“For one human being to love another:
that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks…
the work for which all other work is but preparation.”
Last week we began exploring the nature of love as an evolutionary force and the ways in which we still might be—as Rilke suggests—turning love into a path of clinging and possession. We discovered the ways in which we truncate love to signify a bond that ties two people to each other. Like two magnetic poles, we think of love as this force of attraction that binds two people together, often collapsing into one singular unit…but is that the end-goal of love? or is there another way we might begin to comprehend the risk entailed in loving?
What does the dynamism of the Christian Trinity, as understood by the mystics, teach us about how love moves, creates and has the potential to be a force for evolution??
Like Rilke, Teilhard criticizes the conventionality we’ve turned love into:
“…the one must not absorb the other….Love is an adventure and a conquest. It survives and develops like the universe itself only by perpetual discovery. The only right love is that between couples whose passion leads them both, one through the other, to a higher possession of their being.” [i]
In another essay, Teilhard continues this thread of describing love:
“...the best test for gauging [love] would be to note how decisively it develops in the direction of a greater freedom of spirit. The more spiritual the affection, the less it sucks up into itself—and the stronger its impulse towards action.
…love stands as the threshold of another universe.” [ii]
Therefore the real test of love, Teilhard tells us, is the degree to which it does not stop at the connection, but rather compels us forward in the evolution of our own becoming. This evolutionary becoming inevitably results in an increased action, creativity, and love in the world.
Far from remaining stymied at the “taming phase” that we read last week in The Little Prince, what Teilhard describes is a love that propels the lovers outward via the force of the generativity that they share. Rather than understanding love between two people as mutual consumption, the couple energizes the other further into an energetic expansion, further into the world.
Teilhardian scholar Ilia Delio describes the love of human relationships in this Trinitarian way:
“Instead of two people looking at each other, love must become two people looking in the same direction…at a common point of becoming, ahead, in the future.”
As another illustration of the Trinity and why three seems to be essential to the flow of love is the way in which love tends to turn us outward, beyond our selves and each other. Beatrice Bruteau ponders that the true nature of love—and therefore the Trinity itself—as ecstatic, transcending the bond of two people toward each other, toward a common third outwardly:
The element of risk is present in self-abandoning love. This is where insideness turns into outsideness, where one relinquishes control. One gives being but one does not control how it is expressed, one does not know what form it will take, what will happen next, how it will turn out. To pass on the gift of life is to pass on the ability to give the gift of life, and what happens past that point is out of one’s hands. That is what makes it truly a gift of love. This is what I am calling “ecstasy,” the insideness turning into outsideness.[iii]
In The Little Prince, the “taming” phase and love’s possession is not the end goal either. After the prince tames the fox, it comes time for the prince to go. The fox cries, but proceeds to give the Little Prince a gift of the secret on how they will remain connected, uttering the most quoted words from the book:
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart the one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
The fox gives the Little Prince the gift of seeing, perceiving not with the conventional external focus on what we are trying so desperately to cling to in the outer form, but the spiritual perception of his heart. In this transformed knowing, we see that the bonds of love are meant to evolve into a more subtle form, even to the point of being capable of continuing to grow and give life despite all distances or visible obstacles.
This becomes the central theme of the book, and in the end becomes the way the Prince demonstrates Love is stronger than death. Incidentally, this is the title of a book on the very same concept by Cynthia Bourgeault.
In it, Bourgeault describes the energy field between two people as the “body of hope:” a subtle but tangible energetic “third” something formed between two people who consciously cultivate it, which perpetually urges them onward into further becoming. This subtle body has an eternal quality to it and the capacity to endure and keep generating – even beyond death.
Perhaps what Antoine and Bourgeault are hinting at is that the nature of true love is that it will, by its very nature (as is evident in the cosmos itself) require us to “stop looking at each other,” and instead allow our love to precipitate a greater expansion in our field of vision:
With the bonds of love in place we are then meant to keep going, to stretch them and weave an entirely new possibility that remains forever part of our world.
We have a long way to go before we begin to understand the evolutionary power of love in human relationships. Perhaps we are mostly captivated by the taming of love, not in the power of what happens when we release, let go, or practice a stretching of it…and explore where the risk of love might take us.
We can recognize true love because its costly signature: it naturally invokes this kind of radical vulnerability, a generativity that urges each other’s evolution forward. It is a gaze that compels us to not just stand looking at each other our whole lives but allows us to look, one through the other, in a common direction, at the entirety and eternal nature of life itself.
Love allows the tincture of the other’s particularity to become the lens through which we are enabled to see the world’s need, and turn outwardly to meet it.
It is for this reason I believe we’re far more comfortable traveling the more established sentimental lines of how we understand love and make it about belonging to each other rather than propelling each other onward. Perhaps we’re so accustomed to running from ache – or pain of any kind – that we run away from love itself: refusing to give evolution the opportunity to draw us forward because we have yet to accept that ache of absence is how presence is established.
It’s easier to be lulled into turning in and walling ourselves off from the world, reducing our love into a nest away from the world rather than a force compelling us to stride further into the world.
Allow love to become more than a piece of glass you posses and hold tightly in the comfort of your pockets, instead becoming the lens through which you can perceive the entire cosmos around you. We are swimming in a relational field of creativity and more-ness…a dynamism called love.
What or whom you are attracted to is part of an evolutionary force that beckons you beyond the walls of what is safe and familiar.
Don't be afraid of the hurt...it’s part of the risk inherent in love’s evolutionary adventure as we continue to become.
This post "Love" is an excerpt from my eBook "Longing, Loving, and Letting Go: The Trinity in the Evolution of our Lives," which is among the bonus material offered when you pre-order a copy of Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell's new book, "The Divine Dance." For more info click HERE
 Ilia Delio, personal conversation, May, 2016.
[i] Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, trans. J.M. Cohen (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; New York 1969)
[ii] Teilhard de Chardin, On Love and Happiness, “The Evolution of Chastity” (London, Williams Collins Sons&Co, 1969), 12-13.
[iii] Bruteau, God’s Ecstasy, p.39