2. REAL LOVE IS MUTABLE
Philia, the camaraderie that draws group members together in shared beliefs, rides on different sensory pathways than sex or Eros (again with overlap) but it too is a kind of love, sometimes a battlefield love.
Because Philia is inclusive of groups, its sensory range, in Hall’s social space, takes up a room, a town square, a gathering place, a dining table. Its focus is on the shared social space where groups convene and people gesticulate and speak. Plato’s Symposium, the rather wild dinner and wine-fest of philosophers, was bound together by Philia.15
In Philia the approaches and separations are multiple and simultaneous. It takes a different kind of attending to keep up with it. However, Philia does not achieve the relaxation of tensions that Rollo May hoped for because the rhythms of approach and separation never stop driving it. It too has its turbulence and turning points. Factions form and dissolve, conflicting loyalties and enmities build up. Some people are accepted, others rejected. “In-groups” divide themselves from “out-groups.” In every heart-to-heart revelation, the possibility of a slander arises. Philia, from within its camaraderie, can build a world of “us and thems.”
Even within the “us”, conflicting approach and separation rhythms form as coalitions come together and dissolve and group members jostle for places. Each kind of love has its own kind of hate, every attraction its revulsion.
Agape is charitable love, unconditional acceptance, a love that gives without thought of receiving. In this sense, it is a love that transcends personality. Ruysbroek wrote, “When love has carried us above and beyond all things, above the light, into the Divine Dark, there we are wrought and transformed by the Eternal Word…”16
Agape is the only love that can be fully realized in the cosmic expanses. But Agape can also express in the closest physical intimacy; Philia cannot. Christian saints washed leper’s sores. In crossing all distances and excluding no persons, Agape, according to its adherents, transcends the contradictions in nature, and so gives the lover access to eternity.
But even the great saints suffered reverses after their beatific enlightenment experiences. St. Francis had repeated spiritual crises. St. John of the Cross, the great Spanish mystic, wrote of his own experience in The Dark Night of the Soul:
“That which this anxious soul feels most deeply is the conviction that God has abandoned it, of which it has no doubt; that He has cast it away into darkness as an abominable thing… All this and more the soul feels now, for a terrible apprehension has come upon it that thus it will be with it forever.”