Thus, while mainstream psychoanalysis has had “astonishingly little new thinking” about “sexual passion and enduring love” (Black, 2002, p. 12), and has mainly been involved in understanding “romance and its devaluation” (e.g., the lack of vitality and meaning) (Mitchell, 2002, p. 23),48 Buber and Marcel made what Levinas called an “essential discovery” that has bearing on love in its most evolved expression (Levinas, 1994, p. 12).This “essential discovery” can have an antidote-like function, not only in suggesting a more profound understanding of love and its demise, but as Freud advocated, in making love central to the overarching goal of any successful analysis. That is, when it comes to love (as well as other matters of “ultimate concern” like work, faith, and suffering), the “essential discovery” is
affirming that human spirituality—or religiosity—lies in the fact of the proximity [i.e., face-to-face meeting epitomized in love as responsibility for the other] neither lost in the mass nor abandoned to their solitude. This bespeaks both the religious significance of interhuman relations and, conversely, the original possibility and accomplishment of the relation-to-God (that relation to the Invisible, the Non-Given) in the approach of one person to another, addressed as Thou.
(Levinas, 1994, pp. 21—22)
Thus, such spiritually animated love, one that has a “quasi-aest/ietic” and “quasi-religious” dimension (Putnam, 2008, p. 61), can be the basis for the restoration, regeneration, and renewal of love. As Marcel would put it, “I belong to myself only as I do not belong to myself, as I give myself to otherness, and create myself, come into being and so belong to what I am” (Cain, 1995, p. 94). This is the moment when passion and enduring love exquisitely meet, when passion is hallowed and becomes spiritual connection and solidarity with one’s Thou. At this moment, in the here-and-now of “whole fullness of mutual action,” one feels, or rather “receives,” an upsurge of an affect-integrating, action-guiding meaning that “has more certitude for you than the perceptions of your senses ... there is an inexpressible confirmation of meaning. Meaning is assured,” and this has an eternal and infinite resonance to it, what points to the Divine or secular equivalent (Buber, 1958, p. 110). For example, the literal passionate “kiss” between lovers means something different than when it is simply a sexual urge hunting for lustful pleasure. Rather, the spiritual kiss can be viewed as a hugely subversive act of simultaneous, mutual, and intimate boundary crossing between two people. Such a life-affirming expression of transgressive and transfigurative Eros (Das, 2005, p. 179; O’Donohue, 1997, p. 32) involves both partners engaging with the fullness of their beings in an ardent interflow of other-directed, other-regarding, and other-serving feeling that “touches” the others luminous inner divinity, and beyond. In this way, it is through the beckoning lips that the soul reveals itself as a sacred presence that summons the other to cherishment and service with both passion and a sense of urgency (O’Donohue, 2004, p.13). If the main purpose of the kiss is disclosure, that is, revelation, then the main content of such revelation is love (Putnam, 2008, p. 54). The spiritual kiss longs for the transcendent, to sense the heavenly presence in the earthly encounter with the loved other. Buber, Marcel, and Levinas all made the crucial point that when two people engage each other in love, whether love conceived as Buber’s I and Thou, Marcel’s unconditional creative fidelity, or Levinas’s responsibility for the Other, it is in this love relation that an ultimately unthematizeable God conies to mind, that He is sensed as a living eternal Presence.49 Buber noted,“He who loves a woman [any significant other], and brings her life to present realization in his, is able to see in the Thou of her eye a beam of the eternal Thou” (1958, p. 106). Indeed, the most porous exposure point on the literal face, where love and the trace of God are most manifested, is the lover’s lips, the ultimate bodily signifier that points to the sacred presence of the Eternal. Playing off Marcel’s aforementioned statement, “To love,” and, I would add, to kiss, “is to say: thou, thou wilt never die.” For Marcel then, but probably also for Buber, the spiritual kiss is the ultimate, intimate “eternal embrace” (O’Donohue, 2004, pp. 13, 41). It is nothing less than a “caesural” [a dislocating and liberating break or pause] (Fishbane, 2008, p. 33) and “fissure” (Putnam, 2008, p. 104), a threshold-crossing, categorybreaking, grace moment when an encounter with the mysterious loved other reveals the glory of Divine tenderness.
Psychoanalysis would be well served to expand and deepen its understanding of love, both in terms of what is potentially life and identity-defining and affirming for the analysand post-analysis but, also, for the analyst as he relates to the analysand in a loving or love-like manner. That is, the art of living a flourishing life, one that correlates with a “difficult” happiness, entails the willingness and ability' to deepen and expand one’s capacity to fashion a subjectivity' in which I-Thou becomes dispositional. In addition to insight and analysis, Buber and Marcel are pointing to the healing power of love, conceived as Being’s lived participation in wholly and holy' disclosure, truth and communion, when spirit miraculously becomes form.