The Faces of Love-Affection

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This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote in 2017 comparing and contrasting two book by C. S. Lewis, “Till We have Faces” and “The Four Loves.” Both books address the complexity of love, one is imaginative and the other propositional. I used the essay as a basic for my YouTube Videos this week as I discussed the Advent theme of love. This is the first of four posts from the essay.

Love is a universal subject for writers, artists, and musicians both past and present. However, current media often presents love as sex and sex as love.  Social media creates a new expression of love through the click of a button on a smartphone.  Commercials for sexual enhancement and performance products appear on prime time television.  Sex is no longer taboo to prime time television rather the more sex, the higher the ratings.  Relationships change daily on Social Media with a single entry.  Our attempts to define love devolve into meaningless memes on Social Media that reflect our attempt to oversimplify the complexity of love. While engaging the hurried, hurt confused and often angry skeptics of our current culture presents a significant challenge, adding Devine Love to the equation increases the difficulty. Somehow, we need to slow down, take a deep breath and turn off the smartphones long enough to experience and understand the complex subject of love. Fortunately, C.S. Lewis was a master of slowing down the hurried mind with profound, provocative and engaging writing. In keeping with his style, Lewis offers two books that address the subject of love in unique yet complementary ways, a propositional work, The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces, a rewriting of the Psyche and Cupid myth.  While in The Four Loves, Lewis adapts four Greek terms to present a propositional explanation of love, he brings the terms to life in Till We Have Faces by drawing the reader into the experience of the characters. While each book eloquently depicts love’s complexity, the rational approach to defining love found in The Four Loves and the imaginative approach of Till We Have Faces enhance each other to provide a complete understanding of the nature and complexity of love thereby, providing a some insight for those struggling to understand love and all its complexity.

Lewis clearly expresses the difficulty of defining love when he begins The Fours Loves with, “God is love,” says St. John. When I first tried to write this book, I thought that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad through the whole subject. “[1] He soon discovers the complexity of the topic and begins the internal conversations that ultimately lead him to the four terms for love: Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity adapted from the Greek terms Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. Even so, Lewis does not stop with the four terms; he also includes the terms Need-love, Gift-Love, Appreciative Love as methods of expressing and receiving love. Lewis describes each term in detail, providing metaphorical and imaginative examples for each throughout the remainder of the book. Without reading Till We Have Faces, the reader of The Four Loves would have a basic understanding of each term, butthe mythical tale provides added insight and understanding for each term.

          Beginning with Affection, we see how the imaginative style of Till We Have Faces, breathes life into the description presented in The Four Loves, thus enhancing the reader’s understanding of the term. In The Four Loves Lewis describes affection as “a mother nursing a baby; … a cat with a basketful of… kittens;” [2] In a similar manner, through Lewis’s description of Orual’s first encounter’s with the infant Psyche,  “I soon had the child out of their hands. I got for her a nurse a free woman, a peasant’s wife, as honest and wholesome as I could find, and after that, both were in my own chamber day and night…I lost more sleep looking on Psyche for the joy of it than in any other way,”[3] we experience mother-daughter Affection through the eyes of Orual, Psyche’s surrogate mother.  We readily accept the level of affection expressed by Orual for Psyche because the language takes us into the bed chamber with Orual to gaze upon the beautiful Psyche through Orual’s eyes. Orual’s experiences become our experience.

To Be Cont’d…


[1] C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1988), 32.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, (Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1984), 21.

[3] Ibid.