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By J Finnis
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Jesus Christ; Matthew 22:37-39
Love is the law, love under will. Aleister Crowley; The Book of the Law
All you need is love, love. Love is all you need. John Lennon; song lyric
As the above suggest, love is certainly important to human-kind. Its importance is confirmed by a Google search returning no fewer than 1,480,000,000 hits for a search on "Love".
What is Love?
But what is really meant by "love", and in particular by "unconditional love"?
Love is what we feel (or maybe feel we ought to feel) for our child, partner, parents, family... But we also use the word to refer to things; "I love football, I love swimming..."
To love a thing simply means to like it very much. But to love a person is to value and care for that person as much as, if not more than, ourselves.
Love is something that cannot be kept to oneself. We need to give it in order to receive it. And despite the external appearance of some, at heart we all want to be loved.
A Definition of Unconditional Love
Quite simply, unconditional love is love without conditions. It is love without requiring anything in return, love no matter what. A classic example might be the undying love of a mother for a wayward son regardless of what human sins he might commit.
But isn't all real love unconditional, for if it carries conditions - "I'll love you if you love me, if you pay the bills, if you blah blah blah..." - it isn't love, but emotional blackmail.
It's easy to love those closest to us. Easy to love that with which we are familiar. But true unconditional love places no conditions such as I'll love you because you're my partner, child, parent... It is love for every part of the material and Spiritual realm. Regardless for whether we may know that which we love, regardless for how that which we love may have behaved towards us in the past.
Again we quote that great Spiritual teacher Lord Jesus, who said: But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. (Luke 6:27-32).
Spiritually we are all part of one great whole. Upon the individuation of incarnation we lose that sense of belonging - paradise lost. It is hidden from us on our quest to re-discover our true nature through the lessons of experience that are life.
Unconditional love represents our true Spiritual goal. The love of all others regardless of race, religion or deeds. For by truly giving unconditional love we recognize that we are part of that great oneness that is Spirit. In loving another we really love ourselves.
If it is hard to love a stranger, how much harder is it to love those we perceive as sinning against us? A shining example is that of Mrs Gee Walker whose son Anthony was murdered in a racist attack in Liverpool, England. Despite his killers remaining unrepentant Mrs Walker said, Unforgiveness makes you a victim and why should I be a victim? Anthony spent his life forgiving. His life stood for peace, love and forgiveness and I brought them up that way... I have to practice what I preach. Mrs Walker is one of very few Christians who actually practice the teachings of Lord Jesus, ie to love the sinner while hating their sins.
Practicing Unconditional Love
Life is hard. This is why our bodies, sophisticated to the n-th degree as they are, are designed to wear out. Else we would never be able to return to our true home in the realms of Spirit. To attain the state of unconditional love while clothed in human flesh is extremely hard, if not impossible. Those that have come close include Spiritual masters such as Buddha and the Lord Jesus. More modern examples would include Gandhi and Mother Theresa.
The state of absolute unconditional love is a part of perfection, which may be unattainable, but serves as an ideal to which we can all make progress towards.
In our daily work - most obviously in the caring professions - but all work involves in some way serving society in return for material reward. We can all try to go a little further than contractually required when such action results in the greater good. Take pride in what you do. Seek to be of service to your fellow man for its on sake and not solely for the resultant profit - though we all need food and shelter so the pursuit of fair profit is not intrinsically wrong.
In our Spiritual work - the Spiritual path is not for everyone, at least not this time around. But when appropriate it offers the opportunity to exercise unconditional love through healing, mediumship, or simply sending out positive thoughts to the world (also known as prayer).
In how we live our lives - showing our appreciation to those that help us, eg a mere please or thank you or a smile. Saying good morning or offering assistance to a stranger in need. The expression of positive views in conversation with friends and acquaintances. Through voting appropriately in ballots, writing to the press etc. In all of these ways we can express our love for our fellow beings with no strings attached.
Recognize the immense difficulty of attaining unconditional love in this world, but at least seek to extend our dimension of love beyond our closest circle. Remember the old adage that a stranger is only a friend we've yet to meet.
It is not necessary to renounce all our material possessions to do aid work in the 3rd world, though doing so might well accelerate the attainment of unconditional love. By simply being conscious of this ideal in all we do we make progress towards a major Spiritual goal.