The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

What Is Love?

February 11, 2022

This time of year, the stores in the United States are filled with Valentine’s Day chocolates, flowers, and love-themed greeting cards. People celebrate their bonds of friendship and love as a special, warm-hearted feeling toward one another. But what is love in its highest sense?

Rudolf Steiner reminds us love indeed unifies people once separated. Love is possible when, through Christ, we gain victory over the evil and selfishness in ourselves:

Originally … men were in a state of union, then of separateness as a consequence of the Luciferic principle which promotes selfishness, independence. Together with selfishness, evil came into the world. It had to be so, because without the evil man could not lay hold of the good.

When a man gains victory over himself, the unfolding of love is possible. To man in the clutches of increasing egoism Christ brought the impulse for this victory over himself and thereby the power to conquer the evil.

The Deeds of Christ bring together again those human beings who were separated through egoism and selfishness. True in the very deepest sense are the words of Christ concerning deeds of love: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

See Love and its Meaning in the World (GA 143)

From separation to oneness—through the power of love—humankind journeys back to a state of wholeness through Christ and the Holy Spirit. In this powerful esoteric exercise, Dr. Steiner encourages us to shine the godliness of our souls, received from the Godhead, out into the world:

In pure rays of light gleams the Godhead of the world
In pure love for all beings streams the godliness of my soul
I rest in the Godhead of the world
I will find myself in the Godhead of the world.

See Esoteric Lessons 1904-1909

As love flows through us, the spark of God within us streams out to the world.

Steiner further teaches an act of love isn’t performed to earn something in the future. Acts of love bring no reward. Rather, we pay off our debts with everything we do out of love.

By everything we do out of love we pay off debts. From an occult point of view, what is done out of love brings no reward but makes amends for profit already expended. The only actions from which we have nothing in the future are those we perform out of true, genuine love. This truth may well be disquieting and men are lucky in that they know nothing of it in their upper consciousness. But in their subconsciousness all of them know it, and that is why deeds of love are done so unwillingly, why there is so little love in the world. Men feel instinctively that they may expect nothing for their “I” in the future from deeds of love. An advanced stage of development must have been reached before the soul can experience joy in performing deeds of love from which there is nothing to be gained for itself. The impulse for this is not strong in humanity. But occultism can be a source of powerful incentives to deeds of love. See Love and its Meaning in the World.

Christ’s incarnation and the Mystery of Golgotha paid the debt of humanity with the biggest sacrifice of all, thereby enabling humanity to continue a spiritual path of evolution as intended. In Love and its Meaning in the World, Steiner refers to the deeds of Christ— the Divine Deed of Love—as the ultimate act of love toward humanity:

The Divine Deed of Love flowed back upon the earthly world; as time goes on, in spite of the forces of physical decay and death, the evolution of mankind will be permeated and imbued with new spiritual life through this Deed — a Deed performed, not out of egoism but solely out of the spirit of love. Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus — Through the Holy Spirit we live again.

The world will be healed and redeemed by our individual acts of love. Steiner continues:

Our egoism gains nothing from deeds of love — but the world all the more. Occultism says: Love is for the world what the sun is for external life. No soul could thrive if love departed from the world.

Love is the “moral” sun of the world. Would it not be absurd if a man who delights in the flowers growing in a meadow were to wish that the sun would vanish from the world? Translated into terms of the moral life, this means: Our deep concern must be that an impulse for sound, healthy development shall find its way into the affairs of humanity. To disseminate love over the earth in the greatest measure possible, to promote love on the earth — that and that alone is wisdom.

With this in mind, may we recognize Divine love in our daily lives. May the Holy Spirit shine within us and through us to our fellow human beings. May the godliness of our souls stream forth in pure love for all beings.