Forms of Love

Forms of Love

I’ve written before on the power of love and the distinction between an identified emotion we call love and the deeper Love that is the flow of life itself.

The Greeks classified love as having 4 kinds: Eros, Storge, Philia, & Agape

Eros is the flow of passion and desire, of sexual and sensual love. It is the flow between two lovers. Being more instinctual, it is driven more by the lower or instinctual brain in the Triune brain* model. Yet Plato defined it as the more detached love of Beauty.

Storge is the love between a parent and child. This is also described as Familial love or natural empathy. This is driven more from the mammalian brain that drives the limbic system, creating deep connections and attachments.

Philia is the love of friends and community. This is also called social or brotherly love, creating bonds with our larger world. That is a prime motivator for loyalty and altruism. In the more modern world, this may be less developed than in more traditional cultures. Yet it can be a key for emotional health. Similar to Storge, it is mammalian. The opposite of Philia is Phobia.

Agape is what we might call higher love. It is not limited by person but rather is the underlying flow of life itself. When Agape is present, it overflows and is unconditional. It gives without seeking return. It is unattached love. It is an open heart. It is the love we discover within that brings a deep meeting of any unaddressed needs. The Big Love.

*like the left-brain, right-brain model that took on a life of it’s own, the triune brain model is a generalization that can help understand the layers of the brain. But actual brain functioning is vastly more complex than this.

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.


  1. Jerry Freeman

    “He realized that Bliss is Brahman; for from Bliss (Ananda), verily, are these beings born; by bliss, when born, do they live; into bliss, at the time of dissolution, do they enter, do they merge.” ~ Taittiriya Upanishad

    What is this Ananda? Why should it be that the universe is fundamentally made of Ananda, made of bliss, fundamentally MADE of happiness?

    The answer I come up with is, it is Love. Pure Love. Nothing else could bless life so that its fundamental nature is Bliss. Finding love is not a matter of finding anything outside yourself. Love is what you find when you access your own truest identity.

    And what I’m trying to say is, Ananda (happiness/bliss), and love are not two, interconnected things. Love IS Ananda, Ananda IS love.

  2. Grant

    I’ve always wondered about Agape.

    How do we know it’s love? Could it not be a sort of indifference? They seem rather similar, from our point of view. We do, after all, have the freedom to hurt ourselves and others, within the space provided by Agape (if I understand it correctly).

    Maybe the difference is in what you were saying about giving. “It gives without seeking return”. Indifference does not give.

    Still, sometimes I really don’t care for what it’s “giving”.

  3. zen pig

    I had forgotten where I heard this until the other day, when I was listening to some

    Adyashanti on YouTube, and he briefly mentions it. He said something about our Sun giving of its substance, every moment to give us life.

    that hit me like a rock. what a great example of Agape or “selfless love”. our sun has given of him/her self for over 4 billion years, ever moment, every second to keep life going.

    We tend to think that the ancients thought about things like we do today, and a lot of ideas of why the Sun was worshiped was because we thought that they did it because the Sun, to them, represented ultimate power and control. maybe this was the case for many ancient cultures, but I suspect that many more saw the Sun as a symbol of perfect selfless love, giving of its very substance so that life can exist.

    In some Jewish circles, the ultimate sacrifice is the giving of ones self, without Any expectation of reward. to give for the simple act of love for life.

    This is also another reason I think that the Buddha was such a great being. after all, he came from a place of physical Nirvana on earth. raised a prince, he was surrounded by everything he could possibly want. he knew nothing of old age or sickness, or suffering, and yet, he dropped all of the trappings of royalty, and found that he could not rest until all beings were enlightened.

    and of course there is the story of the Christ, who also gave the ultimate sacrifice. like the Buddha, he let go of everything, became human and suffered for all living things. What a universal story of selfless love.

  4. Hi Celeste
    Well – it’s more that they’re unfettered so can be experienced more fully and richly.

    Oneness isn’t a form of love. Rather higher love is one way of experiencing oneness. True oneness, in the sense of non-duality, is even more intimate than that. But love is a way it can be expressed and experienced.

    One way God is experienced is as pure love. The flow of life, of being is love.

  5. Hi Jerry
    Beautifully put, and very true.

    The way I look at it is that Love is a way of experiencing the flow of the divine that underlies all form and phenomena. Bliss is the experience of the fine vibration when that flow begins becoming.

    In a sense, they function on slightly different layers of expression. But those layers are just ways of experiencing and describing. They’re not separate.

    So we might also say 2 ways of experiencing the process of becoming.

  6. Hi David
    This is the Greek model of human forms of love. Divine Love is a whole other magnitude. We might call the list branches of how love is expressed through people. Agape is the closest to it. In fact, I realized after posting the article that I’d leaned that way rather than using the generic definition of it. But that’s what the Greeks would be pointing to.

    We might say Agape is the higher love we can experience as a person. But when we open to the divine, we can then experience divine love, love not bound to just here.

    Of course, love is love. It is never divided or broken. The distinctions are just in how we experience it in specific ways.

  7. Hi Grant
    There is a stage where we can become quite detached from ourselves and the world. There may come a sense of indifference, even to the emotions like love and happiness. There is a kind of overwhelming neutrality.

    But as things develop further, a few things happen. For one, the higher level heart opens and a much higher level of love becomes conscious. Love beyond conception. It’s not uncommon for there to be a phase where we experience ourselves and the world as literally immersed in a golden sea of love. Of course, there are many variations on how that might show up.

    The heart becomes a massive space, larger than our chest, just overflowing with love. It simply gives and gives.

    The other part is recognizing ourselves not only as that detached observer within but as the consciousness that underlies the world as well. We discover “out there” is actually “in here” too and a profound intimacy with all things develops. We become whatever we experience, including the love.

    These are not detached or indifferent experiences.

    But yeah, life can sometimes be more like tough love than anything we’d want. But that’s part of a process that will lead to the much fuller values being with us all the time. Then even if the undesirable arises, it too can be met with love.

    To be clear I’m not talking about some infatuated love here but the underpinnings of your own life and the world. This love has a very solid Ooomph. (laughs)

  8. Hi ZP
    Yes, I’d agree. One of the things Buddha did was throw out all the ceremony and gods that had been cluttering up faith. But some branches of Buddhism have added some of that back again because such things can be experienced in very personified ways. So not only seeing the sun as giving but as a being giving, as Surya. (or whatever name)

    We tend to assume a lot about the past that’s a little off. Different cultures in a different time and a different consciousness can see things very differently.

  9. Connor

    The ancient Greeks had an interesting way of seeing things. We have a lot of words for negative emotional and psychological states but very few that allow us to distinguish between the different forms of love, happiness and goodwill.

    This is a bit tangential, but do you have any thoughts on the different forms of divine love? Pre-awakening it seems to get channelled towards people, places and things that divinity is recognised in; and people that are thought to be incarnations of divinity, like avatars and messiahs; and male and female, benevolent and ferocious personalities and symbols of divinity; and towards one of the range of ways that the absolute is related to. Why does divine love get expressed in such different ways? And do you have any thoughts on the path of opening to the divine?

  10. Hi Connor
    Yes, language says a lot about a culture. One of the reasons I use a lot of Sanskrit terms is because it provides language for a great many things English doesn’t. You might find this essay interesting on that account:

    I wouldn’t say divine love has different types if that’s what you mean. It’s simply the flow of consciousness itself, experienced from a certain vantage. How that then express varies widely.

    All of creation can be said to be a form of divine love, an expression of love. From a person it flows out as giving love, it rises as compassion and it descends as passion. All of the energy in the world is love. We are immersed in a sea of it and all arises out of that.

    As a person, we may have tendencies for how we most easily flow love. For some this is to God and divinity, as you describe. For others a teacher. For others a loved one. All may be called objects of devotion, catalysts for love to flow. Ramana was famously devoted to a mountain, an embodiment of Shiva.

    Even the very awake can have episodes where they fall to the floor with the intensity of a greater opening to divine love. And yet the world can barely support that yet. Things are going to change a lot when that becomes more embodied by more people. But I’m seeing more of that.

    The key to opening to the divine is sattva, often translated as clarity or purity. This isn’t about purity of diet and such so much as inner clarity. That is best served by samadhi as that brings soma which helps refine the physiology to support it, brings more support, and so on. You can search the terms for articles on the subject.

    Hope that addressed your questions.

    1. Connor

      Hi David,

      Yes, that article was interesting on a number of levels.

      I came off quite a blinkered Hinayanan path after experimenting with how much effort I applied to concentration techniques, and the devotional stuff that started slowly coming through turned my world-view inside out. Seeing beings as objects of divine love rather than the forms of the divine as objects of people’s love, does the same.

      I still had Theravadin associations with “clarity” and Abrahamic associations with “purity”, so couldn’t see their relation to samadhi.

      Thanks David. Yes, that addressed all my questions and also answered other significant ones I had but hadn’t yet asked.

  11. Lynette

    After reading this article and people’s comments, I still question whether in this world we are capable of higher love. In my own experience unless I’m the divine I have not experience this so called divine love or agape. However I do know that forgiveness is a reflection of love. However while i am human I doubt that I am capable of divine love. Don’t even know what it is . What is true love or divine love?

    1. Hi Lynette
      Oh yes, we’re very much capable of it but most of us have work to do. We can easily experience needs-driven love and lower emotions but higher emotions need an open heart. Most people have that crusted up for protection as they didn’t have the inner resources for it.
      Spiritual progress changes the playing field. Here’s a couple of articles on the topic. (Divine love is even more so – the Divine has to be known and the channels open for that.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest