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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