A(nother) perceptive post by Bruce Charlton prompted a comment from me and since it concerns the most important spiritual quality and the one that is often turned against itself in the modern world I thought I would repeat it here.
My comment was:
I don't think most people know what love in the spiritual sense is. We think of it as empathy or compassion or something like that but these are the smoke of love rather than its fire. Or else you could say they are the reflection of love in the ordinary human mind. But when these reflections are mistaken for their true source all sorts of confusion and misunderstandings arise. What I mean here is that we tend to act in imitation of how we think love might act rather than how love really does act because love, to be spiritually based and therefore real, must be directed first of all to God. If that does not exist then the secondary love which is love of neighbour does not properly exist either though an imitation of it might. But that originates in thought rather than the heart.
Comment on the comment:
Everyone, religious or otherwise, wants to be thought loving. It's the primary Christian quality and the one that has been hijacked by secularism to be worn as a badge of authenticity and goodness. For that reason it is the most abused, trivialised, watered-down and imitated of the virtues. Because we all know love on the human level we think that gives us an insight into spiritual love but really it does not. We should have a totally different word. Some people like agape but I find this too academic and remote, as though it belongs in a theological study rather than real life, so we are stuck with love. But still we have to understand that spiritual love is rooted in the love of God. The fact that God is love does not mean that love is God. Love can only be known for what it really is when the heart is open to God. Then God enters that heart and love is known. Otherwise all you have is an earthly imitation of it, like the image of sunlight in water but the reflected image is still made of water not light.