Eight Different Types of Love According to the Ancient Greeks
There are many paths in life. But the longest of them all is the path to the heart. If you resist this path, you may take lifetimes to find it again. If you surrender and embrace it, you’ll be home.
We’ve all been blinded by the blanket of emotions that comes from falling down the precipice of union into love. While we only have one word for it, the ancient Greeks in their pursuit of wisdom and self-understanding, found eight different varieties of love that we all experience at some point.
When we understand the different types of love out there, we can become conscious of how deep our connection is with ourselves and the other people in our lives.
Eight Different Types of Love
What different types of love are you currently experiencing and how are they impacting your life?
1. “Eros” or Erotic Love
The first kind of love is Eros, which is named after the Greek god of love and fertility. Eros represents the idea of erotic passion and desire.
The ancient Greeks considered Eros to be dangerous and frightening, as for many people who mistake Eros for sex, it involves a “loss of control” through the primal impulse to procreate. Eros is a passionate and intense form of love that arouses romantic and erotic feelings.
Eros is an exulted and beautifully idealistic love that in the hearts of the spiritually mature can be used to “recall knowledge of beauty” (as Socrates put it) through Tantra and spiritual lovemaking. But when misguided, Eros can be misused, abused and indulged in, leading to impulsive acts and broken hearts.
Eros is a primal and powerful fire that burns out quickly. It needs its flame to be fanned through one of the deeper forms of love below as, for most people, it is centered around the selfish aspects of love, that is, personal infatuation and physical pleasure.
Love catalyst: the physical body.
2. “Philia” or Affectionate Love
The second type of love is Philia, or friendship. The ancient Greeks valued Philia far above Eros because it was considered a love between equals.
Plato felt that physical attraction was not a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word “platonic” to mean “without physical attraction.” Philia is a type of love that is felt among friends who’ve endured hard times together.
As Aristotle put it, Philia is a “dispassionate virtuous love” that is free from the intensity of sexual attraction. It often involves the feelings of loyalty among friends, camaraderie among teammates, and the sense of sacrifice for your pack.
Examples in films: Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Girl Next Door.
Love catalyst: the mind.
3. “Storge” or Familiar Love
Although Storge closely resembles Philia in that it is a love without physical attraction, Storge is primarily to do with kinship and familiarity. Storge is a natural form of affection that often flows between parents and their children, and children for their parents.
Storge love can even be found among childhood friends that is later shared as adults. But although Storge is a powerful form of love, it can also become an obstacle on our spiritual paths, especially when our family or friends don’t align with, or support our journey.
Love catalyst: causal (memories).
4. “Ludus” or Playful Love
Although Ludus has a bit of the erotic Eros in it, it is much more than that. The Greeks thought of Ludus as a playful form of love, for example, the affection between young lovers.
Ludus is that feeling we have when we go through the early stages of falling in love with someone, e.g. the fluttering heart, flirting, teasing, and feelings of euphoria.
Playfulness in love is an essential ingredient that is often lost in long-term relationships. Yet playfulness is one of the secrets to keeping the childlike innocence of your love alive, interesting and exciting.
Love catalyst: astral (emotion).
5. “Mania” or Obsessive Love
Mania love is a type of love that leads a partner into a type of madness and obsessiveness. It occurs when there is an imbalance between Eros and Ludus.
To those who experience Mania, love itself is a means of rescuing themselves; a reinforcement of their own value as the sufferer of poor self-esteem. This person wants to love and be loved to find a sense of self-value. Because of this, they can become possessive and jealous lovers, feeling as though they desperately “need” their partners.
If the other partner fails to reciprocate with the same kind of Mania love, many issues prevail. This is why Mania can often lead to issues such as codependency.
Love catalyst: survival instinct.
6. “Pragma” or Enduring Love
Pragma is a love that has aged, matured and developed over time. It is beyond the physical, it has transcended the casual, and it is a unique harmony that has formed over time.
You can find Pragma in married couples who’ve been together for a long time, or in friendships that have endured for decades. Unfortunately, Pragma is a type of love that is not easily found. We spend so much time and energy trying to find love and so little time in learning how to maintain it.
Unlike the other types of love, Pragma is the result of effort on both sides. It’s the love between people who have demonstrated patience and tolerance to make the relationship work.
Love catalyst: etheric (unconscious).
7. “Philautia” or Self Love
The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not the unhealthy vanity and self-obsession that is focused on personal fame, gain and fortune as is the case with Narcissism.
Instead, Philautia is self-love in its healthiest form. It shares the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion” which is the deep understanding that only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, will you be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
You cannot share what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love anyone else either. The only way to truly be happy is to find that unconditional love for yourself. Only once you learn to love and understand yourself, will you be ready to search for the spiritual freedom of the Self.
Love catalyst: Soul.
8. “Agape” or Selfless Love
The highest and most radical type of love according to the Greeks is Agape, or selfless unconditional love.
This type of love is not the sentimental outpouring that often passes as love in our society. It has nothing to do with the condition-based type of love that our sex-obsessed culture tries to pass as love.
Agape is what some call spiritual love. It is an unconditional love, bigger than ourselves, a boundless compassion, an infinite empathy. It is what the Buddhists describe as “metta” or “universal loving kindness.” It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations, and loves regardless of the flaws and shortcomings of others.
Agape is the love that is felt for that which we intuitively know as the Godly truth: the love that accepts, forgives and believes for our greater good.
Love catalyst: Spirit.
Thanks to the ancient Greeks, we can learn from all the different types of love in our lives. Because of these distinctions, we can learn that in order to truly enjoy Eros we must also search for greater depths through Philia and cultivate Ludus, avoiding Mania as our relationships mature. It’s through these efforts that we’ll find Pragma in our soul mate or twin flame relationships.
Finally, through the power Philautia and Agape we can come to understand how amazing our human hearts really are. Our hearts grow larger the more they give to others.
April 11, 2019