What is Love? Recovering True Masculine Healing
What is love? Years of mind-numbing, sentimental pop music seems to have convinced us that love is only that that you find in a sexual relationship, but why then is this love with its marital, everlasting connotations always prone to failure breakups, disaster and even ending in hatred.
The reality is that what we call love today is actually a simulacra of what was once seen as the spiritual union with God, of the underlying reality of life itself, the selfless reality of being.
Don’t believe me? Well then how about we look at two figures – both famous in their time – and how they differ in their conception of what love is.
- Julian of Norwich was an English mystic born around 600 years ago, she states:
“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who has always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me, but this was shown that in falling and rising again, we are always kept in that same precious love.”
- Joss Stone is a modern-day pop star, performing and writing songs today, she sings:
“If I was blind you’ll help me see, if I lost my mind, you’ll find it for me, speak on it babe, tell me what do you need because sometimes I need you to love me.”
Now while these two women are singing about the same thing, needing “love” when you’re lost, they’re singing about the source of such love in radically different ways.
Where Julian of Norwich sings of love as the spiritual, the transcendental, and the universal, Joss Stone sings about a human, the mortal, the finite.
What is Love? How the Spiritual has become the Sexual
While Joss Stone is the example used above, you can really listen to any modern day pop song and find its about the seeking of completion via sexual gratification, whether that be seeking it or flaunting it for lost, broken and thirsty men.
It has become completely normalised in our culture today for the transcendental to be switched around for the sexual.
In fact, it will even seem odd to many that I’ll even be asking ‘what is love’ and talking about anything spiritual, even though the roots of our language towards love lay in our collective spiritual history.
Now, while I’m not saying you cannot have sincere and honest feelings of love for someone that you’re in a sexual relationship with, I am saying that we’ve confused the notion of love in our break with the spiritual, and this has led us into thinking that another human being can complete us.
This is an especially dangerous belief as it creates an endless cycle of neediness around sex, well represented today in the huge growth of male neediness around women, Tinder and copious pornography usage.
Many men I meet, in fact, most men I meet have become embroiled in this state of affairs and are subconsciously lost seeking a deep sense of peace, security and love but have it trapped in a world of lust.
Ironically, this creates neediness around women, the exact opposite of love, which never clings because it’s not based upon individual people, but something much deeper, something much more peaceful and benign.
So what is modern man to do in this scenario?
What is Love? Recovering the Roots of Peace
Answering the question ‘what is love?’ isn’t just a philosophical or sentimental undertaking, but a fundamental question to the state and quality of your life as a man.
In this effort, you must drop to the root of our culture in order to gain a deeper understanding of your own roots as well as how your and the world’s psychology functions.
Understanding this will lead to centring yourself as a man, as well as forming relationships that don’t depend on needing anyone else for your sense of self.
Our contemporary notions of love begin in Greek culture when it was articulated in four main types, these are:
- ‘Storge’ – Empathetic love
- ‘Philios’ – Platonic love
- ‘Eros’ – Romantic love
- ‘Agape’ – Godly/Universal love
It is this final form of love that we understand in our modern world, even though the language we use to express it is very different.
In our secular world, we’ve kept the word love, yet divested it of all its original spiritual content, which is why it’s a largely vague term that people find it hard to define and reach for strong feelings of attraction towards women as their answer, because it’s the only thing they experience.
However, the roots of this love we speak of in pop songs and so forth is rooted in the aforementioned notions as explored in Greece, as well as through the prism of ‘God the Father’, the ultimate source of all at the root of post-Christian societies.
This sort of language may frighten the modern secular reader, we’ve been almost programmed to reject all spiritual language as hocus-pocus and illogical, yet in the same manner as modern atheists are happy to jettison all spiritual belief, yet often want to hold onto the idea they have a unique, independent soul – the very root of Christian belief – a sense of powerful, transcendental and healing love too is another concept we’ve subtly kept, being unwilling (or unaware) to see that without the original spiritual content, love is nothing more than a fancy term for synapses in the brain telling you to mate with a partner.
What is Love? The Distant Father
We now exist in a world that speaks about a love that was once rooted in the father, yet doesn’t see the value of that same Father anymore.
This may seem to only impact our slightly confused notions of love, yet I contend that the breakdown of the heavenly, loving father has also led to the breakdown of the idea of the father in our culture.
We can see this in the contemporary attack on masculinity as “toxic” and the “patriarchy” as an overarching evil force in our modern world.
In turn, this has also led to the breakdown of the father in the home, with divorces now at record levels many young men grew up without a father completely – and even those that do often report a great distance between themselves and their fathers.
This distance from the father can also be traced back to the broader destruction of masculine leadership in the home, something seen as antiquated, and even sexist nowadays.
What is Love? Breaking Free from the Mother
In the familial, cultural and spiritual absence of the father, we’ve been left with only the love of the mother, and while the love of the mother is an amazing thing, a vital thing, and a nourishing thing for the young child as he’s growing in the world, there comes a time when a boy needs the father to introduce him to the world of men.
In this journey, the boy is broken free from the bonds of childhood via leaving the reliance on the mother and learning to grow alongside the father.
However, without this process, a man never really leaves the state of boy psychology.
Psychoanalyst James Hollis points out the child’s experience of the mother as “…internalized as a complex and emotionally charged cluster of energy beyond the control of the ego.”
Without the father to help a boy grow into a man, he can say trapped in this place forever, and therefore he starts seeking the love in the world that he really needs from the father.
This external seeking of completion is what Hollis refers to as the “father hunger”, and the lost boy seeks it in all sorts of places, women, drugs, drink, status, possessions, food, and so on, yet he can never truly find safety and security in what he’s looking for.
What Hollis suggests is that in lieu of the real guidance of the father, young men have to start finding spiritual wisdom outside of their immediate surroundings and dig that bit deeper to find the guidance that can take them back to a place of security and inner peace
Here, the recovering man can gain an understanding of the fundamental question, “What is love?”
This process of growth and self-realisation is sometimes termed as “individuation” and makes us more capable of healthy and meaningful interpersonal relationships.
As Hollis points out: “The paradox of individuation is that we best serve intimate relationships by becoming sufficiently developed in ourselves that we do not need to feed off others.”
What is Love? Returning to The Father
So, men must return to the spiritual wisdom of the father, be that their real earthly father, a cultural one, or a spiritual one.
If you’re interested in embarking upon this journey, you can check out my book, From Lost Boy to Awakened Man.
The book is designed to grab your soul out of the past, renew it, and take away the pained ego identity before moving on to build a vision for you as a man by introducing you to the spiritual wisdom that can take you on that journey from boy psychology to man psychology.
The book is ideally worked with a 9-Step Programme that guides you through this process, sets your soul straight and helps you in forgiving yourself, others and the world, as well as share and explore your darkness so you can grow into your true articulated, integrated self.
You can check out the Recovering Man 9-Step Transformational Programme below: