Soul Love

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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16 Responses

  1. I imagine the answer is yes, at least for some people.

    When I was a pre-teen and a teenager and made my transitions to evangelicalism (for the first and third times, the second not so much), it felt something like falling in love.Report

  2. Barbara says:

    I think religious experiences come in many flavors. You wouldn’t, probably, compare something like Paul’s “Road to Damascus” thing to “falling love,” for instance – although I guess it might be akin to the French coup de foudre (thunderbolt).

    “Falling in love” seems to me to be more like what William James called “the educational variety of religious experience” – that is, it happens over time. So is that a “religious experience” – or is the “experience of being religious”? Not sure – but yes, it is somewhat like “falling in love” over time, I think: it’s a drawing closer to the beloved, and an experience of deepening emotion.

    I’d suggest reading John of the Cross’ “Stanzas of the Soul” as a great example of some spiritual love poetry. Or, see Francis of Assisi’ “Canticle of the Sun.” Rumi’s good, too.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Barbara says:

      awesome, awesome comment.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Barbara says:

      Falling in love comes in many flavors, too. There is, I believe, a French expression that says “every love is a first love”. Every time it happens, it feels unlike anything you’re prepared for or have ever experienced before. It can be whimsical, brutal, lustful, terrifying, silent, probably every adjective I could think of. To compare something as varied as religious experience to something as varied as love, I don’t see it helping the classification process.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Pinky says:

        Pinky- this is also a great point. It’s funny- the Psychology Today article described the researchers trying to figure out the neurochemistry of falling in love and I thought, so, basically, they’re finding out what nobody really wants to know!Report

      • Barbara in reply to Pinky says:

        I think we first need to get ahold of a definition for love, and for “falling in love,” though.

        I mean, “religious experience” can actually, literally mean anything – but I personally don’t think “falling in love” has this kind of flexibility. I wouldn’t classify anything “brutal, lustful, or terrifying” as “love,” for instance – and I would be amazed if this is what Rufus meant by it feeling “like the eruption of the divine into everyday life.”

        So clearly we’re talking about two different things – which is why we need a definition of some kind to be able to talk about it. “Falling in love,” to me – at least the way it’s described here – so clearly has positive resonance that I just can’t put it the same category as what you seem to be describing.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

        An eruption of the divine into everyday life isn’t always gentle. From the (very, very) little I know about John of the Cross, I think he’d be the first to admit that even positive experiences are not without suffering.Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Pinky says:

        Even those words are flexible though. Maybe not brutal and terrifying in the violent sense, but certainly there is something overwhelming about falling in love in the best cases and many people have experienced it at times that were so inopportune it threatened to upend their entire lives, which can seem terrifying anyway. As for lustful, I do think the two are fairly closely attached, whether or not we’d like to think of lust and love as separated.

        I’ve never had a religious experience- only read about them. So I can agree that the classification system might not help much. I will say, however, that both terms “falling in love” and “religious experience” seem attempts to name the unnameable.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Barbara says:

      Agreed. This is a wonderful comment.

      I’ve read and loved Francis and Rumi. As for John of the Cross- thanks very much for the recommendation!

      I love the description of drawing closer to the beloved over time. I remember reading something like “Infatuation is fun. Love is happy.” Over time, the exhilaration of that first rush becomes something more everyday, but stronger and deeper. I suppose the commitment to faith is much more involving. It’s hard to think of who I would consider in the priesthood- or sainthood!- of love.Report

      • Barbara in reply to Rufus F. says:

        The great thing is that very, very few people have the “love at first sight” experience – or wham-bang, knocking-you-out-of-the-saddle religious experiences, either, for that matter – but everybody’s capable of having the long-term, educational, “over time” experience of both things.

        “Educational” sounds kind of dull and dry when used this way – but James just meant, I think, that the more you learn – in terms of knowledge and experience, both – the deeper the “drawing closer to the beloved” gets. Mystics are going for “union with God” – and I suppose lovers look for union, too!

        Yes, Rumi is terrific! And Francis was a top-shelf mystic. But John of the Cross is the ne plus ultra of spiritual lovers. The story goes that on his deathbed, he asked the other monks to stop chanting the Requiem – and for someone to read “Song of Songs” to him instead.


      • Kim in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I knew someone who “fell in love at first sight”.
        It was really quite mundane.
        Glance over, and read the person sitting beside you
        “oh, that’s my wife” (presented as stone cold fact,
        as ordinary as it would be after thirty years of marriage).

        Cue spittake.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I’m going back over the various “falling in loves” that I’ve had and some of them are closer to terror than anything else. “Oh, my gosh, it’s her. Don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up, don’t fuck up.” Some are fun the way a manic episode is fun but crash the way a manic episode crashes and that’s kind of a drag when you recognize the pattern.

    And I’m pretty sure that we know at least one person who fit into their relationship with God that way.

    The main thing that seems to be a constant across all “falling in loves” is that the person falls in love with an idea and projects this idea onto another person who looks just right. And this falling, as falling does, eventually leads to deceleration trauma. It’s when people sit down with their gods, as they sit down with the other person as a real person, and start hammering out the forgiveness of sins that the relationships really seem to mature.

    But, yes. In the short term, falling presents identically to flying if you don’t sweat the steering.Report

  4. Barbara says:

    Perhaps I’ve actually taken the word “love” too seriously here; maybe what’s being discussed, using a phrase with the word “love” in it, is really more on the order of “all the crazy emotional states people find themselves in when they feel deep attraction to/affinity with another person.” And that is, I agree, a really fascinating topic!

    But maybe it’s confusing when we connect that, in every case, with “love”; I don’t think there’s really a one-to-one correspondence. Maybe the problem is that, since we were talking about “religious experiences,” my mind went to the extended discussion of love in 1 Corinthians 13 (and to other, similar definitions of “love”) – and perhaps that discussion doesn’t actually belong here.

    It could be we need an entirely new phrase to discuss the “crazy emotional states” phenomenon. Hey, this could be our own contribution to the culture….! 😉Report