Sunday, 11 February 2018

What is Love?

Continuing with the theme of a previous post, I would like to talk a little about love and what it might really be. I would say that, in the spiritual sense, it is an act of recognition. Love can only be love of the good and the true because that is all that is worth love and therefore it is all that can draw forth love as a genuine response. Therefore to know love as a spiritual reality, and not merely a human emotion or personal subjective response to something we happen to like, we must have some idea of the good and the true. Love orientates itself to the good and rejects the anti-good. It must. You cannot love truth and lies at the same time. Love is love of the truth which is the real, and the real is God. And that means love must start with a proper recognition of the reality of God.

I would go so far as to say that if you do not recognise the reality of God, you do not have the knowledge of love within you. For, as I said in that earlier post, God is love and love is God. You may have human feelings but these are not real love. The difference is that one has an opposite but the other does not. Proper spiritual love, which is the source of the feeling we know, that being spiritual love stepped down to a merely human level, cannot be separated from God because he is both its origin and its object. From him it then radiates out to all creation but, to be real, it must be directed to him first. Creator before creation as in the two commandments given by Jesus.

Love can only be love of the good, the beautiful and the true. That is what it is. It is nothing else. If you think about it, it cannot be anything else. For love has its proper object. It is not random or arbitrary or directed to anything regardless of its ability to reflect God and not distort his light. Love is a real thing and a response to the recognition of God or, at the very least, spiritual truth. If you don't recognise spiritual truth then you don't know love though you may imagine you do because you respond to the thought of it or else mistake an emotional response for love. But love is only truly to be found in God. It is love of the real good and therefore it categorically rejects all that is anti-good. 

If you don't see and reject the anti-good in the world today then you have not yet awoken to the reality of love within you. You may think you have because you know what you know and what you feel. But you don't know what you don't know nor do you know what you don't feel, and that is why you mistake the lower for the higher and the imitation for the reality.

When Jesus told us that God is love he was also pointing out that we cannot know love until our hearts are orientated towards God. To say God is love means love is God but that is not the earthly love we are familiar with which is but a shadow of the real thing, a shadow caused by the blockage of the spiritual ignorance of the separate self. Only when we start to remove ourselves from identification with the ego and turn to the divine reality can we really begin to know love, and then we will find it is not so much a feeling as a state of being or, perhaps, a feeling that is part and parcel of being and therefore not subject to change.


Anonymous said...

I find this a very high definition of love - both high and hard to bear. Hard to bear because you seem to be saying that the affection and care in its intense form that people feel for one another is not love at all. I accept that it is not the perfect love that is of God, but it is a human sort, that which occurs below, and is a reflection (perhaps an imperfect one) of that which is above. Though imperfect, surely it is real love, otherwise are you not saying that those who don't believe have no love in them at all for their spouses, partners, or friends? This makes every selfless act, only a seeming selflessness, and every hug and kiss they give to their children, a lie. It seems as though you are writing off their feelings and actions as 'mere' emotion, as though that emotion is not even an imperfect reflection of the love of which God is capable. If that is the case, then 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, has no relevance to or for unbelievers.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

I thought I had met many unbelievers who behaved as in these verses, not perfectly, and not all of the time, but in their best moments.

I always thought that human beings were all capable of love because God put a little of himself into everyone. For me, it was this holy spark that made us all know and feel love sometimes. And, I also thought that it was this same spark that made everyone capable of knowing and loving God.

Please tell me that I have mistaken your meaning, and that you don't mean as I have described.

William Wildblood said...

You are right, it is a high definition and I certainly don't claim to have reached it myself. I am not saying that human love is worthless but that it is human love and that we are enjoined to attain the spiritual sort of which the human, though genuine, is only a reflection.

I am taking a fairly absolutist stance here, I know, but that is only because I am attempting to see what love in the spiritual meaning of that word really is. How can we reach the higher if we are satisfied with the lower? We must always stretch to something greater.

So you are not wrong in what you say but there is a lot more to understand about love in its pure and proper spiritual form as opposed to the sort we are familiar with in our everyday lives. All love in some respect is love of God. When we love a spouse or a child it is, in a way, God we are seeing in that person. But we are restricting love when we do that. So, if we could see all people as manifestations of the divine then we would really know love. That is basically what I am trying to get at here. How can you really love if you don’t see the source of love?

You needn’t worry. Human love, when sincere and capable of self- sacrifice, is certainly a reflection of divine love. But it is only a reflection. That’s the point I’m trying to make here. To go further, to know love as it is in its essence and without limiting it by channelling it through our egocentric self, we have to know it as coming from God. In other words, to know the reality of which human love is just the reflection , albeit in its best forms a good reflection, we have to bring God into the equation. It’s like goodness Human beings are capable of goodness but for them really to be good they must have handed themselves over to God. Not my will but thine be done. Then goodness does not come from us but through us. It’s the same with love. Ultimately love without God is just not possible but that doesn’t mean that human love is not love. But it is, as you yourself, say imperfect and we are called to know love in its perfection. That’s all I am saying in this post. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the clarification helps a lot.

Thank you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@William. Yes.

I think of Love of God (but the words seem abstract and inadequate) of endorsing God's creation, of joining with God in the work of creation; of saying of God's creation that it is Good in its aims and hopes.

I would add that this love of God may be unconscious, indeed it starts out as unconscicous. However, esepcially in the modern world, it is difficult to maintain an uncosncious love of God in face of the cynical and subversive questioning and propaganda of modern culture - so the choice in practice lies between a conscious and deliberate love of God; or rejecting God - as being unreal, or regarding God as real but evil - with God and creation as something to be opposed...

I would say that modern culture *unconsciously* already regards God's creation as evil (which is why mainstream socio-politics is at war with the natural and spontaneous); but we are incrementally moving-towards the (demonic) situation of knowing God to be real, and of consciously opposing God as our-evil.

William Wildblood said...

The way I started to get some kind of idea of the love of God was through creation, firstly through the beauty of creation but then through that to what was responsible for that beauty. Then when you start to awaken to the reality of goodness and truth, you love those and then progress to the love for what is the source of goodness and truth, and you see this must have a personal nature to be real. So it starts from loving the good, the beautiful and the true and then moves on to the being that lies behind those.

I have always loved Christ insofar as I could understand him too. There's just something that come through in the Gospels that transmits the perfection of his person. I don't get that from anything else even the Buddha to whom I've also felt very drawn but not in anything like the same way or to the same degree.

Eric said...

I'm trying to get grips on how to actually relate to Jesus, so perhaps you can help me. God is a Person, and Jesus in a way is his personhood. But there must be a distinction made between Jesus conceptual form on the one hand, and his essence on the other. His essence, I believe, is Love - personified by his form. But love is universal and limitless, so is there also some exclusive quality and property to Jesus himself, or is he just a metaphorical sheet for love? Or perhaps, is love the property of Jesus or is Jesus the property of love? Certianly forgiveness is the property of love, or is it that Jesus actualizes it? In the Bhagavad-gita it says God has descended at many crucial times in history, so Krshna and Christ would be two sides of the same Supreme Godhead. I guess I'm trying to discern whether Jesus is a substantial entity in himself or not. Perhaps its a strange question to ask, but like yourself, I'm not a conventional Christian. I have a hard time with traditional Abrahamic thought which seems so encapsulate reality in a box and patent it with a narrow perspective. For me it's a bit like representing the sea in a waterbottle and label it with a patent. I would like to leave the copyright with God himself, not the world.

William Wildblood said...

I think that perhaps you are complicating things a bit, Eric, which I understand having a tendency in that direction myself. We are modern people after all! The bottom line is that love is only possible between persons. To me this means the essence of reality is therefore a person who creates other persons because of love.

Approach Jesus through the heart not thought, maybe using imagery from art to help you imagine him. Also, use his words as recorded in the Gospels which can act as a conduit to his person.

It doesn't really matter how Jesus is defined in terms of God, though Son of God does it best I think in that it conjures up a concrete thing rather than an abstraction. But what that actually means is difficult. I would say it is the closest relationship in which the two are more or less one, perhaps manifested and hidden aspects of the same ultimate truth.

But yes. Jesus is certainly a substantial entity if by that you mean a real person. Maybe your distinction between his conceptual form and essence is just what Christians refer to when they say he is fully God and fully Man and the two natures are conjoined in him.

Not sure if this is a satisfactory response but if it doesn't answer what you're asking then get back to me.