Sunday, 16 June 2013

Love of God

A question on the previous post queried my remark that you can't truly love humanity if you don't love God and I welcome the opportunity to expand on that thought a little. The questioner went on to say. "I don't see God so I don't know how to love him. I do see my fellow men and women and I try at least to have concern for them." This raises some valid (and interesting) points which I will try to address here.

What I meant by that remark is that love for humanity, in the highest sense, can only come from the perception of God in humanity because all love stems from and returns to God. Of course, we don't consciously require any notion of God to have concern or even compassion for our fellow men and women, but we only have the capacity for love because we have God in us and the more we allow ourselves to become aware of God, both in ourselves and in others, the greater our love will be. God is the source of love. It is not surprising that the more attuned we are to the source of something, the greater our response to that thing will be

I am talking about love. The questioner used the word concern which was honest because many times we say love when we mean something else. But concern can develop into compassion and that can grow into love. In the spiritual world compassion is often used interchangeably with love but I believe it to be on a lower plane since it largely relates to sympathy for suffering, and love is far more than that. Perhaps this is a personal reaction but I see compassion as human whereas love, in that it involves the whole being, is divine. Compassion is active involvement in the suffering of others but love is a consuming fire. Compassion feels for the other. Love would die for the other.

I don't know if it is coincidence or intentional but the question echoes the gospel of St John
in which Jesus says these words. "If any man says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for how can he that does not love his brother whom he has seen, love God whom he has not seen?" At first sight this may seem at odds with what I have said but I don't think that is so. The issue here is the claim to love God (obviously seen as false in this case) while at the same time having no love for one's fellow men. Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of such a claim. If you love God you must love his creation, especially that in which he is most present, namely human beings. Jesus is not saying that you cannot love God if you have not seen him because, after all, the first commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" but we are also told that "no man has seen God and lived".

So how do you love God if you cannot see him? Well, first of all, maybe you can see him though with the eye of faith or intuition rather than the physical eye. You can also see him in his works and, maybe clearest of all, in your own being. You cannot see him directly but you certainly can indirectly, and this perception will surely awaken love as you open yourself up to its significance.

More pertinently, though, it's not the seeing that matters but the feeling. Once you acknowledge the reality of God you will start to feel his presence. Deny him (be it through fear or pride) and you banish him, but admit him and admit yourself to be his creature (as in a being created by him) and love will flow; both yours towards him and his towards you. Obviously the latter has always been there but by acknowledging the reality of God you are opening yourself up to receive it. And as you allow yourself to receive his love so yours will grow.

There is another way to come to the love of God and that is by loving his attributes or qualities. These reveal something of his real nature and by loving them you are starting to love him. His three primary qualities are truth, goodness and beauty, and if you dedicate yourself to these, to honouring and serving them in your life, then you are well on the way to loving God even if you do not think of it in that way initially. However if you do truly and sincerely love these things then sooner or later they will lead you back to their source.

In the period covered by the book I was told by the Masters that I did not have the love of a spiritual person. This was a humiliating thing to be told for someone who thought of himself as spiritual but when given such a reprimand by a being of the calibre of the Masters, you have to accept it. Besides, in my heart I knew it to be true. The Masters were referring to love for others rather than the love of God but, as we have seen from the quotation above, the two are connected. I know why they told me this. It was to show me myself. Just as Socrates considered the beginning of wisdom to be the recognition of one's own ignorance, so, only when we admit that we do not have love, can we start to develop it.  I frankly admit that I still have a long way to go in this regard but I am at least no longer able to pretend that I have what I do not. And I also know that we learn to love God by forgetting ourselves and by looking outwards to others and then inwards into our heart where God is to be found. If we put ourselves in the position of a suppliant then we can learn to love because love always walks with humility just as it will always flee from pride. This may not be an especially profound teaching but it is the most practical spiritual advice anyone can be given.  


Caite said...

Thank you, William. Your practicality is appreciated. Ways of increasing our devotion are valuable, and loving truth, beauty and goodness surely will open us to greater love of God. Blessings!

William Wildblood said...

Thank you, Caite. If we could just perceive the glory of existence love would pour out of us like light from the sun but the darkness of this world obscures the truth from us. Sometimes it seems as though that darkness is all there is but, if I may borrow your words, increasing our devotion will help us to see through it.