Ethics – Love – Definitions

by pre., Friday, August 29th, 2008.

This week we are taking advantage of the fact its is a five-Friday month to make this week’s article a prelude, an aside. We’ll explain the topic of the meditation to be published next week rather than focus yet more on social perception. By having the first our our essays on ‘love’ this week we can do four articles on Social Perception, four on Love, and still have a week for a recap before we complete the first lap around the spiral at the end of September.

Which is useful, because the word “Love” is a frustratingly ambiguous mess in the English language, and it’ll take a short diversion into it’s meaning before we can really start to talk usefully about how love can help your ethics, why you should care, and how to improve and gain more control over your loving skills.

The Greeks do not suffer from this same ambiguity. They have at least five words which loosely translate into the English world “love”: Eros, philia, agapē, storge and thelema.

C.S. Lewis counted only Four Types Of Love when he thought about it, missing Thelema and so presumably never saying “I love to play tennis” or “I love to write allegories on the bible as children’s stories “.

Each of the types of love are no doubt useful and powerful emotions which should probably all be developed and nurtured and expanded and controlled to help push us closer to transcendence. Let’s examine them in turn.

Eros

Eros is, of course, romantic love. Full of lust, passion and sexual desire. It’s a red-hot overwhelming, burning need. A jealous possessive love which, if uncontrolled, can lead to Shakespearian tragedy and, if unrequited, to suicidal misery and stalking.

When you learn to take more conscious and deliberate control of this emotion you’ll better be able to turn on that passion and lust in yourself and your partner. You’ll be more able to ignore an unrequited love and through understanding gain more perspective on it’s importance to your Thelema.

Thelema

The type of Greek Love which C.S. Lewis missed, presumably damning it as no love at all because it’s not a relationship between people, but an intrinsic will or desire. You can feel Thelema towards a sport, towards a drug or brand of baked beans or even towards an abstract concept — “I love maths”. When people say “Do what you love” they mean Thelema.

It refers to your drives, subjective value systems, the things you get out of bed for on a Saturday.

The Transcendence Institute is at least a part of our thelema. The pursuit of knowledge, understanding, self-consciousness and self-control, the drive to learn how to be most effective in the rest of our thelema.

As you learn to know yourself better, you will find and resolve desires which conflict. Knowing your will, your Thelema, will better enable you to find ways to peruse that will, and remove any fear you have of chasing that which you love to chase. Eventually you’ll also learn to increase your thelema and thus drive yourself more passionately towards your goal.

Philia

C.S. Lewis called Philia “Friendship” and the scientific suffix “philic” means essentially “Attracted to” in the sense that a magnetic south pole is attracted to a magnetic north. Unlike North and South though, Philia arises though a similarity, having things in common. I love (Philia) you because we share a goal, or enjoy a similar pastime, support the same team, are of the same nation, friendship-group or family. We may even call it comradeship.

As you learn to understand this kind of love, you’ll learn how to inspire it in others — to ‘make friends and influence people’. You’ll better be able to find what common cause you have with people to base a friendship on, and you’ll learn to value your friendships more, and more accurately.

Storge

Storge is an affection, a familial love. A brotherly or sisterly love. A love which will tend to grow as you spend time with someone just through that familiarity. A wish for someone’s well-being because you’d miss them if they were gone.

It’s useful to control and understand your Storge, and that of others. To know why you feel the way you feel, to edit and change those feelings if they conflict with other types of love, your Thelema or Philia. To learn how to turn these emotions up and down as appropriate to your will.

Agapē

Early Christians, certainly Paul/Saul in his biblical letters, used the word “Agapē” to describe their god’s love for the world. The word which he claimed that his god loved unconditionally. Buddhists may see if at the source of good-karma: loving even that which does you harm. A general well-wishing, wanting good for the whole world.

It’s clear why this kind of love would improve our instinctual sense of ethics. If we have a general wish to see all parties — all things — come out better, if we love the entire world, then we’re more likely to find the fair solution to a problem than if we’re selfishly loving (Eros) our spouse and want to see them advantaged or if we’re biased towards those we’re familiar with (Storge). The emotion of Agapē gives us a sense of ‘fair-play’. As you learn to practice Agapē you’ll find pleasure in more things.

That’s not all

Even this list of Greek words does not fully expand upon the vast spectrum of emotions which the world “love” so vaguely describes. The Transcendence Institute would add to this list at least an appreciative, love, a love felt because the object of that love is good, a love that’s not Eros (the object of that love isn’t sexy), it’s not Philia (we need not share common cause or even know each other), it’s not Storge (we could not feel it for the black sheep of the family), it’s not Thelema (it’s not a drive, a desire, just a recognition of that which is ‘good’), it’s not Agapē (we do not feel appreciative of everything, only that which is good).

We would also add a love built from gratitude, even indebtedness, loving someone or something because of the help they have provided in the past.

All these types of love are pleasurable, at least in some circumstances, and this alone is sufficent reason to encourage them in yourself, to practice and train yourself on them.

The point of this article, however, is not to enumerate types of love. Human emotion is a huge continuous spectrum of experiences which we’ll barely be able to touch on next month. There are more instances of love than there are people who have ever existed, for each will have loved many times. All these words capture some parts of the experience and miss other parts. The point isn’t to list what is possible but to give a framework for discussion. Not to put love into boxes, but to give some markers, stake out some landmarks in the landscape of love.

This, we have done, so next week we’ll introduce a meditation designed to help increase and control Agapē, for to improve our ethics we must feel that sense of fair-play, and apply it to all things

Ethics – Love – A meditation for increaseing agapē

by pre., Friday, September 5th, 2008.

Last week we examined the many types of love, staked out the landscape, doing the ground-work so that we’re less likely to be misunderstood.

This week we are, of course, introducing a new meditation. This month’s mediation is designed to help you to increase your ability and tendency to love. In particular “agapē”, a general undiscriminating love for everything, compassion for all things.

Next week we’ll show why increasing your ‘agapē’ in is useful, both personally and to one’s ethics. Indeed we’ll show why a functioning ethical system is useful both to society at large and even to a single individual within it. Useful to you. That is next week we’ll discuss why you would want to increase your agapē while this week we’ll discuss how to do so.

Increasing agapē

Our meditation this month has you focus on your heart, and to pay attention and concentrate on the love coming from it, to project that onto other things. Of course, love actually comes from the brain just as all other thoughts, feelings, emotions and sentiment does. But our culture has symbolised love with the heart for more generations than we can count, we may even be biologically wired to feel as though it comes from there. Certainly love can make the heart beat faster.

When we meditate we’re not manipulating real world things. We’re just manipulating symbols. We use the symbol of the heart as an associative key to prompt the physical patterns representing love into the neural network in our brains. As a key to help you feel the love you’re meditating on.

You’ll use this key and your imagination and memory of past experiences of love to direct your mind towards the agapē pattern, and as you do so you’ll project it out onto a series of real-world items. Well, the symbols for real-word items obviously, but that’s all your brain ever knows. You’ll start with easy ones, family, friends, lovers, people who in fact probably inspire love in you rather than really needing to have you project it upon them. Then get progressively more general, directing your love, your agapē, towards more distant acquaintances, strangers, eventually the whole universe at large, even hated enemies.

Associating that feeling with those things, even just pretending, just ‘practising’ as you meditate, will effect your feelings about those things back in the ‘real’ world when you have finished meditation. And of course in general your brain is more likely to do things it’s done before, so spending a few minutes now and then feeling love will already make you more likely to find it outside your meditation.

Finally you’ll finish with the usual suggestive visualisations, seeing how you’ll be different after you have increased your agapē abilities, imagining that you’re heading towards it, that you’ll continue to feel these things during your dreams and that your life from then on will be effected positively.

Guided Meditation File 8 – Ethics – Love

Ethics – Love – Why

by pre., Friday, September 12th, 2008.

Last week we discussed how to increase agapē, your general compassion for everything. This week we’ll discuss why you’d do such a thing. After all, hasn’t economics and business school taught you that the most selfish, narcissistic, egomaniacal, even Machiavellian, people win the game of life? Get all the money and power and groupies and fame?

Building Relationships

Firstly the truth is, no. Few people actually get ahead by trampling those below. The people who rise to the top are more often those who make friends and influence people. Those who build alliances and forge friendly relationships with their customers and co-workers, not those who make enemies and wage feuds. No human can do their best work alone, we all need help and support from each other. Our families. Our friends. Our society. Even the occasional stranger. We get that support mostly from those with whom we have built a relationship, and the more loving you are the easier you will build that support.

Reciprocity

When you love, people in general are more likely to return it. How many people who love you do you hate? How many people who you love hate you? As you grow to love more, you will increase the number of people who love you. Love isn’t a price paid on a more economical selfishness, it’s an investment and sure, some investment’s go bad but that’s no reason not to invest again.

As you grow your agapē you will find people come to like you more, you’ll notice how they help you, you’ll feel a warm gratitude and know that repaying that help will bring yet more back to you.

Fairness

When you are more compassionate to a wider range of things, you are more likely to be fair, towards a larger range of things. A reputation for being fair will make your judgement more likely sought, your advice more often taken, your confidence more often trusted. Again, building relationships and encouraging people to help you, to find ways you can help each other.

Happiness

Even if Machiavellian exploitation of people was the best route to money and power, it’s not money or power which actually make people happy, or help them transcend. Good company, not a good bank balance. Being loved, not feared.

You know that ‘love’ isn’t a property of the object which is loved, it’s a property of the brain doing the loving. You know that you can change your own brain. You know that the longer a brain says in some given state the more likely it is to revert there. If you spend a lot of time loving, your neutral gear, your rest position will be closer to the loving end of the multi-dimensional emotional spectrum. If you spend time in the agapē areas of thought-space, you’ll lay your hat there and your brain will call it home.

Ask yourself, who is more likely to be happy, a guy who spends his time hating, who’s thought-space home is hateville, or the guy who spends his time loving, resting in neutral near the agapēton?

Grudges

If you love more, you are more likely to forgive, and forgiving is less expensive than holding a grudge. Grudges cause feuds. Punishing too much hurts your bottom line. Grudges prevent you from once again gaining mutual benefit from a relationship. Being annoyed with a shop-keep for overcharging you 5p should not make you stop your custom if you can save 10p by going there. If you make him feel gratitude he can gain from repaying. As you cultivate a more loving attitude you’ll be more willing to forgive, helping you build more allies, friends, stronger relationships.

Conservation

Even increasing your agapē for inanimate objects helps you. Of course those things will not repay your love, they will not build a relationship with you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be helpful to you. A love for the environment, be it the globe, the country, the street or your own furniture, will motivate you conserve and get the most from it.

If you love things you will protect them, keep them safe. You’re more likely to need something in good condition later than to need a broken thing.

This, then, is why it’s useful, pleasurable, worthwhile and good for you to learn to love more widely.

Next week we’ll talk about remembering to point some of that love at yourself.

Ethics – Love – Love Thyself

by pre., Friday, September 19th, 2008.

This month we have discussed what love means, how to train your brain to love more, and why it’s useful to love the world in general. This week we will discuss why and how it’s useful to love yourself.

The most obvious reason to spend time trying to train your brain into loving yourself is that you spend a lot of time with yourself. Pretty much all of it. If your own presence can be a trigger to put your mind into a more loving state, you’ll be in that more loving state more often. This, of course, will help you to find all the advantages that we discussed when asking why loving the world was useful.

Since it’s only right and natural that you’ll think about yourself more than any other being, as we mentioned you’ll be with yourself more than any other being, you will certainly find yourself happier and in a more positive frame of mind if you love the object of your concentration. You know that poor self esteem can lead to eating disorders, depression, trouble with relationships, underachievement and problematic drug and alcohol use. Loving yourself more will help avoid these dead-ends and make you happier

As you begin to love yourself more you’ll more you’ll find you experience an increasingly positive mental attitude, perhaps begin to be more optimistic. You have seen that all people live as much in a psychological world as a physical one. Your successes, your inspirations, your ideas and your failures, are influenced greatly by your expectation. Optimists go and try things while pessimists don’t try since they expect failure. As your love for yourself is growing, so your expectation of success will grow.

Which brings us to the social networking effects of loving yourself, of auto-agapē. People are pretty good judges of what someone thinks of themselves, their status, their position in the social hierarchy. As your auto-agapē grows you will be less likely to judge yourself unworthy, and people will in general trust the impression of that judgement which you automatically project. They will trust the opinion of others who have made such a judgement. Your self-worth leaks out through the social atmosphere into other people, and when you begin to judge yourself more worthy of love you’ll project that, and others will subconsciously agree

You will also find that as your love for yourself is growing, you’ll be more forgiving of the mistakes you do make. Less harsh a critic on yourself which will have positive-feedback results in all the above effects. With less harsh judgement of yourself others will have less harsh judgement of you.

How?

When listening to the Guided Meditation this month, pay particular attention to the first few minutes, when you’re asked to project the love from your heart inwards and around our own body and mind. If you particularly want to concentrate on building self esteem and loving yourself more, project that love inwards at yourself on each of the subsequent occasions rather than allowing it to grow outwards to an ever greater array of objects as the meditation suggests. Be sure that you still feel it growing, and shining out from your body, but concentrate on the visualisation of the growth of that symbolic power within yourself rather than outside.

Guided Meditation File 8 – Ethics – Love
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