“SPIRITUAL LOVE” by Roberto Assagioli
This is a very high subject and very difficult to deal with. Spiritual love is not something that can be known intellectually, from the outside, that can be taught and learned with ordinary methods.
To truly know what spiritual love is, one must have felt it, experienced it, even for a few moments. Still, talking about it will not be completely useless. Meditating with reverence on spiritual love can help us awaken it in us. First of all, it can be useful to us in a negative way; showing us what spiritual love is not, pointing out its limitations and insufficiencies, and the dangers of our ordinary way of loving. Then it can help us directly, since even the mere vision of the wonderful possibilities of spiritual love can give rise to a powerful aspiration in us to feel it, to arouse it in us; and every pure, fervent aspiration sooner or later finds its fulfillment.
Loving spiritually means:
Love everyone and everything in God and love God in everything and everyone.
In other words, it means feeling in a lively and integral way – and above all realizing it in life – the unity of all things and all beings in the Supreme; that unity that we have already understood and accepted with reason, that we have “seen” with the eye of intuition.
We generally consider things, elements, natural forms, living beings, our fellow humans, just as they appear to our superficial vision, that is, separated from each other and separated from us, extraneous and contrasting with each other and with ourselves. But if instead, we open our consciousness, we widen the circumference that separates us from others, we see that everything is the manifestation of a single Principle, which in each of us is truly mirrored and expressed – God immanent in every creature – then our being, our heart, opens and expands in an outpouring of pure spiritual love.
The essential features of Spiritual Love are:
Universality: that is, no exclusion, “wholeness”.
Brotherhood: all things and all beings are children of the same Father, emanations from the same Principle.
Let’s now examine the varieties of Spiritual Love, that is, its various manifestations according to the relationships and ties of various kinds that connect us to the various living beings within the bosom of the Supreme Unity:
1) Towards subhuman things, elements and beings (plants, animals).
Pure brotherliness and gratitude.
We have a great debt of gratitude, generally not recognized or heard; the lower beings, plants, animals, make evolution possible by providing us with the foundations and means necessary for physical life. (Saint Francis).
2) Towards human beings:
a) Compassion. Towards humanity in general, towards the great mass of humanity that live and suffer in darkness, agitated by violent passions; our brotherliness, our love is manifested as compassion. True compassion is not simply a passing emotion, but it translates into a desire, a need, a purpose to actually help our brothers in humanity.
This reveals another aspect of Spiritual Love: Wisdom. Spiritual love is not only a feeling, a pure affective state, it is a synthesis of feeling, wisdom and will. This is not surprising, because the Spirit is synthesis, is Unity. We must therefore consider the ills and the suffering of our brothers, as indeed our own, from a unitary, universal point of view. Only in this way can we really help them, not by attacking the effects (which often fails), but the causes. They teach us to consider our fellow men not as separate bodies and personalities and ends in themselves, but as souls, as pilgrims on their way to manifestation.
Then everything changes: then we feel more compassion for the wicked than for the suffering, for the murderer than for the victim. Then, we are sorrier for those who immerse themselves in matter and go crazy in the pleasures of the senses than for those who, suffering, purify themselves and rise. Then we want the true good of souls, not the momentary and illusory relief of personalities. The new task is difficult, but incomparably more beneficial.
Of course, it is easy to deprive ourselves of the superfluous, to give to the poor what we have left over, the crumbs from our table, and be rewarded by the pleasant sense that the satisfaction of our vanity gives and the satisfaction of putting one’s conscience at peace! This does not mean that all practical and material help to our fellow men is to be excluded, but it must be given with wisdom and love. That is, it should be the occasion and the vehicle of spiritual love.
Our help should aim to enable the beneficiary to learn the lessons that life wants to give him, and therefore to eliminate the causes of his ills. More than material help, men need spiritual help. All those who have a little light, who have understood to some extent, the great laws of life, the wonderful possibilities of the Spirit, have the joyful task of transmitting their strength and their union to others.
b) Communion. Our love takes on a character of deep communion, of intimate brotherhood, towards our closest brothers, towards those who are at our same level, who struggle, who suffer and proceed alongside us. This fraternal friendship based on the Ciceronian “unum velle et unum nolle” should be continuously expressed in a free and reciprocal exchange of aid, in supporting each other in the rough steps of the road that leads to the peaks. With them, more than ever, we should feel the fundamental unity that exists between souls, we should consider ourselves truly united and united like “the fingers of a hand”.
Before proceeding, however, we must stop on a neglected but no less essential side than the other sides of spiritual love, namely:
Spiritual Love towards ourselves. We must love our true being, our higher Self, as a Divine Spark, as an integral and necessary aspect for universal harmony. As Plato said so well: “You must honor your soul”. The sense of our dignity and spiritual nobility must restrain us from any vulgarity, from anything improper. This is the true sense of “noblesse oblige” and constitutes a powerful spring for our evolution. Also, in this case, as in all the others, to love ourselves spiritually means to love God, to love the part means to love the Whole of which it is an integrating element.
c) Veneration. Love for Superiors (Saints, Sages, Genes) takes on the character of veneration. However, it is necessary to avoid the error of fetishes, that is, to love the contingent, human qualities, and not the truly superior ones. Love the Spirit that most powerfully shines in Them, the Flame, not the lamp, and above all, do not love one, excluding the others. If there can be understanding and communion among us, how much more will there be among those Great Ones! However, there are some who argue with ridiculous presumption and fury about the merits and superiority of the various Saints, Wise Men, Spiritual Teachers, with the pettiness, the jealousy, the narrowness of the most ordinary human love. It is not thus that those Great ones wish to be honored.
d) Adoration. Towards the Supreme, towards the One, our love rises as adoration. It is an impulse of pure love, which descends and transforms into a complete adherence to the Divine will, in a fervent impulse to cooperate as much and as best we can in the implementation of the Great Providential Plan, so that His Glory shines forth. Then we murmur the highest, the most universal of all prayers:
“Thy will be done.”
– Roberto Assagioli