Jun 05, 2013 | By

The Science of Love

According to Stephen Post (BQO June 3, 2013) the act of loving is profoundly transforming.  Studies show that showering others with our love frees us from self-pre-occupation and related negative feelings, increases our depth and enjoyment of life and improves our physical and mental health!  In response to the questions posed, I offered this response:

One aspect of love that seems to be missing from the definition is that of “self-love”.  Love has two poles – it can be self-directed or other directed.   This is not necessarily a bad thing.  For example, as you point out, doing good things for others brings extraordinary satisfaction, the consequence of which is a higher sense of self-worth and a more rewarding life.   In this sense we can be called to do for others as a matter of enlightened self-interest or self-love.  Without this reciprocity from the act of loving others, it is hard to see how a person would ever feel a motivation to love others!  On the other hand, love which is focused first on self-satisfaction can be exceedingly negative and manifest as impulses for mere gratification or dominion.  This is the inherent human evil that St. Paul and Luther warned about, is it not?

On question 1, doing acts of charity from an initially selfish motive (to look good, for example) may yield an inward warmth that can change a person and lead them to greater acts of love to the neighbor.

On question 2, it may be more accurate to say that experiencing the reciprocity of love may engender a sense of divine presence and expectation.  We are led to an appreciation of God through the experience of Love.

Finally, I hope that it does not take 100 years for physics to appreciate the dynamic creative and life-giving power of Divine Love.  Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about this 300 years ago, and physicist Ian Thompson has recently shown (Starting Science from God: Rational Scientific Theories From Theism, 2011) the deep connections between what is known of modern physics and what Swedenborg had to say about Divine Love.



2 Responses to “The Science of Love”

  1. George Gantz says:

    Altruism is a fascinating subject area and I look forward to your book. I have touched on the issue briefly in a post on the Evolution debate (http://swedenborgcenterconcord.org/evolution-the-latest-findings-2011/) and in my recent review of the Heidelberg forum (http://swedenborgcenterconcord.org/science-and-theology-super-cooperators/) – I am very interested in tackling Nowak’s “Supercooperators” when I get the chance!

  2. Soni Werner says:

    I teach a college course called Psychology of ALTRUISM, and now I am beginning to write my own Textbook. I have previously used texts written by Steven Post…VERY good ones…but now it is time to integrate Swedenborgian ideas with the positive psychology research and theories, focused on how people benefit by helping others. For example, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks, positive psychologists are renewing interest in the ancient word EUDAIMONIA. This means doing well and being well…but the cool part is that on the middle of that word is the term daimon which refers to spirits or the gods…and that the spiritual world is helping us do good to others. This is amazingly similar to the Swedemborgian idea that the Lord is the source of all goodness, so that when we help others, we are filled with joy and it flows into us from the Lord…not originating in ourselves. in contrast, HEDONISM is all about a person pursuing instant gratification and pleasures with no thought of helping others, and definitely no thought of acknowledging that real joy comes from the Lord.

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