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What is love?

When I was a boy I was an avid reader, and I also read my sister's magazines. I remember that one issue was: 'How do I know I am in love?' From my viewpoint, at that age, it was an interesting theoretical issue, and I read with interest the common advice that if you really loved someone you would share their toothbrush. (This convinced me I could never love anyone!) It created all sorts of interesting feedback. Some said they had loved their husband for many years, but they would never use his toothbrush. Others complained that their love had said they should share their toothbrushes, but although they felt they loved them, they could not use their toothbrush. The toothbrush theory of love was touted for many years.

It indicated there was a lot of confusion about love.

We can say:
I love my work.
I love my partner.
I love my children.
I love to learn.
I love humanity.
I love God.

The word 'love' is used with a lot of different meanings. By misunderstanding, we can make a lot of unhappiness for ourselves.

The Ancient Greeks had three words for love. They used eros to refer to physical love or lust. Philos to refer to the love of knowledge or wisdom. And agape to refer to brotherly or sisterly love. A number of other languages have a group of similar words, where we are likely to use the word love.

In our society, the word love is often a polite word for lust.

Where it is used in other cases, the main confusion arises because people think that love is an emotion, when it isn't. An emotions, such as laughter, sadness and pain, have the characteristic that they change. Emotions tend to grow to a certain level and then wane. This contrasts with perceptions, such as what our car looks like, which tend to be fairly constant. When, for example, a mother says she loves her children, she doesn't mean that she loves them sometimes, but not on other occasions. She might hate them sometimes, adore them at other times, or consistently prefer one child to others, but she always loves them. Sometimes this little piece of information helps people who feel guilty because they think they do not love their children as they should. But let's explain this a little more.

Love is a disposition. It is like an agreed upon duty. The word duty sounds unpleasant. It makes us think of something we do, not because we enjoy it, but because we have to do it because of the law or a moral code. Yet duty also means a binding force of what is right and good. It is a goal, function or mission. Fulfilling our function or mission can be very enjoyable and satisfying. In this way, duty can be a pleasant, even joyful experience.

When we say we love humanity, we do not mean we lust over all humans! We may not like some of them. We might hate them. We could even be at war with them. Yet by loving them we have a duty to them. Perhaps we think of them as basically good. We wish them to have a happy life with the necessary resources to live. We would do something to help them to achieve this, in some way. We may find this a joyful experience, although for some it might be depressing and discouraging - especially when they do not understand the nature of life and people.

When we love our partner, we feel lust towards them sometimes, and we may enjoy sharing interests with them. Their company is not only sensual, but also convivial. Yet this isn't love. Love also involves a duty to help and support that person. This does not depend on whether we like them or not at that time.

Our ability to love depends on our degree of development. Here I refer to the chakras. (Level 1 referring to the first chakra, etc.)

At level 1 there is only the self. Love is sensual and impersonal. It can be psychopathically taking pleasure. It can be the delight in walking barefoot on the grass. The delight at looking at the stars.

At level 2, love is romantic. It is full of wonderful fantasy and dreamy states. This is the obsession of a love that is above all loves. Of Romeo and Juliet! True romance. All is fair in love and war. Do what though will, but don't get caught!

At level 3, which is thought to be the level of Western Society, love is conquest, winning, seduction and possession. The other is a physical thing to be conquered and possessed. Her we proudly walk arm in arm with a beautiful person, not so much because we enjoy that person, as we would at level 2, but partly because of the admiration we get from others and how it shows we are a winner. We show off our conquest and our enjoyment of the spoils of war! Be a winner!

At level 4, love moves towards humanity. The wish to help by giving to others and making their life much better. It is unselfish love. It is not based on what the giver will get from those who are loved, as it is in all the lower levels. There can be a level of self sacrifice here. It is a level of 'religious love.' We think of self-sacrificing saints here. The being moves away from the physical and starts to become aware of their spiritual nature. This can be an area of disappointment, as when the being realises that the aid given to relieve suffering was used to buy guns! This leads us to the next realisation. It is greater to give than to receive.

At level 5, there is a change. Love for humanity has the strong wish to help, but it also has the realisation that merely supplying material goods is not the way to truly love one's fellows. Love encompasses all living things - not merely humanity. It is here that the being realises that true help can only be through changing attitudes and spiritual growth. True help and love becomes the development of the mind and spirit. At this level there is a growing knowledge of the archetypes and the long-term working of cause and effect, as in karma. The study of history and ecology.

The higher levels are not really known in Western Society. I will mention only one of them.

At level 6, the type of love becomes more reclusive. It is a love for all things - living and non-living and a delight in all beings because they are spiritual creatures (or manifestations of the spirit). Yet here the ego has been surpassed. The reliance on the brain for awareness and knowledge has been overcome. Love is therefore non-personal. Knowledge becomes pure intuition and true help is direct manipulation of the consciousness and, therefore, changing the nature of reality. This is the level of the Shaman or the Seer. It is an intra-psychic level wherein the being can discuss with other entities.

We have come a long way from sharing a toothbrush!

The following questions may be amusing. They relate to the first 4 levels.

Do I delight in contact, like snuggling up to a warm body on a cold night? Or am I revolted by some contact?

Is this the greatest love of the century? Or am I doomed never to find my true love? Do I yearn for passion?

Do I feel proud and successful in my love, or a failure?

Does my love make me feel like giving? Or do I feel worthless in helping anyone? Do I grieve for humanity? Do I delight in helping others?

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Most Recent Revision: 20-Mar-99.
Copyright 1998, 1999 Ken Ward,
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