A Wiccan Grove

December 18, 2008

The 5 Dimensions of Love

The 5 Dimensions of Love

As we all re-learned from the sad headlines last year about pedophile
clergymen, preaching love doesn’t necessarily mean practicing it.
Indeed, plenty of people profess a love of humanity, then act
selfishly and hypocritically. So what does it really mean to be a
truly loving person?

There are five basic dimensions to love, according to Pitirim Sorokin,
a pioneer in the study of love who established the Harvard Research
Center in Creative Altruism. In his recently re-published 1954
classic, The Ways and Power of Love (Templeton Foundation Press,
$24.95), Sorokin explains five measurements of love:

Intensity: When a person preaches love, but doesn’t follow it, the
intensity of love is near zero. Low-intensity love is offering your
seat on the bus to another person or giving a “reasonable” donation
for years to a community fund. High-intensity love is freely giving up
what’s most valuable to you–sacrificing one’s life, for instance.
There are many degrees of intensity. between high and low.

Extensity: This ranges from zero–loving oneself only–to loving all
of mankind. For instance, people might love their family, a few
friends and a close group of colleagues, but care little for those
beyond this universe. The extensity of their love is very low,
although its intensity might be quite high.

Duration: This can range from a moment to a lifetime. For instance, a
soldier may save a comrade in a moment of heroism, but then revert to
selfishness. Whereas enduring love is seen in a mother who cares for a
sick child over many years. Romantic love, by the way, is generally
short in duration, said Sorokin.

Purity: Love which asks for nothing in return is pure love at its highest.

Adequacy: This occurs when the result of love is ennobling. Love that
spoils a child, for instance, has adverse consequnces. Love that
builds character and value enhances life.

Is it possible to score high in all these five dimensions of love? The
greatest altruists—such as Jesus and Buddha— achieve 100 percent
across the board, according to Sorokin, while people who are neutral,
“neither loving nor hating…occupy a position near zero.”

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