By Tanis Helliwell
Love is arguably the most important feeling that we can experience in our lives. It motivates us to be the best of what we are capable of being, and the worst. More books, films and songs are devoted to the exploration of love than to any other topic. We know that babies who are held and cuddled thrive, and that babies deprived of touch whither and even die. As adults the quest to be in loving relationships continues and without it we feel sad and depressed.
There are many kinds of love, but the three main ones defined by the ancient Greeks are ‘eros, philia, and agape.’ It is helpful to examine these terms in order to understand how love affects our lives.
Eros is love of the physical body. It is the sexual attraction that we feel for one person instead of another. It fires up our gonads and juices and creates a hunger, a lust, in our physical bodies. The many forms of grooming, massages, pedicures, and even having our hair cut are sensual outlets for eros in our society, and sometimes the only forms available to us when we do not have a lover.
Eros overturns emotional stability with passion and dominates our thoughts with those of the object of our desire. It can wreck havoc in our lives when we leave stable relationships and jobs to follow the new person whom we think we love. This stage of erotic love might only last for three to six months, but oh what a ride. During this time we project on our lover all the desirable qualities that we’d like him or her to have, and carefully avoid examining any attributes that lie outside of our fantasy.
Yet, in time the erotic charge between lovers diminishes, and we see the previously ignored qualities of our lover and start to re-assess our relationship. Questions arise about our lover’s values, lifestyle, friends, and we examine these to see if they fit with ours. If, however, we end up liking our lover as a friend then we enter the second stage of love, which in Greek is called ‘philia’.
Philia is the love we have for our family members and good friends. It is affectionate and platonic. It is love of the heart, not love of the gonads. When we think of the love we have for our mother, sister, brother, and both men and women friends we understand philia. This love transcends gender, age, and is a love of someone who is part of our circle, someone whom we love as a person, who feels known to us and with whom we share our personal lives. This love might also include a love of a dog, cat or bird who is part of our family. It could also be love of a beloved teacher, mentor, or counsellor who helps us on our path.
There is a third kind of love. Agape is the unconditional commitment that we have for all beings, human, animals, birds, flowers, trees, and our entire planet and universe. It is defined by the Buddhist expression “Love all beings as you love your mother.” Or as Jesus said, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”
Agape love has neither the hot passion of eros, nor the conditional exclusivity of philia. Because agape is cooler and non-attached, it may not be recognized by others as love. It is a more spiritual love than the other two, and has at its foundation the belief that all beings are one. We may not like what someone is doing, but we still love him or her. Agape has no preferences about whom it loves.
Eros, philia and agape are not mutually exclusive and we can love a person with all three kinds of love. Each form of love can motivate us to become better people. Through erotic love we experience the heights of ecstasy, and the depths of yearning and pain so that our hearts are cracked open to love more. Through philia love we learn forgiveness, patience, tolerance and endurance in committing to love another human being long-term. Through agape we develop unlimited compassion, faith and trust for all the ways in which spirit works in our world.
My poetry book, Embraced by Love, shares my thoughts on all of these types of love. Enjoy!
Tanis Helliwell, a mystic in the modern world, has brought spiritual consciousness into the mainstream for over 30 years. Since childhood, she has seen and heard elementals, angels, and master teachers in higher dimensions. Tanis is the founder of the International Institute for Transformation (IIT), which offers programs to assist individuals to become conscious creators to work with the spiritual laws that govern our world.
Tanis is the author of The High Beings of Hawaii, Summer with the Leprechauns, Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns, Embraced by Love, Manifest Your Soul’s Purpose, Hybrids: So You Think You Are HumanandDecoding Your Destiny.
For information on Tanis’ courses, click here.