This sunday sermon in St. Ottilien (http://mp3.erzabtei.de/2014-05-25-0915-konventamt.mp3) addressed (from minute 23) an interesting line of thought: the four shades of love – derived from the different Greek words for love. You find this all over the internet, but the priest happened to be a catholic monk and Jungian psychoanalyst and so by listening to the sermon, quite a few thoughts or association crossed my mind. I must confess, that those thoughts have both inspired and somewhat unsettled me. The Greek language distinguishes four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.
- Storge (στοργή) means “affection” in ancient and modern Greek. It is natural love, like that is felt by parents for offspring, or between brother and sister or by children for their parents. It is a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in “loving” the tyrant. The key attribute is natural.
- Philia (φιλία) is “conscious” love, we know from words like philosophy – love for wisdom (Sophie). It mean a feeling of friendship and enjoyment of an activity, again used in both ancient and modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. The key attribute is rational.
- Agape (ἀγάπη) means love in a “spiritual” sense. In Ancient Greek, it often refers to a general affection or deeper sense of ” unconditional love” or altruistic love , coming from the heart. In latin the eqivalent word is “caritas”, it gives and expects nothing in return. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for us and loving each other like we love ourselves. The key attribute is spiritual.
- Eros (érōs) is “physical” passionate love, with sensual desire and longing without the balance of consciousness. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “intimate love”. Plato expanded this definition: as appreciation of the beauty within an object, or even of beauty itself. Indeed the word platonic love today describes, “without physical attraction.” Plato argues that eros helps the soul find knowledge in beauty which contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, leading to transcendence. The Greek believed that beauty can never be evil. The key attribute here is sensual.
The sermon continued with a few examples describing the opposite of love. Obviously indifference and hate are opposite of love, so is antipathy. A few other examples were given, like egoism and narcissism, which seem to be so common today. Now what would be the four opposites for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. in some languages?
- The opposite of storgē, would be indifference. In German I associated immediately “herzlos” (heartless) as in “herzlose Mutter” or “Rabenvater”. Also there is rarely hate in families, but quite often you find indifference in this relations.
- The opposite of philía would be antisocial and disloyall behaviour in regards to community and society. Here I associated immediately “antipathy” may be mutual and unilateral disloyalty in friendship (Falscher Freund).
- The opposite of Agape would be of course narcissism and egoism. Here I associate immediately, “lieblos”, “hartherzig” und “Eigenliebe” instead of “Nächstenliebe”. Narcissus feels no empathy.Narcissus is a character from Greek myth… a young man of incredible beauty that one day caught his own reflection in the surface of a pond – and became so enamored of his own face that he stayed there, gazing at himself, until he died. Modern psychology has taken this mythology and describes narcissism is a disorder wherein an individual is so wrapped up in themselves that they have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with other persons. There is reason to believe that many “successful” (and unsuccessful) leaders nowadays suffer from narcissism and narcistic wounds. I have written here about it: Archetype of the vampire in todays culture of Narcissism. The remedy against egoism is according to the pater the holy spirit. Pope Franciscus tweeted a few days ago: “Come, Holy Spirit! Help us to overcome our selfishness”. According to C.G. Jung the Ego must be overcome to find the Self (which is our window to god). The remedy against narcissism is according to his sermon humor (or jokingly 2 years of psychotherapy). Like a needle it punches and deflates the inflated ego, allows “heart talk” and empathy. Now I do not know if he knows the book, “Heart Talk”, a study of the emotional range of the Thai language through the word ‘jai’ or heart in English. It provides a comprehensive list of 900 jai phrases, neatly organized for different situations. I will later give a few examples of this linguistic heartscape where ideas take shape and feelings are formed.
- The opposite of Eros is hate. Hate is passionate and strong like love is. It is a deep feeling, often triggered by rejection. Any student of the psychotherapies would have heard of the terms: Eros and Thanatos – Life instinct and the death instinct. Sabina Spielrein wrote originally on this concept and it was sized by Freud in his revised theory of human nature. In his book “The ego and the id” he discusses this theory of opposites: Eros is a “…self-preservative instinct,…”. On the other hand there is the death instinct whose task it is to, “…lead organic life back into the inanimate state;…” We are entering into the field of the philosophy of opposites. Where has philia as in philosophy and metaphysic its place? The word philosophy comes from the two Greek words: philia and sophia. Philia is the Greek word for ‘love’ (a bond of friendship), while Sophia is Greek for ‘wisdom’. Philosophy is literally the “love of wisdom”. But love may pursue, but not possess. Wisdom comes form the mind, love from the heart. Clearly love is another, a different form of wisdom.
The sermon mentioned of course that love comes from the heart. By marriage and business experience I am also familiar with the many words of heart in Thai language – Jai. Jai is one of the most important concepts for consultants to understand when they commence business in Thailand. The Western capitalism is often very pragmatic and business-like, but this culture can be misinterpreted (and sometimes rightfully interpreted) as “jai dum” – black heart.
- One may consider Jai dum as opposite of Eros, very similar to a person full of hate. Jai dum is a cruel lack of humanity (dum =dark or black). In Thailand, as in many other cultures, the color black has negative associations as black is quite literally the “full lack of light”.
- Kao jai (understanding) may relate to Philia.
- I think Nam jai relates to Storge. Nam jai directly translates as “Water from the heart” (Nam = water). It refers to a kind, generous person, who thinks about the other person. Nam jai is one of the strong values by which Thai people judge each other. If you are perceived as mai mee nam jai (lack of nam jai), people will perceive you in western term as heartless and not cooperate.
- I think Jai boon relates to Agape. Jai boon means “generous” and “full of merit”. Someone who is jai boon gives away or donates what they have to others (Boon = “merit”, reflecting the Thai Buddhist custom of “merit making” in this life for the afterlife by doing “good works” and providing alms to monks).
A lot of expressions I learned from the mentioned Canadian novelist Christopher G. Moore – his fiction is quite useful for cross cultural training: chua jai – believe, dee jai – happy, dtaam jai – please yourself, up to you, dtang jai – purposefully, dtat sin jai – decide, dtok jai – shocked, frightened, goom jai – worried, greng jai – be afraid of offending, jai baap – sinful, jai dum – cruel, malicious, jai dee – kind, generous, jai deeoh – faithful, jai keng – stubborn,jai lai – mean, nasty, jai orn – soft-hearted, jai rorn – hot tempered, impatient, jai yen – calm, jai yen yen – calm down, mai por jai – dissatisfied,man jai – confident, nam jai – generous, por jai – satisfied. There is a motto that say “Sabai jai krue Thai tae (Sabai jai is the true Thai). Sabai means “comfortable”. For example, “Sabai jai loan” is a highly advertised.
There was some relationship advice in that sermon too. You may relate agápe, éros, philía, and storgē also to relationship and marriage. When we first meet, woo and eventually commit to one another we experience Eros, a passionate love in a strange long distance relationship. However, a successful marriage must hold on Eros, but also understand that a more cooperative, sustaining connection must be formed. Philia is a love based on friendship between two people, it is patient and kind. In a marriage it is important that you not only love, but also like your mate. When we get older, sexual lure wains or shared experience decreases, a sense of connectedness must remain. Get to know your partner now as a friend, not only as lover. Next, Agape love is beyond Philia and Eros love. Selfless and non-judgemental, it is considered the spiritual dimension of love. Agape is given without self benefit, expectation or condition. Last but not least, storgē means take care for each other in a very literal sense, during sickness or old age. “For better and worse” means love despite disappointment and shortcomings, at difficult times.
Now, finally, what is the love of God? What the Biblical concept of ‘Love’. We’ve travelled so far away from the love God today. It was agape that the early Church used to denote the Love of God demonstrated in His sending of the Son to effect reconciliation (I John 4:10, Rom 5:8, Eph 2:4-5). It’s these twin concepts of ‘undeserved merit’ and ‘the giving of oneself’ that lie behind the concept of the love of God in the NT.
So sad whats going on in Bangkok and everywhere now. Evil is the opposite of love – in all four dimensions of it. As C.G. Jung said, your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. This is what the dynamic model of love and anti-love proposes. Up to date psychotherapies have learned from the church on the (moral) static dichotomy of good and bad and the god and the devil.
I know this monk quite a while, his sermons – in Swiss-American German accent are always full of humor, making fun of himself.