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The Three Stations of Love: Submission, Separation, and Sweetness

To unpack the notion of stations of consciousness as they relate to the evolution of love, we’ll use a formulation taken from the tradition of Kabbalah.

The Baal Shem Tov—the great Hebrew mystic who founded the Hasidic movement—in a number of elliptical passages discusses three distinct points that occur in a person’s movement through the different dimensions of life. He refers to them as hachna’ah or submission, havdalah or separation, and hamtaka or sweetness. Each of these three stations refers to a distinct developmental experience, which we move through in the course of life as practice.

The stations, which the Baal Shem calls submission, separation, and sweetness roughly correspond to a movement that developmentalists might refer to as identification (which, at ethnocentric waves of development, might be with a family, partner, or group), to dis-identification (defining the self as separate and distinct from your family, partner, or group) to integration (re-entering the family, partnership, or group at a new level of awareness).

It is also similar, but not to be confused with, the process of moving from the pre-personal levels (structure-stages) of life, where we experience ourselves for a time as merged in a family or couple or group, and in which we act instinctually and unconsciously, to the personal levels, where we make choices based on distinct personal ethical and aesthetic values, and finally to the transpersonal levels, where we may again feel merged in a whole, but from a perspective of fully integrated individuation. (2)

These three stations are repeated time and again within every structureand state-stage of consciousness. They are also virtually always the mechanism for evolving from one structure-stage of consciousness to another.

The application of these distinct stations is relevant in virtually every sphere of human life. Under the right conditions, the human being is always able to evolve to higher and higher levels of freedom and fullness. This development takes place through ascending to higher and higher levels or structure-stages of consciousness, as well as through the microevolution of consciousness that takes place within each structure-stage.

This evolution—both within and to new levels of consciousness—always takes place through the pattern of these three stations—they are literally the phases of every developmental transition. Each station transcends and includes the previous station. Station one and station three can appear—to the untrained eye of the outside observer—to be fairly similar in form and structure. However, when experienced from within, it becomes apparent that stations one and three are entirely different in feeling-tone and inner consciousness, with only apparent external similarity. Station three includes both the identification of station one and the dis-identification of station two so that consciousness is, through integration, more flexible and free in its identifications.

When we apply this core model from the great traditions to love, what emerges is what we have termed the Three Stations of Love.

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