The Meaning of Spiritual Love
Friday, August 19, 2016
When I teach nondual consciousness, I often use the phrase “not one, but not two either.” Nondual consciousness heals our splits and sense of separation. Think of how a truly loving, faithful relationship has helped you be fully and wholly yourself. John of the Cross describes this relationship in his “Spiritual Canticle,” and this is my paraphrase:
When you regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, you loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
To also love what you see in me. . . .
Let us go forth together to see ourselves in your beauty. 
When we read poetry as beautiful and profound as this verse, we can see why John of the Cross was far ahead of his time in the spiritual and psychological understanding of how love works and how true love changes us at a deep level. He consistently speaks of divine love as the template and model for all human love, and human love as the necessary school and preparation for any transcendent encounter. If you have never experienced any human love, it will be very hard for you to access God as Love (although grace overcomes this barrier). If you have never let God love you, you will not know how to love other people or things as they deserve.
In this surely inspired passage, John describes the very process of love at its best: You give a piece of yourself to the other. You see a piece of yourself in the other (usually unconsciously). This allows the other to do the same in return. You do not need or demand anything back from them, because you know that you are both participating in a single, Bigger Gazing and Loving—one that fully satisfies and creates an immense Inner Aliveness. Simply to love is its own reward. You accept being accepted—for no reason and by no criteria whatsoever! This is the key that unlocks everything in me, for others, and toward God, so much so that we call it “salvation.”
To put it another way, what I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can see and accept in myself. And even more, it becomes that whereby I see everything else. This is why it is crucial to allow God, and at least one other person, to see us in our imperfection and nakedness, as we are—rather than as we ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon in their imperfection; otherwise, they will never know the essential and utterly transformative mystery of grace. This is the glue that binds the universe of persons together.
Such utterly free and gratuitous love is the only love that validates, transforms, and changes us at the deepest levels of consciousness. It is what we all desire and what we were created for. Once you allow and accept God’s love for yourself, you will almost naturally become a conduit of the same for others.
Can you let God “look upon you in your lowliness,” as Mary put it (Luke 1:48), without waiting for some future moment when you believe you are worthy? Remember the words of John of the Cross: “Love what God sees in you.” Many of us never go there, because to be loved in this way is to live in the naked now, and it is indeed a quite naked moment.
Gateway to Silence:
Be here now.
 St. John of the Cross, “Spiritual Canticle,” 32, 36.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 140-142.