Rick and All,
This topic on spiritual affection is a multifaceted one. For the most part, we've been discussing God's love for us, but what about the love experienced within the relationship between ourselves and our loving God? We are told God's love is a fatherly affection, yet one cannot deny that there exists a certain degree of passion between the creature and the Creator especially when the soul becomes aware of the depths of divine love.
It is true what TUB tells us, that our human understanding of love is completely inadequate and often embarrassing. In his teachings about spiritual love, Jesus never condemned any form of human love, not even illicit sex. I've spent years wondering about this and have made some observations about religion and love as it transitions between finite human love to transcendental divine love then back again to a transformed understanding of an elevated form of human love called "fatherly love". Consider the following quote:
156.5.5 “But let me warn you against the folly of undertaking to surmount temptation by the effort of supplanting one desire by another and supposedly superior desire through the mere force of the human will. If you would be truly triumphant over the temptations of the lesser and lower nature, you must come to that place of spiritual advantage where you have really and truly developed an actual interest in, and love for, those higher and more idealistic forms of conduct which your mind is desirous of substituting for these lower and less idealistic habits of behavior that you recognize as temptation. You will in this way be delivered through spiritual transformation rather than be increasingly overburdened with the deceptive suppression of mortal desires. The old and the inferior will be forgotten in the love for the new and the superior. Beauty is always triumphant over ugliness in the hearts of all who are illuminated by the love of truth. There is mighty power in the expulsive energy of a new and sincere spiritual affection. And again I say to you, be not overcome by evil but rather overcome evil with good.”
It is rare that the expression of one's intimate relationship with God does not involve some kind of passion. The inherent fact that the human psyche reacts on multiple levels to passion often complicates the human understanding of God's love and the human response to it. People who function on levels of mind which do not include soul consciousness, including primitive evolutionary religion, would seem to have a more difficult time idealistically dealing with the emotional impact of such an experience.
The Greeks had several different words for love: eros, agape, philia and storge. Most modern day Christians consider agape to be the love Jesus was referring to, but I'm not convinced. The word eros gets a bad rap because it is affiliated with romantic, passionate and sensual love and our puritanical heritage frowns on connecting this type of love with God. Yet, primitive religions often focused primarily on this feature of fertility, beauty and pleasure. The gods mated with each other and with humans in most of the ancient religions. Although Jesus never condoned these ancient beliefs, he never condemned them either, knowing that they are merely stepping stones used by the human psyche when filled with a desire for a higher and more satisfying form of love. (Let's face it, the sons of gods actually did mate with humans and the Material Son and Daughter were designed to procreate. We can't escape the facts.)
Mystics of all religions and through every age come up against this perplexing dilemma of eros when experiencing a personal and intimate devotion to God. History reveals the full gamut of human response to this problem from complete denial of the physical as in asceticism, to the complete embrace of the physical as seen in the Kama Sutra and by some medieval female mystics who claimed their desires were consummated by Christ himself. It appears that neither extreme is laudable. Jesus teaches that we must come to a place of spiritual advantage where we develop an interest and love for the "ideal".
People have spent their entire lives attempting to come to that very place of spiritual advantage and on the way have encountered eros as well as agape, philia and storge, none of which are "ideal". But are they too, stepping stones toward ideal fatherly love? I can't help but notice how this correlates to Jesus' talk on the six levels of the Golden Rule. Do we humans need to learn love by degrees? As we progress, the expulsive power which comes from living a new level of truth and love transforms our primitive understanding. Which is why TUB tells us that as we ascend the personality scale, make our circles, we first learn to be loyal, then to love, then to be filial. I believe that true loyalty begins with eros, in the Platonic sense, the involvement in a spiritual passion of the whole person. There is a certain romantic beauty in the loyal devotion experienced between the Creator and the creature.