Four stages of human love

The world is crooked(vrjina), says the Rig Veda, because every Divine vibration becomes distorted and debased in Man.  Our outer personality is cut off from the Light and as a result, our worldly ego distorts every movement of Truth into an act of Falsehood.   For example, the vibration of Love becomes disfigured into possession and hatred while the vibration of Delight gets distorted into overeating of food, desire for cheap thrills and other perversions.   

Sri Aurobindo described this movement of distortion in his poem Savitri as follows:

A vast deception was the law of things;
Only by that deception they could live.
An unsubstantial Nihil guaranteed
The falsehood of the forms this Nature took
And made them seem awhile to be and live.
A borrowed magic drew them from the Void;
They took a shape and stuff that was not theirs
And showed a colour that they could not keep,
Mirrors to a fantasm of reality.
Each rainbow brilliance was a splendid lie;
A beauty unreal graced a glamour face.
Nothing could be relied on to remain:
Joy nurtured tears and good an evil proved,
But never out of evil one plucked good:
Love ended early in hate, delight killed with pain,
Truth into falsity grew and death ruled life.
A Power that laughed at the mischief of the world,
An irony that joined the world’s contraries
And flung them into each other’s arms to strive,
Put a sardonic rictus on God’s face.

Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – I: The Descent into Night

Psychic.  Image by Karolik via Flickr (creative commons).  Click image for source

During her conversations with Satprem(a disciple), the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Mira Alfassa, elucidated on how the pure puissance of Love becomes distorted and manifests into the four stages of human love.   (Mother’s Agenda: April 16, 1966)

1. At first one loves only when one is loved

This can be seen in the calculating person who is narrow-minded and selfish, who partitions his/her social contacts into those who are loved and those who are hated.   As Sri Aurobindo notes:

The inequality of feelings towards others, liking and disliking, is ingrained in the nature of the human vital. This is because some harmonise with one’s own vital temperament, others do not; also there is the vital ego which gets displeased when it is hurt or when things do not go or people do not act according to its preferences or its idea of what they should do. In the self above there is a spiritual calm and equality, a goodwill to all or at a certain stage a quiet indifference to all except the Divine; in the psychic there is an equal kindness or love to all fundamentally, but there may be special relations with one – but the vital is always unequal and full of likes and dislikes. By the sadhana the vital must be quieted down; it must receive from the self above its quiet goodwill and equality to all things and from the psychic its general kindness or love.

Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Human Relationships in Yoga – II

2. Next one loves spontaneously but one wants to be loved in return.

This is the situation where a person has an expansive vital(life-force) but with an intact ego within it.  Such a person has a large feeling of love for humanity but wants to be loved in exchange for his/her “selfless” deeds.   A good example of this is seen in those perform charitable or altruistic acts but expect recognition in return.  The idea of helping others is also a subtle form of ego.  In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

Human affection is obviously unreliable because it is so much based upon selfishness and desire; it is a flame of the ego sometimes turbid and misty, sometimes more clear and brightly coloured – sometimes tamasic based on instinct and habit, sometimes rajasic and fed by passion or the cry for vital interchange, sometimes more sattwic and trying to be or look to itself disinterested. But fundamentally it depends on a personal need or a return of some kind inward or outward and when the need is not satisfied or the return ceases or is not given, it most often diminishes or dies or exists only as a tepid or troubled remnant of habit from the past or else turns for satisfaction elsewhere. The more intense it is, the more it is apt to be troubled by tumults, clashes, quarrels, egoistic disturbances of all kinds, selfishness, exactions, lapses even to rage and hatred, ruptures.  It is not that these affections cannot last – tamasic instinctive affections last because of habit in spite of everything dividing the persons, e.g. certain family affections; rajasic affections can last sometimes in spite of all disturbances and incompatibilities and furious ruptures because one has a vital need of the other and clings because of that or because both have that need and are constantly separating to return and returning to separate or proceeding from quarrel to reconciliation and from reconciliation to quarrel; sattwic affections last very often from duty to the ideal or with some other support though they may lose their keenness or intensity or brightness.

Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Human Relationships in Yoga – I

3. Further on, one loves even if one is not loved but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.

As the Mother states, this stage is generally seen in those people who have reached a fairly advanced yogic state.   It occurs when the psychic being in the heart is unveiled but the outer nature is still not fully transformed.  The psychic feels a spontaneous love for all beings but this pure vibration is still muted by the remnants of the egoistic movements which continue to  insist of some form of recognition.

4. And finally one loves purely and simply without any other need or joy than that of loving.

The Mother says of this state, “That, to me, according to my personal experience, is really omnipotence.   It’s a power than can achieve anything – anything at all. Nothing is impossible to it.”  This is the state of the Enlightened One, whose outer nature has been completely tranquilized by the inner Light.  Such a person acts without any expectation for recognition.

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31 thoughts on “Four stages of human love

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  4. a_dt

    Could you please dig up (if possible) a quote where the Mother Mirra states the 3rd stage of love? That would be great, thank you.

    (ps: – What is the difference between a pingback and an ordinary link? Sorry for my ignorance.
    – Again, thank you for your blog, I love the works of Sri Aurobindo and I appreciate your work putting it into context.)

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      > What is the difference between a pingback and an ordinary link?

      When blog-post A links an old blog-post B, a comment called pingback appears on blog-post B with a backlink to blog-post A. see wikipedia

      > Could you please dig up (if possible) a quote where the Mother Mirra states the 3rd stage of love? That would be great, thank you.

      I have been looking but haven’t found anything specific. This condition “one loves even if one is not loved but one still wants one’s love to be accepted” occurs when we begin to experience a “double consciousness“. There is an inner psychic light separate from the outer crust that awakens. Even while this psychic begins to radiate its warm glow within, the thick outer crust of egoistic movements (sulking, revolt, defense mechanisms, etc.) still remains intact. As a result, one experiences a puzzling contradiction – one senses an unconditional love for others even as the stubborn outer crust interferes, demanding compensation, and wanting to restrict the psychic movement.

      These are a few quotes on double consciousness from here

      There is a state of being experienced in Yoga in which we become a double consciousness, one on the surface, small, active, ignorant, swayed by thoughts and feelings, grief and joy and all kinds of reactions, the other within calm, vast, equal, observing the surface being with an immovable detachment or indulgence or, it may be, acting upon its agitation to quiet, enlarge, transform it.

      Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine – I: Brahman, Purusha, Ishwara – Maya, Prakriti, Shakti

      The experience you have of a division in the being with the inner void and indifferent, udāsīna(neutral), – not sorrowful, but neutral and indifferent, is an experience which many pass through and is highly valued by the Sannyasins(ascetics). For us it is a passage only to something larger and more positive. In it the old small human feelings fall away and a sort of calm neutral void is made for a higher nature to manifest. It must be fulfilled and replaced by a sense of large silence and freedom into which the Mother’s consciousness can flow from above.

      Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness – II

      The division of the being into two parts – one a large consciousness behind, the other a smaller consciousness in front, is also a familiar feature of sadhana(askesis ). In itself it is a necessary movement; it should naturally result in the growth of a larger yogic consciousness prevailing over the small external consciousness and becoming a means for transformation under the pressure of the Divine Shakti. But here too it is possible for error to take place – especially an outside Force may come in and replace the larger consciousness behind by a larger vital ego which pretends to be that. One must be on one’s guard against any such intrusion; for many sadhaks(aspirants) suffer long and severely owing to such an intrusion which spoils the course of the sadhana.

      Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – II: Experiences of the Inner and the Cosmic Consciousness – V

      Reply
  5. mike

    “in the psychic there is an equal kindness or love to all fundamentally, but there may be special relations with one”
    l wonder if SA is referring to The Twinsoul in that statement. l’m not sure what His definition of the Twinsoul would be. Do we only have one, for example. l know He said that He and Mother were always on the same Path, heading for the same Goal, right from the beginning of time, but would that apply to everyone. The Mother laughed at the idea of ‘The ONE’ so l’m not sure.

    “The more intense it is, the more it is apt to be troubled by tumults, clashes, quarrels, egoistic disturbances of all kinds, selfishness, exactions, lapses even to rage and hatred, ruptures”

    l believe this can easily happen when Twinsouls meet, because the feelings are much more intense than in an ordinary relationship [if that’s the right word]. Depends on the Spiritual level of the Twins l suppose.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Mike: l believe this can easily happen when Twinsouls meet, because the feelings are much more intense than in an ordinary relationship [if that’s the right word]. Depends on the Spiritual level of the Twins l suppose.

      Another problem is that when people have sexual affairs with other partners, as is common these days, it creates sanskaras (karmic formations) within the subconscious. These encrustations tend to cloud the psychic perception. It makes one unable to distinguish the psychic-compatible soul from the other ordinary partners.

      Reply
  6. mike

    “These encrustations tend to cloud the psychic perception. It makes one unable to distinguish the psychic-compatible soul from the other ordinary partners”

    Yes, l totally agree Sandeep. Without some kind of psychic perception or the welling-up of some psychic experience at the time, it’s impossible to ascertain the truth. ln my case l could see the heart chakra bursting open in pink light and going to her [lots of other things too, as l’ve mentioned before ad nauseum lol], so l’m hoping that in itself is real confirmation. This is a special experience for me, but l certainly don’t think l’m anything special [in yoga loads of ppl get these experiences quite often]. Although, with most of the ppl claiming to have met their twinsoul, l’ve not come across any who seem to be getting most of my experiences – so, that makes me wonder…

    l remember SA saying that during the sex-act a lot is transferred from the other person.
    There are many people being deceived in this way, today [as you say] because sex is like a contagion which hits you at every turn [Everywhere we look we are assaulted with it. Worse than the visual aspect is the constant barrage of sexual swear words, l think. Using these in a conversation seems to have become second-nature for a lot of ppl. l think l need to get some good ear-plugs lol]. SA once said sex has the dirtiest smell, and l think l’ve noticed that. Cinemas must be heavily polluted to. On one occassion [in a vivid dream] l remember seeing these small blue entities swarming outside my local cinema. l’m pretty sure they were sexual vampires.
    Anyway, getting back on track, l’ve recently seen a lot of these Twinsoul websites crop up and 99% of the ppl who believe they’ve met their twinsoul, are IMO under a cloud of self-delusion. And, as you say, sandeep, they are obviously confusing sexual relations with what a True Twinsoul should be. Although, to be fair, a few do say it’s unlike any experience they’ve ever had with anyone before [this is definitely true in my case]. l believe a lot are probably experiencing a strong past-life connection which probably has nothing to do with Twinsouls. SA said [albeit in the 1920’s or 30’s] that Twinsoul’s coming together is extremely rare – so the chances that these ppl are meeting their Twinsoul is fairly slim. Unless, as a lot believe, many more Twinsouls are incarnating at this time, for some reason.
    They do seem to be full of these ‘samskaras’ and are unable to tell the difference between a ‘Soul’ contact and a purely mundane relationship [of course, their is a lack of knowledge about what the soul really is, so they naturally bring everything down to a physical level]. Because they have certain ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ experiences, like ‘instant recognition’ or basic ‘telepathy’ or feel a lot of ‘energy’ they automatically assume it must be from the ‘Soul’ [energy is the main experience it seems, except that it centres around the solar plexus, which is where a lot of sexual impurity can manifest, l believe]. Also, this energy could be anything, but they usually believe it’s something Divine]. They are obviously going through some weird experience, but from some of their descriptions and the little l understand, not much of it is related to the soul-level.
    Fortunately, for myself, when this happened to me, most of my experiences happened at the heart-centre, and l had a background in Sri Aurobindo and Mothers teachings to analyze it all.
    With their help l’ve been able to distinguish between the True experiences and the False [l hope lol]. Being single and unattached for many years probably helped, as well.
    When this Twinsoul experience happened to me, it was so far beyond anything l’d ever experienced with anyone before, that it was hard to deny that it must indeed be some kind of ‘Soul’ connection – every test l’ve done has pointed to this. l still need SA and Mother to absolutely confirm it though, because apart from some weird signs and synchronicities they haven’t told me in a definite way – not yet.
    Sorry to blabber on about this so much lol😉

    Reply
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  12. Sandeep Post author

    Another dialogue on this topic

    Disciple: Mother, what kind of love is that which says, “If you love me, I shall love you”?

    Mother: If you love me, I shall love you? That’s exactly the way men speak: “If you love me, I love you, if you don’t love me, I don’t love you.” This is just the most human expression of love. And it goes still farther, they apply it also to their relation with the Divine. They say to the Divine: “If you do what I want, I shall say that you love me, and I shall love you. But if you don’t do what I want, then I won’t think at all that you love me, and I certainly will not love you.”

    That’s how it is. That means that it becomes commercial.

    Disciple: But “If you don’t love me, I shall love you”?

    Mother: That begins to be better!

    And what is better still is not to ask oneself whether one is loved or not, one should be absolutely indifferent to that. And that begins to be true love: one loves because one loves, not at all because one receives a response to one’s love or because the other person loves you. All those conditions – that is not love. One loves because one cannot do otherwise but love. One loves because one loves. One doesn’t care at all about what will happen; one is perfectly satisfied with the feeling of one’s love. One loves because one loves.

    All the rest is bargaining, it is not love.

    And, moreover, one thing is certain: the moment one experiences true love, one doesn’t even put the question any longer. It seems altogether childish and ridiculous and insignificant to ask this question. One has the complete plenitude of joy and realisation the moment one experiences true love and one doesn’t at all need any kind of response. One is love, that’s all. And one has the plenitude of the satisfaction of love. There is no need at all of any reciprocity.

    I tell you, so long as there is this calculation in the mind or the feelings and sensations, so long as there is some calculation, more or less acknowledged, it is bargaining, it is not love.

    You can’t manage to understand?.. I hope it will come one day!

    All the rest is exactly what men have made of love. And besides it is not very pretty and leads to all kinds of things which are still less pretty, like jealousy, for instance, or envy, and in violent natures it goes as far as hatred. The small beginning is this: the need, when one loves, that what one loves or the person one loves should know that he is loved. But in the relation with the Divine: one loves the Divine but insists that the Divine should know that one loves Him! That’s the beginning of the fall. One does not even think about the real thing. It doesn’t even slightly touch the mind.

    One doesn’t think: one loves, that’s all. One loves and is in the plenitude of love and the intense joy of love, and then, that’s all.

    It is a long, long, long way to go from what men call “love” to true love – a long way.

    I am not even speaking here about all the repulsive forms it takes in the ordinary human consciousness; I am telling you about the best conditions, about love in its best form, even the most disinterested. I don’t know, if you question human beings, I would like to know very much the percentage of those who don’t even care for reciprocity. Simply that. Not those who say: “If you love me, I love you”, that indeed is at the very bottom of the ladder, right at the bottom, almost in the pit There is a still lower rung: “Love me and then I shall see if I love you.” There you have to deal with altogether disgusting people. I am speaking only of the need of reciprocity: that is the first step of the descending scale.

    However, you will understand this one day. You are still very young.

    The Mother, Questions and Answers (1953): 26 August 1953

    Reply
  13. mike

    “All those conditions – that is not love. One loves because one cannot do otherwise but love. One loves because one loves.”

    Yes, usually called ‘unconditional love’ in twinsoul circles. l hear it used a lot, but l doubt it exists much with most ppl. l think a ‘Psychic Conversion’ is probably necessary for that kind if Love.

    Reply
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  17. Sandeep Post author

    People out there are reusing the insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother without attribution. Here is a possible case where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living reworded the Mother’s insight on the Four Stages of Love. Compare the two as follows:

    The Mother said:
    At first one loves only when one is loved
    Next one loves spontaneously but one wants to be loved in return.
    Further on, one loves even if one is not loved but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.
    And finally one loves purely and simply without any other need or joy than that of loving.
    From http://mother-agenda.narod.ru/Agenda_7/1966-04-16.htm

    while Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says:
    To love someone whom you like is insignificant.
    To love someone because they love you is of no consequence.
    To love someone whom you do not like means you have learned a lesson in life.
    To love someone who blames you for no reason shows that you have learned the art of living.

    (Source: Celebrating Love – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)
    http://blog.gaiam.com/quotes/authors/sri-sri-ravi-shankar

    Reply
  18. mike

    Yes, definitely a copycat there l think. Not easy to see at first glance.
    Makes you wonder why they don’t just use the original quote by the Mother, which sounds better to me, anyway. Probably shankar is trying to be creative or something lol.

    Reply
  19. Mansee

    I think it’s more important that the right ideas get conveyed to people even if they are forgotten to be attributed. Moreover if i correctly understood, Ideas belong to no human. They are just floating in the thought world and can be captured by one or many at the same time (Please correct me if i got it wrong). So maybe Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is just saying something which was revealed to him through his own psychic/experiences.

    Reply
    1. Sandeep Post author

      Sure, ideas are not owned by anyone. They float in the mental and overmental worlds but the quality of transmission suffers if they are disseminated by an inferior consciousness. That is why, as much as possible, I insert original quotes from Sri Aurobindo and the Mother instead of rephrasing them in my own words.

      Secondly, when ideas are retransmitted without attribution, people eventually begin to ignore the original source. For instance, Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen have copied several ideas from Sri Aurobindo and pass them off as original. As a result, Americans now read Wilber instead of turning to Sri Aurobindo.

      From a purely moral standpoint, it is also downright dishonest to copy without attribution.

      You may be right – it could have been revealed to him as well, but the manner in which it has been phrased strongly suggests that it originates from the words of Mother. He is quite familiar with Sri Aurobindo. In addition, his nephew grew up in Pondicherry and attended the Sri Aurobindo Memorial school in Bangalore

      Reply
      1. Jason Wingate

        On Wilber: mere unattributed copying would be far preferable to his more toxic real activity, namely attributing to Aurobindo ideas which he did not hold, in order to have “included” Aurobindo’s work in his own.

        Wilber is trying to make a rationalised structure which can “include” the thought and experience every other sage. It is a terrible idea. No such structure exists — Aurobindo, the master of flexible spiritual thinking, would have agreed: “In spiritual life, one must always be ready to reject every system and all constructions” — so Wilber can’t succeed.

        Many Westerners have pointed these things out. Alan Kazlev is one who’s protested vehemently about Aurobindo’s treatment at Wilber’s hands, Rod Hemsell another. Wililam Irwin Thompson, who reveres Aurobindo and visited Auroville I believe, thinks Wilber is memoese, nothing to do with real Integral thought.

        And BTW, the same criticism is levelled at Wilber from maaaaany other directions — Brian Hines points out very convincingly how he murders Plotinus, diZerega how he mutilates Emerson, etc. So Aurobindo is in good company. Wilber’s MO is to include the names and cachets of great spiritual figures and thinkers, but ignore who they actually were and what they actually felt and thought, because his own thought is so much more important and what they really must have meant.🙂

        In other words, his work really relies on the ignorance of the reader. People who are going to fall for that are probably not readers Aurobindo would have wanted anyhow — often the more interesting leave Wilber’s ambit, and there’s an entire industry dedicated to criticising him now.

        As you imply, I don’t think any of this would have fazed Aurobindo himself for a moment. His thinking and experience was of another order entirely in my opinion.

        (As for Cohen — purrlease, let’s not ^_^)

      2. mwb6119

        Sandeep said: “As a result, Americans now read Wilber instead of turning to Sri Aurobindo.” Please rephrase this: “As a result, Americans now read Wilber…..” How insulting! Not all Americans read Wilber! I do not read Wilber! I am greatful to my Psychic Being for directing me to SA & M!!! *Sandeep, I’m being jocular, of course!!!🙂🙂🙂🙂

    2. Sandeep Post author

      For the record, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan once copied passages from Sri Aurobindo without attribution but the latter magnanimously declined to intervene, although at the end he does say one can take measures to prevent the recurrence if it is worthwhile.

      Disciple: Radhakrishnan, in his lecture published in the Hindu(“World Fellowship through Faith . . . Sir S. Radhakrishnan’s Address”, The Hindu, 20 July 1936), has stolen not only most of your ideas but has actually lifted several sentences en masse. I wonder how such piracy in philosophical literature passes unchastised. I am thinking either of writing to him deploring the theft or informing the Hindu.

      Sri Aurobindo: I don’t think it is worth while doing anything. The thefts are obvious, but if he wants to add some peacock plumes to his dun colours! (24 July 1936 )

      Disciple: Professor Mahendranath Sircar and others would like to write to Radhakrishnan, asking him why he used passages from your works without acknowledgement.

      Sri Aurobindo: No. I have said no public notice should be taken of the matter. I consider it inadvisable, so the letters should not be sent.

      From the Yogic point of view one ought to be indifferent and without sense of ownership or desire of fame or praise. But for that one must have arrived at the Yogic poise — such a detachment is not possible without it. I do not mind Radhakrishnan’s lifting whole sentences and paragraphs from my writings at the World Conference as his own and getting credit for a new and quite original point of view.

      But if I were eager to figure before the world as a philosopher, I would resent it. But even if one does not mind, one can see the impropriety of the action or take measures against its repetition, if one thinks it worth while.
      (5 August 1936)

      Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Himself and the Ashram: Philosophical Theft

      Reply
      1. ihaiva

        Thank you – the generosity of the Master – and a rebuke. What a disgrace on the part of Radhakrishnan – in his tomes of philosophy he gives only a passing footnote to SA and yet waxes much on western philosophers. [ i will cite if needed – but have not his book at hand]

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