The most important thing to understand about love is that it is a giving - an opening of your heart to someone or something beyond you.  And in giving love, you receive it in return.

The statement "love makes the world go around" is profound, while at the same time it can be seen as a cliche (or even as banal).  It's usually used in the context of a new romantic love.  At such times, our view of the world is radically altered.  Everyone seems friendlier, even more loving.  The reality is that this is due to a change in our own (personal) way of seeing the world.


A Deeper Love

The essence of the deeper forms of love resides in our care for another, and in wanting the best for them.  The 'other' of the deeper forms of love is most commonly our 'significant other', our partner, the one to whom we feel a special bond.  But mature love extends far beyond that.  {Put this next sentence at the end?}  Mature love expresses itself to everyone, to all creatures, and to all of existence.

Certainly, the deepest and most meaningful experiences of our lives are those where love and connection are foremost.  It's as if we act without volition - without conscious action - as if something 'outside you' takes you into a space where you have no choice.  It's a form of surrendering of the identity-self for something bigger, where one's own ordinary needs and wants become secondary.


The Multiple Shades of Love

Pitirim Sorokin, in his book The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors, and Techniques of Moral Transformation by (available from (from http://www.amazon.com/Ways-Power-Love-Techniques-Transformation/dp/1890151866 ) refers to love in seven shades:

1) the religious shade of love - love as transcendent presence,
2) the ethical shade of love, as goodness itself,
3) the ontological shade of love, as a unifying, integrating, harmonising, creative energy or power that works in the physical, organic and psychosocial worlds,
4) the physical shade of love, where physical forces unite, integrate and maintain the whole inorganic cosmos in endless unities,
5) the biological shade of love, evident in procreation and parental care,
6) the psychological shade of love, where the loving individual tends to merge with and identify itself with the beloved Other,
7) the social shade of love, love as a meaningful relationship between two or more persons, where the aspirations and aims of one person are shared and helped in their realisation by other persons.

Other descriptions of love include caritas, philia, storge, xenia, and agape and Eros.

In the Christian tradition, caritas, or 'charity', is the greatest of the theological virtues, expressed in Latin as Deus caritas est or 'God is love'.  This love represents an unlimited loving-kindness towards all others, often referred to as Universal Love.

The Greek meaning of philia relates to friendship in its various forms, which include friendships of shared enjoyment, and friendships based on character - the appreciation of the good in the other.  In other traditions, Philia refers to our human interconnectedness with all peoples, and with all living things.  Agape can be similar in meaning, but sometimes refers to love of God.

In Greek, storge also called familial love, expresses natural affection, such as the love of a parent toward a child, and the cherishing of one's kin, especially parents.

Xenia is the Greek concept of hospitality, or generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home.  It is often translated as "guest-friendship" (or "ritualised friendship") because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host.  Guests too had responsibilities, extending beyond reciprocating hospitality.

Beyond these, a most striking example of love is found in the selfless acts of bravery, often in wartime, where someone acts with little regard for their personal safety to rescue another.  Such selflessness is a sign of our higher nature.

Finally, but not least, is Eros, which can be seen as erotic love, as the physical shade of love (4 above) and as biological love (5 above), but Eros has meaning even beyond those descriptions.


Conclusion

We've touched on the vastness of love in its multiple manifestations.  All are wondrous.  We'll refer to agape and Eros later, when we discuss love as part of the mystery underlying existence itself.

In the meantime, whatever our beliefs, if we are (unconditionally) loving in all of our actions, we are affecting those we encounter in a way that lasts beyond our own lifetime.  'Being loving' is contagious.  In that way, our essential nature is 'reincarnated' (or resurrected) in the hearts and minds and lives of others.