“The Salvation of man is in love and through love.” Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, 3rd edition 1984, P48
Love can be fun, exciting, scary and enjoyable. It can make the strongest man weak, the timid of us courageous, and most cynical – believers. I heard someone once say (I think it was on a television program), “Love is just a chemical reaction in the brain.” So can we just boil everything that we experience down to just chemical and electrical reactions, or is there more to it than that? Can it be that life preserver in a tumultuous sea, or is it a weight that takes us down to Davey Jones’ Locker?
In Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor retells his story of his time in Nazi consentration camps, namly Auschwitz and Dachau. He was able to hold on to the mental picture of his wife, and even though he did not know if she was alive or not. This kept him alive and gave him motivation to endure the suffering he experienced.
Most of us will never go through that kind of suffering, but do we need suffering to bring us closer to the ones we love? I don’t think that is what Dr. Frankl meant, but it is how he coped during World War II.
He said the “Salvation of Man is in love…” I believe Dr Frankl was not referring to just a chemical reaction in the brain, but a condition of the heart. Man must love, because the opposite of love is hate, and hate was all around him, it was in the air he breathed, the ground he walked on and the very little food he ate. He lived in hate, but love raised him up and brought him through.
Now to the Greeks
The Greeks actually went in depth about the meaning of love. Love to them was not just one word or one idea.
There are seven Greek words for love. Four of them are more well known and what I would consider the top four. Agápe – unconditional love, or charitable love, God’s love (in Christianity) is characterized by agápe. Philia – an affection between two equals: an intimate and authentic friendship. Storge – affection or empathy – like between a parent and their child. Philia – which is a true and authentic friendship. Eros – which is sexual attraction for another. However, eros was expounded on by Plato, who said that eros started out as sexual attraction but could mature and become a love of beauty itself – people sometimes call this Plutonic.
Then there is a lesser known group. Ludus – playful and flirtatious love; this is a no strings attached kind of love. Philautia – love of oneself: which can be self care or vanity. Pragma – which is a committed love – like a marriage that lasts for a lifetime.
So the Greeks would not just say, “I love you.” because it would depend on to whom they were addressing. For instance, you would never feel eros towards your children, philia would not be towards your life partner, etc.
So which version of love is Dr. Frankl speaking about? I believe that the salvation of man needs the five of the seven kinds of love defined by the Greeks. They need the charitable, benevolent love of agápe, the affection of storge, the friendship love of philia and the eros and pragma of their life partner. Dr. Frankl was correct that man’s salvation is in love and through it as well, but in all its definitions.
So John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney were right… All you need is love.