Note — This image was used in a post on the Not Two Facebook page, and a reader asked what I thought was a fair question in response: “How?” I thought the answer warranted its own post.
Love isn’t just an emotion. It isn’t just something we feel toward things and beings that make us happy. I emphasize that because it bugs me when people try to take the emotion out of it entirely; the emotion of love is a true and legitimate access point to it. But it just barely scratches the surface of what love is.
Metaphysically speaking, love is the next layer of consciousness beyond cognition. Love completes a cycle of evolution from the undifferentiated awareness of God, through the fully subjective and cognitive self-identity of the human person, and back to the source as the unitive “transubjective interbeing” of I AM.
To put it crudely for sake of brevity, the material universe exists in a state of pure awareness, of atoms interacting with other atoms without any trace of self-reference, sort of like how your body interacts with its environment while you’re in dreamless sleep. Beginning with the simplest biological life, and into the plant and animal kingdoms, we see the gradual evolution of systems that produce a local experience of self-aware sentience: awareness of awareness.
In complex animals, and especially humans, sentience is further refined by what is basically a second loop in the neural feedback chain. Whereas sentience describes the first loop that produces a basic self/environment polarity, cognition is our awareness of sentience: awareness of awareness of awareness! With cognition, there is not just the sense of self and capacity for feeling that comes with sentience, but the capability to create ideas and thoughts about the self and its feelings.
Note well: This means that cognition is a winnowing of awareness down to a sharp, highly refined, highly self-conscious form of awareness with a clearly defined subject-object dichotomy. When we think about what something is, we are excluding much more about it than we include. By necessity, we must ignore most of the context that actually makes the thing what it is. (You could say, as I do here, that we focus on its “isness” and tune out most of its “suchness.”) So we become more selectively attentive as we move along this evolutionary spectrum, while in the broader sense we grow less aware. This is why the human person has such vast stores of subconsciousness outside of their selective attention.
Another complication that comes with cognition is that it roots its sense of the self in the organism’s sentience, which blinds it to the pure awareness on which sentience is based. Cognition is essentially a three-layer cake that doesn’t recognize its first layer, which is problematic because it is this first layer of consciousness, pure awareness, that connects the cognitive being with everything else in the material universe. This is the reason for that familiar sense of isolation, from which arises many self-centered pleasures and joys but also pain and fear and ultimately, a sense of mortality that is absolute and final. Panic ensues, and all the uniquely human craziness that needs no elaboration.
Love is the invitation to step beyond cognition, to step back from the airtight sense of self defined by cognition as if to watch it from above, and observe THAT.
We have probably all experienced how the emotion of love pulls us out of our sense of isolation to meet someone or something in a sense of commonality or union– though perhaps an exclusive union because the emotion is focused only on who or what we love. Divine love, the full metaphysical experience beyond cognition, is exactly that, without exclusion.
To become aware of your awareness of awareness of awareness, and see definitively that your cognition machine is part of the environment it observes, is to see yourself and the world as God would see yourself and the world: a unity. It’s really that simple.
You don’t need to know all that stuff about layers and feedback loops and all to get it either. You just have to learn the techniques that enable you to step back and beyond your thoughts and see the self/other divide as a creation of your cognition. Love is that lack of separation.
As a cognitive being, you can then take that wisdom back to the the cognitive realm and share it with those loved ones trapped in their own nets. That’s how the liberation of love spreads.
So love doesn’t save us by preserving us in our current form —nothing can do that. The emotion of love tends to want to preserve what it loves, so if you stay in the shallow end of the love pool, that’s likely all you’ll ever know of it. But if you go to the deep end and dive in, you’ll learn that love saves us by making us whole.
If this seems too esoteric or exotic for the Western mind, it really isn’t. The entire Christian gospel is about this kind of saving love. There is really no part of the preserved teachings of Christ that do not pertain to the message of freedom from the bonds of isolated selfhood through the transcendent power of Divine love. This fact was lost in translation from the original ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written. But the word translated as “to save,” transliterated as “sozo,” has a much more nuanced meaning. It meant “to save” as in from drowning or the like, but also “to make whole.”
And to see the self and the world more holistically, in a huge breadth of human endeavors from psychology to sociology to ecology and far more, is what it will take to save us from ourselves, and preserve this great invention called civilization a while longer.
So….have you been sozo’d by love yet???