Much has been written about love. Even I’m writing a book series on it! (first volume now available on Amazon here: Love Letters: Him To Her ) Philosophers, writers and poets have spilled a great deal of ink on this. I don’t think that they are finished or that people will ever get tired of learning more about it. As this is the month in which Valentines Day is celebrated, several of my posts this month have to do specifically with love. In the western traditions, love has been categorized into several different types. Here we will address the two main broad categories. They are Eros and agape.
We begin with Eros. This is likely the type of love that “interests” most people when initially thinking about love. Eros, according to old Greek traditions, was the Greek god and son of Chaos. Eros was believed to be a primeval god. Later, Eros became know as the son of the goddess Aphrodite and either Hermes or Ares. Aphrodite of course was the goddess of sexual love. It’s from this myth that we in the West have conceived of romantic love.
Notice how we use phrases like “making love?” Well, phrases like this make a lot of sense if you think about how this myth has influenced the notion of love. Human beings are produced from the act of intercourse. As we stated previously, Eros was considered a primordial god. He is said to have blessed the union between two other gods who’s union created the Universe! Quite interesting. So this physical act resulted in basically existence of the entire cosmos. That’s some serious “love making.” But, the point is that deep within our psyche this particular kind of physical activity or union produces love. A belief that has had tragically comical and often undesired results no doubt! Ever see pictures of a blindfolded man carrying a bow and arrow? That’s Eros. His was able to ping humans with his arrows and make them fall in love with the first person they saw. You’ve heard of “love at first sight.” We also say “love is blind.”
Now, what about agape? Agape is not a romantic or sensual type of love. This type of love is associated more with respectful, familial or “sacrificial” love. In chapter 21 of the Book of John in the Bible, Jesus is said to have asked Peter if Peter loves him. He asked Peter this three times consecutively. Two of those times Jesus is said to have used “agape” in his questioning of Peter. I believe that’s why agape is often associated with a spiritual type of love. It is a love that lacks the fragility and volatility of romantic love. If we think about our own experiences, we may have seen this play out. How many times have you’ve been “madly in love” with someone only to “fall out of love” with them at some later date? But, for those who we have a sense of agape type of love…it seems that such a reversal is less common.
Personally, I often question if dissecting love up into several different types really serves any purpose. By doing so have we made love more complicated than it really is? If it is indeed the phenomenon that is creator of the Universe, then that would mean everything is love or a shares in its DNA. Yet, that position also seems hard to maintain when we see all of the ugliness in the world. Wars, famine and all types of “isms” seem to be plaguing humanity. But for those who are able to see love more than anything else, I believe they have a distinct advantage over others. They see a wholeness in existence that allows them to maintain a fuller type of love. I strive to be such a person. It’s a challenge but I keep trying. It’d sure be a lot easier to accomplish if that little guy with the arrows would stop using us for target practice!
-Sensei Derek Fletcher