Lent, Fasting, And The Hierarchy Of Love

Growing up in a world of different religions has taught me that God tailors religion to the particular psyche and bent of various people. However, I instinctively felt that at the core of each religion there was a similar universal principle – loving God and loving others as yourself.

We can find the principle of Love in all religions, yet humans strangely miss this point when they become intolerant of various faith-systems. I have made it a point in my life to identify similar strategies for spiritual growth in all religions – like fasting and sacrifice.

Some form of fasting and sacrifice not only can be found in all religions but it demonstrates that all religions understand that inner growth and salvation involves targeting the human heart. Intellectual knowledge changes nothing unless it can change what we LOVE and intend. When we are fasting for instance, we are sacrificing physical pleasure for a higher ideal. Fasting involves the sacrificing of one level of love (natural appetite) for a more evolved level of love (spiritual appetite).

To better understand the dynamics of personal transformation, the various distinct qualities of love that make up the full spectrum of human experience needs to be articulated. So I provide you with an easy-to-grasp list below:

1) Corporeal Love (love of the world and physical pleasure)
2) Sensual/Imaginative Love (love of wealth and riches)
3) Intellectual Self-Love (love of power)
4) Love for Civility (rationality)
5) Love of the Neighbor (spiritual rationality)
6) Love of God (all-inclusive love)

The above list of “loves” is not some arbitrary order. As evidence, those who seek wealth will gladly sacrifice physical pleasure to achieve it (because corporeal pleasure is recognized as an inferior love to acquiring the nicer things in life). Similarly, those who seek personal or political power will gladly sacrifice riches and wealth to achieve it. Those who wish to be civil will freely choose to give up personal power and self-importance to achieve ethical and moral standards (the beginning of rationality involves seeing the bigger picture). True love of the neighbor involves moving beyond civil responsibility and helping others from a more elevated principle of spiritual love, which is the beginning of wisdom. And Loving God is the most inclusive love of all because it also requires loving all things in God’s universe.

Religion understands what neuroscience is gradually coming to acknowledge – that emotions (derivatives of love) focus our attention and ultimately forge the information in our memory into our personal paradigms, world-views, and faith-systems. What we love most, takes the highest position in our inner reality, and from that vantage point, governs all our cognitive functions like a king on a throne.

Our Ruling Love (what floats our boat) is what we perpetually seek, in this world and in the next. The true purpose of religion is to provide a roadmap by which our Ruling Love can evolve and transcend our biological selves. Religion has our eternal welfare in mind, and, constantly reminds us that we are spiritual beings.

Can you think of yourself as being different from what you love?

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