New Thought Editorials > Love---By Whatever Name

 

Spring 2006

Love---By Whatever Name

Spirituality is the raw material from which we form our various religions. To many people seeking a spiritual path, the word religion is negative, but it merely refers to the binding together of one’s beliefs, attitudes, and actions concerning what one considers to be ultimate reality. Even when we borrow from the world’s great religions, the end result is still to some degree a do-it-yourself job.

The three great Western religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—are known as the religions of the Book because of their emphasis on the Bible as a source of inspiration and guidance. In Christianity especially, there is a huge range of difference in the degree to which individuals or even denominations make use of the Bible. Scholars—most notably William James, who was both philosopher and psychologist, and hence of interest to both members of our household—emphasize the necessity for both mystical and rational approaches to one’s spirituality. Both mystical and occult (hidden) experiences fall into the academic discipline of psychology. James was interested in both, and as a physician as well as a psychologist, he was interested in science. I have said before that religion and science meet in the lap of philosophy, whose stock in trade is reason. The Bible includes both mysticism and reason, and the New Testament records the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and death and its aftermath made him arguably one of the most influential individuals, if not the single most influential individual, in the history of the human race.

Neither Jesus nor Christianity nor any other religion or spiritual leader can claim to have a corner on truth, whether approached mystically or rationally. However, no spiritual leader or religion has ever laid as much emphasis on love as he did. Unfortunately, English has only one word to express emotions and attitudes ranging from Cupid or Eros through brotherly love or community love all the way to love of all creation. We generally find ourselves resorting to terms such as good will, appreciation, or wishing someone well to broaden our territory.

People differ greatly in their definition of Christian and in their Christology, or definition of who Jesus was. Whether New Thoughters consider themselves Christians or not, New Thought as a philosophical-religious movement derives mainly from Christianity. The founders of all the New Thought denominations except Seicho-No-Ie came from Christian backgrounds, as did P. P. Quimby, without whom there would have been no New Thought. He did not seek to found a movement; he sought to heal people of physical and mental or spiritual ailments. To aid himself in this undertaking, he began to study the Bible on his own in order to refute the toxic beliefs that he realized were making his patients sick. In the course of this study, Quimby discovered much truth that had been lost from conventional Christian teaching, and he grew spiritually.

For Quimby, love is

An element of itself, without any form; it has no length or breadth, or height or depth; it neither comes nor goes; it fills all space. And melts all error down that comes within its power. . . . It is perfect harmony. Its element or language is its perfection. It embraces all the senses. It is not Wisdom but the power Wisdom uses to bring all things into harmony with itself. . . . Love is a substance like food that comes from heaven to feed the soul. (Love I, II; July 1860; December 1859)

The first epistle of John, the disciple closest to Jesus, states:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He that does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)

Whether or not you use the handy little three-letter word G-o-d to refer to what you consider to be Ultimate Reality; whatever the object of your well-wishing on this Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or Arbor Day; remember that here is the true heart of your spiritual quest: where you experience love, you also experience God.