by LJ Frank
More than sixty years later, after working in a variety of education, business, and cultural related settings around the world, I found my readings over the course of those years to be mostly esoteric. Works in archaeology, anthropology, existential psychology, comparative religions, art, and architecture have led to a juncture where I find myself now with a number of colleagues interested in exploring a few of the textured complexities of a higher or spiritual (numinous) love, and its physical and metaphysical manifestations.
Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher-theologian observed that in the beginning is the relation and the search for relationship is innate in all humans. It extends beyond mere feeling. The concept of love itself in our relationships surpasses the definition of feeling and encompasses biology, consciousness, and inclination; it is ancient, though the word love is etymologically recent, perhaps around the 700s C.E.
Traces of the word’s roots can be found from Old English, Frisian, Indo-European, and Sanskrit, and in some emotive form in a majority of cultures and tribes in the world. Ancient texts such as Prichard’s Near Eastern Texts allude to the passions of Man. And the anthropological and religious studies of Mircea Eliade among so many others, suggest a nurturing, spiritual metabolism at work. Archaeological research shows the care Neanderthal’s appeared to show at grave sites, as if there were an afterlife. When placing flower and artifacts by the bones they were replying to the ancient question of the very human cry of – who speaks for them? That cry bespeaks our evolving relationships, consciousness, and attitudes.
Compassion, caring, and nurture are expressions of a primitive shape of affection and adoration or love beyond the physical. Affection and spiritual love are threaded together and appear to be human cell based. The concept of love in its highest or numinous form has a genetic root with learned behavior as an experiential affirmation.
Paleolithic and Neolithic humans intimately appreciated the need to understand the relationship (tribal consciousness) between each other and the natural world for survival – the soil, the animals, the weather, the plants, the water they drank and the food they ate and so forth.
Affection translated into love retains a multitude of designs. None are permanent. All designs change. Yet all have a core.
Sacred texts are made sacred by Man. And Man makes those texts the final authority through subsequent rules and laws. Along with the Ten Commandments such popularized quotes from St. Paul writes of love in I Corinthians 13:4: Love is patient, and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth.
Still, love is not a destination as a Western prophetical tradition might point to. But pointing to “it” is not “it” as physical love and spiritual love are not stationary. They are forms of actions and move beyond religious and social constructs and rituals. In Eastern tradition there’s a realization that all we perceive emanates from the mind, as Buddha observed.
A few decades ago, I had a tarot card reading in New York City, a few blocks from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The reading was about love in my life. Nothing really specific. How could it be? It made for a financially rewarding avocation for the striking woman whom I met. It was entertaining like astrology, horoscopes and so forth. None of what she told me that afternoon was specifically factual.
Such advice givers may be intuitive and they want to be careful not to extend themselves beyond generalities. The experience was fun. She had two jobs, one was playing psychic and reading tarot cards. And the other being a part-time nurse. Fortunately, she was not a “Dear so and so columnist” with whom one may pour out their heart to a so-called expert giver of advice.
In ancient history one can read about the effect of stars on life, gods and goddesses and the spiritual insights scribes wrote down from these fabulous stories and myths. Words were and are created by humans attempting to flesh out and or create deeper meanings to their existence above being a mere physical passerby.
The literary work Ovid notes love is an anxious fear and H. D. Thoreau observes love is a thirst that is never slaked. And countless poets and writers have written down their thoughts and ideas about love in its baser and higher forms from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Tennyson to numberless others, thousands of phrases, poems, sayings, sonnets, prose, and miscellanea speak of love and all of its shaping, entanglements, sweetness, and sorrow. Remedies, solutions, and purported practical applications fill endless volumes. There are no experts in love who alone stand above the rest with the answer.
Words mean only what humans give them and no more. Still, our language shapes us – our attitudes about the world around us and our relationship to it. Humans create categories, labels, and structures for the sake of access and control. Words can be used to inform, persuade and manipulate.
Emotions evolve. Love in its higher forms of spiritual and physical growth requires a strong affectionate, humane heart and a self-language of openness. And in a world where we are surrounded by the disharmony created between trust versus mistrust, hate/love, lies/facts, concord versus discord and disinformation, we are cautious with our heart for in times of upheaval self-truth becomes essential for a higher (numinous) love to survive.
Truth and love comingle and are core of how we define our affections, both physical and spiritual, that change over time for each other. We cannot possess that which we love as it evolves and changes in shape and meaning. Ancient tribal ceremonies involving magic evoked the idea of letting go that which we were strongly fond of – the spiritual and physical love and allowing it to, just be. One aspect of higher love that I found appealing in my research was the indigenous Iroquois greeting of Niaweh or thank you for being.
So, in the Inquiries that follow in the time ahead we take a chance at exploring love in its higher forms that demands being honest with oneself and others in a precarious world of myth building – where the act of love extends to all facets of caring for each other and the planet we call home
In the end of our physical life, we return to dust. And our time on Earth is a glimpse of the higher forms of love available in each of us.
The possibilities we write about in these Inquiries are not for everyone, but rather, for those wishing to explore.