Love – Material, Immaterial, & Divine
March 16, 2011 § 1 Comment
In this Blog’s prior Post, “God’s Will is Love”, the idea that God is Love was considered. Although at one time I struggled with the concept, I have now turned the corner and assent to this view. From the idea that God is Love springs not merely one type of Love but, rather, three. These are Material Love, Immaterial Love, and Divine Love which combine to represent a chronological and qualitative hierarchy accessible to me in pursuing fulfillment of my purpose in life – to know God (see the prior Page, “The Qualitative Meaning of Life”).
A loving relationship is created with an object, either material or immaterial, when we percieve and experience its goodness as an image of God, its Creator. Understanding the difference between the first two types of Love – Material and Immaterial – can best be obtained through their contrasting. The former manifests itself when we become attached to something – normally other people, places, or things. Immaterial Love, on the other hand, exists when we seek to fulfill our purpose in life to know God through developing a manner of living in accordance with His Will. As its name suggests, Material Love is directed toward physical and tangible things in the world. By contrast, Immaterial Love manifests itself when God’s Attributes are emulated and imitated when acting in accordance with His Will. Material Love’s domain is the worldly; Immaterial Love’s is the spiritual. As examples, the former is experienced by Love of family; the latter, to use this example, by Loving God through through Love of family.
Material Love is sown and had by all. Regardless of our spiritual disposition, or lack thereof, everyone has certain loves of people, places, and things. Although not always to be considered in a negative sense, this type of Love is self-centered and selfish in that it is defined by how the objects of our Love relate to, impact, and benefit us individually. Immaterial Love, on the other hand, is characterized by the shedding of self-centeredness and selfishness and adopting a perspective of how we are to properly relate to other people, places, and things consistent with God’s Will. The difference is one of perspective and intent and is denoted by Immaterial Love’s focus first and foremost to Love God which, as a byproduct, rightly results in our Loving things of the world as well.
Material Love is emotional, irrational, and rooted in feeling. It represents a sense of attachment to the object and is subjective. Happiness and pleasure are its result. It is spontaneously acted upon by the subject and is effortless. Material Love spawns gratitude and appreciation through a personal relationship with a familiar object. It is enjoyed through experience and fosters bonding with the object. A desire to retain the object possessed results and is intimate, passive, instinctual, and involuntary. Material Love’s objects are valued as ends in themselves. The object’s loss, which is sometimes entirely out of our control, causes pain and longing for.
On the other hand, Immaterial Love is logical and rooted in reason although sometimes faith. It is intellectual and detached from the object; a striving for; actualizing an end; fulfilling a purpose; realizing a goal. Immaterial Love is objective and manifests duty and responsibility. It is deliberate and mechanical towards the object and requires effort and discipline. Immaterial Love’s object spawns awe, respect, and wonder and is impersonal in that there is no relationship or familiarity. It is contemplated as an ideal and creates a separateness from the object desired but not yet possessed. Immaterial Love is casual, requires an act of the will, and is voluntary. The object, which cannot be lost but for our own choice to misplace it, is emulated and imitated as a means to its end. Failure to realize the object thus does not cause pain and longing for but, rather, may result in feelings of incompleteness, alienation, a lack of purpose, guilt, and remorse when action is taken contrary to God’s Will (see the prior Post, “Cosmic Otherness and Divine Irony”).
We graduate from a life of Material Love to that of Immaterial Love when realizing that the things of this world are not of utmost importance to our fulfilling the purpose of our lives. But ironically, when knowledge of this is had and our Material Loves are properly placed in the context of Immaterial Love, we are also able to garner more satisfaction from our lives through the objects of our Loves. This also allows for a more genuine and authentic interaction with the objects themselves which also benefit. Take for example, our love of family. Once pursued purely materially based on the perspective of how it relates to, impacts, and benefits us, our Love for it takes on deeper significance and meaning in light of the obligation we have to act based on the requirements of Immaterial Love. Against this backdrop, not only are we able to better fulfill our individual purpose in life but also create a more profound relationship with the beloved.
Just as we can progress from Material Love to Immaterial Love, so too is it possible to ascend to Divine Love. However, this requires nothing short of the spectacular as a result of a rare direct spiritual or mystical experience with God. Such experience is typically pure gift although some sages may infrequently, through rigorous and disciplined prayer, meditation, and contemplation, facilitate direct contact with God. In these states, His Essence is disclosed either fully or in part. What results is typically paradoxically described as ineffable noetic Oneness with the Divine. Those who are fortunate to have experienced these states consistently describe overwhelming feelings of Love which transform their perceptions of reality, themselves, and God. The take-away from these experiences is oftentimes a total transformation of a person’s worldview, way of life, and how they subsequently interact with others and the world. Upon the blessing of Divine Love, the barrier between Material and Immaterial Love subsides and it becomes possible to sow and develop Love for all things, either physical or spiritual, to the same qualitative extent. The oftentimes forced feeling or duty, obligation, and responsibility associated with Immaterial Love gives way to effortlessly Loving all things equally and unconditionally.
At this stage, we reach the apex of fulfillment of our purpose in life by truly knowing God. He is then loved to an even greater degree than material relationships which at one time represented the most profound quality of Love knowable. This newfound Love of God supercedes our prior material relationships but paradoxically also allows for our Loving of all things, either physical or spiritual, to the highest degree. Thus, both Material and Immaterial Love is inherent in Divine Love. But upon the blessing of Divine Love, our Immaterial Love changes from a feeling of forced duty, obligation, and responsibility to an effortless second nature. One who experiences Divine Love cannot conceivably act unlovingly in either a material or spiritual sense or in contradiction to God’s Will. However, in absence of a spiritual or mystical experience directly with God, our seeking to know Him remains characterized as Immaterial Love.
The leap from Material to Immaterial Love is a big one. I do not yet find it possible to have the same type of loving relationship with God as I do the material world, let alone a qualitatively superior relationship. It is difficult to ascribe the same level of gratitude and appreciation for God as I have for my material relationships. For example, the Love I feel for family is profound. I cannot fathom to live without them and would without second thought trade my life to spare their’s. The Love that I feel for God cannot, by contrast, properly be described as Love at all. It feels arbitrary, mechanical, and indifferent. Yet it should be that my Love for God runs deeper than it does for my material relationships. To Him I owe my very existence and acknowledge as the source and cause of all subsequent Loving material relationships themselves. Yet how can something be truly Loved which is not known, experienced, and enjoyed personally? In this sense, my Love for God ranks with the unfamiliar things of the material – unknown people, things, and foreign places.
Perhaps this is due to my familiarity with material relationships and my relative unfamiliarity with God. I have become attached to material relationships my entire life whereas I am just now beginning to contemplate and become familiar with God. So the journey continues.