Love is still alive and well in spirituality. It is the heart of what I call Christian nonduality. Love is the way of spiritual awakening. It is the Tao of Christ, the Way of Christ. Love may seem to be a dualistic activity because it appears to be about relationships, and relationships imply two or more, hence dual. But in actuality love transcends duality. It is an expression of unity that transcends and embraces duality.
Those of us who are of a certain vintage will remember when the song “We are One in the Spirit” was popular. It was written in the 1960’s and was popular in the 60’s and 70’s. It is still popular in many churches today. My wife and I had it sung at our wedding in the early 70’s, along with Dylan’s song “If Not For You.” The refrain of “We are One in the Spirit” goes: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
That may have been true back at the time it was written. Unfortunately surveys show that when people are asked what they know about Christians today they do not mention love. Instead they use words like intolerant and hypocrisy and judgmental and political and abuse and a host of other negative characteristics.
That is a shame. It reveals what has happened to the church in recent decades. The Church has forsaken its first love, as Jesus said in the Book of Revelation. It is no longer characterized by love, which means it no longer knows God. The First Letter of John says, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
Yet love is still alive and well in spirituality. It is the heart of what I call Christian nonduality. Love is the way of spiritual awakening. It is the Tao of Christ, the Way of Christ. This might not be readily apparent to people. Love may seem to be a dualistic activity because it appears to be about relationships, and relationships imply two or more, hence dual. But in actuality love transcends duality. It is an expression of unity that transcends and embraces duality.
If you are a Christian you have probably at some point heard about the different types of love in the Bible. C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves, exploring the different Greek words for love. There are words for affection, friendship, romance, and spiritual love. This fourth one is what I am talking about today. The Greek word is agape. It is selfless love. The others are dualistic love between two or more selves. Agape transcends the self. One might call it unitive love or nondual love.
It is not dependent on what the other feels or does not feel or does or does not do. It is based on the realization that at root we are one. This love is an expression of nonduality. It may not be consciously or theologically identified in that manner, but it always comes from the intuitive knowledge that all is one. That is why we love.
The person who knows who they really are, who knows their real identity as the One Reality, will love. One who does not know this will not love. One who does not love does not know this One Reality, which often goes by the name God.
Jesus knew this love. Jesus embodied this love. All who truly follow Jesus display this love. Those who do not love do not know Jesus, regardless of how much they talk about Jesus. Talk is cheap. Love is costly. It costs our self.
Jesus summed up all ethics in two commands. He cut through all the law and rules that governed moral behavior back in his day and in our day, and said it boiled down to two. He also said this was the way to eternal life. Jesus said, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” That preface is important to note. Jesus prefaced his teaching about love saying that it originated in the Oneness of God! “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”
Then he went on and said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Love is Allness, Wholeness and Oneness! The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In Sermon on the Mount Jesus made it clear that his definition of neighbor extended even to one’s enemies.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made it clear that this love did not depend on correct doctrine or being part of the right racial or ethnic or religious group because the Samaritan who exhibited this love was considered biracial and a heretic. He was also not of their race, thereby eliminating the idea that this love had anything do with race or religion.
I want to delve deeply into the nondual nature of this love. First I will talk about loving God. This agape love is loving God with all one’s heart and mind and soul and strength. In other words with one’s whole self. The most pure form of selfless love is when the self denies itself more and more until there is no self. Until the self is gone and there is only God. Until everything that seems to separate oneself from God is gone. There is only God. Then one is one with the Lord our God who is One.
One is united with God as Jesus taught in his High Priestly prayer in John 17 that I have talked about before. We know oneness with God as Jesus knew oneness with God. This is what the Eastern Orthodoxy, which is the oldest form of Christianity, calls theosis. We are one with God. We enjoy the glory that Jesus knew. We know the eternity, the eternal life, that Jesus knew before the world was created.
This love of God is complete selflessness. It is No-Self because there is no separate self apart from God. God is our only Self. God alone is. I am. Nothing separates us from the Love of God, as the apostle Paul said.
This love of God is then naturally lived in relationships. We live dualistic relationships nondualisticly, selflessly. Jesus said we love our neighbor as ourself. The ego cannot do that. Dualistic love cannot do that. Those types of relationships are always looking at for number 1, for the ego, and what the other can do for us. It wants reciprocity. It wants equality. It wants justice. It wants to protect itself.
Nondual love wants nothing for itself because there is no longer a self. Actually the self – the ego – will still be around. As long as we have a brain and a body, there will be an ego. But the ego has been effectively rendered powerless. That is what I mean by ego death. The ego is still around after awakening but it is more like a ghost that haunts us, or a memory that pops up, or a habit that kicks in once in a while. It has no substance or power or authority in life.
Because the self is rendered powerless, therefore nondual love can act without regard to the ego, the separate self. It can love the neighbor as the self because it sees that the neighbor is oneself. There is no difference between us and others. We are one.
You could say there is only one True Self. That True Self is God, and God is in everyone. When one loves another, one is loving God in that other. One is also loving oneself, one’s true self, in the other. Because the true self in the other is the true self in us. There is no distinction between the self and the other.
When Indians bow greet people by bowing, they are bowing to God, the True Self in the other person, which is the same as the True self in us. When we love the other, then we are loving God and ourselves in the other person. That is even true of our enemy, which is why Jesus told us to love our enemy.
The person who does not love others does not know God. They are not living in unitive awareness. They are living in dualistic awareness. They think the other is different than oneself. When one sees one’s true self in the other, one will do anything for the other, even dying for the other. Because even if one dies, one is still living in the other, which is the lesson of the Cross.
Love is the way of Christ. It is the Way of Christian nonduality, and I hope one day it will once again be the way of Christianity and the church as well. That will happen only if we live it and teach it.