You can tell the priorities of a culture by its vocabulary. The Inuits have 20+ words for ‘snow’ because it was critical for their survival. Americans have dozens of euphemisms for money: dough, cash, bills, lettuce, salad wad, stash, change, coin, geld, silver, copper, quid, and on and on.  This is similar for every culture where energy is measured in currency. Though we have hundreds of adjectives to modify money, we English speakers have one word for love: L-O-V-E. It isn’t nearly enough to convey the gravity of love – the English language groans under the weight of this burden, as our capacity for loving is concentrated in one overburdened euphamism.  Like a singularity stretching the fabric of the space-time continuum, few are strong enough to approach the gravity of love – of a limitless affection which is compressed into one tiny word.  And so the word is often spelt, and rarely felt: so much power can only be approached in the English language by metaphor, by an approach from the side, by the slight of hand of poets and troubadours, but only rarely by the honest, guileless apporach of the common tongue.

If love is so limitless that it can hardly be defined, what does it say about our current understanding that we English speakers have only one word for ‘love?’ How can we move beyond the limits of language to embody this universal force?

Modern democracy takes its government from the Greeks, and in love, it helps to take cues from our most venerated ancestors. The Greeks had four words for love – frustrating for the translators of the King James Bible, but helpful for the hearts of the ancient Greeks. Love was known in Greece as ‘platos’ – the love between friends, ‘eros,’ the bond between sexual lovers, ‘sturge,’ the dutiful love that binds communities together for their preservation and thriving, and ‘agape,’ the universal love that connects all beings as one. The Christian Bible focused on ‘platos’ and ‘agape,’ yet all forms were seen as necessary – all forms valid as ‘love.’ Splitting ‘love’ into four terms makes it more specific, and as none of these terms is exclusive, we can begin to see the complex dance of emotions which love can be, rather than a mechanical binary.

From the most specific connection to its broadest emanation, the four Greek loves can be arranged as follows:

Eros >> Sturge >> Platos >> Agape.

Eros is a love between two people. Though it is entered into by choice, especially among consenting adults, once initiated, it is supported by an unrelenting cascade of neurochemicals. This is ‘chemistry,’ the ‘falling in love’ of two bodies which are drawn together by a polarized pull. It is ‘animal magnetism’ of a particle for a wave which creates the ‘energy’ of lovers.

Sturge is the obligatory love which bonds members of a community. It is the binding force which unites tribes against the elements and nature. Those who do not adhere to its doctrines and unite for mutual self-defense are subject to ostracism. It is deeply connected with the need for tribe in the emotional, mammalian brain.

Platos is the love of friendship, of camaraderie, a force of companionship which unites like-minded and like-spirited souls. It is further from the neurochemical and fear-based conditioning which limits love to a chemical reaction, though it can be argued that platonic love is a response to the human brain’s desire for stimulation from its own species, with the presence and activity of mirror neurons of proof as our need for stimulation from one another.

Agape has been defined as the ‘love of God,’ both towards a source called God and from this source to humanity. God is perhaps the most difficult word, for, like love, it conveniently escapes any concrete definition. The phrase ‘God is Love’ elegantly, frustratingly sidesteps this conundrum, substituting one beautiful, undefinable word for another.

These are four terms, sourced from a culture with many similarities to our own. Yet these could easily be broken down to four hundred, for love is a state of relationship, of mutually beneficial interconnection.

Like any good relationship, these four forms of love can intertwine in their expression, blending into new shades of being. While erotic love triggers a neurochemical cascade, there are elements of the platonic in erotic union, sturge in the creation of societal units and community, and agape in self-transcendence. Agape is a particularly broad relationship, as it is a universal love which transcends boundaries of individual, family, community, or species. What is agape, at the depth level? What is it that we could be perceiving?

 

In a purely scientific materialist point of view, which breaks emotions, neurons, and communities down to their smallest component parts, there is little individual-oriented justification for agape. At the particle level, it is theorized that the force of ‘agape’ could be a sublimation of the chemical drives for self-defense and reproduction of the other types of love. It could be that such individuals who love wholly fill useful roles in a community, becoming counselors, healers, and child-readers, and this allocation of internal resources towards enhanced, universal nurturance and care was supported alongside many other specialties, so long as the tribe benefitted from the trait. There are myriad explanations for consciousness as a computer, powered by the individual neurons which compute its calculations. Yet a computer is useless without a power source, which its circuits are designed to work off of. And without streaming content, without an interconnected cloud of data, there would be little for a computer to do with all its circuitry. Attempts to explain consciousness as a phenomenon inherent in the wiring of the human brain and physiology neglect to consider the source of the power for life itself, and the effect of the ‘programming’ that comes outside the individual, in relationship with an outside individual, community, or force.

Yet, what if love is indeed its own force, independent of the chemical reactions which spur our emotions? What if life itself moves in response to this all-encompassing force, refilling and nourishing itself on the essence of love, as the root of the energy which drives cellular metabolism and respiration? Furthermore, what if the force of love cannot be perceived with the same highly-focused system through which we can see individual cells, neurons, and chemical cascades? What if universal love – not its chemical counterpart – can only be experienced in a parallel track of human consciousness?

Fortunately, science is indeed beginning to point in this direction. New research is proving that emotion produces an electromagnetic field around the human body which can be detected and shared with others. On the individual level, love can be felt, measured, and recognized as a quanta emanating from the self to others.

According to Rolin McCratey, Ph.D., the director of research at HeartMath:

Emotional information is actually coded and modulated into these fields. By learning to shift our emotions, we are changing the information coded into the magnetic fields that are radiated by the heart, and that can impact those around us. We are fundamentally and deeply connected with each other and the planet itself.

Research findings have shown that as we practice heart coherence and radiate love and compassion, our heart generates a coherent electromagnetic wave into the local field environment that facilitates social coherence, whether in the home, workplace, classroom or sitting around a table. As more individuals radiate heart coherence, it builds an energetic field that makes it easier for others to connect with their heart. So, theoretically, it is possible that enough people building individual and social coherence could actually contribute to an unfolding global coherence. 

You can read more about their work here.

If this is so, then why are the emotions held to be ‘subjective,’ outside the realm of ‘objective,’ logic based scientific facts? This is due to the fact that all individuals have different bodies, and hence, different technology of perception, while scientific language shares the same thought-based operating system. While the capacity to think varies in individuals, thought, logic and mathematics are held to be universally true. Emotions are messier, due to their subconscious (actually, sub-cortical) effects and the emotional conditioning of every individual. It is possible for every child to have the same textbook, written in the same language, having them share the same basic assumptions about logic, arithmetic, and reasoning. It is not possible for every child to have the same childhood, and it is this period of nurturing that creates the emotional body

It’s one thing to perceive our electromagnetic fields in a lab, and another to perceive them in our bodies. each person measures this system in their bodies. The idea that human emotion is subjective emanates from the fact that we all have separate bodies, in different states of openness or shut-ness. When we express an emotion through a word, it is first filtered through these systems. Yet it is the perception and sharing of these fields between each other which creates the phenomenon of the four Greek loves, and many more. When these fields are felt and shared, they are actually amplified, allowing greater creations than any one human can individually produce. Yet before we talk about love, and the grand constructions we can build by joining together through love, we have to factor in the body’s capacity to actually feel it. And to feel love, we must have the capacity to relax into connection with one another.

Science has long known that we have two parallel systems of perception in the body: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. These are the forces within us which respectively control action and reaction and relaxation and rejuvenation. The sympathetic nervous system is our ‘fight or flight’ system which hones us in laser focus to respond to outside threats or take advantage of temporary boons. The parasympathetic nervous system is our ‘rest and digest’ system. It helps us to rest and rejuvenate from the stresses and challenges of everyday life. I propose that the parasympathetic nervous system, and its articulate inter-braiding with the sympathetic, is the key for a living perception of love.

In typical modern consciousness, only the sympathetic nervous system is controlled by the conscious brain. The parasympathetic nervous system regulates the internal organs and digestion, and while advanced yogis can exercise some control over heartbeat, respiration, metabolism, and body temperature, a very low percentage of humans have developed the depth of relaxation and relaxed focus to consciously control this parallel system of awareness.

Couple this with the fact that ‘emotional reactions’ are easier to measure than rest states due to human physiology, and you have a body of research and a vocabulary that is skewed towards a ‘fight or flight’ consciousness, and not the ‘rest and digest’ circuitry of the heart and internal organs. When scientists trigger emotional reactions, they are operating within the sympathetic nervous system, which hyper-focuses the consciousness as a response to a threat. When challenged, this system’s style of perception is to respond to a threat by collecting, classifying, understanding, and reacting. Fight or flight, ‘alpha perception’ consciousness turns the living processes of the body and life, into static nouns, into repeatable experiments which are beholden to the process-oriented methodology of the male brain.

In tribal living, these forces were more balanced, as people had less with which to busy their bodies and minds. A man worked a few hours a day, in bouts of hunting and gathering interspersed with camaraderie and relaxation. The modern man works for far longer – 40+ hours in most cultures, doing work which hones one’s capacity for front-of-brain focus at the expense of more relaxed perception. Without deliberate maintenance, the complexities of mental labor and interaction can mute out the capacity to share on a field-based, emotional level.

 

It’s no accident that in our modern world, with its omnipresent awareness of time, that can take years of preparation to relax deeply enough to influence these powerful, subconscious, life-sustaining systems. If the automatic, autonomic nervous system can be hacked by people whose minds are distractable, erratic, and unaware, it would likely decrease our life expectancies. These forces, which in their inhalation and exhalation, in the lub and dub of the heart’s ventricles harness the rhythm of life itself, thus remain beneath the surface consciousness of most of humanity, sustaining them below the threshold of conscious awareness. One question remains: are these rhythmed forces a harbinger of higher intelligence, or are they simply the legacy coding which our neocortical current operating system is based, which humanity will eventually evolve beyond?

I propose that we see our separate, mechanistic natures rather than the vast forces which bring us together because we are choosing to focus on the small things, the individuals, and most importantly our individual, separate beings. Yet when we shift that focus from our own perception to receiving from a broader field, the perception of a larger relationship opens up. In the past, the only access to this greater field would be religious teachings, time with a master, or the rare moment of epiphany caused by an interruption of our normal, ‘particle-focused’ mental processes. Yet science is increasingly pointing that consciousness may be an inherent principle of matter, and the brain a receiver of this signal, rather than its generator. A lovely illustration of this can be found here.

When we open up to the brain and the heart as receivers of a greater field, it connects us to a larger whole. We choose to focus on a greater relationship, a greater definition of what ‘we’ are, and in the process, expand our definitions of love, and what it means to be alive.

If we receive a greater love coming through life, rather than straining to attain an external ‘love,’ we can realize that this bandwidth already exists, all around us. It is unbound by a single word, a static noun living as an ideal in the mind. It lives in the real, all around us. Love is a verb. And the broader our opening, the more we feel.

When we focus on our friends, lovers, communities, nations, the world, the cosmos, all with greater importance than our own separate selves, it gradually attunes our consciousness to perceive outside our limited consciousness. This brings us into contact with a force which, in a broader focus, holds greater gravity in consciousness. The focus of our identification would bring to our consciousness the energies which sustain that mode of self-identification. In simpler terms – if we identify as a person, then our consciousness will respond by opening up to the energies appropriate to sustain a person and drawing itself to the responsibilities and relationships which it is appropriate for a single person to fulfill.

The same is true if we view ourselves as a family leader, a tribal leader, a corporate CEO, a president, even an archetype of nature. Awareness expands to a being who takes responsibility for the harmonious development of the entire universe, as united with its very fabric. Such a being gains the capacity to process fantastic amounts of energy through their human form while becoming increasingly indistinguishable from the inexhaustible creative void which underpins the structure of all matter.

Many take ‘empty space’ to be inert. Quantum physicists have recently proved that it is not. The work of Max Planck suggests that matter is being created and destroyed in infinitesimal fractions of a second everywhere around us. The cosmos is tingling with the pulse of creation and destruction imperceptible to our human existence. Every subatomic particle in our bodies is strobing in and out of existence at a furious rate. It is the relationship between the elements of our form, and the memory of this relationship, the honoring of this relationship, which keeps our physical matter connected, coherent, and allows us to spend our time on such activities as contemplating the nature of love.

So again, what is love? As love is felt, so must it be named.

When we talk about love, we are talking about a living energy. And when we talk about energy, the excitation of particles, we are talking about a verb. Love’s curious state in our language, as both a noun and a verb, suggests that love is a superposition, a bridge between matter and energy. Yet for love to be a living verb, it must be felt without trying to hold it in fixed relation as a noun. Such a fixed relation would quickly sap love of its power for action by stilling the molecules of its excitation.

Yet that relationship – that holding together, even as we give birth, live, and die – the continuum of connection on levels smaller than we can possibly conceive – this is the underlying source of matter. Matter is held together by the continual choosing of subatomic relation – a submolecular love. Without this connection, we would not exist. It persists at a fundamental level of nature – below the chemical level. It is the creation and destruction of subatomic particles from the void which sustains the very atoms which make up chemical molecules.

What to call this all-sustaining, all-encompassing, fertile seedbed of life, which creates all things, and swallows them up again, a trillion trillion times a second? The force that births all things and devours them faster than we could ever think? That sustains matter longer than we can even dream? That is the background of the dance of relationship, of attraction and repulsion, of which the entire universe is constructed?

Sages have resisted fixing God and love in a forced definition, for to do so would be to attempt to put oneself – a creation, above the all-sustaining, all-creating force of living love. Hyphens and misdirections abound in the attempt to perceive the absolute. In the Christian Bible, love was ‘the word’ which echoed from ‘the beginning.’ It is notable here that the human attempt to challenge God was through the creation of a unified human language, Babel – a tower which was destroyed and dispersed, allegory of the limitations of a human-centric knowledge.

The Jewish sages go further, adding 99 descriptions of ‘god’ according to the different functions of the deity. Their ultimate moniker – YHWH, ‘I am that which I am,’ cannot be pronounced – Yahweh and Jehova are an approximation of this divine formula. When translating this into English, Jewish sages write G-D, with the hyphen representing humility in the face of the unknowable deity. This is the equivalent of Moses looking away from the burning bush – the need to turn away from a brightness that transcends the perception of humanity.

Tantrik practitioners take the opposite approach of Jewish sages, with less humility, but more practices and modalities driving their course. Instead of limiting language, turning away from God’s emanation on earth, tantric practitioners systematically seek to expand their awareness of consciousness to experience God in everything, including themselves. This results in an experience of ecstasy and union with divinity which unites the practitioner with love itself.

Taoist sages called this encompassing state the mother, the void, that which goes under and penetrates all things. Yet they also tangle this description further, making it deliberately confounding for the conscious mind to grasp the Tao. The path is wei wu wei, of path/path, of following the flow of instinct and intuition without conscious direction. Lao Tze further cautions, ‘those who speak, do not know. Those who know, do not speak.’ He understands the prison of words, and that the mother-love of the universe itself cannot be contained in any mere noun, in any one description.

It takes about seven years to grasp the reality behind quantum physics – the same amount of time that it takes to be initiated into many of the tantric mysteries. This is because it requires the observer to take a relative position on reality and its own separate field of perception. If expanded and embodied through physical and emotional practices, quantum physics could usher in an alchemy which would stand up to the most demanding spiritual transformations throughout time, backed up with scientific rigor.

Quantum physics has unlocked the incredible reality that, at the atomic level, what we desire to see will be brought into reality. Our desires are programmed with our operating language. The act of perception aligns the base components of reality to mirror our desire If we only know of love as an inert noun or a transactional relationship, we will perceive that over and over again.. If we desire to receive the frequencies of life and love fully, our hearts and minds will be transformed by the process. The more we open to a larger, intrinsic love, the more we become transformed to act as its broadcaster and receiver in this reality.

We have come into an English language with one tiny, four letter word for love, and an even smaller one for God. While we work on deepening our language and culture, bringing the fruit of the world’s traditions into our lived experience, we can expand ‘love’ and ‘god’ by our internal perceptions of reality, and shine them to others. We can have higher standards for these words, infusing them with the magic we have harnessed by being in living communion with God and nature itself, with love as the ever-plucked threads between here and there.? I propose we call this connection ‘Love,’ the state of connectedness, ‘God,’ and that we shine these high standards to others on the path. That we insist on words as alive, as holy, and preserve the highest standards of living truth through chastity of speech, integrity of purpose, and reunion as love.