This is the first of four lessons I want to share with those of you who feel like the meaning of love has been lost in our culture for a long time. I have put them together, if I am honest with myself, to remind me that the quest for love in its greatest sense needs to be the central theme in my life. These lessons are also written for you, if you, like me, are seeking to rekindle the flame in your heart and find a better foundation for living. I believe that together these lessons will provide a rapid but challenging overview of the most important quests in our lives and encourage our hope for the future. Lesson 2: Becoming a Love Warrior Takes a Firm Foundation; Lesson 3: Becoming a Love Warrior Takes Fierceness; and Lesson 4: Love Warriors Choose Life will follow on a weekly basis.
I grew up in the era of the Cold War. During those years, deep inside of ourselves we were scared of nuclear annihilation all of the time. Many people built bomb shelters, and children had practice alarms of “duck and cover” in school. But, to be truthful with you, I am more scared today than I was then. My fear today is because so many people are in angry and aggressive denial of the reality we are living in and the destructive future we are heading toward. Even worse is my feeling that we have turned away from our humanity and love as our most important virtue.
In my lifetime I have seen us regress from a people who could come together—not perfectly, but effectively—to stand up to any challenge no matter how difficult or daunting, to a society that is almost the opposite—fragmented, angry, self-centered, and callous. During the pandemic’s onslaught hundreds of thousands of our families, friends, and neighbors suffered and died simply as a result of our failure to come together and confront our reality effectively. So, through the lens of my Jungian perspective I began to search for understanding my fear and our collective regression from what was once considered America’s greatest strength.
As the introduction of my latest book, Facing the Apocalypse: A Call for Outrageous Courage, Love, and Compassion opens, I begin my discussion with one of C. G. Jung’s most brilliant insights. He writes that the true opposite of love is not hate but power: “When love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking.” (Collected Works [CW] vol. 7, par 78). Time after time in his writings Jung emphasized that the truth of our reality must be faced before we can begin the process of healing, transformation and change. We find very little trace of that truth being looked for in our world today. As a result, our society is now on a suicidal journey. Our circumstances and suffering are begging us to face the truth of our collective reality. It is vitally important for us to seek to understand it and how to respond to it with resolve. I have also learned from my own struggles and professional experience that we must seek out and confront the components of our collective, societal shadow and understand how, all too often, without realizing it, we are participating in forming and supporting it.
Without being aware of it we have also created a culture that is murdering the great feminine principle of Eros—love, the source of life—that supports life and our potentials of healing and transformation. As a natural consequence of this murder, we are killing our humanity. Once we accept the truth of our reality the next questions are how can we stop doing this, and what can we do to reverse our course? Jung goes on to explain to us what happens when we allow power to begin replacing love (CW. Vol. 70, par 480), “Where love stops power begins, and violence and terror.” When we try to face our reality, it is helpful to remember that Jung also taught that the more we become identified or possessed by one characteristic in our personality, such as power, then human nature will begin to provide a corrective compensation. While we are focusing on daily living and paying less attention to what is really happening beneath the surface in our personal and collective lives, the more forceful the compensatory message becomes. In this case, when love stops, the symptoms of the imbalance—anxiety, hopelessness, despair, mistrust, and then even violence and terror—increase. These are symptoms that show us that serious changes of heart, mind, and action are needed to reverse the course and bring us true healing.
From this brief explanation I think it becomes clear that as the conflicting quests for power in our society continues love disappears, and if we do not reverse that course we are inviting chaos, terror, rage, and destruction. Facing this task is not easy. Its roots go deep in our history. It takes a lot of courage to face head on the ingrained values in our society and in ourselves of the pursuit of power, individualism, materialism, and achievement at any cost. And to let ourselves be transformed into new more human beings. William Butler Yeats wrote “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for the soldier to fight on the battlefield.” It takes even more courage to examine the dark corners of our collective soul. We need love warriors to face and reverse the course we are on.
Jung used the word Eros to describe the archetypal feminine principle. Eros means personal relatedness, a keen interest in relationships, and a prevailing attitude that works for conciliation and reconciliation. It supports healthy interdependence on every level of life. Eros evokes self-integration, subjectivity, and the concern of individuals. Eros is rooted in the material universe and the earthy feminine qualities of love, receptivity, and transformation—new life being born. Eros supports the love of life, individuals, and the pains of bringing forth the future. Eros and love do not lead us to an end of the challenges of human life, but they support us in facing them, living through them, and when feasible being transformed by them in ways that enhance our growth, character, and wisdom.
The needs for love that permeate our lives, the needs of the feminine heart, must awaken the spirit of true masculine strength that is meant to stand for life, to nurture and protect it in all of us, men and women. I know very well this kind of strength is not just some ideal to pursue, its development is true self-responsibility. Through long life and almost half a century of professional experience I have learned that such love and strength are the only real path to feeling at home in ourselves and secure in life.
For example, we, as a society, seem to have forgotten that we learn about love in childhood. Our home atmosphere is our school for learning how to love and be loved. For several generations, in the anxiety and pressure of the ways our lives have been evolving we have lost touch with how to honor and love our children in a way that will help them become strong adults, secure in their identities and capable of loving and being loved. If we haven’t grown up in an atmosphere of love we will not know how to love and teach love to our children no matter how well we may care for them. And we will not know how to appreciate ourselves in finding the experience of parenting loving and fulfilling.
In my profession we know a lot about the foundation for loving and being loved. But in our society in general we seem to ignore that knowledge should give us the power to change our lives for the better and bring us new joy and satisfaction in raising our children. Knowledge has the power to help us see how important it is to give ourselves the time and space to love and to accept the challenges of cultivating our humanity.
Our first challenge is to wake up and face the truth of our reality before it is too late! We are being challenged to develop outrageous courage, love, and compassion. We are challenged in the words of James Baldwin to “begin again” and honor and live the great feminine principle.
We are challenged to become love warriors and it will be our ongoing quest in the next three lessons. Great love warriors have dared to challenge conventions, their own value structures, and pursued things that seemed impossible. I have loved the term “love warrior” since the first time I heard it from Cornel West, a love warrior himself. This transformation is not impossible if we begin to take a passionate look at ourselves and the circumstances around us. For example, before seeking political success Franklin Roosevelt gave half of his fortune to create a hospital for children with polio in Warm Springs, Georgia. Martin Luther King, Jr. turned city streets into sacred spaces that transformed history. Also, Mother Teresa, in a different way, brought love and healing to the least of the people in her society. Maya Angelou turned a broken life into a strong love song for all of us. These are a few examples of love warriors. The potential to become love warriors is possible for all of us. It lies deep in our hearts waiting for us to have the courage to find it. It may be helpful if you take a few minutes to think of the names of other love warriors that have inspired us. Please feel free to include people that may not be well known but touched your life. I hope this series will help each of us become a love warrior within our own heart and the world we live in.
I need your help getting the word out. I cannot do enough alone to revitalize the heart of our society. As always, I want to thank you for your readership and support. Just thinking of you humbles and moves me. If my words on love challenge and inspire you please share them with others you value with my warmest best wishes.
image above by ractapopulous
Articles by Drs. Bud and Massimilla Harris
, America, archetypal feminine, being human, citizenship, Elder Wisdom, fear, hope, Inspirational, life of meaning, love, responsibility, struggles, suffering
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