This idea of love is a tricky one, especially in the English language. We have one word – Love – and its simply not enough. Like a lot of words and ideas, in order to more fully understand the whole “God is Love” thing, I needed to expand my definitions, my context, and so began to study love. I was introduced to four broad definitions that have helped me a lot in my consideration of this idea – love itself, and God as love. This information allows me to use the word love, and to live the idea of love in my own life, in lots of different ways. As a direct result of expanding my understanding of love, my experience of love has also expanded, exponentially.
These love definitions fall loosely under four categories: romantic love, family love, brotherly love and Divine love.
Eros: ROMANTIC LOVE – Eros is exhilarating, and is what a lot of people think of first, a primary working definition of love. Eros is passionate and intense and romantic; it’s the zingy, mushy, crazy chemical reaction kind of love. It’s generally emotional, and sexual. This romantic love is important in the beginning of a new relationship, and, it may not last unless it evolves into a more complex kind of love, because it focuses more on self than on the other person.
Storge: FAMILY LOVE – It is a family and friendship love. This is the love that parents feel for their children; the love that family has for each other; or the love that friends feel for each other. Storge can sometimes evolve into a romantic relationship; the couple in such a relationship becomes best friends. Storge love accepts flaws or faults. It’s committed, sacrificial and makes you feel secure, comfortable and safe.
Phileo: BROTHERLY LOVE – The phileo love refers to an affectionate, warm and tender platonic love. It makes you desire friendship with someone. We choose to enter into these kind of loving relationships and they serve us because of their largely unconditional nature. If you’ve ever had a “best-friend”, they might fall into this category. Philadelphia – the city of brotherly love!
Agape: DIVINE LOVE – This is an unconditional love that sees beyond appearances, circumstances and situations – beyond our own subjective judgment – and meets “all and all alike” with a loving consciousness. It’s the type of love that many of us on a spiritual path strive to have for our fellow human beings. We may not like everyone, but we choose to love them anyway, as a human being, because you know that they are made of the same stuff, the same fabric, as you are. This is the love demonstrated by your behavior towards another person. The Sanskrit word “Namaste” speaks to agape love well with its intention that, “The Divine in me recognizes, honors and celebrates the Divine in you.”
Agape is what is being referenced in Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” and in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.”
Paulo Coelho says, “Agape is total love, the love that devours those that experience it. Whoever knows and experiences Agape sees that nothing else in this world is of any importance, only loving. This was the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of man’s history.”
Since we are all of a common fabric, common origins with a common essential nature, we have both the desire and the ability within us to love in all of these ways.
I’m reminded of a reference in the Upanishads, the sacred Hindu texts, that postulates that we inhabit not one, but five bodies in the human experience. Those bodies are the physical body, the vital body (life energy, chi, prana) the mental body (the body of thought, both individual and collective), the soul body (called also the body of themes, our primary “purposes” or themes in life), and the Bliss or Divine body – the body of God.
This comes to mind because it explains and relates directly to the four types of love that we’re considering.
Certainly the exhilaration of Eros love can easily be correlated to the physical and vital bodies. We have a physiological experience of Eros love. We feel aroused and energized – fabulously, vitally alive, in Eros!
Storge relates to the mental body. It’s a love of family constructs, of linear connections, a model that we fit into that proves comfort by giving us a place to belong.
Phileo relates to the soul body. It’s a recognition and desire for connection with people that might not make any mental sense. Have you ever “recognized” someone that you have never met, or felt like you know someone, experienced a familiarity or a resonance with someone that you’ve never seen before? These may be “soul” relationships – deep and mysterious and fabulous because they are so tantalizingly undefined.
Agape relates to the Bliss or God body that we inhabit. The God in me recognizes, honors and celebrates the God in you. This is where we can see each other in a less subjective and more objective way, looking for and finding our common Divinity first, and allowing that primary recognition to inform the rest of the relationship. I think of this as seeing the world through the eyes of God.
All of these types of love have their place, none necessarily better or worse than the others, but rather all complimenting each other and creating a complete experience of love for those humans who recognize, subscribe and practice loving and being loved in a multi-dimensional way.
So, how do I love thee?
Well the answer to that age old questions is likely to be; in at least one – and maybe more than one – of four ways.