What Love really Is*
By Michael Isaacs
Love is an infinite, ineffable, invisible essence instilled as a seed in everyone. Its energy can emerge as a feeling, a way of being, and an action. It often becomes a conviction and a passion.
Love energy can be expressed for good in a multitude of ways. So we have love of country, sugar, sports, hobbies, children, self, solitude, material possessions, truth, God, altruism, and romance.
Yet, if the seed of love energy has no wisdom or spiritual base, if excessive or misguided, it can lead to suffering and sometimes evil. Love of nationalism can be misguided into lust for power and war as seen in the Nazi attempts to spread fascism and annihilation. Distorted love of religion can breed extremism as seen in the Crusades and jihad.
Love of pleasure can lead to attachment. Compulsive eating of sweet foods can result in obesity and addiction. In neurotic love, over-possessive parents can stunt children’s growth in the name of love by emotional smothering. A parent can rationalize child abuse, under the banner of love, “for your own good”. Love of solitude can follow from a schizoid personality or from spiritual bypassing of psychological problems. Romantic love is great, but so many are unable to adjust to a more mature relationship when it inevitably diminishes. Love of self is important, but when it is narcissistic it is ego centered and a barrier to love. Service to others is worthwhile indeed, but sometimes the motive is more about self-confirmation than selfless giving.
So it behooves us to capture to embrace the purest essence of love, to gain access to this invisible imprisoned splendor if we are to achieve the balance and wisdom needed to feel, receive, and express love at a deeper level.
The Greek philosophers added a spiritual dimension to love when they said that we should aspire more to the good rather than the pleasant. They called it agape love, distinguishing erotic love from brotherly and community love. Webster’s dictionary defines agape love as non erotic love, the love of God for humankind or of humankind for God.
What is the “good” of love? We may not be able to articulate what it really is is, but we can recognize its spiritual qualities. We can behold and experience such attributes as inner peace, gratitude, forgiveness, patience, compassion, wisdom, tolerance, humility, selflessness, and understanding. The existential psychiatrist Dr. Thomas Hora would posit these verities as existentially valid modes of being- the Reality of the good of God.
In this article, the term “God” is synonymous with such concepts as infinite invisible, cosmic consciousness, creative principle, higher power, inner being, vital force, chi energy, soul, spirit, father-mother within, fourth dimension consciousness, the absolute, existence, oneness, the tao, buddha- nature, universal source, and being and emptiness.
The spiritual mode of love can be looked at from the perspectives of love of self, love of God, and love of fellow man.
The two great commandments shared by the great religions of the world are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. The more we love God, the more we see the unity of all beings. We are all made in God’s image. We are spiritual brothers and sisters.
How do we come to love God? Some of the ways are through karmic grace, meditation, prayer, scriptures, and being in the presence of those with a high state of consciousness. We can come to recognize the presence of invisible love in our body when we witness the healing of a cut, the beating of the heart, and the birth of a baby.. We can observe it in action when see how a seed in the ground become a tree.
How does love of God and love of man enhance a healthy love of self? Our feelings of adequacy and self worth are lifted by realizing we are children of God. We feel good when we have selfless thoughts and do selfless acts. We feel a presence and power that we can count on. Its love will always be with us, guiding us, and protecting us. Many human relationships involve seeking and expecting love from others. These breakups often lead to separation. They can trigger painful abandonment memories.
One of Dr. Hora’s thirteen principles is: “There is no interaction anywhere, there is only omniaction everywhere.” And, another spiritual thinker has said “Think about man and troubles grow; think about God and troubles go.”
The relationship between love of God and love of man has been expressed by Western mystic and healer Joel S. Goldsmith in his book PRACTICING THE PRESENCE :
What is love in the spiritual sense? What is the love that is God? We see that love is not something far-off, nor is it anything that can come to us. It is already a part of our being, alreadyestablished within us; and more than that it is universal and impersonal. As this universal and impersonal love flows out from us, we begin to love our neighbor, because it is impossible to feel this love for God within us and not love our fellow man
In summary, we may not be able to describe what love really is since it is invisible, beyond the senses, ineffable. But, we can all agree with the Beatles that “All We Need Is Love, All We Need Is Love!” We can hitch our wagon to the star of spiritual values and spiritual practices so that our love is guided to love of self, love of God, and love of man. We can love to be loving, live to glorify God, and to be a beneficial presence in the world.
*Article published in the December, 2008 magazine of the
Association for Spirituality and Psychotherapy.