This is one of those books that every time I read it (this is the third time I think) I learn something new, so I guess I am going to have to put this book up in the realms of literature. The interesting thing about this book is that when Lewis wrote it he had not been in a relationship (he remained single until he met Joy Davidman, which is actually the subject of a book, a movie, and even a play) so he is not actually writing from experience. However, we should note that Eros plays only one part of this particular book and, as Lewis demonstrates, love is much, much more than erotic love.
The title of the book comes from the idea that in Greek there are four different words for love and Lewis puts them down as: affection, friendship, erotic love, and charitable love. Like the [book:Symposium] (which no doubt he was familiar with) he also rates them in the order of importance, with Charity being the highest form of love. The idea of charity is doing things for people with no expectation of anything in return simply out of the goodness of your heart. In fact, doing such things for strangers and for people who can never actually give anything back is the essence of this type of love.
Lewis explores each of these forms of love, though he adds a fifth, which he does not necessarily consider to be love, but rather a fondness of something - in this he outlines the love of one's country (patriotism) and the love of nature. Throughout the book though (with the exception of Charity) he is also exploring the dangers that with these forms of love give rise (okay, he does not actually do that with friendship, and indicates that any of the dangers that arise from affection and eros go beyond what that form of love really is). He makes mention of the dark gods numerous times, and since he was a Christian when he was writing this, he is no doubt referring to demonic forces. Obviously with a love of nature he considers the idea of worshipping nature as a god one aspect of this, and with patriotism, the extremes of which give rise to another form. However, remember that when this book was being written (and he had also fought in the trenches of World War I) World War II was in full swing.
It is interesting what he says about friendship (or as another person puts it, brotherly love) in that it is something that people do not recognise as a form of love in our modern society. In fact people stay away from it for fear of it giving rise to accusations of homosexuality (which was still illegal in his days). However, as is true to Lewis, he does not shy away from discussing this aspect of friendship, and I note from what he has written, in those days homosexuals were seen as being more effeminate than not. Of course he completely debunks that idea by referring to the fact that homosexual love did exist between warriors in the ancient world, and to refer to them, as he says, as 'pansies', is shows a complete mis-understanding the nature of it (though I suspect that this idea, as it is still today, is a means of denigrating those who live a homosexual lifestyle).
Another interesting thing that he points out is how certain people fear the friendship love, especially people like religious leaders and corporate bosses. The idea is that with friendship love there is not only a lack of control over the relationship, but also the fear of a conspiracy. Fortunately in most of the churches that I have been involved with there has not been any attempt to destroy friendships, but I have heard of churches where fake friendships are formed to maintain control over people. Obviously this is more so in the corporate world where friendships can be viewed as a threat to somebody's authority. In fact some bosses will encourage in fighting amongst the employees so that their position may remain secure.
Anyway, I could probably write a lot more on this book, but since this is my last day in Hong Kong before I head off to Europe, and that I have laundry to get done as well as packages to post back to Australia (I ended up buying just a little to much while I was here) I must sign off now.