Love is a term that comes in a million shades. It has been a matter of many debates throughout history.
Ancient philosophers liked to examine and classify human emotions, especially the most intimate ones. Love, we can say, moves the world by influencing the development of civilization, art, wars, and history.
We know that there are countless distinct varieties of love. Inside every love rests an entire universe of various emotions and satisfying flashes.
The ancient Greeks recognized seven different kinds of affection. We can say, seven types of love.
Each of these emotions is important and can be a subject of philosophical debate. In order to experience true happiness, we need to have all of them at least once in our life.
So, which are the seven types of love that Ancient Greeks can teach us about?
The first variant of this love is based on the correct assumption that you have to love yourself to love other people. Not only to love other people, but also animals, things or life itself. The other, negative mode comes when a person has the mere conceit, vanity, enjoying the public honors, status, money, ostentation. This kind of love is not real love but an ugly narcissism.
The main difference between the positive and the negative Philautia is that the person who has a healthy respect for themselves also has strong self-esteem and self-respect. The person who loves themselves honestly cares about their mental health. On the other hand, narcissism is one of the most harmful feelings for our emotional life.
Pragma is the kind of love that often occurs in long-term relationships and marriages. This love is based on the greater good for both of the partners. The ancient Greeks, unlike us today, had a realistic and sober attitude towards marriage. For them, it was an agreement between the two sides.
In such conditions, each of the partners knew what to expect. Over the time, partners would develop a sense of mature love, so-called – Pragmatic Love. This love sprouted from the common feelings of solidarity and commitment to a partner.
Ludus was the name of the perky, silly love. It is quite the opposite of pragmatic love. Ludus is actually seduction, flirting, playing. It can precede sex. Often a sexual attraction is interpreted as Ludus.
For example, when flirting with a stranger, we are pre-determining the extent to which we go. It is in our nature to play. Lupus is one of the best examples of that. Ludus is nothing more than a love game, or foreplay. It cannot last unless it grows to other types of love.
The “eros” in the time of ancient Greeks was often associated with love of older men towards adolescents. In those days, it symbolized the prestige among the aristocracy, not a sin, wickedness or crime. Of course, Eros was not reserved only for homosexual relationships, but also for heterosexual.
Eros love comes with a tremendous amount of passion, desire and complying with the senses. Even though we often think of Eros as the only kind of love today, Eros is just one of the loves which are equal in importance.
Philia can be translated in today’s language as “friendship“. Philia is being born between family members, close and distant relatives. Also, among comrades on the battlefield, people of similar affinities, opinions, attitudes.
Philia was considered as much more beneficial than Eros. It was based on, in simple terms, meeting two soulmates where sex did not play almost any role.
The Nobel and unconditional love that parents have for their children can also come in two different forms. The positive version is the one that can be described as the love that gives you the wings for life. But when a parent loves you obsessively and sees you like a new version of themselves, then this kind of love becomes negative.
Parents sometimes try to achieve something that they were not able to go through their children. This love can grow into an obsessive relationship. On the other hand, the supportive and forgiving parents who want to give the best life lessons to their children let the kids decide what they are going to be, but show them all the options and help them to learn the science of living.
Agape is a higher degree of love from all of the kinds mentioned above. It is unifying the love for all people, and beyond, to all living beings. This love spreads to our planet, the universe and general existence.
The ancient Greeks associated this kind of love to the Gods. They believed that we could achieve a better version of ourselves when we reach the ability to love as the Gods. Agape is a strong word. Therefore it survived all the centuries and stayed as the main word for love in the modern Greek language.
How can we benefit from this ancient wisdom?
Today we live in a world which is not very rich in any love. Love comes as rarity and something that happens only in the movies. Many of us have experienced only the Storge from our parents and never actually explored the benefits of all other types of love. Friendships often are superficial and come hand in hand with nepotism. Eros disappears with the first problems or arguments.
Most people misunderstand the signs of Ludus with Eros, and then they face disappointment and depression. We live fast, and we don’t have the time to think about the philosophy of love. Agape is the kind of love that we need to achieve before we leave this world, but in order to reach it, we need to experience all other types of love.
Maybe the solution is in reading, exploring and debating about love. Like the ancient Greeks did!