- Series: Harvest Book
- Paperback: 156 pages
- Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (September 29, 1971)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156329301
- ISBN-13: 978-0156329309
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 395 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Four Loves 1st Edition
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The Four Loves summarizes four kinds of human love--affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God. Masterful without being magisterial, this book's wise, gentle, candid reflections on the virtues and dangers of love draw on sources from Jane Austen to St. Augustine. The chapter on charity (love of God) may be the best thing Lewis ever wrote about Christianity. Consider his reflection on Augustine's teaching that one must love only God, because only God is eternal, and all earthly love will someday pass away:
Who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground--because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend--if it comes to that, would you choose a dog--in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates.His description of Christianity here is no less forceful and opinionated than in Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain, but it is far less anxious about its reader's response--and therefore more persuasive than any of his apologetics. When he begins to describe the nature of faith, Lewis writes: "Take it as one man's reverie, almost one man's myth. If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought." --Michael Joseph Gross
"A rare and memorable book." —Saturday Review"The Four Loves deserves to become a minor classic as a modern mirror of our souls, a mirror of the virtues and failings of human loving." —New York Times Book Review"[Lewis] has never written better. Nearly every page scintillates with observations which are illuminating, provocative and original." —Church Times"What is interesting about these chapters is the extent to which a non-believer can follow the argument and receive enlightenment … Lewis has a keen eye, a large measure of human sympathy, wit, and a command of simple words … By writing so well and so perceptively about ‘natural’ human conduct, Lewis makes the strongest case for examining his conclusions with respect. He is writing, presumably, for the unconverted as well as for Christians, and whatever the former may believe or disbelieve about God they are persuaded that he could only exist as a culmination in absolute terms of their deepest moral convictions."—Times Literary Supplement
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Like most of Lewis' works, you can pick any paragraph at random, and you will find a quote with the ring of Eternal Truth:
"Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell."
"Suppose you are fortunate enough to have "fallen in love with" and married your Friend. And now suppose it possible that you were offered the choice of two futures: "Either you two will cease to be lovers but remain forever joint seekers of the same God, the same beauty, the same truth, or else, losing all that, you will retain as long as you live the raptures and ardours, all the wonder and the wild desire of Eros. Choose which you please." Which should we choose? Which choice should we not regret after we had made it?"
"[Affection] is indeed the least discriminating of loves... There need be no apparent fitness between those whom it unites. I have seen it felt for an imbecile not only by his parents but by his brothers. It ignores the barriers of age, sex, class and education. It can exist between a clever young man from the university and an old nurse, though their minds inhabit different worlds. It ignores even the barriers of species. We see it not only between dog and man but, more surprisingly, between dog and cat. Gilbert White claims to have discovered it between a horse and a hen."
Christians, especially those who have marveled at the thirteenth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, should not go through life without at least one trip through this book.
Mr. Lewis continues with a brief synopsis of things that we can show love for; these include others, nature, country, and finally, the transcendent creator. Dissecting each, he illustrates that love of nature, patriotism, etc. are inadequate receptacles of our love.
Next, Mr. Lewis looks at the different kinds of love which include affection, philios, eros, and charity or agape. Affection includes the love of parents for their child, love of our pets, etc. Philios is the love between friends. Eros is the love between two lovers. Finally, charity is the love of the creator towards the created and the return of that love by the created toward both the creator and creation.
Of all the loves, Mr. Lewis holds charity or agape in the highest esteem. All other loves fall short of Agape, as Mr. Lewis states in this quote, 'The (other) loves prove that they are unworthy to take the place of god by the fact that they cannot even remain themselves and do what they promise to do without god's help.' They are merely images of this 'charity or agape' which is both immanent and transcendent of creation. By placing our faith in images we are placing faith in what is transient and temporary. Yet, the love that is immanent and transcendent of creation is all encompassing, therefore imageless, and thus beyond human conceptual understanding..
To understand love in all of its aspects we need both the images of affection, philios, and eros as well as the transcendent for the images are stepping stones on our way up to this feeling of all encompassing love. Here, Mr. Lewis makes an important point about love when he states, 'To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to him; throwing away all defensive armour.'
We have to feel love for the images in order to understand and feel the love of the transcendent. Yet, we cannot become entranced by our love for the images of the love immanent and transcendent of creation, because they like we are merely temporary, here one day, gone the next..
Mr. Lewis concludes with this point, 'Only those into which love himself has entered will ascend to love himself. We were made for god. Only by being in some respect like him, only by being a manifestation of his beauty, loving-kindness, wisdom or goodness, has any earthly beloved excited our love.'
Most of the time when we think about love we think about it in its aspect of eros. Mr. Lewis compelled me to contemplate love in all of its different manifestations, and through this reflection, to see that love is much more complex than what we frequently assume it to be. It is for these reasons that I consider this a classic read worth pondering.