No word has perhaps been so much abused in our age as "love," thus fulfilling the celebrated prophecy about Kali Yuga in the Vishnu Purana. In view of the unfortunate but undeniable fact that "love" is more loosely used today than "truth," Gandhi preferred to adopt truth rather than love as the highest value although he repeatedly stressed that the two are inseparable and even identical in the ultimate analysis. Relative truth may masquerade as absolute truth, but the mere existence of contrary claims and the continual violence of controversy cast doubt on the universal validity of all partisan standpoints. On the other hand, when selfish, personal love, often based on passing passion, wears the mask of selfless, impersonal, dispassionate and immortal love, it is far more difficult for deluded victims to discern the true from the false, the everlasting from the ephemeral. Earthly love is indeed an alluring and deceptive shadow, and sometimes a perversion, of ethereal love. Just as untruth invariably requires some form of violence for its instrument, so too blind and selfish love, which contains the seeds of violence and even hatred, is based upon untruth and uses it to further its immediate ends. Our main difficulty here is that, as Socrates points out in The Symposium,

we isolate a particular kind of love and appropriate for it the name of love, which really belongs to a wider whole. . . . The generic concept embraces every desire for good and for happiness; that is precisely what almighty and all-ensnaring love is. But this desire expresses itself in many ways, and those with whom it takes the form of love of money or of physical prowess or of wisdom are not said to be in love, or called lovers, whereas those whose passion runs in one particular channel usurp the name of lover, which belongs to them all, and are said to be lovers and in love.

 In The Secret Doctrine H.P.Blavatsky explains that Fohat or Eros in the phenomenal world is that "occult, electric, vital power, which, under the Will of the Creative Logos, unites and brings together all forms, giving them the first impulse which becomes in time law. But in the unmanifested Universe, Fohat is no more this, than Eros is the later brilliant winged Cupid, or LOVE."

 The universal aspect of Love was embodied in the Puranic conception of Brahma's "Will" or desire to create, and it was affirmed in Phoenician cosmogony as the doctrine that desire is the principle of creation. In the Rig Veda Kama is the personification of that feeling which leads and propels to creation. "Desire first arose in It, which was the primal germ of mind; and which sages, searching with their intellect, have discovered to be the bond which connects Entity with Non-Entity." As Eros was connected in early Greek mythology with the world's creation, and only afterwards became the sexual Cupid, so was Kama in his original Vedic character the primeval creative urge, Atma-Bhu (self-existent), Aja (unborn), sometimes regarded allegorically as the son of Dharma, the moral Law, and of Shraddha, faith, but elsewhere depicted as Agni, the fire-god. Harivansa makes him a son of Lakshmi or Venus. Aja is the Logos in the Rig Veda. Venus Aphrodite or Lakshmi, the Celestial Virgin of the Alchemists and the Christian Virgin Mary, is the personified Sea, the primordial Ocean of Space, Akasha, on which Narayana, the self-born Spirit, moves. Venus is the generator of all the gods, the mother of Kamadeva, the god of Love, Mercy and Charity.

 True love is a creative force that emanates from the One Logos and its expression is under the universal law of cosmic and human interdependence. The love of which Christ spoke cannot be grasped without reference to the law of love, which is set forth in The Key to Theosophy: "As mankind is essentially of one and the same essence, and that essence is one – infinite, uncreate and eternal, whether we call it God or Nature – nothing, therefore, can affect one nation or one man without affecting all other nations and all other men."

 True love can never be a divisive force but always has a universally beneficent and unifying effect. It leads in the end to that love of wisdom, the worship of the Logos, which has been extolled by the Platonists and the great mystics of all ages. This true love was expounded in Porphyry's long letter to his wife, Marcella, when the time came for them to part and for him to resume his wanderings as a pilgrim. He wrote that every disturbance and unprofitable desire is removed by the love of true philosophy.

 In so far as a man turns to the mortal part of himself, in so far he makes his mind incommensurate with immortality. And in so far as he refrains from sharing the feelings of the body, in such a measure does he approach the divine. . . . Neither trouble thyself much whether thou be male or female in body, nor look on thyself as a woman, for I did not approach thee as such. . . . For what is born from a virgin soul and a pure mind is most blessed, since imperishable springs from imperishable. . . . They who do not use their own bodies, but make excessive use of others, commit a twofold wrong, and are ungrateful to nature that has given them these parts . . . it is impossible that he who does wrong to man should honour God. But look on the love of mankind as the foundation of thy piety.

True love is constant and immortal because it springs from the immortal and steadfast nature of the human soul.

 Finite love, on the other hand, is born of the perishable part of man and becomes a chain of enslavement rather than an abiding bond of communion and cooperative endeavour. If we are glamoured by the meretricious fascination of this chain of possessive, personal love, we cling to it until we invite unnecessary suffering and inevitable frustration. Dante shows Paolo and Francesca locked in an eternal embrace which is anguish rather than ecstasy, the condign punishment for selfish lovers. Such love is what H.P.Blavatsky calls égoisme à deux, an exclusive and destructive love, whether shown between husband and wife, mother and child, between brothers or between friends. Such love may bring temporary pleasure for the personality, but it is displeasing to the Ishwara within as it could sunder the soul from its divine parentage and true mission, as it hinders more than it helps the love of Beauty of which Plotinus spoke, the intellectual love of God of which Spinoza wrote, the constant love of wisdom extolled by ancient sages from Krishna to Shankara, Buddha to Santideva, Pythagoras to Porphyry.

 Does this mean that there is no place for the human affections and for the affinities between kindred souls and that we must eliminate every element of personal love? Certainly not, for this can only lead to pure egotism or to spiritual selfishness and the quest for personal salvation. He who loves only himself lives in hell, the hell of loneliness, ambition and despair. On the other hand, he who loves only one other person lives entirely on earth, and all such earthly love must come to an end; at best, it could only correspond to the idealization and illusion which characterize Devachan. He who loves his fellow men lives on earth in a heavenly condition, but as long as his philanthropy and altruism are purely personal, his only reward is a long Devachan, a prolonged and beautiful dream, an illusory condition that brings the soul no nearer to its true quest, the love of the SELF of all amidst the conditions of earthly life. Finite, personal love is not bad in itself but it is frustrating and useless to the human soul unless it can gradually purify and make more impersonal and unselfish the force of kama in its material manifestations through the incarnated personality. Only thus can love be transformed from a violent and divisive tendency in human relationships into a non-violent, unifying power that produces strength and peace. The evils wrought by lust and selfish love have been nowhere more forcefully depicted than in Tolstoy's indictment of modern marriages in The Kreutzer Sonata or in Gandhi's Self-Restraint versus Self Indulgence. The Theosophical ideal of marriage has been clearly stated by W.Q.Judge in "Living the Higher Life" and also hinted at in The Dream of Ravan.

 In The Secret Doctrine H.P.B. gives the key to the transmutation of finite love when she repeats the ancient teaching that Manas is dual – lunar in the lower, solar in its upper portion. It is attracted in its higher aspect towards Buddhi, the seat of true love and real compassion, but in its lower aspect it descends into and listens to the voice of its animal soul, full of selfish and sensual desires.

 The human Ego is neither Atman nor Buddhi, but the higher Manas: the intellectual fruition and the efflorescence of the intellectual self-conscious Egotism – in the higher spiritual sense. The ancient works refer to it as Karana Sarira on the plane of Sutratma, which is the golden thread on which, like beads, the various personalities of this higher Ego are strung.

The Secret Doctrine, II, 79

 The imperishable thread of radiance which is Manas serves man as a medium between the highest and the lowest, the spiritual man and the physical brain. When the lunar aspect of Manas is positive, kama in man, like the Barhishad Pitris, is possessed of creative fire but devoid of the MAHAT-mic element. When the solar pole of Manas is positive, kama becomes Agni or divine fire and is capable, like the Agnishwatta Pitris, of conserving its energy as well as of sacrificing itself to the good and salvation of Spiritual Humanity. The distinction here is between finite love and the more enduring love which is a link between passion and compassion and which finally culminates in the highest spiritual love.

 When kama in man overcomes and enslaves Manas, love becomes violent and cunning, or a mere form of sentimental wish-fulfilment. In the former case, it tears the individual to pieces. It becomes a volcanic and tempestuous force, an explosion of all the passions pent up in man; it knows neither law nor restraint and its pressure drives the deepest undercurrents of the animal nature in man to the surface. Love is then a leaping, a devouring fire, but a fire that can be turned to ice, doomed to a tragic end, death-dealing and futile. On the other hand, the love that is romanticized, the love sung by the troubadours, the love of Tristan and Iseult, the love poured forth in the letters of the Portuguese nun, Marianna Alcaforado, is the pathetic attempt of kama to masquerade as Buddhi, a psychic effusion, a product of delusion and self-pity, a fragile if seductive flower under which the serpent of selfishness is coiled. Tamasic love, as The Dream of Ravan points out, is devoid of the light of knowledge and ideality, for it is content with illusions and idealization and could turn into cold indifference and hatred or into self-destructive morbidity. When kama influences without overpowering Manas, we have rajasic love which can sting the beloved into an emulating pursuit of cherished ends, which is animated by a keen intelligence, and which shows a lofty scorn of every divergence or shortcoming.

 Sattvic love has been well depicted in The Book of Confidences:

 When thou shalt find true Love, shalt find one homogeneous to thy nature; to whom all Life is consecrate, who will have ardency to take with thee the Bright Track of the Soul. And in that embodiment of thine own love, shalt find all others for thy love, thy joy, thy patience, and compassion.

Such love can only arise when kama is under the influence, even if intermittently, of a Manas that tends upwards to Buddhi. This love is silent rather than clamorous in its expression, marked by inward depth rather than by outward display. The silences of love lie in wait for us, night and day, at our threshold, and those who have loved deeply in this way come to learn many secrets that are unknown to others, the secrets of sharing and sacrifice and duty well done.

 Love is the moving power of life itself, and nothing can exist without the love which drives everything towards everything else that is. He alone who loves lives. Love is the drive towards the unity of the separated, and separation presupposes an original unity. The restlessness in love is only a dim reflection of the divine discontent of the soul, but it could act as a barrier to the union of the soul with nature if it is channelled merely through personal and material forms of expression. The active and creative element in love is the urge of the human soul to participate in the work of cosmic and human evolution, a form of kriyashakti which enables man to emulate the gods, the Dhyan-Chohanic host of creative intelligences. Human love could become a bridge between the animal and the divine aspects of love provided the desire to ascend through lower to higher forms of love is continually nourished and sustained.

 The Narada Bhakti Sutras and The Voice of the Silence point to the highest kind of love which transcends the three qualities, the constant love of the Absolute, Eternal Truth, the attributeless Compassion which is the law of laws, embracing the entire universe, ceaselessly filling the world with its benedictory and magical power. We can progress gradually from Dana, "the key of charity and love immortal," to Paramarthasatya and Karuna, the Universal and Absolute Compassion that is rooted in Eternal and Absolute Truth. The Gita warns us against the rajasic and downward tendency of kama, the constant enemy of man, but it also points to the process by which we could perfect our power of devotion and become worthy of the Divine Grace that flows from the Lords of Love who reflect the Power and the Compassion of the Creative Logos in the cosmos. The Narada Bhakti Sutras list the following eleven different forms of Bhakti or Divine Love: Love of the glorification of the Lord's blessed qualities, Love of His enchanting beauty, Love of worship, Love of constant remembrance, Love of service, Love of Him as a friend, Love of Him as a son, Love for Him as that of a wife for her husband, Love of self-surrender to Him, Love of complete absorption in Him, Love of the pain of separation from Him. If we wish to go beyond "love" and "hate," we must use all our loves as a preparation for amor dei or true Bhakti, the total and endless Love of the Logos in the cosmos, God in man.

Hermes, October 1975
by Raghavan Iyer