Wednesday 4 September 2019

Passive/ static/ abstract love versus active/ dynamic/ personal love

Edited from the essay Divine Love in The Great Gift by William Arkle (1977)

We can realise for ourselves that love can be passive or active. We can know for ourselves that it is possible to sit down and simply radiate love, like a light bulb radiates light, in all directions but not directed in any particular way to any particular thing. This is passive love. 

We can feel that love becomes a more active if we begin to direct it onto an object, say a stone; but we can feel a difference if we direct this loving attention onto something more fully alive, such as a plant or a flower. 

This time we recognise a relationship which has a wider range of responses in it, and it is easier and more satisfying to love such a responsive thing. But now, if we look at how we feel if we direct our loving attention to even more living objects such as pet animals, human beings and children we realise that our love and relationship can grow again and become even more valuable. 

And if these human beings are of a more deeply beautiful and gracious order, then the activity of our love leaps into higher and higher expressions which are more valuable and delightful. Finally from the experience of our love directed actively to a most valuable human being, we can move again to a situation in which we are able to love a perfectly beautiful and gracious person, and this is our God of love. 

Because our God is the most alive and responsive being, this experience of actively directed love can be the most sublime. 

In this highest form of active love we must therefore have the one who loves and the one who is loved in order to arrive at a responsive situation. So we have two individuals, our God of love and the one who loves God. In this situations, the one who loves God enters into a Divine relationship in which both individuals are of the same order, even if God is far more mature than the individual who is loving him. 

So, at the moment that the individual really loves God as another individual who can be loved, then the two of them become friends in the Divine nature to which they both belong

This means that God no longer has to be God, but can become a friend to the one who loves Him and can love his friend back again in the way that love must if it is to express the fulfilment of its nature. 

The one who loves God also gradually realises that he is loving a real responsive individual with whom he is now a friend, and this experience is confirmed by all the other experiences of love to be different from worship. For worship is a sort of one-sided love which does not allow for a response and therefore cannot move into friendship, because in worship we do not relate to God as a living being but we idealise God in a fixed image that we have in our own understanding and thus we prevent Him coming alive. 

We do this, no doubt, out of a diminished sense of our own value and adequacy and out of a sense of modesty. But we only have to look at the nature of love for a moment to realise that the truest form of love does not have to behave in this manner. In fact it is unkind to worship others, rather than to love them, because it fixes them in a mould they do not wish to be fixed in; in fact by worshipping people we imprison them. 

But love does not wish to imprison the one it loves, above all, love longs to give expansion and enhanced beingness to the one it loves. Love longs to be in a creative and growing relationship with the one it loves. 

Love is the highest expression of life itself, and life is never static, but always wishes to be aspiring and developing towards new and untried possibilities ties. 

So what I feel the term a loving God really means, is that this God is trying to develop us to a stage where we can become His friends in this deeply loving, active, personalised way which allows the creative fruits of a friendship to arise between them which constantly keeps pace with the liveliness and creative aspiration of the living spirit of our common Divine nature. 

Note from BGC

This passage from Arkle, and some others on a similar theme, worked on me over time to create a powerful recognition of validity; that we ought not to aim to worship God, but to become 'divine friends' with God; because this is what God most wants from us, and there is an answering desire from deep within us.

God ultimately does Not want to be 'worshipped' by his grown-up children, any more than any Good Man wants to be worshipped by his grown-up children. That is, worship is accepted as a normal and necessary phase of maturation; but it is not the eventual or permanent ideal. The hope is that it will give way to a relationship of complementary, each-different, and loving, friends - both of whom are united in loving God and participating (with God and each other) in the ongoing work of creation.

Another way this passage affected me, is that there is a personal and directed love which is higher and more active, more dynamic than the 'passive' love which radiates out in all directions. This distinguishes between the personal active love idealised by Christianity - which is as strong as our strongest and most personal love; and the passive, impersonal, static state of abstract love that is the ideal of 'Eastern' religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Such love has more recently been adopted (in a materialistic and distorted form) by the modern advocates of Leftism. In terms of the 'universalist' ethic of equal altruism - mainstream modern Leftism supposes that we love everybody and everything equally regardless of response or outcome. This kind of 'universal' love is passive and cut-off; implies a static state of being - rather than an active and developing relationship; and is as weak as our weakest affection.

The secular 'Right' (which is actually just a subset of the Left) may modify and restrict the universalism of love to some category as nation, race, party - but are also abstract and passive in terms of the nature of this love.

Religions other than Christianity (and Christians who have missed the point) fail to recognise the primacy of love in God's nature; and develop theologies that may include love but - again - love of the universal, abstract, static and passive type. 

For Christians, only love that is personal and active/dynamic will suffice; and this love is spread only as far and as fast as networks of personal love may link us; that is, person by person within families (including especially our divine family) and among real (divine) friends.