“Almost any religious system which fosters unearthly love is potentially a nursery for mystics…” — Evelyn Underhill
The quote from Evelyn Underhill begs the question, what comes first, the mystic or love? Is it the age-old question of the chicken or the egg? Does religion foster unearthly love, or is it the person who has a connection with this element? In either case, one cannot deny the mystical alchemy of this emotion.
The Alchemy of The Divine
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 love can grow in almost any ground, but they need something to spark their growth. All they need is nurturing and protection. When tended properly, it’s what makes love a divine substance of positive thoughts and behaviors.
Almost everyone has the experience of loving someone or something. It is the mystical alchemy of love that brings an additional dimension to life. It is powerful enough to override our thinking. It can redirect our lives unexpectedly because love does not conform to any pattern. The heart loves what it loves. We are powerless to stop it.
“… and 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.” — Evelyn Underhill (1)
Regions often try to assimilate outspoken mystics. They want them to conform to their opinions, practices, and writings to the religion’s 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 Isam would want to adopt him and his writings as theirs.
The Divine Substance of Love
“The dies which the mystics have used (to make these coins) are many. Their peculiarities and excrescences are always interesting and sometimes highly significant. 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, which is ONE.
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
Love is the source of the mystical alchemy from which all variations come. 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.
Agape — Unconditional Love
Agape is a Greek word that refers to the highest form of love—in other words, love without conditions. Western religion uses it in the context of man’s love of God and Gods’ 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. We also love someone unconditionally, even if we do not receive love in return. It is also the kind of love people have for the environment. It is natural to feel powerful emotions for that which supports life. Make love a divine substance that you demonstrate.
Eros — Romanic Love
Eros is the Greek God of Love and fertility, and it is the passion most people associate with love. It’s the mystical alchemy we link with physical, sexual attraction. Here is where the alchemy of love gets misused to sell us things because we can attach this level of emotion to objects.
Philia — Abnormal Affection
Philia is the Greek term for Abnormal love; it’s where we get the word Pedophilia. This affection is associated with socially unacceptable types of arousal and enjoyment. For example, some people derive pleasure causing and pain and suffering.
Western culture and religion spin this term as brotherly love. 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.
Philautia — Self-love
The Western definition of self-love is an unhealthy psychological mindset of self-conceit. It is placing your self-interest above all else. So, this side of self-love is the expression of unhealthy narcissism.
The Eastern traditions see self-love as an antidote to narcissistic tendencies. This type of love is not self-infatuation. It’s the opposite. Healthy self-love 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.
Storge — Familiar Love
Familiar love 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 that of mother and child.
Our instinctual variants determine the object and intensity of 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.
Pragma — Enduring Love
Pragma is an emotional bond with intellectual values. Social and civic duty play a significant role in this attachment. Those who have a strong sense of this emotion are often members of exclusive clubs and organizations. They often place patriotism and nationalism as superior to individual rights.
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, holding hands, gazing into one another’s eyes. Animals and birds do this as well. Some perform spectacular courtship dances and songs to woo their potential mates.
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 the topic of mysticism interests you, then read Evelyn Underhill. Start with “Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness.” This work is a mixture of textbook and poetic prose. A noble effort filled with analogies and metaphors on every aspect of mysticism. Because of this intricate writing style, it’s not “easy reading.” But well worth the effort. You’ll find gems of wisdom and references for further investigation.
Evelyn Underhill was an English Anglo-Catholic writer. She was a pacifist known for her books on religious mysticism and spirituality. It would appear from her writing that she considered herself a Mystic first and then a Christian.
Questions About The Mystical Alchemy of Love
What do you think of this perspective on the similarities and differences between various belief systems? Why are religions always attempting to place boundaries in the way of spiritual truth, even though it’s a futile effort?
If any place fostering love is a “potential” place where mystics and mysticism can take root, why do we need religion in the first place? 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, then the results will show in your actions. 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
Remember, you don’t need a belief system to engage in spiritual exploration. The mystics’ path is something evolving and continually changing with your needs. We recommend everyone learn as many spiritual technologies as possible. You never know which one you’ll need on the path.
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 forms of life, not just people.
There are other ways mystics use love. But the energy for all of them stems from this element.
Thank you for reading this article. We hope it provides some food for thought. You can find more mind-opening topics on our blog.
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(1) Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness.
(2) Rumi, Wikipedia
(3) Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
(4) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia