As Lewis quipped, "Give a quality a good name and that name will soon be the name of a defect." Conversely, give a defect a Nobel Prize and soon he will have a good name -- Arafat, Carter, Gore, Kofi Annan, et al. The point is, language is a tricky business, because once you drop a word "into the the dynamic processes of living language," it undergoes changes and mutations beyond anyone's control.
Look at the "Big Bang," for example. At first this was a term of ridicule hurled at scientists who were foolish enough to imagine that the cosmos actually had an absolute beginning -- you know, like those religious nuts.
Hell, people forget that "Raccoon" was at first a term of abuse for the manner in which our mischievous furbears were so disruptive in church. Why? Not just because they refused to leave their beer outside, but because they asked a lot of embarrassing questions that the typical self-styled holy man was ill-equipped to answer, like "if the Bible is literally true, what does it mean that Christ is a door? Isn't that a metaphor?"
Anyway, it seems that to toss a word into the great tumbler of language ends up with a lot of edges smoothed off, so that distinct meanings begin to converge and look alike. Thus, people still talk about "love," but you rarely hear them distinguish it from eros, caritas, amor, agape, and all the other varieties.
For example, Pieper mentions that pietas, which is related to pity -- and therefore mercy -- is an aspect of love. This immediately places the Jesus prayer in a slightly different light: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me means more than just "Lord Jesus Christ, give me a break."
Pieper also mentions affection, which has the feature of passio, which does not necessarily connote "passion" per se, but the passive aspect of love. As often as not, love is not something "chosen," but something undergone, even suffered.
For example, I certainly didn't choose to have all those painful crushes back in junior high and high school. Rather, I suffered them. One doesn't choose to be attracted to this or that person. Rather, it's out of one's conscious control. Looked at this way, "affection" means to be affected, or "passive," in relation to the loved object.
Another fascinating example is studium, which connotes a different kind of attraction and close examination. I especially relate to this one, because it means that theology, or the "study of God," is indeed a distinct manner of loving. It is possible to be warm for the form of God.
Come to think of it, I don't study things I don't love, which is one of the reasons I didn't do very well until graduate school, at which time I was able to devote all of my energies to the subjects I truly loved. Note also that this type of pure love is fruitful. It's safe to say that I bore no intellectual fruit until I was able to cultivate these lovingly studious relationships with subjects of my choice. Note also that picking a vocation before one is mature enough to do so can be like an arranged marriage.
I think it's also important to point out that love converges both at the top and bottom of the cosmic hierarchy. Think back to the illustration (borrowed from our unKnown Friend) we have used on many occasions, of the two cones placed base-to-base, one atop the other.
If you're with me, you'll see one point at the top, a wide equator, and another point at the bottom. Now, imagine this as a crystal, with pure "white light" entering at the top. At the equator we will see maximum differentiation of the white light into all of the diverse colors of the rainbelow. At the bottom, all the colors merge back together into a black point.
So to say "God is love," is to refer to that point of pure light at the top. But as it descends into the herebelow, it breaks out into all of its many varieties alluded to above. But with the passage of time -- at least if we are not conscious -- these distinct colors blend together into the mere blob which the vulgar like to call "love." It is because of this cosmic blobbiness that love has become so saturated, and why it simultaneously refers to "everything" and "nothing."
As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, one of the watchwords of the Raccoon path is integration. Now, this integration is not a result of some kind of forcing or blending together of these distinct qualities. Rather, it occurs naturally as we ascend the Cosmic Cone and get closer to the source of the white light, which we might as well call O.
Only in so doing can all the varieties of love be seen and experienced in their proper divine light, whether we are in the realm of the body, mind, or spirit, or whether we are in the vertical or horizontal. This is why, for example, sex detached from eros and amor becomes nothing more than a bodily function -- zoological, not psychological, much less spiritual: "We are in flight from eros -- and we use sex as the vehicle for that flight" (Rollo May, quoted in Pieper).
But with integration, we experience all the varieties of love as prolongations of God's creative love. Furthermore, we are able to integrate and focus the different kinds of love on one person, instead of having, say, a kind of filial love for one's wife but an erotic love for the mistress. Men often do this because of a split in their own psyche. I remember reading about how Elvis could no longer have sex with a woman if she became a mother, because he couldn't integrate the two types of love.
When it comes right down to it, the Raccoon way is a tantric way -- which doesn't just refer to sex, but to the divinization of everything. Truth be told, Christianity is a kind of tantric yoga. It would require too much time to explain what I mean by this and to avoid inevitable misunderstandings, but the main point is that Christianity does not attempt to escape the world but to divinize it; thus, it is mainly a descending path.
Part of the integration alluded to above involves the realization that we are always in the vertical, but to bring this realization into the world, i.e., the horizontal. Unlike some of our competitors, we do not wish to flee into the white light, but appreciate the colors by tracing them back up to their source in O. This is what it means to truly love beauty, or virtue, or truth. And this is why, say, childrearing, can be just as profound a spiritual path as the most exalted theology.
In fact, it is difficult to imagine a more profound path than raising a child. However, most people are so unconscious, that they miss this entirely, or at least don't take advantage of it to the fullest. One problem -- as discussed in the book -- is that parenthood evokes one's most primitive mind parasites, so that one is in danger of doing to one's infant what was done to oneself.
Pieper has a beautiful discussion of this, noting that merely "coming into the world" in the biological sense is not sufficient to become human. This should be a tipoff that in man, we are dealing with a fundamentally spiritual creature, for in order to become human, the infant must be loved by another person. "For a child, and to all appearances even for the still unborn child, being loved by the mother is literally the precondition for its own thriving." This love is simultaneously a confirmation and activation of being, without which the person will go through life with a permanent hole inside.
Just yesterday I was mentioning to Mrs. G. what a beautiful and loving childhood Jesus must have had in order to say some of the things he did. Especially noteworthy are his unprecedented statements about how we should even become as little children, and cultivate an attitude of innocent trust.
It is difficult for us to realize how radical a notion this was, since in the ancient world (excluding the Jews), children were generally regarded as without intrinsic value. Infanticide was practiced everywhere. Childhood was not a privileged state that must be protected. Rather, children were just defective adults. If you want to get a sense of this, all you have to do is look into childrearing practices in the Muslim world.
I might add that in giving one's love to the child, one discovers wells of love in oneself that are so deep as to be painful. This is why for even lousy parents in the west, it is virtually impossible for them to imagine murdering their daughter for holding hands with a Christian boy, or hoping they will blow themselves up with as many innocent children as possible. But we are dealing with cultures rooted in a deeply primitive hate, where, for example, a mother is about to be stoned to death for infidelity. These monsters sit on the UN Commission for Women's Rights, and yet, liberals do not condemn the UN as one of the primary abettors of evil in the world, but actually want us to give up more of our sovereignty to it. One can't help wondering about what kind of childhood some of these people must have had. Or how they actually feel about women.