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The Idea Of Love Through The Ages
The Impact of Love on the Concept of Man in Western Philosophy and Theology
Before commencing my lecture on the idea of Love through the Ages, please allow me this personal confession:
As a young man I thought I knew quite a lot about what love is (I think we all did!). By the passing of time, as I now have become an elderly and very tired man, I too have realised how little I really know about love, about life and death, about our human destiny.
What is then to be said about this phenomenon, this wild and unbending energy, so difficult to grasp within a clear and distinct definition, and which we always have referred to with the common word Love?
Let us take as our starting point the high complexity of human life. From this point of view, love has to be described as a quality of similar complex nature, ranging from extreme passion of aetheric-divine or tourmenting-diabolic character to an all-consuming existential suffering. In this connexion I want to remind you of the fact that in the classical tradition they used only one word to describe passion as well as suffering, namely a "pathos", which means that Love explains the intensity in every kind of infernal suffering and bereavement as well as the more life-sustaining, divine moments of joy and happiness. A human life concentrates into a unity, of which love is the most appropriate term, whatsoever we conceive love to be identic with the concept of a personal God or we interprete love to signifie a sort of universal philanthropy, expressed in The Golden Rule, or we may engage our loving lives into a more political solidarity-movement against the repressing forces in society. Superior to all these interpretations is, however, our common experience of Love as the nucleus of a human life.
My allegation is that all views of Man, all alternative beliefs without exemption, are rooted in an idea of the concept of love. Love is the one thing we human beings have in common. It is love, and love alone that finally is the explanation of our basic values. Norms and values spring in their time from our ever so different answers to the question of what love really is. This is the viewpoint from which the historical wandering we now are about to undertake, spring. We are going to examine the historical background behind the different views of Man through the ages, and we are going to challenge each and every view to find the concept of love behind them. Then we may, at last be secure enough to tackle the many alternative views of Man and join forces, across all difficulties, in the understanding of love as the joining force amongst us, the force to unite all humanity and give us a perspective over our common destiny.
A beloved child is, however, given many names! History is filled with examples of rage and hate, when fanaticism or fundamentalism are fighting for monopoly, forgetting that we thus are fighting against the best in us: i.e. Love's presence in spite of everything, in spite of every dogma created by Man, in spite of all beliefs, each and every political and ethnical borderline. Today we are confronted with a kind of worldwide humanism which demands an altruistic respect for human dignity, independent of all differences. The time is overripe when we now see the necessity of going back to the historical sources and scoop up everything that has given history its character of enchantment and devilry: The Ideas of Love through the Ages!
The Idea of Love in the Classical Tradition(Jewish/Greek/Roman):
The Old Testament' shir hashirim(= the greatest among songs, i.e. the Song of Songs') represents, together with the Psalms of David, the utmost within Jewish poetry of love. The sincerity, the sensual language of this poetic work has resulted in an impact far beyond its own cultural origin, and has at the same time been a source and inspiration for western poetry, theology and philosophy of love.
An important period of distribution takes place at the time of the early Roman Empire (1.century b.Ch.). This is the time for the renewal of the great poetry of love in the tradition of Sappho, further developed through Catullus' poems to Lesbia. This tradition is kept alive by the somewhat later poet Ovid, who gathers his elegies on love (Amores) in the poetically charged Ars Amatoria - The Art of Love. Ovid's major work, however, is Metamorphosis - Changes -, consisting of 15 books written in the great style, in hexameters. The theme of this work is the different passages in life and love, the metamorphoses. Amongst the many loving couples described in the different books, the love between Orpheus and Eurydice (10th and 11th book) must be seen as the litterary masterpiece. Their tragic love touches on something of the greatest importance within the western classical tradition of the mystery of love.
The main motive in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is the underlining of the fact that love represents a spiritual mystery both in life and death, a joining force that deepens the relation of the couple and thus first and foremost results in an existential estrangement from all external bonds. The Great Love results in a sort of isolation, of loneliness in relation to all others. Love as an allconsuming, changing force upsets the balance as soon as the couple is a fact. Love's condition in this world is meagre, the lovers will by and by get more and more strained relations to their surroundings. This is most pregnant in the tragical death of the lover/lovers, since love is not of this world. First in death are the two lovers transformed into a truly spiritual existance, something they have achieved by keeping the love alive during the stressfull journey through this challenging world. Liberation is therefore the second great main motive within this tradition of love, where the thematic concern always is the tragical death as a state of transitionending in future spiritual liberty and perfection. Love becomes the main condition for Man's ability to break loose from the harsh and brutal neccessity of the wheel of life. The classical greek philosopher Plato expresses it thus: living is dying, dying is living"(Gorgias 492e). The modern poet Coleridge, deeply influed by the platonic philosophy, has commented this aspect of Love in his small poem: "Reason for Love's Blindness":
I have heard of reasons manifold
The classical-greek myth about the love between Orpheus and Eurydice also has a dominating influence on Ovid's contemporary, the poet Vergil (Georgica, 4th song). It seems as if the lyrical expression at that time reaches its summit in paraphrases on the metamorphoses of love as seen basically in the perspective of love as a mystery of trancendence. This motive falls naturally into the context of the pythagorean-socratic-platonic theory of metempsychosis, i.e. the theory of the transitions of the soul through different physical states of life (plant - animal - human) towards spiritual life with its different stages. This theory is visualized through the butterfly as it liberates itself from its chrysalis, its cocoon, or, more dramatically, through the butterfly as it slips from the clutches of the crab (Cancer!) One should keep in mind that the greek word for soul - psyché -also means butterfly, a double meaning masterly used by our great Norwegian poet of love, Henrik Wergeland, in the stanza:Min Sommerfugl, flyv ind! flyv ind! (My Butterfly! fly in! fly in!) (Sommerfugl=Butterfly). (Den første Sommerfugl, 1837).
It is within this context that the later (2nd C. a.Chr.) platonic carthagean, Apuleius, belongs with his novel about a donkey, Asinus aureus- The Golden Donkey -, or Methamorphosis, as the novel also is known. A comparatively substantial part of this burlesque work dedicates itself to the story of Eros and Psyché - Love and Soul -, a myth wherein all the essential elements of western mystical love is to be found. Plato's two dialogues about Eros-Love,Symposium and Phaedrus seems to be the classical source for this tradition, and it is in this dialogue that the myth of Eros and Psyche for the first time is to be found in its litterary form. It is from this solemn greek-western mystic of love that Apuleius finds the material for his own version of the myth. This myth weaves its dramatical net over the different stages in the metamorphosis of the human soul. When the soul (Princess Psyche) meets love (The God Eros), it (she) is torn loose from and later up above the common human conditions of live. First the Prinsess Psyche is exposed to her own existential estrangement, as she is abducted by Eros who exposes her to the great emptiness, i.e. the fields of loneliness where Psyche may fully learn to love her Eros. Next she has to live and suffer through the loss of love, caused by the many weaknesses of her human nature, until Psyche finally - at the conclusion of the myth - is rewarded for her never failing in her longing for love and a reunion with Eros. At the ending of her life she is redeemed, let into the sphere of the gods, beyond all the metamorphoses of human existence.
Plato is, of course - as already mentioned -, the philosophical source. He created a philosophy upon the Eros-Love, where the main core is the idea of Man's immortality. Aristotle, however, the bright pupil of Plato, did not follow his master concerning the Eros-Love's more ecstatic features. He modifies the Eros-Love into a more humanized Philia-Love (gr. filia = friendship, cfr. 'philanthropy'!), which for Aristotle is the basic category in his political philosophy. The difference between Eros and Philia, Love and friendship, is perhaps most clearly expressed in the French proverb: L'amitié est l'amour sans ses ailes! Lord Byron's translation reads as follows: Friendship is Love without its wings!
The myth of Eros (Amor) and Psyche can also be found in our Norwegian folktales Soria Moria castleand ( more specifically) The White Bear King Valemon. This is, strangely enough, where we find the most explicit traces from the Old Testament's Song of Songs', and the western motive of Eros and Psyche. In the folktale Soria Moria Castle we are confronted with our own Norwegian nature through Askeladden (here called Halvor) who is on his way towards the castle Soria Moria, or - maybe - to the castle (palace) of Solomon on Morija Mountain! This connection as far as is known, had little or no impact on Norwegian research. To see King Solomon in King Valemon the White Bear, seems fairly easy in this context. The Norwegian folktale, however, introduces some new perspectives, apparently in accordance to the Norwegian need for clarification: Firstly, our Norwegian Princess Psyché does not confront Eros immediately. Her fascination is with the golden ringlet in his hand. It is obvious to me that the golden ringlet, with its circular form, is a symbol of eternal, never-ending Love. Secondly, the test which proves that she is the true Psyché is hidden in the two questions: Did you ever sit as softly? Did you ever see as clearly? Contrary to her two elder sisters, who cannot surpass their human condition in their answers: In my mother's lap I sat more softly. In my father's yard I saw more clearly, she has given the right answer: No, never! To which he answers: Then you are the right one!
The structural similarities in the evolvment of the lovetheme in the Song of Songs' and in the classic myth of Eros and Psyche, are easily found, be it in its Greek or Norse form. The Song of Songs' has the same description of the dramatic intensity in the evolvment of the great love between the Bride and Groom. Each stage has its own metamorphosis(i.e. change of nature, not of clothes!) of the different positions of the bride and groom, and each time in such a way as to represent a higher level for the next stage:
A schematic representation of the symbols of love in The Song of Songs'.
1, 1-17:>The natural love. She (as the shepherdess) and he(as
the shepherd) intoxicated by nature: The cedars are the beams
of our house, the rafters cypresses. (1,7).
The Idea of Love in Christian Tradition:
The Christian tradition of Charity is the historical essence of the concept of Care within Western Humanism. In the parabel about the Good Samaritan the Evangelists visualise a new kind of human being, a personality where Love of one's Neighbour is the main core. The Commandment of Charity: Love thy Neighbour, was personified through the historical existence of Jesus and exemplified by Him in the dual commandment of Love included in the Sermon on the Mount (Math. 5-7). This is the basis of the ideal life and love within Christianity.
Almost from the beginning, however, Christianity was divided between two different views of life, namely Christian Pietism and Christian Humanism. The tension between these two views of life is perhaps due to the fact that we through their respective historical traditions are confronted with two different interpretations of the idea of Charity (Neighbourly Love) from which follows two different views of Man. To me it seems of the greatest importance to clarify our view of Man and of Love within the concept of a Christian Philosophy of Care.
The traditional idea of Pietism has its origin in Paulinian theology and Love as Agape (see 1.Joh.4: God is Love (Agape)). St.Paul expresses the early christian Agape-love in one of his most important letters to a community: For the good that I will to do,I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. (Rom. 7.19). In this letter St.Paul confronts the rational ethics of Pre-Christian Humanism, in as much as he underlines the importance of the Christian Dogma of Original Sin. Mankind as a whole is exposed to Evil to such a degree that it overwhelms us and even our willpower, as seen by St.Paul. The Idea of Sin is Christianity's challenging concept of Evil, a concept which defines Evil as a part of Man's nature, of our natural self, and of that alone. Mankind has incurred a responsibility, a guilt from which the rest of Creation in its innocence is excluded.
From this view follows that each and every Man's life is sick as a result of our sinfull nature. God's Agape opens our eyes in such a way that we may see ourselves as defect and perverted beings, but at the same time shows us that we through the same Agape are given a unique opportunity to be cured. Agape is the Lamb who carried the Sin of all Men. Man's only way to salvation lies in confession of sin, in admittance of the fact that but for the Mercy of God, Man would be totally helpless and lost for ever. The Commandment of Charity: Thou shalt love Thy Neighbour, will, within this Agape-context, have å precise meaning: It is this attitude of love which, in contrast to natural love, will give Mankind the strength to conquer its sinfull self by giving Man a new basis for identity in this God's I, Agape, this I who addresses each and every human being as You,. Each single "You" shall love, i.e. shall carry a burden of Love which far exceeds Man's natural sympathies and antipathies, the emotional basic forces of human nature. This is the way from consciousness of sin to charity in the Creed of Christianity.
An essential feature of this view of Man, is ascetisism, i.e. the importance of self-sacrificing work. Based on Christian Pietism's tendency to view Man's natural life-qualities and life-ressources in a negative way, I hold forth that what confronts us here, is a non-humanistic view of Man. The basic value of Pietism is expressed in an attitude which holds that Man, in order to fully love God, has to annihilate his own natural self, Agape defines Man as powerless outside of God's mercy.
This is the essence of Christian pietism, where Agape is defined as exclusive of the idea of Eros within classical humanism. The struggles between heathendom and Christianity in the times of Early Christianity casts it fatal shadows over this controversy. Christianity had, during the first centuries, a fairly radical view of Man, due to the political structures of this period, where opposition to the established ruling institutions became the only way for Christianity to legitimize itself.
As early as in the letters of St.Paul (as mentioned above) can one find the first direct attacs on the classical Eros-culture, wherein a positive view of the natural life-ressources of Man, included the natural love-ressources, serves as the basis for Man's ability to improve and fullfill himself, with the Eros of philosophy as the most refined ressource for education. Love, as Agape, reminds Man of the totally opposite, of how totally lost and powerless Man in his natural stage is, how utterly dependent of God's Mercy, Agape, by which He encompasses Man.
Does this then mean that Man has no possible way of reaching God by means of his own natural life-ressources? This is the question which brings us to the premises for Christian Humanism and reminds us of the fact that the Commandment of Love Love Thy Neighbour, is not complete without the addition - as Thou LoveThyself .
This is the great turning point in the history of Christianity, i.e. in the middle of the 4th century, when Constantinus declares Christianity as a permissible, official religion, whilst his successor declares it as the states one and only true religion. The persecution of Christians is brought to an end and Christianity is established as an official institution within classical culture. This results in a need for a formal, theological legitimity within the Christian movement, and a reconciliation to the classical culture, its institutions and view of Man, and not, as in Early Christianity, in exclusiveness. The question then is: Can Eros and Agape then be united? The result is a Christianized Eros and a Humanized Agape, based on a new theology for a new time: the Christian Middle Ages. The following is based on the thesis of the Swedish bishop Anders Nygren: "Den kristne Kärlekstanken genom tiderna. Eros och Agape." 1947.(The Christian Concept of Love through the Times. Eros and Agape.)
The idea incorporated in Christian Humanism can be traced as far back as to Augustinus (354 - 430 a.Chr.) and to the concept of Man within the theology of Charity. One has to remind that the Norwegian word "kjærlighet" has its origin in the latin word "caritas" (via the adjective "care" , in Old Norwegian "kaer", which in its turn developed into the noun "kaerleikr"). It is the same Latin theologian and philosopher Augustinus who for the first time introduces Charity (Caritas) as a translation of - and at the same time a new interpretation of - the evangelical concept of Agape. The Norwegian translation of Caritas is usually "barmhjertighet" (cfr. the Red Cross motto: Inter arma caritas - "mellom våpnene barmhjertighet", English:" charity amongst weapons), the Norwegian word contains the word for heart, i.e. "hjerte", and thereby represents in an exact way the importance of the human heart within this new concept of Christianity. God speaks directly to the heart of Man, and thus underlines the qualities and importance of feelings and the emotional life. The Christian mystic Blaise Pascal ( middle 1600) expresses this in a pregnant way: Man's heart has its causes, which reason do not know ("Pensees", 423(Lafuma)).
We note that in the Augustinian synthesis of Eros and Agape, Agape nevertheless has priority. But Augustinus has at the same time an important correction of the Agape-theology in Early Christianity by his positiv view of the natural life-qualities of Man.
Thus Augustinus opens his mayor work "Confessiones" ("Confessions") with this bold assertion: You, my God, have created me to Thee and my heart was troubled, untill it came to rest in Thee. (Conf. 1,1). This opening consists, as read by me, of three parts, wherein, as I see it, everything is said:
1) "You, my God, has created me to you, " i.e. Agape. The sentence is quite precise: It is Agape which meets Man, and the relation cannot be the other way around, to remind Man of his true identity. It is God's love for Man, and not vice versa Man's love for God (this is where the Norwegian theologian Helge Hognestad erred and became a heretic!) that is the crucial point in the Gospels' proclamation of Agape as a force of salvation.
2) " ... and my heart was troubled " This is where Augustinus sums up all of his pre-christian youth, - his conversion took place when he was 32 years old! -, with a reference to the Pre-Christian period in his own life when a longing for Eros created a situation of emotional and intellectual unrest, in a troubled soul Augustinus himself was unable to understand.
3) ... untill it(i.e. my heart) came to rest in Thee, This is where we find underlined the concept of the longing for God that is inherent in the heart of Man (my heart was troubled) and forces him towards God. All forms of Christian charitable work will, within the tradition of Caritas, be regarded as Man's way to God, the way by which the creature participates actively in the fullfilment of the Creator's plan for creation. Our Princess Psyché becomes now aware that her longing for Love is in its origin the longing for God, our Creator. Eros is Gods signature in the creature, Man created into the image of God! This gives us the following formula:
Agape (primarly) + Eros (secondly) = equals Caritas!
Within the Caritas-tradition the ideal of self-sacrifice inherent in all charitywork will also find another basis. For the time being the importance of self-preservation, of keeping one's own life ressources alive in order to strengthen the ability of loving one's neighbour. Human care is seen as a creative, life-upholding charitable work, even in situations of utmost need.
From this basis covering the wide scope within the philosophy of Christian Charity, I hope, both having clarified a few historical roots, as well as contributed to a point of view concerning the idea of Charity which will make it very difficult for one profession alone to claim the concept of Charity for its own. This is where each and every profession within the palliative culture finds its roots in a common perspective of neighbourly love, of charity, that surpasses the borderlines of narrow professional identities
But also Charity-love has its contradictions. Charity (Caritas) is in the world of Augustinus the ethical life-ideal which center is to be found in Man's longing for God in his heart: Caritas aedificat (Conf.vii) - "love edifies" - unto God. The opposite longing for love is cupiditas , the love of all worldly sensuality and lust.Cupidois the Latin translation of the Greek Eros, and the classical Eros thus has to be stripped of all sensual pleasures in order to defend his place within the syntax of Caritas.
But this means that the seed for a new times need for consolation is sown. We are now talking about the Renaissance when a new view of Man arises, in opposition to the epoch which by the arrival of the Renaissance , rightly can be called "medium aevis" "The Medieval Age" - The Middle Ages - and which results in a renewal of the interest for the ages before Christ and its view of Man.
The Idea of Love in Renaissance and Modernity:
In the same way, however, that it is impossible for a later historical epoch to copy an earlier epoch, is it impossible to see the Renaissance as a copy of Antiquity. The Eros who played his part in classical time, reminded Man of the fact that the goal for human longing was expressed in the mystery of love, far beyond the conditions of earthly humans. During the Renaissance Eros emerges as Cupido, an aesthetisized and humanized god of love, personified in the sensual cupids in, say, the oilpaintings of Rubens. There the gods of love flutters hither and dither like little, sweet and delicious bits of flesh, in the likeness of small children, who, with red cheeks and sensual, teasing smiles sends their love-arrows into the hearts of Man , causing sweet infatuation and bodily enchantment. One could refer to the title of one of the main works of the philosopher Friederich Nietzshe: Menschliches - Allzumenschliches! They are by far too human. But this in a way also explains why the Renaissance is the epoch of Art above all others.
Like the case of love, so also the political life of the time. Thoughts about the autonomy and dignity of Man are the core of Renaissance-humanism, where liberalism and individualism are the roots from which modern Man springs.
The philosopher René Descartes compiles the new view of Man in the beginning of the 17th century in the formula:"Cogito ergo sum"- " I think, therefore I am." This sentence represents the quintessence of liberalism's individualized view of Man, whereby the I of Man defines itself as autonomus and selfreliant (cfr. Leonardo da Vinci's "Manpower"-figuration, which became the model for the proportions of the new time, with the ideal measures of the human body as an idol), independent of external authorities, be it God or an ideal cosmos of eternal ideas. Man is no longer a micro-cosmos, a replica of the external and higher macro-cosmos, Man is alone on the historical arena, a selfreliant Cogito.
Should we translate Descartes' formula:Cogito ergo sum in accordance with the idea of love which lies behind this view of Man, it would read as follows:Amo ergo sum- I love, therefore I am". This is where we find another and quite essential feature of modernism view of Man. The love which now creates the identity, is a love that is not directed towards any other goal than - Man himself! This tendency is clear allready in the beginning of Rennaissance: Self-love, narcissism, springs fort as the exciting theme. Amo ergo sum - I love, therefore I am - the important ting is to love, and love looses its characteristica of being directed towards an outer object. Man mirrors himself in love, falls in love with love, narcissistic Man has conquered the arena, Narcissus has replaced Eros. A god is replaced by a human being, a child of nature, who, in accordance with the original myth (Ovid's Metamorphosis 3.book) fell in love with his own picture in the lake. This myth becomes a popular theme, especially in the litterature and art of the baroque period. (In painting: Tintoretto, Cellini and Caravaggio) (cfr. the Spanish poet Calderon's play: Echo and Narcissus, 1661.
The Greek-mythical youth, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own picture in the lake, is brought to life by the Roman poet Ovid in his Metamorphosis (book 3). Here we are confronted with the melancholy love's tendency towards self-adoration, a dangerous possibility within the platonic eros.
The love that mirrors itself is the motive behind the myth of Narcissus and Echo (Ovid), stands in direct opposition to the selfaffacing, transforming love behind the myth of Eros and Psyche (Apuleius).
Sigmund Freud sees in narcissisman infantile kind of love which is to be found in the selfcentered child, and but slowly disappears as one comes of age ( On Narcissism,1914) Søren Kierkegaard takes a more positive view of the infantile-narcissistic state, cfr. his analyzis of the page Cherubino in Mozart's opera The Wedding of Figaro (see Either - Or I). The possibility for a positive view lies in the interpretation of the "picture" Narcissus sees, not as a representation, but as an idolization, i.e. he sees his "higher" self.
Related to Narcissus is the mythical Orpheus. Orpheus, however, does not adore himself, but the "other", Eurydice, His formula is: Amo ergo es - I love, therefore you are.
Here we come close to modernity's problematic view of Man: A Man who, torn away from God and cosmos, creates his own sense of reality by the aid of the new forces of power, like the capitalistic monetary economy (whereby the worth of money is defined abstractly - Geld ist nicht mehr Gold (Marx) - "Money no longer equals Gold", a technology which exploits natural ressources, and political instruments of human rights as a safety-net. We come close to modernity's view of Man, a deeply lonesome human being, with angst and estrangement as the new, existential nightmarish experience. One tries different solutions for these problems:
Søren Kierkegaard, the father of existential philosophy, finds the solution in spiritualisation of Man's existence:Subjektiviteten er Sannheten! -"Subjectivity is Truth!" He revitalizes at the same time Lutheran theology with his philosophy of "the existential choices" , where the deciding leap is to choose God based on belief alone. The radical position of Agape-love is Kirkegaards solution, he leaves no room for humanism. He expresses this already in his master's thesis over Socrates, but by means of an aphorism: Likheten mellom Sokrates og Jesus består fortrinnsvis i ulikheten - "The Similarity between Jesus and Socrates consists mainly in the Unsimilarity"!
Karl Marx takes the opposite view and in his philosophy underlines the fact that exploitation, estrangement and loneliness were created by ideology. Only by commiting to solidarity with people of the same destiny, can the class-struggle contribute to the liberation of Man, as well as his love-ressources. Thus both Humanism and Christianity becomes abstract in as much as they are unable to reach the suffering Mankind in a concrete way: Es gibt den Näschten nicht mehr. - " Thy Neighbour no longer exist."
Sigmund Freud's evolvment of the theory of psychoanalysis seems to be a true product of our time.
In combination with the principle of lust, sexus is introduced as the basic instinct of the soul (libido), in Sigmund Freud's psychoanalyzis. The theory of the sexual urge has a central place in his psychoanalyzis untill 1920. (An important work is Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexual-Theorie,, 1905,"Three Thesis on Sexual-Theory")
Later on (after 1920 Freud introduces an instinct of life, Eros, which in the end will include the original sexual- and self-upholding instincts. Eros becomes the force which upholds and unites, and sexuality is only a component. The instinct for life will find its opposite in the death-instinct (Thanatos), the basic destructive force of human existance. (More about this development of Freuds theory is to be found in Jenseits der Lustprinzips, 1923.)
This brings us to the end of the road of our search for the idea of love through the ages:Eros - Filia - Agape - Caritas - Cupiditas - Amor - Narcissus - Solidarity - Sexus ... . They are all representations of a timeless demand which has followed the historical life of Mankind as the frontispice of love:Respect for Human Life! Perhaps we should express this even stronger? Respect is something we owe every kind of life, not human life exclusively. Our wanderings both inwards and outwards throughout the historical lovelife of Man, have, however, revealed a dimension over human life, which, in opposition to every other kind of life, underlines the assertion that Man is an unique lifeform, qualitatively different from all other lifeforms, for better or for worse. We should, perhaps, therefore be looking for other and more adequate expressions for our obligation to human life. Maybe the time has come to wipe the dust from the vocabulary of earlier times:Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben- Awe of (human) Life? The word "Ehrfurcht" comsists of two words, honour and fear, which in a precise way reminds us of the fact that Man both is to be honoured and feared, that his life has dimensions we should be wary of banalizing. The word exposes the height of fall in human life with its intense passion and suffering. Awe of Man - for better or for worse - in his dramatic lovelife.