Science in Christian Perspective



Psychological Anthropology's Neglected Concept: Love
Associate Professor of Anthropology
Geneva College
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania 15010

From: JASA 32 (December1980): 215-224.

The anthropologist Ashley Montagu asserts that love is "man's most important behavior" (1975). Yet in both theory and research, ethnologists in general and those pursuing psychological anthropology in particular have neglected almost completely the concept while emphasizing negative and aggressive models for personality and culture study. This essay assumes that human beings have a potentialfor "creative altruism" (Sorokin) or love if the concept is extractedfirom romantic misconceptions in favor of definition by psychologists, sociologists, ethnologists, philosophers, and theologians. When conceived as human ability (as procured through enculturation) to become empathetically concerned in promoting welfare to benefit others, the concept escapes the "instinctual" and sexual excesses in Freudian thought to emerge as a motivational base for both understanding personality in society and culture with sensitive potential for developing effective vehicles in applied or "action" anthropological projects in cross-cultural situations.

As an early and eminent scholar in psychological anthropology, the late Ralph Linton may have established a rather unfavorable precedent for such study with his brief interpretation of love. In his single indexed reference to love in the classic text, The Study of Man (1936:174-175), he offers what has been wittingly or unwittingly a view emulated in succeeding research and writing which limits analyses of love to sexual dimensions (undoubtedly under the Freudian shadow), or to disparaging amusement about the romantic excesses as stereotyped by Hollywood.

It is probable that with his somewhat sneering observations about love, Linton was unaware that an ancient nonWestern people, the Hebrews, carried "romantic love" to such a high pitch that its expression found its way into their sacred texts, as for example:

How beautiful you are, my love! How your eyes shine with love behind your veil .... How beautiful you are, my love; how perfect you are! (Song of Songs 4:1,7 TEV)

Nor were ancient Hebrew concepts of love always "romantic" as between man and woman. As a matter of fact at that early period we are informed that one love situation exceeded heterosexual love in depth and intensity with this emotional appraisal by the soon-to-be-crowned King David:

I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan; how dear you were to me! How wonderful was your love for me, better even than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26 TEV).

This essay seeks to remind ethnologists that there is a disturbing hiatus in both theory and research in psychological anthropology. This hiatus can be "posed sharply by this question: Why has love, which can be regarded as a basic motivational factor necessary for understanding human behavior common to diverse cultures, been minimized in cultural research or even ignored? Empirical evidence, in spite of this omission, makes imperative that this motivational force in various forms be recognized in cross-cultural research with a quest for cognizance about human behavior and the nature of man. This imperative is unusually clear in a world that finds people with contrasting cultures increasingly involved in crosscultural experiences. The attending acculturational effects usually include tensions that might be avoided or at least ameliorated significantly when members of one culture affectionately empathize with members of contrasting cultures. The nature of love as defined in this essay is postulated to be a critical concept for studies in psychological anthropology. To be succinct, this essay's premise is that love is as essential in understanding crosscultural personality differences as are the much more commonly proposed aggressive features and associated negative interpretations of human nature and cultural characteristics.

The Ethnological Omission of Love

It is indeed surprising, even puzzling, to discover that most ethnological writings give little or no attention to the love concept however it may be defined. And one can peruse through volume after volume devoted to general or introductory texts in anthropology completely devoid of any index reference to the subject. The same obtains in practically all ethnographic monographs. Perhaps few anthropologists equaled A. L. Kroeber's comprehension of ethnological materials in his time-he was considered the "Dean of American Anthropologists" -but if one examines his classic introductory text, Anthropology (1948), one finds in the chapter, "Cultural Psychology," only incidental comments as:

Everyone agrees that physiological sex impulses underlie love and marriage . . . Even below the level of socialized culture, psychologists long since realized that the erotic psychic life of individuals varies enormously according to the conditioning and experience to which they have been "posed, and that only the simplest denominators of the [love] phenomena can be explained by the organic sex equipment (1949:578).

Today we ought not be content with such abbreviated suggestions, interesting though they may have been and often shared by contemporaries, for such passing glances at what seems to be a basic motivational force in behavior deserves extended investigation.

A survey of current introductory American anthropology texts reveals the conspicuous omission. In examining 132 texts that are most commonly used in America for introductory students, we discovered that only one provided a single index reference to love! Even more telling in terms of this essay is the failure of writings in psychological anthropology to offer insights into what must be in some form a universal behavioral factor within any culture. One may seek with resultant frustration for some analyses of love in psychological anthropology as pioneered by Malinowski (1927), Sapir (Mandelbaum, 1956), Benedict (1934), Mead (1939), Linton (1945). or Hallowell (1955). There is a startling avoidance of extended and cognizant effort in that early genre which provides only rare notices.

To continue our survey, we find that whether one scans the more elementary college-level texts in culture and personality as those by Barnouw (1973) and Honigmann (1954, 1967), or the more advanced texts in the field by Wallace (1970) and LeVine (1973), the absence of love as a behavioral concept is striking, even though contrasting concepts such as aggression, stress, and hostility are commonplace. Incredibly, with comparable omission, the Chinese anthropologist, Francis Hsu, who has devoted much research and prolific writing in psychological anthropology, makes only incidental references to love in his many works (e.g. Psychological Anthropology, 1972.)

It is of course possible to document this neglect in research and writing about the love concept, however conceived, by others in psychological anthropology. Likewise the omission of the subject is obvious in related disciplines such as psychology and sociology except, as one may well anticipate, in specialized treatments involved with courtship, marriage, and family. Even in most such studies, it must be noted that the approach by most social scientists is usually limited to erotic considerations that cast the concept almost wholly in a sexual matrix of meaning. This conclusion leads us logically to exploring definitions and characteristics of the love concept, for only as psychological anthropologists gain greater sophisticated cognizance of this motivational force will they be able to engage in cross-cultural research to determine its presence or absence as a personality component.

Toward a Definition of Love

It goes without saying that some identification of something significant in human behavioral phenomena is the logical beginning point for further research. This identification becomes a compelling imperative if the thing to be studied suffers from either multiple or elusive characteristics, or popular and romanticized usage. Both of these problems attend our effort to identify and define love. But we must make an effort to so understand the concept that it can provide operational means for increasing knowledge about human personality and nature. Undoubtedly it is wise to set the psycho-biological stage first for the love phenomenon, that is, to review a classic  ethological and psychological study conducted under controlled laboratory conditions. 

Why has love, which can be regarded as a basic motivational factor necessary for understanding human behavior common to diverse cultures, been minimized in cultural research or even ignored?

The Views of the Psychologist, Harry F. Harlow 

In his compendium, The Practice of Love (1975), Ashley Montagu introduces Harlow's article entitled "The Nature of Love" with this telling comment:

In this contribution Professor Harlow gives an illuminating account of his famous experiments on the nature of love. His opening comments draw attention to "the apparent repression of love by modern psychologists," and he might have added, also by other scientists. As for politicians, it is a matter of record that when Professor
Harlow received a grant from a government sponsoring body, the matter was raised in the U. S. Senate, where the idea of money being spent for research on such a subject as love was greeted with laughter and derision . . . Professor Harlow, whose work represents the pioneering, fundamental, and classical scientific study of man's
most important behavior (1975:17
Italics added).

From laboratory experimentation with rhesus monkeys, Harlow identified five major interactions which he labeled "affectional systems," all related, overlapping, and built one upon the other. The intertwined systems are: (1) Maternal love, or the love of mother for child, which is the earliest of affectional interactions. This behavior is derived from more than nursing or feeding, as was once believed, but especially on tactility in physical contact. (2) Infant, love, that of child for mother, is an affectional system that complements the stages of maternal affection. In response to mother's care and protection, the infant desires to be physically close. (3) Age-mate affection is the love of peer to peer. This originates at about the time the baby is separating from mother. Since mother begins to discourage clinging as time passes, it appears natural that growing babies turn to one another for physical contact. Through mutual exploration and play activities they learn cooperation and organization. 

(4) The heterosexual affectional system rests on age-mate sociologist, passions that have been triggered by the hormonal changes at puberty. Accompanying behaviors depend to a large extent on previous systems; any romance must be based on trust, acceptance of contact, and sex-role indentification. Again Harlow emphasizes that these are responses that evolve from antecedent interactions. (5) Paternal love seems to be the final affectional system, one that is con cerned with protection and enculturation. While maternal love is deeply rooted in innate biological tendencies, this  may not be true for males. In many cases, the paternal ser vices. and relationships are behaviors learned through con tact and association with mother. Paternal affectional behavior tends to differ, therefore, from culture to culture, though in general a loving father contributes greatly to a his child's intellectual growth and maturation (Harlow, 1971).

Harlow has been criticized, perhaps rightly, by social scientists for indulging in some reductionism with his interpretative anthropomorphisms, that is, he ascribes human attributes to nonhuman animals. He admits to this tendency, yet in defense he insists that since a similar laboratory" is not likely, his findings can be used with caution for application by observation of some actual human interactions as the mother-child dyad, or the sibling situations.

It seems therefore that there are manifestly biological components basic to any definition of human love despite strictures that may be directed toward Harlow's studies and similar efforts. However serious study of love must ever at tend the sociocultural dimensions offered in psychological anthropology. In other words it is imperative to recognize that both biology and culture are at play in the origin phenomena characterizing humans who are born with a potential only to be realized by learning. Admittedly Ashley Montagu makes excessive claims for the sociocultural experience, but he has emphasized, correctly we think, the critical importance that the enculturational process bears upon love as human behavior. He reasons that being human depends upon the conditioning process tranforming innate potential or capacity into realization or ability. To Montagu, love is as much a possibility for the infant as is speech, for in either case the ability to love or to speak must, be achieved through enculturation (1976:235-236).

Pitirim Sorokin's Altruistic Love

Few social scientists have devoted as much thought and persistent energy as has the distinguished Russian-born sociologist, Sorokin, to the problem of how to use the  power inherent in man's potential to love in order to make human beings less selfish and more creative. While directing the Harvard Research Center in Creative Altruism, he ominously announced:

I came to the conclusion that if individual human beings, groups and cultural institutions in general did not become notably more creatively altruistic, nothing could save mankind. Popular prescrip tions, such as political changes, religious changes, and education as a panacea against war, won't do it. This century, in which science and
education have reached unrivalled heights, is the bloodiest of all the  twenty-five centuries of Greco-Roman and European history (Krich, 960:260).

A central concept in Sorokin's "law of polarization" in his altruistic thought runs contrary to the Freudian claim  that calamity and frustration uniformly generate aggression and hostility in mankind. His views also challenge an old conclusion, reiterated by the famous historian, Toynbee, that adverse experiences lead uniformly to the moral and spiritual ennoblement of human beings. What the law of polarization postulates, in Sorokin's thinking, is that,  "human depending upon the type of personality, frustrations and misfortunes may be reacted to and overcome by positive  polarization, resulting either in an increased creative effort

(he cites the cases of Beethoven's deafness and Milton's blindness) or in altruistic transformation as in the instances of St. Francis of Assissi and Ignatius Loyola. On the other hand the adversities may induce negative polarization in the shape of suicide, mental disorder, brutalization, increase of selfishness, dumb submissiveness, or cynical sensualism. Sorokin believes that this works both individually and collectively. This is the basic assumption underlying Sorokin's survey of the "manifoldness" of love out of which emerges the possibilities, even probabilities, of altruism (1968). 

When explaining "altruistic love," Sorokin insists that love is like an iceberg in that only a fraction of it is visible but even this exposed segment is little known. Still less understood is love's transempirical component, its religious and ontological forms. As he attempts to "plain this somewhat enigmatic force in human behavior, he asserts that love appears to be a universe inexhaustible qualitatively and quantitatively. In order to continue his ontological struggle with the love concept, he follows along a path in his thinking that leads him to identify the following categories (1954).

(1) To Sorokin the religious aspect of love is linked with God, the highest value in the Christian and other great religions as in Islam and Hinduism. Since God is believed to be the absolute value, love participates in God's absolute value. And since God is an Infinite Manifoldness, love is also qualitative and quantitative infinity. As such it cannot be defined by any words or concepts; at best these can be only symbolic indicators of the infinite cosmos of love. By identifying this love as supernatural to be represented only symbolically, Sorokin infers that this category cannot be essentially biological but cultural with psychological responses and implications in behavior. 

To consider love in a religious category, Sorokin finds himself confronted by no less than three general conceptions of love which have pervaded oriental and occidental religious, philosophical, and ethical thought: love as Eros, love as Agape, and love as a synthesis of Eros and Agape. Certain typologies treating the two first forms see Eros and Agape as direct opposites: Eros is human and "selfish" while Agape is divine and "selfless." Sorokin, however, finds that the oriental as well as the occidental ethicoreligous and philosophical conceptions usually combine Eros and Agape in positing the way of salvation and the achievement of love at its highest and best. Personal effort reinforced by the grace of God is considered the only real way to accomplish the purpose of human fulfillment.

In essence then, Sorokin's proposed synthesis of Eros and Agape goes something like this. Properly understood, self-centered love, as an effort by man to liberate himself for attaining his real and divine self, must seek to reach union with God and God-centered love. Thus man's effort with Eros finds divine grace or Agape in this endeavor; these two are linked in all true systems of love, oriental and occidental, though some systems stress the Agape, and others the Eros.

(2) Ethical love is Sorokin's second category and is to be identified with goodness itself (Sorokin seems to see "goodness' in functional sense as "suitable" off "desirable" for those involved). Love is thus viewed as the essence of goodness inseparable from truth and beaulySince these definitive terms are value-laden, Sorokin, the sociologist, believes that all societies find common agreement or a marked degree of consensus as to what appears most beneficial to that group. Concisely, Sorokin maintains that real goodness is always true and beautiful; pun truth is always good and beautiful; and genuine beauty is invariably true and good. Of course the social scientist may accept such assertions as being allowable only to artists and novelists, but certainly not for scientific rigor in serious research. We may do well, however, to remind ourselves that Ruth Benedict and others in psychological anthropology proposed that the humanities and the arts ate not to be shunned in the quest to understand personality in the cultural context.

(3) To Sorokin, the ontological aspect of love is, in alignment with truth and beauty, one of the highest forms of a unifying, integrating, harmonizing, creative energy at power. Obviously this view is a direct challenge to the Marxian conflict model of society. Love is conceived as a cohesive quality or energy that operates in the physical, the organic, and the psychosocial worlds. Without the operation of love energy the physical, the biological, and the sociocultural cosmos would disintegrate; no harmony, unity, or order would be possible; universal disorder and enmity would reign supreme.Moreover Sorokin argues that as a creative energy of goodness, love unites what is separated, elevates what is base, purifies what is impure, and enables what is ignoble. Love raises man as a biological organism to the level of divinity, infinitely enriches the human self, and empowers humanity with much greater mastery over the inorg . C, organic, and socio-cultural forces. Love, in consequence, is the universal creative force that counteracts evil. Love replaces the struggle for existence by harmonious unity and mutual aid. Its constant endeavor is to make the whole universe one harmonious cosmos.

(4) The physical aspect of love according to Sorokin's scheme is what relates it specifically to the inorganic world. That is to say, the physical counterpart of love in the inorganic world is reflected in all physical forces that unite, integrate, and maintain that inorganic world in unity. This cohesive energy begins with the tiniest unity of the atom to end with the whole physical universe as one unified, orderly COSMOS.

(5) Sorokin's biological aspect of love is that energy that manifests itself in the very nature and basic process of life . He concludes that this mysterious energy, sometimes called elan vital or "vital energy," unites various inorganic substances into a startling unity of a living-unicellular or multicellular-organism. The life of the cellular entities depends upon "biological love energy." Perhaps Sorokin would suggest that the classic example of this energy at play is at the moment of human conception when the two gametes of male sperm and female ovum unite to form the zygote, the imperative in natural reproduction.

In essence then to Sorokin, the cooperating or "love" forces are biologically more pronounced and vital in normalcy than the competitive or antagonizing forces that tend toward disintegration in life. Clearly in Sorokin's logic life itself is not possible without the operation of the biological counterpart of love energy; it is imperative for the survival of the species. The implications for human behavior and personality normalcy or mental health are readily apparent for studies in psychological anthropology.

(6) When considering "the psychological aspect of love," Sorokin views the experience of love as a complex consisting of emotional, affective, volitional, and intellectual elements. Its qualitative forms are expressed in such terms as empathy, sympathy, respect, adoration, friendship, and other similar words. These conceptual terms are of course in sharp opposition to hatred, enmity, envy, jealousy, and like expressions. Sorokin insists, rightly in our opinion, that love as a psychological experience is altruistic by its very nature; whereas the opposite experience of hatred is inherently selfish. In its maximal realization, love (a) is the experience that annuls our individual loneliness, (b) constitutes a life-giving force (thus negating suicidal possibilities), (c) produces beautification for fife and its perspectives, (d) eventuates in what may be called noble and good in life, and (e) in experience means freedom at its loftiest attainment (that is, to love is to act freely without compulsion or coercion from without oneself).

In reference to this last experience, Sorokin proposes that fearlessness and freedom inherent in love equate with power. Such a loving person cannot be intimidated, hence there is nothing in this inner "coiled-up energy" to be wasted by internal conflicts and external friction. The final result is that the love experience is equivalent to the highest peace of mind and a persistent serene happiness in personality.

(7) Sorokin concludes his categories of altruistic love by affirming that in the social love experience there is a meaningful interaction-or relationship-between two or more persons where the aspirations and aims of one person are shared and aided in their realization by other persons. While expanding about altruistic love on the social plane, this Russian-born sociologist, with grim concentration camp experiences in earlier years still vivid in memory, pleads for a "positive emphasis" among social scientists in their research and interpretations. This "evangelistic" fervor that accompanies some of Sorokin's writings finds him accusing many social scientists, and undoubtedly this means most psychological anthropologists, of being unwittingly immersed philosophically in negative presuppositions.

Let us pursue this charge a bit further. In our "sensate" culture, Sorokin deplores the social scientific predisposition to concentrate on the pathological traits and conditions in societies and cultures. He charges that this pathological

In examining 132 texts that are most commonly used in America for introductory students, only one provided a single index reference to love!

cynosure in the study of behavior reveals itself in a proliferation of various "debunking" interpretations of man, culture, and values: mechanistic, reflexcilogical, biological, materialistic, behavioristic, and others. These interpretations have deprived man and his cultures of values and ethos, of everything divine, supernatural, or human. To Sorokin such perspectives equate man and his ways of life, and supporting postulates, with atoms, electron-protons, reflex mechanisms, reflex organisms, the libido, and so on. The manifestation of this pathological bias in behavioral sciences which concentrates on a study of the negativistic in human life and actions, and the reluctance of scientists to study the positive types of Homo sapiens and human relations, are most deplorable to Sorokin (1950:3-4).

De Rougemont's Philosophical View on Love

Sorokin, in his analysis of altruistic love, becomes involved in what are clearly humanistic or philosophical interpretations of love 'as a key human behavioral component such as we have already noted. However, he does not allow the philosophical dimension to eliminate or overshadow his conclusions as a social scientist; therefore it seems appropriate to give attention to a more thoroughly philosophical stance in defining love. Here we find numerous writings, so selectivity is made more difficult. With some reservations we choose the thinking of Denis de Rougemont as presented in what some regard as a classic statement, Love in the Western World (1966). Here he seeks to describe the inescapable conflict in Western culture between passion and marriage. His analysis therefore is not merely a probe into love per se, but it is an attempt to correct erroneous views about it and marriage. His conclusion is that marriage in Western culture is threatened in part by inextricably linking marriage with romantic love or a "passion" completely dependent on sexual attraction and experience. In de Rougemont's words: Western culture "will have to recognize that marriage, upon which its social structure stands, is more serious than the love it cultivates, and that marriage cannot be founded on a fine ardour" (1966:vi).

In disentangling marriage from love, de Rougemont examines carefully the distinction between "Eros" or "Boundless Desire" and "Agape" which he identifies with "Christian Love." He notes that the Platonic love concept is a "divine delirium" with eros as an "ecstatic state" which removes the experience from reason and natural sense. But de Rougemont offers his argument with felicitous expressions that warrant quoting:

Eros is complete Desire, luminous Aspiration, the primitive religious soaring carried to its loftiest pitch, to the extreme exigency of purity which is also the extreme exigency of Unity. But absolute unity must be the negation of the present human being in his suffering multiplicity. The supreme soaring of desire ends in non-desire. The erotic process introduces into life an element foreign to the diastole and systole of sexual attraction-a desire that never relapses, that nothing can satisfy, that even rejects and flees the temptation to obtain its fulfillment in the world, because its demand is to embrace no less than the All. It is infinite transcendence, man's rise into his god. And this rise is without return (1966:64).

In sharp contrast, de Rougemont finds "Agape" or "Christian Love" to be the supernatural God intervening in human life ("incarnation" or "God with us") to introduce a radically different orientation toward the supernatural, others, and self. This act of intervention is conceived as being the essence of love or "agape." The Person of Christ is in this view the Incarnation of God and the event is uftique (1966:70).

The essence then in this philosophical and mystical presentation is that "agape" love enables the individual to engage in not only the "desire" but also the "doing" to alleviate unfavorable conditions experienced by others. The " needs" served in such love are not merely for physical survival but also-and here the view bears directly on psychological anthropological study-for a psychological state of peace and equanimity irrespective of adverse sociocultural circumstances and experiences. This agape love thus provides a paradigmatic triad that is deemed essential to the "abundant" or "fulfilled" life: an attitude with action toward the supernatural (the theological parameter), toward others (the sociological parameter), and toward the self (the psychological parameter).

While preparing this paper, I chanced to scan Raphael Patai's recent book, The Jewish Mind (1977), to discover that he identifies at the core of Jewishness something akin to de Rougemont's attributes, which are of course directed at the Christian influence in Western culture in so far as he understands love. Patai cautiously disclaims that his presentation represents a single personality type for the Jewish people, but his assignment to understand just what enables a people to retain certain distinctives, including behavioral patterns, in diverse cultural systems through millennia forces him to establish some enduring value system or ethos for the Jews. In answering his own question "What Is the Essence of Jewishness?" Patai writes:

The common denominator in these distillations of the essence of Jewishness, except for the earliest one which was partly ritualistic, is that they all insist on moral qualities only, nothing else ... A Gentile could join the Jewish community by accepting the Jewish morality.

Hillel's [Ist Century Jewish sage] formulation of the essence of the Tora is ... but a recasting into negative form of what in the Bible itself appears as a positive commandment: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." It is remarkable, and characteristic of the direction of the development of Judaism took in Talmudic times, that it was this -commandment which was considered "the whole Tora," rather than the complementary one which imposes theduty of amor dei: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might." This second "Thou shalt love" is, incidentally, part of the Shma prayer whose daily recitation has been a religious duty for Jews for at least two thousand years. The two commandments of Judaism ... (1977:9).

The relevance of this citation from Patai is that, im psychological parlance, the behavioral components provide commonality or identification to a people centered with emotional supports in a love for the deity and for others; at least that seems to have been the ideal maintained by the imposition of the law and obedient response. Of course this Jewishness distinguished the people from the Gentiles which is usually the category where most Christians are to be found. But it is remarkably significant that de Rougemont finds much in that Jewish essential, namely love toward God and toward mankind, to give rise to what he concludes to be the ultimate explanation for agape and eros; this to distinguish the basic idea from the sexual encumbrances derived from exaggerated Freudianism or the romantic cynosure in Western culture. If one may simplistically consider a culture's ethos as the "ought" in respect of the individuals to others within a cultural system, the psychological implications of love are obvious indeed.

Maslow's Ideas on Love and Mental Health

Psychologically oriented anthropologists invariably give attention to mental health problems which, it is commonly postulated, arise to some degree from sociocultural circumstances. Commonly the better texts in culture and personality studies devote a chapter or two to what Barnouw, if we may cite his work as an example, labels "Culture and Mental Health" (1973:405422). To appreciate this psychological orientation, we may seek pertinent information from the psychologist Abraham H. Maslow. He expresses amazement to discover how little the empirical sciences have to offer on the subject of love. And he finds it particularly strange for psychologists (and undoubtedly he includes ethnologists who pursue psychological studies cross-culturally) who neglect what he believes is to be expected as a basic obligation. Here are some rather biting comments:

Sometimes this [omission) is merely sad or irritating ... More often the situation becomes completely ludicrous. One might reasonably expect that writers of serious treatises on the family, on marriage, and on sex should consider the subject of love to be a proper, even basic, part of their self-imposed task. But I must report that no single one of the volumes on these subjects available in the library where I work has any serious mention of the subject ... And yet our duty is clear. We must understand love; we must be able to teach it, to create it, to predict it, or else the world is lost to hostility and to suspicion" (Montagu, 1975:90 Italics in the original).

After he admits to the inherent difficulty confronting those seeking to study love, Maslow argues that the core in descriptions of love must be subjective or phenomenological rather than objective or behavioral. Such reasoning confirms what we have cited from de Rougemont's philosophical interpretation earlier in this paper. However Maslow suggests that, even though one cannot communicate the full quality of the love experience to one who has never experienced it (I wonder how many of us in psychological anthropology have experienced agape love?), the desire for intimacy is both physical and psychological with certain effects that can be observed and even provide empirical data. Maslow's major thrust has to do with love's relationship to or bearing upon the matter of health, especially mental health or what he would identify as "normalcy." Let us at the risk of some misrepresentation summarize what seems to be Maslow's basic ideas:

(1) "Self-actualizing love relationships" makefor mental health in that these human interactions reflect an absence of defenses accompanied by increasing spontaneity and honesty. In other words, love is impaired less by the feeling that a person is not appreciated than by a dread, more or less dimly felt by everyone, lest others see through one's mask, the mask of repression, that has been imposed upon one by society and culture. It is this that causes the person to shun intimacy, to maintain "friendships" on a superficial level, to underestimate and fail to appreciate others lest they come to know the individual too well.

(2) Maslow contends that to be healthy mentally one must develop both the ability to love and to be loved. In such a view we are reminded of Ashley Montagu's conclusion which emphasizes this essential trait; that is, individuaIs in any culture, by the very fact that they are Homo sapiens, are born with both the capability (potential) to love and the need to learn to love (ability) in order to be fully human; this clearly infers what is imperative for psychological health. Among those who have provided empirical data to support this required behavioral characteristic for health, John Bowlby has convincingly demonstrated the need in his research dealing with maternal deprivation and associated phenomena (1966).

(3) In relating sex to love in mental health, Maslow contends that sex and love can be and most often are completelyfused with each other in healthypersons. He is not saying that sexual pleasure is impossible apart from love; it is his understanding that the two are quite distinct behavioral phenomena. His evidence leads to the conclusion that the fusion of the two usually characterizes the mentally healthy person. To restate this, he clearly infers that when the individual is characterized by only one of the two, the result commonly leads to maladjustment. In essence this argument charges Freud with confusing the two or failing to recognize that there are at least two forces of love potentially at play in the individual. Maslow's view is that to those in mental health sex provides whole-hearted enjoyment; that is, it can be an ecstasy far beyond the possibility in the average person, yet simultaneously it is not a cynosure in the philosophy of life. This significant idea is reminiscent of D'Arcy's thesis which holds that erotic and agapean love are fundamentally distinct and different but the two merge in personalities enjoying mental health (1947).

(4) Maslow finds that care, responsibility, and the pooling of needs are essential to mental health. This inclusion means that a good love relationship rests upon what may be called need-identification, or when the pooling of the basic needs' hierarchies of two persons fuse into a single hierarchy. The effect is that one person feels another's needs as if they were his own and for that matter also feels his own needs to some extent as if they belonged to the other. An ego now expands to cover two people, and to some extent the two people have become for psychological purposes a single unit, a single person, a single ego. Those familiar with the biblical account of origins might recall this union of two, Adam and Eve, as stated thus: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united with his wife, and they become one" (Genesis 2:24 TEV).

(5) Fun and gaity, says Maslow, should characterize the healthy person in his love relationships. He points out that even such advocates of love for mankind as Erich Fromm (1947) and Alfred Adler (1958) stress productiveness, care, and responsibility, but they omit the important aspect in a healthy love relationship: namely, fun, merriment, gaity. To enjoy mental health is to have love that is cheerful and playful. It is not primarily a striving as Fromm implies; it is basically an enjoyment and a delight, which is another thing altogether.

(6) Maslow emphasizes acceptance of the other's individuality, which posits respect for the other, as a basic element in lovefor mental health. The love for a person implies, not the selfish possession of that person, but the affirmation of that person. It means granting to his' unique manhood or to her unique womanhood this characteristic gladly, not with suppressed reservations or reluctance. While it is impossible to respect a person without loving that person, mental health always means that to love a person is to respect the person, especially in terms of that personvs potential response.

(7) To Maslow, love always leads to what he calls the "end-experience".- admiration, wonder, awe. Hence the love that characterizes mental health may be described in terms of spontaneous admiration and the kind of receptive and undemanding awe with enjoyment similar to what we experience when encountering an art masterpiece or majestic mountain scene. A significant implication in this observation by Maslow is that it contradicts effectively most theories of love, for many theorists assume that people are driven (a form of cultural determinism) into loving another rather than being attracted (exercising individual volition) to love. In short, healthy love involves one in an overwhelming awe, an aspect of human Being as well as human Becoming.

(8) Within a personality marked by healthful love, Maslow proposes I 'detachment and individuality- I' To suggest that a person identifies or empathizes with another in a love relationship and then to say a healthy personality maintains detachment and individuality seems to posit a paradox. Not so, however, states Maslow, for the fact appears to be that the individuality is strengthened, that the ego is in one sense merged with another, but yet in a complementary sense remains separate and tas strong as always. The two tendencies, to transcend individuality and to sharpen and bolster it, must be seen as partners and not as contradictions. Here Maslow's explanation brings to mind the second of what Jesus Christ proposed as two supreme commands by God for man. The first was of course a love for God with all possible ability, while the second command was "to love your neighbor as you love yourself' (Matthew 22:37-39 TEV Italics added). It would seem then, if we may modify or expand Maslow's point a bit, there is a love triad in healthy personality structure that includes love for the Supreme Being, love for the other being, and love for one's own being; each of the three retaining individuality to be confirmed even during immersion in love.

(9) Maslow further finds that love and mental health are linked closely with what he defines as "the greater taste and perceptiveness." He affirms that healthy lovers can perceive truth and reality far more efficiently than the average run of people, whether such love is structured or unstructured, personal or non-personal. This acuity manifests itself in the area of love-relations primarily in an excellent taste or preference that disregards or minimizes physical traits (e.g., "handsome face" or "beautiful body" etc.) in favor of such perceptions as compatibility, decency, companionship, and considerateness. Significantly as Maslow's research reveals, this quality in healthy love contradicts the generally accepted notion that love is blind or, in the more sophisticated version of this error, that the lover necessarily overestimates his or her partner.

Paul Tournier, a Swiss psychiatrist with long experience and numerous writings, argues this in a theistic vein. According to him there can be no question of denying the "animal in us," or disowning this "highly developed machine" which is intended to react perfectly adequately to every stimulus. It is the mainstay of our very existence. But if that is all there is in us, we are not human beings. Love, he notes for example, in so far as it can be studied scientifically, is "merely a natural function." Whether it be the sex instinct, or simple emotional states, or the need to love and be loved, which the animal feels as much as we do, these are still nothing more than automatic reactions to external stimuli (1957:98).

But, reasons Tournier, when love suddenly springs up when we least expect it-love for a hostile individual substituted for the "natural riposte," prompting forgiveness, displacing self-interest-then we are in the presence of a creative act (we may compare this with Sorokin's "creative altruism") that is really free and undetermined. It is the "bursting forth of life," in the sense of a positive choice for a new direction which breaks the chain of natural reactions.

But Tournier confesses to a problem for the scientific investigator in this dramatic volitional exercise or event. This action properly so called is truly spontaneous and creative, and as such it remains isolated, unique and unforeseeable, hence it is impossible to study scientifically. Notwithstanding, it is remarkably relevant in personality studies for it is the "manifestation of the person thrusting aside the personage" ("personage" in Tournier's terminology refers to the characteristic mask that all wear to conceal the covert assemblage of behavioral traits or "personality"). But, continues Tournier, this emergent action will become in its turn the source of a new set of automatic reactions to a multitude of situations, reactions which will be accessible to the objective examination of psychology. They will be the evidence of the new force that is at work, just as we may be certain the moving vehicle such as an automobile has a motor to propel it while the motor is not seen by the bystander. Concisely, Tournier as a theist who possesses familiarity with biblical statements is saying that the overt expressions of a mystical covert conversional force is available for scientific research, hence, is to be considered relevant in all useful models in psychological anthropology. He thus significantly agrees with such a biblical assertion by the Apostle Paul: "For the love of Christ controls us ... Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 17 RSV).

The Apostle Paul's Classic View on Love

Apparently as a thoroughgoing humanist, Ashley Montagu feels that any work devoted to a serious analysis of love would be incomplete without the biblical statement that the Apostle Paul penned in the first century to a group of Corinthian Christians in need of much corrective admonition to overcome aggressive contentions, immorality, and irreverence among themselves. Montagu is of the opinion that:

St. Paul's description is both beautiful and sound. In addition, it is quite astonishing, for it represents the first statement concerning the place and importance of love in the world of humanity. It is the teaching of Jesus presented in St. Paul's language. What a pity it is that so few Christians have understood its meaning (1975:175).

Love is the volitional and intense, involved concern for the welfare of others.

Although Montagu does not specify just which of Jesus' teachings influenced St. Paul to adopt such an attitude with insights that represent the "first statement," we do find St. Paul confessing to those same Corinthians such assertions as:

We know what it means to fear the Lord, and so we try to persuade others ... Are we really insane? It is for God's sake. Or are we sane? Then it is for your sake. We are ruled by the love of Christ, now that we recognize that one man died for everyone, which means that they all share in his death. He died for all, so that those who live should no longer five for themselves, but only for him who died and was raised to life for their sake (I Cor. 5:11-12 TEV).

With this self evaluation of his radical transformation in attitude and behavioral patterns, St. Paul attributes the force in his change to a mystical interpretation of God's love in Jesus Christ as God's son or Incarnate Being. Hence the transforming power of divine love enabled St. Paul to write what is a classic statement of love: I Corinthians 13.


Barnouw summarizes several contrasting views on personality which he categorizes into three models possibly useful for studies in psychological anthropology (1973:16-21). These are (l) The Conflict Model which sees a person trapped between opposing sociocultural forces with compromises by the individual as the customary resolution to reduce the dual tensions. (2) The Fulfilment Model assumes that a dominant force, located in the individual who so equipped is able to withstand the conflict as life unfolds, permits the individual to realize continuing possibilities. And (3) The Consistency Model wherein forces and conflicts are minimized or give way to individuals' efforts expended toward maintaining consistency. Cognitions, such as attitudes and beliefs, are the basic elements in causing consistency in the resultant personality. Barnouw seems to favor this model because it overcomes objections attending the others, although it too does not eliminate all problems in comprehensive explanations of personality types, either individually or collectively as in "social personality. "

When listing various approaches to personality study, Barnouw suggests (1) the physiological, (2) childhood determinism, and (3) the situational (1973:23-29). However he concludes that it is best to keep all three in mind for personality research because they do not operate with mutual exclusion. He admits as well that it is often a problem to assess the relative importance of the different determinants in personality formation, because all work simultaneously with changing degrees of influence. Of course we must note that his personality models are always to be regarded as helpful categories to facilitate study; the "reality" characterizing the sociocultural group under investigation may be attended by varying influences of the "conflicts," the "fulfillment," and the "consistency" forces. The reasons for this is that both personality and culture are not only abstractions, but they as concepts incorporate an almost infinite number of uncontrollable variables; hence, the study of mankind is so difficult that controversial, or at least contrasting, models and conclusions emerge in research efforts.

While admitting to this persistent problem inherent in the challenging assignment for psychological anthropology, we wish to offer what may seem to be overly simplistic, enigmatic, and mystical as a possible model for personality study. We propose formulating a personality model which includes the love concept (as herein discussed) as a major, if not dominant, component with a potentiality for behavioral systems in all cultures. We have avoided offering a concise or minimal definition of love up to this point in order that various interpretations could be examined without prior statement of our view. If, however, we are to propose love as a valid and fundamental motivating force with universal application for research in all cultures, we feel compelled to define what we conceptualize love to be. Love is the volitional and intense, involved concern for the welfare of others. 

Since we assume that love is a matter of choice by the individual, we see it as a possible, and even eruptive, force capable of breaking the behavioral "chain" that has been forged through enculturation; hence it challenges the postulate held in extreme cultural determinism and insists on freedom in the individual as stressed by Goodman (1967). The intensity ascribed in our view refers to a commitment that implies tenacity with the likelihood of emotion, but not necessarily to the same degree or in every person because other factors may be at play. To include "involved" is to suggest that while a "secret" love may exist, in the overwhelming number of cases where empirical evidence is available, love as we see it leads to various avenues of expression, some rational while others are deemed irrational by some who do not share in the experience. In including "welfare," we seek to see involvement seeking to promote "what is best" or desirable as conceived by the individual in general agreement with the norms and values shared in one's sociocultural group (unless some of those norms and values run counter to universals that appear with minor variations in all cultures; e.g., complete promiscuity, or unrestrained homicide, etc.).


Adler, Alfred. 1958. What Life Should Mean To You. New York: Capricorn Books.

Barnouw, Victor. 1973. Culture and Personality. Homewood, Ill.: The Dorsey Press.

Benedict, Ruth. 1934. Patterns of Culture. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Bowlby, John. 1966. Maternal Care and Mental Health. New York: Schocken Books.

D'Arcy, Martin C. 1947. The Mind and Heart of Love. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

De Rougemont, Denis (trans. by Montgomery Belgion). 1966. Love In The Western World. New York: Fawcett World Library, Inc.

Fortune, Reo. 1963. Sorcerers of Dobu. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company.

Fromm, Erich. 1947. Man for Himself. An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Goode, William J. 1959. "The Theoretical Importance of Love," American Sociological Review. 24:3847.

Goodman, Mary Ellen. 1967. The Individual and Culture. Homewood, Ill.: The Dorsey Press.

Hallowell, A. Irving. 1955. Culture and E);perience. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Harlow, Harry. 1971. Learning to Love. San Francisco: Albion Publishing Company.

Honigmarm, John J. 1954. Culture and Personality. New York: Harper and Brothers.

- - 1967. Personality In Culture.
New York: Harper and Row.

Hsu, Francis L. K. (ed). 1972. Psychological Anthropology. Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Publishing Company.

Kardiner, Abram. 1945. The Psychological Frontiers of Society. New York: Columbia University Press.

Krich, Aron M. 1960. The Anatomy ofLove. New York: Dell Publishing Company.

Kroeber, A. L. 1948. Anthropology.- Race, Language, Culture, Psychology, Prehistory. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

- - - 1953. Anthropology Today: An Encyclopedia Inventory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Levine, Robert A. 1973. Culture, Behavior, and Personality. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.

Linton, Ralph. 1936. The Study of Man. New York: Appleton-CenturyCrofts.

- - - - 1945. The Cultural Background ofPersonality. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1927. Sex and Repression in Savage Society. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company.

Mandelbaum, David (ed). 1956. Edward Sapir: Culture, Language and Personality: Selected Essays. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mead, Margaret. 1939. From the South Seas., Studies of Adolescence and Sex in Primitive Societies. New York: William Morrow and Company.

Montagu, Ashley (ed). 1975. The Practice ofLove. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

- - - - 1976. The Nature of Human Aggression. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ney, Philip. 1974. The Law and Essence of Love. Victoria (Canada): Pioneer Publishing Company.

Patai, Ralphael. 1977. The Jewish Mind. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Sorokin, Pitirim A. 1950. Altruistic Love. Boston: The Beacon Press.

- - - - 1954. The Ways and Power ofLove. Boston: The Beacon Press.

- - - - 1968. Man and Society in Calamity. New York: Greenwood Press.

Tournier, Paul. 1957. The Meaning of Persons. New York: Harper and Brothers.

Wallace, Anthony F. C. 1970. Culture and Personality. New York: Random House.

Whittington, Ronaele. 1978 "Love: A Basic Remedy," The Paraclete 5:149-159.