There is a bewildering range of meanings and connotations associated with love. The Cassiopaeans have said that love is light is knowledge.
We can distinguish between subjective and objective love. We can also distinguish between love at the human level and love seen as a cosmic principle, such as God's love of creation.
At the human level, the essential question of love is whether one loves another or whether one loves one's own idea of this other. Loving another seeks to support this other in achieving whatever his/her highest potential or innate direction may be. For this to make any sense, one has to seek to know the beloved first, with appreciation and understanding, on the other's terms, not one's own. The Gurdjieffian tradition calls this objective love.
The subjective kind of love is attached to one's own idea of the other or to what can be gained or obtained from the other. People call the most various desires love. These can have to do with social status, addiction to power over or domination of another, sexual interest and so forth. The emotion fluctuates between satisfaction of getting and fear of losing and is generally centered on the self. Subjective love seeks to somehow forcibly appropriate another into one's extended self. One example of this is showing off what a clever or good-looking partner or child one has in order to somehow increase oneself. Any games of domination or co-dependence which often involve the term love fall in this category.
The relationship between love and attachment is subtle. The subjective perspective hardly makes any difference between love, desire to possess, need and attachment. Still, love completely without wish to be or interact with the beloved or some emotional bond or attachment to the person seems a contradiction in terms. We should not take the notion of 'if you love someone set them free' to the extreme of seeing all as potentially interchangeable objects of love. This misses the possibilities of specificity and reciprocity inherent in the concept.
Love often gets confused with need. If love in the objective love sense is to be a giving interaction, in order to love one must be willing to and have something appropriate to give. The idea of need reverses this concept and makes the love of the other into love of self. There is much pop psychology hype about the concept of loving self before loving another. This ties in with the idea of giving versus needing but the notion of self-love gives this a self-serving twist.
It is better to say that one needs to be in order to love. Being and self-love as intended in the above paragraph are entirely different. Being here means internal consistency. One cannot love if one I loves, the other obsesses over jealousy, a third sees this as foolish and a fourth does not even know of the whole thing. Besides, to love anything except one's illusion, one needs to know the beloved. The capacity of knowing is again predicated on being. Love often implies specific dedication or commitment. Again, these mean little if one is without internal consistency of being. Thus work on the self is needed for better to love.
Philosophers and artists have variously sought to find a bridge between the love of human romance or family and something greater and more cosmic, such as the love of God towards creation. Much has been said about the concepts of eros and agape, the personal and specific love and the divine, all encompassing love. Granted, a personal relationship may involve aspects of both but still we have a broad gulf to bridge. Different thinkers have proposed different ascents of love, each in its own way reaching from the specificity of human passions towards the divine and universal.
The Platonic ascent first recognizes the carnal and limiting nature of human passions, jealousy, obsession, desire for self and all such traits which are, following a certain intrinsic taste for the Platonic virtues of truth, beauty and goodness, variously impure and defiled. The student of love then frees himself of such preoccupations by sublimating the love of the specific, often tinged with sexual and/or possessive elements, towards a broader category of all that is beautiful, going from the person towards the person's lovable attributes in general. This love transforms itself into love of the abstract Platonic virtues in general, thus free of anxiety of loss or preoccupation with control, for the beloved is the greater universe of truth, beauty and goodness. This construction is attractive but loses along the way the very human characteristics of personal specificity and reciprocity. The Platonic ascent may thus be seen to be more a separation than a unification, where the student denies his emotional vulnerability and in a sense his humanity by withdrawing into the contemplation of that which is eternal but not personal.
The Platonic ascent involves a very subtle duality: On one hand, the virtues cannot be ignored by one who aspires on the esoteric path. On the other, exclusively embracing these may lead into denial of the lessons at hand, as if prematurely claiming to take God's lofty perspective on all which is without having personally traversed the fires which one claims to have transcended.
Quite a different ascent is outlined in Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights. There the singular romance of Cathy and Heathcliff reaches a sort of immortality by its extreme of specificity and single-mindedness. The protagonists reach a sort of crystallization via the extremity of their forbidden passion and cruelty towards each other, partly conscious, partly consequence of not freeing themselves entirely of the bonds of circumstance. Both are creatures of will and moving center, whereas the Platonic student is more of an intellectual. The story of Cathy and Heathcliff captures something of love at an archetypal level but this seems to be more in the direction of STS polarization by using emotion as a catalyst.
Another ascent is sketched by Mouravieff in his description of the polar couple. The partners are reunited halves of the initially unbroken being, the spherical perfect form described in Plato's Symposium. While Cathy and Heathcliff may represent polar opposites of a sort, the polar couple of Mouravieff's 5th Way are esoteric seekers drawn together under the auspices of esoteric work, together striving to reverse the effects of the Fall, to become the new Adam and Eve. Mouravieff describes various possibilities and pitfalls of such a situation, see the Gnosis series and 'Polar Beings' for more.
There is much talk in metaphysical material about how love is the primary principle of all creation and how all in the end reduces to cosmic love. Also the words love and light are often used together with a special meaning. The problem with much such material is the lack of definition and semantic vagueness.
Ra defines love/light as the primary impulse and light/love as the result of its application, where the will of love impresses itself on the substance which is light. It is as if love were the creative intent and light were the resulting information or form. Bringers of the Dawn discusses these somewhat similarly. The Cassiopaeans speak of gravity being the binder and light being its energy expression. We can imagine various balances of love and light at various points. Love without light goes in the direction of will without information, light without love in the direction of information without application. The duality of STO/STS is implicit in the concept of love here, since the love may be of self or other, imploding and absorbing or expanding and outraying. Spiritual gravity is discussed in conjunction with love/light and light/love reaching some threshold intensity or concentration, as at the boundary of higher densities.
Love, light and knowledge can be seen as different aspects of a whole which always involves these in different proportions. They are not exactly the same thing but they occur together. Ra expresses the idea of the Law of One to be the balancing of love/light and light/love.
Even at the human level, we see how love, will and knowledge are linked. We may think of the love as the impulse of will, of light as the exchange of energy and information, of knowledge as the integrated result of this process.