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ISBN/ASIN : 0006280897
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Release data : 05 June, 2002
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Every kind of love and how to sanctify them
In the introduction, Lewis discusses the differences between Gift-love and Need-love. He explains that although our Need-loves may be demanding and greedy, they are good and necessary because there is little danger that they can be made into gods. They are not near enough to God, by likeness, to be twisted like that. The highest does not exist without the lowest and a plant has roots below as well as sunlight above.
Chapter 2: Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human, is a discussion of Pleasures of Need versus Pleasures of Appreciation. The types of love explored here include patriotism and love of nature. The next chapter: Affection, deals with the humblest love as Lewis calls it. He refers to literary works like The Wind In The Willows, Tristram Shandy, Emma and others to demonstrate the good and the bad manifestations of this kind of love.
Friendship is explored in Chapter 4, again with reference to literature, including inter alia Ralph Waldo Emerson. This section includes an interesting discussion of the word "spiritual" - which is nowadays often used as substitute for "religious". Lewis reminds us that there is spiritual evil as well as spiritual good. The next chapter deals with Eros and he points out its aspects of glory and its playfullness, with reference to books like Anna Karenina and 1984, and certain passages from scripture.
The final chapter is titled Charity and includes an interesting view of a passage from the Confessions by St Augustine. Lewis notes that the Gift-loves are natural images of God whilst the Need-loves are correlatives (not opposites) of the love that God is. When God is admitted to the human heart, He transforms our Gift-love and our Need-love. Conversion is necessary for our natural loves to enter the heavenly life.
The main lesson of the book is the importance of Charity. Without it, all three of the aforementioned types of love may become distorted and even dangerous. Although this little book provides great insight, I have not found it to be as accessible as his masterpiece Mere Christianity or his comforting book titled The Problem Of Pain.
Sometimes his arguments are hard to follow and his views and examples of certain types of love are coloured by the English culture of the period in which he lived, thus not always universally applicable. The book would also have been a better reference source if an index had been included. Besides these minor comlaints, The Four Loves is still a great read that provides valuable insight into the human condition.
I initially bought this book out curiosity and a desire to read something outside my academic work. However, now as I read the book, what I am getting is a real deep insight into 'the four loves', something that as human we all want, acquire and at certain points in our lives just need. In dividing love into four main areas; Charity, Affection, Eros and Friendship, Lewis shows how all these are interrelated, their beauties, dangers when handled wrongly and in the Christian context ordained/created by Love Himself.
What this book discusses is nothing new, yet the tremendous insight into which CS Lewis gives is invaluable (especially as a young person in a world where, it can be argued that love has lost meaning and reduced to mere physical lust.) Thus in reading this book, what the reader is really getting is something that s/he knows to be truth but never contemplated.
Beautifully written and often comical with his examples (usually literary), CS Lewis, in this book does really offer inspiration and fresh perspectives on love which is truly worthy of the attention of any reader, regardless of age, gender or religious beliefs.
Clear sighted and big hearted
A younger C S Lewis, before his own experience of love and marriage, could not have written 'The 4 Loves'. First published in 1960 this book marries Lewis' highly developed rational faculties and his passion for the revelance of theory to experienced reality. Humbly he digs at the roots of love: what's the difference between loving surfing, Monet's "haystacks", your brother, your best friend, your partner, or God? Lewis identifies archhuman patterns and causality in each of these areas and draws a distinction between loves as gift, love as need and love as appreciation.
His most valuable contribution lies beyond his classification of the hearts mechanics. Firstly, he clearly reveals some of the complexity of love; For instance he asserts, and explores too briefly, that love as gift can be love as need when we need to give. Secondly, the dynamic boundaries of the classification are traced: why deep friendship between man and woman can become "being in love", for instance. This slim volume wipes rather than scratches the surface of these movements and changes. Thirdly, the unmasking of loves pretenders preoccupies Lewis. Their resemblance commands our attention but their shortfallings are our undoing, why love without context, as a god devours its disciples. All this territory is surveyed in Lewis' familiar and convincing style of popular philosophy. Yet here he is more human and at least as clear sighted as in his other work. Although never mentioned explicitly the experience of his marriage to Joy Davidman waltzes and weeps between each line trailing the authority of love and grief understood and at rest. This book is so rich and contemporary; only on occasion, in its choice of subject matter, does it sound like a forty year old work.
My only criticism is its length. A mere 140 pages. This subject would not have been covered in three times this acreage. Its a sip, a taster, and I'm left wanting more. Less of an exhaustion; more of a door ajar with a world yet unwritten on the other side.
Whether or not you're a Christian, or an apologist The 4 Loves has much to offer. It's an ideal antidote to the rash of romanticism, pragmatism and pessimism that seems to be our current cultural climate for this most vital subject. Lewis touches all these areas, and yet rises above to claim higher, overarching truth as to our being.