“Almost any religious system which fosters unearthly love is potentially a nursery for mystics…” — Evelyn Underhill
What comes first, the mystic or the emotion? It’s the age-old question of the chicken or the egg. Does religion foster this divine emotion, or is it the person who has a connection with this element? In either case, one cannot deny the power of this emotion.
The Alchemy of Love
A nursery is a place where plants grow protected from harm. These seedlings come from other plants that have blossomed and produced fruit. The seeds of this emotion can grow in almost any ground, but they need something to spark their growth. All they need is nurturing and protection. When appropriately tended, it makes love a divine substance of positive thoughts and behaviors.
Almost everyone has experienced this emotion to some degree. The mystical alchemy of love brings an interesting dimension to our lives. It is powerful enough to override our common sense. It can redirect our lives unexpectedly because it does not conform to any pattern. We cannot change what the heart desires. The alchemy of love is an unstoppable force.
Regions often try to assimilate outspoken mystics. They want to use them to promote their belief system. They also need them to conform to their rules and boundaries. Often, a religion will adopt selected writings of famous mystics who have died. They scrub their opinions to fit the belief. Some believe this is the case with Rumi (2), the son of a famous Sifi Bahā ud-Dīn Walad. So, it is logical that Islam would want to adopt him and his writings as theirs.
The Divine Substance of Love
Evelyn Underhill (1) explains how the religions try to patent this emotion. She is quick to point out that the mold from which all the religions base their concepts is beyond dogma and doctrine. One can spot the original from the rebranding efforts of religion because it is free and independent of human intervention. Animals of all kinds demonstrate kindness, compassion, and love; they are certainly beyond the influence of the institutions that claim to hold its dominion.
Mystics try to explain with words the essence of the things that they feel. Some are easier to understand than others. Their aim is not to make converts, but to show the various ways it manifests and how we can bring it into our lives.
“Christianity, Islam, Brahmanism, and Buddhism each receives its most sublime interpretation at their hands. Attempts, however, to limit mystical truth — the direct apprehension of love a Divine Substance — to the formulae of any one religion, are as futile as the attempt to identify a precious metal with the die from which converts it into coin. The dies which the mystics have used (to make these coins) are many. But, the gold from which this diverse coinage is struck is always the same precious metal: always the same Beatific Vision of a Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Hence, the substance must always be distinguished from the various forms under which we perceive it (from the various coins): for the substance from (which the coin has been made) has cosmic and not denominational importance.” — Evelyn Underhill
Eight Shapes of the Alchemy of Love
Mystics say love and compassion come from an otherworldly, not the individual. Is this source God, or does it reside in the fabric of the universe? We see creatures big and small who exhibit caring and compassion, especially towards their young.
An unknown mystical alchemy makes love a divine substance from which comes all our virtues. The Greeks say there are eight kinds of love. But not all variations which come from it are healthy. The alchemy of love is a reflection of the person channeling the element.
1) Agape — Unconditional Love
Agape is a Greek word is the highest form of this emotion, but Western religion frames it in the context of man’s love of God and God’s love of man. So, yes, you can love an imaginary being and imagine it loves you back. In this sense, the mystical alchemy of this form is a perversion of religion. Why is that? Because the God of the Abrahamic religions love is conditional. If you don’t love him back, he has a special place for you we know as Hell.
On a more practical side, unconditional love is the bond we associate with close family members. It makes love a divine substance that you demonstrate with acts of kindness. We can also love someone unconditionally, even if we do not receive it in return. This is the kind of deep attachment people have for the environment. It is natural to feel powerful emotions for that which supports life.
2) Eros — Romantic Love
Eros is the Greek God of Love and fertility, and it is the emotion most people associate with passion and sexual attraction. The divine substance of love is the prime ingredient in the mystical alchemy of physical attraction. This is where the alchemy of love gets misused to sell us things because we can attach this level of emotion to objects.
3) Philia — Abnormal Affection
Philia is the Greek term for unhealthy affection. It’s the source of the word Pedophilia but is used to label all unacceptable forms of pleasure. For example, some people derive pleasure causing and pain and suffering. Western culture and religion spin this term as brotherly affection. However, they don’t mean abnormal affection, since this would support same-sex relationships. Instead, they use it in the context of those “sharing the same values,” even if those values include hating other groups, races, or genders.
4) Philautia — Self-love
The West defines self-love as a self-indulgence. It is a mindset which places self-interest above everything and leads to the slippery slope of narcissistic tendencies. Eastern traditions see it differently. They use self-love as the antidote to these unhealthy tendencies. Rather than self-infatuation, it is self-compassion and self-acceptance. Cultivating healthy self-love enables us to access the virtues of the spirit.
Here is where the alchemy of love transforms us and makes us a better person all around. It makes love a divine substance, which fosters good deeds.
5) Storge — Familiar Love
Storge is instinctual attachment. It refers to becoming attached to regular routines, places, and people. We feel safe when things are part of a routine. One of the most potent mystical alchemy bonds is mother and child.
Our instinctual variants determine the objects and intensity of any attachment. We have three basic instincts, self-preservation, sexual, and social. These instincts interplay with the configuration of our personalities. The result is a predictable footprint of values and behaviors.
6) Pragma — Enduring Love
Pragma is an emotional bond with intellectual values, but it has healthy and unhealthy sides. Social and civic duty play a significant role in this emotion. On the positive side, it motivates people to care for others less fortunate and for the environment. On the unhealthy side, it can morph into patriotism and nationalism. People need to belong to exclusive clubs and organizations.
7) Ludus — Playful Love
This Greek term refers to playfulness as it relates specifically to courtship rituals. It is part of the courtship interaction that confirms both parties’ interests. To be playful is to tease, hold hands, have long eye contact. Animals and birds do this as well. The alchemy of love motivates some creatures to perform spectacular courtship dances and songs to woo their potential mates.
8) Mania — Obsessive Love
As the name suggests, this is an unhealthy attachment marked by an obsessive need for reassurance. Many psychologists feel this obsession is a distinct stage in the courtship process. The “honeymoon” stage is a bonding element. However, some people get stuck in this stage. Some people have a one-sided obsession. Since the other party does not share the same emotional connection, they never receive the reassurance they seek. It can lead to other obsessive behavior, like stalking.
The Alchemy of Love a Divine Substance
If mysticism interests you, then read Evelyn Underhill. (1) Beware her writing style detailed, not what you would call easy reading. But her content is excellent and well worth the reading effort. You’ll find gems of wisdom< and references for further investigation. Evelyn comes from an English Anglo-Catholic background, which is evident in her writing. She was an outspoken pacifist and prolific writer of books on religious mysticism and spirituality. She considered herself a Mystic first and then a Christian.
Questions About The Mystical Alchemy of Love
Do you think organized religion helps us to reveal our spiritual gifts, or do thy place boundaries in the way of ? Can the alchemy of love be fostered anywhere mystics practice? If so, is religion necessary? Can we foster love without the belief in imaginary friends? Is it possible to explore mysticism without religious faith as a backdrop?
It would appear Ms. Underhill sees it not as an emotion but as a doorway to mysticism. We agree. Anyone who has ever been “in love” can attest to the power of this emotion. Some say the virtues of heart; Love, Friendliness, Compassion, and Happiness are mystical energies. These energies originate from a place deep within the Universe. These virtues of the spirit are flowing to us and through us, if we can align with them. We can’t force them.
You can’t legislate the divine substance of love, but institutions attempt to do this. We see references to love in all the Abrahamic religions (3). These are the religions of Semitic origin, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, they also contain references to gender discrimination, racial and ethnic prejudice, and genocide. These latter references take precedence in the formulation of practice and policy. The actions of these religions demonstrate that love is not a priority.
So, you can speak of love and peace. However, if your intentions are the opposite, your actions will show the results. Religions may attempt to place their stamp of ownership on some mystics. But the mystics will always remain in a world of their own beyond the walls of doctrine and dogma.
Options for the Mystics
Compassion and friendliness are found where the alchemy of love is sown. We each have the power to summon these virtues from our heart if we learn to free our minds from the negative programming of religion.
You don’t need a belief system to demonstrate the virtues of the spirit. The path of the mystic provides us with opportunities to share these gifts. Learn as many spiritual technologies as possible. You never know which one you’ll need.
The more you research and read about the divine substance of love, the more you will appreciate its depth. The mystical alchemy of love produces expressions in many life forms, not just people.
There are other ways mystics use the power of emotion. But the energy for all of them stems from this element. The alchemy of love is much needed in this world.
(1) Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/193586.Mysticism
(2) Rumi: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi
(3) Abrahamic Religions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abrahamic_religions