Four Kinds of Love; Eros, Agape, Phileo & Storge

The Greeks had four words to describe what we call love, Eros, (romantic love), Phileo, (enjoyment, fondness, friendship), Storge (family loyalty) and Agape (unconditional love with stick-ability). I like to think of them broadly as;

  1. Eros-A love felt particularly within the body (trembling excitement, elation, joy), coloured and underpinned by deep and beautiful procreative urges. C.S. Lewis distinguishes Eros from natural sexual urges and lusts, because Eros is a state of the heart and while it is intimately related to sex, sex can exist, and often does exist, without Eros enlivening it. It leads to children, family, joy and laughter. It is good and right, but it is usually not enough to sustain a relationship long term. Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love, usually between a man and woman, but can also be “platonic” and extend to deeply intimate friendships.  Socrates defined Eros as also working with the soul to recall knowledge of beauty, and in that capacity contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth;  While Eros can simply be an earthy thing, when Spirit infused and elevated to it’s true position, it speaks deeply of universal mysteries, and is usually most keenly expressed within the most sacred of all relationships, that between husband and wife. Eros suggests that even sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence.  The elevated buzz of Erotic love is said to naturally fade within a year of its beginning. Perhaps it is too exhausting and all consuming? Perhaps we just get lazy? I don’t necessarily think it has to fade at all, and part of the purpose of this blog is to record my thoughts and experiences on Eros and how we can nurture and maintain this beautiful love in our lives.
  2. Phileo- If Eros is the love of the body, Phileo is the love of the soul. It is easy love and affection, it is bent towards our natural tastes and preferences. It embodies culture and beliefs. It’s about the friendship you feel towards people like you, with the same interests, social graces, and style. In the scriptures, this kind of friendship love is used to describe many relationships. God is said to have this kind of love for us and Jesus. Jesus felt this kind of love for his disciples, parents felt it about their children and children to their parents. It is not then a shallow love, but rich in emotion and feeling, like when your heart beams towards your child when they do something wonderful. However it is also described as a negative shallow love, natural and exclusive and conditional. Phileo is soul love, and it’s strength and value will depend on the elevation of the soul of the bearer.
  3. Agape-Is more of a parental, mature, sacrificial kind of love. The Thayer Lexicon describes agape beautifully when it says “to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it.” In a way it is as idealistic as Eros, in that it is a crazy love that will not let go. Agape loves, usually at cost to the bearer. Agape puts the beloved first and sacrifices pride, self interest and possessions for the sake of that beloved. This is the love that God has for us which inspired him to sacrifice His son and for His son to obey and sacrifice himself. It is the kind of love we are commanded to have for one another. It is a love of supreme greatness.
  4. Storge-This is the love of community and family. Often dutiful, sometimes unfeeling, but very strong none the less. It is a natural, carnal love, but powerful enough to be a real hindrance to spiritual growth, especially when family and culture are holding you down. It is a love that may pull you towards a lesser path. 

Obviously, all of these loves work together, but only Agape is free from the error of our humanity. Agape is the glue that holds the other loves fast and gives us the wisdom and patience when the other loves fail. If we make it our goal to always be forgiving and merciful and believe in doing good to all men, and then do it, the other loves will stand, and your life will be full of the rich blessings of Phileo friendships and intimates of the sweetest and loveliest kind. You will stand up in the midst of your family and people and call them back to walk on pleasanter paths and on smoother highways. So, seek first the high love Agape; that sacrifices, forgives and believes; the love of Christ, freely given to those who ask and receive. Drink deeply of Christs love for you, for the fathers love for you, of this eternal and perfect love and all these other loves will be added unto you.

Song of Songs, Chapter 1:1-4

I thought I would start this blog with thoughts from the Song of Songs,  a tale of supreme Erotic love, offering insight into all romantic love has to offer us. The Songs were written by King Solomon, the first living son of the infamous union between the giant slaying minstrel warrior King David and his lover, now wife, Bathsheba. 

King Solomon excelled even more that his father in virility, having over 1000 wives, but legend has it that he also had a passionate and soul filled affair with the Queen of Sheba who visited him, staying for more than 6 months. I believe the Songs were composed with the intentional use of clever hidden symbolism in order to particularly delight his like-minded Queen Sheba, who also aspired to the finding out of life’s riddles. It is stated that the Queen was very curious upon many matters and sought to test the wisdom of Solomon after hearing tales of his greatness. Apparently she was duly impressed and bore great reverence to the King. The songs are filled with all the fairytale idealism and intensity of Eros, but also, with great tenderness, expresses Agape within the erotic relationship.

The Song of Songs is also a parable that illustrates the nature of the Eternal Lover, Jesus Christ and his relationship with His people, as his betrothed bride. It has been a source of intimate symbolism of this most divine of all love relationships.

 

 

 v1 This is Solomon’s song of songs, more wonderful than any other.

Far from being an arrogant boast, this introduction is meant to tell the reader, “Listen to these mysteries and give them your careful attention. It will lead you to knowledge and experiences, “More wonderful than any other.”

v2 “Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, for your love is so much better than wine.”

The song starts with the dark and exotic beauty longing to be kissed. She’s putting out, and desiring his affection. One is led to believe, in this tale, the woman is the initiator.

v3 “Your anointing oil smells good, and your name is like purified oil, hence many women love you.”

Romantic love (Eros) is experienced through the senses, but the woman is also revealing the first blossomings of admiration and an elevation of the beloved. Erotic love is idealistic and so it should be. These early feelings of idolation and respect will later become strengthened by Agape in a good healthy relationship. At this stage she realizes that she is one of many, as the king has not yet chosen her.

v4 “Lead me and I will run behind you. The King has brought me into his private inner room. We will exult with trembling and rejoice. We will document this love as a memorial, for your love is better than wine. It is right that I love you.”

The woman is naturally inclined to submission in the presence of her chosen beloved. She wants to be led and to follow as an expression of her respect for him. This is the most beautiful thing a woman can bestow upon a man and his perception of it leads him to choose her and to desire intimacy with her within the “inner chamber” of his heart. The couple then find themselves in an electric situation where they both realize they have a love of worth that should be immortalized (as it was in this poem). There is a deep feeling of rightness about it all.

Song of Songs and keys for sexual bliss – chapter 2:1-7

“I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”

Our song opens with the heroine reflecting dreamily on these words, ” I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.” Perhaps these are words her lover spoke during their last leisurely encounter, and now they burn in her soul, as if to make a clearing for the garden of love.

A man must first esteem his woman. He finds her beautiful and he tells her. This is rule no.1 for marital harmony. The man must genuinely love and adore his wife. It’s easy to do when she is young and perfect, at the height of her beauty. All of this is to help you bond as one and so fulfill and experience the mystery of love, and maintain it into old age where beauty fades, but the heart shines.

“Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.” Proverbs 5:18,19

“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25

Does your man love you? Does he speak such wondrous things into your soul? Does he make you feel beautiful and you know he really believes it?

Love starts because He first loved us.

I believe love is at the heart of the foundational dynamic required for a successful erotic relationship. I believe it is not until the man genuinely adores and appreciates, as a valued treasure, his woman, that a relationship can begin to go forward sexually.

If a man is in a relationship for any lesser reason ie, comfort, easy sex, financial benefit, boredom, loneliness, a need for a house cleaner etc, sex will always be plagued by the emptiness and insatiability of lust. These days, women choose and pursue men, but I don’t think a woman’s love can hold a man. He must love her or learn to love her by filling his mind and soul with the heavenly imparted love that Gos has for each one of us.

In a successful erotic relationship, the male adoration of his beloved stirs a trembling response and flowering of self-acceptance in the woman. She feels and looks more beautiful when she is in love. Eros is a divine potion for a woman’s health and beauty.

“As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Now the lover makes his voice heard, pledging his fidelity with single-eyed focus. There is no comparison, his woman alone attracts his attention, so far above all others is she prized and esteemed by her King.

This builds the second pillar of Agape within the erotic relationship. When the woman feels that her man only has eyes for her, it gives her confidence and a safe environment where she can relax and express more sexual openness and trust.

“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.”

The third pillar is her adoration, preference and care that she bestows on her beloved. He also is set apart in her world. In this case, the woman’s lover is represented as a wild apple tree in the woods. This was a particularly delicious tree, sweet to her taste. She would watch over it and enjoy observing the naked form blossoming in spring. Then she would eagerly await the full ripening reward of Autumns fruit.

The esteem and favor she bestows on her beloved inspires a rested, easy, delight-driven submission (I sat down under his shadow with great delight), which she knows protects and shelters her from life’s hardships. At this point she becomes vulnerable. Many women never can let themselves go there. This is another road block for your consideration.

“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love”

When a woman can move into a place of natural joyous submission, and honors her beloved by esteeming him more greatly than all others, it sets the stage for the fourth pillar, the response now comes from the man.

Female vulnerability inspires and draws out another of Agape’s treasures, the male desire  to protect, nurture and provide a feast for a soft woman ‘s soul. Letting a man be a man is what it is all about.

“Stay me with cakes of pressed dried raisins, comfort me with apples: for I am weak because of love”

The reward of this woman’s adoration and submission is an overwhelming depth of sexual experience that makes her weak, melting in a rest of responsiveness to her lovers movings.

“His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me”

After lovemaking is a glowing time of repose and embrace. Make the most of these comforting moments of peaceful unity.

“I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.”

There are many levels upon which one can consider these lines. Satisfying sex promotes deep feelings of relaxation and well being which one should allow our man to enjoy. Do not cut it short but indulge him. Sex will often make him sleepy. It’s ok as long as had the energy to make you happy. You might get up and clean, but let him sleep in on the weekends. Make life easy for him. You will get more good sex if he’s happy, fed and rested.

These lines could also be seen, on another level, to be the wise cry of advice from the Lover, Queen and Bride, triumphant in love. Her advice, let the man take the lead in love and be patient as he learns to do so. Adore and prefer him to all others and allow yourself to feel the natural submission that comes as a result of esteeming your man. 

 So ends the first section of the Song of Songs.