The highest form of love in Western Christian Mysticism is romantic love. Its correlate in yoga is “illicit love.” What? Yes, that’s right. Bhakti yoga, according to mythologist Joseph Campbell, has five levels of spiritual devotion, each level bringing one closer to the realization of the God Self within:
Loving God as a servant loves his master
Loving God as a friend loves a friend
Loving God as a mother loves her child
Loving God as a spouse
Loving God as a lover
When one chooses to love another freely, without being impelled by tradition or the rules of the social order in which he or she lives, this is considered the highest form of love, because it is of the heart, not of the mind. The mind loves rules; the heart loves love. The mind seeks to justify its own imaginings; the heart seeks balance through union with God, to be in sync with the entire cosmos. And it is this union that brings fulfillment of life, without which there can be no spiritual realization.
Principal among the foundational myths for Western Mysticism are the Arthurian Legends. The marriage of Arthur and Guinevere is arranged by the Court. They love because it is politically expedient. The love between Guinevere and Lancelot is illegal; it is outside the bounds of the social order. The legend, whether literal or not, is a symbolic representation of the principle of romantic love. Romantic love was considered “illegal” because it could not be controlled by society and therefore threatened the cohesion of the clan or state. It posed all sorts of legal problems concerning property and inheritance, and it undermined the authority of the political leaders. Loving God as a “lover” undermines the authority of the religious leaders (even those within our own head) because it implies a direct relationship with God, not one that can be mediated by the Church. Internally, the mind wants to control the heart, allowing only those feelings that conform to its predetermined “truths.”
Jesus made the distinction between following the Commandments out of duty and following them out of love. Actions mean nothing if they do not arise out of the heart. When the young rich man told Jesus that he had followed all of the Commandments since birth, Jesus told him he had to let go of his ideas about what the Commandments mean, to strip his heart of the vestments of the mind before he would be admitted as a disciple. He had to want it not as an ideal but from an ardent desire.
This latest marriage of a member of the Royal Family to a commoner symbolizes this principle of “illicit love.” It has captured the collective unconscious as no fairy tale ever could, because of the way it shadows deeper symbols. The word “royal” is mystical jargon for the throne of God, the Christ. Kings and Queens symbolically represent God’s presence on earth, which is the source of their “divine right.” Mystically, it is the Christ within us, our direct connection with God, that enthrones our conscience as the highest authority in our life. This is why the individual is so important in Western Christian Mysticism. Here, a person must act in accordance with his or her highest knowing and not out of the need to conform to society’s rules. Here, we transcend the lower ego by purging it of the base metals of animal desire, revealing our true nature as Christed beings. The animal becomes human, and the human becomes God. This is the divine alchemy of transformation.
Though arranged marriages have long since vanished in the West, one has to ask whether it has merely slipped below the radar. What kind of relationship with God do we allow ourselves to have. Can we have the experience of being the object of God’s desire? Can we let God want us? The key to this is how we see ourselves. Are we commoners unworthy of love, or can we see through our limited self to the Divine Self within? What is It that seeks to express Itself through this mortal coil? And what is our relationship with It?