Monday, August 13, 2007

The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis

I'm working on a scholarship where I have to tell of the "greatest literary work of all time." I figured the best way to judge this would be find the work with the largest application over the largest amount of people. What's better than love? Love influences all people, and my belief of that has only been strengthened as I read The Four Loves, by C.S. Lewis. As I mentioned before, I highlighted influential quotes as I went, but I will not be able to type them all here. There are simply too many.

Before one reads this book, it should be understood that C.S. Lewis writes from a Christian perspective. While many of the points he makes apply to a universal audience, he does delve into the representation of marriage in the relationship between Christ and the Church. It also assumes the reader agrees that God gave us the longings we have, and created everything. I encourage you to read all the quotes, even if you don't have the same beliefs I do. I do not expect you to change your beliefs because of these quotes, but I hope it will give you a better understanding of either the topic of love, Christian religion, or both. It is also amusing, as you read, to consider your own relationships, whether friendships, romantic relationships, or spiritual ones.

To summarize, the book starts out grouping the different ways we love: Need-love (young child's love for mother), Gift-love (service), and Appreciation-love (simply loving something because it is the way it is). Then it delves into the ways this is expressed, essentially, the four types of love: Affection, Friendship, Eros, and Charity. They are elaborated in the following quotes (the chapter titles are bolded for organization).

* My favorites/ those I relate to the most

Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human (defines the ways we love)

"Need-love cries to God from our poverty; Gift-love longs to serve, or even suffer for, God; Appreciative love says: 'We give thanks to thee for thy great glory.' Need-love says of a woman 'I cannot live without her'; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection-if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all."

"Nature 'dies' on those who try to live for a love of nature...Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you."


"But Affection has its own criteria. Its objects have to be familiar. We can sometimes point to the very day and hour when we fell in love or began a new friendship. I doubt if we ever catch Affection beginning. To become aware of it is to become aware that it has already been going on for some time."

"The more intimate the occasion, the less the formalisation; but not therefore the less need of courtesy. On the contrary, Affection at its best practises a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind."

"Change is a threat to Affection."

"If you need to be needed and if your family, very properly, decline to need you, a pet is the obvious substitute....Those who say 'The more I see of men the better I like dogs' -those who find in animals a relief from the demands of human companionship- will be well advised to examine their real reasons."

"Affection produces happiness if-and only if- there is common sense and give and take and 'decency.' In other words, only if something more, and other, than Affection is added. The mere feeling is not enough. You need 'common sense,' that is reason. You need 'give and take'; that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy the art of love. You need 'decency.' There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness; patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be. That is the whole point. If we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will 'go bad on us.'


"To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it....Without Eros non of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship....To those- and they are now the majority- who see human life merely as a development and complication of animal life all forms of behavior which cannot produce certificates of an animal of origin and of survival value are suspect. Friendship's certificates are not very satisfactory."

"It has actually become necessary in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual."

*"Lamp says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but 'A's part in C,' while C loses not only A but 'A's part in B.' ... Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves."

*"It is often called Friendship, and many people when they speak of their 'friends' mean only their companions... Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, 'What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'"

*"When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass- may pass in the first half-hour- into erotic love. Indeed, unless they are physically repulsive to each other or unless one or both already loves elsewhere, it is almost certain to do so sooner or later...If one who was first, in the deep and full sense, your Friend, is then gradually or suddenly revealed as also your lover you will certainly not want to share the Beloved's erotic love with any third. But you will have no jealousy at all about sharing the Friendship. Nothing so enriches an erotic love as the discovery that the Beloved can deeply, truly and spontaneously enter into Friendship with the Friends you already had: to feel that not only are we two united by erotic love but we three or four or five are all travellers on the same quest, have all a common vision."

"The stereotyped 'Don't mention it' here expresses what we really feel. The mark of perfect Friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but tat, having been given, it makes no difference at all."

*"In a perfect Friendship this Appreciative love is, I think, often so great and so firmly based that each member of the circle feels, in his secret heart, humbled before all the rest."

"Affection obviously requires kinships or at least proximities which never depended on our own choice. And as for Eros, half the love songs and half the love poems in the world will tell you that the Beloved is your fate or destiny, no more you choice than a thunderbolt, for 'it is not in our power to love or hate.'...ree of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain house, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting- any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work... The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others."


"We use a most unfortunate idiom when we say, of a lustful man prowling the streets, that he 'wants a woman.' Strictly speaking, a woman is just what he does not want. He wants a pleasure for which a woman happens to be the necessary piece of apparatus...Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give."

"Charles Williams has said something of it in the words, 'Love you? I am you.' "

"The very faces of all the happy lovers we know makes it clear. Lovers, unless their love is very short lived, again and again feel an element not only of comedy, not only of play, but even of buffoonery, in the body's expression of Eros."

"When natural things look most divine, the demoniac is just round the corner....Within which Eros, of himself, will never be enough- will indeed survive only in so far as he is continually chastened and corroborated by higher principles. But Eros honoured without reservation and obeyed unconditionally, becomes a demon...Of all loves he is, at his height, most god-like; therefore most prone to demand our worship. Of himself he always tends to turn 'being in love' into a sort of religion."

"Everyone knows that it is useless to try to separate lovers by proving to them that their marriage will be an unhappy only...But even if they believed, they would not be dissuaded. For it is the very mark of Eros that when he is in us we had rather share unhappiness with the Beloved than be happy on any other terms."

*"Theologians have often feared, in this love, a danger of idolatry.... The real danger seems to me not that the lovers will idolise each other but that they will idolise Eros himself....'These reasons in love's law have passed for good,' says Milton's Dalila. That is the point; in love's law. 'In love,' we have our own 'law,' a religion of our own, our own god. Where a true Eros is present resistance to his commands feels like apostasy, and what are really (by the Christian standard) temptations speak with the voice of duties- quasi0religious duties, acts of pious zeal to love. He builds his own religion around the lovers...It seems to sanction all sorts of actions they would not otherwise have dared...The pair can say to one another in an almost sacrificial spirit, 'It is for love's sake that I have neglected my parents...' These reasons in love's law have passed for good. The votaries may even come to feel a particular merit in such sacrifices; what costlier offering can be laid on love's alter than one's conscience?"

*"Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that...Can we be in this selfless liberation for a lifetime? Hardly for a week...But these lapses will not destroy a marriage between two 'decent and sensible' people. The couple whose marriage will certainly be endangered by them, and possibly ruined, are those who have idolised Eros... When this expectation is disappointed they throw the blame on Eros or, more usually on their partners. In reality, however, Eros having made his gigantic promise and shown you in glimpses what its performance would be like, has 'done his stuff.'...It is we who must labour to bring our daily life into even closer accordance with what the glimpses have revealed. We must do the works of Eros when Eros is not present.


*"The loves prove that they are unworthy to take the place of God by the fact that they cannot even remain themselves and do what they promise to do without God's help.... For when God rules in a human heart, though He may sometimes have to remove certain of its native authorities altogether, He often continues others in their offices and, by subjecting their authority to His, gives it for the first time a firm basis."

"This is what comes, he [St. Augustine] says, of giving one's heart to anything but God. All human beings pass away. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away...Of course this is excellent sense...To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ...To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal...I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God's will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness."

*"It is probably impossible to love any human being simply 'too much.' We may love them too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy....The real question is, which (when the alternative comes) do you serve, or choose, or put first? To which claim does your will, in the last resort, yield?... So, in the last resort, we must turn down or disqualify our nearest and dearest when they come between us and our obedience to God....It is too late, when the crisis comes, to begin telling a wife or husband or mother or friend, that your love all along had a secret reservation- 'under God' or 'so far as a higher Lover permits.' They ought to have been warned; not, to be sure, explicitly, but by the implication of a thousand talks, by the principle revealed in a hundred discussions upon small matters. Indeed, a real disagreement on this issue should make itself felt early enough to prevent a marriage or a Friendship from existing at all."

"We cannot see light, though by light we can see things. Statements about God are extrapolations from the knowledge of other things which the divine illumination enables us to know."


Kevin said...

"The stereotyped 'Don't mention it' here expresses what we really feel. The mark of perfect Friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but tat, having been given, it makes no difference at all."

That is one amazing quote. Terse, to the point, and accurate.

That's going to be one flipping awesome scholarship essay. And thanks for the thoughts. I've got something new to sleep on.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you could help me. I read the book a long time ago. And I am trying to remember a quote... And I only remember vaugly what it was about. I think it was the difference of Eros and Charity. And the danger of Charity was that we could start thinking it makes us good, but we not disillusioned like that by Eros. Thanks for at least reading this. And thanks for your post.

Chelsea said...

I glanced through the book, but I couldn't find it. I'll look more later, and try to get back to you at the end of the week.

If you have the book yourself, I would flip through the Charity chapter.

Chelsea said...

Sorry, I couldn't find it. I hope you can. Happy New Year!