Love as You Are Loved

I’ve been touched by the ardor and range of responses to my last post.  Somehow, a collective journey was made from a description of the joy that can come from sharing stories about our common humanity to an exchange about the reality of evil and God and the nature of love.   One person wrote that St. John taught that we love because we have first been loved by God.  The image of this–loving as a reminder of the ground of our existence–was particularly touching to me.  In the midst of my grief after my own mother’s death, I remember realizing that my own love for her was holding me, guiding me, even in her absence.   I have also recently discovered that the capacity to love and the desire to be loved in return may be a rich way to investigate and transform our experience–even about seemingly impossible propositions, like what happens to me when I die.

Although the Parabola editors didn’t plan it this way, it turns out the subject of “Love” leads naturally to  “Life After Death,” our next theme.  It turns out that love is not just an an emotion or feeling, or even a conviction.  It is also a special kind of action.   I’ve spent the last couple nights (during insomnia hours) reading The Life of the World to Come, an historical perspective on Christian hope about the life after death by religion professor and author Carol Zaleski (full disclosure: she is my sister-in-law).   She quotes many interesting people including Miguel de Unamuno, a great Spanish philosopher-poet who wrote that we must believe in this life in order to give this life meaning but also this:  “And we must needs believe in that other life, perhaps, in order that we may deserve it, in order that we may obtain it, for it may be that he neither deserves it nor will obtain it who does not passionately desire it above reason and, if need be, against reason.”

Love–and the desire to be loved–is a not just an emotion or a conviction or ideal.  It can be a transforming action.   Carol goes on to quote Cardinal Newman from one of his famous Oxford lectures.    He has just quoted a dying factory girl who has basically demanded that there be a benevolent God, that her life have  meaning beyond the noise and pain and misery she knew:  “A mutilated and defective evidence suffices for persuasion where the heart is alive.”

I know that Christian hope for life after death  flows from faith in the resurrection.  But it is interesting to pay attention to the action of the heart.  Love can reconcile us to what is beyond our knowledge and control.  Love can carry us,  hold us (and in the root sense of suffer as bearing) can suffer us.

12 thoughts on “Love as You Are Loved

  1. Loving others invariably leads to the death of ego. It’s very telling to me that, at the last supper, Jesus basically said to his disciples, “If you forget everything I’ve taught you, remember this: love one another.”

    He was sure that by attempting to love others we would quickly come face to face with the obstacles to love that exist inside us. To love, we must die to self. But in dying to self, we rise to fuller life.

    I’m sure there is something beyond what we now know as life. The death of ego and the finding of self adhere to the mythical pattern of the dark passage and the hero’s journey, which is the pattern of reality.

    1. Love frees us, opens the fist of ego…in the same way a real need to know, to go beyond what we think we know, opens scripture (and all forms of spiritual truth) to us, clears the spiritual path….love calls love.

      1. I am off to Israel today. I look forward to standing on Mount Olive near the site of the Garden of Gethsamene where Jesus allowed self to die to God’s will. Then it will be time to go to Golgotha where a full death was achieved and then to stand in the places where he returned, the road to Emmaus, Nazareth where the journey of True Self was revealed in history so that all of us could believe.


      2. Love leads to life. Amazing this should be the true organizing principle of the universe.

        Scott, have a great trip! I love how the story of Jesus conforms to the mythical pattern. Like an adventure story! One of the reasons it transcends culture and race. And all he did was live a life true to his nature. The path of love is the mythical path. To be human is to be mythic.

        May your mind be blown.

  2. This quote of Cardinal Newman from Tracy’s latest post “And we must needs believe in that other life, perhaps, in order that we may deserve it, in order that we may obtain it, for it may be that he neither deserves it nor will obtain it who does not passionately desire it above reason and, if need be, against reason.”

    Perhaps. In my view it depends completely on what is meant by the word ‘believe’, or rather on what is the belief based. If it is simply something that I’ve read or heard and it touches my emotions then it has meaning only so far as it prods me to question; otherwise there is no real basis for believing becaus it has not been verified by experience.

    What sort of verification is possible? Is it possible to see two natures, two worlds within myself? Not theoretically but in fact see the pull of what is referred to in some traditions as the lower nature? And also to see that in moments another world, another I? becomes visible. This would be verification and it also gives us the wish to know what we are and in what we might trust our hope.

    Is it possible to witness death and life within our inner worlds even before the final death of the physical body? And again not to believe yes or no but how to investigate?

  3. I don’t know when your mother died, Tracy, but you have my condolences!
    when my mother passed, I felt as if a part of me had died too. In fact, it did!
    However, we “rise from the ashes”, and for me, become a newer version of the old slef.
    I dont’ know if one has to belive or not…Faith is based on “not knowing for sure”, so what is the difference between belief and faith???
    I do know that when a priest stated to a goup of us on retreat that “we can do nothing to make God love us more”,it struck me like lightening!
    How beautiful! And this I do believe…”perfect love”!
    I can only try to walk in His way, and remember that in giving I receive, as St. Francis said.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth…and welcome to Paradox. On the one hand, there is nothing we can do, everything is already given. Yet, Madame de Salzmann, a woman of extraordinary integrity and attainment, once said that faith must be based on our own conviction…our own verification….our own capacity to love. Love does lead to new life.

  4. Tracy,
    I don’t know if this is appropriate,and if not, please delete it.
    I am not familiar with Madame de Salzmann, except what was featured in Parabola’s recent issue. What book would you recommend that I purchase to read more?
    By the way, I live not too far from Wheaton Theosophical Society,but am in Sarasota for the month of March.
    I suspect that I can find her writings at their bookstore???

    1. Hi Elizabeth: A book called The Reality of Being, drawn from her notebooks will be published this June. To really enjoy it, it would probably be helpful to read In Search of the Miraculous or another introductory book about the ideas of her teacher, G.I. Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff himself described his teaching as “esoteric Christianity.” All that aside, what is interesting about de Salzmann is her incredible capacity to work and explore on her own. She would take a seemingly straight-forward concepts like “faith” or “feeling” or “attention” and reveal that they are worlds to be explored.

      From your side and Scott’s and maybe Peter, I’m interested in hearing about interesting Christian writers and teachers to interview in Parabola. Please give me some names/books to check out.

  5. Tracy,
    Thanks for the “heads up”! I will check out the writings as soon as I get home.
    An interesting person that you might want to research and see he is;Tracy,
    Thanks for the “heads up”! I will check out the writings as soon as I get home.
    An interesting person that you might want to research and see if he meets with your qualifications is Dr.Paul Knitter. He is an ex-priest and holds the Paul Tillich, Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Before this he was on the faculty at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
    He is published, and some of his work is very “scholarly”, but he also recently published a book to be read easily by people like me. It’s called, “Without Buddha I could Not Be A Christian”.
    You can look him up on Amazon too.
    What’s also interesting about Paul is that he is married to a Buddhist.
    He is a personal friend of my husband and myself.
    If you want more information, please let me know. I have his personal e-mail, but would want to give you that information personally .
    Also, I don’t know why, but I am not receiving the automated response that there are more posts on this blog.

  6. Tracy, another three authors that come to mind are: Richard Rohr. He has a lot of books on Meditation and Contemplation. also he has a book on Male Spirituality and one on the Enneagram. He is a Catholic priest.
    John Shea is another ex-priest (both he and Paul Knitter are Catholics in good standing.) I use his “Sprititual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers:The Relentless Widow, Year C.” He has a book for each year,and his insights on the Gospels are very, very good.
    Another author that I go back to and re-read is Willigis Jager, another priest, almost in the tradidtion of Bede Griffith. His one book,”Search for the Meaning of Life: Essays and Reflections on the Mystical Experience” is excellent. Unfortuanately he is German,and I don’t know if he speaks English, but his book is an English translation.
    I hope I have been of some help.
    I do know another author who is a gay priest in the UK. He writes books following the thoughts of Rene Girard, but the book is at home,and I can’t remember his name.
    If you are interested, I can give it to you in April.

    1. Thanks! Much food for thought. More and more it seems to me that Parabola could be a forum for a new kind of exchange, not watering down the traditions but speaking from the essence of the practice. More and more I think there is another kind of effort to be made in this pluralist world. An exchange that doesn’t sacrifice depth and integrity but still reaches out….Your insight and inspiration is most welcome.

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