All is Full of Love
A very cliché sentiment in almost every avenue; love is all you need, or as I have come to believe, love is. Whether it is expressed through music, literature, art, or realised through spiritual practice – there appears to be a universal belief that love is responsible for a huge amount of human behaviour. Like religion, love is capitalised on and exploited, leading to severe suffering through reductionist thinking and categorisation. But love is seemingly so much greater than what even the most elaborate and articulate language can conceive to rationalise.
Greek philosophy divides love into 4 sections with 4 different meanings;
- Agape; the love of good will that is present even in the absence of it being reciprocated.
- Eros; the love of desire, passion, and sexual intimacy.
- Philia; the love sourced through familiarity with friends, family, or an activity.
- Storge; the genetic love that is hardwired into us, i.e. the love of a mother for her child.
The Greek lens (though not segregated verbally) appears to be adopted in general in Western culture. When we talk about loving our parents, we are aware that we aren’t referring to the same thing as when we talk about loving our partners. Similarly, when we talk about loving our jobs, the definition of the word shifts its meaning depending on its context.
For some time I have considered an alternative possibility, which appears to increase in solidity as I find new examples of it being evident or observable. My belief is that the reason that love is such an integral part of life is that it is in its essence, life. The meaning of life, the source of life, God, truth, the self, the other; all is love. Rather than a feeling or a concept, I believe that love is not only a force, but the force, from which everything emanates.
As a thought experiment, consider the following; we are conceived from our parents, who (generally speaking) we share an unconditional love for (even challenging dynamics seem to include an acknowledgement that though ‘x’, may not like ‘y’, they still love each other). We have brothers and sisters and argue/fight as children, and we can’t stand to be around them, but should they be in a position of danger, our world begins to dissipate. We get a pet dog – after 14 years it dies and we are devastated, and always remember it. We go to school and meet friends, some of which we keep throughout our lives, and we can’t imagine how life would have been if they were not in it. We form our first romantic relationships and are open and vulnerable to our feelings through our lack of familiarity and mechanism of defence – when it ends we feel it’s a tragedy. As other relationships arise and pass, we often learn to readapt with more ease, depending on how open we allow ourselves to be in the relationship. We start work, and although we may not enjoy the job role, we stay because we value the friends we have made there, who we begin to socialise with outside of the compulsory context to which we have registered. There are multiple other examples of course, but these examples will serve as an example to the following viewpoint.
If we are born into a different family in a different part of the world, with different cultural conventions, beliefs, pets, and go on to be educated in different schools and universities, to work in different jobs with different people, forming relationships and feeling heartfelt tragedy with different partners; our situation would be exactly the same. We would be sad when our parents die, however if the parents of a stranger die we can simply acknowledge the sadness, but don’t feel it the same way. We feel that our partners are ‘the one’ that is perfect for us, but statistically speaking, if there was to be a ‘one’, it’s unlikely they would be in the geographical vicinity that we also happen to be in, and the next ‘one’ that we meet makes the past irrelevant.
Does that mean that the love we feel for everything that we do is illegitimate or illusory? I used to believe this to be the case, and there was a comfort to it too, ‘everything means nothing, so why worry about anything?’. Through more intense work on myself spiritually, I found a new lens through which I could observe my belief, with much greater clarity. The conclusion I have come to at present is that the love we feel and have felt has all been authentic. It is only when we allow ourselves to love that we start to feel it running through us. I love my parents, but if my parents where your parents, I’m sure I’d love them to. Similarly, I love my friends, but if I hadn’t met them how would I know this? Would I be indifferent? I don’t believe this to be the case. I believe that love is the undercurrent to everything that there is, and it is only when we allow ourselves to become aware of this that we really experience it.
Psychedelic Spirituality and Love
My belief is that they are all ‘the one’; that life is love, and familiarity gives us the opportunity to realise that. Love isn’t hardwired into our nervous system, but rather we are love temporarily incarnated in a human form in which we are able to sensually and humanly experience it. When we lower our defences enough, and trust in another person, environment, or situation with complete vulnerability, then we allow ourselves to connect to the frequency of love that exists like a vibration that we can sink into and harmonise with, though more often we distort or feel dissonance towards. This dislocating relationship with love pushes us away from our true self (that which is beyond ego) and leads to suffering – as much of Buddhist philosophy teaches. We become attached to that which is external to us (the material world and sensory pleasures) to distract us from opening up with complete trust and vulnerability to the idea of ultimate one-ness.
When we induce an altered state of consciousness through meditation, psychedelics, or any other form of boundary dissolving activity that clears the mind of unconscious thought (activity brought about through lack of presence with the moment) there is a sense of profound peace, acceptance, and serenity with everything being how it is, and the insignificance of everything that culture imposes. We feel less hostile towards those we ordinarily dislike, less concerned about factors beyond our control, and issues that might bother us dissipate to appear meaningless – we just connect to the present moment and we enjoy it. My belief is that it is in the connection to presence when we are experiencing love.
Strassman compares the experience of volunteers of IV DMT research (an endogenous psychedelic compound found throughout nature) with that of Hebrew prophecy reported in the Old Testament – i.e. communication with God (2014). He categorises the similarities and differences in regards to; body, emotions, perception, cognition, and volition/will. He concludes that the prophetic experience holds much greater depth and is indiscriminate in its oneness to God than that of the DMT. However, he also suggests that the utilisation of psychedelic substances to promote the assimilation of prophecy may be of great use, if the experience is approached through the lens of the Hebrew bible.
Most who have experienced psychedelics have done so in a non-spiritual context. Even western ayahuasca ceremonies are sandwiched between what has come to be the normal, everyday life of working 6-12 hour days, 5 days a week, with only the weekend to hold on for. However, if a psychedelic session is conducted under the right ‘set and setting’, i.e. state of mind and environment, then a profound spiritual experience may be more likely to occur. My personal experience with ayahuasca gave me an insight into ‘nirvana’ – the complete absence of self, and merging into everything else. While it is a struggle and a battle with the self to arrive at such a place, when all worldly attachments are dropped (or willing to be dropped) and you feel willing to commit to your own death, there is a profound experience of total and transcendent love. This sensation amplifies and merges into the infinite the more time you spend there. It is this what I believe God to be, the eternal love that is experienced when whatever tools allow for the death of the ego and the curated self, and the oneness to all other natural phenomena.
Strassmans comparison of the DMT experience with the Hebrew prophetic emphasises how there is a greater need for contexts in which to apply the psychedelic experience, i.e. a more constant set and more time spent in the correct setting. Strassman is interested is in the prophetic experience, but that does not undermine the experience of love still present in the psychedelic experience in general. On a biological level, psychedelics shut off the part of our brain that serve our evolutionary instincts such as fight or flight, behaviour that establishes social hierarchy, etc. (activity of the ego). By reducing the activity of the ego, the mind is then able to depress the survival instincts and allow for higher emotive states. In doing so, we are able to surface our true feelings or thoughts towards a particular situation such as an argument with a friend or a repressed episodic memory that functions on the subconscious level, unburdened by any sense of human pride or ego.
If the human body with ‘personhood’ can be seen as nature, temporarily incarnated in a sentient bio-computer, then consider the following; the human brain has evolved to include capacities for survival and emotion (ego), which are no doubt related. We constantly adhere to our ego in everyday life; we have a Palaeolithic need to fit into social groups to promote community altruism, should we by threatened, and we possess an expired biological craving for foods that where once scarce in resource such as fats and sugars to sustain our survival, which are now available in abundance. When we take a psychedelic, our brains fight for survival (or ego) is given an opportunity to relax, and be in complete presence with the ‘now’. While in this state we get to experience something more than just surviving – we experience life unburdened by anxieties or fear. We become love.
Psychedelic journeys are simply lenses in which we are able to connect to the frequency of love. The journey alone does not suffice – the integration of information following the experience into everyday life is more important the journey itself. We learn to be more compassionate, and we can understand situations or irritations of everyday life through a more informed and loving lens. The behaviour of somebody you may find annoying can become less tedious, when you recognise that you and that person are the same force that have been conditioned from different stimuli (lifestyle, upbringing, cultural exposure, etc.). The underlying resonance of love is recognised in all forms of life, and separation between all forms diminishes.