Levels of Love

man and woman on top of cliff

A friend of mine relayed a dream in which her dear friend who had passed away two weeks earlier came to her looking quite the lady, refined and as sophisticated as she had been in her life. She excitedly told my friend, “It’s all about love.” Without any further explanation she drifted away.

Of course, love means different things to different people and at times words just can’t adequately describe a condition and feeling that has so many expressions, emotional tones and can conjure up so many images. In Greek (my native language), there are four words for love: agape, eros, philia, and xenia. The word agape best describes the joyous nature of love and is used most often as a term of endearment. Eros refers to romantic love, philia is the love we feel for our closest friends and xenia is a love we feel for strangers and all of humanity.

With poetry, mystics like Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, bring us to a deeper understanding of the nature of love and to the epiphany that love is transcendent, emotional as well as romantic. When it comes to the love felt for a romantic partner, husband or wife, love is expressed at many levels. We may come to understand the love we feel for them by considering some of these levels and the expressions of love that can be achieved with a partner.

Spiritual Love Points You Towards Your Inborn Divinity

Love is a spiritual condition as well as a human achievement. Spiritual love is a harmony of intelligence and spiritual light in your heart. This love is pure, unconditional, forgiving and unifying. Between you and you partner it bonds you at unseen dimensions, flows between your hearts and heightens your experiences with each other. Spiritual love is also boundless, powerful, creative, healing and everlasting. With your hearts open, it floods your consciousness, clearing discord and suffering. It offers you a higher intelligence to work with in those times when the gravity of life tends to pull you down.

In the consciousness of spiritual love, you are god and goddess consummating your love as divine partners. You see the inner light of each other’s soul and can embrace the darkness without fear and without judgment. This love can never be destroyed only ignored. It evades you only when you deny its power and existence within yourself.

How to achieve states of transcendent love? Rumi said this:”This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”

The secret sky that Rumi spoke of is a field of light that transcends the ordinary, one housed at the dimension of spirit, yet accessible, because it is within us all. Taking flight requires letting go of life for a time surrendering thoughts, mundane worries, the events of the day and looking into your partner’s eyes expecting that a miracle will occur. This miracle, as Rumi describes it, happens when all the veils that separate you fall away and you experience only the height of spiritual love between you. And finally, taking “a step without feet” suggests letting something else deliver you—the consciousness of your hearts.

Devotion Is the Commitment to Love

At the human dimension, love and faithful service to love are more difficult achievements than love at the dimension of the spirit. It takes learning, work, commitment and vigilance to summon up your love, especially when your love is put to the test with your partner’s imperfections.

The commitment to love is called devotional love. Devotional love arises from strength and determination to help your partner grow emotionally, support their healing when they are ill, and commit to the changes that support your relationship. Through the years, months, hours and minutes of a relationship, devotion builds a rock-solid foundation of trust. Devotion is supported by good times and acknowledged through the tests of bad times.

Devotion is another one of those spiritual conditions that can be difficult to maintain when the going gets tough, especially when fate tests us with situations that push us to the fear zone of self-preservation. It demands that we stick to the promise of love we made and display a courage and strength of love that can sometimes even be deemed heroic. It may mean abandoning other promises in favor of your relationship.

Devotion demands you love your partner unconditionally. Rumi describes it this way: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

A Love That Is Emotionally Engaging Feeds the Relationship

With a partner, there is an opportunity to feel what it is to be truly human— to bond with love and engage at an emotional level. At the emotional level, you feel affection and can respond to your partner’s sorrows as well as their joy. You give compassionately knowing some good will come of it.

Staying emotionally engaged can be difficult when routines leave little time for face-to-face contact and when one partner finds it difficult to voice their true feelings in meaningful conversation. Sometimes it seems easier to just disconnect, avoid eye contact and not ask any questions. However, avoidance only distances you from your mate and leaves you both empty and feeling neglected. Rumi’s advice is simple and straight forward: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Romantic Love Is What Fairy Tales Are Made Of

Partners who can keep the passion fires lit experience a warmth of love that is nothing less juicy. Romantic love puts you in touch with your physiology, stimulates your senses and makes you feel sensual, alive and ready for intimate moments. But your psychology may be as much of a driving force when it comes to romantic love, pulling your souls towards a bond that fairy tales are made of. With romantic love there is a sense of falling, being in the throws of Eros and enveloped in the rapture of what your soul is destined for—uniting with someone to whom you are perfectly matched. There is a psychological underpinning and drive at work in romantic love that seems to fulfill a fairy tale promise of everlasting love. You feel the rapture and constant attraction because in your mind you have found your soulmate, someone who prepares you for the sacred marriage between the sacred bride and bridegroom, two archetypes that dwell within. The complementary qualities of your romantic partner summon up your own inner masculine or feminine and the result is a love bond that completes you.

Rumi defines the romantic quest for your soulmate this way: “The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”

All four levels of love are integral to growing a relationship into a fulfilling one. To touch the sky of spiritual love, fulfill your promises with devotion, emotionally engage with compassionate care and light the passion fires with romance, are profound achievements. Love is grown and cultivated over time and requires maintaining an open heart. As Rumi said, “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”

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