This idea of love is complicated, especially in English. We have one word – love – and that’s not enough. As with so many words and ideas, to better understand this whole ‘God is love’ thing, I had to expand my definitions, my context, and so I began to explore love. I was presented with four general definitions that helped me a lot in thinking about 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 life in many different ways. As a direct result of expanding my understanding of love, my experience of love has also expanded significantly.
These definitions of love fall roughly into four categories: romantic love, familial love, fraternal love and divine love.
Eros: ROMANCE – Eros is fascinating and it is what many people think of first, the primary definition of love. Eros is passionate, intense and romantic; it is the kind of love that has a crazy chemical reaction that is both exciting and sentimental. It is usually emotional and sexual. This romantic love is important at the beginning of a new relationship, but it may not last unless it develops into a more complex love, because it focuses more on yourself than on the other person.
Storge: FAMILY LOVE – This is the love of family and friendship. It is the love that parents feel for their children; the love that family members feel for each other; or the love that friends feel for each other. Sometimes a story can develop into a romantic relationship; a couple in such a relationship become best friends. Storge love accepts flaws or imperfections. It is committed, sacrificial and makes you feel safe, comfortable and secure.
Phileo: VENDLIC LOVE – Phileo love refers agape love to affectionate, warm and tender platonic love. It makes you want to be friends with someone. We choose to enter into these kinds of love relationships, and they serve us because they are largely unconditional. If you’ve ever had a “best friend”, they may 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 judgments – and encounters a loving consciousness of “one for all and the same for all.”. This is the kind of love that many of us who are on the spiritual path strive to have for our fellow human beings. We may not love everyone, but we choose to love them as people anyway, because we know they are made of the same stuff, the same cloth as we are. It is love expressed in your behaviour towards another human being. The Sanskrit word ‘Namaste’ speaks well of agape love with its intention: ‘The divine in me acknowledges, honours and celebrates the divine in you’.
Agape is what is referred to in Matthew 22:39: “Love your neighbour as yourself”, John 15:12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” and 1 John 4:8: “God is love”.
Paulo Coelho says: “Agape is total love, a love that devours those who live it. Whoever knows and experiences Agape sees that nothing else in this world matters, only love. This is the love that Jesus felt for humanity, and it was so great that it shook the stars and changed the course of human history.”
Because we are all made of common stuff, of common origin and of common essence, we have both the desire and the capacity to love in all these ways.
I am reminded of a reference in the Hindu sacred texts (Upanishads) which states that in the course of human experience we are not in one body but in five. These bodies are the physical body, the vital body (vital energy, chi, prana), the mental body (the body of thought, individual and collective), the soul body (also called the body of themes, our main ‘goals’ or themes in life) and bliss or the divine body – the body of God.