The Paradoxes of Love
(from: “Memories, Dreams, Reflections”)
At this point the fact forces itself on my attention that beside the field of reflection there is another equally broad if not broader area in which rational understanding and rational modes of representation find scarcely anything they are able to grasp. This is the realm of Eros. In classical times, when such things were properly understood, Eros was considered a god whose divinity transcended our human limits, and who therefore could be neither comprehended nor represented in any way. I might, as many before me have attempted to do, venture an approach to this daimon, whose range of activity extends from the endless spaces of the heavens to the dark abysses of hell; but I falter before the task of finding the language which might adequately express the incalculable paradoxes of love.
Eros is a kosmogonos, a creator and father-mother of all higher consciousness. I sometimes feel that Paul’s words—“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love”—might be the first condition of all cognition and the quintessence of divinity itself. Whatever the learned interpretation of the sentence “God is love,” the words affirm the complexio oppositorum of the Godhead. In my medical experience as well as in my own life I have again and again been faced with the mystery of love, and have never been able to explain what it is. Like Job, I had to “lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer.” (Job 40:4f)
Here is the greatest and the smallest, the remotest and the nearest, the highest and the lowest, and we cannot discuss one side of it without discussing the other. No language is adequate to this paradox. Whatever one can say, no words express the whole. To speak of partial aspects is always too much or too little, for only the whole is meaningful. Love “bears all things” and “endures all things” (1 Cor. 13.7). These words say all there is to be said; nothing can be added to them. For we are in the deepest sense the victims and the instruments of cosmogonic “love”. I put the word in quotation marks to indicate that I do not use it in its connotations of desiring, preferring, favoring, wishing, and similar feelings, but as something superior to the individual, a unified and undivided whole.
Being a part, man cannot grasp the whole. He is at its mercy. He may assent to it, or rebel against it; but he is always caught up by it and enclosed within it. He is dependent upon it and sustained by it. Love is his light and his darkness, whose end he cannot see. “Love ceases not”—whether he speaks with the tongues of angels,” or with scientific exactitude traces the life of the cell down to its uttermost source. Man can try to name love, showering upon it all the names at his command, and still he will involve himself in endless self-deceptions. If he possesses a grain of wisdom, he will lay down his arms and name the unknown by the more unknown, ignotum per ignotius—that is, by the name of God. This is a confession of his subjection, his imperfection, and his dependence; but at the same time a testimony to his freedom to choose between truth and error.