“Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’”
– Gospel of Matthew chapter 22, verses 37-39
I was recently asked to write a blog about Love. While I have certainly “paid lip service” to Love as being one of the three fundamental principles of Creation (i.e. Light, Life and Love), my writing has tended to be more focused on Truth, Logic, Reason, with a morality based on the principles of Light and Life, but the “Love” aspect can get a bit overlooked. The problem with Love is that it is not something that can be intellectualized or completely comprehended with the powers of Logic and Reason. This can make it hard for those of us who are incredibly “cerebral” to get a good grasp on it. The force of Love is primarily understood through the heart center, as opposed to the mental center. For myself in particular, as well as a great deal of men in modern society, this heart center is a mysterious enigma that we would care not to mess with, as men tend to be more geared toward the mental/logic aspect of things as opposed to the nurturing/empathetic. But as we will see, Love actually extends beyond the realm of pure “emotion”.
Another problem is that the modern notion of Love has become tangled in with the lower ego and its characteristics of attachment and possessiveness. This is especially true with many “romantic love” relationships, which have become increasingly distorted and even poisoned to a degree in the west with unrealistic expectations. This is in no small part due to the Hollywood/Madison Avenue portrayal of “love” in romantic comedies and diamond commercials. We have come to see romantic love as a possession: “this is MY girl” or “that is MY man”. Most people will not admit to viewing another human being as a possession, but on some level, the modern “committed” relationship is possessive on some level or other. When attachment and possessiveness become a foundation for a relationship, suffering will inevitably ensue. This is because in order for attachment and possessiveness to be satisfied, nothing can change, and unfortunately, change is the only constant in Life. Attachment and possessiveness are not Love.
Then of course, there is the problem of sex, a.k.a. “love making”, and all of the illusions, delusions, and expectations that stem from our modern “understanding” of it. This situation is so messy that it warrants its own article. On one side, we have the male playboy/sissy-boy paradigm, where men either see women as objects to be used and exploited, or they allow themselves to be degraded and humiliated for their sin of being a man. On the other side, we have a similar phenomenon with women where they will degrade and disempower weaker men, or seek a sort of backwards sexual “empowerment” by allowing the dominator “playboy” to use and degrade them. In either case, promiscuity is promoted as new wave feminism has promoted this as sexual “liberation”. When people have sex, an energetic bond as well as an emotional bond is formed in some capacity, although we may be oblivious to it. This misuse of sexual energy has caused a great deal of harm and conflict in the world. This is not Love, either.
Ugh. What a mess, this Love business. And you wonder why I don’t write about it? Obviously we’re not finding out what Love is from all of this so far, just what Love isn’t. I think at this point we may need to set some definitions before we can move forward. So then, what technically is the definition of “Love”? Well, it is apparently a word with many definitions:
1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
2. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
3. Sexual passion or desire.
4. A person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
5. (Used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?
6. A love affair; an intensely amorous incident; amour.
7. Sexual intercourse; copulation.
8. (Initial capital letter) a personification of sexual affection, as Eros or Cupid.
9. Affectionate concern for the well-being of others: the love of one’s neighbor.
10. Strong predilection, enthusiasm, or liking for anything: her love of books.
11. The object or thing so liked: The theater was her great love.
12. The benevolent affection of God for His creatures, or the reverent affection due from them to God.
13. Chiefly Tennis. a score of zero; nothing.
14. A word formerly used in communications to represent the letter L.
Verb (used with object), loved, loving.
15. To have love or affection for: All her pupils love her.
16. To have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person).
17. To have a strong liking for; take great pleasure in: to love music.
18. To need or require; benefit greatly from: Plants love sunlight.
19. To embrace and kiss (someone), as a lover.
20. To have sexual intercourse with.
Wow. Okay, so is Love not just one thing? Are there really different kinds of Love? To get some clarity, perhaps we should look at another word that keeps popping up throughout these multiple definitions- affection. Affection is defined as a gentle feeling of fondness or liking. My spiritual teacher once suggested an exercise where you would connect with another person unbeknownst to them, sensing their Light. This could be done sitting on a bus or standing in line somewhere. The purpose was developing a sense of the neighbor as one’s self, and ultimately extending one’s capacity to Love others. First, he said, there must be some development of feelings of “fondness” within you for the stranger; otherwise the exercise would not be overly effective.
So what is it that causes us to have fondness for a person? At the root of it is some sense of commonality; something that is shared between the both of you- a common bond. The two most powerful bonds are created through familial blood/genetics and through romantic/sexual union. Akin to the immediate blood/genetic bond, we have the natural fondness for “those like us”; i.e. those of a similar racial, ethnic, or cultural background to us.
After that we have the broader category of “shared experience”, which is capable of trumping racial or ethnic similarities if the bond is strong enough. This can be sharing personal experiences that create the bond of friendship. This can be sharing spiritual experiences that create the bond of a spiritual or religious fellowship. This can be the sharing of a goal or an aspiration where some form of team bond is necessary like in sports or combat or even the workplace. This can be the sharing of a community. This can be the sharing of personal struggle like in recovery circles, or a “group struggle” like in various social and political groups or movements. Moving further, we have the commonality of a nation- i.e. we are Americans and we share American “goals and values” (although that notion is slowly disintegrating). In any of these cases, we don’t really have to look too hard to see “ourselves” in the other person, as we on some obvious level or other share some sort of common bond or aspiration with that person.
An interesting biological correspondence to this feeling of fondness that seems to emulate from the “heart center”, is that located just above our physical heart is our thymus gland. The thymus gland is involved in development of the cells of the immune system. This is the part of our body which instructs the rest of us as to what is “us” and what is not “us”- that is what is “foreign” like harmful bacteria or viruses. When we feel this sort of fondness that seems to emanate from this area, we are for all intents and purposes, accepting another individual as “part of us”. This is especially true when it comes to romantic love. We are accepting this person as part of our being on some level. While this has its roots beyond the physical, the feeling of Love itself is very much tied to the physical body. As Father Paul Blighton, founder of the Holy Order of MANS stated, Love “works through the flesh body of man, not only in its relationship with man and woman, but also in its relationship to the ultimate of the Self and the gaining of illumination on the Way.”
But what about the “other” that does not share any of these obvious bonds, can we see ourselves in them? One of the “shared experience” categories I listed above was “community”. There has been historical tension when outsiders move into a community, particularly if the outsiders do not homogenize with the pre-existing community. This occurred with the Jews in Europe and has occurred with various immigration waves in western nations in the last century. These schisms tend to happen when groups remain insular to themselves for whatever reason. If an individual or a group keeps to themselves, then suspicion inevitably develops. The “outsider” group suspects the people who live around them and resents them for not accepting them. The primary group suspects the “outsiders” for maintaining a separate group identity from the primary group. This creates a perpetual feedback loop of resentment and mistrust. This will cause the heart center to reject these “outsiders” as the immune system would reject a foreign entity in the physical body.
However, the problem with community is even greater in this modern era, as many increasingly urbanized people barely know their neighbors at all, fostering a sense of isolation within one’s own community, even if these people are obviously in some way like them. We have become a society of “individuals” to such an extent that we have become “islands unto ourselves”, lacking any sort of real communal identity outside of our “obligations” to the State. This state of modern isolation has grown increasingly severe as televisions, computers and smart phones create an artificial connectedness in a virtual world, while creating a bubble of separation and disconnectedness in the physical world. We will be hard-pressed love our neighbor if we’ve never even seen our neighbor.
So, back to the question I posed earlier: can we love the “other” who lives outside our groups and shares no obvious commonality other than basic “human-ness”? What of people whose culture and perhaps even their very moral definitions are profoundly different from our own? Are we capable of loving them just as we would someone who shares a more obvious commonality? We are taught we are “all the same”, and yes, on a fundamental root level, humans share a common ancestry in the same way that cats or dogs do. However, the idea that we are “one humanity” is by and large an abstract philosophical concept to all but perhaps a select few. While many pay lip service to this concept, few really understand this notion of “oneness” on much more than a superficial level.
The majority of humans are tribal in one manner or another, and naturally suspicious to those who don’t have obvious commonality to them in one way or another. This is especially the case when it comes to groups. This can be seen in the nature when a pride of lions might quarrel with a leopard over a kill. They are all cats, as we are all humans, but their goals are geared toward the enhancement and survival of their particular group. This same basic group consciousness and group “identity” is also present in the different races and nations of humans, albeit at a somewhat more sophisticated level.
We begin with Self, then to romantic partners and nuclear family, then to extended family, then to our friends and our “tribe” (groups we belong to that have shared goals and identity), then to our cultural “folk”, and mixed in with family, tribe and folk, we have our race. Then as we move out beyond that, we are in the realm of foreign “other”. It is natural that as we extend ourselves outward, the bonds will become weaker the further out we go. This is a basic Law of Nature, as energy dissipates and becomes weaker the further it moves away from its source.
So does this mean that we aren’t capable of unconditionally “loving everyone”? For most of us, no, probably not, (at least not in this Age) and I don’t think it’s anything to beat ourselves up over, either. This ability of complete and unconditional Love for all beings and all humans in particular, is something that is reserved for the most spiritually attained beings. It is an ability that can be developed only after true internal Unity and Sovereignty is achieved. We have to develop the capacity for Love internally before we can fully express it externally. The vast majority of people (myself included) are internally divided, some to a point of self-loathing. This puts us a long way away from manifesting this sort of “Universal Love” consciousness and to expect this sort of “Christ-like” acceptance of all humanity from people living in this day and Age is unrealistic and unfair.
That being said, we can work towards extending our capacity for Love by partaking in various forms of selfless service, be it working at a homeless shelter or performing random acts of kindness for loved ones, co-workers, or strangers. I suggest working within one’s own community, and learning to love the people who are actually your neighbors by definition. We can then begin learning to love the people around us in a more full and complete manner. Likewise, we can use the internal “wounds” we have to develop empathy and compassion for others. We can begin doing as Father Paul said, and loving those around us “for the Life which they represent and are manifesting- no matter how little, but that they are manifesting- because it is part of the Creation.”
Father Paul also went on to say that Love “is the thing that brings forth true sacrifice. And love is a thing that will lay its efforts and its desires and its wants upon the altar for the purpose of helping another man or woman. Anything less than that is not love, it is purely emotion. It is not the all-encompassing Love.”
Here, we are beginning to move towards the impartial Love or “Charity” that St. Paul was referring to in the famous verse out of his first letter to the Corinthians:
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away… And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
Love is humility, Love is compassion, Love is truth, Love is fidelity, Love is honor, Love is hospitality, Love is courage and Love is sacrifice. More accurately, Love is the expression of these principles and virtues in the physical world by the physical person motivated by higher forces. Love in its highest and truest form only exists through action- through the activation of the Divine Will. This action of Love can be directed outwards towards others, or inwards, towards one’s self. With this understanding, one could contest that Love is not a “feeling” at all, and that writings describing Love as a feeling or an emotion are not actually describing Love at all, but something else.
Of course, there is still a problem with all of this, which is the fact that ALL of this that I have just written is still fundamentally conceptual and logic-based, as it is put into words and ideas- none of which at the end of the day can understand or accurately describe Love. Love is understood through experience and experience alone. Its truth can’t be rationalized or conceptualized. It cannot be understood, only known. It doesn’t matter if a person expresses Love in words, if you have not had some kind of deeper experience of the Love they profess through actions, then any statements of love will ring as hollow. Love is Divine Action.
At the end of the day, I am still figuring out what Love truly is and how to genuinely express it. I still may not fully understand Love, but I DO know what it feels like. It feels like a mother holding her child in her arms. It feels like finally understanding the sacrifice of a parent who works two jobs to provide for their family. It feels like a friend doing what they can to cheer you up when you’re going through a breakup. It feels like the embrace of a sibling whom you have not seen in far too long. It feels like the warm nuzzle of a beloved pet that shows you unconditional affection. It feels like the warm understanding and patience of a great mentor. It feels like a partner supporting you and cheering you on to be the best person you can be. It feels like helping someone in some way just because you can. It is only through having known Love that one can truly know how to express Love.
PHOTO COURTESY OF http://www.awesomelycute.com/2015/03/21-unlikely-animal-friends-sleeping-together/
Those who have ears to hear should hear. Namaste and God Bless.