1-A brief Historical Definition of Pure Love
Pure love was given many names in Middle and Far Eastern religions and ancient Greek philosophies. In Hindu, it is called prema and means an elevated love, a sacrament. It preaches that one gives up selfishness. It is loving without expecting anything in return. Krishna the Hindu highest deities and Radha his closest worshipper and who is also worshipped along with him, call for this kind of love. In Buddhism, Metta requires benevolence, kindness and good will for everyone including one’s enemies. In Skhism, Waheguru is one of the most important truths to instil virtue in people. In Christianity God is love, and unconditional love is a requirement for everyone and the highest of virtues: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Deut. 6:5. Also, in Mark 12:31 “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In Greek philosophy: Agape is the highest form of love. It is based on charitable kindness and unconditional love which transcends the physical reality.
In Neuroscience: A team of Neuroscientists (Beauregard and colleagues) wanted to conduct studies on unconditional love based on Neuro – Imaging. They first needed to describe this concept of unconditional love, providing the following definition:
(…) distinct from the empathy and compassion constructs. Empathy is commonly deﬁned as an affective response that stems from the apprehension of another’s emotional state (e.g., sadness, happiness, pain), and which is comparable to what the other person is feeling (Eisenberg, 2000). This affective response is not unconditional and does not involve feelings of love. Compassion refers to an awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the desire to alleviate that suffering (Steffen and Masters, 2005). In contrast to compassion, unconditional love is not speciﬁcally associated with suffering.
As we can see, in order to avoid looking at all the locations in the brain, concerning other types of love, the team had to consider unconditional love as different in essence from all the rest. And so, they came up with the above definition!
2-My First Conclusion
So, what do I regard to be pure love?
To define pure love, I need to explain the terminology of purity and impurity in chemistry; in basic structural substances such as water and metals.
According to Nathan Crawford (a PhD chemist), “Pure substances are made of only one type of atom or molecule. The measure of whether a substance is pure is known as purity. For example, pure iron would only contain iron atoms, and, pure sugar (in sugar cubes) would only contain molecules of the substance called sucrose.”
Crawford also explains that purity in itself would influence the properties of a substance. He says: “Pure substances exhibit very well-defined physical properties.
In pure solid: The temperatures where pure solids melt (known as melting points), are particularly sharp, meaning the melting occurs at a single temperature.
In pure liquid: The temperatures where pure liquids begin to boil, or boiling points, occur at single temperatures when other factors, like air pressure, are controlled.”
Personally, I think the best example of purity and impurity in liquid is water. Pure water is composed of two atoms of Hydrogen and one atom of Oxygen, joined together to form a molecule of water (H2O). Anything added to this is called impurity. When we add chemicals – like chlorine to tap water for example (to kill bacteria), or when other rare organic contaminants such as pesticides, phosphates (from Algae) remain, water will still taste like water (especially if you don’t have sharp taste buds), but in reality it’s no longer pure water but instead, it becomes a water solution. In order to know what is water, we have to look for it in many environments and find out its properties, then deduce what is it that makes pure water, and what are the varied elements that could add themselves to water to turn it into a solution and give it that impure state.
Similar to what we saw above with substances, love could be seen as pure or impure.
Pure love is displaying one type of emotion, unified in structure and consistent in nature (properties), derived from one particular source in the brain (please see physiological love in the third page). This emotion can be generally described as positive, and it is rewarding to its host because it is a by-product of a mixture of primary healthy brain chemicals which the brain recognises as good. Although we are talking about a chemical structure in its base, love in essence is a pure feeling. This again can be compared with pure water that although it constitutes a mixture of Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms in its base, it is in fact one unified molecule of pure water. The closest definition to pure love is that of unconditional love.
Impure Love: The adjective impure here does not carry any subjective, pejorative description. Love in its impure form, is tangled with other emotions and urges such as friendly love, mixed with the desire for intellectual or social gratification, romantic love, mixed with sexual desire with a slight hint of low self esteem, over protective love, mixed with parental feelings in an already anxious brain environment and over possessive love, mixed with the feeling of insecurity, etc.
When contemplating the difference between pure and impure love, we are suddenly hit by the recognition that love is, in essence, one, and that its apparent plurality comes from its impurity and its combination with other pure elements, to give way to even more complex molecule-emotions all unfortunately classified under the same name, “love”.
Therefore, pure love in my opinion is the same sentiment found in all types of love (with various degrees), but which doesn’t equal any of them. For example, pure love is found in maternal love, when looking at the affection that a strong person would feel towards a fragile creature that is in desperate and continuous need for him/her. Pure love is also found in maternal love when there is that sense of belonging and bonding.
However, it is minus the feeling of pride that we may experience when looking at our child’s outward appearance or achievements, or when looking at them as our heirs and an extension of ourselves.
This unconditional love could also be seen in discipleship. Peter/Simon held this unconditional fiery love for Jesus. Nevertheless, his love before the resurrection was too patronising (based on slight pride; knowing what is best for Jesus), slightly abrupt and immature (involved fear, anger, and other mixed emotions).
So in reality, to experience pure love for someone, we need more than to feel neutral or to be civil. Even our perception about who we are with regard to the subject is different in acceptance than it is in love. In the first, we start from a natural reaction of being above the subject, and try to lower the gap between our perception of the self and of the subject until the two sides of the equations are balanced. The maximum achievement in this approach is literally a cold hearted acceptance. Whereas in pure love, we start from a mental prerequisite that we are not only equal with the subject, but that we are parts of the same unit. It is this sense of familiarity and belonging that sends our empathetic and compassionate activities in the brain soaring high and adds warmth within us and into our relationships with the world around us.
To conclude, pure love has the same essence as maternal love in its pure form with the ability to transcend family love to include a wider range of people who are not blood relations. It is the ability to feel for people as if they were our own fathers, brothers and sisters, and to feel for other people’s children the same way as we would for ours, at least when interaction is taking place.