".........But the nature of this one [divine] Reality is such that it cannot be directly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit........."
To come now to the third of those conditions, namely 'making themselves loving', (matters concerning 'pure in heart' and 'poor in spirit' having been dealt with in earlier posts) let me say straightaway that this script is not going to be a treatise on love, an intellectual exercise which, although essayed by many saints and mystics over the millennia, neither serves my purposes nor meets my needs today. I would suggest that if people are asked whether they know what love is, they would readily answer in the affirmative. However, a closer questioning about what love actually is might reveal that their views differ widely for the simple reason that those questioned would be unable to define what love is, even though they know when they love and when they are loved in return. Love and God, to mention only two examples, are beyond definition because neither emanate from the world 'out there' but from the universe 'in here'.
I propose to approach the subject of 'making myself loving' from the viewpoint of my own experience, taking care to keep things simple, because I strongly suspect that our approach to love, as it is to God, is dependent on our personal experiences of love and lovelessness, rather than on handed down wisdom about love. Let me state as clearly as I am able, that I do not believe love comes from the emotions or the intellect, nor from the physical senses. Love has its origins beyond ego-consciousness, in the realm of the Higher Self (or Identity, a useful term that is used in a comment here), perhaps also known as God. I say again, love does not emanate from the ego, although that is where it is made conscious and is experienced.
It is probably true to say that, for a major part of my life, I felt that I did not have the capacity to love other human beings, at least in a way that I would recognise as genuine love rather than my ego's need to control my emotional environment. (I specify human beings in this instance because I have never had that problem with the rest of the animal kingdom.) This lack of loving capacity may well have derived from a sense that I was unlovable, a condition born from perceived experiences of my childhood. But all that was to change as a result of a number of factors arising from my complete spiritual reorientation in my middling years. I began to realise that it was not a past, ego-oriented, shame-based unlovability that was the real problem I faced. It was an apparent inability to access something higher in me, and a lack of certain knowledge about how I could put into practice the more positive feelings that I was beginning to experience. This was in complete contradistinction to my earlier years when my efforts at maintaining control had produced reactions and responses on which my ego had been desperately dependent, but which had never been sustained. As a result I retreated into an internal 'ivory tower'. I cut myself off from my Higher Self, a state that was to have spiritually devastating consequences.
More recently, and against this now more distant background, certain questions have arisen. How is it possible to love my neighbour as myself, which in earlier times might have seemed a pretty poor deal for my neighbour? How is it possible to generate a love for one's enemy? Even, and this matter seems to be more pressing, how can I love a God whose presence I accept, but about which I appear to know nothing? And, finally, why should I love my enemy anyway? It seems obvious to me now that the intellect and the emotions could never supply the answers to my questions, although they could give support to the practice of love. The answer seems to lie in the region of other positive aspects or traits of the personality such as courtesy, cheerfulness, sincerity, kindness, patience and tolerance (the latter two not being the most obvious characteristics of my personality!), and gratitude. The list goes on and on, but every item on that list feeds and sustains the spirit. Over time I began to see that love, or perhaps charity is the better word, is not a single entity, but an energy source that infuses a range of qualities that become inseparable in their cohesiveness, thus producing a spectrum of love. I also saw that had I continued to exercise my negative personality traits they would have continued to shrivel and starve the spirit, just as they had done in the past. They also were a range of qualities, but ones which had their origins in something which at rock bottom was a spectrum of fear and perhaps, in the limit, hatefulness. By refusing to detach from my negative impulses towards those I felt I could not love or show some semblance of respect, I was spiritually damaging myself. I believe that when Jesus said that we should love our enemies, it was not for some woolly-headed, wishy-washy reason, but because he was deeply concerned about the redemption and growth of a person's spirit.
Clearly then, I can become less judgemental and more open-minded about my neighbour and my enemy. I can be respectful towards my neighbour and my enemy, even if I cannot like them, and although my efforts may be stretched to the limit and possibly beyond. But the question still remains as to whether I can love God, a metaphor for that indescribable otherness for which I aspire to have union, but one which lies beyond sense, emotion and thought. Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the kind of feedback I offer my divine Higher Self, for the ego acts like a portal through which energies pass inwards to the universe 'in here' as well as outwards to the world 'out there'. If I cannot experience divine love directly, then I can behave as if I do, and intent counts for a very great deal.
In conclusion, it seems to me that I do not have to understand love or even know what love is in order to practise it. I do not have to be able to define love, or God - and the religious claim that God is Love - to be able to experience those indescribables in my life. I do need to live each day in the here and now, unshackled from past perceptions and illusions, or at least make the effort to do so. Alright, no-one said the task would be easy.
From the recall of memories and the writing of this script, it occurs to me that it may be that my experiences of life will be at odds with those of others. If so, then I am thankful for that. I am also aware that I have flowed backwards and forwards in time, not always very precisely and clearly. But please indulge me a little. What I have now, although not yet complete because I am still part of a process of becoming, is beyond anything I could have ever imagined possible. Surely, somewhere amongst my searchings, I must have discovered some measure of truth.