The Heart of the Universe

Conscious Love

The Heart of the Universe
Friday, June 21, 2019
Summer Solstice

John Welwood (1943–2019) was an American clinical psychologist known for integrating Eastern and Western psychology and spirituality. In his books Love and Awakening and Journey of the Heart, he wrote about the lifelong challenge and gift of conscious, committed love, drawing insights from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955):

If the bad news is that we can know another, and be known, only as deeply as we know ourselves—and coming to know ourselves can be a long and arduous journey—the good news is that love helps and inspires us to develop this deeper self-knowledge. . . . For this reason, relationships can help us face and understand ourselves more rapidly and profoundly than any other aspect of worldly life. Seen in this light, love becomes a path of awakening—rousing us from the sleep of old, unconscious patterns into the freshness and immediacy of living more fully in the present, in accord with who we really are. This is the source of a deeper kind of happiness, which goes far beyond pleasure and comfort, and the only real basis for healthy and satisfying relationships. [1]

In its final outreach, conscious love leads two lovers beyond themselves toward a greater connectedness with the whole of life. Indeed, two people’s love will have no room to grow unless it develops this larger focus beyond themselves. The larger arc of a couple’s love reaches out toward a feeling of kinship with all of life, what Teilhard de Chardin calls “a love of the universe.” Only in this way can love, as he puts it, “develop in boundless light and power.” [2]

So the path of love expands in ever-widening circles. It begins at home—by first finding our seat, making friends with ourselves, and discovering the intrinsic richness of our being, underneath all our ego-centered confusion and delusion. As we come to appreciate this basic wholesomeness within us, we find that we have more to give to an intimate partner.

Further, as a [couple] become[s] devoted to the growth of awareness and spirit in each other, they will naturally want to share their love with others. The new qualities they give birth to—generosity, courage, compassion, wisdom—can extend beyond the circle of their own relationship. These qualities are a couple’s “spiritual child”—what their coming together gives to the world. . . .

From there, a couple’s love can expand still further, as Teilhard suggests. The more deeply and passionately two people love each other, the more concern they will feel for the state of the world in which they live. They will feel their connection with the earth and a dedication to care for this world. . . . Radiating out to the whole of creation is the farthest reach of love and its fullest expression, which grounds and enriches the life of the couple. This is the great love and the great way, which leads to the heart of the universe. [3]

References:
[1] John Welwood, Love and Awakening: Discovering the Sacred Path of Intimate Relationship (HarperPerennial: 1996), xiii-xiv.

[2] Teilhard de Chardin, Human Energy, trans. J. M. Cohen (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: 1969), 84.

[3] Welwood, Journey of the Heart: The Path of Conscious Love (HarperPerennial: 1990), 206-207.

Image credit: The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix) (detail), Vincent Van Gogh, 1890. Kröller-Müller Museum, Hoge Veluwe National Park, Otterlo in the Netherlands.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: When we’re conscious, we will always do the loving thing, the connecting thing, the intimate thing, the communion thing, the aware thing. —Richard Rohr

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