The Mating Instinct
(Copyright, Lars Charles Mazzola, 18 October 2009; last updated 22 January 2016)
Excerpt from an unpublished manuscript, Two Wings
The Venus of Lespugue, c. 30,000 BCE
(Campbell, 1959, p. 326)
Because love, like the weather, takes many forms, it is experienced and defined in various ways. It is both simple and complex, straightforward and confusing. It is of enormous importance to get right--the sooner the better, since the success of our lives depends on it. Yet the sages of the world say that love takes lifetimes to understand. Here is a road map for the perilous journey of love. It sprouts in human instinct, buds in the human soul, and blossoms in the human spirit. These three facets are tied together inextricably, which compounds their beauty and mystery.
Love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs;
Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes;
Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers' tears;
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.
Romeo and Juliet, 1.1.191-95
Instinctual love, because it is so fiercely competitive, can often be deadly. A teenager, oblivious to this fact, wrote in her diary, "If love is dead in our age, then why do I feel so great when I'm around my boyfriend?" (Postman and Weingartner 172). Romeo and Juliet also felt great when they were in each other's presence, but they were unable to avoid the death that surrounded them and ultimately overwhelmed them.
What do anthropologists say about love? They tell us that, unlike our closest primate relatives--the bonobo chimpanzees, who copulate in an indiscriminate manner for about fifteen seconds--human beings endow their love making with highly elaborate, selective, and intricate rituals (Morris, Chapter 3) It is focused, not on copulation, but on pair-bonding, the ultimate stage of courtship: mutual giving for the sake of others. Anthropologist Desmond Morris claims that pair-bonding is the eighth and ultimate stage of the mating instinct. Since this instinct can be triggered, played out, or frustrated on so many levels--to the point where it can become deadly--it is worth looking at in detail. The following paragraphs summarize Morris' work.
The first stage of the mating instinct is called "viewing." It occurs when a male or female "eyes-over" the other. This act of viewing indicates sexual interest that is triggered by visual (and olfactory) cues, cues that are considered to be attractive and intriguing--for example, an up-turned nose, a slim physique, bulging muscles, full breasts, round hips, or small feet, depending on cultural and personal standards of beauty. Though "viewing" can heighten sexual interest, it can also precipitate sudden disinterest as well, especially if the visual (amd olfactory) cues are evaluated as unattractive in a number of ways, again depending on cultural and personal standards. If both individuals find each other attractive, the next stage will probably begin.
This second stage is called "the pick-up," a stage that occurs when a woman and a man move closer to each other. They non verbally agree to engage in a brief, safe encounter, illustrated by two people walking their dogs in a park and stopping for an instant, standing at an oblique, cautiously preparing for conversation. The thought process of this stage is: "Shall I stop to see who this person is, with the chance that my interest will be reciprocated?"
The third stage, "chatter," is likely to begin at this point, if both parties remain interested. Chatter is a kind of test, a probe to determine the quality of the relationship.
Sometime later, if both individuals agree, stage four--"bodily contact"--begins. This stage is usually initiated by the woman, who is often very selective up to this point.
If both parties are still interested in each other, bodily contact can lead to the fifth stage, "cuddling," an extraordinary stage where both return to the stage of infancy. Both parties--perhaps now a couple, but not yet mates--spend a great deal of time holding and rocking each other in their arms. They cling to each other as children cling to their parents. They often become "moonstruck"--slightly deranged or obsessed, listlessly looking about in a vacant, abstracted manner--in slang, "gone." Their elaborate regression goes further. They call each other silly names, feed each other, and fondle and nuzzle each other. This stage sometimes culminates with a "gift exchange"--a memento or gem that symbolizes the treasure they have found in each other.
The sixth stage continues the selection process of the previous five stages. This stage is recognized by "tie-signs," expressions of ownership that signify "This person is tied to me; hands off!" A male "tie-sign" signals that a female is "his," that she is not available to other males. A female "tie-sign" similarly signals that a male is "hers," that he is not available to other females. "Tie-signs" are boundary signals sent by a forming pair-bond; outsiders are warned not to violate these newly established boundaries. "Tie signs" are exhibited by a couple's holding hands, placing their arms around each other's waists, or touching vulnerable and exclusive areas of the body---the chin and neck, which guard the juggler vein, or the knee and the thighs, which guard the genitals.
The elaborate process of selection continues. With mutual consent, the seventh and penultimate stage of pair-bonding begins: intercourse, which, for humans, is characterized by sensuous contact, extensive foreplay, gradual arousal, penetration, orgasm, relaxation, and unconscious absorption. Sexual practices that delay or prevent orgasm can extend the process even more.
We have come a long way from the fifteen-second copulation of our friendly primate cousins, the bonobo chimps. In contrast, our sexual behavior is "longer, more sensuous, less automatic, and more subtle" than any other primate (Morris 117). But there is more.
The last and eighth stage, the formation of the pair-bond, is the consummation of gender differentiation. The "pair-bond" is formed when both individuals agree to dedicate their lives to each other for the sake of their offspring. In some ways, this stage is post climatic, for the presence of offspring breaks the erotic dyad of courtship and replaces it with a family triad. For males, this transformation is often experienced as disruptive, since men often feel abandoned, both erotically and emotionally, with the advent of the child. The female, on the other hand, is preoccupied with recovering from the birth process, as well as nursing and caring for her child. The male is either waiting on the sidelines or busy learning his new role. For the male especially, Eros is in eclipse, perhaps to return, but never in the same way that it did before the infant's birth. Romance ebbs into the humdrum the family life--feeding schedules, diaper changes, shopping, maintenance, and emergencies. The child rules, and the parents serve--at least in healthy marriages. Following the female, the male is called to a life of support, cooperation, service, and sacrifice. The spirit of civilization arises from this cooperation.
These gifts notwithstanding, the mating instinct is far from perfect, and it often goes badly wrong. It fails about 80-90% of the time (National Marriage Project). Though the mating instinct, as Shakespeare said, is usually "a discreet form of madness," it can easily turn into "total madness." How does this happen? Studies show that most people go too far, too fast, in the beginning stages of the mating instinct, extending trust too easily, without proper restraint or caution. When something goes amiss, suspicion is aroused, trust is withdrawn, relationship falters, pain begins, and then sorrow overwhelms. Few attain the last stage of the mating instinct--pair-bonding, which requires--first of all--a good match, and then unwavering trust, loyalty, and sacrifice.
The stages where the mating instinct usually breaks down is the sixth stage--the stage where tie signs are communicated to other people. The message of the tie sign is "Stay away, because this person belongs to me" (Morris). This can quickly degenerate into a sense of possession and control, with deadly consequences. For when one member of the pair bond wanders or--even more seriously--rejects the other, rage is triggered. How does rage come to the surface in love that begins so innocently and tenderly? As Freud observed, it surfaces because our fantasy has been violated by reality. After our fantasy exaggerates a "love object," the painfull realization hits that our deepest wishes cannot be fulfilled. We then shatter the love object in return--magnified by the fury of disappointment and loneliness. We punsih the "love object" when we realize that the bond has been shattered. If the "love object" rejects us, then we will reject it. Selfishness can go no deeper.
It is common enough to be disappointed--and even angry--when we lose someone whom we value. But when we lose someone whom we have over-valued, the let-down is enormous. More than that, it can become catastrophic, "a madness," as Romeo says. Why? We feel that our self worth has been attacked and elminated. If someone else no longer values us, and we valued that person, then how can we value ourselves? What makes rage so difficult to experience, as well as to witness, is that it is uncontrollable. Usually it cannot be "handled." It is one of the most common forms of insanity that erupts in human society on a daily basis. Proverbial wisdom, Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, and the headlines all agree that, for the vast majority of human beings, "sex is (leads to) death."
What makes rage so powerful is that it triggers childhood fantasies that have been placed on "the love object" who is is no longer there. The betrayal, the loneliness, and the vacuum can be overwhelming. Since the idealized image of the potential mate is stronger than the image of our flawed parents, with whom we disconnect as we mature, the disappointment is disproportionate to the loss, and exaggerated behavior takes over. This leads to fury, rage, abuse, assault, murder and suicide. The statistics are horrifying. Most of the victims are women, from two months of age up to ninety ("Half of the Sky"). In most countries, relationship abuse--including gays and lesbians--is as high as 80% (Wikipedia, "Domestic Abuse"). Since abuse is under reported in most countries, the real number is probably much higher. Many young people, lured by the myth of "Safe Sex," rush headlong into dating without awareness, integrity, or caution, and it causes untold tragedy. Murder and suicide are the common outcomes. Perhaps in response to the rise of relationship trauma, as well as sexually transmitted diseases, almost half of the people under thirty years old in the United States are now living at home, living alone, associating with friends, volunteering in civic activities, and taking their time with the mating process (PBS, "Going Solo").
Even in those cases where it appears to be successful, culminating in a lasting pair bond, the mating instinct is still far from perfect, since it often ends in infidelity. Studies show that though the pair bond always begins in ardor, it usually fades in boredom (National Marriage Project). The initial excitement of courtship dwindles with time, familiarity, lack of attention, unresolved conflict, and indifference. Because the "magic of the transcendent" is no longer felt, one or both marriage partners seek excitement elsewhere. As we will see, the game of re-attraction is unending, on all levels. A recent British survey reveals how imperfect the mating instinct is for married couples: "About sixty percent of all pair-bonded males, and about forty percent of all pair-bonded females, stray from their partners at least once during their marriage" (Morris 144).
What leads so many men and women into extra-marital relations? Though Desmond Morris recognizes many possible motives for "seed scattering," he believes that two motivations are primary. The first is the male's biological urge to "scatter as much seed as possible," and the second is the female's urge to "capture the best seed possible." Another motivation is the search for variety, which makes itself felt only after a stable pair-bond relationship is formed. The psychology behind this behavior seems to be innate biological opportunism, our infantile desire of having the best of both worlds: "Not only this, but that..." is the inner drive. Philandering men usually select attractive, younger females who are eager and fertile, while coquettish older women usually look for "a healthy, powerful male physique, exceptional intelligence, high status, or youthfulness” (Morris 145).
The upshot of pair-bonding is that our idea of love, no matter how high-minded we might be, is rooted in the mating instinct, especially as it was played out by our parents and grandparents before we were born, and in front of our eyes as we grew up. Our search for love is the search for a satisfying partner, and the image we have of our partner is based to a large degree on the images we witnessed and selectively picked up in our family drama. If this very selective and exquisitely orchestrated instinct is honored in all its stages, and if it is carefully guided to its consummation to bonding with a responsible partner, it can lead to a fulfilling marriage. According to William Blake, finding and living with one's partner can be a life full of "Satisfied Desire--“the Image of Heaven” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). If, for a variety of cultural and personal reasons, it is not consummated, it can unleash the demons of loneliness, bitterness, rage, and a deep and lasting sense of frustration--"the Image of Hell." Many good and enduring marriages are not fulfilled in Blake's terms. Rather, they oscillate between Heaven and Hell while rooted on the Earth.
Although selecting a suitable partner is in many ways instinctive, it needs a great deal of direction, since most attempts at love fail. Love requires not only natural ardor and instinct but also social and spiritual alignment. The three need to work as one, or else the mating instinct will be frustrated. This synchronization takes skill, time, and patience. The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet occurred because they lived in a buble of infatuation that blinded them to the powerful social forces around them..
What does this mean for lovers--of all ages? The answer is that natural attraction must be aligned with social and spiritual awareness, if the relationship is to be successful. Parents know their children well and can provide valuable insight into their natural inclinations and choices. In the end, marriage means marriage to the whole family. This fact cannot be escaped. Astrological and psychological counseling, as well as the insight that comes from reflection and meditation, can also be very helpful for selecting appropriate partners, as well as weeding out intriguing but unsuitable pseduo-partners.
Just as important, the mating instinct needs to be coordinated with spiritual insight if it is to be successful. Spiritual insight helps us to know ourselves--who we are and what we need. A Chinese proverb states that "Good decisions come from discrimination--and discrimination comes from making mistakes--bad mistakes." People who lack discrimination are out of touch with their spiritual nature and blunder at crucial moments, falling into traps that they have set for themselves through their own ignorance. Spiritual insight, which is developed by experience, counseling, self correction, and meditation, is the remedy for this kind of blindness. In other words, knowledge of one's soul is the prerequisite for selecting an appropriate partner. This means spending time to honor, recognize, and understand one's own soul, a process that requires skill and patience. Spiritual development is easier to undertake when one is single, since attachments to other people tie us to their desires and deflect us from our true goals. Attachments also create and magnify desires that often lead us astray. We seek to please the other, even to the point of betraying our own values. As Lao Tzu puts it, “Knowing what is enough is wealth (Tao Te Ching 33).
There is one more topic to discuss before we summarize this section--times when the mating instinct does not seem to be in play, when relationship seems to be non-existent or impossible, because no one who is attractive or suitable seems to be present--even close. This is often experienced as a frustrating "no man's land" that leads people to desperate behavior that can be very dangerous. The more we desire relationship, the more impossible it will be to attain. The answer to this dilemma lies within. Gratitude for What Is and a sense of Inner Abundance can transform all wastelands. These are learned arts. Seek to learn them from those who know them.
To summarize--the mating instinct
1. is based on competition and is inherently exclusive and violent;
2. in human courtship, if played out to the end, has eight stages;
3. dominates the lives of most people, since it is so powerful;
4. rarely achieves its final stage (the pair bond)--bringing a sense of loss, disappointment, and frustration;
5. is often short-circuted into temporary, disappointing, and often violent sexual encounters;
6. is successful when coordinated with family values, psychological compatibility, and spiritual alignment;
7. requires time to form and stablize--"Travel four seasons before you live in a tepee together" (Native American saying).
1. The following narrative is summarized from a recent newspaper article: A young man, born into humble circumstances, had both drive and talent. He did well in school and earned a scholarship to attend college. He graduated with honors. He applied to medical school and became a doctor. Afterwards, he enlisted in the army and served in the medical corps with distinction. After several years of service, he retired and returned to the United States to set up his own practice. He affiliated himself with a local hospital and became an acclaimed surgeon. At the hospital he met a nurse and began dating her. All seemed to be going well, but it was not long before they had a serious dispute. She accused him of being unfaithful to him--of having other girl friends--while he suspected her of infidelity as well. She was outraged when she discovered that he had put a tracking device on her car. When they they met in the hospital the next day, they had an violent argument. That evening, her dead body was found in the rear stairwell of the hospital. The next day, he could not be located and was declared missing. A man hunt was organized. Two days later, his body was found in a creek behind his mansion. It was determined that he had committed suicide.
What does this brief--and all too common--portrait suggest is the most dangerous element of the mating instinct? What is the solution to this problem? Is there a solution? Is any one exempt from the potentially deadly forces that are unleashed by this instinct?
2. Assess your experience with the mating instinct during the past few years. What stages you have felt or experienced? Where you have lacked discrimination? How many times you have made the same mistake? How conscious you are of it, and how much control you have over it? To what extent are you repeating the pattern of your friends, parents, or grandparents? Describe the lessons you have learned from your experience with it, and determine how well you actually know yourself.
A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.
As mentioned earlier, what is interesting about the biological force of the mating instinct is that it can exist on many levels. At the unconscious level, the mating instinct is a tremendous force that, in the words of Sophocles, has the power "to wrench even the minds of the righteous to outrage” (Antigone 188). As such, it can give rise to indecent proposals that are accepted for indecent reasons. At its more conscious level, however, when it is aligned with decency and morality, it is an invigorating force that can lend charm and grace to life. At this stage, it can lead us to someone who appears to be an ideal partner--a Soul Mate. It is at this stage that the violence of instinctual love disappears.
1. The idea of a Soul Mate is very old. Greek myth asserts that Zeus originally made human beings androgynous--both male and female. But when Zeus became displeased with the arrogant behavior of these first human beings, he cut them in half. After this, human beings spent most of their time searching for their other half, rather than making mischief for the gods and the universe (Graves). Though this divine surgery seems to have had a few good outcomes, it also led to the frustration of searching frantically for our missing Soul Mate.
2. a. The term Soul Mate has many connotations. Consider the following definition:
A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet -- a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before. As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone before. Your Soul Mate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime. You are also all that much more aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful. Finding my Soul Mate is the best thing that has ever happened to me; I have never felt this kind of love and understanding. Urban Dictionary
Nice as this sounds, there is no consensus about the term, which has led to considerable confusion (Black). Many search for a Soul Mate, but few find one. Why? The title of a contemporary web site illustrates this clearly: "The 10 Big Mistakes Spirit-oriented Women Make While Seeking a Soul Mate” (Black). What are these mistakes, which are known to other analysts as well (Brockway)? There are at least ten obstacles:
1. Ignoring what you need to be--and living in a fantasy about someone else.
2. Living in the future--and ignoring the present.
3. Not having room in your heart for a Soul Mate.
4. Knowing what you don’t want in a partner, but not knowing what you do want.
5. Not knowing specifically what a Soul Relationship should feel like--and be.
6. Being picky and vacillating--no one is good enough.
7. Not following your intuition--beguiled by your senses and feelings.
8. Being a perfectionist--and getting hurt when faults are discovered.
9. Hating to date to discover your Soul Mate.
10. Not asking for what you want--and lack of commitment when you find what you want
2. b. An older and more realistic idea of the Soul Mate is that it is fated. It cannot be influenced, attracted, or set up. The Jewish word for Soul Mate---Bashert--is a Yiddish word that means destiny (Wikipedia). The word is “often used in the context of one's divinely foreordained spouse or Soul Mate, who is called "basherte" (female) or "basherter" (male). It can also be used to express the seeming fate or destiny of an auspicious or important event, friendship, or happening” (Wikipedia). The key idea is that Heaven arranges for us to meet our Soul Mate--if it is to occur at all. Such meetings are filled with many trials. They are not trouble-free.
The contemporary novel, Mutant Message Down Under, illustrates this idea of a fated encounter with a Soul Mate in very realistic terms, and it serves as a foil to the romantic definition of Soul Mate quoted above. Marlo Morgan, a middle aged American woman, travels to Australia, ostensibly to attend a health conference. Much to her surprise, she encounters a clairvoyant who tells her that she is really in Australia to meet her Soul Mate--not for professional reasons, as she would have us believe, or she herself believed. The clairvoyant explains that she is carrying out an agreement that she had made with her Soul Mate in a previous lifetime. Their agreement was that they would meet in their fiftieth year of this lifetime, after they had been tested in many ways. Her Soul Mate turns out to be an Australian Aborigine of great dignity and wisdom, a man called Regal Black Swan. Marlo and Regal Black Swan do not have a romantic relationship, nor does she recognize him instantly as her Soul Mate. To the contrary, they gradually grow together. What characterized their bond was their "heart to heart conversations."
The more we learn about Marlo, the more we realize that she is an Ugly Duckling to Regal Black Swan. By her own admission, she is phony and undeveloped in many ways. She has to detach from her materialistic lifestyle, burn her credit cards, walk barefoot for days in the hot desert, and toughen up in many ways before she begins to find her real self--and before she learns who Regal Black Swan is. She does so in a chapter entitled "Archives," where knowledge of the past is kept, including the actions and promises of former lifetimes. She recollects her soul's wisdom under Regal Black Swan's watchful, compassionate eye. Regal Black Swan is both Friend and Mentor to Marlo in this process.
We are not told in the novel to what degree the relationship between Marlo and Regal Black Swan is reciprocal. Does Regal Black Swan love and admire Marlo as much as she does him? We are told that Regal Black Swan wept when he and Marlo parted, and they vowed to be together yet again in the future. But Marlo does not describe their relationship exhaustively, since she wants to honor its mystery. There is much in this description that young readers searching for their Soul Mate can learn from.
2.c. At the deepest level, soul mates are all around us. They begin before birth, when we choose the family into which we are born. Our families--even if they are seriously flawed--provide the right circumstances for our soul's development (Hodgson). Many of our family relationships can be very challenging, demanding that we give--and forgive--more than we will ever receive or enjoy. Yet they are grist to our mill, necessary for our and everyone else's development.
Teachings of White Eagle, quoted in Hodgson, p. 16
Soul connections can also be very special, containing deep erotic energy (yin) that is wisely restrained (yang). These relationships have been identified as "metasexual"--beyond or above sexual expression (Shostak). They are quite rare, and they are able to bridge considerable age differences. Depth is the main quality of these relationships. They can be puzzling at first--and even disturbing at times, since they are so compelling, unique, and inescapable. Since they are fated, they can have astounding astrological signatures. If they are navigated wisely, they will persist, enriching the inner lives of those who experience them. If they lack proper restraint, they will go up quickly in flames, causing irreparable loss and harm.
We live in a world where miscommunication rules. About 70% of all messages that are sent are not received or understood correctly (RCTaylor). Lovers of all types will have to come to grips with this fact many times over, and they will be required to learn the two arts of successful relationship--Conflict Resolution and Open Communication. No relationship is free from conflict. The best conflict strategy is collaboration--as opposed to avoidance, submission, compromise, or competition (Hocker and Wilmont). Open Communication has four levels: 1) learning how to observe and read messages accurately, 2) expressing our feelings and empathizing with the feelings of others, 3) understanding and articulating our needs while listening and honoring the needs of others, and 4) making requests rather than demands--of ourselves, as well as of others. Soul Mates learn from their mistakes and are forgiving of themselves and each other.
2.d. The ultimate meaning of Soul Mate is spiritual. There is only one mate who understands us perfectly, and that is God, the Supreme Consciousness. A problem arises because we do not understand God at all, or very little, at best,. So most people cannot register this level of Soul level because they do not feel or return Divine Love, which is endless. Most spiritual traditions agree that we are born to take steps to become closer to God, the One Who loves perfectly, without jealousy, through every incarnation of the Soul. So all the previous meanings of Soul Mate--a lover with who fits us perfectly, a person who is fated to be our spouse, family members who play an important and enduring role in our lives--pale before the ultimate meaning of Soul Mate. This is the Divine Spouse who is always with us and who loves us in spite of our ignorance and imperfections.
3. Imagine that the star-crossed lovers mentioned in the first Study Question are reincarnated with a chance to make good on their mistakes. Think of some options for their development before they were to meet again. How would you have their story end this time? Be specific.
4. Describe your idealized image of a soul mate. Is this a dangerous image for you? Compare this image with the most difficult relationship you are experiencing right now. What is this difficult relationship asking of you?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
When a Soul Relationship comes into our life, it exists as a higher octave of the Mating Instinct. It opens us up to ourselves, to each other, to responsible living, and to the many gifts of intimacy and Life. Spiritual love extends the openness and depth of a Soul Relationship to an even greater degree. It has all the qualities of a Soul Relationship, but it is more inclusive and therefore benefits more beings. Often a Soul Mate or a Spiritual Master initiates us into this dynamic of spiritual love. There are two levels of spiritual love--personal and transpersonal.
Personal. Herman Hesse described this kind of love in his Preface to Demian. "Each human life," he states, "is like a star hurtling through space in search of a home. When our paths have an affinity for each other, they intersect, and then whole world looks like home--for a while."
Hesse, Demian, Preface
When we see life as a series of intersections that are not random because they based upon the Law of Attraction, and when we realize that what lies behind this is Cosmic Spirit, then we begin to appreciate the highest manifestation of the Mating Instinct. We are in the higher realms of spiritual love.
The seven stages of the mating instinct described earlier apply to this dimension of love, but in different ways, illustrated in the lives of disciples from all over the world. Spiritual life can be said to begin when when the Hidden Presence of God is "viewed." The disciple feels "picked up," elevated, and exalted by this Presence. Ordinary life is transformed into something special. A sense of intimacy with this Presence begins. It is often accompanied by "chatter"--intimate conversation (prayer, speaking in tongues, etc.). It can progress to the feeling of "contact," where the disciple feels "touched by the Spirit." The disciple sometimes experiences an intangible form of "cuddling or embracing." It can include "tie-signs"--the feeling of being "chosen or selected" sometimes with the feeling of not deserving such attention. Deep Union--meditation, transfiguration, a subtle kind of marriage--is often mysteriously experienced. At this stage, God bonds with the soul, "when the law of Divine Love is written forever in the human heart" (Jeremiah 31).
This understanding spans the globe. One of Confucius’ students asked him, “What is love?” (Analects XVII, 5). Confucius answered, “Love occurs when five things are meted out to all creatures under Heaven.” The student looked puzzled for several moments and then asked, “Pray, Master, what are these five things?” Confucius answered, “Modesty, bounty, truth, earnestness, and kindness. Modesty escapes insult. Bounty attracts all to itself. Truth inspires trust and confidence. Earnestness brings success. Kindness brings fulfillment to all work.” These, then, are the five characteristics of our soul, our real and abiding partner in life. Spiritual labor strives to develop these qualities, so we can develop our own soul--and attract and nurture the souls of those around us. The way is in and up, not down and out.
There is one couple above all who symbolizes the integration of all three levels of the Mating Instinct. This couple is Shiva and Parvati. Shiva was our Earth's first Tantric Master, living about seven thousand years ago. As a Tantric Master, he was known as Bhagavan--possessing the six attributes (Bhaga) of "command, reputation, attraction, knowledge, discrimination, and the eight occult powers" (Anandamurti). Paravati was younger than Shiva and was his devoted wife. In order to understand their story, we need to go back in time.
Before Parvati was born, Shiva had married Sati, a young woman who was proficient in yoga. Shortly after their marriage, Sati's father invited everyone to his home for a celebration. Much to everyone's surprise, he erected a statue of Shiva in front of his house and then desecrated it--as a way of venting his anger against his daughter for marrying such an unconventional person as Shiva, who worshiped "an invisible god" and who discouraged idol worship. Even more, Shiva was a "wild man." He befriended the beasts of the forest, and all beasts were tranquil and fearless around him, since he protected them all. Sati was horrified by her father's desecration of Shiva's statue and decided to immolate herself then and there, to vehemently protest her father's spiteful action. Before she immolated herself, however, she made a vow to be reborn to a noble father who would respect Shiva. After her death, as a disembodied spirit, Sati petitioned Himavat, the God of the Mountain, to be her next father, since Himavat revered Shiva. Himavat consented, and Sati was reborn as Parvati, "Daughter of the Mountain."
As a young woman, Parvati heard of Shiva's greatness and prepared herself for a meeting with him by performing all of the austerities of the Tantric path--meditation, fasting, and penance. When she met Shiva, Shiva recognized her as his long lost wife, Sati, for whom he had long mourned in his solitary life. Parvati also recognized Shiva as her long lost husband. They re-married and formed--for a second time--an ideal pair bond, thus completing the first stage of the Mating Instinct.
They were already Soul Mates of the highest order. But they went beyond that, embodying spiritual love as well--the highest octave of the Mating Instinct. When Parvati reached enlightenment, she asked Shiva the Great Question, "How should we share this Path of Love with all who seek it?"
Shiva replied, "We will create a series of dialogues--tantras--where you will ask questions, and I will provide answers." In this way, we will spread the knowledge of how Divine Love is disseminated throughout the world--to all, for all, equally. This is the highest and deepest form of the Mating Instinct, for it acknowledges and affirms the Supreme Consciousness as the deepest Love that abides in the heart of all creation.
As in Soul Love, there are many challenges in attaining spiritual love. It does not come easily It takes lifetimes to begin to understand, much less attain and perfect. It is also important to remember that life between realized beings is not trouble free. Constant restraint, patience, tact, and forgiveness are required to maintain its depth and purity. These virtues set the standard for all.
Transpersonal. The ultimate goal of spiritual love is to please the Supreme Consciousness. It transcends all other forms of love. It seeks to please the Supreme Consciousness--not a spouse or a soul mate. It is important to note that pleasing the Supreme Consciousness is a higher level of love than gratitude. Gratitude can be passive, a state of realizing the gifts of the Spirit. Though a very rare and high form of spiritual love, gratitude is superseded by Active Loving of the Supreme. Our awareness is no longer on us or the gifts given to us. It is on God, as both the Object and then the Subject with Whom we identify. The ultimate test of spiritual love is to seek to please the Supreme Consciousness, even when our ego is not pleased or fulfilled--symbolized by the Cross, where the ego and its pleasures are sacrificed to God for the Highest Good.
Thus the ultimate way to consider love is from the point of view of God. This is looking at the subject from the inside out, or the top down--not the outside in, or the bottom up--our usual way.
5. To what extent have you experienced spiritual love?
6. What steps have you taken in your past to better understand and express spiritual love? What steps are you willing to take now to learn more about spiritual love?
To consider more deeply how the Supreme Consciousness touches, embraces, and loves us and the entire world.
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