Time for a big confession. I’m in love. With two women. One is 4 years old and the other is 94 years old. Now before you call Child Protective Services or Senior Abuse, hear me out.
Love knows no boundaries. There are mysterious forces and attractions out there in the universe and sometimes they reach inside and pull at the strings of our heart. Look what happened to Dante! He was struck down by an 8-year old girl named Beatrice and out poured one of the world’s greatest epics, The Divine Comedy. Today he might be psychoanalyzed as a deeply troubled man or imprisoned as a pedophile and what a loss that would have been to Western civilization.
Of course, there is the awakening of the heart and then there is the acting out of the feelings and trust me, no inappropriate boundaries have been crossed other than a vague longing that I was 30 years older or 60 years younger. You all know what I’m talking about, the way you can connect so deeply with someone far out of your peer group and even have high school crushes. And there is a spiritual component to this, illuminated so brilliantly by Joseph Campbell many years back. He talks about a Hindu notion of five degrees of love, each one higher than the previous.
The first is the love of the servant to master. God is supreme and I am nothing. God commands, I obey without questioning. Think of the story of Abraham, chastised for doubting his Master who commanded him to kill his son.
The second degree is from friend to friend. Think of Jesus and his disciples hanging around together, breaking bread, discussing great matters. In the Hindu world, Arjuna and Krishna had such a relationship.
The third is the love of parent for child. Christianity in the Dark Ages was not particularly memorable until the Virgin Mary ascended in status and the image of the Mother with Jesus as the Divine baby in the crib captured the imagination of the people and helped create the cultural explosion of the Middle Ages. “Notre Dame”—our mother. Christmas overtaking Easter, with all the paintings of Mother and Child, the Three Wise Men traveling to pay tribute to the Divine in the form of a baby. In the Hindu world, all the stories of baby Krishna, the mischievous butter thief.
The fourth is husband and wife. Catholic nuns are ordained as “brides of Christ.” Here God is not so much feared as the stern father, nor a casual acquaintance, nor an adorable infant, but a life partner with troubled times and times of feeling the two have become one.
But the highest order in the Indian cosmology is illicit lover. Marriage still has its practical side, but illicit love means one has been entirely swept away and often outside the boundaries of conventional morality. This is the sense from the great mystic poets Rumi and Hafiz and Mirabai,the experience of the Gnostics in the West, the sense that there is no line between the mortal and divine, that we are the Spirit made flesh. Since the three monotheistic religions lean heavily toward the first stage (with all the disastrous political, cultural and emotionally regressed consequences), it is often intolerable to claim identity with the Divine, it is blasphemy and the consequence for many was jail or death.
Well, I’ve come a long way from confessing my love for a 4-year old and a 94-year old. But hope it has made you stop and think. What’s your relationship with the Divine?