The Alchemy of Love
To summarize the wisdom of the great mystics of the East and the Alchemists of the West: On one thing all spiritual teachings agree. It is better to be loved than not to be loved, and it is far better to love than not to love.
Love is the alchemical elixir of life. Lovers live longer. Love is immortal. Love can never lose its own.
Love is the philosopher's stone, the universal solvent that alchemically transmutes our imperfections. Love transforms us as rain transforms the seedling, bringing forth our greatest inner potential, our hidden virtues. In this way, love turns base metals into gold. Love alone can bring you happiness.
Love is the universal panacea. Love heals all wounds. Love enables us to forgive ourselves and others. Forgiveness releases the negative thoughts and feelings that imprison us in the isolation and unconscious motivation of ego and karma.
Night Sky with Ladder by Jane Sherry
Love is the celestial stairway, the ladder we climb to approach and experience the unity of all that exists. True, unconditional love flowers without conditions, expectations and attachments. Such a pure love must rise above physical needs, mental considerations, and emotional desires.
Achieving this pure love for God, for oneself, for one's family, for one's lover or spouse, and for humanity as a whole, requires dedication, hard work and clear knowledge of the spiritual laws governing human relations.
To achieve loving unity with all that exists is to know and love one's true self.
Christian mystics say that to love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole strength, and your entire soul, is the most fulfilling love that can be experienced.
But what about love between man and woman?
Religious leaders and great spiritual teachers have differed upon the relative merits of celibacy versus mating and sexual sublimation versus sexual expression.
However, two things are clear.
First, both the path of celibacy and the path of sexual union present us with difficulties and rewards.
Second, both paths can ultimately lead us to love of God, unity consciousness, and a fulfilling life of compassionate service to suffering humanity.
The majority of individuals do not wish to live in celibate isolation, nor in a celibate union, nor are they constitutionally well prepared to do so.
Most desire the experience of a lasting love with a chosen mate, and for the most part they expect that that loving union will have a physical component.
Many also desire to experience the love of humanity and the overarching love of God.
Many of us have been taught that our relations with lovers or mates will conflict with attainment of compassion for all humanity or achievement of the undivided love of God.
This is not necessarily so. In Hindu tradition, such spiritual unions are a crucial element in the ancient practice of Tantra. In the Esoteric Western tradition of alchemy, the spiritual aspirant often enlisted the help of a female co-worker.
Simply put, if there are loving mates who choose to love one another, heart, body, mind and soul, and if these loving mates also center their exchange of energies in a mutual love of God, a mutual desire for spiritual advancement, and a mutual love and respect for the sanctity of human life and the planet Earth, their relationship will bring them inevitably closer to compassion for all humans, and they will ultimately know the bliss enjoyed by those who know and love God intimately.
Knowing these basic principles concerning love, it is no surprise that for most individuals on planet Earth, a central desire in every lifetime is to experience the intense joy and profound learning that arises from the adventure of deep intimacy that can only be found in sexual relations of mutual love and exchange.
Where is Love?
What is true love? Where can true love be found?
Men and women want to experience a love that lasts, a love that uplifts them, and leads them on the path to joy, enlightenment and understanding.
Yet men and women throughout the world are at war. The war between the sexes manifests in misogyny, sky-high divorce rates, wounded children, and oppression of women.
Now we are in the age of soulmate expectations, expensive weddings and a return to traditional women's clothing, from bridal gowns & veils to burkhas, even a new style of arranged marriages, along with Internet dating and Draconian prenuptial agreements. A 21st Century version of upper middle class Victorianism collides today with the raw objectification of the female body evident in the cornucopia of hard core pornography available on the 5.2 billion cell phones connected to the Internet worldwide. Young women are perceived as Virgin or Whore, and then are expected to become Perfect Moral Exemplars of Motherhood. Meanwhile, despite the MeToo movement, men continue to separate sex and marriage. In many countries of the world, marriage is mainly an economic arrangement. Love has no place in the negotiations. Yet young people in the West expect to find love and live happily ever after, in defiance of all odds and cultural obstacles.
No innovations or reformations have resolved the basic conflict between man and woman or reduced the spiraling rate of divorce.
Now it's not uncommon to find divorced couples saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid and largely unrepayable credit card debt incurred to pay for a wedding they could not afford.
Reality TV shows like The Bachelor and Joe Millionaire make the quest for love into a game, a chess match where dissimulation, strategic deception, and greed become the tools for capturing and possessing the beloved.
With Age Old Problems by Jane Sherry
There is only one question to ask of love in this philosophy: "How can I benefit from this relationship?" The contestants pursue physical gratification, riches, status and momentary fame. The ends justify any means. On these shows, the quest for love is a blood sport. Predatory behavior is mandatory. The underlying philosophy is that life consists of a war of all against all.
Is it any wonder that love born of such a philosophy cannot last?
Those who seek love in relations with members of their own sex have experienced similar difficulties in their loving relations and have also been, for the most part, unable to manifest lasting love that fulfills both partners fully.
Why does our culture have so little understanding of the laws of love?
Why Does Love Hurt?
When I was a young child, during long vacation trips in the family automobile through the cornfields of the Midwest, my Father would often turn off the radio and sing a popular love song to my Mother and me. I still remember that song. "You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all.
You always take the fairest rose, and crush it 'til the petals fall," my Father would sing, and the bittersweet feeling we identify with wounding, wounded love would fill our car with the aroma of Romance.
Red Rimmed Rose Petals by Jane Sherry
If our great myths represent the primary patterns, or archetypes we use to unconsciously structure our lives, then we in the West associate great love with great suffering. In fact, the great literature and artworks of the Western tradition, beginning with the chivalric love poetry and songs of the medieval troubadors, make it clear that erotic love is doomed love.
Romantic love has produced a torrent of poetry, music, movies and novels depicting the transitory nature of love, and the suffering and death that often follow in love's wake. Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Heloise and Abelard are just a few classic examples of tragic lovers.
In the Romantic tradition, unrequited love comes a close second to tragic love. Unrequited love stories tell of that frustrating experience of rejection and inadequacy that isolates us from those we would love. Once again, the message is clear. Love brings suffering according to the tales told by our great poets, musicians and storytellers, and these mythic archetypes live deep within our hearts, deep within our cellular memory, our DNA, teaching us to equate love with pain and loss.
In the modern world, we seldom encounter poetic love worthy of a Shakespeare sonnet or play, but we do often bring more prosaic, everyday suffering upon those we love. Most often this suffering is not the stuff of tragedy, but results from inexplicable lapses of patience, unintended emotional outbursts, spontaneous infidelities, and simple day-to-day lack of mindfulness, that, little by little, can kill the love that lives between our loved ones and us.
How to Avoid Emotional Outbursts, by Jane Sherry
The subtle exchange of energies between lovers, family members, and intimate friends can be very strong, can work at a distance, and can be emotional, physical, or mental in nature. Conflicts between individuals can be an energy drain for everyone involved.
Inner spiritual guidance, sometimes called intuition, or the Higher Self, can articulate the spiritual reasons for these conflicts, providing tremendous insights into difficult relationships.
The power of understanding can trigger a genuine moment of forgiveness. And forgiveness can release the negative emotions and behavior patterns these difficult relationships have implanted in us.
Forgiveness frees us to love ourselves, and to love those with whom we have had such difficulties.
Loving freely, we can offer up all our relationships to the Lord of Love, the Source of creation, the Holy Spirit.
And by this offering, we consecrate to the fire of Spirit all the emotional baggage we've accumulated over aeons of time.
Our karma is then consumed in the flame of Spirit.
In this way, true love brings freedom, enlightenment and bliss.
As we follow this practice, and become more connected to our Higher Selves, these little relationship lapses become less and less frequent. Negative thoughts and feelings about our loved ones are replaced with loving thoughts, feelings and actions.
It's a simple fact that our thoughts and emotions, negative or positive, concerning our loved ones, have an iimpact on them, and, through our interactions with them, an impact rebounding back upon us.
The more we see our loved ones as a blessing, the more we allow blessings into our own lives.
And the more of a blessing we can be to them.
In this way, we can help one another along the path of spiritual development.
Love in a World at War
The Chinese sages were said to pronounce a singular curse on those who transgressed against them: "May you live in interesting times!"
There is no doubt that humanity as a whole is living in an interesting time.
A time of unprecedented war, which threatens to degenerate into a global holocaust.
The Twentieth Century saw tens of millions killed in ideological and economic wars, against a backdrop of potential nuclear annihilation.
What is Power? by Jane Sherry
The Twenty-First Century began with a self-proclaimed Crusade against Muslim fundamentalists by the United States and its allies in the Middle East. Nearly twenty years later, this Crusade has become a Forever War, a series of wars pitting Civilization against Civilization, religion against religion, against a backdrop of potential nuclear war, global terrorism, cyberwarfare, wars for control of natural resources such as oil and water, all fed by the rise of global fundamentalism, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish alike.
As frightening as it may be that humanity's spiritual impulses have been perverted into cruel and aggressive religious warfare, it is even more mind-boggling and sad that love partners perpetuate the seemingly never-ending war between the sexes.
How can a species divided against itself and at war with itself, survive? The most important human bond is that between husband and wife.
If husband and wife are at war, will their children not also be at war? If families are at war, will not their communities, their nations, their religions, be likewise at war?
The origin of these seemingly endless and universal wars is the war within us.
This inner war has been identified by spiritual masters of the East and West as the ancient struggle between the egoistic mind and the Higher Self or Buddha Mind, the war between our personalities and our souls, the war between rational materialism and intuitive spirituality. All these endless manifestations of human suffering originate in the divided self, the alienated egoistic personality which sees itself as a struggling individual spark of life at war with a hostile Universe.
The search for love is an inward search for our own Satya Center, our own inner truth, the search for a lasting peace within ourselves, and simultaneously an outward search, a search for peace with those we love, and with all our neighbors here on Earth.
It is only through successful completion of that search that we will reenter the Garden of Eden, know the Kingdom of God and experience peace on Earth.
The only way to end the war between the sexes is to end the inner war that tears us in two, and impels us, in our fear and sorrow, to wage war on our loved ones, our neighbors, and the planet itself.
The search for a Divine love, a love that lasts, must begin within us.
For in our endless struggles we have lost the ability to love ourselves.
Inwardly, we hate ourselves for our weakness, our fear, our failure to love, our isolation and our suffering. Yet these defects are not our true identity, they are merely passing phenomena that occlude our consciousness, like clouds momentarily blocking the sun on a rainy day.
We have forgotten who we truly are.
We are so much more than our little minds can comprehend and we are connected indissolubly with the great web of life that surrounds and nurtures us always.
Consummation of the Magnum Opus by J. Augustus Knapp, circa 1928
It is up to us to take on the difficult work of re-establishing our true identity as sons and daughters of the Divine, partaking in the Divine qualities of love, compassion, unity, faith and courage. It is up to us to forgive ourselves and to forgive those who have trespassed against us. It is up to us to undertake the difficult alchemical work of transmuting our baser qualities such as egotism, anger, jealousy, greed and pride into the gold of compassion, forgiveness, generosity, self-sacrifice, and selfless service for the good of all humanity.
It is up to us to let go of the wounded egoistic self and allow our true nature to shine forth like the sun.
These are first, painful steps on the path to true love.
Love first thyself, then love thy neighbor as thyself.
Love the Divine web of life that surrounds and nurtures you.
This Divine love will bring you inner peace, and the strength of your inner peace will bring about peace on Earth. Peace between men and women. Peace between nations, religions and the different races. Peace between humanity and nature. Peace between the material and spiritual worlds.
Seek first inner peace through self-love, and, attaining this lofty goal, all else that you seek shall be given to you besides.
READ NEXT CHAPTER: Chapter 3: The War Between the Ego and the Higher Self
[Picture at the top of the page is a one of a kind mixed media beeswax shadow box by Jane Sherry]