Monday, October 28, 2013

Illustrated Summary of The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis—ROMANTIC LOVE

C.S. Lewis assigns 4 English words to 4 distinct Greek words translated love in the New Testament, with parenthetical clarification:
  • Storge = Affection (family love)
  • Philia = Friendship (friendship love)
  • Eros = Eros (erotic or romantic love)
  • Agape = Charity (divine love)

This post summarizes the chapter on Eros with lively illustrations. It includes links to my illustrated summaries of the chapters on Affection and Friendship. A post on Divine Love and then all the chapters laced into one post follow.

Romantic Love (Eros)
"... I am inquiring not into the sexuality which is common to us and the beasts ... but into one uniquely human variation of it which develops within 'love'what I call Eros [the state of being in love]. The sexual element within Eros I intend (following an old usage) to call Venus.... Sexuality may operate without Eros or as part of Eros. Let me hasten to add that I make the distinction simply in order to limit our inquiry and without any moral implications. I am not at all subscribing to the popular idea that it is the absence or presence of Eros which makes the sexual act 'impure' or 'pure,' degraded or fine, unlawful or unlawful.... The times and places in which marriage depends on Eros are in a small minority. Most of our ancestors were married off in early youth to partners chosen by their parents on grounds that had nothing to do with Eros. They went to the act with no other 'fuel,' so to speak, than plain animal desire. And they did right; honest Christian husbands and wives [in some cases], obeying their fathers and mothers, discharging to one another their 'marriage debt,' and bringing up families in the fear of the Lord.

"Conversely, this act, done under the influence of a soaring and iridescent Eros ... may yet be plain adultery, may involve breaking a wife's heart, deceiving a husband, betraying a friend, polluting hospitality, and deserting your children. It has not pleased God that the distinction between a sin and a duty should turn on fine feelings. This act, like any other, is justified (or not) by far more ... definable criteria: by the keeping or breaking of promises, by justice or injustice, by charity or selfishness, by obedience or disobedience....

"There may be those who have first felt mere sexual appetite for a woman and then gone on at a later stage to 'fall in love with her.' But I doubt if this is at all common. Very often what comes first is simply a delighted preoccupation with the Beloveda general, unspecified preoccupation with her in her totality. A man in this state really hasn't leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of a person. The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself.... If you asked him what he wanted, the true reply would often be, 'To go on thinking of her.'... When at a later stage the explicitly sexual element awakes, he will not feel (unless scientific theories are influencing him) that this had all along been the root of the whole matter.... Sexual desire, without Eros, wants it, the thing in itself; Eros wants the Beloved.

"The thing is a sensory pleasure ... an event occurring within one's own body. We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he 'wants a woman.' Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus. How much he cares about the woman ... may be gauged by his attitude to her five minutes after fruition (one does not keep the carton after one has smoked the cigarettes). Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give. No lover in the world ever sought the embraces of the woman he loved as the result of a calculation ... that they would be more pleasurable than those of any other woman. If he raised the question he would, no doubt, expect that this would be so. But to raise it would be to step outside the world of Eros altogether....

"Eros thus wonderfully transforms  ... a Need-pleasure into the most Appreciative of all pleasures.... In Eros, a Need, at its most intense, sees the object most intensely as a thing admirable in herself, important far beyond her relation to the lover's need. If we ... were mere logicians, we might boggle at the conception of desiring a human being, as distinct from desiring any pleasure, comfort, or service that human being can give. And it is certainly hard to explain.... Without Eros sexual desire, like every other desire, is a fact about ourselves. Within Eros it is rather about the Beloved.... Eros, though the king of pleasures, always (at his height) has the air of regarding pleasure as a by-product.... One of the first things Eros does is to obliterate the distinction between giving and receiving.

"Hitherto I have been trying merely to describe, not to evaluate. But certain moral questions now inevitably arise, and I must not conceal my own view of them. It is submitted rather than asserted, and of course open to correction by better men, better lovers and better Christians. It has been widely held in the past ... that the spiritual danger of Eros arises almost entirely from the carnal element within it; that Eros is 'noblest' or 'purest' when Venus is reduced to the minimum.... This is not the Scriptural approach. St. Paul, [mildly] dissuading his converts from marriage, says nothing about that side of the matter except to discourage prolonged abstinence from Venus (1 Cor. 7:5). What he fears is preoccupation, the need for constantly 'pleasing'—that is, considering—one's partner, the multiple distractions of domesticity. It is marriage itself, not the marriage bed, that will be likely to hinder us from waiting uninterruptedly on God. And surely St. Paul is right? If I may trust my own experience, it is (within marriage as without) the practical ... cares of this world, and even the smallest ... of those cares, that are the great distraction. The gnat-like cloud of petty anxieties and decisions about the ... next hour have interfered with my prayers more often than any passion or appetite whatever....

Antidote to Too Much Solemnity
"Eros ... reduces the nagging and addictive character of mere [sexual] appetite. And that not simply by satisfying it. Eros, without diminishing desire, makes abstinence easier. He tends, no doubt, to a preoccupation with the Beloved which can indeed be an obstacle to the spiritual life.... The real spiritual danger in Eros as a whole lies, I believe, elsewhere. I will return to the point. For the moment, I want to speak of the danger which at present ... haunts the act of love. This is a subject on which I disagree, not with the human race (far from it), but with many of its gravest spokesmen. I believe we are all being encouraged to take Venus too seriously; at any rate, with a wrong kind of seriousness. All my life a ludicrous ... solemnization of sex has been going on.... A young man to whom I had described as 'pornographic' a novel that he much admired, replied with genuine bewilderment, 'Pornographic? But how can it be? It treats the whole thing so seriously'as if a long face were a sort of moral disinfectant.... Our advertisements, at their sexiest, paint the whole business in terms of the rapt, the intense, the swoony-devout; seldom a hint of gaiety.... We have reached the stage at which nothing is more needed than a roar of old-fashioned laughter.

"But, it will be replied, the thing is serious. Yes; quadruply so.
  1. First, theologically, because this is the body's share in marriage which, by God's choice, is the mystical image of the union between God and Man.
  2. Second ... our human participation in ... the natural forces of life and fertility....
  3. Third, on the moral level, in view of the obligations involved and the incalculable momentousness of being a parent and ancestor.
  4. Finally, it has (sometimes, not always) a great emotional seriousness in the minds of the participants.
"But eating is also serious ... yet we do not bring [exam books] to dinner nor behave there as if we were in church. And it is gourmets, not saints, who come nearest to doing so. Animals are always very serious about food....

"It is not for nothing that every language and literature in the world is full of jokes about sex. Many of them may be dull or disgusting and nearly all of them are old ... [but if you] banish play and laughter from the bed of love ... you may let in a false goddess.... Venus ... herself is a ... mischievous spirit.... When all external circumstances are fittest for her service she will leave one or both lovers totally indisposed for it. When every overt act is impossible and even glances cannot be exchangedin trains, in shops, and at interminable parties—she will assail them with all her force. An hour later, when time and place agree, she will have mysteriously withdrawn; perhaps from only one of them. What ... resentments, self-pities, suspicions, wounded vanities and all the current chatter about 'frustration' in those who have deified her! But sensible lovers laugh. It is all part of the game; a game of catch-as-catch-can, and the escapes and tumbles and head-on collisions are to be treated as a romp.

"I can hardly help regarding it as one of God's jokes that a passion so soaring, so apparently transcendent as Eros, should thus be linked in incongruous symbiosis with a bodily appetite which, like any other appetite, tactlessly reveals its connections with such mundane factors as weather, health, diet, circulation, and digestion.... It is a continual demonstration of the truth that we are composite creatures, rational animals, akin on one side to the angels, on the other to tom-cats. It is a bad thing not to be able to take a joke. Worse, not to take a divine joke; made, I grant you, at our expense, but also (who doubts it?) for our endless benefit.

"Man has held three views of his body.
  1. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the 'tomb' of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a 'sack of dung,' food for worms ... a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones.
  2. Then there are the Neo-Pagans, the nudists ... to whom the body is glorious.
  3. Third we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body 'Brother Ass.'

"All three may be—I am not sure—defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money. Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body. There's no living with it till we recognize that one of its functions in our lives is to play the part of buffoon. Until some theory has sophisticated them, every man, woman and child in the world knows this.... Lovers, unless their love is very short-lived, again and again feel an element not only of comedy, not only of play, but even of buffoonery, in the body's expression of Eros.... It would be too clumsy an instrument to render love's music unless its very clumsiness could be felt as adding to the total experience ... with its own hearty rough-and-tumble what the soul enacts in statelier fashion....

"Indeed we require this relief.... Pleasure, pushed to its extreme, shatters us like pain.... Amorousness as well as grief can bring tears to the eyes. But Venus does not always come thus 'entire, fastened to her prey,' and the fact that she sometimes does so is the very reason for preserving always a hint of playfulness in our attitude to her.... This refusal to be quite immersedthis recollection of the levity even when, for the moment, only the gravity is displayed—is especially relevant to a certain attitude which Venus, in her intensity, evokes from most (I believe, not all) pairs of lovers. This act can invite the man to an extreme, though short-lived masterfulness, to the dominance of a conqueror ... and the woman to a correspondingly extreme subjection and surrender. Hence the roughness, even fierceness, of some erotic play.... How should a sane couple think of this? or a Christian couple permit it?

Ritual, Not Reality
"I think it is harmless and wholesome on one condition. We must recognize that ... in the act of love we are not merely ourselves. We are also representatives.... In us all the masculinity and femininity of the world, all that is assailant and responsive, are momentarily focused.... A woman who accepted as literally her own this extreme self-surrender would be an idolatress offering to a man what belongs only to God. And a man would have to be ... a blasphemer if he arrogated to himself, as the mere person he is, the sort of sovereignty to which Venus for a moment exalts him. But what cannot lawfully be yielded or claimed can be lawfully enacted. Outside this ritual or drama he and she are two immortal souls, two free-born adults, two citizens....

"Some will think it strange I should find an element of ritual or masquerade in that action which is often regarded as the most real, the most unmasked and sheerly genuine, we ever do. Are we not our true selves when naked? In a sense, no. The word naked was originally a past participle; the naked man was the man who had undergone a process of naking, that is, of stripping or peeling (you used the verb of nuts and fruit).... The naked man has seemed to our ancestors not the natural but the abnormal man; not the man who has abstained from dressing but the man who has been for some reason undressed. And it is a simple fact .. .that nudity emphasizes common humanity and soft-pedals what is individual. In that way we are 'more ourselves' when clothed. By nudity the lovers cease to be solely John and Mary; the universal He and She are emphasized. You could almost say they put on nakedness as ... the costume for a charade [that includes a paper crown].... Paper crowns have their legitimate, and (in the proper context) their serious, uses.... As nature crowns man in that brief action, so the Christian law has crowned him in the permanent relationship of marriage, bestowing—or should I say, inflicting?—a certain 'headship' on him. This is a very different coronation. And as we could easily take the natural mystery too seriously, so we might take the Christian mystery not seriously enough.

King Cophetua Woos the Beggar
"We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church—read onand give his life for her (Ephesians 5:25). This headship, then is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion: whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is—in her own mere nature—least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; He does not find, but makes her, lovely.... As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labors to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other sort) never despairs. He is [like the legendary African] King Cophetua, who after twenty years still hopes that the beggar-girl [he  married] will one day learn to speak the truth and wash behind her ears.

"To say this is not to say that there is any virtue or wisdom in making a marriage that involves such misery. There is no wisdom or virtue in seeking unnecessary martyrdom or deliberately courting persecution; yet it is, nonetheless, the persecuted or martyred Christian in whom the pattern of the Master is most unambiguously realized.... The sternest feminist need not grudge my sex the crown offered to it either ... of paper [or] of thorns. The real danger is not that husbands may grasp [headship] too eagerly, but that they will allow or compel their wives to usurp it.

Eros Is Willing to Face a Bleak Future
"From Venus, the carnal ingredient within Eros, I now turn to Eros as a whole. Here we shall see the same pattern repeated. As Venus within Eros does not really aim at pleasure, so Eros does not aim at happiness.... Everyone knows that it is useless to try to separate lovers by proving to them that their marriage will be an unhappy one.... It is the very mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms. Even if the two lovers are mature and experienced people who know that broken hearts heal ... and can clearly foresee that, if they once steeled themselves to go through the present agony of parting, they would almost certainly be happier ... even then, they would not part.... When ... marriage with the Beloved ... cannot even profess to offer any other life than that of tending an incurable invalid [exactly the situation C.S. Lewis was in with his beloved wife], of hopeless poverty, of exile, or of disgrace—Eros never hesitates to say, 'Better this than parting.... Let our hearts break provided they break together.' If the voice within us does not say this, it is not the voice of Eros. This is the grandeur and terror of love.

"But notice, as before, side by side with this grandeur, the playfulness. Eros, as well as Venus, is the subject of countless jokes. And even when the circumstances of the two lovers are so tragic that no bystander could keep back his tears, they themselvesin want, in hospital wards, on visitors' days in jailwill sometimes be surprised by a merriment which strikes the onlooker (but not them) as unbearably pathetic.... Until they have a baby to laugh at, lovers are always laughing at each other.

"It is in the grandeur of Eros that the seeds of danger are concealed.... His total commitment, his reckless disregard of happiness, his transcendence of self-regard, sound like a message from the eternal world. And yet it cannot, just as it stands, be the voice of God Himself. For Eros ... may urge to evil as well as to good.... The love that leads to cruel and perjured unions, even to suicide-pacts and murder, is not likely to be wandering lust or idle sentiment. It may well be Eros ... heartbreakingly sincere, ready for every sacrifice except renunciation.... Eros may unite the most unsuitable yoke-fellows: many unhappy, and predictably unhappy, marriages were love-matches....

"We must not give unconditional obedience to the voice of Eros when he speaks most like a god. Neither must we ignore or attempt to deny the god-like quality. This love is really and truly like Love Himself.... His total commitment is a paradigm or example, built into our natures, of the love we ought to exercise towards God and Man.... It is as if Christ said to us through Eros, 'Thus—just like thiswith this prodigality—not counting the cost—you are to love Me and the least of My brethren.' Our conditional honor to Eros will of course vary.... Of some a total renunciation ... is required. Others ... can embark on the married life, within which Eros, of himself, will never be enough—will indeed survive only insofar as he is continually chastened and corroborated by higher principles.

"But Eros, honored without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon.... Divinely indifferent to our selfishness, he is also demoniacally rebellious to every claim of God or Man that would oppose him. Hence as the poet says: 'People in love cannot be moved by kindness, and opposition makes them feel like martyrs.'... Years ago when I wrote about medieval love-poetry and described its strange, half make-believe, 'religion of love,' I was blind enough to treat this as an almost purely literary phenomenon. I know better now. Eros ... always tends to turn 'being in love' into a sort of religion.

"Theologians have often feared, in this love, a danger of idolatry ... that the lovers might idolize one another. That does not seem to me to be the real danger; certainly not in marriage. The deliciously plain ... and businesslike intimacy of married life renders it absurd.... Even in courtship I question whether anyone who has felt the thirst for the Uncreated, or even dreamed of feeling it, ever supposed that the Beloved could satisfy it. As a fellow-pilgrim pierced with the very same desire ... the Beloved may be gloriously and helpfully relevant; but as an object for it—well (I would not be rude), ridiculous. The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolize each other but that they will idolize Eros .. .[as if] Eros extenuates—almost sanctions—almost sanctifies—any actions it leads to. When lovers say of some act that we might blame, 'Love made us do it,' notice the tone.... The confession can be almost a boast. There can be a shade of defiance in it.... What are really (by the Christian standard) temptations speak with the voice of dutiesquasi-religious duties, acts of pious zeal to love....

"All the time the grim joke is that this Eros whose voice seems to speak from the eternal realm ... is notoriously the most mortal of our loves. The world rings with complaints of his fickleness. What is baffling is the combination of this fickleness with his protestations of permanency. To be in love is both to intend and to promise lifelong fidelity. Love makes vows unasked; can't be deterred from making them.... Not hypocritically but sincerely.... The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood ... and planted the interests of another in the center of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.... Eros is driven to promise what Eros of himself cannot perform.

"Can we be in this selfless liberation for a lifetime? Hardly for a week. Between the best possible lovers this high condition is intermittent. The old self soon turns out to be not so dead as he pretended—as after a religious conversion. In either he may be momentarily knocked flat; he will soon be up again; if not on his feet, at least on his elbow.... But these lapses will not destroy a marriage between two 'decent and sensible' people. The couple whose marriage will certainly be endangered by them, and possibly ruined, are those who ... expected that mere feeling would do for them, and permanently, all that was necessary. When this expectation is disappointed they throw the blame on Eros or, more usually, on their partners. In reality, however, Eros, having made his gigantic promise and shown you in glimpses what its performance would be like, has 'done his stuff.'... It is we who must labor to bring our daily life into even closer accordance with what the glimpses have revealed. We must do the works of Eros when Eros is not present.

"This all good lovers know, though those who are not reflective or articulate will be able to express it only in a few conventional phrases about 'taking the rough along with the smooth,' not 'expecting too much,' having 'a little common sense,' and the like. And all good Christian lovers know that this program, modest as it sounds, will not be carried out except by humility, charity and divine grace; that is indeed the whole Christian life seen from one particular angle."

Love Lasts When Swimming Follows Diving
C.S. Lewis ended his radio broadcast about romantic love with some vivid illustrations: "Love makes vows without being asked; 'I will be true' are the first words he ever utters. Now, appetites don't speak with that voice. The man who is moved to over eat or over drink doesn't at all necessarily resolve on lifelong gluttony or drunkenness. If anything he is far more likely to assure himself that this is the very last time he will indulge in either. He reaches out his hand for the decanter in order to fortify with one more glass his resolution to become a teetotaler!" Eros is like the amorous man with a new woman each time you see him, but firm in his belief that "this time it's the real thing" or like the intellectual faddist who thinks he has finally found the truth. "Both trust the passion, at a very early phase of it, to do for them what no passion can do. A passion can only move us, only supply incentive and energy. It is merely the dive that gets us into the water. Once in, swimmingnot diving'sthe thing. The faddist's delight in the discovery of what he thinks is truth is to be admired, not mocked. The trouble is, he expects the possession and use of truth to be exactly like the discovery. If after his dive he used his muscles and swam, his history would be quite different. The amorist similarly expects being in love to be exactly like falling in love. When the delicious falling is over, when the dive's got him into the water, he doesn't know how to go on. He has enjoyed the incentive of the passion; he never discovers what it is an incentive to so he presently climbs out and tries a dive in a different pond. For love by itself will not keep us in love, or not for very long. Falling in love is something that happens to us; being in lovestill more, remaining permanently in loveis something we do. No passion is self-preservative. The promise Eros makes can be kept but it isn't Eros that can keep it.... In clearer language, you need a firm will to justice.... You need a will already pretty well trained and disciplined; in the long run you need the grace of God. And in this Eros is like all the natural loves: they have not within themselves resources to secure their own permanence or to keep themselves from internal corruptions, nor to be innocent in dealing with those outside the circle of love." Thus Lewis prepares anyone who has ever felt like an outsider to appreciate the unique benefits of divine love.
Worth Reading Yourself!

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