The three forms of love: Eros, Philos, Agape

Paulo Coelho

In 1986, when I was on the road to Santiago with my guide Petrus, we passed through the city of Logroño while a wedding was taking place. We ordered two glasses of wine, I prepared something to nibble on, and Petrus discovered a table where we could sit down together with the other guests.

The wedding couple cut an immense cake.

“They must love one another,” I thought aloud.

“Of course they love one another,” said a man in a dark suit sitting at our table. Have you ever seen anyone get married for any another reason?”

But Petrus did not let the question go unanswered:

“What type of love do you mean: Eros, Philos or Agape?”

The man looked at him without understanding a word.

“There are three words in Greek to designate love,” Petrus said. “Today you are seeing the manifestation of Eros, that sentiment between two persons.”

The bride and groom smiled for the cameras and received compliments from the guests.

“The two seem to love one another. In a short time they will be fighting alone for life, establishing themselves in a house and taking part in the same adventure: that’s what makes love grand and dignified. He will pursue his career, she probably knows how to cook and will make an excellent housewife because since she was a little girl she was brought up to do that. She will accompany him, they will have children and they will manage to build something together, they will be happy for ever.”

“Al of a sudden, however, this story could happen the other way around. He is going to feel that he is not free enough to show all the Eros, all the love that he has for other women. She may begin to feel that she has sacrificed a career and a brilliant life to accompany her husband. So, instead of creating together, each of them will feel robbed in their way of loving. Eros, the spirit that joins them, will start to display only his bad side. And what God had meant to be man’s most noble sentiment will begin to be a source of hatred and destruction.”

I looked around me. Eros was present in many couples. But I could sense the presence of Eros the Good and Eros the Evil, just like Petrus had described.

“Notice how odd it is,” continued my guide. “Despite being good or bad, the face of Eros is never the same in all persons.”

Tomorrow, the second form of love – Philos – will be published here.

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  1. Heimo Kruschinski says:

    I love this section of the book. It is a wonderful description of a mystery. The love between man and woman. This love can be incredibly beautiful and incredibly destructive. I have recently discussed this subject. Before you get into the evil kind of love you must go. That’s my opinion, everything else will result in nothing, or to misfortune. But perhaps it would be better not to let it get that far. You can talk to each other, and I mean not chatting. Talk, really talk. This lets you avoid many things. Many couples know the TV program better than her partner. This applies to everything, even sex. This is ridiculous, but true. With my wife I want to share all my thoughts, my feelings and my Eros. If my partner can not go my way with me, then you have to split up, hard as it falls. I envy anyone who has not to make this decision, just when you have a child. I will never forget the immense pain that we had to prepare our daughter when we told her we get a divorce. But sometimes it is so and it was the right way.

    “Notice how odd it is,” continued my guide. “Despite being good or bad, the face of Eros is never the same in all persons.”

    That must be respected. But I must not tolerate everything. As long as it harms no one, it is absolutely ok.

    I wish you all a wonderful night

  2. Jami says:

    In my opinion Eros is the only form of love, when speaking of a long term relationship, that can not exist independantly of the others. If all three don’t exist in a marriage of 2 people Eros alone will destroy it . People can and do have Filos and Agape eternally, while Eros can burn its self out almost immediately.

    1. dan says:

      The English word erotic is derived from the Greek word eros. That kind of love will never last because it is based on feelings and emotions that will wane when the youthful attractions end. Agape is the love of the mind and will – unconditional love that will go on forever whether you feel like it or not.

  3. Monika says:

    Love is a cocktail with a changing amount and number of components – its taste can be distinct and individual. But however the mixture is, it is ever inebriant.

  4. A puzzling mystery. OH it’s giving me a headache just thinking about it! lol

  5. Love, oh sweet love… tragic at best sometimes, bliss at others.

    Generalizing about anything, Is, a generalization, never an absolute in every case. So too, with love, specially with love I think.

    Love, helps to shape many things in humans, starting from infant to teenage, adolescent, etc…

    The absence of that loving energy, creates it’s own consequences. Affecting Intelligence, learning ability, and so on and so forth.

    Especially emotional maturity.

    Sex and love, they go hand in hand.

    But sometimes, that love is found in sex, when all else fails.

    Sometimes sex, is Only an expression of mutual mature Love.

    To each it’s own… Every person experiences life differently because they have seen different things, experiences, different forms and affections of love, starting from home.

    Therefore, everyone must walk their own path. If love with a person doesn’t work out, it wasn’t the right one, the right time, the right circumstance, perhaps something needed to be learned, perhaps a result of our thoughts, created the situation, so we can see and get messages and signs. The lovers, even though loved, were not, on the same path, wavelength, oh I don’t know, the possibilities are endless.

    This one’s an enigma.

  6. Liina.L says:

    Thelma, I agree with Your last sentence. The living dead. I had been that way for a long time because I was afraid to love. Sad but true. But now things have started to grow different for me over the last couple of years.

    All best,
    Liina L.

  7. […] The three forms of love: Eros, Philos, Agape Paulo Coelho In 1986, when I was on the road to Santiago with my guide… […]

  8. Cristina says:

    This is one of the passages I like the most in The Pilgrimage.
    Love is everithing, but, in order to understand Love, we always need to identify categories.

  9. THELMA says:

    ‘Have you ever seen anyone get married for another reason?”
    I think that 99% of people get married for any other reason except from EROS!! Then marriage ends up to be a prison and a battlefield!

    I know exactly the meaning of EROS [¨Î•ÏÏ‰Ï‚], FILOS[ Φιλία, Friendship], and LOVE, AGAPE [ΑΓΑΠΗ].

    I am married to the same person for almost 39 years. I belong to the big, big, traditional Greek family! My life has always been conventional. To be a mother comes first.. Half of myself is happy and the other half has always been unfulfilled and … miserable. I had many different opportunities of .. breaking the rules, but logic has always wun. Logic and dignity. Destiny is what governs our lives. When we are young we are governed by our emotions. Growing older we start mastering them. Love teaches us the way.
    EROS is a hurricane, a storm, a source of immense happiness and at the same time of complete disappointment and loneliness.. What my opinion is? Without Eros we are living … dead!

  10. munrocea says:

    it is sad that money and love should ever dance together.

  11. austere says:


    Savita- thank you.

  12. Ca says:

    Querido Paulo,

    Bom dia!!

    Amei este assunto!! Acredito que Eros tenha seu grande lado positivo, faz aprender a amar, conceder, incondicionalmente. Mas aprendi também que o amor verdadeiro nunca fara vc abandonar seus sonhos, nunca tentara tirar de seu caminho, de sua missí£o. Isto ní£o amor, é egoismo… Fazemos inumeras concessíµes em nome do amor, e isto é maravilhoso, porque a partir do momento em que vc ama uma pessoa as coisas que até entí£o eram as mais importantes pra vc e que vc colocava como prioridade na sua vida ní£o tem mais tanta importí¢ncia que viver bem e seguir em frente com a pessoa amada. Nossa civilizaí§í£o nos ensina que a mulher é a que sempre deve sacrificar a carreira para se dedicar a vida domestica, a educaí§í£o dos filhos, etc. Acho isso ultrapassado. Embora concorde que ha certas tarefas que cabem a mulher de cumprir, acredito que o amor verdadeiro ní£o pode fazer vocíª abandonar seus sonhos, ao contrario, ele faz vocíª se aproximar mais e mais de sua missí£o pessoal. Aprendi que amar ní£o é abdicar de meus sonhos, de minha vida, de minha carreira… amar ní£o é submissí£o… amar ní£o aceitar oque quer que seja que o outro te faí§a… Amar é respeitar a liberdade de ser do outro e respeitar a sua liberdade tb, seus desejos, seus objetivos. Ja cheguei a pensar que colocar o outro antes de qualquer outra coisa na vida fosse amor, isso me fez sofrer mto, mas tb aprendi mto… Hoje sei que o amor nunca fara com que eu abandone meus sonhos, ao contrario ele me fara sonhar ainda mais, ele me impulssionara pra correr atras do que eu quero pra mim. Duas pessoas que se amam caminham juntas no amor, ní£o ha um que seja mais importante que o outro, o homem ní£o é mais importante que a mulher, a carreira do homem pode ser mais importante no sentido monetario, pois o homem normalmente ganha mais do que a mulher em todas as profissíµes, mas a carreira é muito mais do que o salario… é sua missí£o, sua realizaí§í£o… e o amor verdadeiro nunca fara que vc abdique de sua missí£o, de sua lenda pessoal. Cabe a nos sabermos tb oque podemos e devemos fazer em nome do amor, pra ní£o termos o risco de nos arrependermos mais tarde, ja que a nossa vida e as nossas decisíµes sí£o de nossa total responsabilidade.

    Tenha um otimo dia Paulo!!

    Um grande abraí§o meu pra Cristina…
    e outro pra vc!!!



  13. Laudy says:

    Oh! the glory of love!
    Nothing better than the feeling, right?

    I don’t believe that love ever fades. You can find love in each and every person we meet on a daily person. Although some people are extremely passionate (like me) and others like to hold back.
    Only some people are destined to be together, like soul mates (I loved Brida!) maybe.
    Perhaps the person I met and spent 3 years with, for whom my love grew deeper each day was not the person that made my soul happy and complete, and therefore we both, mutually decided that we need to continue our own journeys. I still love him, but not enough to give up my dreams and end my journey to be with him, and I would never accept that for myself.
    Then I met the man, whose eyes I looked into, and saw myself, I saw all my love returned…. but he was on his own journey, so, as Fatima did, I sent him off with a smile :)

    Love always comes back to you – just when the universe thinks you need it mos ;)

    Can’t wait for the Agape story – that’s my favourite – I love how the Greeks say: agapimou… :D

    Love Laudy

  14. Roberta says:

    Lado mal de Eros?

    Ní£o acredito.
    Talvés o lado mal de Eros seja na verdade o oposto. Nos privar-mos
    do amor, de amar, puro e simplesmente.
    A fidelidade é conviniente, é egoí­sta, politicamente correta.
    Estou há 12 anos casada, fisicamente fiel.
    Mas quantas vezes me perdi em devaneios adúteros?
    E hoje, penso…porque me privei do amor?
    Eros foi mal comigo?

  15. orly says:

    love love love,,, all u need is love,,,,
    we can love in many ways- and all kind of names…..
    we can love our partner even the partner is not perfect (nobody is perfect!!)
    but if we know respect- if we go into the chalenge- the sparkle once in a while- and so many 100000 other issues in our life with our partner… we can have a wonderful life togoether!!!
    and i think the most important is to know the FORGIVENESS_
    once we learn to forgive— we might even be happppppier!
    ill wait 4 tomorrow’s post
    love to all of u
    btw i am married almost 36 years with the same man!!!!!!!

  16. nouran says:

    that’s why I think people should choose carefully the people they love and not sacrifice things for them because feeling robbed slowly will rise the bad form of Eros and make you forget the love you feel towards that person

  17. Daniela says:

    I had read before about the 3 forms of love, I’m still waiting for Eros to come into my life!

  18. Savita Vega says:

    Time apart, personal space, privacy, the mystery that comes with these – this is the only formula I can think of that might (at least in my case) save Eros from turning into a nasty monster, or otherwise simply growing cold and dying from hypothermia.

    In the spring of 1987, I got married, and although our marriage lasted only a year, I think we were blessed in that we never once lived together under the same roof. It might seem ridiculous to call that a blessing, but looking back upon our relationship now, I truly believe that it was. He was in the military, stationed some three-hundred miles away, and I was in college, intent upon my studies. Every weekend we took turns making the drive back and forth. One weekend I would drive the six hours to be with him – he had a small house off the base – and the next weekend he would drive up and stay with me in my condo in Dallas. I don’t remember ever in my life enjoying my weekends and my leisure time as much as I did in that period. We truly relished the time that we had together. Every hour, every minute that passed between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon seemed a treasure, and we wasted not one second of it.

    I remember that I would always complete all of my homework for the next week, even if I had to stay up all night on Thursday, to have it finished and out of the way before arrived. Likewise, he would do anything, whatever it took, to insure that he got weekends off, even if that meant volunteering for extra duties during the week, or working nights on guard or in the supply room, in addition to his regular daily routine. And the drive on Fridays – it was always a six-hour frenzy of growing anticipation, waiting for the moment I finally pulled up in his driveway. Or, in reverse, I would spend the whole of Friday afternoon preparing for the moment of his arrival: cleaning the house until it was spotless, until not a cushion was out of place, lighting candles, preparing his favorite meal. And all of this with enormous joy in my heart. Similarly, he would often bring gifts. Not expensive things – we couldn’t afford that – but small treats, little things that he knew I liked and enjoyed. For example, he would often arrive with tickets in hand to a concert that he knew I had been wanting to see.

    All in all, it was like living a dream in a sense. Our marriage did not work out, we did not stay together, but it was not due to boredom, a sense of drudgery, love dying from too much togetherness. There was a routine, but that routine gave us space. We each had our own air to breathe, room to grow and experiment and become, time to fully commit to our own individual hobbies and interests and aspirations. And, as well, there was that one key element – mystery. It seemed that even after a year of marriage, we still wanted each to know more of the other – all of the questions had not been answered in full – we were still curious.

    The reason for the breakup is really beside the point – it had nothing to do with distance, or with our not living together. The point is that I still look back upon that situation as a sort of ideal (at least for me). I am a very intense person, especially in a relationship. I actually crave intensity, and there is no way to maintain the sort of intensity that I crave when two people are staring one another in the face day after day. I don’t want to know too much about my mate. I want the mystery, at least in some form and to some degree, to remain forever. Rather than thinking that I know him better than anyone else in the world, rather than declaring that I know all there is to know about him, I would prefer to keep just a little distance between us, just enough to keep me on my toes, always awed by how he has grown and changed and become something more, something better, than he was yesterday or last week.

    I think the only way to allow for that kind of growth is to give one another space. And this does not mean that I would never want to share the same roof with my partner. But I would like separate beds – even separate bedrooms. And ideally, two homes, maybe two distant countries to call home. I’d like to share a little in this space, and share a little in that space, spend at least some time completely apart each year, each of us doing his or her own thing, and then meeting again to share in the splendor of a love that never grows old, and intimacy that never fades and gives way to boredom, a sense of unity and wholeness that does not require we be chained ankle to ankle for the rest of our lives.

    And so that is what I think of Eros and his peculiar fickle temperament – occasional distance and a little space takes the lion out of him and renders him a kitten, purring happily, ever content, on the lap of the loved one.

  19. Gillian says:

    I recently completed the Camino de Santiago and it was an experience that allowed me much time to think and explore myself. I chose to take the less-traveled Coastal Route and I couldn’t be happier that I did. I read The Pilgrimage prior to my trip and I brought it along with me. As you know, on the camino you only carry what you need. I carried your book as it was a source of strength and inspiration for me on my journey. I simply wanted to thank you for sharing your experience. It is a book I will reread many times.

  20. Anya says:

    How strange to find these words on the three manifestations of love today! I was just thinking of them in connection with my own love story with my husband. I discovered that to benefit from this union to the maximum, one must allow Eros, Philos and Agape to intertwine. Had I loved him with only Eros, we would have grown apart for the very reason you stated above- Eros wants you to be free to share your love with as many people. But the other two make love complete and steady(in my case)

  21. Irina Black says:

    Eros-what’s diffears us from angels und make us down to earth.

  22. luce says:

    When I think of Love I think of trinity: Eros, Philos and Agape all in one LOVE


  23. Lies says:

    I am not in love at the moment because I am afraid to be too jalous. It goes together. When I fall in love, I am like a mother lion that protects her children. I hate this feeling but when I am only thinking of loving somebody I already look otherwise to other women. In stead of being cosy with my women-soulmates, I see them in the first place as a threat. I can not live with this evil site of eros in myself.

  24. Lili says:

    True reveals in front of me!

    I am somehow experiencing the bad side of Eros but deep inside my heart I love my husband because he is a great man! but such a sacrifice I have made in the name of love leaving my beloved country, my family, friends and my career to join an exciting adventure that marriage is in a hostile country that I am still don’t feel as mine.

    I don’t think destruction may be the case. Right now I am looking to find some balance and opportunity because love is still there and you cannot give up when the obstacles come.

    Let’s see what forms of love Philos and Agape are!

  25. Monika says:

    Love is a cocktail with a changing amount and number of components – its taste can be distinct and individual. But however the mixture is, it is ever inebriant.

  26. Alexandra says:

    Love is a mystery,and even if I know that well,at times I try to search the reasons for my feelings towards a person.The feeling is always strong in the beginning,and,I think,the secret of ever lasting love is to fall in love again and again of the same person.Is possible that with time we discover in our mate new things that amaze us,in a good sense.I am still trying to see clear in that matter,but maybe one never know for sure why and what is really going on in that sensitive field that is Love.

  27. munrocea says:

    Love surely is a miracle ;o)