The Mind and Heart of Love, Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape

The Mind and Heart of Love, Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape

The Mind and Heart of Love, Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape

The Mind and Heart of Love, Lion and Unicorn: A Study in Eros and Agape

Excerpt

And there the lion's ruddy eyes shall flow tears of gold -- W. BLAKE.

For softly neared the ne'er accredited
White creature, like a hind the unmerited
Loss of her fawn lamenting with sad eyes.

-- The Unicorn by R. M. RILKE.

Translated by J. B. LEISHMANN.

In a famous passage St. Paul told his converts that he could show them a 'more excellent way', the way of charity. So much has this word 'charity' suffered in the course of time that it is almost unsafe now to use it. Certainly the meaning which St. Paul gave to it is so overgrown with other senses that an equivalent should be found. The difficulty is to find that equivalent. Love is a better English word, but love covers a multitude of sins and virtues. A word which is still strange, but has not yet been spoilt is Agape, and within recent years it has come into fashion, especially in connection with or in contrast to another Greek word, Eros. Eros is more familiar, and as a result has become less definite. It can represent the god of love, as in the story of Eros and Psyche, or the love, which, in the chorus of Sophocles, swoops into life and makes men mad; it can be the spiritual and philosophic love which Plato describes, or sexual excitement -- as in our word 'erotic'. Coventry Patmore uses it for saintly contemplation, de Rougemont for dark passion. Agape, however, is still reserved for the specifically Christian form of love, and is nearly equivalent to St. Paul's 'charity'.

In the course of this book the proper meaning of Agape or charity will, I hope, become clear. The Christian theological meaning of love is precise, and this meaning has overflowed on to the more general meaning of love and enriched it. We may with justice say that as the dominant note of barbarism is will and that of culture, especially the culture influenced by Greek ideas, is reason or intellect, so that of Christendom is love. At times when the struggle for existence is fierce and it is a question of sauve qui peut, the will to live and to master one's environment is naked and unashamed. Once nature has been tamed and men have found it better to live together in a society, reason has more scope and is more highly valued. It is reason, after all, which distinguishes man from the beasts and raises the civilized man above the barbarian. Reason, moreover, seems to give man a defence against fate. By its aid he can exercise control over what formerly he feared, over nature, and even to some . . .

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