies of love, friendship and marriage especially are socially constructed, they are loves of the mind and will and when in ego states they can be very harsh and demanding. But as social contracts they are also tempered with give and take attitude, it may be need-love but it also gives.
It is in this we play out all our little relational dramas, it is here we label each other and put shackles on one another. We do it all in the name of love, though our love has yet to mature grow up and show us that we knew nothing at all about true-love.
These social or mind loves can be more or less infused with heart, when they are they expand naturally, the more heart we pour in the more we realise that the labels and the rules of the mind are inadequate to capture the beauty and the subtlety of our love and so as ego-love gives up control, expectations and demands. When we can commit to another without demanding commitment back, when we realise that our best way of loving someone is to release them into the biggest freedom we can imagine, that’s when this harmony is transmuted from ego-love to true love.
Third stage love
So moving on from the ordered settlements in the foothills we are now reaching soaring heights, the highest vibration of love, agape or simply god. This third stage of love is the unconditional love, the unlimited, unrestricted love given without discrimination and expectation.
This true-love or god-love is the source of all, it is where we come from, it is the core of our being, it is what connects you and me and everyone else in the divine.
Agape or unconditional, divine love does not discriminate, it does not hold back, it gives freely to the deserving and undeserving alike. It is an ever flowing river of love poured into our tiny cups that consequently overflow the second we step into its currents.
When we enter into agape love it is no longer we who are loving but we are love, we have accessed that inner connection with the divine and with the other and we simply are. It cannot be held back or constricted. However there is an ego version of this love but it is all together counterfeit. On the ego-level it is portrayed by prayers for world peace or a fight to end world hunger, it is the ego-expressing all encompassing love by lumping people together in groups and wishing well-fare and well being upon them….. ‘heal the world’
However this ego-conterfeit never exists on the personal level it is always impersonal. it is always directed over there. I think this counterfeit is what James is getting at when he says you cannot love god and hate your brother. While agape blurs out all boundaries and transgress every social construction and while it also acts as the quantum force that holds us together as a people, as a planet, as a universe it also interacts on the most personal and intimate level. it liberates, sanctifies and heals both the giver and receiver. in fact as it blurs out the boundaries there is no more giving or receiving there is just being.
This agape is the initial aim of all the other loves, it is the goal and reach of them. It is the lure of all existence. All pleasure, all longing, all desire, all beauty points towards divine love. it is the origin of all and the final destination of all.
To live in love
So what do we do with this? How do we reach this final destination? How do we partake in divine-love?
I am glad you asked!
To start with we must affirm and allow for love in all it’s harmonies to be a part of our every day lives. We must nurture and mature our love, by practicing to bring awareness, focus to our love, by being present to it and to relax in it. We must practice letting go and expanding love, to give and give more freely, to give without expectation or condition. We must cultivate affection, generosity, fondness, friendship, companionship, desire. We must embrace more, kiss more make love more. And do so consciously with awareness and without holding anything back, without hiding who we are or what we are.
Be foolishly in love because love is all there is! (Rumi)
But hey wait a minute, will we not miss the point if we love each other so? Will we not make idols of each other and by that loose sight of god?
NO, WE WILL NOT!
When we love wholeheartedly, with an elevated mature love, that love is god. Since god lives in me and god lives in you when we embrace it is god embracing god and divine love flowing freely being realeased into our midst. Gos is love and divine love is god moving, being and manifesting.
When we can embody or incarnate such a love we will truly walk like the Nasarene and wherever we go the kingdom of god will be made manifest. It will turn all our concepts of proper and socially accepted upside down, it will be death for the ego and mortally uncomfortable for those who cling to it. It will bring ridicule and hatred from those who are consciously disconnecting from divine love or those trapped in ego-love. But it will empower us and set us free, it will be divine!