Saturday 5 September 2020

Love Must Be Spiritual or It's Nothing

If we believe in God and we believe that God is love then we have to question what exactly love is. Because if God really is love then love acts in some strange ways or so it seems. But first, can we accept that there was no real idea of love outside religion until recently when secular thought borrowed it and made it its own? But secular thought interprets love or compassion as a universal, equally applicable to everyone which doesn't make sense because only a universal God can really love universally. This tells us that the secular idea of love is not actually love at all. It's just a theory about love. And love as a theory is meaningless. Love cannot be reduced to an ideology. At least, it can but then it is killed.

If God really is love what then is this love? It cannot be something that wants to make everyone happy all the time because that is not how things are. So, if we accept that God is love we must also accept that love involves suffering or, at least, acquiesces in suffering. It is not just about being empathetic or compassionate but something a lot deeper and more mysterious than that.

I think we can attempt a definition and say that love, spiritually considered, wishes for the increase of good in the loved one. It doesn't just want happiness. It wants goodness and truth and it wants them to be established in the person loved. Now, this leads us to the critical question of what are goodness and truth? Is it good always to remove suffering? Then God is not good. Is it good always to bring joy and peace? Then God is not good. We have to explore further.

You see, we can't understand love without a proper metaphysics. Everything comes down to the matter of first principles and what a human being actually is. If you don't understand that then you cannot understand love and how it works in the world. Love can only be a spiritual thing because it depends on the unique individuality of the one loved. Secular thought which does not recognise God denies spirit and is on that account materialistic but there is no individuality in materialism. We are all just the product of natural forces with no real core identity. Individuality has to be a spiritual thing if it is real. There can be no love without spirit and so there can be no love in a world without God.

The good that love seeks to increase is spiritual good. We don't understand this. We understand material good but to seek to increase material good will often work against spiritual good because it will obscure, or even supplant, it. Spiritual good relates to our reality as spiritual beings and so it seems that really to understand love we have to see ourselves as spiritual beings and know what that means. What it chiefly means is loving the true good which is God. From this love flows all other love. 


BSRK Aditya said...


When I talk about a universal or all round abiding - I talk of an abiding where the spirit radiates in all directions (front, back, left, right, above, below) unimpeded.

It's not possible to radiate love in this way, some directions will be occupied by hate.

Good-will does better in this regard, but some directions will be occupied by suspicion.

But it is indeed possible to radiate friendliness in all six directions unimpeded. This universal abiding of friendliness is not a theory, but a real, tangible all-round state of abiding.

William Wildblood said...

If I understand you correctly you are equating friendliness and love but they are entirely different things.

BSRK Aditya said...


Please forgive the double post. I have tried to radiate the spirit of "what increases spiritual goodness" in all six directions, and it worked.

It is marvelous, how you have ferreted this out. My thanks.

BSRK Aditya said...

"If I understand you correctly you are equating friendliness and love but they are entirely different things."

I suspect that you disapprove of amicability. Amicability does not spread in all directions, with some directions being occupied by disdain. Amicability is equivalent to good will, in the sense that it is between love and friendliness.

By friendliness, I mean being a friend.

If you define love as "what increases spiritual goodness", then I have no quarrel with love. That so, this is not the everyday usage of word love. In everyday usage, love is "what brings about affection".

Do you approve of the cultivation of "what brings about affection"?

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - This is very good. The problem is that the word love has been deeply subverted/ inverted since the sixties onslaught; and the brief attentions span of the modern mind makes this difficult to set right.

Still, we must try our best.

Could you provide a fairly brief answer to "what kind of thing" love really is?

It has to be personal on the one hand, but not just personal. therefore love is not an emotion.

But also love is not a physical force (not an 'energy' or 'frequency'... not something like 'gravity').

Not these things - but could you describe what love actually is?

(I've had a go at this myself, but I wonder what you make of it!)

BSRK Aditya said...

My case is simply that "what brings about affection" can only bring about an imperfect & limited abiding. It would not spread in all directions. It may still prove beneficial to cultivate this limited abiding in some cases.

That so, there really do exist all-round unlimited abidings. This is a matter of interest to those seeking to perfect their concentration/stability.

Why does this matter, the perfection of concentration/stability? The more perfect one's concentration, the greater the insight one can glean from the concentration.

All those that have destroyed their evil qualities have perfected their concentration/stability.

ted said...

I think Aquanis definition "to will the good of another" is also prudent. When John Lennon said "All you need is love", he was speaking in abstract terms that somehow we would all come together as state and community to profess good vibes to all. But as you said, love is not friendly or something that has "love-like emotions". It has to be metaphysically good in the circumstances that presents itself. And we all know Lennon was not a very good person often in his personal life.

William Wildblood said...

BSRK, amicability, affection and friendliness are all excellent things (in most circumstances) but they are not love in the sense I am using that word because they are ordinary human and love is beyond the ordinary human though it can be brought down to it which is the problem.

Bruce, you ask what love is and like you I have difficulty in defining it in the way I think it really is from a spiritual perspective. Ted's Aquinas definition is a start but I don't think it covers it completely even though it's similar to what I said in the post! Sometimes I think of love as like a fire or the radiation from the sun or a blaze of glory and these analogies conjure up more of its meaning for me than words do.

I actually believe that if love could be defined someone would have done it by now and I'm not sure they have. It is a spiritual thing and like all spiritual things can only be known and lived. My gripe is that because we recognise its importance we bring it down to our level and therefore confuse things that are the shadows of love in a material world with the reality.

I also think that the prime love is love of God and all subsidiary loves arise from that. This means that those who don't love God don't really know love. I realise that means most of us and I include myself because my own love falls well short of what it should be but I do feel I am at least beginning to face the right way.

Sorry, I realise this is not very good at all. I think a proper definition of love is beyond me. I wrote this post because the subject is important and I feel that the mystery of love is trivialised enormously.

Love is glory. That's my best effort!

edwin faust said...

Love, like God, is ineffable, to use the old philosophic term, so defining it necessarily diminishes or distorts it to some extent. But we all know what is to feel love. The difficulty, I think, arises from trying to trace love to its source and understand it with the intention of making it permanent. It is impermanent largely because we are focused outward, on sensible things, some of which evoke love, and we then identify love with what occasioned it and think that that is its source. This comes from the modern tendency to locate reality in the transient sensible experience, which then becomes the origin and terminus of all things. But objects do not generate love, or any other thought or emotion. If an object generated love, all would feel love when in contact with the object. But we know this is not the case. We could not feel love for objects unless we had love as an abiding capacity in our soul. And that which abides in us is prior to any experience of the world we might have. Love is, indeed, a metaphysical truth, but its metaphysical nature is now largely ignored or not even guessed at by most people educated in love by movies and novels and egalitarian political rhetoric. Love not grounded in God, as the source of all goodness and beauty, will soon dissipate into sentimentality and empty talk. I knew that the nuns who taught me in the 1950s loved me because they loved God. I trusted and loved them likewise. And there was no sentimentality involved.

William Wildblood said...

edwin you say "Love not grounded in God, as the source of all goodness and beauty, will soon dissipate into sentimentality and empty talk.." This is just what I think too though I would add truth to goodness and beauty. Love cannot be outside of truth.

edwin faust said...

You can only love what is. As Charles Williams used to say, you can only love facts. To love an illusion is to wish that creation were other than the way it is, according to our supposed wisdom, rather than God's. So. love grounded in God is the only possible love, for it is love grounded in fact, in truth.

Francis Berger said...

Great post!

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Francis. I would like to have expressed my feelings better than I have here. I think our understanding of love (including my own) is very limited but it is important to try to know what it really is, cutting out the sentimentality and confusion of it with emotion.

Francis Berger said...

@ William - Blog posts have obvious limits, but you expressed yourself exceptionally well here, in my opinion.

William Wildblood said...

Well, thanks again. Very kind of you!