In the King James version of the Bible, One Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English reads, “For there are these three things that endure: faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” One translates “charity,” while the other reads “love.” And St. Paul doesn’t explain why charity or love is greater than the other graces. Nevertheless, I prefer the term “love” over “charity” for contemplation because these days the latter reference is more related to the giving of money or other gifts to helping organizations or people in need. Love is free of this baggage and much more expansive—as this photograph illustrates.
I noted in the last two blogs that faith and hope have higher and lower “vibrations.” Like frequencies of light and sound, they have narrower and wider bandwidths. I use this terminology, not to rank one frequency as better or lesser than any other, but because they are vibratory and irrespective of application, the mysterious substances of these graces are consistent throughout their spectra.
In my worldview, love has a much wider bandwidth than either faith or hope, which are uniquely human experiences that give rise to action characterized by a desire for unification. Love encompasses and transcends human experience. Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin S.J., wrote that love is “The affinity of being for being.” I favor this perspective because it recognizes love as an energy that’s intrinsic to the universe. In support of this notion, engineer and philosopher, R. Buckminster Fuller, often said that “Love is metaphysical gravity.” That is, it holds all things together, in relationship, at all times, everywhere. And with regard to the action that love gives rise to, Mother Teresa said, “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” Putting these perspectives together, what we know of love is that it’s an energy, a force that favors relationship and bonding throughout the universe. And in the human experience it prompts the desire for unification and helping.
Country singer, Clint Black, sings a beautiful song that says, love isn’t something that we find or have, “It isn’t something that we’re in, it’s something that we do.” The song references the frequencies of love that are the subject of literature, theater, film and mass media—romance, intimacy, amorous relationship and marriage. As biological creatures it’s natural and evolutionarily necessary for these to be paramount in our consciousness, rites, rituals and celebrations. Within these frequencies we marvel at the process of falling and being in love and lament the falling out of love. Indeed, love is something that we humans do.
The ancient Greek philosophers understood that there’s more to love than finding it and making it. “Eros” referred to this kind of elemental love. It included eroticism and intimate love, the kind of love where there’s an expectation of return—“If you make me happy, I’ll make you happy.” “Storge” was seen as the natural affection between parents and children. It says “I cannot help but love you.” “Philia” was affectionate regard for friends—“If you show me virtue, equality and familiarity, I will care for you.” And “Agape” was the term applied to brotherly love, charity, the love of God and God’s love for man. Significantly, this was unconditional love—“No matter what happens or what you do, I will love you.” Thomas Aquinas wrote that Agape was “to will the good of another.”
All these distinctions regard love as a quality of relationship between human beings or humans and God, given our senses and common interpersonal experience. But at a higher frequency “transcendent” love steps away from material, space/time relationships and moves into the realm of the present moment and union at a cosmic level—where there is no object at which to direct this energy. It simply is, occurring as an unexpected, fleeting and uncontrollable welling, a completeness that encompasses all that is, as it is. And it urges no action. Sri Nisargadatta wrote, “When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that’s wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. Between these two my life turns.”
If love is metaphysical gravity, the energy that holds all things together, might it be that the experience of transcendent love occurs when this is fully realized? I’m reminded that we only know such energies by their effects. For instance, we know how atoms and sub-atomic “particles” interact and unite to form matter. And we know that they’re invisible forces operating in space rather than particles of matter. But we don’t really know what they are or why they are. The same is true of the three graces. If Bucky is right about the energy of love holding everything together at every level, might it be the fundamental force of the universe? In that case, besides love being something that we seek, have and do, love would be something that we are. Full disclosure, this is what I believe.
Benjamin Disraeli wrote, “We are born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end.” If all the above is true, what would be the consequence of living in such a universe? My view combines what Mother Teresa and Thomas Aquinas recommended, that as conscious beings, evolution encourages us to maximize the amount of love in all that we do and, as much as possible, heighten its frequency until it becomes universal and unconditional—willing the good of the whole.
On the day-to-day practical side, awareness of these vibrational distinctions can ease suffering. From a Buddhist perspective, the more we move from eros to agape—from thoughts and words of judging to non-judging, from controlling to allowing, from disapproving to supporting, from criticizing to empowering, from denying to accepting, from doing to being—the less we suffer in the face of breakdown and disappointment, and the more we contribute to those we love and to our own good karma (deeds) and future happiness. Whether or not we believe this, any attempt to increase the vibrational frequency or quality of faith, hope and love promotes the refinement of personality and the expansion of consciousness.
Some day, after mastering the winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
About This Image
Title: Sunlight Streaming Over The Gulf Of Mexico
File #: DC2876
With my digital camera on a tripod, I made this exposure from the third floor of our rented condo on the west coast of Florida. What you don’t see are the numerous exposures made before and after this precious moment.