The Path – September 1891

LOVE — E. T. S.

It is to those who show dislike to us that we must make constant effort in sympathy, patience, and self-sacrifice. Towards all those who love us these things flow from us spontaneously; they are the natural return for what we receive. Yet in their case also constant effort must be made to excel all our previous experiences in unselfishness.

These highest standards attainable by us, with those who love and trust us, and whom we in our turn can love and trust, become bright beacons, guiding us in our efforts towards attaining the same attitude to all mankind.

There is no limit to love; that is to say, the divine, unselfish love which we may have for our fellows: its intensity towards one does not limit it in regard to another; rather does this fervor stimulate us to further effort to stand in this high regard towards as many of our fellow creatures as possible.

And this also is the test whereby we may know divine from human affection; the former has no jealousies, no exclusiveness; its intensity towards one individual, whether of the same or opposite sex, does not draw off attention from our constant duty in seeking the weal of all other persons with whom we may come in contact.

In him who is lighted with this divine love we do not find the one theme, the one form, constantly in mind, and causing abstraction from other surroundings which should also claim the attention, but it burns deeply and calmly, is ruffled by no anxieties, questions not whether it is returned by the one or many upon whom it is bestowed: takes ingratitude or deep appreciation with equal satisfaction. It is complete in itself, and is its own perfect reward to him who knows it.

We often deceive ourselves in this love towards individuals, mistaking the human for the divine; we have to sit aside with ourselves and answer many searching questions before we can know ourselves upon this point. The more especially is this a danger where the person in question may be of the opposite sex. There the self-deception is deepest. What true human lover but falls under the marvellous glamour of believing that the object of his devotion is partly divine, and in some direction is exalted above all other women!

Apart from the fascination of sex, where this factor has not to be considered at all, we have to ask ourselves whether it is not with some special cast of mind, even of feature and expression, with which we are in love, which conforming with our ideal earns our admiration and devotion. Or whether, again, it is not because we have received some strong proof of the individual's interest in us, and which thus stimulates to a return; or again, through having been able to help, have we not raised feelings of affection and gratitude within that person, which finding and liking we again reciprocate.

The combinations are endless, and these are but elementary studies in regard to the question — Towards whom, of all those we meet, do we express a love which is wholly unselfish and divine?

We shall probably find that to no individual do we hold a love which is unalloyed, but that it has always something of the human element in it, and this signifies a selfish element. It is a sad discovery to make, yet we surely find this if we sink deep enough into ourselves. It is a discovery which when proclaimed makes many people, who think on the surface, very indignant.

Human love being founded upon selfishness, upon possession, upon exclusiveness, is the exact reverse of the divine element: hence it follows that the transmutation of human into divine love is a long work.

It is the work of humanity.

The road from one to the other of these opposites in love is covered with snares and pitfalls, with sophistries of the most subtle kind, and few there are who discern them. Innumerable have been the earnest men, founders often of sects which had much of good in them, who have come to grief themselves and led astray their followers upon this point.

Calm and critical indeed must be the mind which delving down into itself can separate the wheat from the chaff, the divine selfless love from the human and selfish.

The Path