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From Agape to Praxis: The Fourfold Nature of Love

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From Agape to Praxis: The Fourfold Nature of Love[credits]

by Magdalene Meretrix

 

It is said that one can tell what a culture knows best by counting the number of words their language uses to describe a concept. Eskimos have many words for snow and the classical Greeks had many words for love. I have isolated four Greek words that I feel epitomize the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical manifestations of love: agape, philios, eros and praxis.

Agape, the highest form of spiritual love, is the source from which all other forms of love spring and the perfected form of expression towards which all other forms of love inherently seek to attain. The Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon of Classical Greek defines agape as "love, especially love of God for man and of man for God."

While this form of love can also describe the love of a man and wife or a brotherly love, agape is a spiritual love above all else. Agape is not an action, an emotion or a thought -- it springs directly from the spirit and speaks directly to the spirit. As the wellspring or seed of other expressions, however, the effects of agape are born out on all levels.

Because Agape is pure love, it is frequently not recognized as love. The pure fire of spirituality often appears foreign to those who are not accustomed to speaking its tongue. Philios, which flows naturally from agape, is generally viewed as the epitome of love. Philios is the emotional form of love and the popular conception of love is that it is solely a feeling.

Philios is often called Brotherly Love. Pindar, Xenophon, Aeschylus and countless other Greek authors used philios to denote friendship of a platonic nature and Homer used the verb form, philÍsÍi, in his "Odyssey" (4.29) to mean "welcome, entertain a guest." Even the gods were thought to express and govern philios -- according to Pausanias' "Description of Greece," (8.3.14) Zeus was called Dios philiou, or God of Friendship, at his temple at Megalopolis.

It is worth noting, however that the classic Greek definition of philios was not always so chaste. In his "Phaedrus," (231c) Plato used the phrase "toutous malista phasin philein hŰn an erŰsin" giving philein the meaning of "regard with affection those for whom they have a passion." Herodotus' "Histories" (1.134) uses the phrase "phileousi toisi stomasi" or "kiss on the mouth," giving philios a physical undertone by using the noun as a verb meaning, more or less, "to express one's philios."

Philios meant the love of a child one had reared, the love of a spouse and the form of Universal Brotherhood that recognizes the human in each person as opposed to the Universal Brotherhood of agape that recognizes the god in each person. Truly, Universal Brotherhood rests upon both agape and philios for in recognizing the god in others we allow them to be perfect while in recognizing the human in others we allow them to make mistakes.

The intellectual form of love, eros, is often mistaken for a physical form of love because of its overtly sexual nature. Moreover, the theories of Jung have used the word 'eros' in such a way as to make it appear to be the spiritual form of love. Additionally, eros (or more correctly, libido) is often used as an excuse for exceedingly emotional behavior. Eros, however, is primarily concerned with the largest human sex organ -- the brain.

Thought of agape does not bring spirit into existence by itself. Likewise, philios flows from the heart and spirit. But one thought, born of pure imagination, can inflate the pneuma of eros. What is the main difference between the cookie-cutter pornography that makes one yawn and the erotica that excites one's senses? Thought. Be it the thought that the creator put into the erotic creation or the thought stimulated in the viewer, it is intellect that causes erotica to rise above callous depictions of impersonal sex.

In "Libation Bearers" (600), Aeschylus speaks of "antolmous erŰtas" or "reckless passions" and "thÍlukratÍs aperŰtos erŰs" or "inordinate passions" and tells us that eros has "overmastered the female." The key to understanding the intellectual nature of eros is to realize that eros is a tool of love. Those who continue to eschew responsibility and excuse their actions by claiming to be the tool of love rather than the master who wields the four-fold tool of love risk repeating the errors of Othello who "loved not wisely but too well."

While these three forms of love are each potent in themselves, the point where love finds expression in the physical world is praxis. When love is allowed to flow through the elements -- finding seed in agape, nourishment in philios and reflection in eros -- the resulting praxis is the rarefied "spirituous earth" spoken of in the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. This is the expression of Sacred Sex -- the manifestation of the four-fold love.

But praxis doesn't need to take a sexual form to be a physical manifestation of love. A word can be a praxis. A silence can be a praxis. Any action taken in any amount of love is praxis.

The classic Greeks used praxis as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. One example of this usage is found in Aeschines' "Against Timarchus" (1.158) where he writes, "huper tÍs praxeŰs tautÍs apesterÍkenai" or "in connection with this practice" in reference to prostitutes cheating people out of money. The inference is obviously to the practice of sex and the reference is to the phrase "hÍ praxis hÍ gennÍtikÍ" or "the practice of procreating," a phrase used by Aristotle (HA539b20) among others.

Praxis also referred to magical operations and spells according to Liddell-Scott-Jones. Love made manifest in the physical plane is a very real form of magick and not to be discounted lightly though it may appear as nothing more than a caress or a seemingly casual turn of phrase.

The most frequent meaning of praxis, however, is simply "action." Thus the manifestation of the Tetragrammaton of love is action or praxis and the regular expression of fully actualized praxis is the most complete and perfected manifestation of love on all levels. Thus is the regeneration of the world enacted continually.

 

YOD/FIRE/SHIN/WAND/SPIRIT/AGAPE
HE/WATER/MEM/CUP/EMOTION/PHILIOS
VAU/AIR/ALEPH/SWORD/INTELLECT/EROS
HE/EARTH/TAU/PANTACLE/BODY/PRAXIS

Grandmother's Blanket
By Ann Murray Smith

Grandmother's Blanket holds the sweet smell of sage
Woven by enchantment, as the Spirits feel no rage.
Trimmed in eyelet shadows, cast into the snow
Tumbleweeds and deserts She traveled long ago.
The threads are Her wisdom She passes on to you,
Reflections wrap around us, as if we always knew.
The patchwork shows directions North, East, South, West
The needle points the way so we know when to rest.
Grandmother's Blanket holds the soft warmth of down
From fine-feathered friends and foliage all around.
Covered by a breeze and a soft summer rain
Lightning dances wildly, as the Thunder heals Her pain.
The colors are Her passions beneath the cotton lining
For She knows the Spirit world, is free and never binding.
Footsteps walk below the soil, Mother Earth is listening
Frost paints the Blanket edges, above the stars are glistening.
Grandmother's Blanket has many stories to tell
The colors have faded, for the years have turned it pale.
Comforted by the Oneness, Her head bows down in grace,
Thanking Great Spirit for Her Honor in this place.